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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