Friday, March 4, 2011

Reproductive health bill should be passed says Santiago

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 5, 2011-Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday called for the urgent passage of the reproductive health (RH) bill following the rise in maternity-related deaths, unwanted teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection in the country, which could be curbed by implementing measures that would promote and safeguard the reproductive health of persons, especially women.

Santiago, who has filed the Reproductive Health Act, aka SB No. 2378 in the Senate said that in the celebration of Women’s Month at the University of the Philippines Visayas, women are mostly affected by the delayed passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill into law.

She said that access to reproductive health information and services are virtually denied to the poor, the less-educated, the adolescents, the rural, indigenous women, and women from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). By responding to the reproductive health needs of women, the RH bill affords women more employment, educational opportunities and ultimately, economic empowerment.

The senator claimed that more than half of the pregnancies in the Philippines are unattended by health professionals, saying that child-birth related deaths could have been avoided, if more Filipino women have access to reproductive health information and health care.

“Only three percent of the population does not use contraceptives because of religious belief,” Santiago said, saying that the proposed law that could reduce the number of abortions is being opposed by fundamentalist groups.

She furthered that the increased access to information and services on modern contraceptive methods will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, eliminate the need for abortion, and prevent maternal deaths.

2008 national and manila surveys of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) stated that the Filipino people have recognized the need for the passage of the RH bill, saying that 71 percent of the national population and 86 percent of the population in Metro Manila are in favor of the passage of the RH bill.

Santiago manifested that the SWS survey showed that there is a clamor and demand to have the bill passed which provides emergency obstetric care in each province and city; full range of modern family planning methods in all accredited health facilities; the inclusion of family planning supplies as essential medicines; PhilHealth benefits for serious and life-threatening reproductive health conditions such as HIV and AIDS, breast and reproductive tract cancers, and obstetric complications; mobile health care service vans in each congressional district; mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sex education starting at Grade 5; capability building of barangay health workers; employers' responsibilities where employers shall provide reproductive health services to all employees; Multi-media campaign to raise the level of public awareness; and Management of abortion complications so that women are not left to die.

“Although middle class and upper class women can afford to pay for their own contraceptives and other reproductive health care services, this is not the case for majority of Filipina women who belong to the lower economic strata, Santiago lamented.

She said that there is a need for budgetary allocation to increase access to reproductive health care information and services, sighting that poor women suffered for they cannot afford to buy their own contraceptives, do not have the money to pay for antibiotics to treat their reproductive tract infection, cannot afford to pay a Php2,500 ligation procedure, are unable to get pre-natal and post-natal checkups, or even afford to pay for a simple pap smear procedure.

“It has been almost a decade since the first RH bill was filed in Congress last December 2001, and that delay in the passage of the RH bill is detrimental to the health and lives of Filipinos especially women and children; thus, the passage of the RH bill delayed was a violation of the constitution promulgated by the state.

“Our health is a fundamental of human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights and conducive to living a life with dignity, therefore our constitution guarantees full respect for human rights,” the Senator ended. (Jason de Asis)

Looming worldwide food crisis can be prevented through Science and technology-Angara

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 5, 2011-In line with the reports that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which measures global food prices may hit us all the time, Senator Edgardo J. Angara, Chair of The Congressional Commission on Science Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) made a statement that the looming worldwide food crisis can be prevented with the implementation of S&T based projects and the continued cooperation of government, academe and industry.

“The improvement of a national railway system could help battle the rising food prices in the country,” Angara said, pointing out that a good, efficient rail system that can help move people and cargo especially in the distant areas of both Luzon and Mindanao.

Angara said that during the time that he served as Secretary of Agriculture, he saw the abundance of food and goods in Mindanao but their biggest difficulty transporting their products to the consumers, saying that railway system can be built without marring the beautiful landscapes in the country.

The Senator believed that it is possible to build a tunnel inside the mountain that will not destroy mountains along the way by using new technology in train building and tunneling.

To support the initiatives of COMSTE, Angara has filed senate bill no. 2055 otherwise known as the Biotechnology Industry Development Act of 2010, pointing out that the world biotechnology industry is a multibillion industry.

“Medical biotechnology investment alone is estimated to US$200 billion whereas investment in agricultural biotechnology was worth US$67 billion in 2003,” Angara said, adding that the start of the 21st century indicates the coming convergence of agriculture and medicine with pharmaceuticals being produced by genetically engineered plants and the greater acceptance of herbal medicine.

To develop a biotechnology-based industry, the proposed bill intends to address the weaknesses of the country’s system where private sector is given incentives to invest in biotechnology R&D by allowing the total R&D cost and prices of shares of stocks in biotech companies as tax deductible.

“To lessen the burden of an unwieldy accounting and auditing system, majority of the government's investments in biotechnology R&D is awarded through a government corporation,” the Senator ended. (Jason de Asis)

Villar urged the gov’t. for a comprehensive strategy to address OFWs welfare

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 5, 2011-To address the concerns and welfares of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from restive states in the Middle East and North Africa, Senator Manny Villar urged the government to formulate a comprehensive strategy in giving economic and social assistance in the form of livelihood and technical skills training, preference in redeployment, free hospitalization and Philhealth membership, educational help and other benefits aside from the Php10,000 financial aid.

A proposed senate resolution number 412 was filed by Villar urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) as well as other concerned executive agencies to devise a strategy that will address the concerns of repatriated OFWs who now lack sources of income.

The senator said that the OFWs still need help and will be repatriated and rendered without employment that’s why it is necessary for the government to act and to lay down measures to ensure that these Filipinos are given adequate economic assistance so that they may be able to start again either here in the Philippines or abroad.

“Workers who were repatriated with their families should be assisted in relocation, housing and education of their children as well as healthcare,” Villar said, noting that the unrest in the region has placed the livelihood and safety of OFWs at risk, saying that an estimated number of 30,000 Filipinos are affected by the conflict and are now in the process of repatriation in Libya alone, adding that at least 14,000 Filipinos are waiting to be evacuated from Libya according to the Department of Labor and Employment.

“Armed conflicts sometimes have a psychological impact on a person,” Villar said, saying that free counseling and other similar services must be made available so that the workers may be aided in coping up with the experiences that they suffered while they were in conflict zones.

Meanwhile, the Senator lauded the emergency repatriation being carried out by employers in Libya, specifically the efforts of French company Vinci Construction Grand Project for airlifting 97 Filipino workers out of the war-torn nation.

A welcome lunch was hosted by Lito Soriano, CEO of LBS Recruitment Solutions Corp. Susan Ople of the Ople Center presented the resolution for the 60 OFW from Libya on behalf of Villar. Villar’s Sagip OFW and the Ople Center started the “Skills-Up” program, a vocational skills scholarship program for repatriated OFWs who are victims of abuse and illegal recruitment. (Jason de Asis)

Phl natural resources being sold below market price should be regulated-Angara

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 5, 2011-During the Wednesday’s Commission and Appointments hearing, Senator Edgardo J. Angara, vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Finance warned Department of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima to confirm reports that the Philippines precious natural resources are being sold below market prices.

Angara said that it is ridiculous that we are selling out the rights to our country’s natural resources so cheaply and practically giving away our farmlands, forests, fisheries to anyone willing to fork over the minimum amount needed which is not even at market prices, explaining that to acquire a mining claim here is at ease while the other countries guard their territories intimately so that they can derive significant income from this option.

“I am questioning the stagnant rate of growth in some areas of the nation’s economy,” Angara said, adding that our GDP has shown huge growth in the last decade where he believed that since 1997 around 30 percent increase, but no considerable improvement on other areas of the economy.

“What about the continuing efforts on regular tax collections? These provide dependable income from neutral sources such as the rich and abundant natural resources that we have,” he asked, saying that the abundant resources of the country are not being put to good use.

To provide sizeable source of revenue in the future, the Senator called on the interim Finance chief to create a structural pricing scheme to regulate the use of the country’s natural resources where he advised the secretary to act on the matter as soon as possible.

Purisima was advised by Angara to mark all of the nation’s resources from land to airwaves as the nation’s new fiscal chief. Angara furthered that there is a need to regulate their use to have a sustainable source of revenue and at the same time preventing overstretching the resources of the country. (Jason de Asis) 

5 years missing broadcaster remembered in a simple ceremony

BALER, Aurora, March 4, 2011-The militant organization here composed of the Multi-Sectoral Action Group (M-SAG), Justice Peace and Action Group (JPAG), Pamana and church leaders yesterday remembered in a simple ceremony along burgos street the reportedly missing for five (5) years who was known as a hard hitting radio commentator airing on DZJO FM.

Joey Estriber, 37 was known as an active Bataris member, a church-based non-government organization here who was tagged by the soldiers as supporter of rebels in the province and said that this was the reason for his abduction. He was a radio host of “Pag-usapan Natin” (Let’s Talk About It) and abducted by unidentified four men dragged to a maroon Besta van with tinted windows and no plate number.

Estriber’s kin together with the militant groups sought for justice of Estriber. (Arnel Turzar, DZJO FM, CMN-Baler, Aurora)

Environmental and human rights activists appealed to the government to find Estriber and sought to give them a concrete steps in making Gloria Arroyo accountable for the over a thousand deaths and some 200 enforced disappearances of activists, human rights defenders during her presidency. (Arnel Turzar, DZJO FM, CMN-Baler, Aurora)

Militant groups sought justice for the victim through prayer and candle lighting vigil. (Arnel Turzar, DZJO FM, CMN-Baler, Aurora)   

Legarda sought investigation on the Phl preparedness giving aid to OFWs

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, March 4, 2011-To provide assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations sought for an investigation on the preparedness of the Philippine government including embassies and consulates abroad, saying that the recent incidents in different parts of the world have brought impending danger to OFWs.

There are more than 14,000 OFWs who remain trapped in strife-torn Libya while 11 Filipinos are still missing following the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit Christchurch, New Zealand last February 22 according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“Due to the eruption of violence and cross-fire between pro and anti-government forces, the political turmoil and social unrest in Libya have compromised the safety of thousands of OFWs,” Legarda said; thus, New Zealand recent turmoil has affected our countrymen that have brought anxiety both to the OFWs and their relatives.

Legarda said that the safety of the more than 1.5 million OFWs scattered throughout 197 countries around the world is of paramount importance in their significant contribution in saving the Philippine economy and also the added hardships that they have to face while living and working abroad.

Through this, Legarda is pushing for an inquiry into the efforts conducted by the government particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, other related agencies, our embassies and consulates abroad to these events and preparedness in providing assistance to the OFWs should other emergency arises in other countries.

Her sought for inquiry explained that the bilateral relations with foreign nations where OFWs are residing must be utilized in combined effort for their protection in cases of distressed and emergency situations.

Legarda said that our embassies and consulates must provide the government here with constant assessments of the existing situations in their respective territorial assignments, saying that so as not to compromise the safety of our OFWs, there is a need for a sense of urgency and be prepared to adopt contingency measures even before a crisis erupts.

“There is a need to strengthen the intelligence network of diplomatic posts abroad so that they will be able to foresee a looming crisis and to plan ahead by analyzing domestic tensions in their posts,” she said.

To get back on their feet after their stressful experience abroad and also to boost their morale, the government should be prepared at all times not only in providing immediate repatriation for OFWs but also in adopting reintegration programs, such as skills training for displaced OFWs, that would provide them job opportunities. (Jason de Asis)

Defense Chief Gazmin lauded NOLCOM AFP

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City, March 4, 2011-Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, who is a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1968 lauded the operational accomplishments of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) headed by the Commander Lieutenant General Gaudencio S. Pangilinan during his visit here yesterday where he was hoping that the situation in Northern and Central Luzon will continue to improve up to the point that all of the command areas of responsibility are insurgency free.

Gazmin was optimistic that by the year 2016,  the AFP can already focus on territorial defense where he urged everyone to continue to cooperate and do their part to ensure that the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (Bayanihan) as implemented by NOLCOM Campaign Plan (Ugnayan) will succeed.

He added that insurgency is everybody’s problem; thus, the roles of individual are needed to win and become free on insurgency where he brought good news to NOLCOM AFP about the increase in combat pay of soldiers who are actually involved in combat duty from P240 to P500, availability of low-cost housing units for 20,000 soldiers this year and scholarship program which were the ideas of the President.
In the controversies generated by investigations in congress, Gazmin said that the government welcomes all these developments because everybody were able to see the bad practices before and noted that such malpractices are no longer happening now.  

Gazmin added that various reforms have been instituted where he organized a committee to look into the anomalous transactions previously and the review of the reforms that have been instituted, explaining that the committee has to finish their report until March 14 and submit the names of people involved to proper authorities so that justice can be delivered.

“We must adhere to the policies of transparency and accountability of President Aquino,” he ended.

Meanwhile, the new AFP chief of staff is set to be announced by President Aquino at the commencement exercises of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class 2011 in Baguio City. AFP chief of staff General Ricardo David Jr. will be retiring on March 8 where eleven among the unnamed three-star generals are recommended to his post.

The AFP soldiers are waiting among the generals who will be the most revered and respected generals in the military circle professionalism that will lead them in serving the country. (Jason de Asis)


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