Wednesday, July 13, 2011

NGO urges P-Noy gov’t to ratify maritime convention

MANILA, July 14, 2011—With the increasing number of abuses against Filipino seafarers, Manila-based International Seafarers’ Action Center (ISAC) Foundation, Inc. in Manila appealed to the Benigno C. Aquino III government to ratify the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Maritime Labor Convention of 2006.
Attorney Joseph T. Entero, ISAC secretary-general, in a statement said that their organization has been handling numerous cases of abuse, ranging from nonpayment of salaries and benefits, up to mysterious deaths of Filipino mariners boarded in different foreign ships.
It is saddening, he said, that despite the significant contribution of the seafarers in the country’s economy, the government seems to neglect them.
“Last year, our seafarers had remitted as much as $3.7 billion—an increase of more than 11 percent from the total dollar remittance by our mariners in 2009. However, the government seems [to be] continuously disregarding our mariners by having the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006 left unratified,” Entero stated.
He said that there are already 13 countries that adopted the 5-year old Convention, but unfortunately, the Philippines is not one of them.
“The MLC provides a more comprehensive rights and protection at work for the world's more than 1.2 million seafarers. Its primary aim is to provide decent work for seafarers and to secure the economic interests of ship owners which follow high shipping standards. It consolidates and updates the 68 international labor standards related to the Maritime sector, which the ILO and the stakeholders had adopted for the last 80 years,” Entero explained.
He added that with Filipinos constituting the 25 per cent of the entire mariners’ population in the world, it is high time for President Aquino and our lawmakers, to consider its ratification and adoption. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

Believe it or not, PhilRice executive urges Filipinos to eat less, less rice

SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, Nueva Ecija, July 14, 2011-An economist from the Philippine Rice Research Institute who is the country’s premier rice-production research  agency has advised Filipinos to eat less and less rice and diversify their diet by feasting on cassava, banana and other crops to help contribute in attaining national food security and rice self-sufficiency within three years.

Dr. Flordeliza Bordey, spokesperson of the Food Staple Plan of the Philippine Food Staples Self-sufficiency Roadmap (FSSR) for 2011-2016 said that the Filipinos should follow the lead of Japan and China which are rice-sufficient despite their meager rice area harvested per capita because of their people’s diversified diet.

PhilRice is a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) which is mandated to produce high-yielding, cost-reducing rice and superior technology for the Filipino farmers and the citizenry.

“To maintain the country’s per capita consumption of rice at 120 kilograms per year, diversifying diet will improve the Filipinos’ nutrition,” Bordey said, saying that white corn, sweet potato, cassava, and banana can be used as substitutes for rice. 

In the country’s FSSR, a document produced through a series of workshops spearheaded by the Rice Program of the Department of Agriculture (DA), it was mentioned that substituting other staples for rice is seen as strategy in preventing further increase in per capita rice consumption.

Bordey said that the DA’s Rice, Corn, and High-Value Commercial Crops programs will work on augmenting the supply of alternative staples by 3.5 percent a year and increasing their accessibility and affordability. She said there is a pressing need for the country to be rice self-sufficient with the threat of climate change in the traditional rice-exporting countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, India, and the US, which control 84 percent of the world rice export.

She added that “the thin and heavily concentrated international rice trade also continues to be a major concern for food policymakers,” noting that in 2008,  the world price of rice increased dramatically owing to export bans issued by exporters and panic buying of importers.

Roberto Alingog, PR Bank president and 2011 UP outstanding alumnus in entrepreneurship and employment said that eating sweet potato, a crop with more complex carbohydrates and high fiber content, is not only good for the health but also helps the country save millions of pesos from rice exportation.

The less-rice consumption advocacies have seen popular showbiz personalities like actress Gretchen Barreto, whose best remembered health regimen include the sweet potato diet, which she ate boiled, coupled with fruits.

The FSSR said that for the country to be rice self-sufficient, government must embark on such interventions as development and maintenance of irrigation systems; increasing farmers’ access to high-quality seeds; research, development, and promotion of appropriate technology; extension and farmers’ education; reducing post-harvest losses; and developing upland rice-based farming systems using sustainable agricultural practices. (Jason de Asis)

Maritime institute creation is the key to solve Spratlys dispute says Angara

MANILA, July 14, 2011-Senator Edgardo J. Angara, vice chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations said yesterday that an institute on maritime affairs that will train a pool of diplomatic, economic, maritime and legal experts on territorial disputes will provide the solution to the Spratlys dispute.

“The creation of the institute I am proposing will enable our country to have experts who can competently uphold the Philippines interests in international dialogues, including territorial disputes such as the Spratlys,” Angara said, explaining that he is now discussing with the Law Center of the  University of the Philippines of which he is a former president to iron out the details of the formation of an Institute of Maritime Affairs which will advance the country’s ocean-related interests.

“I am sure that the maritime institute will serve in beefing up the country’s capacity to protect our maritime and territorial interests like the conflict over the Spratly Islands continues to simmer,” Angara said.

He added that there is a need to have an authoritative representative in international dialogues which was made all the more urgent by the persisting tension with China.

Earlier in March, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest after Chinese military ships bullied a Philippine seismic exploration vessel in the Recto (Reed) Bank, 80 nautical miles from Palawan and clearly within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Angara said that the government rightfully protested the incursions and unwarranted harassment, adding that the renaming the West Philippine Sea is likewise a strong assertion of the country’s territorial claims. He said, however, that these disagreements cannot be allowed to escalate into a violent clash.

“The Spratlys Islands dispute involves multilateral interests and hence should be resolved multilaterally, with countries agreeing to thresh out not only political but also economic interests,” he said.

“Our country could engage stakeholders on how to jointly maximize available resources for the collective benefit, saying that there are national interests that must be pursued vigorously but there are also multilateral interests that may be sought cooperatively.

“We should strive to strike a balance between the two,” he stressed, believing that maritime institute creation could help dispute in the Spratlys issue. (Jason de Asis)

27 Nueva Ecija towns ban use of plastic bags

PENARANDA, Nueva Ecija, July 13, 2011-“Bawal ang plastic sa Nueva Ecija (Plastics are a taboo in Nueva Ecija).”

With this, municipal mayors in Nueva Ecija have declared a ban on the use of plastic bags in the province in support of the campaign for environmental protection and the fight against global warming.

Mayor Ferdinand Abesamis, president of the 27-member League of Municipalities of the Philippines-Nueva Ecija chapter, said that the prohibition on the use of plastic bags is contained in LMP-NE Resolution 003-2011 passed during its regular meeting last July 5.

Abesamis said each of the member municipalities will convene their respective sangguniang bayan or municipal councils and enact ordinances parallel to the league resolution.  

Abesamis said the league resolution will be transmitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan which will adopt the same and pass an ordinance, including the penalties for violations.

Abesamis said that prior to the passage of the LMP resolution, the ban is now in effect in this town. “We are now enforcing it in Penaranda as part of our environmental plan and in support of the fight against global warming,” he said, adding plastics pose environmental hazards such as flooding because these are hard to dispose of.

“With this resolution, we can really say bawal ang plastic sa Nueva Ecija (plastic is indeed prohibited in Nueva Ecija),” he quipped.

The league, in imposing the ban, took the cue from the city government of Muntinlupa which implemented the plastic bag and styrofoam ban six months ago in order to ease the flooding and reduce the volume of collected garbage.

Muntinlupa City Mayor Alvin San Pedro said that since the ban took effect, the city was spared from flooding at the height of typhoon “Falcon” last month.

In place of plastic bags, consumers now use alternative receptacles to place their groceries such as cardboard boxes, reusable green bags and paper bags made of old newspapers and magazines or the traditional “bayong” (native bags).

According to environmental groups, 12 towns and cities in the country have passed ordinances banning the use of plastic bags. Aside from Muntinlupa, these are Baler, Aurora, Antipolo City and Batangas City, Binan and Los Banos, both in Laguna; Burgos in Pangasinan; Carmona and Imus, both in Cavite; Infanta and Lucban, both in Quezon; and Sta. Barbara, Iloilo.

Sen. Loren Legarda has filed Senate Bill 2759 otherwise known as the Total Plastic Bag Ban Act of 2011 which prohibits groceries, supermarkets, restaurants, fast food chains, department stores and other retail stores and establishments nationwide from using non-biodegradable plastic bags.

Abesamis expressed hope all the five cities in the province – Cabanatuan, Gapan, Munoz, Palayan and San Jose – will also pass local ordinances in support of the campaign. (Jason de Asis)

Bishops return vehicles to PCSO

MANILA, July 13, 2011— Catholic bishops who received money from a state-run lottery to buy sports utility vehicles during the Arroyo administration have returned the cars to the government.
The seven bishops did so, during a senate inquiry Wednesday, although underscoring that the vehicles have not been for personal use but for Church-operated missions.
The three prelates from Luzon brought their vehicles to the senate and returned them to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) right there.
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said those in Mindanao, including the one for his archdiocese, are ready for immediate turnover to any authorized PCSO office.
“…Regardless of whether the acquisition of the vehicles has been lawful or unlawful, constitutional or unconstitutional, we are returning the vehicles,” they said in a joint statement read by Quevedo.
Six of the seven bishops involved in the controversy faced the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee currently investigating the so-called PCSO fund mess.
Aside from Quevedo, they are Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles, Bishops Rodolfo Beltran of Bontoc-Lagawe, Leopoldo Jaucian of Abra, Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, and Martin Jumoad of Basilan.
Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado who is currently out of the country was represented by his auxiliary bishop David William Antonio.
Social projects
The bishops decided to return the cars after recent media scrutiny and amid allegations of the present PCSO board that they accepted them from Arroyo in exchange for their political patronage.
The prelates reiterated that the vehicles were used for their social projects and they are “grateful” for the help given to them.
“We express our sadness that our sincere desire to help people and receive necessary assistance for doing so has confused, disturbed and even scandalized many of the Catholic faithful,” they said.
“We still believe that we have not violated any law, or even the Constitution,” according to the bishops.
Lack of resources
The church officials told the Senate body that they are from provinces that have some of “the most difficult areas” that they, as prelates, have to reach.
“Most of us are from calamity or conflict-stricken areas. We serve communities some of which are the poorest of the poor. Our vocation is to help them in so far as we can with our resources,” they said.
“When we lack resources, we seek the assistance of others, especially from those whose mandate is to provide assistance, particularly in health services and in charity.”
“Some of us received service vehicles from PCSO that are heavy duty 4 x 4 pick-ups in order for our social, health, and charitable services to reach remote areas. Others received vehicles that have multiple purposes of bringing indigent sick people to hospitals or distribute food, medicines, and clothing to calamity stricken families,” they added.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Monday expressed remorse for failing “to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead.”
Arroyo, now a Congresswoman, allegedly gave the vehicles through the agency during a time when she was facing a threat of removal from the presidency due to accusations of corruption.
PCSO officials said an audit showed that P6.9 million in charity funds were used to buy vehicles upon the request of some bishops.
The agency added that using its fund for promotion of a specific religion is also unconstitutional citing the law on separation of Church and State.
List of vehicles
In a letter earlier submitted by the CBCP to the senate, attached was a list of vehicles all purchased in 2009 by seven dioceses using funding from the PCSO.
The Diocese of Bangued in Abra bought a Mitsubishi Strada pick-up worth P1.107 million in 2009 for “transport personnel and carry needed materials for service missions to the poor and needy.”
The Archdiocese of Cotabato got a Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace van worth P1.4 million, for its social action apostolate, like the distribution of “medicines and other relief goods to disaster-hit areas in the diocese.”
The Diocese of Isabela in the war-stricken province of Basilan also bought a Strada pick-up worth P1.225 million for its social action programs.
The Archdiocese of Zamboanga also bought a Grandia van worth P1.518 million on, also for “medical-related services.”
An Isuzu Crosswind utility van worth P720, 000, meanwhile, was received by the Caritas Nueva Segovia for its “health, dental and medical outreach programs.”
Pueblos’ personal request for a Montero included an explanation that it would be used for his “spiritual and social services to the people.”
The Diocese of Bontoc-Lagawe also bought a second-hand Nissan Pathfinder and an L-300 van from PCSO donation. [Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews]


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