Sunday, October 14, 2007

Palace, not Congress, holds power of the purse

By Efren L. Danao, Manila Times Senior Reporter

Congress prides itself in wielding the so-called power of the purse—or the power to appropriate. This congressional power is now a myth.

During the pre-martial law Congress when the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations was a very powerful personality, the legislature wielded true power.

Today, however, the real power of the purse rests with Malacañang.

The House had just approved after a marathon session the proposed 2008 national budget totaling P1.227 trillion. The hard work exerted by Speaker Jose de Venecia and the House Committee on Appropriations headed by Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay is commendable. For the first time in eight years, the House approved the national budget on second reading on the second week of October.

The House reviewed the priorities in the budget proposed by Malacañang and reallocated P30.1 billion to increase the budget for education, books, desks, scholarships and school buildings, among others. The House and the Senate for that matter—can cut and augment the individual budget of various government offices as long as it does not go beyond the total budget proposal of the President for the entire national government.

The budget process, however, goes beyond the mere enactment of the general appropriations act for a fiscal year. Funds must still be released from the National Treasury for the purposes stated in the annual budget, and this is why Malacañang, not Congress, holds the real power of the purse. Malacañang has the authority to deny funding even for items already contained in the budget act.

Source of power

Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, a fiscal authority in the Senate, points to Presidential Decree 1177 as the main reason why Malacañang continues to hold sway over the budget since the martial law days.

P.D. 1177 was promulgated by then-President Ferdinand Marcos on July 30, 1977, ostensibly to institutionalize the budgetary innovations of his New Society program. The decree, ironically called the “Budget Reform Decree of 1977,” grants the president the authority to transfer any fund appropriated for the different departments included in the general appropriations act after its enactment.

It also grants the president the authority to augment any appropriation of the executive department in the act from savings in the appropriation of another department, bureau, office or agency within the executive branch.

Among the progressive sectors, the greatest “evil” wrought by P.D. 1177 is its provision for the automatic appropriation for debt servicing. The decree lumps principal and interests on public debts and national government guarantees of obligation with personnel retirement and GSIS premiums as automatically appropriated except as issued in the form of regular budgetary allotments. There is no quarrel in the automatic appropriation of retirement benefits and GSIS premiums—but debt servicing and government guarantees on loans?

Hands of Congress tied

Many do not know it but Congress actually has no say on debt servicing. It is not part of the cash budget subject to congressional approval. The “cut” of P17.8 billion from debt servicing was the result not of a new-found power of the House but of the continuing appreciation of the peso. If the peso declines, the national government has no choice but to pay the equivalent amount—despite the “cut” by the House.

Angara recalled that during the days of Batasang Pambansa or parliament, the opposition flailed away at P.D. 1177 for clipping the powers of the legislature. Then Member of Parliament Alberto Romulo said the legislature and the people were “na-onse” (duped) by P.D. 1177. Yet, when Romulo became budget minister in 1986 under the Cory administration, he made full use of the decree.

In fact, all presidents after Marcos continue to implement P.D. 1177 by transferring funds from one department to another and refusing to release funds for projects proposed by political enemies.

“I guess Malacañang does not want to lose such a great power,” Angara said on why the executive department is keeping this controversial law of martial law vintage.

Congress tries to correct

Angara said there were previous attempts by leaders of the House and the Senate to prop up the legislature’s power of the purse by pressing for line-item budgeting. Speaker de Venecia and former Senate President Franklin Drilon led the move for line-item budgeting. They said it would make the budget more transparent and, more important, assure that funds are spent only for the item specified. Malacañang opposed the move and nothing has been heard of it since.

As long as P.D. 1177 is in the statute books, complaints of lawmakers, especially members of the opposition, on the non­release of their “pork barrel” or the inadequate funding for their projects will be met with a cold shoulder by Malacañang. Insofar as the budget is concerned, Malacañang proposes, and Malacañang disposes.

Lim: Atienza’s defective revenue collection left Manila with deficit

By Rommel C. Lontayao, Manila Times Correspondent

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim yesterday said that the City of Manila could incur a deficit of P1.4 billion due to the previous administration’s inefficiency in tax collection.

As a result of these collection losses, Lim said they will demand refunds from big firms such as Coca-Cola, Singer sewing machines, and Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) for taxes uncollected from the year 2000 to June 30 this year.

The mayor said he learned of this amount in uncollected taxes from the city treasurer’s report. He belied former mayor Joselito Atienza’s claim that his administration left behind P3.1 billion to the current city government.

Before leaving his post, Atienza proudly declared that Lim’s administration would have sufficient funds as he left P3.1 billion to the city coffers.

Now the Environment Secretary, Atienza claimed that since 1998, the city revenues increased from P2.2 billion to P6.8 billion.

Lim, however, said that the P3.1 billion that Atienza referred to has been allocated to the city’s various projects, trust funds and expenditures and salaries of city government employees.

“The city treasurer said there were no savings left, though we can realign some funds,” Lim said in a radio interview reposted by GMANews.TV.

The mayor added that because of its current financial situation, the city government would implement belt-tightening measures.

Lim had earlier reasoned out that Manny Pacquiao’s recent fight would have been shown live in the city’s various sports complexes. But since the past administration left the city government saddled with debts and financial obligations, the plan had to be scrapped.

Lim, who had announced a plan to acquire mobile cars for the police, said the city’s tight finances constrain them from immediately doing so. However, the mayor said he expects to start holding biddings to acquire some 60 mobile cars by next month

How a bill becomes a law

1. Preparation of the bill

The member of the Bill Drafting Division of the reference and research bureau prepares the bill.

2. First Reading

The bill is filed with the Bills and Index Service. On first reading, the secretary-general reads the title and number of the bill. The Speaker refers the bill to the appropriate committee.

3. Committee consideration/action

The committee where the bill was referred to evaluates it to determine the necessity of conducting public hearings.

4. Second reading

The Committee on Rules schedules the bill for consideration on second reading.

5. Third reading

Amendments are engrossed and printed copies of the bill are reproduced. The bill is approved by a majority of the members present. If the bill is disapproved, it is transmitted to the archives.

6. Transmittal of the approved bill to the Senate

The bill, signed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, is transmitted to the President.

7. Senate action on the House bill

The bill undergoes the same legislative process in the Senate.

8. Committee conference

A conference committee is constituted and is composed of members from each house of Congress who will vote for or against the bill.

9. Transmittal of the bill to the President

The bill, signed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, is transmitted to the President.

10. Presidential action on the bill

If the bill is approved by the President, it is sent back to the House. If the bill is vetoed, a message citing the reason for the veto is sent with it.

11. Action on approved bill

The bill is sent for publication and distribution to the implementing agencies.

12. Action on vetoed bill

If Congress overrides the veto, the House and the Senate shall proceed separately to reconsider the bill. If it is passed by a two-thirds vote of each house, it becomes a law.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bizmen at odds over Baguio waste policy

"People are not afraid unlike in Olongapo or in Marikina where citizens trust and respect officials," Cid said even as she admitted that it would take a lot of education, discipline and efficient collection on the part of the government to sustain the policy implementation.

SESSION Road Business Association (SRBA) president Nelia Cid is supportive of the “no segregation, no collection’” policy of the Baguio City Government.

This despite the heaps of uncollected garbage that have since taken shape at the heart of the city business center, the barangays and the market after the City Environment and Parks Management Office (Cepmo) decided to implement the scheme last week.

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Cid said the problem lies not in the government but in people who are not responsible and who do not respect orders from officials of the government.

"People are not afraid unlike in Olongapo or in Marikina where citizens trust and respect officials," Cid said even as she admitted that it would take a lot of education, discipline and efficient collection on the part of the government to sustain the policy implementation.

She appealed for the public to cooperate. "There should be mutual respect," she said.

Cid, who owns the Cid Educational Supply, is into recycling and segregation more than a decade now.

But other Session Road businessmen do not share Cid’s view.

Two restaurateurs said the City Government's move was too sudden and that compliance turned out to be bad on the first week that the policy was implemented.

They said there should have been enough information and education campaign first. The mountains of garbage left at the sidewalks indicated that only a few are aware of the scheme, they added.

The Cepmo have identified restaurants, including fast-food chains, as the biggest waste generators.

A cellular phone accessories dealer, meanwhile, felt less affected by the policy but said the sight and smell of garbage that is fast piling up is irritating.

He also expressed apprehension that health problems might arise if the Cepmo does not reconsider its stance, especially with the continuing downpour.

Baguio Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. earlier appealed to the public to cooperate. "We appeal for our people to help our city realize the segregation concept by following the segregation rules. Please understand that this is for the benefit of us all," he said. By Rimaliza Opiña - SunStar

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Timeline: Barangay and SK elections

Manila Times SPECIAL REPORT: Barangay, SK polls

Timeline: Barangay and SK elections

April 15, 1975
The Kabataang Barangay (KB) was created by virtue of then-President Ferdinand Marcos' Presidential Decree No. 684, which provided for the organization of KBs in all barangay units nationwide.

On May 1, 1975
About 3 million Filipinos, age 15 to 18 years old, participated in the first national KB elections.

April 1980
The second KB national elections
were held.

March 25, 1982
Batas Pambansa Blg. 222, an act providing for the election of
barangay officials, was approved.

May 17, 1982
For the first time, barangay
elections were held in the
country's 42,000 barangay units.

March 28, 1989
The second barangay elections were held.

October 10, 1991
Republic Act 7160, also known as the Local Government Code of 1991, was approved. R.A. 7160 abolished the Kabataang Barangay and replaced it with the Sangguniang Kabataan.

December 2, 1992
The first Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections were held.

May 9, 1994
The third barangay elections were held.

May 6, 1996
The second SK elections were held.

May 12, 1997
The fourth barangay elections
were held. Famous Namfrel
Chairman Jose Concepcion Jr.
ran for the position of barangay chairman of Forbes Park, Makati
City, and won.

March 19, 2002
Republic Act 9164, an act providing for synchronized barangay and SK elections, was approved in Congress.

May 21-22, 2002
Poor turnout in the young voters' registration prompted calls for the abolition of SK.

July 15, 2002
Barangay and SK elections were held simultaneously for the first time.

September 22, 2005
Republic Act 9340, an act resetting the barangay and SK elections, was approved. The said republic act states that the subsequent synchronized barangay and SK elections shall be held on the last Monday of October and every three years thereafter.

July 31, 2007
The last day of voters' registration for barangay elections.

August 5, 2007
The last day of voters' registration for SK elections.

September 5 to 7, 2007
Student leaders, educators, top officials of the League of Municipalities and League of Cities of the Philippines, among other groups, called for the abolition of the SK.

September 17, 2007
The House of Representatives passed House Bill 2417, postponing the barangay and SK elections, originally set October 29, to the first Monday of May 2009.

September 23, 2007
Sen. Manuel Villar said the Senate does not agree with the postponement of the barangay and SK elections and instead pushed for polls to go ahead on the October 29 polls. Villar also assured that the Senate would not file its own version of the bill for the postponement.

September 28, 2007
The filing of candidacy for the synchronized elections started.

September 29, 2007
The Philippine National Police began its implementation of the mandatory 45-day gun ban in preparation for the upcoming barangay and SK elections.

October 1, 2007
Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. resigned. The poll body, however, assured the upcoming barangay and SK elections will be held as scheduled.

October 3, 2007
President Gloria Arroyo asked members of both chambers of Congress to support the House proposal seeking a two-year postponement of the October 29 synchronized barangay and SK elections.

October 18, 2007
The deadline of the filing of candidacy for both elections

Student leaders, educators want youth council scraped

By Rommel C. Lontayao, Manila Times Reporter

Student leaders, educators want youth council scraped
First of two parts

Student leaders from various schools nationwide and supervisors from the Department of Education (DepEd) have recently called for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK).

The no longer meets its purpose and that the re-allocation of its funds will help augment the budget of the public school system, they said.

In a proposal drafted during a national leadership training attended by some 6,000 students and educators from all over the country, representatives from the Federation of Supreme Student Governments and regional education supervisors in Social Studies urged Congress to pass a law abolishing the SK.

SK inefficient

In a statement, student and teacher groups said, “The SK, whose primary objective is to enhance the social, political, economic, cultural, intellectual, moral, spiritual and physical development of the youth of the country, has lost the bases of its existence with its miserable performance or nonperformance.”

They added that programs and projects being implemented by the SK, consisting mostly of construction of waiting sheds and signposts bearing the names of SK officials, are too insignificant and irrelevant.

These programs and projects are wasting precious resources that could have funded more important and urgent concerns such as public education, they said.

Give funds to education

The proponents calling for the abolition of the SK drafted a manifesto, which says “funds intended for the SK, if and when re-allocated for public education, will certainly help solve its problems.”

The public education system “needs all the resources to address prevailing gaps in education-related resources such as quality books, fully-equipped classrooms and competent teachers,” according to the manifesto.

DepEd has estimated that, by the end of school year 2008, there would be a shortage of 1,390 classrooms, 524,237 school seats, 2,733 teachers and 44.2 million textbooks.

This would not be resolved if the government continue to allocate insufficient funds for public education, according to DepEd sources.

The education department estimated that some P4.3 billion is still needed to cover the shortage. DepEd has an allocated budget of P137 billion this year.

According to IBON Foundation, the government now spends more for debt service of interest payments alone per Filipino than it does for education.

In the proposed 2008 budget, the Philippine government allocated P3,269.48 per capita for interest payments, while it allocated only P2,010.39 per capita for education.

The research group also said government support for the public educational system has been declining in the past years and this is manifested by the severe shortages besetting the sector.

The 2006 budget of the DepEd has fallen by almost 6 percent from budget allocations five years ago. This means that, based on school year 2005-2006 enrollment figures, each public school student is allocated a share of only P5,082 of the DepEd budget, down 11 percent from P5,726 in 2001.

Declining allocations for education are reflected in the severe shortages of teachers and teaching materials that have crippled the public education system, which, according to the law, should receive the highest share of the national government budget.

Several weeks ago, the Commission on Elections said it had already received P664 million as initial fund for the conduct of the synchronized barangay and SK polls.

“Since 1992, billions of pesos coming from scarce government resources have been spent to cover for the elections of SKs in practically all barangays in the Philippines, whether urban or rural,” Antonio Morales, a columnist of an online local media organization, said.

“SK officials receive remuneration for attending SK sessions from barangay funds. SK receives a 10-percent apportionment from the barangay budget. With that, they spend their share for their pet projects that are not necessary, not beneficial to the youth, and simply a drain to the coffers of the government,” Morales in an article posted in

In previous reports, President Gloria Arroyo was quoted as saying that the 10-percent share of the SK could be used by the barangay council for building farm-to-market road instead

Barangay polls becoming deadly

League leader says 30 have died so far in the run up to the Oct. 29 polls

By Nora O. Gamolo, Manila Times Senior Desk Editor

This year’s barangay elections just might be the bloodiest in history, the head of the national federation of 41,995 barangay units said, adding that the polls should have been postponed on this basis alone.

As it is, the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections are scheduled to push ahead on October 29.

James Marty Lim, president of the Liga ng Mga Barangay ng Pilipinas, said that while everybody is now preparing for the barangay polls, “there is still a flicker of hope [in the league] that it will be postponed.”

“We have already recorded 30 deaths of barangay officials right after the May 15 election. We have recorded one barangay captain killed in Quezon City, one in Valenzuela and four in Batangas, and these are just media reports,” Lim said. The actual figure could be higher, as many cases go unreported.

He added that the league and the barangay units do not have police powers to prevent and investigate cases of election-related violence.

This election is too close to the previous polls, Lim said. “The wounds of the last election have not yet healed.”

The same people who contested each other in the last election five months ago, either as a candidate or political supporter of the contenders, will now have another face-off in this contest, Lim added.

Today, people are still angry, Lim explained. “The contestants are still hot, and many electoral protests are not yet resolved.”

Prayer for postponement

Even though the Senate begins a four-week recess on Monday, Lim said he is hopeful the lawmakers will convene a special session on Tuesday. Even with four senators out in Geneva for the meeting of the International Parliamentary Union, there are still 11 senators in the country—enough for a quorum.

“Whether they want it or not, there should be a voting on the issue,” Lim said.

“It’s all about respect. The president has endorsed it as urgent There is a counterpart bill to this effect from the House,” he recalled.

“We in the Liga simply want to know who wants to have the [barangay] election, and who do not,” Lim said, adding that the Senate is “fence-sitting.”

“They are dribbling the issue to death.”

Lim said that in the Senate’s session last week, the senators practically barred Sen. Miguel Zubiri from defending the counterpart postponement measure in the Senate so there was no discussion.

Zubiri is a co-sponsor of that measure and could have defended it in the absence of the main sponsor, Lim said.

Wish unlikely

Lim conceded, however, that the senators “would most likely get it their way,” decrying that Senate President Villar is practically a hostage of his senatorial peers, and his leadership is compromised by senators who do not want a postponement of the barangay polls.

But Lim insisted that the barangay league does not want to have the elections postponed simply because it means an extension of their term of office.

“We believe that the automation [of the barangay polls] is important. If they want to test [the automation measure], why should it be tested only in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao? It should be tested in two cities and two provinces,” Lim said.

He conceded that only Mayor Marides Fernando of Marikina offered to make her city a pilot area, but no other political leader came forward.

Conduct of polls

Lim said he is optimistic about barangay polls, however, insisting that vote-buying is practically nonexistent in the baran­gay level. “Nobody will tamper with the barangay election because they are neigh­bors. Well, maybe, in only one percent.”

Failure of election is another thing, though. Just the same, “the failure of elections happen in ARMM, not in Luzon and Visayas and Metro Manila,” he asserted.

Among others, failure of elections can be declared by the Commission on Elections in extreme cases when the election materials are lost and when there is preponderant violence involving the election officers.

“If a failure does happen, there is protection for the [electoral] process and the parties. An election will be held later, but it will be held,” Lim said.

Speedy tabulation

Polls at the barangay level are much quicker to process, though. With face-to-face counting, winners are known almost immediately after votes are cast, and they proclaimed immediately “even before the night is over.”

Lim insisted that there was really no two years postponement of the barangay polls, as contended by many.

“What happened was that we just went back to the status quo before when barangay leaders serve for more than five years for every term, even six years. Nobody complained before.”

He explained that the Constitution says that local government leaders serve for three years, except barangay officials as may be determined by law. But this was not invoked in the Local Government Code, which adopted a three-year term for barangay officials based on what the Constitution prescribes for the rest of local government officials and the members of the House of Representative who represent electoral districts. The exception clause for barangay leaders was not invoked.

Lim decried that the term of office of barangay leaders has become a political issue, even while barangay leaders are officially not members of political parties and are banned from express partisan politics that has wracked the nation

Generics law strengthened by deletion of nine words

By Christian V. Esguerra - Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Can a nine-word sentence in the law make a difference in the lives of 88 million Filipinos?

The House of Representatives’ committee version of the cheaper medicines bill has dropped a key provision in the Generics Act of 1988, which critics say has kept patients from availing themselves of lower-priced drugs.

The statement -- “the brand name may be included if so desired” -- was deleted in the omnibus bill, ostensibly to revive the essence of the once-promising piece of legislation.

The provision, which allowed doctors to write in their prescriptions branded medicines besides the generic name, is widely blamed for the failure of the law to make a dent in the local pharmaceutical market, which continued to be dominated by giant multinational companies.

“This crippled the Generics Law,” Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Friday, the day after the committee on trade approved the omnibus cheaper medicines bill.

Representative Arthur Pinggoy, chair of the committee on health, agreed, saying the provision went against the “spirit” of the Generics Law.

By allowing doctors to also prescribe a brand name on top of the generic name, the law unwittingly leads patients to higher-priced medicines in every trip to the drug store, he said.

The Generics Act was meant to allow the public to choose from among the branded versions of a particular generic name. Without bias for any specific brand, patients would naturally go for the cheapest one.

Hontiveros said patients were led to believe that they should -- and could -- go only for branded medicines despite the obvious discrepancy in prices compared to generic drugs.

Another acknowledged reality was that lobbying by pharmaceutical companies, through their medical representatives, helped lead doctors to include their respective brands in prescriptions.

Should the amendment to the Generics Law survive the bicameral conference on the cheaper medicines bill, Hontiveros said its impact would immediately be felt by ordinary Filipinos each time they purchased their prescription drugs.

The amendment was part of the “Noah’s Ark” approach adopted by the committee to address the problem of high-priced medicines in the country.

The omnibus bill, a summary of the fine points of 23 cheaper medicines measures submitted in the 14th Congress, also amended the Intellectual Property Code to allow parallel importation of cheaper drugs.

Another feature in the bill was the establishment of an interim drug price regulatory board, which would map out an operational plan setting price ceilings on medicines within a year.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Firm to set up P348-M sanitary landfill in Navotas


A new sanitary landfill will rise in an 11.3-hectare site in Tanza, Navotas designed to accommodate a 15-year garbage disposal option for the broader Metro Manila region, which current nearby dumpsite is facing closure.

With a cost of P348.575 million, the New Navotas Sanitary Landfill (NSLF) of the Philippine Ecology Systems Corp. (Phileco) is designed to accept 950 metric tons of waste daily.

The project will create 70 employment opportunities once it starts commercial operations in January 2008.

Phileco acquired the NSLF property in anticipation of the eventual closure of its existing Navotas Controlled Disposal Facility, which is just two kilometers away from the proposed new sanitary landfill.

Phileco has been operating the NCDF since September 2000 to serve the Municipal Solid waste disposal needs of the municipality and portion of the solid waste disposal of the city of Manila.

Phileco, however, is implementing the closure plan of the current garbage disposal facility as approved by the National Solid Waste Management Commission of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The project disposal facility is basically composed of the following three components: a disposal site, landing craft transport and marine loading transfer station.

The disposal site includes the treatment facilities for leachate and methane gas while the landing craft transport shall be utilized for the transfer of waste to the new disposal site wherein two tugboats will be used for towing the barges carrying the garbage to the disposal site.

The collected garbage will then be delivered to the marine loading transfer station which will be composed of a landing wharf, access road, loading equipment, deodorizing stations field office as well as other equipment necessary for its operation, a materials recovery facility and possible composting facility.

The NSLF is accessible only by watercraft from either the ports of Manila Bay or through the fishpond channels from Obando Public market. It can also be accesed through the Pinagkabalian bridge in barangay Dampalit, Malabon.

Initially, the dumpite will service the solid waste disposal needs of the municipality of Navotas, city of Manila and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s pumping station debris.

The landfill can also service the solid waste disposal of the whole Metro Manila, but subject to the acceptance and approval of concerned government agencies, primarily the MMDA.

The project is eligible for government incentives since Solid Waste Management or Republic Act 9003 is listed under the Mandatory Inclusions of the Investment Priorities Plan.

Under the law, cities and municipalities are required to come up with their own solid waste management plan. LGUs are also mandated to convert and replace existing dumpsite and develop and operate a controlled disposal facility.

Barangay polls pushing thru as scheduled

DESPITE being certified as urgent by Malacañang, the bill seeking to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections is dead after the Senate failed to act on it before it adjourned.

Majority Leader Arthur Defensor said that the House of Representatives is already resigned to the idea that the proposal of the House Committee on Suffrage to postpone the elections to May 2009 will not get the Senate’s nod.

It is already certain the elections set on October 29 this year will push through.

“Because the Senate has suspended its session already, there is no chance to act on the postponement. In fact I have given up hope already,” Defensor said.

According to Defensor, the members of the Lower House were very disappointed over the failure of the Upper Chamber to act on the bill, which is the first legislative measure passed by the lawmakers in the 14th Congress.

The Lower House proposed that the barangay and SK elections should be moved from October this year to May 2009 in order to give the Commission on Elections ample time to prepare for computerized polls. Jester P. Manalastas - Journal

Migz, Nene row over bgy polls

By: Bernadette E. Tamayo - Journal online

THE consideration of Senate Bill No. 1660 calling for the postponement of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on October 29 was stalled due to “a technicality” raised by Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Sen.Juan Miguel Zubiri made this clear amid inquiries from barangay leaders concerning the status of the proposed measure postponing the twin polls to next year.

Zubiri said that he was prepared to defend the measure but Pimentel invoked Section 71 (b) of the Senate Rules dealing with “sponsorship by the committee chairman (of bills on second reading), or by any member designated by the committee.”

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, had asked Zubiri to sponsor SB 1660 last Monday before Gordon left for Geneva, Switzerland for the International Red Cross board meeting.

Zubiri said that he respects the will of the Upper Chamber to defer consideration of the measure as it began its four-week break yesterday. Congress will resume session on November 5.

He was prepared to sponsor the measure for second reading last Tuesday, explaining he was doing so as “a good soldier” requested by a senior colleague to undertake the task.

Pimentel then said that that was not the way to designate a sponsor of a measure on second reading as stipulated in Section 71 (b) of the Senate Rules and moved for the deferment of the consideration of SB 1660, which Sen. Francis Pangilinan, the majority leader, did not oppose.

Gordon was also ready to sponsor the measure last Monday but the number of signatures required for the committee report to be considered on second reading was met only after the session had already been adjourned.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Govt assures car makers on used vehicles

By Elaine Ruzul S. Ramos - Manila Standard Today

The government has assured local car makers that the ban on the entry of used vehicles will stay when the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement takes effect.

Trade Undersecretary Elmer Hernandez told reporters he had discussed with the members of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. their concerns on JPEPA, especially a provision outlining the cooperation of the two countries in relation to exports.

“I have met with Campi, they want assurance from government that the prohibition [on used vehicles] would continue and that the provision is a safety net rather than an opening. It’s a protection, either way,” said Hernandez.

Japan is the biggest source of converted used vehicles that are brought into the country.

Hernandez said the Olongapo Regional Trial Court and the Court of Appeals had ruled against the constitutionality of Executive Order 156, which banned the entry of used vehicles into the country, at the time when government was negotiating with Tokyo on the auto sector provision under the JPEPA.

“Article 27 is the protection of the automotive industry. Our concern at that time, if we lost our case before the Supreme Court, what do we do about used vehicles? If we win, what do we do? So we put that article as protection,” said Hernandez.

He said Article 27 served as a protection if the courts ruled against the constitutionality of EO 156.

The Supreme Court has since upheld the constitutionality of EO 156. The second motion for reconsideration filed by importers is pending before the high court.

Hernandez also cited a provision in JPEPA respecting all domestic laws of both the Philippines and Japan.

“We will not open EO 156. There are exceptions under EO 156 such as ambulance, fire trucks and vehicles of returning Filipinos from abroad and should we allow used vehicles to come in, this would be limited to exemptions under the directive,” said Hernandez.

He added that if the Philippine government decided to lift the ban on the entry of used vehicles, it would only do so with a certification of roadworthiness before arrival.

Tokyo, however, does not certify the roadworthiness of converted vehicles.

“We could not prohibit the entry of used vehicles from Japan under JPEPA since it would be a restraint to trade. Besides, Japan has a corresponding law on that. Right now, we have EO 156, and the basis of that is EO 226, or the Omnibus Investment Act, which provides for the protection of investments of industries in the country,” said Hernandez.

He said it was necessary to put such provision in the agreement since with a free trade agreement in place, anything can come in or out of both countries.

Bulacan tops annual revenue collection

MALOLOS CITY: The province of Bulacan has soared to new heights in the field of revenues and income generating programs.

Bulacan was cited by the Commission on Audit (COA) as the top income-grossing province in its latest Financial Highlights of Local Government Units for fiscal year 2006.

The COA report said Bulacan had P1.7 billion in total gross income topping previous topnotcher Cebu with P1.6 billion and 75 other provinces. Bohol and Agusan del Norte were not included for failure to submit its statements as of cut-off date.

This was the fourth straight year that the province figured prominently in the rank. The province was recognized third for its financial performance for year 2003; and second for the years 2004 and 2005 while topping the list last year, the COA report said.

Belinda Bartolome, provincial treasurer and last year’s Top Financial Manager Awardee in the provincial level conferred by the Department of Finance (DOF), attributed the province’s effective financial performance to the continuous implementation of strategies aimed at increasing revenues, primarily from tax collections.

“With the total gross income from different revenues generated from tax collection and extensive collection of fees and charges, the result was commendable enough to put the province to the top rank,” she said.

Bartolome also cited the exhaustive information drive such as Ugnayan sa Barangay and continuous implementation of tax caravans, tax payment assistance centers and mobile tax payment centers as among the province’s effective ways of winning taxpayers’ cooperation.

She said the province also undergoes continuous updating and correction of data especially in the reclassification of land as per actual use that significantly contributed to additional revenue collection for the province.

“This policy leads the departments to plan and target its expenses, thus spending wisely and accordingly,” Bartolome said. --PNA

800 Workers Lose Jobs With Closure Of Philippine Nickel Mining Firm

The manager said he doesn't know if the company will reopen or transfer to Zambales province in the northern island of Luzon

Windsor Genova - AHN Writer

Agusan del Norte, Philippines (AHN) - Some 800 workers of a nickel mining firm in a province in southern Philippines lost their jobs.

According to, SR Metals Inc. (SRMI) acting manager Anthony Ryan Culima said the company was forced to shut down as the low price of nickel in the world market made mining a 148-acre (60-hectare) area inviable.

The company started its business in the La Fraternidad village in Tubay, Agusan del Norte province on March 2006. It employed up to 1,200 workers and loaned money to rent heavy equipment.

The manager said he doesn't know if the company will reopen or transfer to Zambales province in the northern island of Luzon. But Culima said the remaining regular and casual employees of SRMI will still get their salaries and wages.

Agusan del Norte Governor Erlpe John Amante said he will work for the reopening of the mining firm. The mining firm is applying for a government permit to mine a 2,471-acre (1,000-hectare) area in a nearby village. Expanding mining operations may make SRMI's business viable, according to the company.