Monday, May 30, 2011

Senators repeal two articles of labor code under Senate bill 2701

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 31, 2011-To provide equal employment opportunities for men and women in night work, the Senate yesterday has approved on Third and Final Reading Senate Bill 2701 repealing Articles 130 and 131 of the Labor Code of the Philippines which was sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.

Estrada said that his committee has decided to repeal the two articles which limit the job spectrum for female workers where they initially wanted to expand the exceptions prescribed by the Labor Code on women worker on night work since it aims to level the employment field for men and women while maintaining protection for women workers; but after hearing the invaluable inputs of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, they decided to go all out in dismantling the discriminatory provisions in the Labor Code against  women workers.

Under Article 130, it prohibits nighttime work (generally between 12:00 midnight and 6:00 AM) for women in industrial, commercial and non-industrial undertakings (other than agricultural) while in Article 131 provides exceptions on cases of emergencies, urgent work on machineries, managerial posts, cases permitted by the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, among others.

Estrada said that these stipulations prove oppressive when we look at the boom of call center industry which operates on a 24-hour system, adding that before women workers can actually work, they have to suffer a burdensome process of securing paper work and permits.

“It introduced a new chapter in the Labor Code on the employment of night workers and provided measures on health assessment, installation of mandatory facilities for workplaces, compensation and benefits for night workers under the Senate Bill 2701,” Estrada said, noting that the provisions include those which provide that workers shall have the right to undergo a health assessment without charge and to receive advice on how to reduce or avoid health problems associated with their work and one that requires the employers to provide first-aid facilities, sleeping and resting quarters and means of transportation (subject to exceptions and guidelines by the DOLE).

“The measure is in compliance with our obligation to the CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and consistent with the objectives of Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women,” Estrada ended. (Jason de Asis)

Senate passed bill that will enhance early education on children below 6 years old

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 30, 2011-Senator Edgardo J. Angara said that it is expected to benefit 17 million Filipino children after the senate passed today on Third and Final Reading the Senate bill 2802 otherwise known as early years act that would enhance early education among children below six years old.
Angara, who authored the bill along with Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said that the proposed law aims to shift the concept of the day care center from a playroom to a learning center by rationalizing and restructuring the day care into an early childhood education center.

“The bill aims to improve the educational system in the country with the crafting of a formal curriculum for pre-school pupils that will enable them to cope with elementary lessons,” Angara said, saying that forty percent of the children entering Grade I are not ready for school. As such, four out of 10 children drop out of the elementary level and never return to complete their education.

“The National Achievement Test conducted earlier among 1.6 million Grade Six students revealed that a mean percentage score (MPS) of 59.9 percent which means that for every ten items, a Grade Six student can correctly answer five items,” the Senator said.

Angara said that the measure aim to address the lack of facilities and limited teaching staff besetting pre-school education where he estimate that only 46% or about 2.5 million children below six years old are being accommodated by the available 49,000 day care centers nationwide.

“For the implementation of the Act, P500 million per year for the first five years will be appropriated for the National ECCD Program, which will be sourced from PAGCOR,” Angara said, adding that an initial annual appropriation of P1 billion from the GAA shall be provided to the ECCD Council.

Angara explained that they were able to minimize the initial funding requirement because the basic infrastructures for the child development centers are already there. “We will be using the existing daycare centers nationwide and turning them into more education-oriented institutions,” Angara said.

“The bill also seeks for the training of additional childhood development teachers so they could detect and identify gifted and development disorders and disabilities among children below six years old and make the corresponding recommendations where it entails more than just child-minding and childcare to includes the provision of health, nutrition, early education and social development services for the children. (Jason de Asis)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Air pollution in metro will be resolved thru electric vehicle says Angara

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 29, 2011-In the recent study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that Metro Manila ranks high among the megacities in Asia with air quality problems,  Senator Edgardo J. Angara, chair of the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) said that 70% of air pollution in Metro Manila areas will be resolved through the use of electric vehicles where he urged the government for the development of a national electric vehicle industry by providing incentives for electric and hybrid car manufacturers and importers as well as adopting an e-vehicle standards.

“The government needs to support the nascent industry which encourages local innovation and promotes eco-friendly transportation where the COMSTE has been working closely with the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines (EVAP) to draw up policy framework that will guide the development of the industry,” Angara said, adding that the COMSTE has identified the development of electric vehicles and green transport as one of its priority projects this year.

The EVAP has asked the government to adopt e-vehicles for use in public transport and to create strict industry standards where they completely built unit (hybrid and e-vehicles) and imported parts and components that cannot be manufactured locally should be Duty-Free, Excise and VAT exempt upon importation.

Angara said that these electric vehicles will be powered by electricity generated from biomass as the green transport model where the system has the potential to be one of the most eco-friendly in the world.

He added that thru e-vehicles, it will lessen the pollution and wean the country away from fossil-fuel dependency with this innovative Green transport system like electric tricycles, hybrid jeepneys, buses and electric bicycles.

“We import roughly 96% of our petroleum, the majority of which is consumed by the growing transport sector. The same sector accounts for the biggest share of the energy use, nearly 40%,” Angara said, noting that to become energy independent is one of the goals of the government.

The veteran Senator believed that it can be achieved by promoting innovative projects where it can reduced foreign dependence on fuel and it can create less-polluted and environmentally friendly cities.

ADB study showed that the level of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in Metro Manila is more than double the standard of the World Health Organization where the department of environment and natural resources (DENR) revealed that 70% of air pollution in Metro Manila came from motor vehicles. 

Angara said that the country needed cleaner modes of transport for the welfare of the citizenry. (Jason de Asis)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Villar eyes teachers’ 6-hour workday

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 28, 2011-Senator Manny Villar has filed Senate bill No. 2454 to reduce the working hours condition of all public school teachers to a six-hour workday or a total of a 30-hour workweek and exempting them from compliance with 8 hour workday.

Villar said that to have more time to innovate and enhance classroom teaching and result to a more productive workforce, reducing their number of working hours and they should be given full attention where the teachers clamor for higher pay but shorter working hours, adding that their work schedule leaves them stressed out and exhausted.

The bill repeals Sections 13 and 14 of Republic Act No. 4670 or the Magna Carta of Public School Teachers where the Department of Education issued Memorandum 291 s. 2008 allowing teachers to allot six hours for actual classroom teaching a day, with the remaining two hours to be spent in teaching-related activities like lesson planning, preparation of teaching aids, checking of papers, recording among others; thus, teachers are required to render a total of eight hours a day.

Villar said that a shorter work day would be a great relief for the teachers where he also proposed that any work performed in excess of six hours a day shall be paid an additional compensation of at least 25 percent of their regular remuneration.

He said that the measure seeks to exempt teachers from the generally established rule on 8-hour workday under the Civil Service Rules. Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 which stated that officers and employees of all departments and agencies except those covered by special laws shall render not less than eight hours of work a day for five days a week or a total of 40 hours a week, exclusive of time for lunch.

Related school activities which are conducted outside the school shall be paid an additional compensation of at least 25 percent of his/her regular remuneration after the teacher has completed at least six hours of work. (Jason de Asis)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Umali eyes for 3 more congressional districts in Nueva Ecija, seeks dialogue with solons

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, May 27, 2011-Governor Aurelio Umali expressed desire to have at least three more congressional districts in the province, saying that he is eyeing a dialogue with all the four congressmen to discuss re-districting to pave the way for additional representation in Congress.

“The creation of additional congressional districts is long overdue and there is a need to sit down with the incumbent congressmen on how each existing congressional district will be reconfigured for the envisioned new congressional districts,” Umali said, adding that we have to rationalize redistricting and that’s why we have to sit down with our congressmen to arrive at a consensus.

“We initially discussed it with fourth district Rep. Rodolfo Antonino who said his district alone may be divided into two separate congressional districts,” Umali furthered.

Records showed that Cong. Antonino’s district covers Gapan City and the municipalities of Cabiao, Gen. Tinio, Jaen, Penaranda, San Antonio, San Isidro and San Leonardo.

“Under Antonino’s proposal, Gapan City and the municipalities of Gen. Tinio, Penaranda and San Isidro alone may comprise a district while another district may be carved out from the rest of the towns,” Umali said.

He said that if Cabanatuan City – the province’s trade and educational center – is to become a lone congressional district, the make-up of the entire province will also have to be considered.

Cabanatuan City is lumped together with Palayan City and the municipalities of  Bongabon, Laur, Gabaldon, Gen. Natividad and Sta. Rosa comprising the third congressional district.

The district, which is home to Umali, is the province’s largest congressional district and whose sitting representative is the governor’s wife, Congresswoman Czarina Umali. The governor’s younger brother Emmanuel Antonio is also the incumbent board member in the district after emerging as the top vote-getter in the elections for members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

The law stated that a congressional district may be created over an area with a population of 250,000. Nueva Ecija has an estimated population of 1.6 million, making it eligible to have at least two additional congressional districts.

The addition of more congressional districts is considered a boon to the province because each congressman receives P70 million in annual priority development assistance fund otherwise known as pork barrel allocations. 

The other incumbent lawmakers here are Representatives Josie Manuel-Joson and Joseph Gilbert Violago of the first and second districts.  (Jason de Asis)

Umali and Padiernos bat Comelec to delist new Nueva Ecija from list of poll hot spots

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, May 27, 2011-Since Governor Aurelio Umali assumed the governorship in 2007, Umali called on the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to remove Nueva Ecija from the list of election hot spots in the coming 2013 elections manifesting to the relative peace and order situation now obtaining in the whole province.

“Nueva Ecija now enjoys a stable peace and order climate and Novo Ecijanos can now speak freely and openly irrespective of their party affiliations and loyalty,” Umali said, calling the COMELEC to finally consider removing Nueva Ecija from the list of traditional hot spots to change its image into a progressive and advancing province where the place is categorized as a hot spot where there is intense political rivalry, presence of armed goons and violence. 

Umali recalled that last year, the COMELEC recognized the peaceful conduct of the local polls in the province, in the absence of the usual pre and post-election violence which characterized previous political exercises.

He furthered that for so long the province was tagged as an election hot spot. “We were number one in Central Luzon until Abra came along. But in the last elections, we were able to show that there was no untoward incident and hopefully, the COMELEC will take the cue and remove us from the list,” he said.

Umali explained that when he first ran for governor in 2007, he asked the COMELEC to place the province under Comelec control. When he won, he as the sitting governor asked the Comelec again to place the province under its control.

“Many were surprised when I did that considering I was the sitting governor. Some were saying that was an admission that I had no control of the situation. But I just want to deliver the message that we need to have peaceful and orderly elections in 2010 so we can change Nueva Ecija and that’s what exactly happened,” he said.

Umali recalled that during the campaign period, he instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to provide area security to his political rivals to avert any occurrence of violence, adding that he was fully aware that if something untoward happened to them, people might pin the blame on me so it’s better to take precautions.

Umali said without taking offense on other politicians, everybody in Nueva Ecija can now speak freely and openly on any issue under the sun without fear of recrimination or reprisals. “The local media can vouch for that. They are now very open. In fact, some of them have been slapped with libel cases for exercising their freedom of the press,” he said.

Vice Gov. Jose Gay Padiernos welcomed Umali’s call for the Comelec to remove Nueva Ecija from the hot spot’s list, saying the political landscape in the province has changed considerably.

He said that before, there was a time when none of the local politicians would want to be a leader for Umali but they have since maintained an open mind and they now gravitate towards to the new leadership in the Capitol.

“Of course, there are still incidents of killings but these are no longer politically motivated,” he said, saying that this is the new Nueva Ecija and political violence is now a thing of the past.” (Jason de Asis)

Cabanatuan is not yet ready for highly urbanized city status says Umali

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, May 26, 2011-In the recent press briefing, Governor Aurelio Umali insisted that this city is still raw and not yet ready to undergo the transition into a highly urbanized city (HUC). 

“Speaking of Cabanatuan development-wise, it will be “crippled” if it becomes a separate political subdivision because many development projects that were undertaken here in the past by the Umali administration would be stopped once the HUC bid is realized,” Umali said, saying that in assessing the plan, Cabanatuan is not only raw and unripe for HUC. “It is also ill-prepared and not ready,” he said.

“The city government cannot even fix basic problems in governance like garbage disposal, how much more the gargantuan task of being politically independent,” Umali said.

Umali reacted to the controversial plan which resulted to a falling-out with his erstwhile political ally, Cabanatuan Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara wherein Vergara has said that the HUC bid is still under study even when he launched the plan last November.

Umali denied that the HUC plan of Vergara is still being studied, saying that as early as 2004, during the latter’s third and last term, he was already pushing for it.

“In fact, sometime in 2004, I got a call from (then-presidential adviser on political affairs) Gabby Claudio informing me of a request from Mayor Vergara for Malacanang to approve the conversion,” he said. “So as early as 2004, Vergara was already pushing for it.”

“It is my moral obligation for the provincial government to continue helping the people of Cabanatuan in their various needs and concerns, particularly when the city government is incapable of doing so, Umali said, saying that said Cabanatuenos benefited immensely from the Umali administration’s assistance in infrastructure, education, health and even during calamities.

He said that in past typhoons, he took it upon himself to have a social contract to help Cabanatuenos more than the political leadership of the city. The people of Cabanatuan recognize that. And they have been telling me, “Governor it’s you who was with us. I owe it to the people of Cabanatuan. It’s my obligation to serve them,” he said.

He cited that many infrastructure projects in Cabanatuan’s barangays were bankrolled by the provincial government, a fact not lost in the city government and its populace.

Umali pointed out that the provincial government maintains considerable presence in Cabanatuan, consisting of a 16-hectare old Capitol compound which caters to the needs of many Cabanatuenos.

At the same time, Umali said P125 million worth of Internal Revenue Allotment of the provincial government will go down the drain if Cabanatuan fully becomes HUC. He said the IRA of the province, instead of going to Cabanatuan, will revert back to the national treasury and will be divided equally among the provinces.

Umali also said the IRA of Cabanatuan won’t increase in case it becomes a HUC, saying it’s a gross misconception. (Jason de Asis)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Legarda calls for disaster preparedness as typhoon chedeng is to hit the country

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 25, 2011- Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change calls for disaster preparedness as typhoon Chedeng entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility where she reminded local government units (LGUs) and communities who are expected to be hit by the storm as the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration forecasted the possibility of it to become a super typhoon as it will land fall.

Legarda reiterated her call that by now, LGUs and barangays should already be prepared for Typhoon Chedeng as it is expected to become a super typhoon which will bring strong winds and rains, saying that there is a need for them to be ready to implement disaster management and early warning systems in their respective areas.

“LGUs should now have their respective climate action plans, which include improvement of disaster risk information through risk identification or assessment, and making people more responsive to government-issued disaster warnings,” Legarda said, adding that the local governments must reduce sources of risk and exposure of the vulnerable sector by providing house upgrading and relocation options for settlers located in hazardous areas, and ensure effective disaster preparedness and recovery mechanisms by encouraging active participation of the vulnerable communities.

“Nakahanda na dapat ang mga pito, batingaw pati na mga maliliit na watawat na maaring ipagaspas sa pag-aalerto,”   she said.

“The LGUs must activate all forms of early warning systems, ensure that canals and drainage systems had been cleaned up to avoid flooding, and evacuate families living in landslide-prone, flood-prone and other vulnerable areas,” Legarda explained, adding that heavy rainfall on clogged esteros will cause flooding because the water passageway is being blocked.

“Disaster preparedness is essential to minimize, if not totally prevent, loss of lives and property damages when natural hazards like typhoons strike,” Legarda explained.

Legarda concluded that on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation agenda, a better preparation is needed especially the LGUs who are closer to the people in a strategic position to deliver effective and lasting results on effective mitigation. (Jason de Asis)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Senate committee to review treaties on international conflicts

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 24, 2011-Senator Loren Legarda, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will lead in the Senate a hearing on the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and the Protocol I tomorrow on Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 10:00 in the morning at the Pecson room here to review treaties on international conflicts.

“The Protocol I is a supplement to the four Geneva Conventions. It primarily provides civilian population protection from the direct effects of hostilities during international armed conflicts only,” Legarda said.

Last February 16, Legarda said that the committee has already reviewed the OPCAT but it has to be presented again after the Executive Department changed the transmittal from an Instrument of Ratification to an Instrument of Accession, saying that OPCAT requires State Parties to establish an independent national preventive mechanism that would regularly monitor all places of detention, inspect its facilities, and recommend solutions to prevent torture and other ill-treatment.

“I want to ensure that the Committee has taken into full consideration the views of all stakeholders concerned in these agreements before it submits the treaties to the plenary for the concurrence of the Senate,” she said.

The OPCAT is an international agreement aimed at preventing torture and cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which was adopted in 2002 and entered into force in 2006. It also aimed to prevent the mistreatment of people in detention. OPCAT builds on the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CAT) and helps states meet their obligation under CAT.

State parties agree to international inspections of places of detention by the United Nations subcommittee on the prevention of torture (SPT) under the OPCAT. State parties are required to establish an independent National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to conduct inspections of all places of detention to include prisons, juvenile detention, local and offshore immigration detention facilities and other places where people are deprived of their liberty.

There are 50 state parties to the OPCAT and an additional 24 states are signatories. Of the 50 state parties, 29 states have designated their NPM last February 19, 2010. (Jason de Asis)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Phl Disaster management center to use US technology in assessing quakes

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 23, 2011-Senator Edgardo J. Angara, chairman of the Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) revealed that the government’s disaster management center (DSMC) is adopting US technology which will help to mitigate and to cushion the impact of a powerful earthquake by monitoring ground motions.

Angara said that in the event of a powerful earthquake, the new technology will be useful in Metro Manila where 17% of buildings will be heavily damaged and 32.5% partially damaged according to the report.

“To better prepare the country for earthquakes and similar disasters, Angara said that with that kind of game changing technology the DSMC will be useful to utilize disaster mitigation where the COMSTE is now partnered with the Manila Observatory in developing the capabilities of the DSMC.

The commission has a Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), a joint study that was undertaken by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to create an earthquake scenario damage map of Metro Manila.

A study revealed that when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake scenario hitting the city, around 8,918 or 17% of all the buildings will be heavily damaged while around 16,374 (32.5%) will be partly damaged. Expected casualties can rise to 12,000 individuals while 4,000 will be injured. The fire damage in this scenario can cover 116 hectares with 49,000 buildings projected to be burnt down affecting 1,600 people.

Angara said the center will evolve into a training center that will focus on scenario-type learning utilizing technology for disaster mitigation and management where Taiwan and Japan are already actively cooperating with training of local experts for situations like floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

Angara said that the USGS uses this new technology, called NetQuakes, to better measure seismographic data where the units are installed in homes, public buildings, offices or schools and use wifi or local networks to transmit data via the internet to USGS stations, explaining that the data is measured and used to calculate post-earthquake damage estimates and to develop better engineering standards.

He furthered that the COMSTE is partnered with the Manila Observatory in developing the capabilities of the DSMC. The DSMC is also in possession of the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS). The MMEIRS is a joint study that was undertaken by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to create an earthquake scenario damage map of Metro Manila.

Angara noted that the DSMC is needed to help us prepare for the earthquakes and similar disasters that will continue to threaten the country. The government needs to be able to understand how to develop an advanced and real-time information dissemination strategy so people can better prepare to handle such events. (Jason de Asis)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

More individual tax payers pay-home sought by Recto

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 22, 2011-Senator Ralph G. Recto, chair of the Senate ways and means said that tax Code revision lifts cap on qualified dependents like parents and special children as additional tax exemptions, saying that aside from a looming increase in wages, ordinary taxpayers could also look forward to additional savings or increased take-home pay resulting from their tax payments by allowing them to declare as tax deductible more than the four qualified dependents currently allowed by law.

“A consolidated bill awaiting plenary presentation will amend the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) or Tax Code and scrap the maximum limit of four qualified tax dependents,” he said.

Recto said that the NIRC sets a cap of up to a maximum of four qualified dependents that a taxpayer could claim as additional allowable tax exemptions, explaining that once the measure is approved, any individual taxpayer could declare more than four qualified dependent children as long as they’re below 21 years old and, in exchange, obtain a tax deduction of P25,000 for every dependent.

“An individual taxpayer who filed for five qualified dependents would be entitled to a P125,000 deduction in his income tax payment,” Recto said, adding that an individual taxpayer living with or looking after his biological parents could declare them as additional qualified dependents as long as the parents are not gainfully employed or are incapable of self support because of mental or physical defect.

“You don’t want them thrown in foster care, which is very un-Filipino. We should take care of our parents during their twilight years,” he said.

The consolidated bill authored by Recto, his co-authors Senators Manuel Villar and Antonino Trillanes IV grant an additional tax deduction of P25,000 to a taxpayer acting as legal guardian to a physically or mentally-challenged person regardless of age.

“This would ensure that the disabled and special children would be taken cared of during their difficult years,” Recto said, lamenting that capping the number of qualified tax dependents to only four persons is effectively a family planning method in disguise.

“You don’t implement your family planning program through a tax fiat,” Recto added.

“To continue taking care of their parents and people with physical and mental defect, this proposed measure makes easier for taxpaying individuals who are already burdened by tough economic times,” he said, stressing that even with or without the promise of additional tax deductions, children should always take care of their parents and should have a caring heart for the disabled and special children. (Jason de Asis)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Aurora four logging firms permitted to haul old cut logs

Photo Courtesy: Arnel Turzar, DZJO FM-CMN Baler, Aurora
BALER, Aurora May 21, 2011-The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director for Central Luzon Ricardo Calderon has given four logging companies operating in this province only until today to dispose inventoried logs and lumber which were cut prior to the issuance of President Aquino executive order number 23 directing a moratorium on tree-cutting in natural and residual forests nationwide.

Calderon identified the four firms permitted as the Industries Development Corporation (IDC) and sister firm RCC Timber Company Inc., CKY World Trading and Pacific Timber Co. (Pateco) only until May 21 to haul, process, transport and dispose the inventoried logs that were cut prior to the issuance  E.O. 23 as mandated in Resolution 2011-001 of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force.

Photo Courtesy: Arnel Turzar, DZJO FM, CMN Baler, Aurora
The IDC is considered the largest logging concessionaire in the province has an Integrated Forest Management Agreement covering 48,877 hectares in the northern towns of Dilasag and Casiguran which is to expire on December 5, 2026 and has log and lumber dealer permit which is set to expire on October 31, 2012 whose President is Mr. Michael Ong.

Prior to the issuance of EO 23, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Benjamin Mina said that the clearances were issued to the four following the conduct of an inventory and validation by field personnel, saying that the issuance of permits were granted by the DENR through a memorandum issued by Undersecretary for field operations Ernesto Adobo Jr. to give time to the logging firms to dispose of the cut logs and manufactured lumber inasmuch as these were left in their cutting area, log pond and sawmill yards.

The operations of the logging firms, along with the San Roque Sawmill and Benzon Realty Corp. were suspended last February due to EO 23. They have sealed all sawmills and ordered pulled out all heavy equipment deployed in concession areas to ensure that the companies comply with the directive.

Alfredo Collado, DENR community environment and natural resources officer for northern Aurora said that the IDC’s wood processing plant permits for sawmill and veneer, including log and lumber dealer permits are suspended pending review and evaluation of its area and operation.

DENR inventory stated that the IDC has 26,500 board feet of lumber, some 2,041.76 cubic meters of logs and 15 cubic meters of veneer in cutting areas in Sitio Dipayak, Barangay Tinib, in barangays Abuleg and Ditawini and at its log pond in Barangay Dibacong, Casiguran. Its sister firm RCC Timber Company has 82 pieces of remaining logs with a volume of 329.17 cubic meters.

CKY World Trading of Johnny Chua has 2,000 pieces of logs measured at 3,877.20 cubic meters at its sawmill compound and cutting area in barangays Dinadiawan, Dianed and Calaocan in Dipaculao town while Pateco has 12,542 pieces of lumber with a total volume of 371,047 board feet and 2,200 pieces of logs measuring 3,370.42 cubic meters while there was no report on the stockpiles of Benzon and San Roque owned by Filipino-Chinese businessman Ben Ching.

It could be remembered that five major logging concessionaires in the province have been ordered stopped in pursuant to E.O. 23 issued by President Aquino III directing a moratorium on tree-cutting in natural and residual forests nationwide. Affected were the IDC and sister company RCC Timber Company Inc., CKY Trading, San Roque Sawmill, Benzon Realty Corp., and Pacific Timber Co. (Jason de Asis)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Angara calls for peaceful discussion on RH bill

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 20, 2011-In the ongoing debate on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, Senator Edgardo J. Angara urged solons for a peaceful, calm and reasonable debate for the enlightenment of the citizenry in the measure that was filed in the Lower House and in the Senate.

Angara advised that they should continue with the dialogue instead of threatening each other, citing the same issue has gone through many Catholic countries, even more Catholic and devout countries as Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Italy but without this traumatic debate and name calling.
“Let's not mislead our people, if they are for it. They live in poverty and misery everyday so they need both their government and church. But let's not divide and fragment the nation just because of one single issue,” he said, saying that he is inclined to support the bill because of its provisions for maternal and child health however he is not in favor of abortion which he think is part of the bill.

“There is a need to inform the people respectively saying what this bill is all about, what measures the RH Bill is seeking so that each person has enough knowledge to make their own decisions on the matter,” Angara pointed out.

It could be remembered that the RH bill is pending in the 15th Philippine Congress. The measure was filed during the 8th congress during the time of Corazon Aquino Administration and has been refilled in the succeeding sessions that seeks to promote on a national level access to information and availability of natural and artificial contraception and to empower couples in responsible family planning through education and access to legal and medically safe birth control.

The bill is still in the midst of continues battle of the brain debate in the lower house and in the senate where it was strongly opposed mainly by the Roman Catholic Church, Pro-Life Philippines, National Coalition for Family and Life, Abay Pamilya and the Philippine Nurses Association. (Jason de Asis)

Trillanes calls for investigation on the BIRs delay of tax refund claims

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 20, 2011-To address the gaps in the rules and regulations of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Senator Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV has filed a resolution seeking for the investigation by the Senate Committee on Finance to look into complaints against the BIR for the alleged failure to act expeditiously on pending tax refund claims.

“Tax refund procedures are very tedious and cumbersome,” Trillanes lamented, saying that the process of claiming tax refund could take several months just for a revenue officer to be assigned to process the claim.

“The taxpayer will be subjected to a tax audit, a process which often leads to the filing of tax deficiency against the claimant after several reviews and documentation,” he said, explaining that instead of refunding the claims, the taxpayer is required to pay the tax deficiency before receiving the tax refund or tax credit.

“Numerous complaints from men in uniform as well as civilians where expressing dismay over BIR’s lengthy process of filing a claim. Worse, the bureau issues Tax Credit Certificates (TCCs) instead of paying cash to claimants entitled for refunds,” Trillanes cited.

He pointed out that this affects the morale of the Filipino soldiers and the citizenry where they feel that they are being cheated and short-changed by the government when it comes to money the government actually owes them.

Trillanes reminded the BIR about the Supreme Court opinion that if the State expects its taxpayers to observe fairness and honesty in paying their taxes, it must hold itself against the same standard in refunding excess or erroneous payments of such taxes, adding that they should not enrich itself at the expense of the taxpayers.

Trillanes advised that there is a need to balance states interest of maintaining its lifeblood through taxes against the contravening interest of the taxpayers claiming refund and should consider the values of fairness and justice. (Jason de Asis)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cost analysis in RH bill should be cleared first says Recto

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 19, 2011-Senator Ralph G. Recto, chairman of the senate ways and means urged the major proponents of the reproductive health (RH) bill to clear a cost analysis in the recent national debate on enacting the measure which is not only an issue of moral or religious one but also on its funding or budgeting.

“How much the proposed law would burden the national government, local government units (LGUs) and even the private sector,” Recto asked, saying that there’s obviously a price tag for this bill. There are costs involved and no one seems to be talking about it.

“Ultimately, before we discuss about the ‘birds and bees’, let’s talk about the fees,” Recto said, adding that to bankroll the RH bill and to ensure its effective implementation once enacted into law, billions of taxpayers’ money would be needed yearly.

“The costs would entail “guaranteeing universal access to medically safe, legal, affordable, effective and quality RH care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information and education,” Recto added.

“Where will the funds be sourced,” he asked, stressing that it is impossible to push for the bill without knowing the costs where he advised to clear the costs first before legislate something on the bill.

Recto said that the preparation and production of politically correct relevant scientific information materials that would be disseminated by the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Department of Health (DOH) would involve staggering costs not to mention the logistical requirement to deploy them.

“It is possible that contributions of both employers and employees to PhilHealth, Government Service Insurance System and Social Security System would increase as a result of compliance to the soon-to-be passed law,” he asked, noting that the delivery of RH services such as the provision of modern family methods, devices and supplies to poor families would be funded by PhilHealth, national government (NG) and LGUs under the proposed measure.

Recto said that private employers also have to cough up money to support the RH law such as making available health care facilities and services like contraceptives and sexual dysfunction treatment to all their employees.

“So instead of ‘conditional cash transfers (CCT)’, employers from time to time would give out 'conditional condom transfers' or hold “Viagra nights” in exchange for increased productivity?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the LGUs are mandated to pick up the tab along with the national government in the rolling out of RH services like information, care and supplies including medicines aside from hiring midwives to man birthing centers.

Recto eyed another possible cost is the additional pork barrel needed to finance the acquisition of mobile health clinics/vans for each congressional district that would deliver RH supplies and services to their constituents as mandated in the proposed law.

“Where are we going to take the money? Would this mean more pork barrel, higher LGU taxes and higher contributions to PhilHealth, GSIS and SSS?” he asked, saying that the earmarking of the budgets of the DOH for its family planning program and that of the Commission on Population (POPCOM) as initial outlay for the RH law amounted to P3 billion is not enough.

Recto stressed that there are so many unfunded laws and we don’t need another one; nevertheless, he agrees with most of the content of the proposed bill but has strong reservations over the other provisions that should be taken away or be subjected to refinements.

Recto said that no one could argue to the right of women to safeguard their health and safety when they are pregnant and to give birth. (Jason de Asis) 

Solons outline rules on Phl disaster risk reduction and management

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, May 18, 2011-The Congressional Oversight Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (COCDRRM) was convened to draft the rules of procedure that would enable to oversee and to monitor the implementation of Republic Act 10121 otherwise known as the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

At all levels, R.A. 10121 provisions bats for the identification of the areas vulnerable to calamities, projected climate risks, the enhancement of disaster preparedness and response capabilities, and appropriated P1-billion revolving fund  for the Office of the Civil Defense  as the lead agency.

The Philippines was ranked No. 1 with the most number of disasters that hit a country worldwide according to the Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva.

COCDRRM Senate Committee Secretary Elpidio Calica said the Senate Oversight Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction was constituted during the plenary session last February where the Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Gringo Honasan, Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV and Pia Cayetano were the committee members.

Calica explained that Sen. Panfilo Lacson, as chairman of the Committee of Defense, automatically became a chairman of the Congressional Oversight Committee pursuant to the provisions under R.A. 10121, Sec. 26, adding that the chairman of the Defense Committee at the House, Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon automatically became Lacson’s counterpart.
COCDRRM members included are Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, Nueva Ecija Rep. Josefina Joson, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, Ang Kasangga Rep. Teodorico Haresco and Camarines Sur Rep Diosdado Arroyo.

Calica revealed that last Monday was an organizational meeting where the Congressional Oversight Committee is set to meet again on June for the adoption of the rules of procedure which was tasked to evaluate the accomplishments and impact of R.A. 10121 as well as the performance and organizational structure of its implementing agencies every five years or as necessary to ensure that it remains relevant at all times.

COCDRRM rules of procedures stated that the Committee has the authority to prescribe and adopt guidelines that will govern its work;  recommend the adoption of legislation and other legislative measures pursuant to its findings; conduct hearings, investigations, receive testimonies and reports relevant to its mandate, summon by subpoena any witness to testify before it or require by subpoena to produce documents, books, records and other papers as may be necessary in the performance of its functions; and secure from any department, bureau, office or instrumentality of government any assistance as may be needed, including technical information, preparation and production of reports and submission of recommendations and plans as it may require.

Last year, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed R.A. 10121 to strengthen the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMC) and to institutionalize disaster risk management at all levels of government to better cope with the various calamities that hit the country yearly. (Jason de Asis)


Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this blog do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of "THE CATHOLIC MEDIA NETWORK NEWS ONLINE".

Should the Philippine government legalize same-sex marriage?