Friday, March 8, 2013

3rd outage in 8 months Power cut off anew in Pantabangan

PANTABANGAN, Nueva Ecija – Residents of this municipality suffered yet another blackout – its third in eight months  - after the town’s electricity supplier cut off power supply to the municipal government-owned Pantabangan Municipal Electric Services (Pames) yesterday over millions of pesos in unpaid bills.
          First Gen. Hydro Power Corp. (FGHPC), which owns and operates the 132-megawatt Pantabangan-Masiway Hydroelectric Complex yesterday over Pames’ failure to pay power bills worth P1.7 million this January.
Dennis Gonzales, FGHPC vice president for business development, told The STAR by phone that Pames was disconnected from the grid at 12 noon. He said the firm was forced to cut off power because Pames failed to honor its commitment to pay its current account it is supposed to pay by February 25.
“We don’t want Pames’ bills to pile up so we are constrained to cut off power so they would settle their current accounts at least," Gonzales said.
Gonzales said FGHPC has installed four generating sets in the town’s schools to cushion the impact of the power interruptions in classrooms. He added that the firm is installing another three gen sets soon.
Asked if FGHPC is willing to enter into another compromise agreement with Pames over the latest round of power interruptions, Gonzales said they are not inclined to do so. “There are already three agreements that they have breached so what’s the point in entering into another compromise agreement?,” he said.
The STAR called Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. for his comment but he could not be reached.
          FGHPC first cut off supply to the town on July 23 last year due to Pames’ outstanding obligations of P80 million under a restructuring agreement. Electricity was restored on August 2 after a series of negotiations among the FGHPC, the provincial government and the municipal government and through the intervention of then-Interior and Local Governments Secretary, the late Jesse Robredo.
          This was repeated last February 11 when FGHPC again disconnected power over bills worth P4 million from July to December 2012. Power was restored two days later following another round of negotiations.  
          Prior to last month’s power cut-off, P28 million of the P80 million has been paid for by Pames of which P21 million was given by the provincial government via direct offsetting from the real property tax payment of CE Casecnan and FGHPC on behalf of the municipality. This means that Pames still has outstanding debt worth P52,264,222.75 which it incurred after entering into an agreement for the settlement of the obligation in August last year during the first power cut-off.
          The firm said it has been trying to hold off on the decision to cut off power supply to Pames but cannot afford to do so anymore because it also has to keep its operations viable as it also supplies power to two other electric cooperatives, a government agency and an industrial customer.
          FGHPC has been supplying power to Pames since December 2006 in spite of the expiration of the power supply agreement in December 2008. 
          In previous interviews, Borja said his administration has been looking for solutions to the problem which the town has been facing since he first assumed mayor in 2007. He said he inherited the problem from his predecessors.
          Borja tapped Kaltimex, another power firm last year to rehabilitate Pames through a 25-year contract that some councilors and leaders opposed reportedly because it did not go through public consultation. (Manny Galvez)

Ecija vice mayor assumes post as mayor in lieu of exec’s graft conviction

SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ, Nueva Ecija, March 8, 2013–Vice Mayor Ester Lazaro has assumed the mayorship of this city from Mayor Efren Alvarez whose motion for reconsideration on a graft conviction has been denied with finality by a division of the Supreme Court.
          Lazaro took her oath of office as mayor before Provincial Prosecutor Floro Florendo at the Sangguniang Panglunsod Thursday.
          Lazaro said a permanent vacancy in the office of the mayor had come about  which has given her authority to sit mayor as stipulated in the Local Government Code. She asked city residents to support her and set aside personal differences.
          Before her assumption, the Sangguniang Panlunsod approved a resolution stating that due to a permanent vacancy in the mayor’s office, Lazaro should assume the post to as not to affect the delivery of services to city residents. This after the SP took cognizance of a second bench warrant issued last February 15 by the Sandiganbayan’s fourth division which prompted the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to carry out his arrest to no avail.
          The issuance of a second bench warrant was the offshoot of the issuance by the Supreme Court’s first division last February 6 of a resolution denying with finality Alvarez’s motion for reconsideration.      
It was the second time she assumed the post in four months. She also held the post from November 5 to 28 last year after Alvarez went on a prolonged absence owing to an earlier arrest warrant issued against him by the Sandiganbayan over a P240-million graft case.
          But Alvarez was reinstated on November 29 after his arrest warrant was lifted by the anti-graft court when he filed a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court. (Manny Galvez)

Legarda: Laws for Protection of Women Already in Place

MANILA, March 8, 2013-In celebration of International Women’s Day, Senator Loren Legarda(Nationalist People’s Coalition) advised Filipino women that there are adequate laws for the protection of their rights and promotion of their well-being.

“We have diligently toiled to enact pieces of legislation to protect the rights of women and promote their welfare. The greater challenge is to effectively implement these laws and educate women on their rights. Women around the country should be aware that they are sufficiently protected under various laws,” Legarda stressed.

The United Nations’ theme for this year’s celebration is, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

Legarda said that through the country’s laws on women’s rights protection—such as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act, the Magna Carta of Women, and the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act—the Philippines can fulfill this promise.

“We recognize the significant efforts being undertaken by the Philippine government to curb violence against women. Now, we can do even better on this especially with the recent passage of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, which now covers attempted trafficking and accomplice liability,” she stressed.

She said that under the new law, recruitment in the guise of domestic or overseas employment for sexual exploitation, forced labor or involuntary debt bondage are considered human trafficking. Other acts considered as human trafficking are recruitment of any Filipino woman to marry a foreigner, engagement in sex tourism, recruitment for organ removal, and recruitment of a child to engage in armed activities abroad.

Legarda said that even laws on climate change—such as the Climate Change Act and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act—can help protect women, especially since human traffickers have the tendency to look for potential victims among survivors of disasters.

“It is important to realize that the changing climate will have its worst effects on the poorest of the poor. Men, women and children from marginalized and devastated communities are at high risk, and we must do everything in our power to stop these illegal operations, including making our communities disaster-resilient so as not to expose our citizens to abusive groups,” she stressed.

“We must stop the climate of impunity for those who exploit our women. This can only be achieved with intensified enforcement, effective prosecution, and a proper closure to thousands of cases that should not only bring the perpetrators behind bars, but also result to the re-integration of victims back into the mainstream of society to lead normal and secure lives,” she added.

“We must always strive to give equal opportunity to women and address their concerns to allow them to develop their full potential and contribute to nation building,” said Legarda.


MANILA, March 8, 2013-Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada is proud to report that several administration sponsored labor measures were approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives during the 15thCongress.
Sen. Estrada, who steered the passage of these measures in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, cites that among these are the laws lifting the nightwork prohibition for women workers, strengthening conciliation-mediation as voluntary mode for labor dispute settlement, and strengthening tripartism, and the landmark Batas Kasambahay.
“Approval of these government-backed legislative measures certainly prove that the Senate and its Committee on Labor are effective and supportive partners of the current administration in pursuing an agenda of providing equal employment opportunities for all and maintaining industrial peace through democratic mechanisms and speedy labor dispute resolution,” Jinggoy asserts.
The rationalization of night work prohibition for women workers was identified as one of the priority measures submitted by the Aquino cabinet during the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). Sen. Estrada immediately acted on this as it was passed into law (Republic Act 10151) last June 2011.
The Batas Kasambahay, which updates compensation and benefits for household service workers, was also identified as a priority measure of the President as mentioned in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in accordance to his social contract to the people.
Batas Kasambahay was signed into law last January 18, 2013 as Republic Act 10361 after languishing in the legislative mill for nearly two decades.
In connection, Sen. Estrada also co-sponsored Senate Resolution 816 concurring with the ratification of the ILO Convention 189 or the Decent Work for Domestic Workers Convention saying that such move will send a strong signal to the international community that the country places on the promotion of the rights of domestic workers, including migrant domestic workers.
Further, the committee also probed the maltreatment case of Bonita Baran and incorporated its findings to enhance the provisions of then the Domestic Workers’ Bill on welfare protection, rescue and rehabilitation of abused house helpers, and dispute settlement.
The bills strengthening conciliation-mediation and tripartism, which were already approved by both houses of Congress and are awaiting the signature of the President, meanwhile are measures endorsed and closely monitored by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) by way of complying with Philippines’ commitment to the International Labor Organization.
“In the forthcoming 16th Congress, this representation will remain committed to introducing bills and supporting measures that protect our labor force and uphold their rights,” Sen. Estrada concludes.


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