Sunday, September 7, 2014


MANILA-Senator Sonny Angara has filed a bill that seeks to grant discounts on food, medicine, educational expenses, such as tuition, miscellaneous and other school fees, including books and school supplies, to underprivileged students in all levels throughout the country.
"Even with the system of scholarship grants and student loan programs provided by the government, not all deserving and underprivileged get to finish their education because they lack the financial capacity to spend for their basic needs or other expenses related to their schooling," said Angara, who is a known advocate of educational reforms.
"Our bill aims to ease the financial burden of underprivileged students and help them cope with the high cost of education and daily school expenses," added the former chair of the House committee on higher education.
Among the benefits provided by Senate Bill 2385 include a five-percent discount on food establishments, medicines, textbooks and school supplies, and on entrance fees to museums and cultural events.
All qualified students will also be entitled to a five-percent discount on tuition fees, miscellaneous and other school fees granted by public and private schools where they are enrolled in. This discount would not preclude underprivileged students from availing other educational assistance provided by the school and the government.
"Considering that we now have a law giving discounts to senior citizens, it is high time that we consider the plight of our underprivileged students who are our nation’s future," said the lawmaker, who is also an author of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act.
Under the proposed measure, underprivileged students are eligible to get discounts if their parents have a gross annual income of not more than P150,000. Working students can also be qualified if their income combined with their parents' annual gross income would not exceed P150,000.
The Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, in coordination with the National Economic and Development Authority, are tasked to screen applicants and identify who are the eligible students.
They will also issue the discount cards which will be valid anywhere in the country as proof of eligibility.
SB 2385 further provides for tax incentives to establishments that would grant discounts to underprivileged students.
On the other hand, establishments that would refuse to grant discounts would be penalized with one to four-week suspension of their license to operate and would be fined with not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000.
"When I studied in the UK, I saw the benefits of having student discounts on various services to defray the expenses of the students. Naniniwala akong mas higit na kailangan natin itong ipatupad sa ating bansa upang maibsan ang kahirapan ng ating mga estudyante at ng kanilang mga pamilya at para mas mapalawak pa ang kanilang oportunidad na makaahon sa buhay," Angara said.

Is traffic-choked NCR ready for APEC summit 14 months from now? Gov't asks for P4.6 B for APEC hosting needs

MANILA-Are we ready for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit?

With 14 months to go before 21 heads of government will converge in Metro Manila for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, Sen. Ralph Recto wants to know if government preparations ranging from fixing roads to putting more cops on the streets are on track.

“If Barrack Obama and Vladimir Putin will hug and pose for a selfie in November next year, will they be doing it in a metropolis that international reporters covering the APEC summit would hail as safe and clean?” the Senate President Pro Tempore asked. 

“Or will the traditional ‘class picture’ of APEC leaders have cargo trucks stuck in traffic as background?”

The U.S. president and the Russian premier are among those who are expected to attend the annual gathering of leaders of Pacific rim economies which have banded together in a forum which seeks to promote free trade.   

Reports said up to 10,000 delegates, journalists and support staff will descend into Manila for the 25th edition of the APEC leaders confab.

Some 21 meetings and ministerial conferences have also been slated on the run up to the summit. 

The site and date of the latter, as well as those of the pre-summit meetings, have not been officially announced. News reports however said the summit and most of the preparatory conferences will be held in Metro Manila.

Despite the sorry state of the capital region’s infrastructure, “as evidenced by the monstrous daily traffic jams,” Recto believes that the Philippines, “at the end of the day, will be remembered for hosting a memorable APEC summit.”

But to be able to pull it off, “we must however work double time in seeing to it that all bases are covered –  from accommodations for 10,000, to security, to fixing the airport, to repairing our roads,” Recto said.

The senator is proposing that the House and Senate hearings on the proposed 2015 national budget be used “to audit APEC requirements.”  

For hosting the APEC meeting, the government has put in a request for P4.6 billion, booked under the “International Commitments Fund” section of next year’s national budget.

Recto, however, surmised that this is for hosting requirements alone and does cover “outside-of-venue needs like sprucing up the airport.”

He said evidences of a “crash Metro Manila makeover” are found in the 2015 budget.

“There is a P1.9 billion allocation for the rehabilitation of EDSA, there is another P1.9 billion to repair flyovers. There is a P600 million for the repair of NAIA. In the budget of the DPWH, there is at least P30 billion worth of projects which will be implemented in NCR,” Recto said.

“At present, Roxas Boulevard and Luneta are being improved at a cost of P457 million,” the senator pointed out.

In the case of NAIA, Recto said that the Manila International Airport Authority’s annual net income of P3 billion should prompt the agency to plow back some of it for passenger comfort facilities.

“In addition, privately-funded road projects like P15.5 billion, 7-kilometer NAIA expressway and the Skyway Stage 3 project are proceeding smoothly,” he said.

Eleven other big ticket items ranging from overpasses to rail line extensions are on the drawing boards.

Not all of these are attributable to APEC, Recto quickly clarified. “But just the same, those which are scheduled to be finished before APEC must be done so. And for those which are not, then some kind of a traffic management program for each  must be developed because we don't want media coverage on the APEC to focus on how bad traffic is in Metro Manila.”

Recto said if “APEC is what led government to ask more funds for Metro Manila, then so be it because after the guests are gone, then the area is left with new or better infrastructure.”

“If it’s the fear of bungling the APEC hosting duties which drives the government to go on a building-spree, then it is alright for as long as it will leave dividends to be enjoyed. Whatever the motivation is for as long the end is good,” Recto said.

“After the likes of Obama and Putin have left,” Recto said government should sustain the projects of easing traffic in Metro Manila, building more rail lines and roads, buying more trains, and building in-city housing for the people “because with or without APEC, it is its obligation to do so.”

"The improvements we all want to see in Metro Manila are real, not cosmetic,"  he said.

NCCA Announces Representative to 56th Venice Biennale

MANILA-The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in partnership with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, are pleased to announce the selection of Patrick Flores’ curatorial proposal titled Tie A String Around the World as the official Philippine participation at the 56th Venice Art Biennale 2015.

The esteemed panel of jurors, noted names in the field of modern and contemporary art and culture, was composed of Mami Kataoka, Chief Curator, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo; Paul Pfeiffer, New York-based multi-media artist; Renaud Proch, Executive Director, Independent Curators International; Cid Reyes, respected critic, artist, and writer; Felipe M. de Leon, Jr. NCCA Chairman; and Senator Loren Legarda, principal advocate and visionary behind the Philippine participation at the Venice Biennale. The panel deliberated on sixteen (16) proposals for two days from September 4 to 5, 2014, at the NCCA Boardroom in Intramuros, Manila.

Flores’ curatorial concept is a poetic and political reflection on the history of world making, the links between geography and politics, and the notions of nation, territory, and archipelago.  It foregrounds the extensities of the Philippines, a foil perhaps to the more aggressive instincts of expansion around us -- in the past and in “present passing.”

Tie A String Around the World revolves around Manuel Conde’s 1950 film Genghis Khan, co-written and designed by Carlos Francisco, screened at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Venice Film Festival in 1952, where it competed with the films of Chaplin, Clement, Fellini, Bergman, and Mizoguchi. The said film tells the story of the young Genghis Khan, his passage into the life of a warrior. It ends with the conqueror, perched on a mountain, casting his magisterial gaze over his dominion and promising his woman to “tie a string around the world” and lay it at her feet. This is a tale of the “king of kings” and the formation of empires that have strung the islands of the world. Genghis Khan’s empire stretched from the Pacific to Europe, the largest contiguous realm ever.

The newly restored film Genghis Khan will be exhibited at the Pavilion and will be positioned in conversation with the contemporary art projects of intermedia artist Jose Tence Ruiz and filmmaker Mariano Montelibano III. The Pavilion seeks to initiate discussion on the history of the sea and its relationship with the current world, claims to patrimony, and the struggle of nation-states over vast and intensely contested nature. It locates the Philippines in the world through its deep ties to ancient cultures, its precocious modern art, and the critical responses of contemporary art to present predicaments. Through the work of artists across generations, this history is told as a history of art and a history of the world.

The panel of jurors was impressed with the quality of most of the 16 submissions. They thought that most of the proposals were intellectually remarkable.

After a 2-day deliberation, the discussions came down to three strong proposals. Ultimately, the jury deemed Flores’ proposal the most fitting for the country’s return to contemporary art world’s first and oldest biennale after a 50-year hiatus.

Flores is Professor at the University of the Philippines Department of Art Studies and Curator of the Vargas Museum. He is Adjunct Curator of the National Art Gallery, Singapore, a member of the Guggenheim Museum’s Asian Art Council, and a guest scholar of the Getty Research Institute in 2014.

The Venice Art Biennale will open on May 9 and will run until November 22, 2015.

Drilon calls on fellow legislators: Forget politics for peace in Mindanao

MANILA-Ahead of the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Congress, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon today urged all his colleagues in both chambers to set aside political bickering and individual political aspiration for 2016 for the sake of achieving lasting and genuine peace in Mindanao.

“We will immediately start deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law once it is submitted to us within the week. We will request the Senate Committee on Local Government headed by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.  and the Senate Committee on Peace, Unity and Unification headed by Senator Teofisto Guingona III to immediately conduct committee-level hearings,” said Drilon.

Drilon expressed optimism that the Congress could pass the BBL during the first quarter of next year.

“I am confident that our self-imposed deadline is still within reach,” he said.

By the time the 2015 national budget is brought for plenary debates, Drilon said he expects that substantial discussions on the BBL draft have already been made.

“Before we tackle the 2015 national budget in mid-November, I expect that the major details of the BBL have already been fleshed-out and senators have already put forward their concerns,” Drilon said.   

“We will have to terminate temporarily the discussion on the BBL to give way for the 2015 budget. But we will immediately shift discussions back to the BBL once the budget is passed by the first or second week of December,” he added.

In order to ensure a smooth discussion of the draft BBL, the Senate leader asked his colleagues to leave politics behind when draft BBL is submitted to Congress.

“The fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be in the hands of Congress. I therefore appeal to our colleagues to show to the Filipino people that we can rise above political differences for the sake of peace. Peace is more important than our personal and parties’ political ambitions,” underscored Drilon.   

“We need everyone’s support for the crafting of an effective and lasting basic law to the Bangsamoro in both houses. No matter our political affiliations, we are all Filipinos and we all share a desire for peace, equality and prosperity as a nation,” stressed Drilon.

“We need to act as one to ensure that this prime opportunity towards unity between all parties will not fail. We shall not fail our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” he added.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law is the enabling law of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement outlines the general features of the political settlement between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It will pave the way for the creation of a new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and end the decades-long insurgency in Mindanao. 

NPA Remnants murder a civilian and a soldier carrying dead NPA in Abra,NPA suffers 2

Camp Aquino, Tarlac City - After being beaten in a major armed encounter a few days ago, NPA remnants ambushed soldiers and civilians carrying a cadaver of an NPA from the previous battle site 9:30PM Friday in Brgy Guiguinabang, Lacub, Abra.

Soldiers from the 41st Infantry Battalion and a group of local populace were transporting the cadaver of an NPA identified as Umin Bernal a.k.a Tubong to be turned over to the LGU and local police and further to a funeral home when they were fired upon by a group of NPA remnants which resulted to the death of one civilian and a soldier and wounding of three more troops while the NPA suffered two killed and one was apprehended when soldiers returned fire in defense of the civilians.

The identities of the civilian fatality and the soldiers are temporarily withheld pending notification of their next of kin while the two dead NPAs are still unidentified as of latest report.

It may be recalled that NPA suffered six dead in a fierce firefight last Thursday. The dead NPAs were gradually identified with the help of civilians in the vicinity who went to the casualty and medical evacuation area to look for relatives. Civilians found out that Umin Bernal a.k.a Tubong, their townmate in Lacub was one of the dead NPA and volunteered to carry their townmate’s cadaver to Lacub proper.

Lt.Gen Felicito Virgilio Trinidad, the NOLCOM Commander condemned the act as “a brazen display of brutality, total disregard to the safety of civilians and wanton violation of human rights.”

“Our troops and the civilians were merely doing their moral obligation as soldiers of the people and as townmates respectively to bring the cadaver to a place where his body can be claimed by relatives and be given proper burial but the NPA remnants still fired at them. This shows the kind of ideology they are fighting for if any” Lt. Gen. Trinidad said.

“We offer our deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the relatives of the civilian killed by the NPA and we assure them that our soldiers will do everything under the law to make the perpetrators accountable to their crime against the people” Lt. Gen. Trinidad also said.

“We are also calling on the conscience of our lost brothers in the NPA to look closely on the things they are doing and perhaps they may realize that we all suffer in their bloody way of furthering their belief. We are constantly hopeful that they will heed the voice of the people to stop violence and join the mainstream society so that we can collectively pursue lasting peace and development specially in the countryside” Lt. Gen. Trinidad concluded.

Legarda: Art, Important Facet of Nation Building

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, acknowledged the significance of art in nation building, including in rebuilding communities affected by disasters.

In the press conference to introduce the jurors who reviewed the curatorial proposals submitted for the Philippines’ participation in the Art Venice Biennale 2015, Legarda said, “art is a very important facet of rebuilding our nation especially after Yolanda, after Glenda.”

“People might ask, and this has been asked of me, why join in the Venice Biennale now after Yolanda? I think, all the more now, after Yolanda. Art will become an even more important platform to highlight Filipino creativity. I believe that art should be an enabler of development and that is the reason why all the more, the Philippines should be in the Biennale next year,” said Legarda, who initiated the country’s return to the prestigious contemporary art exhibition after 50 years of absence.

Felipe De Leon, Jr., Chairperson of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), seconded the Senator’s statement, stressing that promoting the arts is a way of priming all the other kinds of development.

“Once you encourage people to express themselves, you strengthen what is called cultural energy. Cultural energy is the motivation to work, to engage meaningfully in social interaction, engagement and so on. The moment you develop the arts, everything else follows and this is the reason why after Yolanda, if we would like to develop economically and socially, it begins with the arts,” De Leon said.

Legarda stressed that the Art Venice Biennale is a platform where the Philippines’ voice will be heard in the global contemporary art scene.

“We need to engage the international community on the cultural level. I hope that through our participation in the Venice Biennale, more Filipino artists will be encouraged not only in exhibiting their craft but also in promoting the relevance of arts in nation building,” said Legarda.

The Philippines will participate in the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale 2015, which will be held from May 9 to November 22, 2015 in Venice, Italy.

The NCCA and the Department of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, will soon announce the representative to the Venice Biennale 2015 following the two-day deliberation by local and international jurors on the 16 curatorial proposals submitted to the Coordinating Committee.

The panel was composed of Chairperson De Leon, Philippine Art Venice Biennale Commissioner; Senator Legarda, principal advocate and supporter of Philippine arts and culture; Cid Reyes, one of the country’s top art critics; Mami Kataoka, chief curator of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan; Paul Pfeiffer, a New York based sculptor, photographer and video artist who already participated in the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001; and Renaud Proch, Executive Director of Independent Curators International, a non-profit organization in New York that has produced exhibitions, events and publications.


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