Saturday, August 31, 2013

Umali kin bags councilor’s league presidency

PALAYAN CITY – A relative of Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali won reelection as president of the provincial chapter of the Philippine Councilors’ League by beating a staunch ally of the governor’s former ally-turned-rival, Cabanatuan Mayor Julius Cesar Vergara.

          Sta. Rosa Councilor Peter Marcus Matias obtained 196 out of a possible 331 votes to win by landslide over veteran Cabanatuan Councilor Ariel Severino in elections held at the Nueva Ecija Convention Center here.

          The polls were conducted by the Department of the Interior and Local Governments, led by Central Luzon assistant regional director and Nueva Ecija director Dr. Abraham Pascua sitting as chairman of the three-man PCL Commission on Elections. Also sitting as members were Cabanatuan Councilor Angelito Saclolo Jr. and Sangguniang Panlalawigan secretary, lawyer Rainier Esguerra.   

          As PCL provincial federation president, Matias will sit as ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. He won a first term in 2010.

          Majority of Matias’ slate swept the available elective posts from vice president to the directors. Elected vice president was Councilor Ferdinand Dysico of San Jose City.

          The others were Talavera Councilor Amador Allan Reyes (secretary general), Jaen Councilor Claudia Gonzales (treasurer), Guimba Councilor Florante Agapito (auditor), Cabanatuan Councilor Christian Jan Cecilio (pro), Sto. Domingo Councilor Edgardo de Leon (business manager) and councilors Ofelia Manayao (Peñaranda), Ma. Kristine Regalado (Zaragoza), John Carlo Patiag (San Isidro), Romaric Capinpin (Palayan City), Cleofe felix (Llanera), Romulo Maglalang (Gapan City), Cesar Cajucom (Aliaga) and Benedicto Laurena (Science City of Muñoz).

          The new set of officers took their oaths before PCL national representative Ariel Arceo. – Manny Galvez      

Friday, August 30, 2013

Palace to NHCP : correct ‘historical flaws’ on “Unang Sigaw ng Nueva Ecija”

CABIAO, Nueva Ecija – Malacanang yesterday called on the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to look into several “historical errors” about events involving the “Unang Sigaw ng Nueva Ecija” to set the heroism of Gen. Mariano Llanera and other revolutionaries in its proper perspective.

            Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) said the NHCP, led by its executive director Ludovico Badoy should conduct a thorough research on the historic event and make facts and figures “accurate” and “realistic” to give justice to its heroes.

            “We should correct historical errors because facts and figures are significant in such a historic event as the Unang Sigaw ng Nueva Ecija,” Coloma said at the sidelines of the 115th anniversary of the revolution at the municipal compound here yesterday noon. (Manny Galvez)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

PhilRice wants probe on arsenic, cadmium and lead contents in rice

SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, Nueva Ecija – The Philippine Rice Reseach Institute is seeking a full-blown investigation into the possible presence of heavy, carcinogenic metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead in rice.
         Joy Bartolome Duldulao, PhilRice chemist and executive assistant, said the country should tap a specific agency to monitor the levels of heavy metals in rice which have alarmed rice eaters in some parts of the world. 

          Based on the results of a study, there have been an increase in the levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead in rice. The rice scare started in November 2012 amid reports that tons of rice had been contaminated with arsenic.

          A month later, the PhilRice website published a report of Duldulao on the arsenic content of Philippine rice wherein she reported that local rice stocks are arsenic-free.

          However, Duldulao admitted that the study covered rice samples from only 10 rice-producing sites in the country.

          “We cannot categorically say that it (Philippine rice) is safe (from arsenic). It might not be true in areas where there are mining and recent volcanic activities,” Duldulao said.

          The scare was  followed by reports of lead and cadmium contamination in April and May 2013, which was attributed to contamination from the environment. These three elements are known carcinogens, or can cause cancer.

          The lead scare was triggered by a study made by Dr. Tsanangurayi Tongesayi, associate professor at the Monmouth University. It showed that lead levels on US rice imports from Asian and European countries exceed between 20 and 40 times the "provisional total tolerable intake" for adults set by the US Food and Drug Administration.

          Duldulao said that in the course of  the study’s review, it was found that the measurements were made using an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, an instrument with low accuracy, and which tended to overestimate. Subsequently, the study was withdrawn by the researcher.

          After the study on lead levels in rice came out, the Philippine EcoWaste Coalition also did a study on rice sacks. It showed that lead in some rice sacks were exceedingly high, possibly due to the paint used on the labels.

          “Though the lead can rub off on the rice, we have to analyze the rice itself,” Duldulao said.

          Last May 17, an international global rice website,, published a report saying that the Food and Drug Administration of Guangzhou City in Southern China has found excessive levels of cadmium in about 44.44 percent of rice samples taken from different restaurants and food outlets in the city.

          The morning after, the South China Morning Post website posted the  the news about cadmium-contaminated rice samples from Guangzhuo. According to the news item, inspectors from Guangzhuo’s Food and Drug Administration found rice samples that had cadmium levels higher than specified in China’s food safety standards.

          On June 2, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that the 25,000 metric tons of rice the country is set to import from China will be tested for cadmium content through the customs quarantine process.

          Duldulao said China rice cannot be generalized as cadmium-contaminated unless it is from Guangzhuo, which suffers from industrial pollution.

          He said that the Philippines has yet to set allowable levels of these heavy metals in food.

          To limit exposure to these toxins from eating rice, Duldulao said three measures can be done : wash rice thoroughly before cooking; pour off the water after boiling; and never restrict one’s diet to rice alone.

          He said Pinoys may feast on other crops that also provide carbohydrates such as corn, sweet potato, potato, squash and banana, among others. (Manny Galvez)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Recto defends Calamity Fund : “Scrapping it will be the real calamity.”

MANILA-Scrapping the P7.5 billion Calamity Fund in the 2014 national budget, on the false suspicion that it is a presidential pork barrel, will be the real calamity, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto warned today.

“In the Richter scale of budgeting disaster, I will rank it at Intensity 7,” Recto said when asked to comment on calls to scrap the traditional “standby aid and relief fund” in the national budget.

Recto also described suggestions that the Calamity Fund be itemized in advance as “impossible and impractical.”

 “Itemizing the budget is premised on the ability to accurately predict events or pinpoint occurrences with precision.  But in the case of the Calamity Fund, how can you predict when and where a typhoon will pass and the damage it will cause?”

“In the case of volcanic eruptions, we don’t have a machine that will tell us one year in advance that this volcano will erupt on this date, will cause this damage, and therefore, will need this amount to help this number of victims,” Recto said.  

“Line-item budgeting is putting specific funds, for a specific purpose, in a specific location. When it comes to the Calamity Fund, how can you allocate rehabilitation funds when you don’t know the damage yet?”

Fleshing out the Calamity Fund will only be possible “if we have a Pag-asa that can count in advance the number of typhoons that will hit us, the strength of each, and the damage each one will cause, including the loss of lives and property,” Recto said.

“But if we don’t have that crystal ball, then let us retain it as an unitemized emergency fund,” he said.

“But unitemized shouldn't be automatically equated with unaccountable,” Recto quickly added, saying that like any public money, the use of Calamity Fund must follow “procurement, accounting and auditing laws.”

Recto said scrapping the Calamity Fund will force Malacanang to go to Congress for relief funds every time a typhoon strikes.  “So if we are hit by 20 typhoons, then the Palace will go to Congress 20 times for money that will take months to approve for aid that is needed immediately.”

“The real disaster is that when there’s a calamity, Malacanang, which should be writing checks for the victims, will be reduced into writing a bill that will be sent to Congress,” he said.

While he defended the retention of the Calamity Fund, Recto said there is still room for improvement on how fast it is released to disaster areas. "Kung ang bilis ng bagyo ay 60 kilometers per hour, hindi naman pwede na ang tulong ay gagapang ng six kilometers per day."

Recto said the Calamity Fund for 2013 has been “forward deployed” to agencies identified as “first responders to crisis.”

He said that under the General Appropriations Act for 2013, funds have been advanced to six agencies with the instructions that this be used as a Quick Reaction Fund.

These agencies are the Department of Social Welfare and Development  (P662. 5 M), Office of Civil Defense (P530 M), Department of National Defense (P352.5 M), Department of Public Works and Highways (P600 M), Department of Education (P550 M), Department of Agriculture (P500 M), and the National Irrigation Administration (P500 M).

The same menu is proposed to be followed next year, Recto said.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


MANILA-Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is pushing through with the Senate investigation on the sex-for-flight scheme and sexual abuses against distressed overseas Filipino workers allegedly perpetrated by erring embassy and labor officials, particularly those posted in the Middle East.
The inquiry is jointly being conducted by the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (Blue Ribbon) and Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced last August 23 that they will file administrative charges against three overseas labor officials, upon the conclusion of their fact-finding team’s own investigation on the sex-related controversies.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that she approved the team’s recommendations to charge Labor Attaché Adam Musa for gross negligence, OIC Labor Attaché Mario Antonio for grave misconduct, and Assistance Labor Attaché Antonio Villafuerte for simple negligence. Also, the complaints of sexual harassment against Mr. Villafuerte will be referred to the DOLE Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI). 
“We still have to find out, establish and institutionalize measures on how to strengthen the protection and further promote the welfare of the runaway OFWs in the custody of our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), and prevent abuses against distressed OFWs from happening again right inside the Bahay Kalinga,” Jinggoy stressed.
The lawmaker also added that while the DOLE team has not found evidence on the involvement of its officials on the “sex-for-flight” scheme, the Senate probe uncovered “hints” possibly leading to the modus which preys on the female OFWs into prostitution or sexual favors in exchange for their repatriation.
Earlier, “Michelle” (not her real name) testified before the Senate that she was one of the victims of sexual advances of Asst. Labor Attache Villafuerte when she sought the assistance of the POLO after escaping ill treatment from her employer in Saudi Arabia. Michelle also said that she was advised, not just once, by Villafuerte to accompany an Egyptian national in his trip to the Philippines for her immediate repatriation.
Villafuerte vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
At least 3 other female OFWs – “Josie,” “Analiza,” and “Angel” (not their real names) – appeared and narrated their harrowing ordeal inside the POLO.
After the second public hearing last August 15, Sen. Estrada said that the Blue Ribbon Committee was requested to track and invite other witnesses who will corroborate the testimonies of the complainants regarding the sexual advances allegedly made by Mr. Villafuerte, and the counterclaim of the labor official.
Sen. Estrada, Labor Committee chairman, also stated that the legislative inquiry intends to define the functions and proper coordination between the labor and embassy officials under the “One Country Team” approach where the head of the post is the ambassador.
The third public hearing is scheduled on Thursday, August 29 at 2:30 pm.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Legarda Seeks Govt, SUCs Support to Conserve and Promote Phil. Culture and Indigenous Knowledge

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today said that she will pursue strengthened partnership with agencies of government and state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country for the conservation and promotion of Philippine culture and traditional knowledge and indigenous systems.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, said that through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) she will formalize a collaboration with SUCs on the documentation of cultural knowledge and indigenous traditions in all parts of the country with special focus on intangible culture, such as chants, dances, rituals, agricultural and environmental practices, that are in danger of being lost.

Moreover, she will urge the Department of Tourism to promote Philippine culture by institutionalizing small museums in public places like airports, seaports, and train stations.

“There are 110 indigenous peoples groups in the Philippines, with each community possessing its own traditional knowledge that had been passed on from one generation to the other. Our indigenous peoples are the epitome of the tradition, the skill and the creativity of the great Filipino mind, and recording this ingenuity will allow traditions to stay alive and flourish,” Legarda said.

“This is the reason why I supported the Cordillera SUCs’ documentation of indigenous knowledge and practices, particularly in the area of agriculture and environment protection, in the region. I hope that we can replicate this project in other regions through the help of our SUCs,” she added.

Legarda noted that cultural agencies of government, particularly the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), are undertaking programs to preserve traditional knowledge and indigenous systems through the Schools of Living Traditions (SLTs), which she hopes will be continuously supported by the government through appropriate funding.

The Senator has supported the development of cultural villages of the Ata-Talaingod, Mandaya, Blaan, and Bagobo Tagabawa in various activities of their SLTs, which teach the young generation the traditional arts, crafts, music and practices of the village.

“The culture passed on to us by our ancestors should never be buried in oblivion. There is no other way for us but to preserve these treasures as they reveal the meaning of who we really are and help us move forward as one people,” Legarda concluded.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Jinggoy hails historic August 20, 2013 coming into force of international Maritime Labor Convention

MANILA-Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada hailed the coming into force this August 20, 2013 of the Maritime Labor Convention, regarded as the global “bill of rights of seafarers.”
Adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland in 2006, the Maritime Labor Convention, also called MLC 2006, is an international agreement through which countries and territories of the world, including respective employers and other stakeholders, commit to observe, protect and promote the standards of seafarers’ working condition.
As stipulated, MLC 2006 would come into force 12 months after the required registered ratifications by at least 30 countries with a total share in the world gross tonnage of ships of 33 percent. The Philippines ratified the Convention on 20 August 2012 through the adoption by Malacañang and the corresponding concurrence by the Senate. Estrada, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, co-sponsored the Senate resolution for the said concurrence and steered its approval by the chamber. The Philippines’ ratification signaled the meeting of the requirement.
“MLC 2006 ensures the protection and welfare of some 1.2 million seafarers of the world, including the more or less 400,000 Filipino workers in the international and domestic shipping industries,” Estrada underscored.
He said the Convention provides for, among others, the comprehensive rights and protection at work for seafarers, particularly: safe and secure workplace; fair terms of employment; decent working and living conditions on board ship; and health protection, medical care, welfare measures and other forms of social protection.
MLC 2006 complements the key Conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended (SOLAS); the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, 1978, as amended (STCW); and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).
The ILO had announced the official coming into force of MLC 2006 on the official time and date: 0700 GMT, 20 August, 2013. To mark the historic significance of the date, the ILO organized a high-level panel discussion on the occasion, held in Singapore and webcast worldwide.
To facilitate and strengthen the implementation of the provisions of the MLC 2006, Estrada authored Senate Bill 21 or the Magna Carta for Filipino Seafarers.
“This proposed Magna Carta for Seafarers seeks to ensure protection of the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino seafarers and their families. Specifically, it seeks to recognize the rights of Filipino seafarers, institute mechanisms for the enforcement and protection thereof, provide compulsory benefits and implement the standards set by the MLC 2006," he said.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Senate leadership backs PNoy decision to scrap PDAF Drilon says PDAF abolition will prevent existence of political debt and patronage

MANILA-The Senate fully supports the unprecedented decision of President Aquino to abolish the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), a move which Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said will “free the poor Filipinos from the practice of political debt and patronage.”

“We laud the President for exercising political will over political patronage in handling the issue of PDAF. It only shows the government’s strong resolve in implementing ‘tuwid na daan’ or straight path and good governance,” said Drilon.

The Senate chief, who earlier called for the abolition of the PDAF, said that the decision to do away with the PDAF will not only address the issue on corruption, as it will also put an end to the longtime practice of political debt and patronage, where the poor and the marginalized had become the prey.       

“The decision to abolish the PDAF is a step that will free the poor from the shackles of political debt and patronage, which had been the practice of corrupt politicians who would do everything to perpetuate themselves in power,” he said.

But what is more laudable, according to Drilon, is the assurance given by the President himself that the public, especially the poor living in the far-flung areas, will not be affected by his decision to abolish the PDAF; and that they will continue to receive the much-needed services such as medical and scholarship assistance, which they used to avail in aid of the PDAF.

“The most important thing is even if we abolished the PDAF, the needs of the constituents of legislators will not be neglected and will still be attended to, by ensuring that the government resources will be given to them to address their needs in a more direct, substantial, and transparent way,” emphasized Drilon.

Drilon said he is particularly in favor of putting the desired projects or initiatives of lawmakers in the budget as line items because it createsa system where the public or the lawmakers’ constituents will have the chance to scrutinize them and guard their lawmakers’ process of identifying their projects.

“It is important that the new process will follow the ordinary budget process, wherein the proposal is submitted, and then the line agency will review whether or not the project should indeed be funded,” stressed Drilon. “What is also important is that these initiatives will follow other government regulations such as the projects identified by the lawmakers will undergo the usual government bidding process, thus enhancing transparency.”   

The Senate President also favors the exclusion of consumable projects – such as agricultural inputs, training materials, livelihood projects – as well as temporary infrastructures – such as dredging, desilting, asphalt overlaying – from among the projects that lawmakers can propose to be funded.

“These consumable soft projects and temporary infrastructure are susceptible to leakages and abuse like overpricing or ghost or incomplete deliveries like what happened in the previous administration who disbursed P750 million in six months for dredging rivers all over the country,” said Drilon.

Friday, August 23, 2013


MANILA-Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada visited the victims and displaced residents of Rizal on Thursday afternoon who were affected by the Southwest Monsoon or “Habagat” enhanced by Tropical Storm “Maring.”
The heavy downpour which started last weekend continued until Wednesday and triggered massive floods and landslides across the Western and coastal provinces of Luzon, including Metro Manila.
Sen. Estrada also led a relief operation and distributed around 2,000 bags containing rice, canned goods, bread, drinking water, milk and coffee in Gruar covered court in Barangay Sto. Domingo in Cainta, Rizal.
Jinggoy arrived onsite with his wife Precy and youngest daughter Julienne, and was joined by Mayor Kit Nieto, Vice Mayor Pia Velasco, and other barangay officials.
Seven-year old Julienne also personally gave out candies to fellow kids.
“Muli tayong hinagupit ng Habagat na nagdulot ng malawakang pagbaha at matinding pinsala sa imprastraktura, ekonomiya at mga pribadong ari-arian. Ngunit tiwala ako na mabilis tayong makakabangon sa trahedyang ito sa pamamagitan ng pagtutulungan, pagmamalasakit sa kapwa at bayanihan,” Jinggoy remarked.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that
36 barangays, 7,952 families and more than 34,279 persons in Rizal were affected by the Habagat.
The Province of Rizal was also placed under a state of calamity.
In the municipality of Cainta alone, five out of its seven barangays were affected and were submerged in 4-6 feet deep floodwater, prompting at least 2,740 families to move and temporarily seek shelter in evacuation centers.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Legarda Pushes for Environmental Audit

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today said that she will push through with the conduct of an environmental audit to determine the state of implementation and enforcement of the country’s environmental laws and policies.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, will file a Senate Resolution to conduct an environmental audit covering the performance of relevant national agencies and local government units in relation to their enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and compliance guidelines in light of the continued ecosystems decline and environmental degradation.

“Ecosystems decline and environmental degradation pose serious threats to our lives, and aggravate disasters that occur due to natural hazards. Thus, we intend to improve existing laws where weakness is determined and to ensure enforcement in ways that people and institutions will comply not so much because there is a law that penalizes non-compliance but because they understand that they have a personal stake in the enforcement of these measures,” she said.

Legarda noted that heavy rainfall has brought about destructive flooding in many parts of the country, believed to be due mainly to the low compliance rate with the Solid Waste Management Act. A recent government report shows that only nine out of the 16 cities in Metro Manila have submitted complete solid waste management plans and at the national level, only 414 local government units, corresponding to only 25.71 percent of the 1,610 cities and municipalities nationwide.

Legarda pointed out that despite numerous laws we adopted, the state of the Philippine environment continues to be on the decline as the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that forest area in the country has declined from 12 million hectares in 1960 to only about 5.7 million hectares, and the UNEP World Atlas of Coral Reefs reports that 97% of reefs in the Philippines are under threat.

“The continued decline of the state of the environment and its ecology system is one of the greatest threats to our people’s well-being. We must strengthen pollution control, engage citizens to participate in the implementation of our laws, and promote environmental education as part of the sustainable development strategies of the country,” Legarda said.

“This environmental audit that I wish to pursue aims to identify areas of environmental policy reform, institute metrics to ensure accountability, and promote the efficient use of public funds in the implementation of our environmental laws,” she added.

Among the country’s environmental laws are the Marine Pollution Control Law, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Philippine Environmental Impact Statement System, Renewable Energy Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Climate Change Act, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, and the Act Creating the People’s Survival Fund.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Camp Melchor F dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela – Four (4) former NPA rebels had received financial assistance from the Isabela Provincial Social Welfare and Development during the Monday Flag Raising Ceremony held at Provincial Capitol, Ilagan City, Isabela yesterday morning, August 19.

They are Albert B Buyawe, AKA RONIE, 31 years old, Jaime G Bittuwon, AKA SANJO, 32 years old, Mario P Guinnoy, AKA MARIO, 31 years old and Franklin Maneja AKA FRANK, 34 years old.

Buyawe, Bittuwon and Guinnoy received fifty thousand pesos (P 50,000.00) each while Maneja also received thirty two thousand pesos (P32,000.00). They also received one (1) cavan of rice as additional aid.

The cheques come from the Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) as part of the Social Integration Program of the government. It was handed over by Mrs Lucila M Ambatali, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer of Isabela.

The former NPA rebels who voluntarily surrendered to 77th Infantry Battalion sometime in 2008 and 2009 were assisted by COL LORETO C MAGUNDAYAO JR, Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, G7 and LTC EMILIO R PAJARILLO JR, Commanding Officer of 86th Infantry Battalion, 5ID, Philippine Army.

The former rebels expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the government for the cash assistance they have received as an additional help for their respective families who are enjoying a peaceful life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Majority senators to adopt resolution not to avail of PDAF until stricter measures are adopted

MANILA-Majority bloc senators will adopt a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate to cease from availing, accessing and utilizing their pork barrel funds until and unless stricter guidelines on the release of such funds are adopted.
The resolution, proposed by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, is a collective decision of the senators in the majority coalition to cease from utilizing their respective priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allotments until such time that more effective and strict implementing PDAF guidelines are put in place by the executive branch. It will be filed in the Senate’s next session, he said.
 “The majority senators’ decision to adopt the resolution is a manifestation of their interest in making the use of the PDAF more transparent and open for scrutiny of the public that will help prevent the abuses and inadequacies which were observed in the Commission on Audit report,” Drilon explained. “It is consistent with the expressed desire of senators to effect reforms in the use of the pork barrel funds in order to prevent the preponderance of abuses and malpractices in the use of the PDAF.”   
Drilon said the majority senators agreed to let the Department of Budget and Management promulgate stricter and more effective implementing guidelines on the release of the PDAF and the determination of qualified projects under the PDAF menu as defined in the General Appropriations Act.
“In view of the findings made by the Commission on Audit in its special audit report of the PDAF releases from 2007 to 2009, there exists an urgent and unmistakable need to institute reforms to improve the PDAF system as well as provide appropriate safeguards and effective controls over the release of these public funds with the utmost transparency and accountability,” said Drilon.
 “The government must institute stricter guidelines on the utilization of the PDAF to avoid  exposing substantial government funds to untoward risks and ensure that the PDAF is disburse only in favor of specific and effective pro-poor programs of the government,” he added.
Drilon cited some findings of the Commission on Audit in its special audit report, which he said needed to be addressed immediately by the Executive Branch through the DBM. Among these are 1) inadequacies in the monitoring of the releases of PDAF for priority projects identified by legislators; 2) lack of periodic assessment of the projects included in the PDAF menu; and 3) inadequacies in the release of the PDAF for projects without completed documentation and/or outside the aforementioned menu.
Earlier, Drilon called for the abolition of the PDAF and expressed support to a proposal of Sen. Miriam Santiago to gradually decrease allocation for PDAF. He suggested limiting the use of the PDAF to medical assistance to be coursed through directly to government and district hospitals, and to school building program.

Legarda Stresses Need for Improved Governance, Strict Law Compliance to Avert Widespread Flooding

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today renewed her call for the implementation of laws and programs that will help ease flooding in the country following the disaster brought by Typhoon Maring and the monsoon rains in the metropolis and nearby regions.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Environment and Climate Change, said that first and foremost, local government units (LGUs) should comply with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 9003) and also start clearing waterways in their areas.

Heavy and continuous rainfall since Sunday has caused massive flooding in the National Capital Region and in neighboring provinces in Luzon and prompted the government to suspend classes and work in affected areas.

“With climate change in our midst, more frequent typhoons are the new norm. But why do our flooding woes seem to worsen every time? A main reason is the non-compliance with our environmental laws. Only about one-third of all LGUs nationwide are complying with the solid waste management law, while the others have yet to strictly and fully implement segregation of garbage at source, recycling and composting,” said Legarda, principal author of RA 9003.

The Senator also said that LGUs should complement the national government’s campaign to address flooding problems through the clearing of waterways, noting that the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) is carrying out a program to relocate illegal settlers and clear waterways in Metro Manila within 12 months.

“What our LGUs and concerned government agencies must do is to strictly implement the solid waste management law; demolish illegal fish pens in Laguna de bay; undertake massive cleanup of esteros and canals; relocate settlers by the rivers; dredge rivers and other waterways and heavily penalize those who throw waste in rivers and lakes; and enforce an absolute ‘no tree cutting’ policy in the Sierra Madre and other protected areas,” she stressed.

“Disaster risk reduction is everybody’s business, and LGUs should lead this effort by ensuring that homes, schools, hospitals, and buildings are constructed in safe areas and are secure amidst natural hazards, and that roads, bridges and other infrastructure are designed and constructed with economic growth and disaster risk reduction in mind,” she added.

Legarda also said that the government should assess the structural integrity of all dams in the country and retrofit those which need to be fixed.

“With or without these heavy rains and disasters, we have incessantly urged and reminded our LGUs and our citizens to work on preventing and mitigating disasters, such as floods, and not merely respond to their onslaught. We must learn from our experiences, practice enhanced disaster preparedness and response, and be proactive in reducing the risk of disasters,” said Legarda.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Legarda to Gov’t: Scale Up Social Protection to Improve Disaster Resilience

MANILA-As incessant rains caused by Typhoon Maring and the southwest monsoon affect Metro Manila and several provinces in nearby regions, Senator Loren Legarda today called for a deeper study on how the government’s social protection program can be improved to help build disaster resilience of families and communities.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, said that the government should promote the scaling up of existing national programs to rectify the social and economic structures that breed disaster risk and trap the poor in the vicious cycle of risk and poverty.

“I propose that we examine how the government’s social protection programs, in particular the Conditional Cash Transfer and other poverty reduction-related initiatives, can be scaled up to not only address the structural poverty, but also build resilience against the recurring impact of natural hazards, which may well be holding them to the very poverty we are trying to address in the first place,” she explained.

“Scaling up our social protection program, with more innovative means to build the resilience of poor families, would help deliver the genuine reduction in poverty that the Aquino Administration longs for,” she added.

The Senator explained that economic losses in disasters are greatly felt by the poor because the effects are magnified in their life. For many Filipinos, every single day of work is synonymous to survival. When impassable roads due to heavy downpour prevent a daily wage earner from going to work, it would mean no earnings for the day, no food on the table.

Legarda said that the government should grow the economy but also develop resilience through social protection.

“Efforts of the government to improve the quality of life for the majority of Filipinos are not felt as disasters continually bring us down. We cannot let disasters keep the poor forever poor. We cannot let recurrent disasters take away from our people their lives and the little that they have in life. If we wish the poor to enjoy their rightful share of the fruits of development, then building resilience must be at the heart of the country’s social  protection program,” Legarda concluded.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Typhoon-hit Aurora observes 404th township of Baler amid devastation

BALER, Aurora – Amid the destruction wreaked by typhoon Labuyo which destroyed an estimated P500 million in infrastructure, agriculture and houses in northern Aurora, officials and residents will gather here today to observe the 404th anniversary of this capital town in the post-Angara mayorship.

          Capitol officials led by Gov. Gerardo Noveras, Vice Gov. Rommel Angara and town officials led by Nelianto Bihasa and Vice Mayor Karen Ularan-Angara will lead the anniversary rites at the spanking P100-million new town hall, considered more austere than in previous years. 

          Also joining the celebration - which coincides with the 135th anniversary of late Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon and in honor of the town’s Patron Saint San Luis Obispo de Tolosa - are Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara and former three-term governor and now Rep. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.

          This year’s rites were in stark contrast to past years, including in 2009 when organizers erected a 40-feet-high monument that towers over this capital town’s skyline symbolic of its emergence from a once-sleepy municipality into a bustling and flourishing model for rural development on its quadricentennial two years ago.

          Located 232 kilometers north of Manila on the shore of a horseshoe-shaped coastal valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this town is a treasure trove of cultural heritage not only as Quezon’s birthplace but also for being the last bastion of Spanish forces during the Spanish Revolution. It is  the center of festivities for the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day which is celebrated every 30th of June.

          The old Kinagunasan (township) was wiped out when a “tsunami” struck on December 27,1735, killing 500 families. Only five families survived, including the Angaras.

          Several stories account for the origin of the name Baler, the most popular of which was believed to have come from the word “Balod,” a large Paloma Montes (mountain dove) that abounded in the place.

Baler, to historians, was a place where pigeons came home to roost or a place to come home to. And that no matter where Balerianos go in their search for glory and fortune, they would always hope of coming back.

From a depressed town, Baler has emerged into a progressive municipality housing a public market, a fish port, sports complex, people’s center, a P130-million integrated rice processing complex, a polytechnic college, and other institutions of higher learning. (Manny Galvez)  

Drilon asks to speed up investigation into PDAF scam to give lawmakers a chance to defend themselves in proper judicial venue

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today asked for an speedy investigation into the alleged misuse of the priority development assistance fund of some lawmakers which has been the news headlines for over one month and continued to cause public’s uproar.
Drilon’s call came after the Commission on Audit, in a special audit report on the 2007-2009 PDAF allocations, disclosed that billions of pesos worth of pork barrel funds of lawmakers allegedly went to bogus non-government organizations.
“I call on government investigating bodies to speed up the probe into this pork barrel scam and ensure as well the speedy judicial process,” said Drilon.
“The government must show resolve in addressing this issue so that the public will realize that we are taking appropriate and swift actions to get to the bottom of the controversy; and in the end, the government must be able to observe and apply justice and the rule of law,” he stressed.
He said the resolution of the PDAF scam will help restore the people’s trust in the justice system.
“We need to finish the investigation so that those who are allegedly involved will be presented the opportunities to defend themselves and clear their names before an impartial and credible investigative body and appropriate judicial forum,” said Drilon.
The Senate chief also urged the Commission on Audit, the Ombudsman, and the Department of Justice to coordinate closely in resolving the case and formulating necessary actions including filing of charges to those who were involved in the scam.
“These three investigating agencies should exercise a close coordination in resolving this case and studying the appropriate actions to undertake,” he said.
Drilon said the COA audit report provided the evidence that the DOJ and the Ombudsman will have to carefully study in order to determine if they warrant filing for charges.  
“Because of the audit report, we are all under clout of doubt. Even if our names were not in the report, the people have the tendency to generalize and suspect us to be doing illegal in the use of our pork barrel,” said Drilon.
“That is why we need to finish the investigation the soonest in order to shed lights on the issue and to enable the involved lawmakers to answer allegations against them in the proper venue” he ended. 


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