Friday, November 30, 2012

Legarda Lauds Philippines’ Vote on Palestine’s UN Recognition

MANILA, November 30, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today welcomed the United Nations General Assembly decision granting non-member observer state status to Palestine and lauded the affirmative vote extended by the Philippines during the general assembly voting.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that the UN has taken a constructive move towards the fulfillment of a long overdue two-state solution that will hopefully lead to lasting peace, recalling that the Philippines was one of the countries that had supported the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 in 1947 that partitioned Palestine into two states toward achieving a solution to the conflict.

“It is time for the Israelis and the Palestinians to take constructive and progressive steps toward achieving lasting and meaningful peace,” she said. 

“Our own experiences have shown that peace is only possible if there is political will and the openness by parties concerned to resume negotiations on the basis of a shared desire to achieve lasting peace,” she added.

Legarda explained that by the said vote, the world community calls the attention of the parties to be guided by various UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles, and other relevant agreements.

“It is time the parties resume direct negotiations. More than 160 deaths, mostly civilians have been recorded recently as violence broke out this month on account of rocket attack exchanges between Gaza and Israel.  A ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Group Hamas has recently been declared bringing a temporary end to the hostilities,” she pointed out.

“A more durable and just peace is needed for the sake of present and future generations of Palestinians and Israelis,” Legarda concluded.

Legarda Joins Call to Save Philippine Marine Turtles

MANILA, November 30, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today joined the call to save the Philippine Marine Turtles or "Pawikan" at the 2012 Pawikan Festival held at the Pawikan Conservation Center in Morong, Bataan.

Legarda, keynote speaker at the event, remarked that the Pawikan is one of the oldest species that have survived to this day, and are among those that live the longest.

“Pawikans are majestic creatures found throughout the country. However, because of poaching, theft of their eggs for commercial purposes, and destruction of their habitat, they are in danger of becoming extinct,” she said.

“There is no denying that we have become the biggest threat to their existence and to the existence of many other species of animals,” she added.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and United Nations Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, emphasized that the destruction of marine habitats means great losses for many sources of livelihood, including tourism, as well as depletion of food supply.

“I laud the local government of Bataan for their initiatives to protect, conserve, and rehabilitate the Pawikan population. Future generations will be thankful for the concerted action they have achieved,” she said.

The Senator also urged the people of Bataan to spread their advocacy to other communities in the Philippines, saying that we can and should reverse the trend, and stop those who are plundering the seas for their own gain.

“The environment is threatened by the times, by the pressures of modern society, by our very species. But let this be a challenge to harness science and involve our citizens. Let us take that one vital step forward for a safe and green environment for all,” Legarda concluded.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Legarda Lauds PHL’s Improving Economy, Stresses Inclusive Growth, Sustainable Dev’t

MANILA, November 29, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today hailed the country’s improving economy as she stressed that the benefits of such progress should reach even the far-flung communities in the country.

Legarda was reacting to a report from the National Statistical Coordination Board that the Philippine economy grew 7.1% in the third quarter of 2012, the highest among countries in Southeast Asia, and the second highest in Asia.

“I laud the efforts of our government in improving the country’s economy. This certainly brings optimism to our citizens. However, such optimism can only be maintained if there is actual improvement in the quality of life. Growth, no matter how high, will only be appreciated by the people if its benefits actually trickle down even to the far-flung barangays in the country. This should include efficient delivery of basic services especially to the poor rural communities,” she said.

The Senator brought to the fore again the observations of International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde that growth should be inclusive—it should be felt not only by the rich and those in the middle class, but also, and more importantly, by the poor.

Legarda also reminded the conservation of the environment, stressing that it should never be compromised for the sake of development.

“The decline of our ecosystems has been determined as one of the underlying drivers of disaster risks and poverty, in the context of climate change. Therefore, protecting ecosystems—which involves rehabilitating our forests, cleaning our rivers, and stopping pollution, among other actions, must be done now,” she pointed out.

In ensuring inclusive growth, Legarda said that investing heavily in the countryside must be included in development initiatives—support for the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises to create more employment opportunities; establishing livelihood training programs; and,  providing technical and financial support to  farmers and fisherfolk.

“What we must aim for is not mere progress, but sustainable development and inclusive growth—never neglecting the most vulnerable sectors of society and never sacrificing the environment in the face of progress,” Legarda concluded.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On the 3rd Quarter Gross Domestic Product

MANILA, November 28, 2012-The Philippine economy grew 7.1% in the third quarter this year beating government targets and besting other Southeast Asian economies that have disclosed their numbers for the period. Among our neighbors the country's GDP growth was higher than Indonesia's 6.2%, Malaysia's 5.2%, Vietnam's 4.7%, Thailand's 3.0%, and Singapore's 0.3%.
This impressive expansion from 3.2% in the same quarter last year, places the country’s 9-month growth rate at 6.5% and on track to surpass the 5-6% full year growth target set by the National Economic Development Authority.
The Philippine economy has shown both resilience and resurgence despite the global economic slowdown. This was made possible due to sustained confidence in the leadership of President Aquino and his administration which has consistently equated good governance with good economics. Underscored by deft fiscal management, responsible and transparent public spending, and a continuously strengthening partnership between government and business, this has resulted in a virtuous cycle for the Philippine economy.
Government has also pushed to ensure this economic growth is felt by the broadest number of people. Within the same 9-month period, the Aquino administration has enrolled more than three million beneficiaries under the Conditional Cash Transfer program and has distributed P20 billion for this priority social investment. On top of this, spending for public health has also increased resulting in an expansion of health care safety nets and improvements in hospitals and health centers all over the country.
Equitable and inclusive growth is a commitment of the Aquino administration that has prioritized the establishment of both social and physical infrastructure which continues to redound to a more robust economy for the benefit of all Filipinos.

Ecija vice mayor’s brod, 2 others rapped in murder of engineer

CARRANGLAN, Nueva Ecija, November 28, 2012–A brother of incumbent Vice Mayor Efren Alfonso and two others were charged before the Department of Justice for alleged complicity in the cold-blooded November 11 murder of a 67-year-old engineer in this town.

          Charged before the DOJ in Manila for the killing of engineer Alexander Mejia were Erwin Alfonso, and two others who remain unidentified.

          The trio were charged for the shooting of Mejia at around 5 pm last November 11 at Sitio Pulo, Barangay Joson here.

          Police are looking at land dispute as the possible motive for the attack.

          Police probers said Mejia was inspecting a land parcel in the site with a geodetic engineer Mario Faustino and Geminiano Lozano when Alfonso’s group arrived and confronted him.

Senior Superintendent Walter Castillejos, provincial police director, said the family of Lazatin filed the case in Manila for security reasons and is planning to file a petition before the DOJ for the change of venue of the trial. 

Castillejos said witnesses have refused to come out to testify for fear of reprisals.

Mejia’s sister Chana Lopez said Faustino and Lozano are reluctant to come out because the suspect’s family is highly influential. (Manny Galvez) 

Legarda Celebrates Senate Approval of Kasambahay Bill

MANILA, November 28, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda celebrated the Senate approval of the Kasambahay Bill, which will accord domestic workers official rights and privileges, one day after the House of Representatives also ratified the measure.

“Now we only need the President's signature in order to make minimum wage and other rights and privileges a reality for the 1.9 million domestic workers in the country,” she said.

Legarda, a staunch supporter of the establishment of the rights of domestic workers, added that the Kasambahay Bill is one of the foundations of inclusive growth that the Philippines as a nation aspires for.

Among the Senator's first bills filed in the Fifteenth Congress was Senate Bill 7, which sought to increase the minimum wage of household helpers and require all household working arrangements between employers and helpers to be duly documented.

Legarda noted that this is a clear result of the dedication to equality in the country, and that this heralds better things to come for other marginalized sectors.

“It is imperative that we treat our kasambahays as workers, not servants. The Kasambahay Bill, and hopefully soon, the Kasambahay Law, is a major step in according decent working conditions, just compensation, and sufficient benefits to our domestic workers,” she stressed.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also ushered the Philippine ratification of the International Labour Organization Convention 189, the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, which will enter into force in 2013.

Legarda: Days of Human Traffickers Are Numbered

MANILA, November 28, 2012-As the Senate and the House of Representatives have come up with the reconciled version of the proposed measure that strengthens the current Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, Senator Loren Legarda today warned human traffickers that their days are already numbered.

Legarda made the statement as she expressed hope that President Aquino will sign the measure into law in time for the International Day Against Trafficking on December 12.

“Nine years after Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act was passed, we still have a long way to go to eradicate and effectively control the scourge that trafficking inflicts upon our people,” Legarda noted.

“We acknowledge that the problem of human trafficking continues to hound our society, and this is the reason why we need to strengthen the existing law. The proposed measure that has been approved by the Congressional Bicameral Conference Committee imposes more stringent penalties, including provisions on accessory liability,” said Legarda, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Anti-Trafficking and sponsor of the measure.

She explained that the present law, R.A. 9208, does not have a provision on pre-empted trafficking, but this new law covers attempted trafficking and accessory or accomplice liability, thereby covering under the mantle of the law those individuals who have any involvement in human trafficking.

The Senator noted that by year-end of 2011, the country’s Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) reported 62 convictions out of a total of 1,519 cases filed between 2003 and 2011. From January to October of this year, however, 38 convictions were made, equivalent to more than half of the total convictions made over an eight-year period.

“While this development validates the modest and positive strides the country has achieved in the battle against trafficking, we need to do more,” she said, citing recent reports that at least 64 people bound for Malaysia, but with no appropriate travel documents, were intercepted by IACAT agents in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

Legarda added that under the new measure, the IACAT shall be strengthened as it will have a permanent secretariat with funds.

Monday, November 26, 2012


MANILA, November 27, 2012-Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Monday said that the Judiciary has its work cut out for them and that it needs to prioritize reducing court vacancies to one percent, and upping the conviction rates through the speedy dispensation of cases.

"Let's be very frank here: the current justice system is anti-poor. The system grinds agonizingly slow that those without the resources are ultimately rendered helpless. Cases languish on an average of six years in the lower courts. Unless the Judiciary works on these bottomlines, we will continue running in place."

Pangilinan was interpellating in the Senate plenary during the budget deliberations for the Judiciary, and said that there is "hardly need to reinvent the wheel" because of previous gains that had already been achieved.

"The JBC was able to reduce court vacancies through tireless screening and by interviewing court applicants daily for five months under Justice Artemio Panganiban's leadership. That can be done again."

Pangilinan also urged the Judiciary to fulfill its mandate in upholding the rule of law.

"Let us not kid ourselves into thinking that we can modernize our Judiciary while ignoring the fact that our conviction rates remain pathetically low. There have been a staggering amount of media killings, for example, during the Arroyo administration to this current administration. Yet of all those cases, only two have resulted in conviction. The message this is sending to would be criminals is that they can get away with murder quite literally. Let us put an end to this and give our people the kind of justice system befitting a developing society."

Legarda Supports Call for 5-year Extension of Kyoto Protocol

MANILA, November 26, 2012-As nearly 200 countries send their representatives to converge in Doha, Qatar to discuss the impacts of climate change, Senator Loren Legarda urged leaders to extend the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that legally binds developed nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but only for a five-year period.

Legarda, the United Nations Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, supported the call of the Philippine delegation to the Doha Climate Change Conference led by Climate Change Commission Vice Chair Mary Ann Lucille Sering, that the Kyoto Protocol must be extended, but not longer than five years, because the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a matter that must be addressed the soonest possible time.

The first Kyoto Protocol is from 2008-2012. During the Durban Conference on Climate Change in 2011, at least 35 industrialized countries agreed to a second commitment period of the agreement. The European Union’s proposal is to extend the Kyoto Protocol for eight years.

“Climate change is a problem that we have to confront everyday. There is a necessity to adopt a united and proactive response, considering a recent World Bank report that highlighted the worse impacts of a 4-degree Celsius global temperature,” Legarda stressed.

She noted that a “4°C world” may have seem impossible twenty years ago, but today, the World Bank warned that the whole world is nearing a crisis that if not responded to proactively, will continue to endanger the survival of the present and succeeding generations.

“Reducing disaster risks and adapting to climate change is a matter of high importance to the world now, especially to developing countries where disaster risks abound, and to the poor and the marginalized who are most affected by disasters. We urge developed nations to immediately establish and strengthen measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because we do not want to see the extinction of one-third of the world’s flora and fauna, aside from the extreme weather events that we are going to experience with a hotter global temperature,” she added.

“The issue of the environment cuts across age, gender, or ethnicity, and without a united front against disasters and climate change, we could do little to minimize risks,” Legarda concluded.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Legarda: Help Farmers Adapt to Climate Change, Achieve Rice Self-Sufficiency

MANILA, November 25, 2012-In light of November being National Rice Awareness Month, Senator Loren Legarda reiterated her call for 100 percent rice self-sufficiency through public awareness and government incentives and support.

“Irrigation, high-yield seeds and modern post-harvest facilities are badly needed if the Philippines is to achieve 100 percent rice sufficiency. By providing incentives and support, the government would entice more Filipino farmers who had shifted to high-value crops to plant rice anew,” she explained.

“This National Rice Awareness Month, we should look into providing farmers post-harvest equipment and facilities like threshers and grain dryers in order to reduce their production cost and lessen grain losses,” she said.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, also said that the scarcity of rice supply is being made worse by climatic factors like prolonged dry spell and, on the opposite side, floods, which is why attention must be paid to climate resilience in farming regions.

“Crop yield potential is estimated to decline by 19% in Asia toward the end of the century and rice yield in the Philippines would decline by 75%. These alarming figures alone tell us that the country’s agricultural  adaptation  program  must  ensure  more  investments  in agricultural  research and infrastructure,  improved  water  governance and  land  use  policies,  better  forecasting  tools  and early warning systems,  a strengthened  extension  system  that  will  assist  farmers  to  achieve economic diversification  and  access  to  credit  to  make  significant  improvements  in  our  food security goals,” she remarked.

The Senator also noted that the Department of Agriculture’s current “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas!” campaign, which urges Filipinos to try equally nutritious food such as white corn, sweet potato, cassava, and banana as rice substitutes, as well as brown rice, is of great help to the goal.

“President Aquino has declared 2013 as the National Year of Rice. This is a chance for us to step up, as the Philippines must endeavor to meet its own rice requirements without resorting to importation, and, having done that, to aim to become a rice exporter,” Legarda concluded.

Support of Regional Dev’t Councils snowballs Christmas bonuses, allowances below P60,000 should be tax-free

MANILA, November 25, 2012-Sen. Ralph G. Recto today reiterated his proposal to raise the tax exemption ceiling on Christmas bonuses and 13th month pay to P60,000 from the current threshold of P30,000 to give more spending power to employees celebrating the holiday season.

Recto said the tax imposed on bonuses and allowances exceeding P30,000 is outdated since it was pegged when the basic salary scale of state employees was only P2,800 and the salary of the Philippine President was only P25,000.

Currently, the basic pay scale of government employees is P8,287 while the salary grade of the chief executive is P120,000.
“This is the kind of a one-tier increase that all advocates and lobbyists – foreign-funded or not – should be  championing,” he said.

Recto stressed that slapping a tax on bonuses and allowances that exceed P30,000 is tantamount to treating a job well-done  a “sin” and employers’ generosity  a “felony.”

“A worker bound to receive a little more than P30,000 in bonuses and allowances should not be penalized with a tax. The tax is essentially a disincentive for workers aspiring for a higher pay scale that naturally comes with generous perks and bonuses,” he said.

The 1997 National Internal Revenue Code Section 32(B) Chapter VI states that private and government employees having bonuses beyond P30,000 were automatically subjected to income tax.

Recto’s Senate Bill 2879 seeks to shatter the threshold of P30,000 so that bonuses and allowances up to P60,000 would be exempt from income tax.

The senator said if inflation is factored in, the P30,000 tax exemption ceiling is practically worth P15,000 today as computed by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which he chaired before getting elected to the Senate in 2010.

The proposed measure and other important Senate bills were the 'collateral damage' of the recent impeachment trial. Congress is racing against time to pass a new sin tax law and enact the P2- trillion 2013 national budget before the Christmas break.

“With time running out for the approval of this bill, I could only look forward to  its serious consideration in 2013 in time for the next holiday season. And who would say that Number 13 is the unlucky number?” he said.

At least three Regional Development Councils (RDCs) have expressed support to the Recto bill, the latest of which is the RDC –National Capital Region. The first two RDCs are that of Region 2 and Region 6.

The RDC-NCR, in a recent meeting headed by Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, RDC-Metro Manila chair, even proposed a higher tax exemption threshold of P80,000 or P20,000 higher than the Recto proposal.

To fast track approval, the RDC-NCR will convene a Technical Working Group composed of the UP-NCPAG, labor leaders and Metro Manila LGUs to be assisted by the BIR, National Tax Research Center (NTRC) and Civil Service Commission. 

In his bill’s explanatory note, Recto argued that the prevailing ceiling for tax exemption “does not mirror prevailing circumstances and that the "ceiling of P30,000 does not apply today as it did when it was incorporated in the tax code."

“The law should always be responsive to the needs of the people. An increase in the ceiling of this particular tax exemption is one of the reliefs the people need during these difficult times,” Recto said. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Legarda Hails New Recycling Campaign in Metro Manila

MANILA, November 24, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today hailed the recently launched National Ecosavers Program (NEP) for public schools, which will give incentives to students who bring recyclable materials.

“I am very pleased that the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 is being implemented with such renewed vigor. Solid waste management is central to reducing the susceptibility of all sectors to the floods that threaten people’s health, homes, and livelihoods. In addition, this campaign will raise awareness in the new generation about the importance of keeping a clean environment,” she said.

The NEP is a program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Galing Pook Foundation. Students who donate recyclable materials will earn “points” which, when accumulated, can be exchanged for more useful materials, such as school supplies. 

In line with the alarming amount of solid waste coming from the capital, the NEP will first be implemented in 763 public elementary and high schools in Metro Manila.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and author of R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, added that with the present condition of communities in Metro Manila, the NEP should be complemented by NCR-wide clean-ups of drainage, waterways, and riverbanks, more tree-growing activities, and other programs to address the problem of ground subsidence.

“The NEP combines a sound solid waste management mechanism with youth participation, which allows it to address two very pertinent issues at once. Evidently, the program deserves our support, and its expansion beyond Metro Manila should soon be underway,” Legarda concluded. 

Legarda Supports Car-Free Day Campaign for Clean Air

MANILA, November 24, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today expressed support for the “Clean Air? Pwede!!!” Campaign initiated by the Partnership for Clean Air which seeks to promote at least one car-free day in Metro Manila’s roads every November.

“In light of November being the National Clean Air Month, it is high time to raise awareness about the effects of burning fossil fuels and the simple solutions we can undertake,” she said.

Legarda, author of the landmark legislation Clean Air Act (R.A. 8749) and Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, stressed that beyond the careful implementation of our environmental laws, altering our everyday activities, such as choosing modes of transportation that are energy-efficient instead of driving a car, will gradually change the city’s landscape for the better.

“I urge everyone to contribute to this campaign, which will hopefully continue for many years to come. Whenever possible, we must consider energy-efficient transport modes like walking, biking, taking public transport, and carpooling. Now is the time for us to reconsider how we, especially in the cities, are living, and how this is affecting the environment,” she remarked.

The Partnership for Clean Air is a multisectoral body that includes government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Metro Manila Development Authority, as well as several private entities and civil society organizations.

“Everyone should be made aware that they are responsible for ensuring the quality of the air we breathe. We must ensure that the generations to come will still have access to clean air,” Legarda concluded.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Legarda on Bicam Approval of Kasambahay Bill: The Time Has Finally Come

MANILA, November 23, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today hailed the Congressional Bicameral Conference Committee’s recent approval of the Kasambahay Bill.

“The time has finally come for the Kasambahay Bill. In 1998, during my first term as a Senator, I already filed a bill that seeks to protect the interest of our kasambahays. Now that we have come this close to having the measure approved, I am hopeful that there will no longer be any reason for the delay of its enactment into law,” said Legarda, co-sponsor of the measure.

“I am truly glad that we have taken such major steps in according decent working conditions, just compensation, and sufficient benefits to our domestic workers,” she added.

During the third and final meeting of the bicameral committee, which was convened by Senate Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, who is the principal sponsor of the measure, the conferees agreed that the new minimum wage for domestic workers will be P2,500 within the National Capital Region, P2,000 for those within chartered cities and first class municipalities, and P1,500 for those in other municipalities.

In a related move, Legarda, as Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, spearheaded last August the Senate’s concurrence in the ratification of ILO Convention 189, known as the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The Philippines was the second country to ratify the Convention.

“As ILO 189 will come into force 12 months after two ILO member-states have ratified it, the Philippines should be justly proud of playing a significant role in improving the employment conditions of domestic workers worldwide. And now, with the Kasambahay Bill nearing a historic triumph, we can begin guaranteeing that kasambahays in the Philippines are treated as workers, not servants,” she added.

“These recent developments herald the dawn of better lives for the 1.9 million domestic workers in the country, and even the 1.5 million more abroad. Both the ILO 189 and the Kasambahay Bill provide rights that are the foundation of inclusive growth that we as a nation aspire for. We are only a few steps away from acknowledging the contributions of our household heroes into the global workforce; no longer as invisible hands but as workers equipped with the rights and benefits accorded others,” Legarda concluded.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


MANILA, November 22, 2012-Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan today urges the Philippine National Police to ensure the safety and protection of kin Maguindanao Massacre victims who have been reportedly receiving threats from anonymous entities. Pangilinan also urges the Judiciary to speed up the wheels of justice in the case, which has yet to achieve more breakthroughs since Ampatuan Sr., his son, former Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., his other son, Zaldy Ampatuan, the former governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao were implicated and jailed for the massacre.

"The Maguindanao Massacre case will be the benchmark of how far our justice system has progressed from previous administrations, whether we like it or not. It is then extremely urgent that we exert all efforts to resolve this case as swiftly as possible."

The massacre of 58 people three years ago, most of which are journalists, is said to be the worst political violence that took place in the Philippines in recent history. 

"That act was so brazen and so dastardly—it is horrifying to think that anyone is capable of doing this, and yet it happened,” pangilinan points out. “We must not allow this massacre be trivialized and buried in the annals of our history by the slow grind of our wheels of justice."

“It isn’t only the Ampatuans and their co-accused that are on trial here, but the entire system of justice. The failure to render a timely and just judgement is an indictment on the capacity of the nation to serve justice.”

Legarda Concerned over ASEAN’s Lack of United Stand on Territorial Disputes

MANILA, November 22, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today expressed concern over the reported failure of ASEAN to once again come up with a united stand on how to handle the territorial disputes between China and four of its members – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

“We recognize that ASEAN unity is vital in addressing the challenges facing the region today, but certainly not at the expense of compromising our national interest. ASEAN unity and the promotion of each member’s national interest are complementary goals that cannot be pursued in isolation of the other,” she said.

The Senator reacted in the context of a reported statement by the Chair of the 21st ASEAN Summit that ASEAN leaders had agreed not to “internationalize” the disputes and would confine negotiations to those between the bloc and China.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, thus supported President Aquino’s move to register its objection to the Chair’s view that “a consensus on putting the discussions within an ASEAN-China framework had been reached.”

“I welcome President Aquino’s unfettered resolve to remind his fellow leaders to achieve unity in ASEAN’s stand and approach in handling disputes with China over conflicting claims to the strategically vital West Philippine Sea. I support the President’s call for constructive dialogue and for a reaffirmation of respect for international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in resolving the disputes,” she remarked.

The Senator said that the Leaders of ASEAN, in April 2012, adopted the “Phnom Penh Declaration on ASEAN: One Community, One Destiny”, underscoring, among others, the commitment of ASEAN members to uphold the collective commitments reflected in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, and to move for the eventual realization of a regional code of conduct (COC).

“ASEAN needs to be consistent with its declarations.  Clearly, UNCLOS was not considered in isolation of the proposed solutions under this Declaration. I do note that the Leaders have decided to seek early talks with China on a regional code of conduct.  It would be interesting to find out if they have, at least, agreed on an ASEAN position on its key elements and features before they initiate discussions with China,” she said.

“Maritime security and cooperation in ensuring freedom of navigation, in combating piracy, and in maintaining peace and stability in the region must be strengthened. ASEAN is in a unique and critical position to help preserve peace in the region by effectively shepherding the process of producing a binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea,” Legarda concluded.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Legarda: US Navy Contractor Violated Gov’t Regulations in Toxic Wastewater Dumping

MANILA, November 21, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today said that the US Navy contractor Glenn Defense Marine Philippines, Inc. violated government regulations when it dumped toxic wastewater in areas that are clearly within the country's Exclusive Economic Zone.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that it was clear that the contractor violated government regulations on various fronts, including its failure to secure a dumping permit from the Philippine Coast Guard to discharge wastewater in an area that is still within the country's Exclusive Economic Zone.  

“It is very clear that the Glenn Defense Marine Asia violated our regulations when it did not get a dumping permit from the Coast Guard. Maybe there are other contractors too who are committing the same violation. Second, the wastewater they dumped was untreated and according to the Subic Bay Ecology Center, its level of toxicity was way beyond allowable limits under the DENR regulations,” she stressed. The resource person from the Subic Ecology Center confirmed that the high toxicity levels of the water samples secured from the M/T Glenn Guardian could harm marine resources.

Legarda said the Committee will come up with a report by the end of the month.  The report will try to pinpoint accountabilities, and if warranted, recommend penalties against those who may have violated Philippine laws and regulations.

“I have asked the various agencies to complete their investigation and to submit to the Committee its findings and recommendations.  I also expect these agencies to enforce the law without fear or favor.”  The Senator also said that “there is evidently a need for government agencies to coordinate better to ensure that our environmental laws and regulations are strictly enforced.”

The Senator, however, cleared that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is external to the issue with Glenn Defense Marine Philippines.

“I will call for a hearing on the VFA because it is long overdue. But, this issue on the dumping of wastewater has nothing to do with the VFA. And I would like to stress that we will not allow our country to be a waste basket; we will not allow the waste of foreigners to destroy the marine life and source of livelihood of our people,” Legarda concluded.


MANILA, November 21, 2012-The Senate today approved on third and final reading the bill seeking to generate P40 billion in incremental revenues from increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, in an effort to boost government healthcare programs, as well as to address the high prevalence of smoking in the country, announced Senate Ways and Means acting chairman Franklin M. Drilon.

Senate Bill No. 3299 otherwise known as “an Act Restructuring the Excise Tax on Alcohol and Tobacco Products” was adopted with 15 affirmative votes, two negative votes, and zero abstention.

“The passage of this bill is monumental in the history of this chamber. Once again, amidst the differences in our views, we have proven that we care more about saving lives than generating revenues; and that we remain true to serving the nation above personal interest ,” said Drilon who went through tedious debates on the proposed measure.  

Drilon likewise lauded his colleagues for seeing the rationale behind the passage of the bill. “I praise our colleagues for voting swiftly on this important measure, because any delay will only put to further damage the lives of more than 17 million Filipinos, four million of which are youths, who now are cigarette smokers.”  

“I also acknowledge the support of the President throughout the passage of this bill; as well as for certifying the health measure as urgent. Without him, we would not have gone this far,” he added.

Under the bill, the government is expected to generate P40 billion in additional revenues by increasing the taxes on sin products such as cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Of the amount, P24 billion will come from increased taxes on tobacco, while P16 billion will be generated from taxes on fermented liquor and distilled spirits depending on its historical burden sharing. 

The bill also mandates for a unitary tax rate for all kinds of cigarettes by the start of the fifth year of its implementation. On the other hand, the bill proposes a two-tier system for alcoholic beverages.

“The additional revenues will primarily go to advancing the cause of the health sector that, in particular, will be used for the enrolment of additional 5.2 million poorest Filipino families in Philhealth,” said Drilon.

The sin tax reform bill, he emphasized, is a health measure to address the high case of deaths and illnesses due to smoking estimated at 80,000 Filipinos deaths per year, or 10 people per hour.

Also, smoking, per the Department of Health data, costs the government an estimated amount of P218 billion to P416 billion in annual health care expenses and productivity losses, noted Drilon.

Meanwhile, Drilon underscored the benefits of the bill to the farmers. Of the amount to be generated, 15 percent of it, or around P6 billion, will go to tobacco farmers to help improve their craft and to assist them in switching to a different crop that yields higher income. The P6 billion will be in addition to P4 billion that, at present, is allotted annually to tobacco farmers, explained Drilon.  

“The bill will double the safety net being provided under the law to help them augment their income and to support alternative livelihoods for the farmers,” stressed Drilon.

The safety net, added Drilon, can be used to assist the farmers who want to shift from planting tobacco to farming other more profitable crops like corn, garlic, tomato and pepper.   


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