Ban on use of plastic straw, stirrer urged in Senate

Marje Pelayo   •   July 6, 2018   •   3792

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

Bill seeking to protect interns against exploitation pushed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a bill seeking to protect interns against exploitation from companies and promote their professional growth.

The Senate Bill No. 994 or the Interns’ Rights and Welfare bill lists down the responsibilities of host training establishments (HTE) to their interns, with the end view of establishing a proper and relevant experience for them.

“Internship is for students and young people to learn more about the workplace and to deepen their craft. Internship is not an excuse for employers to take advantage of cheap or free labor,” she said in a statement.

“Dahil walang employer-employee relationship, maraming nagiging kaso ng exploitation at kawalan ng professional growth,” she added.

The proposed measure requires any employer who chooses to host interns to come up with a contract and program that details the professional training of interns. It also seeks to strengthen schools vetting process for HTEs.

“Schools have a responsibility to accredit reputable HTEs for their students and to ensure that students do not undergo internship in companies with dubious internship programs,” the senator said. “Hindi pwedeng ipag-intern mo yung mga estudyante sa mga kumpanyang may questionable labor practices na pwedeng maglagay sa kanila sa alanganin.”

The measure also seeks to put a cap on internship hours.

Internship should not exceed 300 hours, nor last for more than 6 months in the government sector while in industry-based internships that are more technical in nature, internship hours are capped at 660 hours per semester, which is equivalent to 15 units per term.

The bill also protects all interns from any form of workplace abuse and harassment.

Senate Bill No. 994 contains the following key provisions:

  • providing basic benefits and remuneration (75% of the prevailing minimum wage in the region for private companies and 75% of Step 1 Salary Grade 1 for interns in the public sector);
  • appropriating funds for government agencies to host interns in order to promote public and civil service among young people; and
  • a grievance mechanism to address any violation of basic interns’ rights.

“Preparing our young people for the workforce includes a viable internship program that centers on their professional growth,” Hontiveros said.

“Our country’s policy on interns reflects how we value humane and decent work. It is time to put a stop to internship horror stories. It is time to stop the abuse and exploitation of interns as part of our education and labor policies,” she concluded.

Hontiveros vows to push hard for divorce law in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   August 5, 2019

Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday vowed to push hard for the passage of divorce law in the country as she met with groups advocating for its legalization.

Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, met with five advocacy groups including the Divorce Advocates of the Philippines (DAP), Boses ng Kababaihan, Divorce for the Philippines Now International (DIPI), Divorce Philippines Coalition (DPC), and Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage Philippines (DDoMPh).

The lawmaker, in filing the Senate Bill No. 356 or the Divorce Act of 2019, sought to make “psychological incapacity of either spouse,” “irreconcilable marital differences,” marital rape, or being “separated for at least 5 years” grounds for divorce, among others.

Hontiveros said meeting with these groups is in preparation for a “historic fight to free Filipinos from abusive, loveless and unhappy marriages.”

“This is history in the making. This meeting marks an important stage in the larger work to have a divorce law in the country. It’s time that we gave Filipinos the chance to free themselves from abusive, loveless and unhappy relationships, and to help them find love and start all over again,” Hontiveros said.

However, some senators have said they are not inclined to support the bill.

READ: Senators may likely back dissolution of marriage than divorce – Sotto

“I will definitely oppose it,” said Senator Joel Villanueva when asked about his thoughts on the proposal being revived in the Senate.

Villanueva has previously expressed strong opposition to the divorce bill, insisting that the Philippines is a Christian nation where marriage is considered sacred.

“Banal na sakramento ang kasal, at naniniwala po tayo na hindi po dapat payagan, in general concept hindi dapat paghiwalayin ng tao,” he said.

Senators Cynthia Villar and Manny Pacquiao are also not in favor of the bill.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, said senators are more likely to support the measure if it is not called “divorce.”

“Mukhang mas madali, karamihan sa amin, mas madali kung pag-uusapan namin ay dissolution of marriage,” Sotto said in an interview.

Aside from Hontiveros, Senator Pia Cayetano also filed her version of absolute divorce bill that seeks the legal termination of marriages by Philippine courts.

Hontiveros said her office is now in the process of consolidating the different versions of the bill, setting the appropriate committee hearings and talking to like-minded legislators.

“I believe in and support the institution of marriage. I myself was happily married. However, I also believe that Filipinos, especially women and their children have the right to second chances to turn the page and live good and happy lives. This measure is for them,” she said.

Hontiveros eyes bill protecting Philhealth from false claims

Robie de Guzman   •   August 1, 2019

Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said she is planning to file a bill seeking to protect the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) from fraudulent activities such as overpayments and false claims.

Hontiveros said the bill, which will be called the PhilHealth Insurance False Claims Act, is seen to deter and minimize fraud notwithstanding the penalties provided for under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

The senator said she will file the bill after Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed that the Philhealth incurred billions of losses due to alleged fraudulent benefit claims involving corrupt health officials.

“The seriousness and disturbing nature of these allegations should prompt a review of PhilHealth’s anti-fraud mechanisms,” she said in a statement.

“Every peso lost to corruption in our health programs would mean that a citizen is deprived of potentially life-saving medication or treatment. Corruption makes our people unhealthy and even threatens their lives,” she added.

Under the bill, Hontiveros proposes to improve PhilHealth’s fraud detection mechanisms, including a shift from the current case rate payment to a diagnosis-related grouping provider payment mechanism, and providing support to PhilHealth staff who flag anomalies.

She also wants to revisit the penalty of suspending hospital operations and seriously consider imposing monetary penalties that are at least three times the amount of detected fraud.

Hontiveros said she was particularly alarmed over the report that PhilHealth continues to overpay fraudulent hospitals and clinics via “overstaying” or “ghost” patients.

“Mukhang tuloy-tuloy ang mga anomalya mula sa hakot operation ng mga eye clinics, ghost dialysis patients hanggang sa mga kontrobersyal na repayments. Hindi maaari ito,” she said.

“Defrauding the government and depriving countless Filipinos of access to health services is an unacceptable and criminal misuse of public money. Every single peso under our health programs could potentially spell the difference between life and death for our constituents. Let us make sure that it is well spent and will not end up in the pockets of the corrupt,” she added.

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