Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CL among regions with highest forest cover in the country

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, August 29, 2012-Central Luzon’s forest remains among the regions with the highest cover in the country, latest statistics released by the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) show.
DENR Central Luzon chief Maximo Dichoso bared that Region 3 ranks third in the entire archipelago accounting to 62% of the total forestland remain with intact vegetation and topping other regions with large tract of forestland.
“ Out of 942,387 hectares of forestland we have in the region, 589,495 hectares remains to be forested,” Dichoso said.
The Regional head attributed the intact forest cover of Central Luzon to the DENR solid plans and programs on forest regeneration and biodiversity conservation including the concrete accomplishments in forest protection and law enforcement.
Adding to this, he said, is the strong regulatory efforts of the government on environment with the implementation of Executive Order (EO) No. 23 or moratorium on logging on natural and residual forests and EO 26 or the National Greening Program (NGP).
NGP likewise boosted the reforestation efforts in the region with the planting of various forest and fruit trees covering some 5,548 hectares of denuded watershed.
“Strong allies and creative partnership with local government units (LGUs) and the law enforcement sectors are also vital to arrest further forest destruction and is crucial in forest restoration,” Dichoso explained.
Of the seven provinces in the region, Aurora with 238,776 hectares or 124% forest cover including those forest in alienable and disposable (A and D) lands and Bulacan with 73,987 hectares or 96% forested are the top contributors to the remaining forest.
Dichoso added that the latest satellite imagery and remote sensing interpretation showed that the forest cover of the country has increased to 7.2 million hectares from 6.5 million hectares in 1988 and the eight percent of it could be found in Central Luzon.
The top region with the highest forest cover is Region 4-B (MIMAROPA) with 68% forested area composed of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Romblon and Palawan followed by Region 2 (Cagayan Valley) with 67% forest vegetation composed of Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Viscaya and Quirino. (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu-PIA 3 with reports from DENR 3)

Army and Lyceum's "Takbo para sa Inang Kalikasan" a resounding success, lures 500 Aurora runners

MARIA AURORA, Aurora, August 29, 2012-Some 500 running enthusiasts from a cross-section of the province have taken part in the "Takbo para sa Inang Kalikasan" fun run initiated by the Lyceum of the East-Aurora (LEA), making the run-for-a-cause held last August 20 a resounding success.

          Jason De Asis, Lyceum's Dean of the Bachelor of Science for Entrepreneurship and the event's program director, said the fun run, which carried the theme: "One Spirit, One Advocacy, One Goal," showcased the green advocacy of various sectors, led by the school's twin campuses which spearheaded the fun run along with the Army's 48th Infantry (Guardians) Battalion.

          The runners converged at the LEA Campus Saturday afternoon and sprinted to their respective three kilometer (3-K), five-kilometer (5-K) and 7-K routes at the starting signal of 48th IB civil military office chief, Captain Rozzel Ticar and De Asis.

          Aside from the 48th IB, also participating in the event were provincial and barangay officials, members of the Maria Aurora Police Office, government employees, officials and staff from the National Statistics Office, Department of Health, volunteer health workers and students from the capital town of Baler and the central Aurora towns of  San Luis, Dipaculao and this town.

          The activity was highlighted by the opening of the 1st “SAYAWIT” competition for the National Service Training Program (NSTP) students of both campuses of which De Asis is NSTP chief.

          De Asis stressed that the fun run seeks to bring into focus three popular advocacies. These, he explained, are in support of Republic Act (RA) 9729, otherwise known as the Philippine Climate Change Act; RA 9512, otherwise known as the National Greening Program and RA, 9710, or the Magna Carta for Women.

          He said these triple advocacies have a huge impact in the lives of the people.

          De Asis cited climate change which, he said, has caused uncertainties. "As we can see, climate change has brought us rains even during the summer months when it is supposed to be rain-free and there is sunshine during the rainy season. It's akin to the temperament of a woman who is sometimes fickle-minded," he quipped.

          De Asis said the Magna Carta for Women’s rights, authored by Sen. Loren Legarda, provides the necessary mechanisms to enforce and guarantee the realization of women’s rights as public servants.

          He said public office is no longer the domain of men. "In every sphere of our life, we see women as increasingly prominent and having a stake. We have women engineers, architects, mechanics, electricians and soldiers. Joking aside, I dread the day when someday we see women loggers and miners,” he said.

          De Asis said the management of Lyceum of the East, led by its President, Engr. Jaime S. Gose, is putting premium on the three advocacies which is why it tasked the NSTP to implement them.

          He also pointed out that the twin campuses intend to push foward environmental awareness through Republic Act 9512, otherwise known as "An act to promote environmental awareness through environmental education" wherein the Lyceum of the East formulated a parallel program and activity for the National Greening Program to foster patriotism and nationalism. (Manny Galvez)

Youth event brings counter-cultural message on love, relationships

MANILA, August 29, 2012—When it’s a barrage of heavily tainted messages that the media are dishing out to the youth, it’s time to go counter-cultural. And this is how organizers of Real Love Revolution 2012 are going about spreading the notion of authentic love among young people.
“We strongly feel that young people need to hear this message! They are bombarded 24/7 with negative messages and values in media, so that at least every year or year and a half, they can hear positive messages about virtues and values,” said Carol Anne Tansingco, coordinator of Youth for the Family (Y-FAM).
Y-FAM has put together Pure Mind, Pure Heart II, the August 31 event at the University of the Philippines (UP) Theater of UP Diliman featuring youth speakers Leah Darrow and Chris Stefanick.
The two are in the Philippines for a series of talks and conferences to be held in Manila, Cebu and Iloilo from August 29 to September 1.
The August 31 event, which happens from 1:00 o’clock to 5 p.m., has been organized primarily for high school and college students.
“I met with several principals of the schools we invited. They are all so excited to have an event like this!” Tansingco excalimed.
“They all agree that there is a sore need for symposiums like these for the young people, as problems with purity are some of the biggest problems besetting the youth nowadays!”
Darrow, a full-time apologist for Catholic Answers, brings her experience in the fashion world and the Catholic world to the masses. She speaks internationally to people of all ages on topics of forgiveness, conversion, human dignity, the ability to change one’s life, modesty and chastity. She made it to the finals of TV show America’s Top Model and did succeeding modeling stints till she decided on another path.
Stefanick, who is director of Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado, is an accomplished guitarist and songwriter. His dynamic presentations and retreats have inspired thousands of teens all over the world to a deeper love for Jesus Christ and his Church.
“I am excited about Leah Darrow and Chris Stefanick. I’ve watched many of their videos and interviews on Youtube, and their styles are so different! Leah is soft-spoken, while Chris is a guitar-playing, outspoken guy,” Tansingco remarked.
Real Love Revolution 2011 brought renowned chastity speaker Jason Evert to the Philippines and audiences were significantly inspired by his talks that dwelt on true love, relationships, dating and finding happiness. Tansingco expects the same enthusiasm from students this year based on the organizers’ experience last year. She described how teens loved Evert, took in every word he said and revered him “like a rock star!”
“I guess our job is to get them into the theater, maybe even kicking and screaming,” Tansingco said in jest, “and the excellent speakers do their magic, and in the end the youth come out converted and fortified in values!”
For the Y-FAM event alone, more than 35 public and private schools are sending participants. Over 1,600 participants so far have snapped up tickets, according to Tansingco.
Aside from the August 31 event at UP Diliman, Real Love Revolution 2012 will bring Darrow and Stefanick to Iloilo’s Western Visayas State University today, August 29; Cebu’s Waterfront Hotel on August 30; and World Trade Center in Manila on September 1.
For details and ticket reservations for the UP Diliman event, please contact Carol Anne Tansingco at 0905-4819566. For information on the World Trade Center event, please contact and 0908-8648491.
Pure Mind, Pure Heart II is organized by Y-FAM Woodrose School Chapter in cooperation with the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) Center for Social Responsibility (I Am S.T.R.O.N.G), and World Youth Alliance (WYA). (CBCP for Life)


MANILA, August 29, 2012-Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan today issues a challenge to all resource persons appearing before the Senate in an investigation on alleged rice smuggling at the Subic Bay Freeport: Tell the truth, or face contempt charges and be detained.

Now on its fourth week of investigation, the Senate committees on Agriculture and Food, Ways and Means, Trade and Commerce, and Blue Ribbon Committee are conducting an investigation into alleged smuggling of some 420,000 50-kilogram bags of rice, worth almost P500 million, from India into the Philippines.

Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, says that there is no question that the seized rice being investigated in the Senate is meant to be sold in the local markets, adding that what must be determined now is how the system has failed to stop contraband produce from entering the country.

“Ang puno't dulo nito, paano nakapasok sa bansa ang isang regulated na produkto na walang permit, at pagkapasok sa bansa ay gagawan ng paraan para magkaroon ng permit para maging legal ang kalakaran? Nakakabahala ang ganitong palakad,” says Pangilinan, who is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food. “We are losing a valuable source of revenue for the government, and—worse—we are essentially killing the livelihood of our farmers.”

Previous hearings have uncovered inconsistencies among the statements of the various resource persons. Some resource persons also failed to attend today’s hearing, Earlier today, the Senate investigating committee issued a warrant of arrest against Magdangal Diego Maralit Bayani III of St. Andrews Field Grains and Cereal Trading for refusing to appear in the investigation proceedings. Pangilinan says the committee may also decide on whether they should cite some resource persons for contempt before the next hearing.

"Offhand, we have to study some more the documents that they have presented—there are some show cause documents we have gone through that contradict what was on record. In particular, Cesar Ramirez of Federation of San Miguel Cooperatives and Robson Enterprises contradicts himself after denying on record that he emailed Protik Guha, CEO of Amira Foods, yet saying in his show cause document that he did. We need to send a strong signal that we are serious in this investigation. I am inclined to cite some of the resource persons in contempt. If we need to detain some, even perhaps all, of the resource persons when found lying, we need to do it."

Pangilinan adds that the lack of accountability has contributed greatly in corrupting the system.

"There are glaring loopholes in the system of importation. The government agencies involved—the NFA, BOC, DA, and their attached agencies—must exert serious effort in making the system fool-proof. On top of that, the government must ensure that guilty parties are punished according to the provisions of the law. We must not let these corrupt practices to continue to exist with impunity."

CL farmers condemn harassment of journalist, blame Oplan Bayanihan

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga, August 29, 2012-The regional farmers' group Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (Amgl, Farmers' Alliance in Central Luzon) condemned the recent harassment and threat to veteran journalist Ding Cervantes.  Cervantes is a correspondent to the Philippine Star and columnist of Punto Central Luzon newspaper.  He is based in Angeles City, Pampanga and a member of National Union of Journalist in the Philippines (NUJP).

“This is unacceptable as even media practictioners are threatened for doing their profession.  This is essentially the same with the Maguindanao Massacre where they were killed for doing their jobs.  We condemn this harassment and we believe that this is part of Aquino's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” Joseph Canlas said, Amgl chairperson.

Amgl believed that Cervantes' case is part of Oplan Bayanihan as he wrote about sensitive issues in the region such as Hacienda Luisita, Willem Geertman's extra-judicial killing, the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport (Apeco) project, mining in Zambales and other agrarian issues.

It was reported that an unidentified texter sent him a message, “Isang bala ka lang,” on Friday last week, then the following weekend, his house was subjected to surveillance and again threatened through a text message.  The texter claimed he is a member of the New People's Army (NPA) but Cervantes dismissed it was the case as a veteran journalist he would if the NPA is just being used for intimidation.

“This is exactly what Oplan Bayanihan is, neutralizing those from the middle sector who support or work that highlights the issues of the oppressed farmers and basic sectors.  This is the type of freedom of the press, president Aquino is promoting, suppressing those who expose the truth and the ill-effects of his program and policies,” Canlas said.

The group said that the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan in the region has been stepped up from merely a phase of civic-military and pyschological warfare(psywar) operations to direct assault such as extra-judicial killings.  Last July, the Dutch development executive Wilhelmus JJ Lutz Geertman was killed in Angeles City while Bayan Muna leader Romualdo Palispis was killed on June 30 in Maria Aurora town, Aurora province.

“We hold the Aquino government responsible if something undesirable happens to Cervantes.  We support Cervantes' struggle against this harassment and violation of press freedom.  We vow to protect Cervantes' basic rights and call on other media practictioners to defend freedom of the press in the region,” said Canlas. 


MANILA, August 29, 2012-Senator Edgardo J. Angara signed a memorandum of agreement with the Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc. (KCFI) yesterday to provide P5 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the creation of new technical-vocational education modules.

Under the agreement, KFCI will  produce quality learning materials for technical-vocational learners throughout the country through video training programs and e-learning modules in fields such as Food Technology, Crop Production, Horticulture and Animal Husbandry.

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista also signed the agreement together with Ms. Rina Lopez Bautista, KCFI President and Executive Director. The local government of Quezon City is tasked with the release of the allocation and performance monitoring.

Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture, underscored the importance of technical-vocational training to the continued development of the Philippine workforce.

"Tech-voc graduates have a better chance of landing jobs than the average college graduate because they fill the employment gaps in crucial industries like food production," he explained.

According to Angara, also Chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, the country must also recognize the value of utilizing modern information and communications technology (ICT) in education.

"These e-learning modules can be made available to marginalized youth and adult learners who cannot afford the textbooks and school materials. The e-learning modules and training videos that will be produced by the Knowledge Channel can be used by hundreds of students and learners simultaneously in different areas of the country.

"This way we are expanding the learning platform without adding to our shortfalls in textbooks and classroom furniture," Angara explained.
"This tech-voc project is also aligned with the specialization thrust of the K to 12 basic education reform. It is important that we promote tech-voc as a viable means toward gainful employment," he emphasized. (Rikka Sotto w/ Shielo Mendoza)


MANILA, Agosto 29, 2012Pangungunahan mamayang alas- singko ng  hapon ni  Nacionalista Party president Sen. Manny Villar ang pormal na paglulunsad sa  commemorative stamps bilang pagpupugay at pagkilala sa namayapang Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr.
            Iginiit ni Villar, chairman ng  Speaker Laurel Foundation na ang naturang paglulunsad kasabay ng ika-100 na kaarawan ni Laurel ay isa sa mga paraan upang kilalanin at pahalagahan ang mga nagawa nito para sa bansa.
 “Napakataas ng aking pagkilala at matindi ang aking paghanga kay Speaker Laurel. Ginagawa naming mga Nacionalista na sukatan ng aming mga sarili ang mga prinsipyo at nagawa niya para sa bayan,” ani Villar.
            Ang nasyonalismo at alab ng pagmamahal ni laurel sa bayan ay sumasalamin sa mga katangian ng kanyang namayapang ama na si President Jose P. Laurel. Sinabi ni Villar na ang mga katangiang ito ang isinasabuhay ng Nacionalista Party, ang pinakamatandang partido pulitikal sa Pilipinas.
            Si Speaker Jose Laurel na tubong  Tanauan, Batangas,  ay isa sa mga pinagpipitagang kasapi ng NP. Hawak niya ang karangalan bilang kaisa-isang lider ng bansa na naluklok ng tatlong termino bilang Speaker ng kamara.
            Siya ang pinakabatang kasapi ng kauna-unahang kongreso ng Pilipinas at inakda ang maraming mahalagang batas kabilang na ang Retail Trade Nationalization Act of 1955 at  1969 Magna Carta of Social Justice and Economic Freedom. Naglingkod siya bilang mambabatas sa loob ng 31 taon.
Sa ilalim ng liderato ni Pangulong Corazon Aquino, itinalaga si Laurel sa Constitutional Commission na nagbalangkas sa 1987 Constitution. Siya din ay bantog bilang isa sa mga may-akda sa “Filipino First” policy na nakasaad sa Saligang Batas. Siya ay namatay noong  March 11, 1998 sa edad na 85.
Bilang pagkilala kay Laurel, inakda ni  Villar ang Senate Bill No. 1217 na naglalayong pangalanan bilan Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr. Highway ang national highway na nagdudugtong sa mga bayan ng Talisay, Laurel at Agoncillo sa lalawigan ng  Batangas. 

Trillanes bats for new POC leadership

MANILA, August 29, 2012-Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV is pushing the national sports associations (NSAs) to begin the much-needed reforms in the sector by installing a more vision-oriented leadership in the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
“For decades, sports development in the country failed to move forward and has consistently been derailed from its tracks due to lack of clear vision and necessary will for reforms,” Trillanes said.
At a Senate hearing of the Committee on Amateur Sports, which is looking into the status of sports development in the country, Trillanes described POC president Jose “Peping” Cojuangco as “the greatest stumbling block to sports development.”
“The way I see it, we must expect more dismal performances from our athletes unless our NSAs elect a new POC president and replace Mr. Cojuangco,” he said.
Trillanes explained that Cojuangco’s leadership has failed to provide a clear vision and concrete programs to steer the country’s program in the right direction. Mr. Cojuangco’s failure, he said, is highlighted by the fact that during his term as POC president, the country has not received a single medal during the past two Olympics. 
“We recognize the talent of our Filipino athletes and their display of perseverance, dedication, moral courage, strength of character and competitive spirit in various athletic competitions. It is very evident, however, based on our recent performances in global and regional competitions, that these traits and attitude are not enough for our country to win medals. We need a new champion for our sports programs who is gifted with vision and skills to instill grass root development and promote sports excellence,” said Trillanes, who chairs the Senate committee.
In a bid to improve the sports program in the country and raise sports as a national priority, Trillanes filed Senate Bill 3092 seeking to create the Department of Sports. This agency will formulate policy, plan, coordinate, implement, promote and develop sports and physical fitness in the country.
Trillanes is also supporting a proposed measure creating the Philippine High School for Sports in order to institutionalize efforts for talent pooling and training of young athletes to produce future champions.
To complete these efforts, Trillanes is pushing for an extensive grassroots sports program through the revival of the mandatory sports intramurals in all public schools and the strengthening of the physical education programs.
“Thus, it is not only our aim to promote sports excellence as a galvanizing force for national unity and as source of national pride, but also as a character-building mechanism for youth development,” Trillanes explained. 

Drilon: Single sin tax rate acceptable to Philip Morris

MANILA, August 29, 2012-Senator Franklin M. Drilon today said he was disturbed by what appears to be a “flip-flopping stand” by Philip Morris on the government’s proposal for a unitary or single tax rate for all brands of cigarettes as proposed under the Sin Tax bill.

“The government’s proposal for a unitary or single excise tax rate for all brands of cigarettes under the Sin Tax bill was even lobbied for by Philip Morris, but, in a twist of fate, the tobacco firm is now pulling back on the proposed scheme,” explained Drilon, who also said he was bothered by the flip-flopping on the issue by some of his colleagues in Congress who used to support the proposed measure during previous Congresses.

“Philip Morris is opposing the administration’s proposed measure, citing the unitary tax as among the objectionable features.  Yet, a letter of Philip Morris (PM) dated February 5, 2003, through Managing Director George Farah, revealed that PM supported a uniform specific tax for cigarettes,” stressed Drilon.

“In that hearing, I asked a series of questions that led Philip Morris to admit that a unitary tax rate is acceptable,” said Drilon.

Philip Morris wrote a letter to then-President Arroyo on the proposal for a one rate tax system. The corporation actually also supported a ‘level playing field’ for all manufacturers, among other things, revealed Drilon.

Quoting from the letter of PM to Arroyo, Drilon said the PM recommended to Arroyo the change to a single tier specific system from four tier specific system.

The letter said in part:

“In brief, our proposal is that the current four (4) tier specific system should be changed to a single tier specific system over a period of 3 years. In the first year, two specific tax tiers should replace the current four (4) tier system, with a reduction in the gap between the two tax tiers in the second year. In the third (3) year, the two specific tax tiers should be merged into a single specific rate applied equally on all cigarettes.

This proposal should increase estimated excise tax collection on cigarettes by Php8.5 billion or 43.8% above 2001 actual collection. Over 3 years, this proposal is estimated to increase tax collection by 91.8% compared with 2001…”

Drilon also informed the committee that the Philip Morris letter even enumerated the advantages of a one rate excise tax on cigarettes:

“A single specific tax should result in an increased excise tax collection.

Tax administration for the Bureau of Internal Revenue will be easier with a single specific tax rate on all cigarettes since only the volume sold, and not the price at which they are tax classified, shall be the sole determinant of tax revenues to government.

A single specific tax rate for all cigarettes is used in several Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and its adoption by the Philippine Government will align local tax policies with those of its neighbors.

A single tax rate will promote a level playing field for all manufacturers.”

The PM representative in the hearing acknowledged the veracity of the letter and conceded the merits of the unitary tax and that then and now, PM can accept the single tax rate for all brands, recalled Drilon.

“PM agrees to a uniform or one rate excise tax for all brands; there is no more reason for multiple rates for different brands,” he said.

“Now that PM has conceded the unitary or single tax, the question that the committee must ask is what is the most effective rate for the sin tax to serve its primary health goal, or what my colleague Senator Ralph Recto describes as the sweet spot that will not only generate revenues for government but will dramatically curb smoking and binge drinking, and thus reduce the economics costs in terms of health care, productivity losses, and pre-mature death losses.”

Moreover, Drilon reiterated the need to pass the bill saying it would not only raise funds for government's health care program but would also help improve the health of ordinary Filipinos.

Drilon also said that poor people suffer more from smoking than the wealthy because they are unable to afford health care when beset with smoking-related diseases. Since they cannot afford proper health care, it becomes the burden of the government to provide adequate care for them.

He noted that local cigarette prices now are among the cheapest in Asia and raising the prices would not kill the tobacco industry as some opponents of the bill have claimed. 

"I want to spare our people from the tragedy of losing a loved one. This is why we should discourage people from smoking, and one of the ways to do that is to raise the price of cigarettes and make it less accessible to more people," ended Drilon.


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