Friday, July 24, 2015

2010-2015 Sona promises: Kept/Not yet kept (Part 2)



From the Website of INQUIRER
links: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/707357/2010-2015-sona-promises-keptnot-yet-kept-part-2


2010-2015 Sona promises: Kept/Not yet kept (Part 2)


POVERTY INCIDENCE
By Ben O. de Vera

As President Aquino promised in previous iterations of the State of the Nation Address (Sona), the government is quite optimistic that the poverty rate will be slashed by half by the middle of next year, before the turnover to the next administration.


Under the updated 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan, the government aims to cut the incidence of “multidimensional poverty” to 16 to 18 percent by the end of the Aquino administration, from 28.2 percent in 2008.

The government has been banking on the trickle-down effect from the robust economic growth being enjoyed by the country reaching the poor and eventually improving their lot.

Highest in 40 years

The Aquino administration has been trumpeting the country’s economic gains in the past five years. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan, the government’s chief economist, has noted that the average annual growth rate of 6.3 percent from 2010 to 2014 was the highest five-year average during the past 40 years.

If the economy posts a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of at least 7 percent this year, the six-year average would be the fastest since the 1950s, said Balisacan, who is also the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

The Philippines early this month also received its 22nd positive rating overall from top global debt watchers since the Aquino administration has been steering economic and political reforms toward further easing the way business is done in the country.

The Japan Credit Rating Agency on July 6 raised the country’s credit score to BBB+ from BBB, the highest the Philippines has ever received from any major international debt agency, and just one notch below the minimum in the “A” category sovereign rating.

Credit ratings are a measure of a country’s creditworthiness. As the stability of state finances is also related to a country’s performance, credit scores serve as a proxy grade for the economy. It is bound to bring in more foreign capital and funds that countries with noninvestment grade status are hard put to attract.

A better economy means more jobs, hence higher incomes for households.

Clear trajectory

The Philippines “has established a clear trajectory toward growth that is more inclusive,” and this growth momentum could be sustained if economic reforms continue, said Rogier van den Brink, the lead economist at the World Bank’s Philippine office.

“About 20 or 30 years ago, the stories that we often heard or read about the Philippines were all about boom and bust cycles related to macroeconomic instability. Real growth was low, inflation rates were high and at some point double-digit, the current account balance was negative, budget deficits were high, and national government debt soaring,” noted the World Bank economist.

In recent years, however, such issues are no longer major concerns, Van den Brink said.

“Real growth has been ranging 5 to 7 percent, prices are stable, current account has been registering surpluses and the country’s finances are stronger than ever—budget deficits are low and government debt measured against GDP is going down,” he said.

He also noted that “the reduction in poverty incidence between the first half of 2012 and 2013 indicates that growth is becoming more inclusive.”

“The 2013 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey suggests that real income of the bottom 20 percent grew faster than the rest of the population,” he said.

The World Bank economist also noted that the robust economic growth being enjoyed by the country is now more and more reflected in the number of jobs being created, noting how the unemployment rate dropped to 6 percent in October last year, the lowest in almost a decade.

Unemployment easing

The latest Labor Force Survey released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) last month showed that the unemployment rate eased to 6.4 percent in April, from 7 percent a year ago.

According to the Neda, 495,000 Filipinos obtained employment between April last year and April this year, hence bringing down to 2.7 million those who remain unemployed.

The underemployment rate also improved to 17.8 percent in April from 18.2 percent a year ago, which means 44,000 Filipinos found additional work in between the one-year period to reduce the number of underemployed to seven million.

The underemployed are “employed persons who express the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job, or to have additional job, or to have a new job with longer working hours,” according to the PSA.

‘Sugar-coated’ reporting

Other economists and analysts, however, said the government’s reporting of the employment situation was sugar-coated.

The unemployment rate indeed declined in April, but only because the labor participation rate fell to 64.6 percent from 65.2 percent a year ago, said economist Victor A. Abola of the University of Asia and the Pacific.

“This represents close to 400,000 less entrants to the labor force than usual,” Abola explained.

“Net new jobs created over the one-year period were weak at 495,000, about half of what is required just to meet new entrants which the World Bank estimates at 1.15 million per year,” he added.

The Ibon Foundation think tank said that “the few jobs created during the first quarter of the year are wholly part-time, low-wage and insecure.”

“The increase in part-time employment even occurred amid losses in full-time work… [T]hese are clear signs of an increasingly distorted economy that has become less able to provide secure jobs with decent pay,” Ibon added.

“[T]he 495,000 increase in the number of employed consists of a 544,000 increase in informal work to 15.5 million, less the 137,000 decrease in the number of full-time work to 22.8 million,” it noted.

“Job generation of wholly informal work and a reduction in the number of full-time work indicates a deterioration in the overall quality of work. Informal work or jobs worked less than 40 hours a week are commonly low-paying, unstable and lacking of benefits accorded to regular workers,” it said.

Poverty will remain high

Finally, a special report titled “An outlook for key emerging Asian markets” released this month by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) highlighted the fact that despite the faster economic growth being enjoyed during the past few years, the poverty rate in the Philippines would remain high as the gap between the poor and the rich continues to widen.

By 2019, “the Philippines will remain one of Southeast Asia’s poorest economies, with a lower level of GDP per head than the majority of the region’s other major economies,” the EIU said.

According to the EIU, the Philippines remains a “small market” despite a medium-sized population of about 100 million, as the GDP per head or value of the economy divided by the population stands at only $2,843 at market exchange rates.

“GDP per head will continue to rise in 2015 [to] 2019, reaching $4,549 at market exchange rates by the end of the forecast period,” the EIU said, as the economy is seen expanding to a value of $493.2 billion.

Despite robust growth and rising average income per capita, poor Filipinos may be left behind and they would not feel the gains from a fast-expanding economy, according to the EIU.

“The Philippine economy will also remain marked by wide inequalities of income, and the disparity between the richest and poorest households will stay particularly acute. Consequently, large numbers of Filipinos will continue to live in poverty,” the report said.

“Amid sustained strong GDP growth from 2012, the rural poor will benefit only to the extent that the government directs its spending toward improving the quality of essential services, such as education, health care and transport,” it said.

Conditional cash transfer

The EIU noted that government transfers, such as in the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which requires parents to send their children to school and have regular health checks in exchange for cash handouts, have facilitated growth in the private consumption of lower-income brackets in recent years.

The EIU report nonetheless sees a growing middle class further boosting consumer spending.

“Among the more affluent middle class, a number of trends may influence domestic demand and cause it to strengthen. The liberalization of sectors such as retail and telecommunications should lower prices, improve quality and widen choice. Strong inflows of remittances from Filipinos working abroad, relatively low interest rates and stronger job growth have buoyed consumer expenditure,” it said.

“Furthermore, banks are moving away from their traditional areas of activity toward an increasing emphasis on retail financial products, such as loans for housing and cars, and debit and credit cards; this trend will extend consumer opportunities. Growth in credit-card use, in particular, has accelerated strongly in recent years,” it added.

“Although poverty will remain a problem, continuing healthy rates of economic expansion in 2015 to 2019 will also benefit the poorer segments of the population,” the EIU said.

On track for MDGs

Government nonetheless remains confident that poverty will be further reduced this year until the end of the Aquino administration.

In a report submitted to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in April, the government said “there is a medium probability that the incidence of income poverty will be reduced by half in 2015.”

“The Philippines is also likely to meet its target of universal access to primary education, as greater resources are being allocated to the education sector to address backlogs in terms of classrooms, teachers and books,” read the summary of the country report.

The government report also claimed that the Philippines appears to be “on track” to meet the following Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Providing universal access to primary education; providing educational opportunities for girls; reducing infant and under-five mortality; reversing the incidence of malaria; increasing tuberculosis detection and cure rates; and increasing the proportion of households with access to safe water supply.

However, the report admitted that the country is “lagging behind” in six areas of the MDGs: Poverty and elementary education, in terms of completion rate; gender equality, as regards women’s political participation, and the fact that boys are at a disadvantage in terms of participation in elementary- and secondary-level education; maternal mortality; access to reproductive health care; and HIV/AIDS.

The government cited in its report to the UN the Aquino administration’s centerpiece Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) using the conditional cash transfer mechanism as the cornerstone of the strategy to fight poverty and attain the Millennium Development Goals.

It said the 4Ps was being implemented in 144 cities and 1,483 municipalities in 80 provinces, where a total of 4,455,116 households are enrolled, as of the end of December 2014.

4Ps in top 5

Meanwhile, a World Bank report, “The State of Social Safety Nets 2015,” cited the 4Ps as among the top five social safety net programs in the world, with a total of 19 million beneficiaries, or about a fifth of the population.

“Evidence from Indonesia and the Philippines shows that cash transfer programs increased prenatal and postnatal care, regular age-appropriate weighing, and facility-based deliveries for pregnant women and new mothers,” the World Bank said.

According to the World Bank, the 4Ps also improved children’s access to some key health care services, kept older children in school, increased households’ investments in education, and discouraged dependency or spending more on vice goods, such as alcohol.

“Pantawid Pamilya is reaching most of its key objectives. The impacts found through this study are comparable to the levels of impact found in other CCT programs around the world at this stage of program maturity, particularly in terms of the program’s achievements in improved use of health services and school enrollment,” the World Bank said.


GOVERNANCE

By Minerva Generalao, Chief, Inquirer Research

President Aquino has used tuwid na daan (straight path) to describe the direction of his governance of the country.

This is anchored on his campaign slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (If there are no corrupt officials, there are no poor people). Corruption is seen as the root of poverty in the country.

In his past five State of the Nation Addresses (Sonas), the President made eight promises to prosecute the corrupt in the government, comprising more than half of his 13 governance promises.

The technical reports accompanying his Sonas emphasize that the straight path does not pertain only to the President’s anticorruption campaign as it “also encompasses a way of doing things right, where the process is participatory, the programs are wholistic, growth is sustained, the peace policy is comprehensive and development is sustainable.”

The other governance promises are to improve the budgeting process, end patronage in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), push for good governance in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), implement performance-based bonuses and pass amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

* * *

Promises: Prosecute the corrupt and file weekly cases against tax evaders and smugglers (Sona 2010); prosecute and imprison Customs officials involved in smuggling and illegal practices (Sona 2014)

The filing of the cases was the specific act promised in the general statement to prosecute the corrupt. Aimed at plugging the leaks of government money, this was implemented through the Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Run After the Smugglers (RATS) of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) of the Department of Finance (DOF) to investigate corruption in the DOF and the agencies under it.

The BIR made news with its campaign to run after doctors and other professionals and celebrities, including boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, former Chief Justice Renato Corona, businessman Antonio Tiu, actor Zoren Legaspi, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, her husband and daughter.

As of Dec. 31, 2014, the BIR had filed 327 cases (against the target of 234 cases for the period), with taxes due estimated at P64.98 billion.

In his fourth Sona in July 2013, Mr. Aquino singled out the personnel of the BOC, Bureau of Immigration and the National Irrigation Administration for incompetence, saying they had no place in government. The BOC by then had filed 162 cases (below the target of 182 cases for the period July 2010 to June 2013). A year later this increased to 170 cases (still below the weekly target), with total taxes due amounting to P26 billion.

As of June 2014, 101 cases had been filed against erring government officials, including BOC collectors.

For all three campaigns, the problem has been the very low conviction rate. For example, of the 327 tax evasion cases, 98 percent were pending (283 at the Department of Justice and 39 in the courts) as of December 2014. Five cases were dismissed.

* * *

Promises: End the culture of wang-wang and continue to hold accountable those who practice the culture of entitlement (Sona 2011) and file the government’s first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices (2011)

The appointment in 2010 of former Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima as justice secretary was hailed because the justice portfolio was considered crucial in the fight against corruption.

The list of accomplishments in the promises to institutionalize accountability is long. This includes the following high-profile cases:

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. were charged with election sabotage. Plunder charges were filed against Arroyo and officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Commission on Audit over the misuse of the PCSO’s intelligence fund. Arroyo is still detained while Abalos is out on bail.

In September 2013, charges of plunder, malversation, bribery, graft and corrupt practices were filed in the Office of the Ombudsman against Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada and 34 other people. The three senators are in jail.

An impeachment complaint was filed against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez for alleged betrayal of public trust in connection with her handling of the cases involving the fertilizer fund scam, the euro general scandal, the Mega-Pacific deal and the NBN-ZTE deal among other controversies. She was forced to resign.

Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted and removed from office by the Senate impeachment court for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, particularly for dishonesty and failure to disclose his assets.

But early on, the President’s tuwid na daan was under question when Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz named administration officials believed to be receiving bribes from operators of jueteng, an illegal numbers game. Among the officials was one of Aquino’s closest allies, Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, who denied the charge but eventually resigned.

It was this perceived slowness in dealing with charges against his allies, including former Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres and former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, that marred an otherwise good record of quick and brave action against corruption in high places.

Reforms to institutionalize good governance, however, have led to improvements in the country’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranking by Transparency International, a Berlin-based civil society organization engaged in fighting corruption. The Philippines’ CPI moved 40 notches higher, from 134th place in 2010 to 94th in 2013.

* * *

Promise: Prosecute government officials involved in illegal logging (Sona 2012)

Aquino’s Executive Order No. 23, which declared a moratorium on logging in natural and residual forests nationwide, significantly reduced illegal logging hot spots from 197 in 2010 to 23 as of April this year. With the 88-percent decrease in hot spots came massive reforestation efforts that led to the increase in forest cover from 6.8 million hectares to 7.8 million hectares in four years.

By October 2013, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had fired 22 employees, among them two regional directors, while 306 personnel were under investigation. As of April this year, 1,411 illegal logging cases had been filed and 197 people had been convicted.

* * *

Promise: Use zero-based budgeting (ZBB) to review government programs (Sona 2011)

The government started to use ZBB in 2010 and according to the 2011 Sona Technical Report, it enabled the government to identify and terminate programs that were no longer delivering intended outcomes. The savings generated from the terminated programs were channeled to programs that were performing well and to other critical priority programs to fill gaps in education and health.

The savings from ZBB in 2011 came up to P12 billion. The savings became one of the sources of the “stimulus package” called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which was launched in October 2011 to fast-track public spending and push economic growth. The other sources, according to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, were “unprogrammed funds,” which were “windfall revenue collections” like large dividends from government corporations and financial institutions (SSS, GSIS, Landbank, etc.), and proceeds of the sale of government assets and of new loans.

Little was known of the DAP until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada slammed the P50 million in additional pork barrel funds given by the administration as “incentive” to senators who voted to convict Corona in his impeachment trial in 2013. Abad later said the funding came from the DAP.

In July 2014, the Supreme Court, voting 13-0, struck down the DAP for certain unconstitutional practices involving the use of government savings and budget realignments.

But it later said that the ruling did not mean the invalidation of the 116 DAP projects discussed in its earlier decision, and that funding authorities retained the right under the Constitution to augment projects identified in the budget law.

* * *

Promise: Pass amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Sona 2012)

The President said he wanted the amendments so “we may strengthen our measures to hold the corrupt accountable.” Three amendments were passed. Republic Act No. 10167 now waives the requirement for the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to notify suspected launderers that their bank deposits are being monitored. Republic Act No. 10168 criminalizes financial support for known terrorists as a stand-alone offense (enacted in 2012), and Republic Act No. 10365 requires foreign exchange establishments, real estate dealers and jewelry and precious metal dealers to report any suspicious transactions (enacted in February 2013).

The last amendment would shield the country from being blacklisted by the International Financial Action Task Force. A blacklist could mean difficulties for overseas Filipinos sending money home, as they would be required more documentation.

In June, the Supreme Court ordered the AMLC to explain its inquiry into the bank accounts of Estrada and his wife Ma. Presentacion Vitug-Ejercito.

Estrada, who is being tried in the Sandiganbayan for alleged involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, claimed that the bank accounts that were subject of the AMLC inquiry were opened before the amendment of RA 10167, which allowed ex-parte bank inquiries. Hence, he should not be covered because the law could not be applied retroactively.

* * *

Promise: Push for good governance in ARMM (Sona 2011)

Underscoring the promise is the search for peace in Mindanao. In the short term, it was for a clean and synchronized 2013 elections. The elections were relatively peaceful, with only six election-related violent incidents (compared with 33 and 15 incidents in the 2010 and 2007 elections, respectively) and with failure of elections declared in only one precinct, a marked improvement over previous years (failures were declared in six municipalities in 2010 and 17 municipalities in 2007).

The Office of the President’s 2014 Sona Technical Report said a number of initiatives had been put in place in the ARMM to promote good governance. Among these were the ensured compliance of all regional line agencies with the Transparency Seal requirements (websites to show information about respective budgets, bids, public offerings and project implementation status), publishing of bid invitations online, professionalized selection and promotion of ARMM employees, validation of licenses of hired teachers with the Professional Regulation Commission.

The ARMM is deemed abolished and will cease to exist upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Congress has still to pass the BBL bill.

* * *

Promise: End patronage politics in the DPWH and replace it with a culture of merit (Sona 2011)

The DPWH has instituted reforms to promote 5Rs (right projects, right cost, right quality, right people and right-on-time implementation). Key to these are improved procurement procedures that reduced the requirement of bidders from 20 to 5 documents and the removal of the requirement to submit a letter of intent and the pilot of electronic bidding system in the central office.

E-bidding will reduce face-to-face interaction with bidders and thus help reduce opportunities for collusion. It is to be fully implemented in all DPWH offices in 2016.

The DPWH also implemented the Cadet Engineering Program (CEP) in 2013. The DPWH selected 40 engineers from 197 applicants after a series of interviews and examinations and trained them for 26 weeks on technical knowledge, strategic thinking, leadership, public service and values and professional ethics. The first graduates of the CEP program in December 2013 were deployed to different DPWH technical offices.

* * *

Promise: Implementation of performance-based bonuses for government employees (Sona 2012)

According to Executive Order No. 80 in 2012, government employees will receive Performance-Based Bonus (PBB) on top of the Productivity Enhancement Incentive (PEI), which is given to employees across the board regardless of their actual performance.

The PBB replaced the across-the-board P10,000 cash gift given at the end of the year to all government employees during the Arroyo administration.

The amount ranged from P5,000 to P35,000 depending on the performance rating of an agency and its employees.

Under the PBB plan, agencies within a department vied for the best performing agency rating, while employees were ranked against each other so that only a small percentage of the entire government work force got the maximum bonus.

In July 2013, a group of teachers decried the PBB for not living up to its promise of rewarding the best performing government employees.

Teachers Dignity Coalition chair Benjo Basas said the promised maximum bonus of P35,000 was given to only 10 percent of the government work force, contrary to official pronouncements that it would be given to all those who performed their jobs exceedingly well.

He said the teachers also complained that the bonus was based on individual school performance, namely, aptitude test results, dropout rate and budget liquidation, over which the teachers had no control.

Basas said it turned out that the DBM placed a 10-percent cap on the number of best-performing employees in the best-performing agencies.

Other complaints were in the delay of the release of the performance-based bonuses and the fat bonuses of government-owned and -controlled corporations.

The grant of bonuses of around P1 million each for 2012 to members of board of the Social Security System (SSS), which was reported in the media about the same time as the announcement of an increase in SSS members’ contributions beginning 2014, was condemned by SSS employees and members and others outside the pension fund.

Critics said that although the grant of huge bonuses to the SSS directors may arguably have been legal, it was definitely immoral.

Sources: Inquirer Archives, Office of the President Sona Technical Reports 2011-2014, government websites



DISASTER MANAGEMENT

By Kate Pedroso, Inquirer Research

President Aquino’s term was plagued with natural calamities.

A year and a half into his presidency, in December 2011, Tropical Storm “Sendong” (international name: Washi) dumped an unprecedented amount of rain on the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao and triggered massive floods and landslides, killing more than 1,200 people, and causing around P2.1 billion in damage.

Around the same time the following year, Typhoon “Pablo” (international name: Bopha) struck Mindanao, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and P37 billion in damage.

The world also watched when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), the strongest typhoon to hit land, swept through the Visayas in November 2013. Yolanda left more than 6,000 dead.

Hence, many of Aquino’s promises in his State of the Nation Addresses focused on not only restoring normalcy in the lives of the calamity-stricken families, but also completing the multihazard mapping of the country and the modernization of weather equipment, among things.

* * *

Promise: Complete the multihazard mapping for the greater Manila Area by 2014. Geohazard maps covering every last corner of the country finished before the end of 2015 (Sona 2013)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) Geohazard Mapping and Assessment Program, implemented by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, is among the department’s priority programs.

As of July 2014, multihazard mapping of the 28 most vulnerable locations in the country has been completed.

As of July 2014, flood, rain-induced landslide, storm surge and earthquake hazard maps at 1:5,000 scale for Metro Manila have been completed. Hazard maps for flood, rain-induced landslide, storm surge and earthquake at 1:10,000 scale have likewise been completed for selected areas in Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite provinces. Enhanced flood and rain-induced landslide maps at 1:50,000 scale have also been completed for Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna and Cavite.

Landslide maps of 59 of the 81 provinces have also been enhanced using high resolution imagery, historical landslide data and cutting-edge modeling technologies.

Geohazard assessment and mapping of all the 1,634 cities and municipalities, with a scale of 1:50,000, has also been completed. The DENR has also distributed 75,000 map sheets to local governments down to the barangay (village) level, with corresponding training and capability-building to interpret the maps. The geohazard maps are also available online at http://gdis.denr.gov.ph/mgbviewer/

* * *

Promise: Modernize weather detection technology and train users of equipment (Sona 2013). Install 600 rain gauges and 422 water level monitoring sensors in various regions (Sona 2012)

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), as of July 2015, there are 187 automatic rain gauges and 155 automatic weather stations installed strategically across the country through Pagasa initiatives.

These cover the following river basins and the respective provinces: Pasig-Marikina River Basin (covered: Metro Manila, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna); Pampanga River Basin (covered: Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Bulacan); Agno River Basin (covered: Benguet, Pangasinan and Tarlac); Bicol River Basin (covered: Camarines del Norte, Camarines del Sur and Albay); Cagayan River Basin (covered: Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Cagayan and Ifugao); Cagayan de Oro River Basin (covered: Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental); Tagum-Libuganon River Basin (covered: Davao del Norte).

According to Pagasa, weather equipment purchased by the government as of June 2015 include Doppler Weather Surveillance Radars, mobile radar, Automatic Aviation Weather Observation System and communication facilities (VSAT, KUB and, IPVTN).

At every radar site installation, an average of 30 participants attended the “Forecasters’ Training,” while at least 15 participants attended the “On-site Training.”

Meanwhile, the Pagasa modernization bill passed third and final reading at the Senate on June 9, and will soon go through the bicameral conference committee. The House approved its own version of said bill in May 2014. The reconciled version will have to be ratified by both the Senate and the House before being submitted to the President for signing, Pagasa said.

As of April 2015, there are also more than 1,500 weather devices installed by the Advanced Science and Technology Institute, the organization under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) tasked with the local assembly of the automated weather gauges, among other equipment. Included in this count are 838 automated rain gauges, 472 water level monitoring stations, 86 automated weather stations and 108 agro-meteorological stations, according to the DOST.

* * *

Promise: Build back better from Yolanda: “Our work is not done. There are still many houses that need to be constructed; many more of our countrymen need to be assisted in getting back on their own feet; the work to build back better for all those affected by Yolanda continues.” (Sona 2014)

The country marked its official transition from humanitarian relief phase to rehabilitation and recovery phase in July 2014, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). This gives way to medium- and long-term interventions.

With damage to infrastructure and other sectors estimated to cost close to P90 billion, the government in August 2014 proposed the Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP), which involves the implementation of more than 25,000 disaster rehabilitation and recovery-specific projects, programs, and activities.

The CRRP has a funding requirement of P168 billion. According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), close to P52 billion has been released to fund the typhoon relief, rehabilitation, and recovery efforts.

As of November 2014, out of the target 8,629 housing units, 1,252 units had been completed. The rest (7,377) were estimated to be ready by March 2015.

In livelihood efforts in typhoon-ravaged areas, as of October 2014, 4,981 families out of the targeted 517,214 families with partially damaged houses have been provided with cash-for-work assistance, while all 236,916 families targeted received cash for building livelihood assets.

As of October 2014, 2,254 families have received livelihood assistance using Community-Driven Enterprise Development Approach, surpassing the target of 1,908 families.

Of the targeted 34,692 beneficiaries, 33,283 beneficiaries have benefited from the Emergency Employment Program, while 33,338 of the 44,778 target beneficiaries have benefited from various forms of livelihood assistance.

Meanwhile, 15,409 micro, small and medium enterprises, out of the targeted 32,359, have been assisted by the government.

As for vocational education, technical skills, training and capacity development, 21,843 people have completed training, out of the targeted 24,535 as of October 2014.

Early this month, President Aquino signed the P3-trillion 2016 budget. MalacaƱang has said the President’s priority next year is to ensure the completion of programs during his term, specifically public infrastructure and rehabilitation of calamity areas, particularly those affected by Yolanda.

* * *

Promise: Restore normality to the lives of calamity-stricken families (victims of Typhoons Sendong and Pablo) (Sona 2013)

According to the DSWD, as of December 2014, 12,361 of 16,790 core shelter units have been completed for victims of Sendong. These are mostly in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities.

Meanwhile, for victims of Pablo, 13,236 units have been completed, while 20,942 are being constructed mostly in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

As of June 2014, educational assistance worth P5.83 million has also been extended to affected high school students in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental areas damaged by Pablo. Around P290 million has been allocated for the provision of shelter kits for the repair of partially damaged houses in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

Meanwhile, P2.31 billion has been set aside for the construction of permanent houses for families whose homes were destroyed by Pablo. Of the target 32,643 units, 4,118 have been completed, of which 3,966 had been turned over as of July 2014. The remaining 28,525 units were to be completed by December 2014.

On the other hand, around P4.1 billion was allocated for the construction of 17,480 off-site permanent housing units for families in danger zones whose houses were destroyed by Pablo. As of July 2014, 9,179 units had been completed, while the remaining 8,301 were to be completed by November 2014. Fourteen national roads damaged by Pablo have also been rehabilitated and repaired, with the government allocating P108 million.

* * *

Promise: Work with Congress to pass the mining law. “We are hoping that Congress will work with us and pass a law that will ensure that the environment is cared for, and that the public and private sectors will receive just benefits from this industry.” (Sona 2012)

Mining-related proposals have remained pending in Congress. Some of the pending measures filed in the 16th Congress include:

— House Bill No. 4052 by Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez and Maximo B. Rodriguez Jr. (An Act Requiring Mining Firms to Reforest Lands That They Destroy and Forests That They Denude, Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof). It has been pending on the Committee on Natural Resources since March 2014.

— House Bill No. 2888 by Rep. Regina Ongsiako Reyes (An Act Instituting Independent Health and Environmental Assessment for All Mining Projects, Amending for the Purpose the Philippine Mining Act of 1995). It has been pending on the Committee on Natural Resources since September 2013. Meanwhile, its counterpart in the Senate, Senate Bill No. 334 by Sen. Pia Cayetano, has also been pending in the Senate since July 2013.

— House Bill No. 171 by Representatives Neri Colmenares, Carlos Isagani T. Zarate, Luzviminda Ilagan, Emmi de Jesus, Antonio Tinio, Fernando Hicap and Terry Ridon (An Act Reorienting the Philippine Mining Industry, Ensuring the Highest Industry Development Standards, and for Other Purposes). It has been pending on the Committee on Natural Resources since July 2013.

Other mining-related bills pending in the Senate include:

— Senate Bill No. 2676 by Sen. JV Ejercito (An Act Declaring the Province of Biliran a Mining-free Zone). It has been pending in the Senate since March 2015.

— Senate Bill No. 2374 by Sen. Bam Aquino (An Act Providing for the Mandatory Domestic Processing of All Mineral Ores, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 7942 Otherwise Known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and for Other Purposes). It has been pending in the Senate since August 2014.



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