Ban on use of plastic straw, stirrer urged in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   July 6, 2018   •   4215

IMAGE_UNTV_NEWS_080117_HONTIVEROS

FILE PHOTO: Senator Risa Hontiveros

 

PASAY CITY, Philippines – A lawmaker wants the food service sector to prohibit the use of plastic straws and stirrers.

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday (July 6) filed a proposed legislation entitled “The Plastic Straw and Stirrer Ban of 2018” which mandates establishments to employ a “no plastic straw and stirrer” policy.

The bill seeks to fine violators P50,000 for first offense; P80,000 for the second offense; and P150,000 plus one-year suspension of business permit for the third offense.

Meanwhile, several environmental groups want a total ban not only on straws and stirrers but all plastic containers. However, many were apprehensive of the proposal taking into consideration the interest of consumers.

Among them is Senate Committee on Economic Affairs chair, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who said, “Ang kapalit ng plastic bags ay paper bags,at ang raw material ng paper bags ay puno. Doon tayo ngayon nagkakaroon ng isyu at papayagan pa ba natin putol ng puno or mag-iimport tayo? Pero kapag nag-import tayo, alam naman natin mahal rin.”

Based on the data acquired by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, more than 40,000 tonnes of waste materials are being collected daily across Philippines, with the largest volume collected in the National Capital Region (NCR). Most of the domestic waste, commonly plastic items, are collected in Manila Bay. – Nel Maribojoc / Marje Pelayo

Meralco urged to extend installment payment scheme for customers

Robie de Guzman   •   January 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on power distributor Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to extend its installment-based payment scheme to help its customers cope with economic difficulties due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hontiveros said implementing stricter payment policies might lead to a “disconnected nation” that will make life harder for poor families and derail efforts to revive the country’s economy.

“Hindi maganda na ngayong 2021, maliban sa COVID-19 ay magkaroon din ng epidemiya ng tanggalan ng kuryente sa ating bansa,” she said in a statement.

“Mas mahihirapan umahon ang bansa mula sa pandemya at sa bagsak na ekonomiya kung mas maraming Pilipino ang mapuputulan ng kuryente sa kanilang mga kabahayan dahil sa mga polisiya ng Meralco,” she added.

Meralco earlier announced it has begun sending out notices of disconnection to customers using 201 kilowatt-hours and more per month, and those who are behind in their monthly payments.

The power distributor also said it will be hiking power rates up to P8.7497 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) this year, which means that an average household consuming 200 kWh per month will be charged around an additional ₱55 in their bill.

Hontiveros said the disconnection policy combined with new rate adjustment in the generation charge is on top of the already high regular monthly electricity bills consumers must pay.

“Itong anunsyo ng MERALCO ay mistulang one-two-three punch sa ating mga kawawang consumer, na marami ngayon ay knock-out na sa mga utang, mahal na bilihin at kakulangan ng hanapbuhay dahil sa pandemya,” she said.

“Mas malaki na ang singil ng kuryente, andiyan pa ang panganib na matanggalan ng kuryente kapag hindi nakabayad ng buo. Baka maulit o mas malala ito sa ‘bill shock’ last year na inalmahan ng ating mga kababayan noong 2020,” she added.

Hontiveros expressed hope that MERALCO will stick to its corporate motto of “May liwanag ang buhay,” and work with the government towards programs that will prevent the denial of power services to many Filipinos who are struggling amid the pandemic.

“Electricity is an essential need lalo na ngayong may pandemya. Hindi siguro kalabisan na humiling pa ng makatwirang palugit. Bago ang lahat, kapakanan muna ng ating mga kababayan ang pangunahin na mas dapat inuuna, bago ang kita,” the senator said.

She also advised the power firm to work with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and explore the possibility of extending its debt restructuring program, which offers flexible or staggered payment options for consumers who are having difficulties paying their monthly power bills so that they could avoid disconnection.

“Siguro naman, hindi hamak na may kapasidad ang MERALCO, ang mga power suppliers at kanilang mga bangko na i-manage ang problema sa utang kumpara sa pinapasan ng mga consumers ngayon,” she said.

“Accommodating this installment-based payment scheme will also ensure that more Filipinos will not get disconnected and will remain as MERALCO’s customers, which will be beneficial in the long run,” she added.

Hontiveros wants probe on retrenchment of nearly 500 Dole Philippines workers

Robie de Guzman   •   December 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday called on the government to look into the alleged irregularities in the mass retrenchment of nearly 500 regular workers of canned pineapple producer and exporter, Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil).

In a letter addressed to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Hontiveros said that the company has not suffered any substantial and imminent losses in recent years to legally retrench its workers, based on their latest Annual Audited Financial Statements.

She also questioned why the company filed the notice of retrenchment on September 18, 2020, three days after the actual termination of the workers.

The mass retrenchment also appeared to have been done in bad faith as the company prioritized the termination of a significant number of regular workers instead of contractual employees, she added.

“Nakakaalarma rin na sa kabila ng pagreregular nila sa nasa 5,000 employees noong 2018 bilang suporta sa kampanya ng gobyerno laban sa endo, nagpatuloy pa rin silang maghire ng contractual workers. This clearly belied the basis given for the retrenchment of its regular workers,” she said in a statement.

The senator called on the labor department to mediate between Dolefil and the retrenched workers to determine the company’s possible violations of labor laws and to bring forth “a mutually-acceptable solution to prevent a more serious labor dispute.”

Hontiveros likewise urged the department to look into other companies that might have been illegally dismissing their employees amid the pandemic.

“Ngayong maraming negosyo ang naapektuhan ng economic recession, huwag nating hayaang masangkalan ang kapakanan ng mga manggagawa. At the end of the day, workers’ welfare and rights should come first. They should always be our top priority,” she said.

Dolefil has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

Bill seeking work benefits, incentives for Bantay Dagat volunteers filed at Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A bill seeking to grant incentives and work benefits for Bantay Dagat volunteers or “sea wardens” in the country has been filed at the Senate.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said she has filed Senate Bill No. 1919 or the Bantay Dagat Welfare and Incentives Act which aims to recognize accredited bantay dagat volunteers who are mostly town fisherfolks who work with local and national agencies in conserving, protecting, and managing the country’s marine resources.

“Our fisherfolk communities are at the frontlines of climate change. Sila ang unang-unang naapektuhan ng pagbabago sa klima, pati na ng mga negatibong epekto nito sa ating kalikasan,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“This gives all the more reason, to not only recognize their noble work, but also to provide tangible support. Bigyan natin ng dignidad ang kanilang ginagawa para sa ating bayan,” she added.

The bill seeks to entitle the volunteers to insurance and Philhealth coverage, hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, training and career enrichment programs, and access to loans.

It also aims to grant sea wardens the security of tenure, which means that they shall not be removed or terminated except for just and valid causes as determined by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The bill also mandates local government to allocate regular funding for Bantay Dagat volunteers and their operational requirements.

“The Bantay Dagat bill is an important step towards encouraging and giving recognition to the importance of community participation in the protection of our fisheries,” Hontiveros said.

“But government must further arm itself through modernizing and upping our defense capability towards the protection of Philippine waters. Nakahanda ang mga komunidad magbantay, palakasin din ang pagbabantay ng gobyerno,” she added.

Hontiveros also underscored the importance of installing Bantay Dagat volunteers especially within municipalities along contested waters, such as the West Philippine Sea, to aid in government surveillance efforts against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.

The government must also beef up its capacity to ward off incursions in the WPS, she added.

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