Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Drilon urges liberal parliamentarians: Address misconceptions on liberalism, avert ‘credibility crisis’

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon last week challenged liberal parliamentarians across the globe to show that liberalism remains the best guiding principle for nations towards positive political and economic reforms, in order to avert a “crisis of credibility.”

“Liberalism is said to be the ideology of the 21st century, but why does it appear to be in retreat? If liberals can offer the best solutions to the problems confronting the world today, why are we losing elections to conservatives, populists, and ultranationalists? What are we doing wrong, and how can we address this?” he said in his welcome address before liberal members of parliament from all over the world.

Drilon, who is also IPU Executive Vice President and former chairperson of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), hosted the dinner reception of the 132nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) attended by Liberal parliamentarians from Belgium, Botswana, Cambodia, Canada, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ireland, Lithuania, Malaysia, Philippines, and South Africa in Hanoi, Vietnam on 27 March 2015.

He said that one possible cause of liberalism’s current crisis is the inability to correct the misconceptions about it, particularly in relation to liberalism’s effects to national economies.

“The problem is that we liberals have not been very aggressive in answering the accusations against us, despite our knowledge of empirical evidence to the contrary.” For example, Drilon said, numerous multi-country studies in the past had found that “the group of the poorest and least growing countries is almost totally identical with those who have not opened their economies and constantly interfere with the freedom of the people.”

“The per capita income in the economically freest countries is almost 10 times as high as in the least free. Gross domestic product is highest in countries with the best ranking for protection of rights to property. Long-term prosperity is positively correlated with stable, constitutional conditions (rule of law),” he added.

Drilon said that these findings show that “liberal policies have been more successful in addressing wealth inequality than various policies which forward state intervention.”

“It is time that we liberals become more vocal about this, and face the criticisms against us, head-on,” he added.

Drilon also said that the contributions of liberalism to modern society are enormous, adding that its core principles are embodied in the most important documents of modern times. “The principles that we hold dear today, including freedom, equality, human rights, democracy, rule of law, good governance, and fair competition, can be traced directly to the liberal ideology,” he said.

 “Provided liberalism does not abandon its fundamental principle – the principle of freedom – I have no doubt that liberalism can surmount this challenge,” Drilon added.

The 132nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was organized by Liberal International (LI) and the CALD, with the support of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF). Themed “Liberalism in the 21st Century,” the Hanoi event was an integral part of a consultation and reflection process, which aimed to understand better the challenges faced by liberals and offer possible joint solutions as it hoped to encourage liberals to “walk the talk” and stand for the true value of liberalism amidst its contemporary challenges.

Modernization law should be PAGASA's 150th birthday gift

MANILA-The Senate will soon begin floor debates on a bill upgrading PAGASA’s equipment, staff pay, research capabilities and communication reach which its author says “is the best birthday gift on the weather bureau’s 150th year .”

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the bill modernizing the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) will be reported out the moment the Senate resumes its sessions in May.

Recto, who also chairs the Senate science and technology panel, said “the ferocious, fickle and frequent storms” climate change brings call for “a strengthened weather agency which can warn and guide the public on how to respond to threats to lives and properties.”

“A key component of climate change preparation is a well-equipped weather bureau, manned by highly-competent and well-compensated professionals,” Recto said.

“We want a modern PAGASA that can warn us about typhoons and weather disturbances coming our way and which has a working environment which prevents forecasters from leaving the Philippine area of responsibility,” Recto said.
The bill Recto will recommend for approval will have seven modernization components :  equipment and operational techniques, data center, information services, human resources,  regional  and field weather presence, research and global linkages.

“The idea is to adequately arm PAGASA so it can give us adequate and up-to-date weather information to help us prepare for, and to be protected from, typhoons, floods, landslides, storm surges, El Nino, and extreme climatic events,” Recto said.

The cost of immediately needed equipment and buildings is P3.9 billion, based on a “preliminary shopping list” PAGASA has submitted to the Senate.

To finance this, as well as future needs, the Senate bill will tap both budgetary and “off-budget” sources. Included in the latter is a proposed P3 billion from the net income of PAGCOR, to be taken from the 50% share of the national government, which in 2013 was P13 billion.

“If we need to get it from gaming revenues, so be it. We need the money so we don't have to roll the dice in predicting if it will rain tomorrow,” he said.

Recto said investments in PAGASA dwarf the “damages caused by typhoons in this climate change-era when they’re coming in at unexpected places, unexpected strengths, and unexpected times.”

“ ‘Yang P4 billion na initially hinihingi ng PAGASA ay maliit kumpara sa P116 billion in combined damages to property and infrastructure ng apat na bagyo pa lang, ang Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, Yolanda noong 2013 and Glenda last year,” the senator said.
The Philippines ranks 2nd in the world as the most disaster-risk country, according to the World Risk Index 2014, a report of the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security and the German Alliance Development Works.

Also envisioned in PAGASA’s modernization is for the agency to effectively market and disseminate information it has generated “even at pinpointed local areas,” Recto said.

“Going local” is also the principle that will drive its equipment modernization, Recto stressed.  “It is specified in the bill that PAGASA has to expand its regional reach, provincial presence and field services.”

At present, this need is serviced by a string of 10 Doppler radars from Aparri, Cagayan to Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur. Five more are being built.

“But we all know that equipment is only as good as the people manning it, and the bill creates a package that will reward and train PAGASA personnel,” Recto said.
Under the measure, a new salary scale for PAGASA personnel will be drawn up, Recto said. “It will also provide a ‘personnel retention incentive,’ representing a portion of the base pay, for meteorologists and forecasters.”

Training incentives shall come in the form of scholarship grants.

One of the oldest government agencies, PAGASA traces its beginnings to January 1865, when two Jesuits started recording daily weather data in the Observatorio Meteorologico of the Ateneo in Intramuros. The observatory soon became a public institution through a Spanish royal decree.

At present, PAGASA has a total of 1,034 staff positions. For 2015, it has a budget of P3.4 billion, P2.5 billion of which is for capital outlays.

Recto said PAGASA’s mandate goes beyond hourly weather bulletins during storms.

“It is not a foul-weather friend.  Its inputs are needed in polices and preparedness plans dealing with water resources management, agriculture, transportation, health, tourism and other sectors,” he said.

“Planting intentions, holiday plans, construction schedules are weather-dependent. To achieve this, we need a dependable weather service,” Recto said. 

Legarda On Earth Hour: Small Acts Can Protect The Planet

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda urged the public to support the global movement to simultaneously switch off lights for one hour on March 28 (Saturday), 8:30pm local time, in observance of the 2015 Earth Hour.

“The Earth Hour campaign shows us what each citizen can do. It tells us that every individual is capable of protecting our planet. Small acts cannot be underestimated because these small acts, when put together, create big changes,” Legarda stressed.

Legarda, author of the Climate Change Act, encouraged all Filipinos to show our solidarity with the rest of the world in an effort to save energy, reduce carbon emission and raise awareness on sustainability and environmental challenges.  

“People are oftentimes overwhelmed with the gargantuan task of protecting the environment, without realizing that the small acts ignite greater action and result in significant achievements,” she said.

Legarda added, “By participating in Earth Hour, we are showing our commitment to create more sustainable and resilient communities. We only have to take that one important step, which is to take action, to save and protect our planet.”

The Earth Hour started in Sydney, Australia in 2007. The following year, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched the international Earth Hour. More than 400 cities in 35 countries, including the Philippines, joined the campaign. Now, more than 7,000 cities are involved.

Legarda noted that the Philippines has been regarded as an Earth Hour Hero Country for registering a high number of participating towns and cities and for its staunch support to the campaign.

In 2009, 647 cities and towns in the Philippines and an estimated 15 million Filipinos participated in the Earth Hour, saving 611 Megawatt-Hours of electricity during the one-hour period.

In 2013, records from the Visayan Electric Company in Cebu alone showed a reduction of 11 MW during the time of the event.

“Saving on electricity, using low carbon technologies, conserving water, eating local food, planting more trees, among others, are just some of the simple ways by which we can significantly contribute to protecting our Earth. The results of Earth Hour are clear enough to show what people can do when we work together,” Legarda concluded.


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