Saturday, March 2, 2013

Peaceful solution our highest priority--Tañada

MANILA, March 2, 2013-Team PNoy spokesman Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada said on Saturday/March 2 a "peaceful solution was the highest priority" of the Philippine government "following a bloody end to the Sabah standoff."

Tañada said the administration "sympathizes with the families of those killed" but stressed "this is not the proper way to push their claim."

Tañada added, “We had feared that this would be the outcome after they ignored President Aquino's call for them to return to Sulu. This is affecting the status of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos living in Sabah."

At least 12 armed followers of the Sultan of Sulu who were holed up in a village in Lahad Datu and two Malaysian security personnel were killed on Friday when fighting broke out in the area. 

The government expressed regrets that the Sabah standoff resulted in bloodshed, saying it should serve as a lesson that territorial disputes should be settled according to international law and not through the use of force.

Legarda: Find Culprit of Oil Spill as Cleanup Ongoing in La Union

Senator Loren Legarda today said that authorities should find out who is responsible for the oil spill that affected coastal areas in La Union, which prompted the declaration of state of calamity in the province.

“While cleanup operations are ongoing, authorities must determine who the culprits are in this oil spill because they cannot just get away after seriously affecting seawaters, marine life, and the local communities in La Union,” Legarda said.

Initial reports say that the oil sludge came from MV Harita Bauxite, a Myanmar vessel that sank off Bolinao town in Pangasinan.

Legarda said that the Philippine Coast Guard and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources should conduct an investigation to determine the origin and extent of the oil spill and carry out appropriate action against those responsible for the incident.

“The oil spill threatens the livelihood of fishermen in the area and could also affect tourism. There could also be possible health impacts to the local community. It is not enough that cleanup is ongoing because those responsible for this incident should own up, pay up and join the cleanup,” Legarda concluded.

First Gen, Singaporean firm in tug-of-war for giant Ecija dam project

CABANATUAN CITY – An energy company which owns and operates the Pantabangan-Masiway Hydroelectric Complex, is locked up in a tug-of-war with a Singaporean firm over the P13.6-billion Balintingon Reservoir Multi Purpose Project (BRMPP) that can potentially irrigate 63,000 hectares of agricultural lands in southern Nueva Ecija and portions of Central Luzon.
          National Irrigation Administration Administrator Antonio Nangel said that the First Gen Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC) is also keen on constructing the BRMPP even as the NIA Board has approved the application of Kaltimex Energy (Singapore), Ltd. (KES) to undertake the dam project subject to certain conditions.
          “First Gen has indicated it also wants Balintingon,” Nangel said, even as a technical working group (TWG) has been created to evaluate the KES. The TWG is chaired by deputy administrator for engineering and operations Robert Suguitan and is composed of representatives from the engineering, operations and legal department of the agency.
          KES and FGHPC have figured prominently in the recent wave of power interruptions in Pantabangan town. KES was tapped last year by the municipal government to rehabilitate the local government-run Pantabangan Municipal Electric Services (Pames).
          FGHPC cut off power to Pames over its allaged failure to pay power bills from July to December 2012 worth P8.7 million.  
          Lawyer Genever Dionio, chief of the NIA’s legal department, said the approval of the KES’s application was on condition that it should submit documents showing its legal, technical and financial capability to undertake the BRMPP.
          He said the KES has already submitted  the required documents. “We have yet to go over the documents but we will do so soon,” he said.
          The feasibility study for the BRMPP was submitted to the NIA by Sunwest Water and Electric Company (Suweco) last October for its evaluation.
          However, Suweco president Jose Silvestre Natividad informed Nangel that his firm has assigned all its rights, title and interest to the feasibility as well as its investment and operation of the power plant to KES, its partner in the preparation of the feasibility study.
          A copy of the seven-page executive summary of Suweco’s  feasibility study for the BRMPP stated that the hydro-electric power project is proposed to be built at the catchment area of the Penaranda-Sumacbao-Chico river systems.
Its potential service area of 63,000 hectares will cover the towns of Cabiao, Gen. Tinio , Penaranda, San Isidro and Sta. Rosa and the cities of Cabanatuan and Gapan, all in Nueva Ecija; San Miguel, San Ildefonso and and San Rafael in Bulacan and Arayat in Pampanga.
          Among the BRMPP’s components are a 138-meter rockfill dam, a spillway designed to cope with flood, a 44-megawatt capacity powerhouse, a concrete weir located seven kilometers downstream of the main dam and new irrigation facilities.
          The study estimated the entire project, whose economic life is 50 years, to cost P13.6 million of which P10 million is the direct cost. It has an economic internal rate of return of 21.05%.
          In 1993, the project was estimated to cost only P5 billion then P8.3 billion in 1999.
          The project is expected to produce 119.59 gigawatt-hours of of power and P1.6 billion worth of electric benefits annually. Aside from irrigation and hydro-electric power generation, the project is also expected to generate fish production worth P280 million annually.
          The study also said that the BRMPP would ensure year-round irrigation to 41,500 hectares of land, resulting in annual incremental production of 65,761 tons of paddy rice and 18,035 tons of vegetables.
          The project was initially formulated in the Irrigation Development Plan for Central Luzon in 1976 which was based on a reconnaissance study conducted by NIA and Electroconsult of Italy. It was conceived to take over the role of the Aurora-Penaranda Irrigation Project which supplied southern Nueva Ecija with irrigation.
          Aside from the KES and the FGHPC, the long-delayed dam project is being eyed by several companies, including the California International Ltd. (CalEnergy), the same American firm which built the giant Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project (CMIPP). – Manny Galvez 


Team PNoy spokesman Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada on Saturday/March 2 welcomed a World Bank study indicating that the country’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program known as thePantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) is on track to achieving its objectives.

“It is heartening to learn that government efforts are paying off… that what Team PNoy has been supporting all along is finally bearing fruit,” Tañada said, referring to the 4Ps that has benefitted more than three million poor families with over six million children.

The CCT provides cash grants to poor households to encourage them to keep their children up to age to 14 in school and have regular health check-ups.

“There’s more work to be done. This anti-poverty effort needs to be continued and supported. We, in the administration coalition are committed to support President Aquino in this endeavor,” Tañada said.

The World Bank study entitled, Philippines: Conditional Cash Transfer Program, Impact Evaluation 2012, confirmed that children of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries are enrolling and attending schools, with improved health because of regular visits to health centers and pregnant mothers getting proper care.

Nazmul Chaudhury, World Bank country sector coordinator for human development and one of the authors of the report, said that poor households under the program spend 38 percent more in education per capita and 34 per cent more on medical expenses per capita than their non-Pantawid counterparts.

“This trend indicates a shift in the spending pattern among CCT beneficiaries toward greater investments in health and education of their children,” Chaudhury said in the report.

The WB report said that in Pantawid barangays, 76 percent of pre-schoolers are enrolled in day-care, compared to 65 percent in non-Pantawid barangays.

Among school children at age 6 to 11, 98 percent of children in Pantawid barangays are enrolled in school as against 93 per cent in non-Pantawid barangays.

The WB study is based on the analysis of 1,418 poor households eligible for the program from a survey covering 3,742 households in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Mountain Province, Negros Occidental and Occidental Mindoro. 

Legarda: Prioritize Safety of Filipinos, Seek Peaceful Resolution to Sabah Crisis

Following reports of a clash between supporters of the Sultan of Sulu and Malaysian police, Senator Loren Legarda today said that there is an urgent need to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Sabah, stressing that the government should seek for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also called on the Malaysian government to allow Philippine officials to help Filipinos affected in the situation.

“We call on the government of Malaysia to ensure the safe passage back to the Philippines of Filipinos who want to return following the stand-off in Sabah. The Philippine Embassy should be given access to Filipinos involved in the stand-off and those requiring medical attention should be provided one without fear of retribution or arrest,” she said.

Legarda made the statement in reaction to the reported clash between a group of Malaysian police and the supporters of the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, following a three-week stand-off in Lahad Datu town in Sabah.

The Senator said that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should ensure that collateral damage among Filipinos in Sabah is minimized.

“The incident is symptomatic of an issue that has remained unresolved.  It is important that the Philippines and Malaysia discuss the issues and work towards a durable and lasting solution to the problem. The Department of Foreign Affairs needs to bring this issue from the back burner into the negotiating table,” Legarda concluded.

Legarda Conducts Dialogue with OFWs

Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, conducted a dialogue with members of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC), an overseas Filipinos group, and explained some of the legislation that will benefit them and address their concerns.

Among the concerns raised by GFDC members present during the dialogue conducted at the Senate are the trafficking of Filipinos, protection of domestic workers, and vulnerability to climate change of indigenous peoples.

“Two weeks ago President Aquino already signed into law the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which is a stronger version as it covers attempted trafficking and accomplice liability. We are hopeful that this will effectively address the problem of human trafficking,” said Legarda, principal author and sponsor of the law.

“We also have an existing law which covers the protection of indigenous peoples especially in this era of climate change—the 2009 Climate Change Act, which created the Climate Change Commission. This commission is supposed to map out an action plan on climate change, which is important for our IPs who are among those vulnerable to extreme weather events because they usually live either in our forested areas, coastal areas, slopes or foothills,” she added.

The Senator also explained that the Senate has concurred in the ratification of at least 16 treaties that will be beneficial to Filipinos overseas, such as the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers; the Maritime Labour Convention for the protection of the rights of seafarers; the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and with China, which establish a legal framework that obligates the Contracting Parties to assist in the investigation, prosecution and suppression of criminal offenses and proceedings related to criminal matters; and the Convention on Social Security between the Philippines and the Kingdom of Spain, which ensures that Filipinos in Spain are secured upon retirement.

“The Philippine Senate’s concurrence in the ratification of ILO Convention 189 is historic as it paved the way for the treaty’s entry into force. My next campaign will be with the parliaments of the world and their foreign ministries so that all other nations, especially where there is a concentration of Filipino domestic workers, will also concur in the ratification of this Convention,” Legarda said.

“We have the laws in place and we are monitoring the implementation of these laws, but we cannot do it alone. We cannot solve this problem of climate change, indigenous peoples’ vulnerability, trafficked victims, etc. We need you, the very vigilant overseas Filipinos, who have the resources, the time, and the passion to help address the concerns of our citizens and confront the challenges that our nation is faced with,” Legarda concluded.

Magdalo to promote welfare of retired AFP soldiers, personnel

MANILA, March 2, 2013-Magdalo Para sa Pilipino (Magdalo) vowed to craft measures the will provide more protection to the welfare and benefits being received by retired soldiers and personnel of the armed forces and their families, once they win a congressional seat in the May midterm elections.

“Magdalo’s long-standing relationship with retired soldiers and their families has given it the comprehensive view of the often neglected and underrepresented sector of retired soldiers. We feel their pain and suffering, and it’s about time that we help them hear their voices,” said Gary Alejano, the party-list group’s first nominee.

He added: “We will waste no time once elected to office. We have identified priority measures, most of which seeks to ensure aid and guarantee benefits to retired soldiers and their families even after their term of service. We must let them feel that their government and its people appreciate all the blood and sweat they sacrificed for their country.”

Among the measures Magdalo plans to focus on if it clinches a seat in the House of Representatives are the upgrading of veteran’s pensions and benefits, the institutionalization of scholarship grants to dependents of soldiers, and the creation of the national military appreciation week.

Alejano heads the civilian volunteer organization Samahang Magdalo, which works hand-in-hand with the party-list group. Even before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has approved its application as a party-list organization, it has been engaged in various socio-civic activities through the efforts and initiatives of its members, comprised mostly of retired soldiers and personnel of the military.

Part of the group’s advocacy to reform the government is fight corruption and maintain peace and order in the country. 

“A representative for retired soldiers and their families is a necessary step toward a meaningful move to provide them with the necessary attention and resources from the government they rightfully deserve,” Alejano said.

Other Magdalo nominees are its national spokesman and secretary general Francisco Ashley Acedillo and former Navy Lieutenant Manuel Cabochan.

Magdalo is one of the 79 party-list groups which the Comelec has accredited to run in the national and local elections in May.


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