Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Legarda Welcomes Visit to PH of UN Head Ban Ki-moon

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today welcomed the visit to the Philippines of United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon, stressing that it would help boost the country’s disaster resiliency initiatives especially in light of the recent devastation brought by Typhoon Yolanda.

Legarda, UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, said that the UNSG’s presence sends a strong message of hope for affected communities and highlights the need to build back better, stronger and wiser.

“We appreciate UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s personal visit to the Philippines and his concern for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. This is an opportunity to thank the UNSG for the support given to our nation and the humanitarian assistance facilitated by various UN agencies for relief and early recovery in communities devastated by the typhoon,” she said.

“We believe that his leadership will inspire all sectors to unite and do more, to do better, and to sustain the gains in DRR and CCA, towards building a more resilient nation,” she added.

The Senator also noted that Secretary-General Ban’s visit is a strong support for the government’s continuing work to encourage local government units and the private sector to prioritize programs that would make the nation disaster resilient.

Legarda, author of the Philippine Climate Change Act and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, stressed that the private sector’s role in building resilient communities is crucial to prevent substantial business losses and economic development setbacks resulting from disasters of unprecedented scale.

“As DRR is everybody’s business, we anticipate the UNSG’s call for action not only for the national and local governments but for the business sector as well. The private sector is encouraged to work with the government in constructing homes, schools, hospitals and buildings that are safe and secure amidst natural hazards, and in designing and constructing roads, bridges and other infrastructure that help spur economic growth with disaster risk reduction in mind,” she said.

As UN Champion and Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, Legarda has spearheaded an information and education campaign through   the conduct of regional DRR workshops for local leaders, private sector, civil society organizations, the academe and the youth. She also facilitated the distribution of geo-hazard maps and the Disaster Preparedness and First Aid Handbook to LGUs, among other initiatives.

Senate introduces reforms to maritime industry to prevent blacklisting of Filipino seafarers

MANILA-Alarmed by the report of possible blacklisting of Filipino seafaring officers by the European Union, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon urged the swift passage of a bill which seeks to transfer all functions pertaining to training and certification of over 400,000 Filipino seafarers to one central agency, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

In his sponsorship speech, Drilon warned over possible repercussions of the country’s failure to comply with the 2010 Manila Amendments to the “1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention).

At present, the STCW functions are lodged in various agencies such as the Philippine Regulatory Commission, Commission of Higher Education, Department of Science and Technology, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and National Telecommunication Commission.

The present practice, according to Drilon, is not consistent with the STCW Convention. “Our seafarers face an imminent threat that, if not addressed urgently, will in all likelihood capsize our maritime industry,” said Drilon.

It can be recalled that the European Union (EU) has recently expressed its inclination to blacklist Filipino seafarers from EU-flagged vessels, blaming the country’s unsatisfactory and incomplete observance of the STCW Convention. The STCW Convention sets the global minimum qualifications for masters, officers and watch personnel engaged in international shipping.

The Senate chief said that employment bans on Filipino seafarers would cause sizeable damage to the Philippine economy: “We have to remember that remittances from sea-based workers – which reached $5 billion in 2012 and for this year alone, is already worth $1.2 billion – keep our economy afloat by fueling domestic consumption, preventing foreign exchange instability, and serving as a buffer against inflation of the peso.”

He added that the blacklisting by the EU could “terribly upset” the country’s position in the global maritime professional industry, and “would negatively affect the estimated 400,000 Filipino sea-based workers employed worldwide.”

“There is a need to align our maritime regulatory system with the international standards and practices,” he added.   

To prevent such ban and its negative consequences from happening, the Senate Bill No. 2043 seeks to consolidate the functions relating to the country’s compliance with the SCTW Convention in one agency which is the MARINA.

“The Senate Bill No. 2043 will address the aforementioned concerns through the introduction of major structural changes to our maritime regulatory system that will address the inefficiencies in the current scheme and will therefore ensure our country’s complete compliance with the STCW Convention,” explained Drilon.

“By designating the MARINA as the sole maritime administrative agency empowered to enact uniform rules and regulations governing global maritime professionals and to regularly monitor our conformity with the STCW Convention, we can now meet standards and avert employment bans,” Drilon said. 

Drilon then called for the measure’s swift passage, explaining that the urgent implementation of SBN 2043 will “positively influence” the ongoing audit report being prepared by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), which will determine if the country is indeed in conformity to the STCW Convention. 


CAMP OLIVAS, CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, PAMPANGATo further sustain and improve the PNP P.A.T.R.O.L (Peace and Order Agenda for Transformation and Upholding of the Rule of Law) 2030 in support to the implementation of the Philippine National Police Integrated Transformation Program-Performance Governance System (PNP ITP-PGS) 2030, Police Regional Office 3 under the leadership of PCSUPT RAUL D PETRASANTA, RD, PRO3 has formed the Regional Advisory Council composed of prominent personalities in Central Luzon and took their oath on December 17, 2013 at the PRO3 Post Conference Room, Camp Olivas, City of San Fernando, Pampanga.
            Gov Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan is appointed Chairman of the RAC while Napolcom3 Regional Director Atty. Manuel L. Pontanal is the Vice Chairman. Among the sectoral personalities appointed as members are Mr. Jose B. Tan (business sector), Atty. Emmanuel Y. Angeles (Chairman, Angeles University Foundation), Mr. Teodoro M. Gatchalian (TESDA Regional Director), Hon. Vilma  Caluag(President, Mother Teresa of Calcutta Hospital), Dr. Rowena M. MangubatM.D. (President, AUF Medical Center), Rev. Msgr. Eugenio Mercado, Jr. (Religious Sector) and Mr. Ric Sapnu (Media Sector).
            The Regional Advisory Council serves as an advisory body of the PNP and are significantly crucial to the implementation of the Philippine National Police Integrated Transformation Program-Performance Governance System (PNP ITP-PGS 2030).
            The institutionalization of Performance Governance System in the Philippine National Police is an important undertaking of PNPs enhancement of its role in the country’s Global Competitiveness index, through the vital involvement of the Regional Advisory Council, which aimed at making good governance a shared responsibility between the PNP and the stakeholders.

Legarda Warns of Less Rice Due to Climate Change

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today said that the increasing global temperature is seen to bring about a decrease in production of rice and several essential crops, stressing that with the absence of robust adaptation strategies, climate change will further imperil the country’s food security.

“A 2009 study by the Asian Development Bank showed that rice yield in the Philippines can decline by 75% in 2100 with the lack of climate change adaptation programs. The typhoons, floods and droughts from 1970 to 1990 resulted in an 82.4% loss in total Philippine rice production,” said Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change.

“President Benigno Aquino declared 2013 as National Year of Rice. This declaration underscores the need to achieve rice sufficiency and to address the concerns of our agricultural sector. We take note that an added challenge to our rice and food security is the wastage of cooked rice,” she said.

Legarda cited 2008 statistics from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, which showed that each Filipino wastes an average of two tablespoons of cooked rice daily. When put together, this wastage could feed about 2.6 million Filipinos for one year.

One of the solutions suggested by the Philippine Rice Research Institute is the proposed one-half cup of rice default serving size in the food service industry.

“Our citizens should also be conscious of their consumption of rice in their respective homes. The government’s efforts should be paralleled with support from the private sector and our citizens,” said Legarda.

“Meanwhile, to support our agriculture sector, we must ensure more investments in agricultural research and infrastructure, improve water governance and land use policies, provide better forecasting tools and early warning systems, create a strengthened extension system that will assist farmers to achieve economic diversification, and access to credit and crop insurance,” she added.

The Senator also noted the cultural significance of rice, which is highlighted in a newly opened exhibition by the National Museum, “Rice, Biodiversity and Climate Change: Celebrating the National Year of Rice”.

The exhibit reveals the value of rice even in the early Philippine society. It also communicates the need to address biodiversity loss and climate change in relation to rice production, especially that only two of the 20 rice species are being cultivated, an indication that varietal decline and species loss are inevitable.

“I enjoin everyone to appreciate what we are blessed with and translate this appreciation into concrete actions to mitigate climate change, protect our natural resources, and preserve our heritage. We need to take aggressive and immediate action to adapt to the changing climate, prevent further rise in global temperature, provide better support for our agriculture sector or prepare ourselves for meals with no rice at all,” Legarda concluded.

Rent control deemed extended

MANILA-Senators yesterday hailed a resolution adopted by a housing agency chaired by Vice President Jejomar Binay to extend the Rent Control Act by two years to Dec. 31, 2015.

The move by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council to extend the life of Republic Act 9653, which is to expire at the end of the year, was learned in yesterday’s hearing by the Senate Committee on Housing on a bill seeking the same purpose.

Bill author Sen. Ralph Recto said HUDCC is authorized under Section 6 of RA 9635  “to continue the regulation of rental of certain residential units including subsequent extensions and even the adjustment of the yearly rate increase.”

Recto described the HUDCC resolution of Dec. 16, 2014 as the “fast-track mode” of extending the Rent Control Act.

“The slow-track, of course, is through legislation. But there is one convincing school of thought which believes that such is no longer needed once HUDCC exercises the authority delegated to it by RA 9653 to extend its effectivity,” Recto said.

The housing body’s move, Recto said, “was in exercise of its mandate and an implementation of a specific command of the law.”

But to stamp the HUDCC resolution with a “congressional seal of approval,” Recto said what Congress can do “is pass a resolution expressing its conformity.”

HUDCC officials who attended yesterday’s meeting chaired by Sen. JV Ejercito conveyed Binay’s request for a congressional resolution to validate and strengthen HUDCC’s move.

Saying “there is no harm in redundancy,” Recto supported  Binay’s request while insisting “that  the extension should not be contingent upon the passage of the requested congressional resolution.

With RA 9653’s looming expiration, Recto filed last month a bill extending its life to 2017.  

Under the bill, the rent on a dwelling cannot be increased by more than seven percent annually, provided it is occupied by the same lessee and the monthly rent is not more than P10,000 if in Metro Manila and P5,000 if located in areas outside of it.

A dwelling is defined as a house, apartment unit, condominium, boarding house, room, dormitory unit, and even a bed space.

Recto said his bill will not dampen the investments needed to reduce the housing backlog as residential units leased for more than P10,000 a month in NCR and P5,000 in areas outside of it are exempt.

“Units being rented above the said amounts are deregulated,” he said.

“We are only protecting the middle class and the poor and not some rich guy who has the money to rent a Forbes Park mansion,” Recto said.

A 2010 government survey showed that there were 2,448,778 families who lived in rented units.

For these lessees, “rent accounts for 13 percent of the average household income, ranking next to food and ahead of education and health.”     

“Rent control is a mechanism that ensures affordable housing in the Philippines. It also safeguards qualified lessees from arbitrary rent increases and corollary ejection,” Recto said. 

Filipino Peacekeepers Receive UN Service Medals

Lieutenant Colonel Nolie L Anquillano receives his UN Service Medal from AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel T Bautista in an awarding ceremony for the 6th Philippine Contingent to Golan Heights and Liberia that was held today, December 18, at the GHQ Grandstand.
Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City—With a sigh of relief, Filipino peacekeepers formally reunited with their families and received today, December 18, their United Nations Service Medal after more than a year of deployment to Golan Heights and Liberia.
The peacekeepers were welcomed by the AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel T Bautista who also congratulated them for accomplishing their mission despite constant threats on their safety.

The 332-strong 6th Philippine Contingent to Golan Heights, led by LtCol Nolie L Anquillano, finished their one-year deployment after receiving world-wide attention with two incidents of being held in captivity by Syrian rebels in March and in May this year.

Despite being released safely on both occasions, questions on their immediate pull-out were raised. The Philippine government continued the all-Philippine Army contingent’s deployment after the UN agreed to bolster the safety of the UN peacekeeping force.
A posthumous award was also conferred to Sgt Benson Angot who died of malaria on October 22 while on his duty in Golan Heights. His wife, Rodalyn Angot, received the award for the fallen soldier.

Meanwhile, the 115-strong 17th Philippine Contingent to Liberia (PCL), which was deployed in July last year, completed their mission of assisting in the maintenance of law and order in the country following a ceasefire that ended the Second Liberian Civil War. The all-Philippine Air Force contingent was led by its contingent commander, Col Fidel Igmedio T Cruz Jr.

Both contingents performed peacekeeping duties including manning and patrolling operating foot and mobile patrols day and night, VIP protection, and other administrative roles.

Peacekeepers Held Hostage Twice

In March and in May this year, a total of 25 peacekeepers were captured by Syrian rebels while performing their duties near high-risk conflict areas near Syria.

A group of 21 contingents led by Army Major Dominador Valerio was stopped by Syrian rebels on their way back from  a supply run in Al Jamlah village on March 6. The peacekeepers were later released near the Jordanian border on March 11 after a series of negotiations with officials from the UN Disengagement Force.

Meanwhile on May 7, four peacekeepers led by Cpt Arlis Jardin were taken by Syrian rebels while on reconnaissance and static observation mission. With the help of Col Cirilito Sobejana, Chief of Staff of UNDOF and Commander of the Philippine Peacekeeping Force in Golan Heights; Syrian Arab Red Crescent Movement; and UNDOF negotiators, the peacekeepers were released on May 12.


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