Wednesday, September 12, 2012

RDC infra dev’t, Pampanga river basin committees meet with Sec. Singson

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Sept 13, 2012-Regional Development Council (RDC) committees on Infrastructure Development (SCID) and Pampanga River Basin Committees (PRBC) conducted a joint meeting with Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson to discuss immediate and long-term solutions to perennial flooding in Central Luzon.

The meeting came in the aftermath of the continuous southwest monsoon rains last month which inundated many parts of Region 3 causing damage to many rice fields and infrastructures including a tail dike which protects the city of San Fernando and towns of Minalin and Sto. Tomas in Pampanga.

RDC Chair and City of San Fernando Oscar Rodriguez warned, “If (the tail dike problem is) not solved immediately, the situation would be a big setback to the transportation sector in the area. It may also put to waste investments in national road projects, particularly the rehabilitation of the McArthur Highway and the North Luzon and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressways.”

For her part, Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda said that the, “The provincial government of Pampanga will assist Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for any action taken on the silted water flowing down the channel.”

Accordingly, Rodriguez presented the multi-sectoral resolution among the city government of San Fernando, Pampanga, Bacolor and Minalin, DPWH III, and private sector representatives recommending for the immediate and long-term solutions for the destroyed tail dike and
several river channels affecting the province.

In response, Singson acknowledged the need to immediately close the breached dikes. He also committed on the availability of the quick response fund o his Department to assist LGUs affected and involved in addressing the problem. He emphasized however, that in doing so, DPWH
and LGUs should work hand in hand.

Meanwhile, Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado recommended the revival of the Pampanga River Control System (PRCS) or the creation of a similar agency responsible for the periodic maintenance and repair of the drainage channels and dike in the region.

Singson noted that, “A river basin approach requires a multi-stakeholder organization treatment since water has no boundaries and can involve several provinces in the process.”

The Public Works chief, who was appointed as water czar by the President, revealed that the development of natural-impounding areas or catchments such as the Candaba Swamp is one of the medium to long-term solutions the DPWH have been studying.

According to Singson, these impounding areas will control the release of water in the downstream to prevent further damages but will also utilize water for irrigation, livelihood and domestic use.

Singson said they will also give priority to the desilting of the Orani Channel in Bataan where water from Samal, Abucay, Hermosa, and Dinalupihan drain to Manila Bay.

He also said the need to continue the implementation of the Pampanga River Delta Project.

Singson affirmed that the national government will provide whatever available assistance it can extend to alleviate the flooding in the region. (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

Legarda: Phil Making Significant Strides in Protecting Filipino Workers

MANILA, September 13, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda today said that the country is making significant strides in protecting Filipino workers through relevant policies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189, the Maritime Labour Convention,2006, the Kasambahay Bill and the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that the ILO Convention 189, or the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, will benefit the 3.4 million Filipino domestic workers in the Philippines and abroad by ensuring that, first and foremost, domestic workers, like other workers, enjoy the same mantle of basic rights, such as reasonable hours of work, weekly rest, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, and freedom of association.

“The Philippine ratification of the ILO Convention 189 was formally registered last September 5. What makes the Philippines’ ratification more important is that, as the second country to ratify the convention, it will pave the way for the Convention’s entry into force after a year,” Legarda explained.

The Senator added that another important measure that would further strengthen the protection of domestic workers in the country is the Kasambahay Bill, which has been approved already by both the Senate (Senate Bill 78) and the House of Representatives (House Bill 6144).

The proposed legislation seeks to increase the minimum wage of household helpers and require all household working arrangements between employers and helpers to be duly documented.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 is the seafarers’ bill of rights. The right to a safe and secure workplace that complies with safety standards; right to fair terms of employment; right to decent working and living conditions on board ship; and right to health protection, medical care, welfare measures and other forms of social protection are clearly laid down as self-evident rights whose enforcement is demanded by the Convention.

The MLC, 2006 also covers basic rights such as freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; the effective abolition of child labor; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

“We aim to provide better protection for our workers in the country and those working in other nations. We do not want them to be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment and any form of abuse. Furthermore, we also want to prevent Filipinos from being victimized by syndicates whose aim is to earn at the expense of others. Thus, we are pushing for the approval of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking Act,” Legarda said.

Among the amendments to the present law are: the addition of a new section on acts that constitute attempted trafficking; the strengthening legal protection for victims in the form of custody and interim protection order; and, the establishment of a permanent secretariat within the inter-agency council for anti-trafficking.

“Trafficking today is heightened by the very processes of globalization that has facilitated our progress, like rapid information transfer and cheap travel. Thus, we need an effective legal framework if we are to achieve some degree of success. Our challenge is to harmonize our policies, build capacities of agencies, and strengthen enforcement and prosecution,” Legarda stressed.

“With the ratification of the ILO Convention 189 and the Maritime Labour Code, 2006, as well as the impending approval of the Kasambahay Bill and the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, the rights of Filipino workers will be better protected and their concerns will be better addressed,” Legarda concluded.

Drilon asks ARMM to slash personnel budget, put more funds to livelihood projects

MANILA, September 13, 2012-Senator Franklin M. Drilon has asked the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to review its organizational structure after it was revealed that 74 percent of the P13.99 billion proposed budget for the region in 2013 is allotted to pay for the salaries and benefits of its about 27,000 workforce.

“Of the nearly P14 billion budget of the ARMM, 74 percent, or roughly P10 billion, is earmarked for the payment of salaries. That is more than double the national average of 32 percent,” said Drilon, “there is a lot of fat there.”

This does not include the P49.72 million lodged under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund which corresponds to the unfilled positions in the ARMM, added Drilon.

Drilon expressed concern that the huge allocation for personnel may also go to the salary of ghost employees believed to be rampant in the region.

“Assuming that these are not ghost employees, would you think that a staffing pattern review is in order so that you can devote more funds to projects to provide better service rather than the ARMM being an employment agency?” asked Drilon.

For the Department of Education office in the ARMM alone, it was revealed that 95 percent of its P8.25 billion budget for 2013 will go to the salary of teachers, noted Drilon.

ARMM governor Mujiv Hataman agreed to Drilon’s proposal.

Yes, Sir. Actually, we scrutinize at gusto talaga naming i-review yung staffing pattern ng ARMM kasi very abnormal ang situation, even 50 percent. Parang magbubuhos ka na lang ng pondo para sa sweldo halos wala ng ginagawa, wala ng panggasolina. Tinitingnan din namin yung mga ghost employees,” Hataman told Drilon.


MANILA, September 12, 2012-Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada says the mandate of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to prevent crimes and to ensure public safety requires them to act proactively and outwit the criminals.
This developed as the PNP recently explained that the increased number of incidents of crimes in the National Capital Region (NCR) is due to the fact that the crooks have simply become “smarter.” The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) recorded 29,231 crime incidents in Metro Manila during the first half of 2012 – 57% higher than what is recorded during the same period of the previous year.
Sen. Estrada points out that an effective police training program equips the law enforcement authorities with potent tools, knowledge and principles to carry out their peacekeeping functions. The lawmaker also cites the high-profile case of the “kotong” cop showing that some members of the police may have joined the ranks of brazen criminals, instead of stopping them.
“I see the case of increased criminality not only a product of poverty, but also of ineffective police instruction and education. Some crooks do it for survival, while some continue to commit crime because they think they will not be caught and can get away with it.  Our cops must outwit the criminals, and not the other way around,” Sen. Estrada states. 
Meanwhile, Sen. Estrada is pushing for the strengthening of the police academies by placing them under the direct management, supervision and administration of the PNP.
Senate Bill 3218, authored by Sen. Estrada, seeks to amend the Republic Act 6975 or the Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990 to transfer the operations of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA), the Philippine National Training Institute (PNTI) and the National Police College (NPC) from the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC) to the PNP.
Sen. Estrada says that the measure seeks to streamline the skills training, continued education and specialization of the police. Among the problems observed with the current system include:
·         There is a mismatch between the PNP training expectations and requirements and the actual services provided by the PPSC;
·         It allows lapses in coordination of programs and makes it difficult to develop a system of plan and budget for trainings internal to the PNP;
·         It results in unnecessary cost and waste of resources because PNP would conduct its own re-orientation and specialization programs, duplicating those already undertaken by PPSC.
Earlier, the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture adopted the proposal of Sen. Estrada as an amendment of its committee report strengthening the PPSC, effectively removing police training under the PPSC. The report was then recalled by the Chairman, Sen. Edgardo Angara, for further amendments. The measure is now pending approval on second reading.

Legarda Alarmed Over High Rate of Unemployed Women; Urges DOLE and Philippine Commission on Women to Take Action

MANILA, September 12, 2012-Senator Loren Legarda expressed alarm over the high rate of unemployment among women in the country, and called for more gender-responsive development priorities that should be reflected in the 2013 budget.

“We must begin to evaluate the budget in a new light, taking into consideration our changing social landscape. According to statistics from an SWS survey last May, the percentage of unemployed women is 36.4% or 6.5 million, which is significantly higher than the percentage of unemployed men at 18.9% or 4.4 million. Taking into account the abilities unique among genders, the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Commission on Women should begin addressing this situation especially now that we are planning next year’s budget,” she explained.

Legarda stated that there are two strategies that the government should strongly explore. The first is greater support for industries that women frequent, such as textiles, crafts, farming, and food-processing and helping women start their own businesses and cooperatives. The second is appropriate training that will build women’s opportunities in entering economic sectors such as telecommunications, tourism, leisure services, and traditionally male-dominated jobs.
“Women are a valuable yet vulnerable sector, and this alarming rate of unemployment is one of the key factors that fuels migration. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino women seek jobs abroad every year, and are then often subjected to exploitation. Away from loved ones and the government’s assistance, their yearning for better lives unfairly pushes them deeper into harm,” she remarked.

“We are at a crucial juncture in our growth as a nation, and we must consistently scrutinize our opportunities for progress, ensuring that development is equitable and gender-responsive,” Legarda concluded.

P4 billion lost to ghost pensioners in the past years, says Drilon

MANILA, September 12, 2012-At least P4.2 billion or more funds ended up in the pockets of ghost pensioners in the past years and would have continued to be lost to corruption each fiscal year had not the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) moved to clean its roster of pensioners, according to Senate Finance Committee chairman Franklin M. Drilon.

Drilon said that prior to the delisting and cleansing of pension list that PVAO undertook, the government’s budget for the payment of the pension of veterans would reach to P15 billion annually. But as a result of the clean up where ghost, fake and unqualified pensioner and deceased war veterans were delisted, the budget went down to P10.59 billion.

“The difference of about P4.2 billion saved on a yearly basis is made possible with the effort of PVAO to flesh out the fraudulent claims. Meaning, before the reforms, this P4.2 billion would be paid to non-existing veterans or fictitious claimants,” said Drilon.

“This has been corrected by shifting to bank system, by having the pension paid through the banks, instead of using the old system where pensioners get their benefits through cheques and the postal service,” added Drilon.

“By this simple transferring of disbursement from the postal system to banking system saved the government approximately around P4.2 billion,” stressed Drilon, “I commend the efforts they have undertaken to make sure that only the legitimate pensioners and veterans would be provided the benefits under the law.”

Under the 2013 budget, noted Drilon, the government has earmarked P10.59 billion to pay for 231,081 pension claims.

Still, Drilon said the government owes war veterans the amount of P3.5 billion to compensate for their total administrative disability benefits which were left unfunded in the past years. To address this, Drilon said the Committee will look into some items in the unprogrammed funds which can be cut to accommodate the P3.5 billion requirements.

Meanwhile, Drilon said the government is still studying the possibility of integrating the pension of uniformed personnel into the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to address the looming military and police pension crisis.

“About 53 percent, or P40 billion, of the budget of the Defense Department is for the payment of pensions. There is hardly any fiscal space for capital outlay and modernization program,” stressed Drilon.

Based on the initial study, said Drilon, the budget for the pension of uniformed personnel would grow up to P92 billion in 2017 from P71.58 billion next year.

“We have to resolve this before it reaches to a point where our budget for pension is much higher than our budget for the salaries of active personnel,” ended Drilon.


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