nation

Go: Department of OFWs will end burden of Filipino migrant workers

July 22, 2019

In a phone-patched interview, over the weekend, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go explained the need to establish a new executive department that will focus on the needs and concerns of Overseas Filipinos particularly Filipino migrant workers or OFWs.       Go said that the functions of government agencies must be streamlined in order to provide fast, accessible and quality services to the Filipinos working or based abroad and to aid their families here in the Philippines.       “We need to streamline the functions of government agencies to provide (fast) services. Huwag natin sila ipasa-pasa sa iba’t ibang ahensya. Kung lalapitan nila ang Department of OFWs, ito na po ang makikipag-coordinate sa lahat ng ahensiya ng gobyerno para matulungan sila,” Go said.      Go added that President Duterte plans to certify as urgent the creation of the Department of OFWs so that Congress can act swiftly on the passage of the proposed measure.      Go noted that President Duterte would like to put an end to manpower agencies that demand excessive fees from Filipinos seeking jobs abroad and to protect Filipino migrant workers from abusive illegal recruiters. This will be one of the primary functions of the department of OFWs once it is established.       “Gusto pong iwasan ni Pangulong Duterte itong nangyayaring illegal recruitment. Marami pong nagiging biktima nito. Humihingi ng saklolo, gustong umuwi. Itong magiging bagong departamento na lang po na ito ang lalapitan nila,” Go said.       In line with this, one of Go’s first legislative measures filed on July 02 is Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019.       Senate Bill 202 seeks to address these issues, such as the need to improve coordination among concerned offices, hence the proposal to put them together under one roof to avoid finger-pointing among agencies concerned with OFW affairs.       The Bill proposes that the following agencies and their powers and functions, funds and appropriations, records, equipment, property, and personnel will be transferred to the new Department to be established: (1) Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); (2) Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA); (3) Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO); (4) International Labor Affairs Bureau of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and (5) National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO).       The powers and functions of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs under the Department of Foreign Affairs and all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and their officials under the DOLE will also be transferred to this new Department as stated in the proposed law.       “Itong Department of OFWs primarily para sa mga OFWs na lang talaga natin. Kasi alam niyo po, minsan kung saan-saan sila humihingi ng tulong at ng advice. Hindi nila alam kung saan sila pupunta,” he added.      Go also assured the OFWs that they will not pay anything in excess in able to avail the services of the proposed department once it is done. He, likewise, said that he and President Duterte would push for the passage of the law and the completion of the creation of the Department of OFWs by December.      “We will make sure na hindi po (dagdag na) gagastos ang ating OFWs sa gagawing bagong departamento. Nag-usap na rin kami ni Pangulo that he will certify it as urgent. Sabi niya kung maari by December maisagawa na ito,” he added.  Aside from the new department, Go said that President Duterte would also build hospitals specifically for Filipino migrant workers. The President is also eyeing to provide more livelihood assistance and trainings to migrant workers and those who wish to go back to the country as part of government’s reintegration program, the Senator shared.

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Filinvest’s power arm ready to serve Mindanao’s future steel industry

March 25, 2019

The Gotianun family-led FDC Misamis Power Corporation (FDC Misamis) in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental Province is ready to respond to the surging power demand on Mindanao island.     Earlier this year, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) released an information bulletin that by 2025 Mindanao’s current demand, which is around 1,600-MW to 1,700-MW, will increase by 500-MW to 600-MW.      Per the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), Mindanao’s current capacity reaches around 2,400-MW to 2,500-MW.     Although there is currently an oversupply of approximately 800-MW in the region, MinDa reiterated that Mindanao would still need an additional 100-MW per year to cope with rising power demand.     MinDa cited some of the major upcoming economic projects in Mindanao, which would be contributing to the demand for power, such as the Mindanao Railway System (MRS), new hotels and malls, and the entry of two giant foreign steel companies in Davao City and Misamis Oriental.    In Misamis Oriental, HBIS Group, China’s second-biggest steel producing company, plans to set up its facilities at PHIVIDEC Industrial Estate in Villanueva town anytime this year.     The said company is pouring in $4.4-billion in investments through a two-phase project with the objective of producing millions of tons of hot-rolled coil and 600,000 tons of slab annually in the first phase, and another eight (8) million tons in the following phase.      FDC Misamis President and CEO Mr. Juan Eugenio L. Roxas emphasized the company’s commitment to provide electricity to HBIS, as well as to existing and potential PHIVIDEC locators.    “Given the opportunity, we are very much ready to supply  our neighboring industries considering that we have the necessary advantage over other suppliers. We have proven the plant’s reliability since the start of its commercial operation in 2016. We are located near the steel plants’ proposed site which means less susceptibility to disturbance in the transmission system and, of course, minimal or zero line rental charge once WESM in Mindanao is operational,” said Roxas.  FDC Misamis Plant Manager Luis Lagarnia, Jr., confirmed the consistent performance of the coal-fired power plant for the past two (2) years.      “Facility preservation is key in sustaining our performance. We have avoided any unplanned shutdown through the conduct of diligent monitoring and maintenance on our major electrical equipment,” said Lagarnia.      FDC Misamis still offers one of the cheapest electricity rates in the entire Mindanao. “FDC Misamis remains true to its commitment in delivering sustainable power to Mindanao. Notwithstanding the current inflation, depreciation in the value of peso and current excise tax being imposed on coal, FDC Misamis is still among the cheapest and most reliable source of power in the region compared to conventional coal and diesel-powered plants,” Roxas said.      The power plant’s efficiency, FDC Misamis is very much confident that it can provide the power needed by its adjacent industries and any future investments in the PHIVIDEC area.

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Monetary Board Maintains Policy Settings

March 25, 2019

At its meeting on monetary policy today, the Monetary Board decided to keep the interest rate on the BSP's overnight reverse repurchase (RRP) facility unchanged at 4.75 percent. The interest rates on the overnight lending and deposit facilities were likewise held steady.     The Monetary Board's decision is based on its assessment that prevailing monetary policy settings remain appropriate. Latest baseline inflation forecasts show inflation settling within the target range of 3.0 percent ± 1.0 percentage point for both 2019 and 2020, while inflation expectations continue to stabilize within the target band. Inflation pressures have eased further since the previous monetary policy meeting, reflecting mainly the decline in food prices amid improved supply conditions.  Meanwhile, the Monetary Board observed that overall prospects for domestic activity continue to be firm, supported by a projected recovery in household spending and the continued implementation of the government's infrastructure program. However, there are risks to economic growth in 2019 if the current budget impasse in Congress is not resolved soon.   The Monetary Board also noted that the risks to the inflation outlook remained broadly balanced for 2019 even as it observed that further risks could emerge from prolonged EI Niño and higher-than-expected increases in global oil and food prices. For 2020, the risks lean toward the downside as tighter global financial conditions and geopolitical risks temper global economic activity and potential upward pressures on commodity prices.     Given these considerations, the Monetary Board is of the view that the within-target inflation outlook and firm domestic growth support keeping monetary policy settings steady at this time. Looking ahead, the BSP will continue to monitor developments affecting the inflation outlook to ensure that the monetary policy stance remains consistent with its price stability objective.

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Indoor pollution more dangerous to teenage girls, women

March 11, 2019

 Also places rural and informal settler communities to fire risks A non-government organization is launching a campaign to raise awareness on home or indoor pollution, a silent killer especially in rural and poor urban communities.     The Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and Environment (Pinoy Aksyon) seeks to raise awareness on home pollution and other risks due to essential home practices – like cooking.     “We hope to enlighten  public of these real risks and hopefully encourage behavior  change,” said Stan Salcedo, program officer of Pinoy Aksyon.     The group said they have thought of rolling out this behaviour change communication campaign after getting hold of alarming information of home or indoor pollution which is primarily caused by use of crude wood-based fuels for cooking and heating.     Last Saturday (March 9, 2019), the group held a seminar and workshop on Indoor pollution: Solutions and options at the Habitat for Humanity Multi-purpose Hall in the Pagatpat Sendong Relocation Site. Pinoy Aksyon has also rolled out an community information drive on indoor pollution.     “Knowing our culture, teenage girls and women are placed at higher risk to these pollutants as they are traditionally assigned to home cooking,” Salcedo added.     Exposure to indoor pollution from burning wood-based fuel results in higher risk of developing respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.     It may also aggravate heart diseases and trigger strokes.     A study in 2016 by the World Health Organization reveal around 80 deaths per 100,000 Filipinos could be attributed to indoor air pollution. Cagayan de Oro which has a population of around 800,000, that is a staggering 640 lives a year.     The data does not include mortality due to fire. Most fires in rural areas, mostly beyond the effective reach of fire fighters, like those of the Bureau of Fire Protection, are unreported.     The latest recorded fire in the upland was in barangay Besigan when the dirty kitchen of Jocelyn Legaspi-Minister, mother of a family of seven was left unattended resulting in the burning down of their house around 9 pm last March 4, 2019. Minister sought assistance from the City Social Welfare and Development Office for basic household relief goods and other calamity assistance.     Several studies agree that using firewood and charcoal is the primary source of indoor or home pollution. There are also studies that indicate these fuels are actually more expensive than other cooking fuels like liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).     Pinoy Aksyon is rolling out their behaviour change communication project in the two biggest relocation sites in the city, in Calaanan, Canitoan and Pagatpat.     “We have chosen these relocation areas for this behavioral change communication project as these communities are still in the process of building and we hope to provide the community dwellers information and options more healthful and environment-friendly options,” said Pinoy Aksyon chairman BenCy Ellorin.     Another component of their project is an energy audit. Ellorin said the energy audit would give us a snapshot of the current sources and uses of energy. “This is in line with our advocacy for low carbon economy.| he said, further saying that awareness and education may hold key for low energy consumption like using less greenhouse gas emitting fuels and energy efficient appliances.     Pinoy Aksyon is an independent advocacy group and think-tank. It envisions itself as a platform where citizens can raise their issues, concerns and solutions to community and social problems.     Salcedo said they timed the roll out of their project this month because it is Women’s Month and Fire Prevention Month.

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9 out of 10 Pinoys want smoking in public places be prohibited

March 4, 2019

2019 poll candidates challenged to support stricter tobacco control legislation Nine out of 10 adult Filipinos agree that smoking or the use of cigarettes in public places should be prohibited.     This is according to the results of a national survey on smoking conducted by Pulse Asia from January 26 to 31 and commissioned by the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).    Presented during the launch of “iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines,” an electoral campaign led by the PLCPD, the results of the nationwide survey also reveal that nine out of 10 Filipinos agree that the minimum age of those allowed to buy and use cigarettes should be raised from 18 to 25 years old.   “The results of this survey show that the Filipino public is very open and receptive to essential legislative reforms that can be done as regards tobacco control. May this piece of information have a deep impact on candidates for the 2019 midterm polls, for them to resolutely pursue measures that will contribute to a smoke-free Philippines,” said PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto.  1 in 4 Pinoys are smokers   The Pulse Asia survey also reveals that while almost 8 out of 10 Filipinos (76%) aged 18 years and above say they do not use tobacco, with 62% saying that they never used tobacco in their life, almost one in four Filipinos aged 18 years and above (24%) use tobacco, with 19% saying they are daily tobacco smokers.      “These figures show how deep the smoking problem is rooted in Philippine society. Despite recent strides our nation has taken to control tobacco use, we still have a long way to go. That is why we are launching the iChange campaign, a drive we are pursuing in time for the election season, with the specific goal of making this issue be at the forefront of electoral debates and garner support from incoming elected officials towards crafting and enacting stricter laws on tobacco control,” Dongeto explained.    Present during the launch of the iChange campaign were Dr. Charl Andrew Bautista of the Department of Health, who discussed the burden of tobacco use on Filipino health, and several other advocates from HealthJustice, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, Social Watch Philippines, and Youth for Sin Tax. The groups highlighted the policy reforms needed by the country and why it is important to talk about tobacco control during the election period.   “The election period is what we call the noon for public clamor, as we all know that candidates running for public office are most receptive to public opinion during this period. That’s why advocates need to sound the alarms on tobacco use even louder at this moment in time. We also hope that voters will consider important issues such as health in making the important decision of choosing whom to vote,” Dongeto stressed.   The iChange campaign called on 2019 election candidates to support moves to amend the current Tobacco Regulation Act (Republic Act 9211), to expand the definition of places where smoking is banned, raise the minimum age for buying  and using cigarettes from 18 to 25 years old, and increase the tax imposed on tobacco products by at least P60 to make cigarette prices prohibitive and to generate revenue to support the government’s universal healthcare program.     “Evidence of overwhelming public support for these amendments is here. Nine out of 10 Filipinos agree to stricter tobacco control laws. May this pressing public health issue deeply penetrate into the national conversation and compel our next legislators and government officials to act,” Dongeto concluded.    After the launch on February 28, the iChange: Vote for a smoke-free Philippines campaign will hold a series of media events and voters’ education forums in Laguna, Albay, Cebu City, and Iloilo City.

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