Saturday, May 24, 2014

PNoy appoints NOLCOM head as new AFP Vice Chief of Staff

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City-President Benigno Aquino III has appointed Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Commander Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. as the new Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He replaced Lieutenant General Alan Luga who retired from service last week.
He is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Dimalupig” Class of 1981.
Prior to NOLCOM, Catapang previously led the Army 703rd brigade, which is based in Arayat, Pampanga and Army 7th Infantry Division in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija. (Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu)

Guarantee safety and welfare of household service workers abroad – Jinggoy

MANILA-Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada stressed today the need to ensure safety and welfare of domestic workers, mostly Filipinas, abroad through stricter implementation of deployment and anti-trafficking laws and active utilization of diplomatic instruments.
This developed as Sen. Estrada learned of the case of a 23-year Filipina domestic worker in Saudi Arabia who was scalded with boiling water by the mother of her employer. The victim, Pahima Alagasi Palacasi, sustained severe injuries on her back and legs.
“The horrific case of Ms. Palacasi should never happen again. And the government must ensure that our workers don’t end up on the hands of abusive employers and suffer inhumane working conditions and maltreatment,” Sen. Estrada said.
According to the report to Congress by the Department of Foreign Affairs for 2013, there are at least 364,228 domestic workers in the Middle East region alone.
Moreover, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show that on 2012, 155,831 Filipinos have been deployed to be employed as household service workers. The same data set reveal that there is a steady increase in the number of workers deployed as domestic workers for the past years – 50,082 in 2008, 96,583 in 2010, and more than 155,000 in 2012.
Sen. Estrada, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, pointed out that the government must also make use of all the available diplomatic channels and instruments in protecting thousands of Filipino household service workers scattered across the globe.
The lawmaker said that the country must negotiate for more bilateral labor agreements, especially between countries employing a huge number of Filipino workers. He also said that the country could mobilize support toward the ratification and implementation among member-states of the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers.
ILO Convention 189 came into force last September 2013 after the Philippines became the second country after Uruguay to ratify it. The said convention establishes minimum labor standards for domestic workers and offers among others protection from all forms of abuse, harassment and violence.


MANILA-As government buys more seats in private schools to accommodate the enrolment overflow in public schools, Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara is batting for the expansion of the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) to include new benefits like transportation and book allowances for poor students.

Angara said the GASTPE program, which is the country's biggest scholarship program in private schoolsthat aims to decongest public schools, needs to be strengthened so that it can cover more students at higher subsidy rates.

In Senate Bill 199, Angara proposed a raft of reforms to the Republic Act 6728 or the GASTPE Law which include prioritizing students in fifth- and sixth-class municipalities.

He also wanted those coming from poor families identified in the government’s poverty maps, like the one prepared by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, be given “right of way” to GASTPE.

The Department of Education (DepEd) recently announced that for the coming school year, it would provide tuition subsidy to 352,328 students who will enroll in private schools through GASTPE’s education service contracting scheme.

Under the voucher system for the school year 2013-2014, the amount of subsidy was P6,500 for a Grade 7 student in schools outside Metro Manila.

Noting that the program only covers tuition subsidy, Angara said other schooling expenses, “the ones which are in fact higher than tuition,” become part of the assistance package.

Some of these, according to the senator, are transportation allowance and higher funds for textbooks.

“We just cannot dump the excess of the public school system to private schools without giving them the same amount of tools we give to public school students," he said.

In the case of textbooks, Angara said there should be “private school-public school parity” in which the amount of textbooks for GASTPE scholars shall not be less than the per student allocation in government-run schools.

He said a transportation subsidy should be considered in special cases when a student who was not accommodated in a school in his community has to spend for fare in commuting to a private school far from his home.

Angara’s proposed amendments to the GASTPE law also cover college students.

The neophyte senator is batting for the inclusion of qualified enrolling students in “priority courses” determined by the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

He is also proposing that tuition subsidy to scholars living below the poverty line be increased by 10 percent a year, subject to availability of funds and screening by the appropriate government agency.

“Seventy percent of any increase, however, in the tuition subsidy shall be earmarked by the recipient school for the payment of the salaries of teachers while 20 percent shall be used to improve school facilities,” Angara said.

To fund all this expansion of programs, Angara proposed that DepEd be allowed to use its previous years’ savings to be augmented by other sources such as 20 percent of travel tax and airport departure tax collections, a portion of the income of other GOCCs, and lump-sum appropriations and other departure tax collections.

The number of enrollees in the Philippine public schools has been constantly increasing over the years because more and more Filipino families cannot afford the tuition in private schools.

In turn, the public school system has been unable to cope with the surge in student populations, resulting in many public schools becoming too congested and no longer conducive to student learning.

Manpower and equipment shortage in public schools is aggravated by the annual increase in the budgetary needs of public schools.

In 1998, Congress first approved the expansion of the GASTPE law to give many poor students the opportunity to avail of quality education in private schools by providing financial assistance to private schools through tuition fee supplements.

Over the years, however, the GASTPE financial assistance to students has fallen far below the government’s per capita cost in the public schools, Angara said.

Hence, there is an urgent need for an amendatory bill to increase the amount of financial assistance to poor students in order to reduce their burden of high education cost in the secondary and tertiary levels.

Angara further acknowledged that the public school system was getting the boost it finally needed from the Aquino administration's infusion of funds to answer the classroom and teacher gap.

In the meantime, however, he stressed that there is a need to ensure that the current generation of children from poor families receives all the help it can get whether in public or private schools.

Invest in Resilience, Legarda Tells WEF

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda has encouraged both government and the business sector to include resilience at the core of private and public governance as she stressed that disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) is a wise investment, during the interactive session "Designing Solutions on Climate and Resource Risks" of the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

“Globally, economic losses due to disasters are taking a toll on development. These losses will continue to escalate unless DRRM becomes integral to national development plans and business investment strategies,” said Legarda, who was named a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the WEF in the year 2000 in Davos, Switzerland.

The United Nations report, Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2013, showed that global economic losses from disasters since 2000 are in the range of $2.5 trillion.

“Poverty and inequalities worsen as natural hazards and climate change constantly affect the poor and keep them trapped in a vicious cycle of risk and poverty. We can ensure our economic resilience by reducing disaster risks, letting investors be aware of it, and requiring business investments to take into account DRRM measures,” Legarda said.

The Senator said increasing public and private investments in advancing DRRM and climate change adaptation (CCA), and transitioning to clean energy, are the greatest economic challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

She also stressed that in areas that have been devastated by disasters, governments must build back stronger and wiser.

Legislators are likewise urged to address gaps in policies through measures that will: link science and policy-making; finance mechanisms for climate and energy solutions—including energy efficiency, clean technology and green infrastructure investment; and enable the private business and financial community to support comprehensive climate and energy policies and to invest in climate and clean energy solutions.

She also urged the business community to embed DRRM in business processes to strengthen resilience, competitiveness and sustainability.

Legarda said that robust business continuity planning is part of the private sector’s corporate social responsibility.

“Private companies should mainstream resilience in their value chain. Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are especially encouraged to develop their BCPs because disaster impacts such as destruction of road infrastructure, bridges and local facilities have drastic effects on them. The business sector is also encouraged to conduct and share risk assessment and best practices of their companies,” she said.

“Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation must be closely linked to development—the kind of development that does not create new risks but promotes resilient investments,” Legarda concluded.


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