Thursday, May 1, 2014

Legarda: Use Technology in Building Resilience

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda urged the use of technology in building the country’s resilience, stressing that making critical information on disaster risks and vulnerabilities available in the Internet could significantly boost the campaign to educate and inform citizens about natural hazards and how best they can prepare and prevent disasters.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, made the call during her keynote speech at the Google Crisis Response Summit held at the SMX Convention Center on April 30, 2014.

The Senator highlighted the importance of Google’s Crisis Response tools that were presented at the forum and suggested that a “risk finder” tool would help strengthen efforts towards disaster resilience.

“Google’s crisis response tools—Person Finder, Crisis Map and Public Alerts—offer improved efficiency in early warning and disaster information dissemination by early forecasting with the aid of the Internet. While we appreciate the importance of these tools, I hope that demand for their use is taken over instead by a growing demand for—if I may suggest an application—a ‘Google Risk Finder’ that informs and encourages proactive interventions by all sectors and early action by everyone,” Legarda said.

She also stressed the need for convergence, vital not only among government agencies but also among stakeholders across all sectors, citing that the Department of Science and Technology’s Project NOAH, or Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, of which Google Crisis Response is part, has been greatly helpful in disaster risk reduction and management efforts.

Legarda said that there should also be stronger partnership in information dissemination to ensure that these tools are used effectively.

“We have to make use of geohazard maps in urban and rural planning, including the relocation of vulnerable communities to safer places. We recall the tragedy that happened in Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Compostela Valley. Residents could have escaped the danger had they been aware that their community was located in a purple area in the geohazard map, which means it is highly susceptible to flooding, and had community and local officials addressed such risks way ahead,” she said.

Barangay Andap suffered the most number of casualties when Typhoon Pablo made landfall in Mindanao in 2012.

“Building resilience requires a risk-informed population. We could help our government sustain our country’s socio-economic gains, make a difference in poverty reduction and eventually ensure the achievement of sustainable development goals when perennial disaster losses are substantially reduced,” she said.

“There will be more typhoons, earthquakes and other natural hazards that will come our way. But, let us not be content in just having these systems for disaster response and relief. The challenge at hand is to do more and to do better in prevention and risk reduction,” Legarda concluded.

Drilon to aspiring lawyers: Lawyers must be problem solvers, not gladiators

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon proposed a paradigm shift among the country’s lawyers to help address issues confronting the legal profession and advised the aspiring lawyers to refrain from misusing legal procedures to advance their own interest, as they only hamper the swift administration of justice in the country.

The Senate leader made the statement as he received the degree of Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) from the University of the Philippines (UP) during the 2014 commencement exercises of the UP College of Law, where he was the guest of honor and keynote speaker.

Speaking before the graduating law students, Drilon encouraged the aspiring lawyers “to be problem solvers, rather than gladiators,” as there is a need to change the perspective of lawyers and judges as to the handling of legal disputes.

Drilon suggested that the time is ripe for lawyers to move away from being combatants: “Lawyers should be more result-oriented, rather than procedure-based.”

“Judges and lawyers should be more interested in attaining just results, rather than an overly strict compliance with rules. Legal disputes should be settled, not on the basis of who is more capable of using legal procedures to his advantage, but rather on the basis of who has a clear right in law,” he said.

He said that there is a need to recalibrate the process by which solutions to legal disputes are attained. 

“It is about time that we consider changing the way that our lawyers are trained. There may be merit to the proposition that law graduates should be required, or at the very least encouraged, to train in government positions that require the exercise of skills pertaining to alternative dispute resolution, such as conciliation and mediation,” he said.

“When lawyers face each other as gladiators, the result is always a winner-take-all situation. However, as officers of the court, the duty of lawyers is not merely to arrive at a determination of who wins and who loses. Rather, the duty of lawyers is to see to it that justice is done,” Drilon stressed.

The honorary title hailed Drilon for championing “good governance, the speedy administration of justice, and the protection of human rights,” throughout his years as a lawmaker in the Philippine Congress.

The honorary degree conferred by UP noted that the senator “complemented his legislative agenda with programs that enhanced the capacity of various sectors, as well as much-needed projects such as the construction of school buildings, repair and upgrading of public hospital facilities and the clean-up of the Iloilo River.”

The title lauded Drilon the most for “consistently upholding his principles and ideals, amidst hostile and forceful resistance, exemplifying integrity and competence in every facet of his professional and personal life.”

The conferment was led by UP President Alfredo Pascual and Chair Patricia Licuanan of the Commission on Higher Education.

The Senate chief expressed his “great sense of humility” as he accepted the honor bestowed upon him by the university: “To be honored in this grand manner -- conferment of Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa -- by my beloved alma mater was beyond my imagination when I graduated from this institution of learning four decades ago.”

“With immense pride and joy, I share this honor with my family and the people who have been with me in my journey. I dedicate this to my late father, Cesar Sr., who would have been 94 today,” he concluded.  

Drilon was a member of the class ‘69 of the UP College of Law, and was among the topnotchers of the 1969 Bar examinations. During his time a student, he was member of the editorial board of the Philippine Law Journal, associate editor of the Philippine Collegian, and councilor of the University Student Council.  

Drilon vows to steer passage of pro-labor laws

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon vowed today that the Senate would work double time in enacting pro-worker legislation that will provide relief to the Philippine workforce and help improve their economic condition.

“As a gift to the millions of dedicated workers both from the public and private sectors, we commit to work on the immediate passage of various pending measures that will have a direct and significant impact to their lives,” said Drilon, a former labor secretary.

Drilon said that among the pending measures which will receive “urgent legislative attention” is the bill (Senate Bill No. 256) which seeks to raise the tax exemption limit on the 13th month pay and other work benefits of all workers in the public and private sector.

He added that the Senate is eyeing to pass the pro-labor bill within the year: “We will work double time in making sure that this piece of legislation will be enacted into law at the soonest in order to assist our workers in dealing with the effect of inflation, and to boost their morale and give them a renewed inspiration to excel in their works.” 

He thus urged the appropriate Senate committee to fast-track the hearing on Senate Bill No. 256, authored by Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, so that it can immediately be discussed on the floor.

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

“It has been 20 years ago since the enactment of Republic Act No. 7833 that imposed the P30,000 cap on bonuses such as the 13th month pay, and things have greatly change since then, making the figures no longer reflective of current economic realities,” Drilon stressed.

Drilon also pointed to two measures currently pending in the Senate which seek to raise the allowances of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

The Senate chief also said the Senate is open to proposals to increase the government workers’ salary to help them deal with the rising costs of living.

“Considering that the last tranche of salary increase under the Salary Standardization Law III took place two years ago, we recognize the government employees’ clamor to augment their wages, taking into account the increases in prices of basic commodities,” said Drilon.

In 2013, there were 1,205,375 government employees, he noted.

“We should study the proposal carefully and we should strike a reasonable balance between addressing the needs of our government employees and ensuring that we recover from budgetary deficit. If this would not be possible in the near term, we must explore other means and mechanisms which could bring our workers’ pay to equitable rates,” stressed Drilon.

“Our policy makers must ceaselessly look at parts of the National Budget which could permit and put into action sustainable salary augmentation, in a manner that would help our workers, yet would not result in budgetary deficit or decreases in other important sectors such as social and health services,” he emphasized. 


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