PASAY CITY, Philippines – Losing bidders PT&T and Sear Telecom have brought their complaints to the Senate against the country’s winning third telco Mislatel Consortium.
Sear Telecom’s chairman and president Chavit Singson argued that Mislatel still has an existing contract with them which bars Mislatel from entering into another deal.
Sear Telecom together with PT&T wants the government to disqualify Chinese-owned Mislatel from being awarded as the country’s third telco.
“From the beginning disqualified ang Mislatel dahil may kontrata sa amin ang Mislatel,” Sison said during Tuesday’s (November 27) inquiry on the matter.
On the other hand, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the process of awarding the contract to the winning bidder will continue unless the court issues its decision on the complaints of the losing bidder.
However still, the agency admitted that the legal battle will surely affect or delay the entry of the third telco.
Nevertheless, DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio said they will still “abide by the decision of the court.”
On issues of security, Senator Grace Poe questioned National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon on the possible implication to national security of the reported “hijacking” incident of China Telcom on internet traffic that affects even powerful countries.
The incident is up for investigation by the National Intelligence and Coordinating Agency (NICA).
“We have read about that report. It is subject to validation on our part. We have the 90 days period to do that. The winning provisional NMP will have to be undergo a background check by the National Intelligence and Coordinating Agency,” said Esperon.
The DICT maintained that they see no threat to national security with the entry of the Chinese telecom firm in the country.
“So the threat of Chinese product, Chinese people, really operating our telecommunication are really here,” Rio said,
For its part, Mislatel assured that the rights of the Filipino people will be protected.
“We are a Filipino company. We will not allow national interest and national security to be undermined,” assured Atty. Adel Tamano, Mislatel’s spokesperson.
But Poe insisted that a thorough scrutiny on the background of the third telco should still be conducted.
“Pero iba pa rin siyempre yung mismong korporasyon ang pagmamayari ay taga ibang bansa,” said the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, Senator Poe.
Meanwhile, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV requested the presence of Mislatel’s owner Dennis Uy in the next inquiry.
Uy was a no-show in today’s Senate inquiry. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)
House Speakership hit for ‘railroading’ Cha-Cha; Senate closes doors due to lack of time
MANILA, Philippines – After only three session days, the Lower House of Congress passed on 2nd reading the proposed charter change on Tuesday, (December 4).
Makabayan congressmen hit the House leadership for ‘railroading’ the measure as they were not given time to speak and debate on the provisions of the bill.
This edifies the thought, according to the ACT Teachers Party list Rep. Antonio Tinio, that the measure is for the good of no less than House Speaker Gloria Arroyo.
“Ang tunay na laman at layunin ito ay (unlimited) political dynasties, unli-term para sa mga politiko, unli-matrial law kasi binabaan na nila ang criteria para makapagdeklara ng martial law. At unli-foreign plunder dahil binubuksan ang ekonomiya at lupain at public utility sa 100% foreign ownership,” Tinio argued.
“Magdahan-dahan tayo. There’s absolutely no reason to rush this very important measure that will impact all of us,” said Senior Minority Leader and Buhay Party list Rep. Lito Atienza adding that the bill still needs a ‘very thorough’ study and that such a crucial measure is ‘impossible to discuss in just a few sessions.”
But Arroyo was quick to deny the allegations.
“You know that I did not participate in the debate because I have always said that my only contribution there is the mechanism for setting up the federal state. The others are all contribution of other congressmen. They should answer themselves,” she countered.
Among the controversial provisions of the bill include the removal of term limit among congressmen and anti-political dynasty. It also pushes for the adoption of the two-party system in the country.
Likewise, the bill will give the President the privilege to choose his own vice president. Both officials will be given a four-year term each and the opportunity for reelection. A college degree will also be required of all candidates prior to election.
House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chairperson, Vicente Veloso said the Lower House is set to pass on third and final reading the charter change measure.
The Lower House version requires a separate voting for the amended constitution. To approve the measure, the Senate needs a total of 18 votes while the House of Representatives will require at least 219 votes to proceed with the plebiscite.
However, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it is highly impossible for the senators to deliberate on charter change due to lack of time.
“Wala kaming time para itake-up. Sana inapura nila ang budget para pwede namin itake-up iyan,” Sotto said.
Even Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed with Sotto and said the measure is already “dead on arrival” in Senate.
But Veloso is not buying their reasons for holding off deliberations.
“Kung ayaw ninyo, sabihin ninyo kung ano ang ayaw ninyo. Hindi iyong sasabihin ninyo agad ‘dead on arrival.’ Bakit sino ba kayo? You are only one half of Congress,” he said referring to the senators. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Grace Casin)
Gov’t grants farmers P10-B under the Rice Tarrification Bill
FILE PHOTO: Farmers
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Wednesday (November 28) ratified the report of the bicameral conference committee on the rice tariffication bill.
The bill aims to lift quantitative restrictions on rice imports.
Instead, importers will be required to pay 35% levy or tariff on rice imports.
“Talagang we have to liberalize because it’s the provision of our agreement with the WTO so we have to tariffy to protect our farmers. Kasi kapag walang tariff, mas mura talaga ang import and the tariff proceeds will go to them for programs that make them competitive,” explained Senator Cynthia Villar, the Senate chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
The measure aims to prevent another shortage of rice supply and to ensure that the low price of commercial rice is maintained in local markets.
Critics of the bill argue that with restrictions on rice importation being lifted under the bill, there will be an oversupply of imported rice in local markets and the ones to suffer the burden first would be the local farmers.
But Villar allayed the farmers’ fears on the matter, saying the government has allotted a P10 billion fund to help them.
“Magbibigay po ang gobyerno ng sampung bilyong piso every year sa susunod na anim na taon para kayo ay maging competitive against import,” Villar assured.
On November 22, the bicameral committee approved the allocation of P10 billion to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or Rice Fund.
This will be utilized for the improvement of farm machinery and equipment, seed production, training for rice farming, and loan programs among other means to help the local farmers.
Several farmers expressed gratitude to the efforts of government to help them sustain their livelihood.
“Iyon po ang pinakagusto kong natalakay ni Ma’am Senator Cythia Villar na magkakaroon ng farm school dahil karamihan ng mga farmers ay wala pang sapat na edukasyon tungkol sa crop production, inter cropping, multicrop production,” said Association of San Felipe Farmers president Joely Reguidon.
“Malaking bagay, dahil nagbibigay sila ng mga traktora, hindi masyadong mahal ang upa, pero mas maganda kung gagabayan ng gobyerno yung upa ng traktora. Kasi sa amin wala na kaming kalabaw, hindi namin naaaffordan yung traktora,” added Rolan, also a member of the farmers’ group.
As of press time, the Rice Tariffication Bill is awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte before it fully becomes a law. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Leslie Huidem)
Senate recommends crackdown on foreign illegal workers
PASAY CITY, Philippines – The Senate has launched an investigation into the alleged growing number of illegal foreign workers in the country.
The Senate, in particular, is concerned about the growing number Chinese workers employed locally without proper documents especially in the National Capital Region (NCR) wherein their number has already reached up to around 200,000.
“Kapag umikot ka po dito sa NCR dun po sa BGC, sa eastwood, kung saan, tingin ko hindi lang 200,000,” observed Senator Joel Villanueva.
The senators are questioning the actions being taken by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in monitoring the activities of foreign workers especially those working illegally across the country.
The DOLE is the only agency that issues alien employment permit to foreigners applying for working visa at the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
According to the Senate, the DOLE should carefully screen all applications for special working permits especially those whose permits have already expired and are already overstaying.
“The policy issue I think, if they are still here beyond 6 months,” said DOLE Usec. Ciriaco Lagunzad.
The BI reports that there are around 119,000 foreigners already issued with special work permits. The agency admits that most of these numbers are Chinese nationals.
“Most of them are Chinese and they are work for POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators),” confirmed Atty. Homer Arellano, Chief for Prosecution and Legal Assistance, BI.
The lawmakers also are looking into the scheme of illegal workers where they use a tourist visa to enter the country then find a job afterwards.
Based on BI’s records, there are around 1.6M people were granted Chinese Tourist visa for this year.
Senator Grace Poe said her colleagues in the Senate all agree on a crackdown against illegal Chinese and other foreign workers.
“Kailagan talaga magkaroon ng crackdown. Sinabi nga ng commitee na ito na proactively… puntahan itong mga sites na ito, hingan sila talaga ng work permit kasi national security issue rin yan,” Poe said.
The BI admits they are lacking in personnel who will do the inspection. Overall, BI only has 80 inspectors deployed across the country.
The DOLE said such matter should be among the priority of the government next year. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)