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. 

NOLCOM holds series of Basic Life Support and Disaster Preparedness Trainings

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac-Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) held a series of Basic Life Support and Disaster Preparedness Trainings that was meant to equip stakeholders in Regions 1,2,3 and Cordillera adequate knowledge and contingency plans in case a Yolanda-like typhoon or magnitude 7.2 earthquake strikes.
“The trainings concentrated on the grounds of basic life support; pre, during and post disaster preparations; disaster response mechanism; relief distribution procedures; law and order; communications network and information dissemination in disaster occurrences; and family and community organization in calamity incidences,” NOLCOM Commander Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said.
Among the topics given emphasis were survival techniques, military food and water cache approaches, food stockpiling, indigenous water filtration, distillation methods and processing indigenous edible materials.
The first leg transpired from February 10-12 at the 1st Civil Relations Group Headquarters in Camp Servillano Aquino, Tarlac; second leg from February 14-16 in Sta. Ana, Cagayan with troops from the 21st Infantry Battalion and Naval Forces Northern Luzon as participants and the third and final leg from February 17-19 also in Cagayan which was attended by teachers and barangay officials.
“We have a new enemy. That is climate change and the disasters it brings. We can only win, if we unite in preparing before these disasters strike,” Catapang underscored. (Lorie Gene C. Cruz)

'Solution to carmageddon just outside the window of PNoy's office'

MANILA-Malacanang was told to dip into President Aquino’s assorted standby funds in reviving the Pasig River ferry service as tapping 27-kilometer waterway is the only way to mitigate the “kahindik-hindik” traffic 15 big roads projects are expected to inflict on Metro Manila residents in the next two years.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the solution to the impending “carmaggedon” in the capital region “is just outside the windows of Malacanang.”

Referring to the Pasig River, “we should now utilize this nautical road,” Recto said. “It is toll-free and ready to use.”

He said government should no longer wait for private investors to launch the ferry service. “Kung hihintayin natin ang private sector, baka tapos na ang mga road projects, ni isang anino ng ferry wala  pang lumulutang.” 

He justified government intervention by pointing out “that any monstrous traffic which inconveniences millions fits the definition of an emergency. If you’ll steam inside your car which moves in mere meters in hours, then in any book that is a calamity.”

Recto said  “exigencies which cause public injury like traffic can be solved through government intervention using discretionary funds under the disposal of the executive branch.”

He enumerated the P1 billion Contingent Fund and the P140 billion Unprogrammed Fund in the 2014  national budget as possible sources of funds  for projects, the Pasig River ferry service among them, which could  ease vehicular congestion during the road building spree.

In the case of the Pasig River ferry service, the government can buy boats, or rent the boats that the previous ferry operator owned, Recto said.

He argued that if the government can afford “to subsidize an MRT or LRT rider at a cost of P40 per trip,” then there is no reason why it cannot shell out a far lower amount for a Pasig River ferry rider.

However, for the ferry service to be launched immediately, it must be premised on the reality that it will not earn profit, Recto said. “It must be viewed as a public service  in  response to an  emergency which in this case is the  traffic gridlock.”

“Billions of pesos will be lost due to the projected traffic. So whatever amount will be invested by the government in the ferry, the people will reap economic benefits  even if the actual operating cost is not recouped from fare box collections, Recto said.

Before the 10-boat Pasig River ferry service stopped operations in 2011, it served 17  stations along  a 15 kilometer route from Plaza  Mexico in Intramuros, Manila to Nagpayong in Pasig City.

Another spur, using the Marikina River, from the Riverbanks in Marikina City to Guadalupe in Makati City, was planned, but except for trial runs, no regular service was launched.  

The last ferry operator deployed  twin-hulled  boats which seat  150 people in  air-conditioned cabins.

It was, however, discontinued due to lower passenger volume and navigational  hazards like the proliferation of water lily.

“Mas mabuti pang sa Pasig River ferry tayo mag-invest kasi hindi masalimuot dito, di tulad ng MRT na hanggang ngayon ang balak ng gobyerno bumili ng 48 coaches ay nakatali sa korte,” Recto said.

He was referring to the DOTC award of  the P3.77-billion contract for MRT 3's expansion to Chinese firm Dailan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company which has been met with legal challenges.

The 15 megaprojects are  the Skyway Stage 3 the NAIA Expressway Phase 2 project,   the Gil Puyat-Makati-Avenue-Paseo de Roxas underpass, the Sta. Monica-Lawton Avenue bridge, CP Garcia Avenue-McKinley Hill ramp, repair  of Magallanes Interchange, EDSA-Taft Avenue flyover, MRT Line 3/ LRT Line 1 extension common station, LRT Line 2 East extension up to Masinag, LRT Line 1 Extension (Cavite), EDSA- Roosevelt Ave. interchange, Espana Avenue-Lacson Avenue interchange, repair of South Superhighway Makati, the NLEX-SLEX connector road,  and the EDSA-West Avenue-North Avenue interchange.

Another traffic-mitigating proposal of Recto is for government to encourage shippers, especially those based in south of Metro Manila, to use the underutilized but fully capable Batangas international port.

“Government should encourage more ships to call on that port.  Exporters and importers and their truckers will find it easier, faster to ship via Batangas.  There’s no truck ban there. And Metro Manilans will benefit, too, as it would mean fewer ten-wheelers on the road,” Recto said.


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