Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recto: ‘Stronger’ Habagat rains spell more woes for Metro’s anti-flood efforts

MANILA-The government should seriously take into consideration the increasing amount of rainfall being poured by monsoon rains when it crafts its over-all master plan on flood management in the National Capital Region.

This is according to Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, as he is set to question officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) when the Senate commences hearing today on Resolution No. 6 he filed in July.

“Reports indicate that the Habagat rains last August – as affected by typhoon Maring – dumped more rainwater than it did in 2012. It was also stronger than Ondoy,” Recto said.

“If this is true, then we should be bracing for heavier rains that will bring more rainwater and increase flooding in Metro Manila. The government should take note of this when it identifies projects under its anti-flood master plan.”

His resolution calls for an inquiry into the viability of the approved P351-billion over-all master plan on flood management Metro Manila, which he described as by far the most ambitious and expensive flood control program ever conceived by the national government.

The Senate Committee on Public Works will be hearing Resolution No. 6 jointly with the Committee on Finance.

Recto said the recent onslaught of the Habagat in August proved that the government has yet to put in place an effective anti-flood mechanism as flood waters continue to debilitate almost the whole of Metro Manila.

“If I recall correctly, classes in all levels in Metro Manila were suspended for almost a week. Local governments were forced to cancel work and operations. And tens of thousands of families were evacuated due to flooding,” he said.

“With this in mind, we should be thoroughly scrutinizing how the government intends to spend P351 billion in taxpayers’ money in addressing the flood problem in Metro Manila.”

According to Project Noah of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), rainfall amount for this August Habagat was at 600 millimeters in 24 hours, while Ondoy dumped only 455 millimeters in 2009 and the Habagat in August 2012 dumped only around 472 millimeters of rainfall.

He also took note of the recent monsoon rains that ravaged parts of Luzon this week.

“Although it did not affect Metro Manila in the same scale, look what it did to Olongapo City and some towns of Zambales. Should we wait for that to happen here in Metro Manila or any part of the country as well?” Recto lamented.

He also mentioned the flashfloods in June of this year which virtually crippled Metro Manila, submerging major roadways, clogged waterways, rendered intersections impassable and virtually paralyzed public transport, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

In the resolution, Recto explained that the P351-billion flood control master plan, which took 22 years to make, was approved by the national government last year. Its implementation will be spearheaded by the DPWH.

The long-term plan, he added, would cover the infrastructure needs of 11 flood-prone areas in Metro Manila and nearby provinces and would see completion by 2035.

Recto said an initial seed money of P5 billion will bankroll the most urgent needs in terms of spending for the improvement of floodways and drainage systems and river capacities in Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region III), and CALABARZON (Region IV-A).

Legarda to DA, NFA: Address High Rice Prices, Ease Burden on Poor

MANILA-In the wake of assurances from the Department of Agriculture (DA) that rice prices would stabilize after the country’s lean season and statements from the National Food Authority (NFA) that its inventories this year were greater than those in 2012, Senator Loren Legarda called on the DA and NFA to explain why rice prices have yet to drop to pre-lean season levels.

“Last week NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag said, and I quote, ‘the NFA inventory is bigger this year compared to the same period last year, and so we don’t foresee any shortage.’ But I have yet to see the positive impact of this on rice prices,” said Legarda, who had earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 233, which paved the way for the Senate inquiry into the rice situation of the country.

At the hearing, Legarda had asked officials of the DA and NFA “bakit talaga despite the buffer stock, despite na mas maliit ngayon iyong epekto sa climate change sa bigas, ay tumataas ang presyo.” (“Why despite the buffer stock, why despite the fact that the decreased impact of climate change on rice this year, prices are still going up.”)

2013 rice prices significantly higher than last year

Legarda said that according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the retail prices for regular-milled and well-milled rice are almost four pesos higher than last year. Regular-milled rice cost 32.4 pesos last year; this year it costs 36.1 pesos. Well milled-rice in 2012 was 35.6 pesos; today it costs 39.2 pesos.”

“If you look at the trend last year, the retail prices of regular-milled and well-milled rice slightly peaked during the lean season, as expected, then normalized. This year, not only have the price hikes during the lean season been significantly higher, they have also failed to normalize at the expected time,” explained Legarda.

In 2012, retail prices of regular and well-milled rice remained relatively stable, according to data from the BAS website. In the lean months and months preceding and following the lean months (between June and September 2012), the retail prices of regular-milled rice ranged from a low of 32.2 pesos per kilo in June to a high of 32.5 pesos in August. In the same period, well-milled rice cost as low as 35.3 pesos in June and was highest at 35.7 pesos in August.

Legarda said that 2013 was a different story.

“The rice prices this year are a cause for concern,” said the lawmaker.

“This year, the prices really shot up; between June and September, we experienced an almost four-peso jump in the retail prices of regular and well-milled rice.”

“For many of our people who live a hand-to-mouth existence, every peso counts. Every peso added to the cost of our staple food is an additional burden they should not have to bear,” lamented the senator.

Legarda added that rice prices continued to belie DA and NFA claims of adequate rice supplies.

“If there are adequate supplies of rice, our markets should feel it, rice prices should go down. The best proof of supplies of rice is its price. Until these remain at its present levels, we must continue to ask the DA and NFA to act, and act now.”

Legarda Congratulates German Chancellor Merkel for Successful Re-election

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today congratulated Chancellor Angela Merkel on her successful bid for a third term as head of government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

“I warmly congratulate Chancellor Angela Merkel for her re-election. This historic victory shows the Germans’ trust in their incumbent leader to advance the causes and address the concerns of the nation and its people. As a leader of a powerful nation, other countries, including the Philippines, also hope that she will continue to champion vital global issues,” said Legarda.

The Senator also expressed optimism that Merkel’s third term will be even more productive and beneficial not only for Germans but also for the whole world.  

“We all should take inspiration from the efforts of Chancellor Merkel in pushing Germany toward a post-carbon future. Her leadership has steered Germany toward a cleaner energy pathway and countries should learn from its wide range of experiences in clean energy development and use,” the Senator said. She expressed concern that while the Philippines has passed a renewable energy law in 2008, there remains numerous stumbling blocks that prevent the country from realizing the benefits from its renewable energy potential of as much as 176,000MW.

She noted Germany’s vital role, under the leadership of Merkel, in addressing various issues confronting Europe today.  These issues include rebuilding the foundations of the euro, bailouts for failing economies, or debt write-downs for struggling euro area members, the creation of a banking union, among others.

“I trust that in the next four years, Chancellor Merkel will strengthen auspicious efforts to manage the eurozone crisis while championing sustainable development,” the Senator stressed. “As the head of the most powerful economy in Europe, she has an important role in shepherding the revival of Europe,” the Senator added.

The Senator expressed hope that development cooperation between Germany and the Philippines will be further expanded to support the country’s peace development, conflict prevention, environmental initiatives, as well as cultural diplomacy.  “Continued cooperation in renewable energy development in our country will hopefully continue as there is much to learn from Germany’s experiences. With 60 years of bilateral ties, we hope to strengthen this relationship not only in economic terms but also in deepening our cultural bond,” said Legarda.


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