Monday, November 19, 2012

Legarda Calls for Green Climate Fund as World Bank Says Global Temperature Could Reach 4 Degrees

MANILA, November 20, 2012-Alarmed with the World Bank study which showed that the global temperature could reach 4 degrees Celsius, Senator Loren Legarda today said that there is an urgent need to operationalize the Green Climate Fund.

“We urged industrialized nations to put up funds for the green climate fund commitment in the wake of the warming climate, wetter months, and more intense rainfall. The changing climate will have its worse effects on the poor, it will make the poor poorer,” said Legarda, the United Nations Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific.

The Senator noted the World Bank report that highlighted the worse impacts of a 4-degree Celsius global temperature, which is likely to happen if nations would not comply with their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such warmer climate would increase sea level by up to 3 feet. Furthermore, water scarcity and decrease in crop yield would aggravate hunger and poverty.

“Ms. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, said that she does not see the Green Climate Fund operational in January, as earlier predicted and promised, due to the Eurozone crisis and the sluggish US economy. But we remind industrialized nations that they have a historical responsibility to assist countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change,” said Legarda.

During the 17th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Durban, South Africa, there were 35 industrialized countries that agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, but it is said to cover less than 15% of global emissions, which could warm the world to 3.5 degrees Celsius, dangerously way above the 2 degrees acceptable limit.

Legarda warned that about 30% of all species will face a high risk of extinction if global mean temperatures exceed 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, due to changes in temperature, rain fall and sea level, crop yield is estimated to decline by 19% in Asia toward the end of the century and rice yield in the Philippines would decline by 75%. A 2 to 4-degree Celsius rise in global temperature will lead to a 3% decline in global GDP.

“Here in our country, we have successfully ushered the passage of the People’s Survival Fund Law, and we hope it will be funded in the 2013 General Appropriations Act. But beyond our respective countries, the world must act more swiftly, more wisely, and more decisively to build resilience to disasters. Reducing disaster risks 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,” Legarda concluded.


MANILA, November 20, 2012-Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada shares today that conferees to the bicameral conference committee agreed to fix the monthly minimum wages of domestic workers at 2,500 pesos.
The second and final round of discussions on the disagreeing provisions of the Kasambahay Bills (Senate Bill 78 and House Bill 6144) conducted Monday evening which lasted until past midnight resolved to include a provision prescribing minimum wages for kasambahay, as introduced by Sen. Estrada.
Sen. Estrada, concurrent Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, states that the panel agreed to set the base pay for domestic work thereby increasing those stipulated in the Labor Code.
Currently, the minimum wage for domestic workers as stated in Article 143 of the Labor Code is pegged at P800 in Metro Manila and highly urbanized cities, P650 in other chartered cities and first-class municipalities, and P550 for other municipalities.
The panel moved to adopt a Senate provision on minimum wage for domestic workers which prescribes P2,500 monthly salary for those working in the National Capital Region, P2,000 for those in chartered cities and first-class municipalities, and P1,500 for those in other municipalities.
Sen. Estrada cites that the last time the minimum wage for household helpers was augmented was 19 years ago through Republic Act 7655 as approved last 1993.
“The amounts stated in our Labor Code are very much outdated and unrealistic, considering the high cost of living especially in the metropolis. I think it is high time to increase the minimum wage which can be considered decent compensation,” Sen. Estrada says.
Sen. Estrada, together with the members of the bicameral conference committee, believes that the amount is still affordable and reasonable as the panel considered the total income of a middle-class household and its employed members.
“We are also not preventing well-off employers from paying much higher wages to their household helpers. We just want to give kasambahay what is due them,” Jinggoy pointed out.
After one year from the effectivity of the act and every year thereafter, the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Boards shall review and if proper, adjust the minimum wage rates of household domestic workers.
Apart from increased wages, household workers will also be entitled to membership in Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, and PAG-IBIG. The employers will shoulder the payment of contribution for social benefits of minimum wage earners.
“It was also agreed upon that Congress shall determine a wage rate wherein both the employees and employers will share in the responsibility of paying contribution to such benefits,” Sen. Estrada clarifies.
The bicameral conference committee is set to release a final and reconciled version of the proposed “Batas Kasambahay” this week and have the same ratified by both chambers by Monday.
The enactment of a special law for the domestic workers is a priority measure of President Aquino and is one of the legislative proposals discussed before the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

Recto bats for P23B earmarks for PhilHealth Specific allocations from sin tax revenues pressed

MANILA, November 20, 2012-Sen. Ralph. G. Recto today said a part of the total revenues and not mere “increments” from the sin tax reform package should go directly to intended beneficiaries and programs and should not be a “blank check” for disposal of government agencies.

“The people, at the outset, should know where the money that would be taken from them would be used,” Recto said in proposing amendments to the “earmarking” provision of the sin tax reform package being shepherded in the Senate.

“We know the target of P40 billion, but do we know where the sin tax revenues would specifically go?” he added.

Recto proposed that P23 billion from total sin tax revenues be directly released annually to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to meet and sustain the government’s goal of providing universal health coverage and benefit an additional 10.4 million families.

He also proposed that P10 million be allocated yearly to each of the 618 district hospitals operated by local government units (LGUs) for repair and upgrading of facilities and services.

A separate P100 million will be allocated yearly to each of the 16 regional hospitals and 22 medical centers for the same operational and physical upgrading, according to Recto’s proposed amendments.

The senator also pressed for the annual allocation of P100 million to the Department of Health (DOH) for a nationwide information campaign on the ill-effects of smoking and drinking.

Recto said another P750 million be allocated every year for the unemployment package of despondent workers and farmers who will be displaced by the crumbling tobacco and alcohol industry.

The above Recto amendment allocates a specific maximum amount of P150,000 “unemployment insurance” for each displaced worker that could be availed within one year.

To re-tool displaced workers, Recto proposed that the TESDA be tapped and be given P250 million yearly to conduct job trainings for tobacco and alcohol workers seeking a fresh start, with each worker entitled to at least P50,000 worth  of training.
“Let me clarify that if these amendments are accepted on the floor, this would mean that all the proposed earmarking or allocations will be strictly funded yearly regardless if the P40 billion revenue target is realized,” he stressed.

Recto said the balance of the total revenues from the sin tax would be parked in the national coffers.

After sin tax, Drilon defends P2.006 trillion ‘empowerment’ budget

MANILA, November 20, 2012-Senator Franklin M. Drilon has been proving that he has an exceptional capacity for hard work as he would waste no single amount of time to ensure the timely passage of another crucial bill, the P2.006 trillion 2013 national budget, which he is set to sponsor on the floor today (Wednesday), a day after the long debates on the P40-billion sin tax reform bill ended.

In his sponsorship speech, Drilon, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee that reviews the country’s proposed expenditure outlays, would explain his panel’s proposed minimal amendments to the General Appropriations Bill which the House of Representatives submitted to the Senate on October 16. 

“The Committee on Finance has performed its task of scrutinizing the proposed national budget with a fine tooth comb through the recently-concluded round of budget hearings and technical working group meetings,” said Drilon, who just went through tedious deliberations on the sin tax bill.

He would describe the 2013 outlay, dubbed as the “Empowerment Budget”, as a “bridge of hope” – a budget that paves the way to a future where dreams do come true – for almost 100 million Filipinos as it was crafted to address the plight of the poor and the vulnerable Filipinos.

“Let not cold statistics but warm bodies guide our decisions and priorities in this budget. Let us not forget that these numbers pertain to real, flesh-and-blood Filipinos whose empowerment, through deliverance from backbreaking poverty, will ultimately shape the destiny of our nation,” said Drilon.
“The proposed 2013 budget is more than about the national government's expenditures and sources of financing for next year. It is the keystone to good governance in all its many facets — from basic social services to national security, from inclusive economic growth to peace and the rule of law, from disaster prevention and crisis management to anti-corruption and participatory governance,” stressed Drilon.
The Drilon committee maintained the House bill level of P1.25 trillion programmed funds, P117.55 billion unprogrammed funds, and P1.37 trillion new appropriations.

However, the committee proposed incremental funds for a few agencies including the Bureau of Immigration for the purchase of five passport reading machines and the Anti-Money Laundering Council for repairs and maintenance programs.

He also noted there were also realignments within selected agencies to reflect their actual needs and priorities which include the P1 million from the Supreme Court to provide additional funds for the construction of the Manila Hall of Justice, as well as the P500 million for the Commission on Elections to fund purchase of land and construction of building to serve as a warehouse for precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

The proposed P2.006 trillion 2013 national budget is 10.5 percent higher than the P1.816 trillion budget this year, and represents 16.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, he noted.

He noted the rosy economy in the first quarter because of renewed business and consumer confidence, improved external trade, and accelerated government spending resulted in a 6.4 percent growth rate.

“The government intends to further trim the fiscal deficit to two percent of GDP in 2013 from its current target of 2.6 percent to create a robust and sustainable fiscal space,” he added.

By sector, the biggest share of 34.8 percent will go to social services, while 25.5 percent will be for economic services. On the other hand, debt-servicing burden will fall to 16.6 percent next year from 18.3 percent in 2012. General public services will have a 17.3 percent share while defense will get 4.5 percent.
He noted that education sector will continue to be the government’s top priority in the 2013 budget, as mandated by the Constitution, with the Department of Education budget increasing by 22.6 percent to P292.7 billion, from P238.8 billion this year. “A P54 billion increase in funding will help address shortages in education resources such as classrooms, teachers and textbooks. It will also support the department's K+12 program.”
 The DPWH is second with P152.9 billion, followed by the Department of National Defense (P121.6 billion), DILG (P121.1 billion), DA (P74.1 billion), DOH (P56.8 billion), DSWD (P56.2 billion), DOTC (P37.1 billion), DOF (P33.2 billion), and the DENR (P33.2 billion).

Legarda Supports Car-Free Day Campaign for Clean Air

MANILA, November 20, 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.

Bicam approves amendments to IP Law

MANILA, November 19, 2012-The bicameral conference committee today approved the reconciled version of the bill amending the Intellectual Property (IP) Code.
In a meeting held at Traders Hotel, the conferees from the Senate and the House of Representatives succeeded to reconcile the disagreeing provisions on Senate Bill 2842 and House Bill 3841.
Sen. Manny Villar, chairman of the Committee on Trade and Commerce, said there is a need to update RA 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code to better equip the country against intellectual theft and protect copyrighted works.
Villar said among the approved amendments is the provision exempting the blind or visually-impaired persons from securing permission for the non-commercial reproduction of copyrighted works for their use.
The committee also amended the law to include a provision that will strengthen the protection of audio-visual performances of Filipino artists.
Villar, who heads the Senate panel, expressed confidence that the amendment will be signed into law before the adjournment.
“Sa palagay ko naman walang kadahilanan para hindi pirmahan agad ito. Kumukuha na kami ng signatures ngayon para sa lalong madaling panahon ay makakuha na kami ng approval sa Senado at sa malaking kapulungan,” he said.
Once signed into law, the Bureau of Copyright under the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines will be created.
“This addresses the need for one group to handle copyright matters. The public needs a government agency it can rely on to respond to its copyright concerns,” Villar said.
He noted that in the past, copyright concerns have been handled as an ordinary issue, and was proven to be very inefficient and difficult to justify legally and financially.
Villar said an updated IP law is needed to boost copyright-based industries and further promote its competitive advantage especially because CBIs contribute almost 5 percent to the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Aside from Villar, the conferees from the Senate are Senators Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Loren Legarda and Edgardo Angara. The conferees from the House of Representatives are Representatives Albert Garcia, Tomas Apacible, Joel Roy Duavit, Rufus Rodriguez, Irwin Tieng, Juan Edgardo Angara, Diosdado Arroyo, Mar-Len Abigail Binay, and Magtanggol Gunigundo.


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