Saturday, December 10, 2011

12,000 CL farmers exempted of irrigation fees due to typhoons

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija, December 11, 2011-The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) announced that 12,000 farmers from Nueva Ecija and certain towns in Central Luzon who have been receiving irrigation supply from the giant Pantabangan Dam will be exempted from irrigation service fees (ISFs) after their farmlands were devastated by typhoons “”Pedring” and “Quiel” two months ago.

“The farmers will be granted the ISF payment exemptions following the two-month validation conducted by the agency which found that a total of 15,000 hectares out of its service area of 104,000 hectares were severely damaged by the twin typhoons,” Josephine Salazar, operations manager of the NIA’s Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems which operates the Pantabangan Dam said.

Earlier, NIA administrator Antonio Nangel voiced support to a request of local officials in Nueva Ecija to exempt local farmers from paying the ISFs during the cropping season, as their lands were hit hard by the calamities.

The request was made by Gov. Aurelio Umali, Vice Gov. Jose Gay Padiernos and the provincial chapter of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines led by its president, Peñaranda Mayor Ferdinand Abesamis who noted the trail of destruction left by the twin typhoons in the province where at least P2 billion worth of palay was damaged.

Umali said that the losses suffered by local farmers will surely affect the food security situation in the entire country.

A resolution passed by the SP chaired by Padiernos said the damage will surely burden the farmers and their families who pay an average of 2.5 cavans and 3.5 cavans of palay per hectare during the rainy and during the dry season, respectively for irrigation water provided by NIA through the Pantabangan Dam.  

But Salazar clarified that those who will be exempted are farmers with average yields of 40 cavans and below and not those above the ceiling provided by NIA.

“That’s our standing policy, adding that if those above the 40-cavans ceiling are exempted, this will surely affect the operations of UPRIIS particularly in the maintenance of irrigation facilities and the water delivery,” Salazar said.

“We cannot possibly grant the request of other farmers whose average yields are above 40 cavans as this will affect the operations of UPRIIS,” she furthered.

She said that the 15,000 farmers who will be exempted translate into around P3 million worth of ISFs which could have been utilized for irrigation canal maintenance and the fuel requirements of UPRIIS. 

UPRIIS services the 27 towns and five (5) cities of the province, Candaba in Pampanga and San Miguel and San Ildefonso in Bulacan involving 88,000 farmers, of whom who 62,046 paid a total of P232.4 million last October. Last year, farmers paid P203.4 million in ISFs. (Jason de Asis)                 

Senate 'anti-discrimination bill' mandates religious intolerance—lawyer

MANILA, December 10, 2011—In trying to legislate homosexual behavior, those responsible for and supportive of amendments to the Anti-Ethnic or Racial Profiling and Discrimination Act of 2011 or Senate Bill (SB) 2814 are demonstrating religious intolerance, according to a lawyer.
As a whole, the bill “clearly…prohibits all unlawful acts directed at a person’s ethnic roots, race, religion/belief, language disability or other status,” said Atty. Jo Aurea Imbong, Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Legal Office, during a weekly forum at Club Filipino in San Juan.
“During a recent Senate plenary proceeding, however, very disturbing provisions were added that penalize unlawful acts and so-called “intolerance when directed at sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity.”
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was responsible for adding the provisions to the bill now titled “An act prohibiting discrimination, profiling, violence and all forms of intolerance against persons based on ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, language, disability, or other status.”
If the bill, approved on Third Reading on November 21, is enacted as is, the so-called intolerance will end up being directed at people on matters of religion.
“Hate crimes”
Section 4, Nos. 10 and 11 dwell on the creation of a new crime called “hate speech” which refers to instances when one ridicules a person, insult, suggest inferiority or hatred or uses adjectives against the other person, Imbong explained.
“Hate crimes” pertains to another person’s “sexual orientation,” the lawyer added.
“Magkakaroon ng bagong krimen — hate speech and hate crimes. What’s this? Kung ikaw ay nagbitiw ng salita na nakakasira ng pakiramdam ng mga lesbians, gays, bisexuals at transgenders, hate crime na iyon at hate speech. Besides, puwede ka pang ihabla. Anong klaseng panukalang batas ito?” she asked.
The result is a crime of religious intolerance, based on Sec. 3, No. 6 of the bill itself.
“If they refuse to tolerate practice, persons or beliefs on religious grounds, that’s a crime of religious intolerance,” Imbong pointed out.
Protecting religious freedom, free speech
Part of the official statement of the CBCP Legal Office on the legislative measure further explains religious freedom:
“Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is one of the foundations of a democratic society. It includes the fundamental right to act according to religious beliefs in the field of morality.
It should be recalled that freedom of religion also protects the freedom of the public expression of religious belief and religious doctrines. Consequently, public expressions of faith or religious morality should receive a greater level of protection than other forms of free speech. Such is the case for example, for the religious sermons of ministers.
Effectively, the public expression of faith or religious morality should not be liable to prosecution because of their opposition to certain ideas or practices morally objectionable, so long as that opposition is expressed peacefully. It has never been a crime to merely express religious belief, nor should it ever be.”
“Government has taken over the Church in teaching what is right and wrong,” the lawyer observed.
“Government should not meddle in religious doctrine and faith: Religious witnessing (viewed in the bill as “intolerance”) is also a form of ethical, moral, ideological and spiritual expression, protected by the Constitution,” she continued.
Sex, gender not on the same level as race, ethnicity
Meanwhile, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes, the new Chairman of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) pointed out that the Commission opposes the Senate version of the anti-discrimination bill as it “creates problems regarding ethics, marriage, the family and religious freedom.”
“The difference in sex or gender does not belong to the same level as the difference in race, color, religion, or ethnicity, etc.” Reyes said.
He also explained that discrimination is not necessarily a negative thing; it’s unjust discrimination that the Church fights against.
“Although Church teaching is against homosexuality, the Church loves homosexuals as she loves other people. The Church is also against any unjust discrimination against homosexuals,” the prelate said.
The bicameral meeting for the House and Senate versions of the bill originally scheduled on December 13 has been postponed to next year. (CBCP for Life)


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