Friday, February 28, 2014

Motorcycle accidents kill 2 in NE

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija – Two vehicular accidents, both involving motorcycles, have claimed the lives of two people, including a widow while another was critically wounded in Nueva Ecija Thursday, police said.
          Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves, provincial police director, identified those who died as Jayson Billandres, 21, of Barangay Mayapyap Norte this city and Marciana Sinense, 58, of Barangay Sinasajan, Peñaranda town.
          Billandres met his death Thursday night along the Fort Magsaysay-Cabanatuan City road.
Superintendent Pedro Soliba, Cabanatuan police chief, said Billandres was driving his white Rusi motorcycle with license plate   9170-QF with back rider Ranny Gabriel, 21 years old along said highway when the vehicle suddenly lost control and veered to the right shoulder of the road.
On impact, Billandres and Gabriel were thrown out of the vehicle, with the former hitting his temple on the pavement. They were both rushed to the nearby Fort Magsaysay Hospital in Palayan City but Billandres was pronounced dead on arrival due to head injuries while Gabriel was listed in critical condition.
In Peñaranda, a speeding Red Racal motorcycle with license plate 1185 RZ and driven by Michael Casulucan ran into Sinense. 
Police said the motorcycle was heading northwards when Sinense suddenly appeared and was hit by vehicle.
Sinense sustained head and was brought to the Medicare Community Center in nearby Gen. Tinio town. She was later transferred to Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center in this city but did not reach the hospital alive. – Manny Galvez

Legarda, UNISDR Chief Stress On Greater Action, Enhanced Cooperation To Build Resilience

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda and Ms. Margareta Wahlström, Chief of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), both called for greater action and enhanced cooperation among sectors of society to build the Philippines’ resilience.

Wahlström is currently in the Philippines to work on several initiatives, including looking into rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-affected communities.

Legarda, UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, welcomed the UNISDR Chief and expressed her full support to the organization’s continuing advocacy in promoting DRR.

“Even with the passage of landmark laws on climate change and disaster resilience, we continue to engage the government and all sectors of society in improved multi-lateral partnerships on disaster risk reduction and management programs,” the Senator said.

In a meeting with members of government agencies, academe, private sector and the diplomatic corps, Legarda and Wahlström stressed on the need to map out a strategy to strengthen resilience in Yolanda-affected areas and the country as a whole.

Wahlström pointed out that DRR is doable and it would not take long to see the gains because the country already has the necessary laws. However, the greater challenge is how to turn policies into effective action.

Wahlström also cited Legarda as a “super champ” who has always taken the lead in inspiring and motivating key stakeholders to ensure that disaster resilience will be everybody’s business.

Meanwhile, the Senator stressed on her commitment to continue on with her mission, this time with the Safe Schools campaign.

“We have initiated the regional DRR workshops, lectures on climate change in schools, distribution of disaster preparedness manuals and geohazard maps in local government units, and now we will work towards making every school in every barangay safe and resilient. We have a lot of work to do and we all have to work together and in synergy towards a unified action for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the country,” said Legarda.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Because new MRT trains will arrive in 2016, Recto seeks interim measures to address congestion

MANILA-Because full delivery of 48 new Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 coaches will happen three months before President Aquino bows out of office in 2016, government should in the meantime apply measures which would lessen the discomfort of the transit’s more than half a million daily passengers.

The call was made by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto who said that “while the purchase of trains from China has been green lighted by the courts, there remains the need to ease the situation while waiting for their arrival.”

“The trains are coming but something must be done about the daily calvary of MRT riders,” Recto said.

One mitigating measure, Recto said, is to further extend the MRT 3 service to midnight.   At present, the last train leaves Trinoma station at 10:30 p.m. while the last one from the opposite direction pulls out of Taft Avenue station at 11 p.m.

“By extending its operating hours by just one hour, the MRT 3 can theoretically field 20 more trips, and thus carry 23,640 more passengers per direction. Even if just 8 trips will be put in service during the extended period, they can still carry what 200 buses can,” Recto said.

MRT 3 operators should not worry about the availability of passengers, he said, because Metro Manila, with a population of 13 million, is now a 24/7 metropolis.

Recto said the DOTC should also ensure that MRT tracks and rolling stocking are properly maintained because “bog downs and technical problems” are the rail passengers’ biggest source of inconvenience.

He urged the MRT management to pursue its plans of stepping up rail grinding and replacement projects.

He said airconditioners of MRT coaches should be properly maintained, as “they are a must in the coming summer months.”

“The MRT should not be a moving steam bath,” Recto said.

Other passenger comfort amenities which should be addressed are “clean toilets, and functioning elevators and escalators, which seniors and the disabled need,” Recto said.

“Hindi mo naman siguro kailangan pang bumili ng gripo sa China para may tubig ang mga banyo,” he said.
As to the long queues which coil around sidewalks below MRT stations, Recto said management should this early purchase tents which will shield passengers from rain in the coming monsoon months.

It should also study the feasibility of increasing the stored value in MRT cards which is presently set at a maximum of P100, Recto said.  “A higher load means fewer trips and shorter lines to the ticket booth.”

Amid reports of rising pickpocketing incidents inside coaches and in and around stations, Recto called on both the rail operator and the police to beef up security.

The places around stations must be well lighted, he said.

The senator is also prodding the DOTC to assess the viability of ordering more coaches or what are technically called light rail vehicles (LRVs).

“When the 48 new LRVs will be put in service, they will increase the number of hourly trips from 20 to 24. Because the system can handle one trip every two minutes, or 30 in an hour, then there is room for more trains,” Recto said.

If this is feasible, then maybe the outlay needed can be included in the proposed 2015 national budget which, Recto pointed out, “is being assembled at the DBM at the moment.”

"Ang punto ko lang, baka naman sa 2017 or 2018 na naman tayo bibili ng dagdag na mga bagon. Kung pwedeng agahan, kung maresolba angownership at buyout issues ng maaga, e di maaga din dapat ang pag-order, hindi yung parating huli," he said.  

After a Makati court dismissed the injunction case filed by a private corporation last Feb. 21, the DOTC issued a Notice to Proceed to the Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company of China for the delivery of 48 LRVs.

Under the P3.8 billion contract, Dalian will deliver a prototype within 18 months and deliver the remaining LRVs in tranches over the next 18 months.

The DOTC has however announced that Dalian has promised to deliver the prototype in a year’s time, to be followed by monthly deliveries of  the LRVs within one year, which means that full delivery is expected by March 2016. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Drilon, Pimentel sponsor amendments to the Sandiganbayan charter

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III introduced a proposed measure Wednesday that would strengthen the current structure of the Sandiganbayan, a move which is seen to decongest the clogged dockets of the country’s anti-graft court.  

In his sponsorship speech, Drilon noted the dismal disposition of graft cases at the Sandiganbayan. “The Sandiganbayan completes the proceedings of a case – from the filing of the information to promulgation of judgment – in about seven years. This sorry rate of disposition reflects the heavily clogged dockets of the court, given that the cases filed before it has multiplied over the years. Such a drawn-out process of litigation is injustice itself,” ephasized Drilon.  

“This inability to swiftly achieve the objective for which it was created can be attributed to the anti-graft court’s systemic limitations, considering that it has nearly been two decades since the Sandiganbayan Law has undergone legislative amendment,” he stressed.

Senate Bill No. 2138, known as the “An Act Further Amending Presidential Decree No. 1606, as amended” seeks to introduce three innovations in the anti-graft court:

1)   The bill seeks to introduce the concept of “Justice-Designate” that will allow one justice to hear receive evidence, and amend the quorum requirement from three justices in a division to two;

2)   The bill seeks to transfer the jurisdiction over “minor cases” to the Regional Trial Courts; and

3)   The bill seeks to modify the voting requirement for promulgation of judgment to allow the concurrence of at least two members of a division, instead of three, to render a decision.

“The objective of this bill is to improve the disposition of cases in the Sandiganbayan, our country’s specialized court tasked to effectively and swiftly resolve corruption cases against erring government officials and employees,” Pimentel explained.

Under the bill, an individual member of a division is allowed to hear and receive evidence on behalf of the two other members of his or her division. Presently, the Sandiganbayan is composed of five divisions, with three justices each; and the presence of the three justices is required to receive evidence and try a case.

The bill also proposes the transfer of jurisdiction over cases that are classified as “minor” to the Regional Trial Courts. The measure qualifies “minor cases” as those where the information does not allege any damage or bribe; those that allege damage or bribe that are unquantifiable; or those that allege damage or bribe arising from the same or closely related transactions or acts not exceeding P1 million.

“If we are to outrun graft and corruption, it is imperative that we resuscitate and recondition our existing prosecutorial and adjudicatory institutions against this opponent,” said the Senate chief.

“It is imperative for us to introduce and make the necessary revisions in the Court’s structure to ensure that justice is delivered, with haste and without delay,” stressed Pimentel.

Lastly, SBN 2138 seeks to modify the voting requirement for promulgation of judgment, by allowing at least the concurrence of two members to render a judgment. Under the Section 5 of the Sandiganbayan Law, the unanimous vote of all three members in a division is necessary for the rendition of final order. Failure to reach unanimity shall require the constitution of a special division of five members.

“The most potent deterrent against the spread of corruption is the certainty of punishment and expeditiousness of the proceedings, by boosting the structural capability of our anti-graft mechanisms,” said Drilon.

Drilon concluded that with these cutting edge proposals, the Senate is confident that the Sandiganbayan will be able to catch up with the pace of graft and corruption in public institution. 

Senate backs free text-message warning alert bill, says Drilon

MANILA-The Senate expressed its support of a bill that will legally compel telephone companies to disseminate early warnings of disasters, at no added cost to the consumer or the government, said Senate President Franklin M. Drilon.

The Senate leader said the passage of House Bill No. 353 which mandates telecommunication companies (Telcos) to send free mobile alerts in the event of natural and man-made disasters and calamities “would help achieve the main objectives of disaster preparedness which are to lessen the impact of the typhoon and ultimately save lives.”

HBN 353 on Monday was favorably endorsed by the Senate committee on public services chaired by Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., with some amendments introduced by Drilon.

In his amendments, Drilon sought to penalize any telephone company which will fail or refuse to send out warning alerts, with a fine of P1 million to P10 million, or a revocation of its legislative franchise.

“Having been ranked as the third most disaster-prone country in the world, it is imperative for the Philippines to put up a mechanism to efficiently disseminate early warnings of typhoons,” explained Drilon.

In 2013, the 2012 World Disaster Report placed the Philippines third among all countries which recorded the highest exposure to natural calamities.

The Senate leader said the government should be able to employ the most efficient and fastest way in sending out alerts in the event of an impending calamity such as a tropical storm, tsunami or earthquake.

Under the bill, the alerts shall consist of updated information from the relevant agencies, and shall be sent directly to the mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas.

He said sending out alerts through mobile phones could be the most efficient tool given the fact that the Philippines recorded the highest number of cellular phone users in the world.

According to Business Monitor International (BMI) study, the Philippines is expected to reach 117 million mobile subscribers by 2016, noted Drilon.

“As the texting capital of the world, we can greatly use the instantaneous, flexible and reliable short message service (SMS) technology as a potent tool during disaster situations - one that is intimately understood and easily accessed by millions of Filipinos who have cellphones," emphasized Drilon. 

Lastly, Drilon lauded the telcos for being cooperative towards the passage of the bill. He said Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba of the National Telecommunications Commission relayed during the committee hearing that the proposed measure sits well with the telephone companies, as sending out text message disaster alerts does not require additional costs on their operations. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Save the Children trains officials, community members in Minalin on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management

MINALIN, Pampanga-International organization Save the Children recently conducted a three-day capacity building training on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) for 50 officials and community members belonging to at-risk barangays in Minalin town.
“The activity was meant to orient attendees on climate change and global warming, hazards affecting Central Luzon, how to cope the impact of hazards, getting to know vulnerable population groups in the communities, what can be done at the community level to mitigate and cope with the impact of disasters, identifying strategic activities to build resilience of families and communities to disasters and climate change, and preparedness planning at the family level,” Save the Children communications officer for emergencies Jerome Balinton said.
Participants came from Sta. Rita, Sta. Catalina, San Pedro and San Francisco I- the four identified villages that are prone to severe flooding which is the main environmental hazard in Minalin.
“Apart from this, the training was meant to be a tool for those who took part to train and form a group in their respective barangays that can lead the community in times of emergencies,” Balinton added.
“Building the capacity of local officials and community on DRRM is one key element in saving lives because they are the people directly making decisions and implementing the DRRM activities,” Save the Children in the Philippines Country Director Ned Olney stressed.
“Aside from building the capacity of children through our school-based DRRM efforts, we also aim at building the capacity of the barangay officials, of every family on how to manage and respond to hazards and emergencies. Our precious children are the most vulnerable in any disaster, and the tremendous impact of such could leave severe consequences. We don’t want this happen, and this is the core reason why we are building the capacity of our local partners,” Olney pointed out. (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Angeles City public medical center opens new ward, trauma center

ANGELES CITY, Pampanga-The Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Center (RLMMC), formerly Ospital ning Angeles, recently opened its Intensive Monitoring Ward and Trauma Center in an effort to provide comprehensive emergency services to patients suffering from traumatic injury.
In a statement, Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan said this is another major achievement for the city in terms of improving public health care services targeted towards the indigent Angeleños.
We began in our previous term with the Renal Care Unit, the Barangay Days and the Medikalinga, and now, this monitoring ward will further our intentions to bolster our city’s medical services,” Pamintuan stressed.
He added that the Angeleños should look forward to several other improvements in RLMMC including an annex, which will accommodate more patients. (Rosa Bianca R. Pamintuan)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

NIA Board denies agency scams, orders probe

Manila-The Board of Directors of the National Irrigation Administration yesterday denied the allegations of its own employees’ association of massive corruption in the agency.
In a press statement, the Board decried the allegations but nevertheless directed the internal audit services of the agency to look into the allegations.  
The Board described the accusations as “untrue, malicious and unfair.”
The Board was reacting to the manifesto of the National Irrigation Administration Employees Association of the Philippines (NIAEASP) which asked President Aquino to investigate alleged corruption in the agency amid reports of irregularities in the bidding and implementation of irrigation projects and the purported meddling of the Board in the workings of NIA Administrator Claro Maranan.
          In a two-page February 6 letter-manifesto to Mr. Aquino, which was furnished Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, the NIAEASP lamented what it termed as the “very serious and alarming developments” in the agency, contrary to the President’s “Daang Matuwid” policy of governance.
          The strongly worded letter-manifesto was signed by NIAEASP national president Victorino Aron and national vice president Louella Mercado. It was read during a flag-raising ceremony at the central office last February 10.
          Also yesterday, employees of the agency held a lightning rally at the central office compound along NIA Road in Quezon City to protest the alleged corruption. The employees wore black arm bands. 
While denying the allegations, the Board said it is taking cognizance of the NIAEASP’s complaints and is taking steps to address the same.
It said it is committed to implement needed reforms and adhere to the highest tenets of good governance at NIA.
The protesting employees alleged that a top official ordered the payment of 50 percent of the billing of a contractor who has a project in Sarangani province even if the concerned official is fully aware that the said contractor has no physical accomplishment.
“This practice is going on in other provinces and COA (Commission on Audit) records will support our claim,” the group said.
          It added that another top official ordered the repackaging of projects from administration works to local minor contracts worth P105 million, purportedly to draw kickbacks.
          The NIAEASP said one of the top agency officials is allegedly boasting that he will assume as Maranan’s successor next month. This, it said,  in spite of the fact that the said official has pending cases for graft and corruption in the Office of the Ombudsman.  
          The group had accused the BOD of arbitrarily and capriciously issuing policies that usurped the powers of Maranan by arrogating to itself the authority to approve the appointment of officials holding the position with salary Grade 24 and above.
          The NIAEASP officials asked the President to order a formal investigation of the above-cited allegations. They said they are willing to cooperate in the investigation by furnishing his office with documents.
          Other signatories to the manifesto were national secretary Antonio Esquivel Jr., national treasurer Cecilia Layug, national press relations officer Eduardo Yu, national business manager Carlos dela Cruz, sectoral representatives Lourdes Amurao and Moises Batocabe, Balog-Balog Multi-purpose Project president Cresencio Magbag, Agno River Irrigation Project president Susan Zambrano, Casecnan Multipurpose Irrigation and Power Project presidents Alberto Samson and Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems president Ernesto Ponce and district presidents Paulita Yagyagan (Cordillera Administrative Region), Placido Duldulao (Region 1), Avelino Tuazon (region 2), Alvin Roberto David (Region 3), Bienvenido Anterola (Region 4B); Arthur Sanico (Region 6), Elvira Alvarado (Region 7), Erlinda Superable (Region 8), Albine Jubilado (Region 9), Arlene Sumayo (Region 10), Ryan Pichon (Region 11), Willie Ablan (Region 12) and Joel Culejara (Region 13). – Manny Galvez     

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Senate public hearing on cybercrime bills set on Mar. 3

MANILA-The first of the series of public hearings on various cybercrime bills is scheduled on the morning of 3 March 2014.

To accommodate all interested parties, a request has been made to use the Plenary Hall of the Senate of the Philippines.

We will be summoning key government officials to   present their official position on the various pending legislation on the matter.  

The hearing will be webcast live. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Ecija Catholic lay minister indicted for molesting 10-year-old girl

CABANATUAN CITY – A lay minister of the Catholic Church in Nueva Ecija was indicted before the provincial prosecutor’s office here for allegedly sexually molesting a 10-year-old girl Thursday afternoon in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.
      Charged in an information for acts of lasciviousness in relation to Republic Act 7610, or the Violence Against Women and Children Act was Efren Meña, 55, of Barangay San Fernando Sur, Cabiao.
      Chief Inspector Eric de Venancio, Cabiao police chief, said Meña is a lay minister of the Saint John Nepomucene Parish Church in Cabiao.
      The complaint was filed by the girl’s 35-year-old mother who said the sexual acts were committed by Meña inside the house of a neighbor at around 1 pm Thursday.
      SPO1 Orlando Francisco, chief investigator of the Cabiao police, said that the victim saw Meña in the house and once inside, the latter suddenly kissed her in the lips and touched her breast.  
      The frightened girl fled and reported the incident to her mother who accompanied her to the police. The victim also reported the incident to municipal social welfare and development officer Dyna Dayao.
      De Venancio dispatched a police team which arrested Meña who was subsequently detained at the police stockade.
      Francisco said on questioning, Meña admitted he kissed the girl but denied touching her private parts.
      A bail of P200,000 was recommended for Meña’s provisional liberty. – Manny Galvez


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Recto : Add more PNR trains to ease Metro traffic

MANILA-Doubling the number of Philippine National Railways  (PNR) trains plying the Tutuban, Manila- Sta. Rosa Laguna line can displace 14,000 cars on the road at a per passenger cost that is 1/8th of the subsidy government pays for one Metro Rail Transit (MRT) rider.

This was pointed out by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto in batting for the acquisition of more coaches for the PNR’s 44-kilometer Metro South commuter service which currently ferries 70,000 passengers a day.

Recto said this line, which is part of the longer Manila-to-Mayon railway, is currently underutilized with just 2.5 trips per direction an hour.

“If fully developed and modernized, it can help ease traffic in Metro Manila and provide fast, efficient, and cheap form of transport not only to its residents but those in outlying provinces as well, Recto said.  

“Kung saan-saan tayo naghahanap ng solusyon e nandyan naman ang riles, bakit hindi natin gamitin,” Recto said.

But even at its present “neglected state”, the line manages to ferry 25 million passengers annually, Recto said. “Mabilis na, mura pa. The average fare is 70 centavos per kilometer.”

At present, the Tutuban-Sta. Rosa service operates from 5 a.m to 7 p.m daily and stops in 23 stations in between.

While Recto hailed PNR’s decision to add two trips per direction by March 3 as “the way to go,” he said, “there remains a big room for improvement.”  

Noting that PNR trains are always full, Recto said government should add rolling stock by tapping official development aid or “even outright purchase using its own funds because in this era of two-trillion national budgets we can certainly find money for such an important expense.”

In the short term, Recto said “budgetary support” should be given to the PNR so it can complete the refurbishing and the retrofitting of 50 coaches the East Japan Railway Co. (JR-East) donated in 2012.

A succession of governments, Recto noted, has been reluctant in pouring more money into the 121-year-old rail service, opting instead to offer it to private companies under various joint-venture schemes, for which there have been no takers.

In June last year, the Private Public Partnership (PPP) Center and the DOTC commissioned a Canadian firm to prepare the feasibility study for a proposed $2.5 billion PNR Integrated Luzon Railway Project.

In the meantime, the PNR is “bravely chugging alone on government subsidy and ridership,” Recto said.  For 2014, subsidy to the PNR is pegged at P344 million.

In 2012, the PNR posted revenues and other income of P966 million, received P128.7 million in government subsidy, incurred P1.114 billion in expenses, thus leaving a loss of P50 million.

“But for ferrying 25 million passengers, that P50 million loss is not bad. The government subsidy at P5 per passenger is way below the P40 per passenger in the MRT and the LRT,” Recto said.

“At mas mura ‘yan kesa sa perang ginagastos ng gobyerno sa paggawa ng dagdag na daan para sa dumaraming kotse, sa mga sweldo ng traffic enforcers, sa dagdag na polusyon, sa mga gasolinang nasasayang sa traffic, sa mga lost income opportunities at epekto sa mental health,” Recto said. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Legarda Stresses Legislators’ Role in Climate Change Action

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, today stressed on the role of lawmakers in seeking solutions to the challenges brought about by the warming climate.

Legarda made the statement as the Senate and the House of Representatives, together with the British Embassy in Manila and the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE International) Philippines Chapter, welcome Sir David King, the UK Special Representative for Climate Change, in a forum, “The Politics of Climate Change and its 21st Century Challenges.”

“As lawmakers, we have the duty to craft policies towards sustainable development, environmental protection, climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction and management. The Philippine Congress has successfully passed two laws considered by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction as among the world’s best laws on disaster resilience—the Philippine Climate Change Act and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act,” said Legarda.

“However, our task as legislators does not end with the passage of laws. We must embark on a mission to elevate the role of lawmakers in the fight towards resilience primarily by enhancing Congress’ oversight functions and promoting regular executive-legislative consultation and dialogue,” she added.

Legarda recalled that in 2008, as part of her commitment to the 2008 Manila Call for Action, she filed a Senate Resolution recommending the creation of a standing committee on climate change.

“The call did not fall on deaf ears because in December 2008, the Senate Committee on Climate Change was created to ensure the implementation of laws as well as the sustainability of initiatives for DRR and CCA in the Philippines. But we still have a great task ahead of us,” she said.

“We must continue to promote a change of mindset, especially in members of government institutions, to be more concerned and committed to helping the national government address the threats of environmental degradation and the warming climate,” Legarda concluded.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Classes suspended in entire NE on Feb 21,22 due to INC event

PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija-Governor Aurelio Umali has declared the suspension of classes in all levels in the entire Nueva Ecija on February 21 and 22 in line with the “Lingap sa Mamamayan” event of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC).
The directive is based on the recommendation of Philippine National Police Provincial Director Crizaldo Nieves as around four million INC members from different parts of Luzon are expected to attend the actual activity on Saturday at barangay Maligaya in Palayan City.
“Calling off classes during the said dates would help in efforts to preserve peace and order,” Nieves said.
Meanwhile, suspension of work in government and private offices is left to the sound discretion of their respective heads. (Camille C. Nagaño)

Recto tells gov't to give raft of incentives to ferries

MANILA-We’ve got nowhere to go but water, and Metro Manila is a metropolis by the bay, bisected by a river.  If the streets are full of cars and we want to travel, then let’s go amphibian.

If we’ve reached road building capacity, and can no longer squeeze carriageway space in our roads, then we should tap our nautical roads.    

Traffic has prodded us to launch a lot of mitigation schemes – from Christmas lanes, to number coding, to new rail lines –  except  a thousand boats.

The Pasig River ferry system is not a stop-gap measure but it should be developed into a permanent transportation mode in Metro Manila.  Ferries are not alternative but, no pun intended, mainstream.

And ferry services should not be limited to Pasig River alone. 

We should also study the possibility of extending it to Marikina, and to the bedroom communities in Cavite, the lakeshore towns of Rizal and Laguna, and  to coastal Bulacan, which are  within the embrace of  Mega Manila.

As a first step, DOTC should now make public the results of the MAPALLA or  the Manila Bay-Pasig River-Laguna Ferry Service feasibility study which it commissioned in December 2012 at a cost of  P17 million.

Under the terms of the contract, the feasibility study should have been submitted last July 2013.

If it is viable, funding for pilot projects should be included in the 2015 proposed national budget.  As the DBM has issued the Budget Call for 2015, and it is now the budget preparation season in the executive branch, the DOTC might as well  include ferry service-related activities in its menu of projects for next year.

If ferries are feasible, then government should go full speed ahead developing the system. It should ignore any toll road-railway- bus company lobby which may want to torpedo it.  We don’t want the ferry service sank by competing private interests while still on port.

Ferry services do not require huge capital investments as compared to toll roads and railways.  The waterway they will travel on is already there (no need to dig a river)  unlike in road transport where massive inconvenience is present in building the platforms, be it for trains or cars.

We have given planes, trains and automobiles, and toll roads, fiscal incentives and tax breaks. Why not extend the same to ferries?  A raft of incentives might be needed to  keep ferries afloat. 

And there's another kind of incentive. When more residents of a metropolis regularly use its waterways for travelling, the incentive to keep them clean is high.  

And with raised awareness comes the drive to fight river pollution. Ferries do not only create a class of travelers but a ridership with a strong environmental consciousness.

Drilon: Congress to raise 13th month tax exemption limit

MANILA-Both houses of Congress have agreed to increase the tax exemption limit imposed by an outdated law regarding the 13th Month Pay, Christmas bonus and other work benefits, said Senate President Franklin M. Drilon.

The Senate leader said that Senate Bill No. 256, authored by Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, is one of the most prominent pro-consumer legislation which will receive urgent legislative attention “due to its direct effect to millions of Filipino workers around the country.”

He said the Senate intends to raise the exclusion limit on an individual’s 13th month pay, Christmas bonus, and other work benefits from income taxation from the current imposed limit of P30, 000 to P75,000.

According to Drilon, both chambers are aware of the need to revisit the antiquated provisions of the law “to provide relief to state and private workers whose purchasing power has been shrinking for years due to inflation, but still have had to deal with the consequences of an outdated law.”

“The law was passed 20 years ago, and obviously, things have greatly changed - making such figures no longer reflective of current economic realities, thus making it even more difficult for the average Filipino worker to make both ends meet for him and his family,” Drilon stressed.

He was referring to Republic Act No. 7833, or the statute that imposed the P30,000 cap on bonuses back in 1994 when the lowest monthly basic salary for government employees (Salary Grade 1, Step 1) was tagged at P2,800, while the President of the Philippines (Salary Grade 33) received P25,000 per month.

Today, the basic salary for government employees is now pegged at P9,000, with the highest salary reaching P 120,000 per month.

“While most of the priority bills right now focus on macroeconomic progress, we have to make sure that necessary bills such as SBN 256 will also receive the required resources and attention towards their passage, for the sake of our countrymen,” he said.

“Our country’s laws must always prioritize the improvement of the living standards of its citizenry. Bills like this are necessary to address the real-time concerns and immediate demands of our people,” he added.

The Senate chief has also said that there are still other measures in the legislative shortlist which aim to improve government policies rallying for the welfare of the common Filipino. 


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Should the Philippine government legalize same-sex marriage?