Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Legarda: Growth Must Be Inclusive, Equitable and Sustainable

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today stressed on the need to promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth, noting that this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia delves on issues that greatly affect the economy, including climate change.

Legarda said that the Philippines, as host of the 2014 WEF, has the opportunity to tell the region that the country is back in business and ready to face the challenges that come with its growing economy.

“The Philippines’ growth has been surprising economists. Our economy has grown by more than 6% over the past 8 quarters and last year, it grew by 7.2%. But the greater challenge is translating the impressive numbers into more job opportunities, stable employment, equitable access to quality education, health services and other social services, and safe and disaster-resilient communities for Filipinos,” she said.

Legarda, a panelist for the interactive workshop, Designing Solutions for Climate and Resource Risks, warned that one of the greatest threats to the country’s growing economy is climate change, which has been causing extreme weather events.

She noted that Haiyan, the world’s strongest typhoon to hit land, caused damages and losses estimated at US$12.9 billion or about 5% of the country’s GDP.

“Natural hazards have become stronger in recent years. But there are underlying drivers that increase risks. These include poverty, badly planned and managed urban and regional development, informal settlements on unsafe lands, vulnerable rural and urban livelihoods, and ecosystem decline,” said Legarda.

“Solutions for climate and resource risks include investing in water supply, sanitation, flood control, transport, roads, social and health services, and energy infrastructure that build resilience to climate variability,” she added.

Legarda also said that since ecosystem decline is among the underlying drivers of disaster risks and poverty, in the context of climate change, “we must include green policies, especially the protection of our ecosystems, in our development strategies.”

The Senator also highlighted the private sector’s role in reducing climate risks and creating resiliency.

“Disaster resilience should be at the core of business strategies. The heightened engagement of the business sector in DRR is crucial in preventing substantial business losses and economic development setbacks resulting from disasters of unprecedented scale,” she said.

Legarda said that the Philippine hosting of WEF provides a perfect opportunity to showcase the country’s resiliency—that despite the calamities and the global financial crisis, our economic growth remains impressive. “Let me stress that while this is good, what we must aim for is not mere progress, but sustainable, economic and inclusive growth—never neglecting the most vulnerable sectors of society and never sacrificing the environment in the face of progress.”

Drilon calls for constructive debate on anti-dynasty bill

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today threw his support for the passage of anti-dynasty bill and urged his colleagues in both chambers “to allow a constructive debate over the proposed measure.”

“It’s time to end the long wait. I encourage our colleagues to give the bill a chance. Let us provide an avenue that will allow for a constructive debate on this very important issue which would bring positive changes in our political system,” stressed Drilon.    

The Senate leader made the statement following the hearing held by the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, which took place a week after the House version of the anti-political dynasty bill was sponsored before the plenary – the first time in 27 years.

Drilon said he believes that the passage of the anti-political dynasty law is a tool to reform the current political system in the country.

“Naniniwala po tayo na malaki ang magagawa ng anti-political dynasty law sa sistema ng pulitika sa bansa. Nagsimula po tayo sa Senado nang tinanggal natin ang pork barrel. Wala na po ang pork barrel dahil pinakinggan natin ang taumbayan, at muli ay atin silang papakinggan,” said Drilon, in a radio interview over DZRH.

(“I believe the anti-political dynasty law will significantly change the political system in the country. We have already done it with the pork barrel. The Senate heard and acted on the people’s clamor to abolish the pork barrel and we shall do it again.”)

Tayo po personally ay lubos na sumusuporta sa panukalang batas na ito tungkol sa anti-political dynasty. Wala naman akong tatay o nanay o kapatid o kung anuman na nasa politika. Kahit kapitan sa barangay po wala po akong kamag-anak sa pulitika,” said Drilon.

(Personally, I am supporting the anti-political dynasty bill. I have no family members – not a mother, father or a sibling in Philippine politics, not even in the barangay level.”)

Sa panibagong usapin sa anti-dynasty bill, atin pong dinggin at pag-aaralan nang mabuti kung ano ang kagustuhan talaga ng taumbayan. Atin pong tingnan ang pulso ng taumbayan,” he emphasized.

(In dealing with the anti-dynasty bill, the Filipino people can be assured that we shall seek out their will, their choice regarding this matter.)

The Senate chief likewise believes that the prevailing time and conditions “are ripe for the government to institute a law that has been demanded by the Constitution from the very start of the Fifth Republic.”

“Given the administration’s reformist stance, we enjoy a supportive political climate, so every opportunity that has been unavailable in previous years is now us lawmakers to act on,” said Drilon.

Legarda Renews Commitment to Biodiversity Conservation

MANILA-In time for the International Day for Biological Diversity (May 22), Senator Loren Legarda renewed her commitment to the protection of biodiversity, climate change adaptation and sustainable development at the Launch of the Fifth Operational Phase of the Global Economic Facility-Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP-5) in the Philippines.

The GEF-Small Grants Programme provides grants of up to US$50,000  to community-based organizations for biodiversity conservation projects. The Project Document for its Fifth Operational Phase was signed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last December 2012.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, reiterated the Philippines’ status as one of the megadiverse countries, a group of nations hosting about 70-80% of the world’s plant and animal species. The country also has one of the highest rates of discovery of new species in the world.

“These numbers, however, should not give us a false sense of complacency. Great challenges face us in the task of protecting and preserving our rich biodiversity,” said Legarda in her keynote speech today.

Legarda noted climate change as one of the more pressing obstacles to biodiversity conservation. “Among the impacts of climate change are the loss of thousands of species and changes in natural ecosystems. The rise in average global temperatures render many species unable to quickly adapt to new conditions.” 

The Senator also mentioned the threat to food security posed by the impending El Niño in June. “Prolonged drought would drastically cut down the production of local crops like rice, corn, sugar cane, vegetables and other agricultural products, and can also cause a decrease in fisheries yield.”

Legarda therefore called on Filipinos to end the exploitation of resources, collaborate with the government in resource management, and take interest in careers contributing to environmental preservation and biodiversity protection.

She stressed, “The solution begins with us.  If we want to avoid hunger, we need to stop our practice of exploiting the world’s resources as if there is no tomorrow.  The world is not just about us. There is a future and resources need to be protected and conserved for those who will be born beyond our time.”

Legarda cited pending measures in the Senate such as the Integrated Coastal Management Act and the National Land Use Act which promote the sustainability of marine and land resources, respectively. She likewise highlighted the identification of eco-towns under the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP).

“As I have said before, the ground level work and the parallel environmental initiatives in the Senate may not get screaming headlines. But they represent big, determined steps for the Filipinos and the rich biodiversity we thrive in,” Legarda concluded.

Senate backs bill extending prescriptive period for graft cases, says Drilon

MANILA-In another move to add more teeth to the Aquino administration’s campaign against corruption, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today underscored the need to double the prescriptive period for the prosecution of graft cases from 15 to 30 years.   

The Senate chief said Upper Chamber fully supports House Bill No. 4146 that would increase the prescriptive period giving judicial authorities more time to prosecute unresolved graft cases within 30 years. The bill was recently approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives.

"Our justice system can only be a strong deterrent against possible malfeasance if we demonstrate that no matter the passing of years, a crime remains a crime and those who committed them must answer for them,” stressed Drilon.

The former Justice Secretary said the bill would empower and capacitate judicial authorities to commence prosecution of corrupt officials within 30 years from the commission of the crime.

Under the current system, a 15-year prescription is being observed in the filing of graft cases and after such period, the government may no longer prosecute graft cases.  

"We must not let time hinder our quest for justice. It is imperative then that we legislate the necessary reforms that will strengthen our justice and legal system,” said Drilon.

Drilon said that the bill, along with other anti-corruption measures, is “a manifestation of the determination of Congress to stamp-out corruption in the country, especially in light of the recent controversy regarding the pork barrel funds.”

Drilon also noted that the proposed measure will complement the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law recently passed by Senate in third and final reading, saying that the enactment of the two bills into law are crucial in the fight against corruption.

Drilon said the Sandiganbayan Charter is seen “to hasten the disposition of cases in the anti-graft court, which now has a backlog of 3,000 cases which would take five or more years before they are promulgated.

The Senate leader said that the amendments will address the limitations encountered by the Sandiganbayan, “which is supposed to be the front-runner in the fight against corruption.”

“Despite the numerous advancements that have been incorporated in our judicial system through the years, justice continues to be as elusive as it has been during the infancy of our republic. As our judicial structure becomes more ingenious, so does graft and other malfeasance,” Drilon said.

He noted that the Sandiganbayan Law or Presidential Decree No. 1606 last underwent legislative scrutiny almost 20 years ago: “The result is that a case in the Sandiganbayan now takes about an average offive to eight years to litigate and resolve.”

“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,” he concluded.

Twin bills to expand coverage of PhilHealth up for Senate action

MANILA-The Senate was asked today to pass twin measures aimed at expanding coverage of state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) by including the full treatment of Tuberculosis (TB) and mandating compulsory coverage to all senior citizens.

Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Ralph G. Recto said Senate Bill (SB) 711 would mandate PhilHealth to include the treatment of TB regardless if the patient is a member or not.

Recto said enrolling TB in the PhilHealth’s ‘sickness’ menu would speed-up the treatment and eradication of the disease nationwide.

“A person afflicted with TB should no longer suffer the social stigma of such sickness but should look forward to a healthier future with PhilHealth playing the role of emancipator,” Recto said.

The Senate leader noted that TB has now dislodged even the most notorious causes of death in the country by capturing sixth rank, which translates to 75 Filipinos between the age 15 to 64 dying from TB every day.

In the list of World Health Organization (WHO), the country is ranked 9th of the total 22 countries that are considered high risk for TB cases.

“The PhilHealth coverage of TB treatment would expunge the country from the WHO watch list – a list that should cause more worry than the many convoluted versions of ‘Napolist,” Recto said.

Moreover, Recto said at least P8 billion taxpayers money is lost yearly due to sickness and deaths attributed to TB.

A TB treatment costs around P8,000 to P10,000. It was estimated that about P4 billion to P5 billion is needed to ensure a TB-free population.

A companion measure to SB 711 is Recto’s proposal to also bring all senior citizens under the tutelage of PhilHealth.

Recto, in filing Senate Bill 712, wants the estimated 6.1 million lolos and lolas of the country to bring home their own PhilHealth cards.

Currently, only indigent senior citizens are qualified for PhilHealth coverage.

The mandatory coverage of all senior citizens would entail a funding requirement of P14.64 billion, which could be sourced from the agency’s National Health Insurance Fund.

“The mandatory coverage of all senior citizens would be our simple gift for the productive years that they pumped in during their heydays -- a fitting send-off to their twilight years,” Recto said.

Both TB patients and senior citizens would be unburdened of their obligation to pay monthly premiums with PhilHealth, according to the twin bills’ author.

SB 711 or Alis TB Act amends Section 12 of Republic Act No. 7875, As Amended by R.A. No. 10606, Otherwise known as “An Act Instituting a National Health Insurance Program for All Filipinos and Establishing the Philippine Health insurance Corporation for the Purpose.” SB 712, on the other hand, seeks to amend Republic Act No. 9994, Otherwise known as the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.”

As of December 2013, there were 31.27 million registered members and 45.63 million dependents totaling to 76.90 million Filipinos provided with Philhealth coverage.

For 2014, additional 14.7 Million families are being targeted to be enrolled and covered with Philhealth.

For this purpose, government subsidy of P35.338 Billion was appropriated in the 2014 national budget. This amount is higher byP22.726 Billion from the 2013 government subsidy.

The Philhealth’s Reserve Fund amounts to approximately P116 Billion.

Recto’s bills were taken up in today’s hearing by the Senate committee on Health and Demography chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III. 

Legarda: Safeguard Cultural Identity, Whether Tangible or Intangible

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, today emphasized the need to protect the Philippines’ cultural heritage in both its tangible and intangible forms.

“We hear uproar about saving crumbling monuments and edifices, but less noise about the need to preserve our vanishing traditional crafts. The true value of our intangible culture and arts is not as easily recognized because it lacks the durability of construction,” said Legarda at the First Ceremony for the Commemoration of the Asian Living Human Treasures.

The First Ceremony for the Commemoration of the Asian Living Human Treasures was organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In the spirit of the event, Legarda highlighted Philippine Living Human Treasures and their works over the years. “How do you measure the significance of Federico Caballero’s epic chants, the exuberance of Alonzo Saclag’s music and dance? How can Lang Dulay’s deft hands and intricate weaving be as priceless as the San Agustin Church? It should be.”

“We must look at our traditional music, dance, crafts, drama and cuisine with the same awe we accord old churches because more than anything, our intangible cultural heritage holds the continuity of our nation and serves as the authentic embodiment of our identity as a country,” Legarda added, posing a challenge for Filipinos to value even the unseen and untouchable parts of culture.

The Senator mentioned the Philippine Tropical Fabrics Law of 2004, which mandates the use of local materials for the official uniforms of government employees, and the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 as measures currently aimed at preserving traditional arts and crafts. Nonetheless, Legarda continues to advocate the protection of indigenous peoples and their culture despite existing apathy towards these issues.

“Many consider my passion for arts and culture a frivolous endeavor, particularly for a nation that needs to focus on its economy and other political exigencies that demand its attention. On the contrary, I believe that safeguarding our cultural identity is just as urgent a matter as the volatile capital market or the muddled political arena. Traditional arts can bring a sense of solidarity among our countrymen while having a positive impact on the economy,” Legarda concluded.


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