DOE urged to create body to monitor new round of fuel tax hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020   •   781

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a task force that will closely monitor the implementation of the new round of increases in excise tax on fuel.

Gatchalian made the call as the third and last tranche of tax hikes on petroleum products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law took effect on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

He said that under the TRAIN Law, the estimated rate impact on pump price for unleaded premium gasoline would be around ₱1.01 per liter, while the estimated rate impact of the third tranche of the excise tax on diesel price is ₱1.65 per liter.

For 100 percent coal contracted power distribution utilities, the estimated rate impact is around ₱0.03 per kilowatt hour.

The senator said the creation of the task force is aimed to protect consumers from premature price increases and profiteering.

“Kailangan paigtinging mabuti ng Department of Energy (DOE) ang pagbabantay laban sa hoarding at profiteering sa bansa ngayong nakaamba ang dagdag na excise tax sa huling pagkakataon,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Huwag na nating hayaan ang ilang mapagsamantalang retailers na ibenta sa mataas na halaga ang kanilang mga lumang imbentaryong produkto, gayong nabili nila ito bago pa man maimplementa ang third tranche ng excise tax sa fuel,” he added.

Gatchalian noted that local oil companies maintain a minimum inventory equivalent to 15-day supply of petroleum products as provided under DOE’s Department Circular No. 2003-01-001 or the Implementing Guidelines for the Minimum Inventory Requirements of Petroleum of Oil Companies and Bulk Suppliers.

The DOE earlier said the new round of fuel tax hikes are only applicable to new stocks imported beginning January 1, 2020. It also advised oil firms to deplete old stocks before implementing new price schemes reflecting the new levies.

Gatchalian also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to monitor the prices of goods in the market in order to ensure that unscrupulous businessmen will not take advantage and pass on the impact of higher oil prices to consumers as a result of the third tranche of the TRAIN law implementation.

“Mabigat na sa bulsa ng bawat isa ang pagpataw ng excise tax sa krudo. Sana naman ay huwag na natin dagdagan ang pasanin ng taong bayan sa pamamagitan ng hindi makatarungang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin,” he said.

Senate probes distance learning quality, deferment of proposed resumption of in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate panel will conduct an inquiry on Wednesday on the quality of distance learning, other psycho-social concerns, and the implications of postponing the resumption of face-to face classes amid the threat of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, said that during the hearing, he will urge the Department of Education (DepEd) to use all available tools and resources to avert a looming ‘learning crisis’ as part of its next steps in mitigating the “pernicious effects” of distance learning.

Gatchalian earlier expressed fears that a huge chunk of more than 25 million learners in the basic education sector might end up “unprepared” for their next level of schooling.

While DepEd has exhausted all possible steps to provide for continued education amid the pandemic, Gatchalian stressed that several challenges still hound the rollout of distance learning, including the inadequacy of connectivity, lack of enough guidance from teachers, and the quality and effectiveness of self-learning modules, among others.

“Dahil ipagpapaliban muna nating muli ang pagkakaroon ng face-to-face classes, mahalagang magkaroon tayo ng kaliwanagan sa kung ano ba ang magiging pangmatagalang epekto nito sa ating mga mag-aaral, lalo na’t hinaharap nila ang maraming mga hamong may kinalaman sa epektibong pagpapatupad ng distance learning,” Gatchalian said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

“Ang ating layunin sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya ay masigurong natututo ang ating mga mag-aaral at maging handa sila para sa susunod na antas ng kanilang pag-aaral,” he added.

Duterte earlier thumbed down fresh proposals to resume face-to-face classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque relayed the president’s decision not to allow any in-person classes until the vaccination program has been rolled out in the country.

Roque, however, said that face-to-face classes may be considered in August this year after the launch of the immunization drive.

A pilot test of limited face-to-face classes was supposed to be held by the government last January but was ordered suspended by Duterte due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

Strict health protocols should remain even if entire Phl shifts to MGCQ, senator says

Robie de Guzman   •   February 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The strict implementation of minimum health protocols against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) should remain in Metro Manila and other areas should President Rodrigo Duterte decide on the proposed nationwide shift to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) by March, a senator said Monday.

The government’s task force on COVID-19 response and economic team, as well as the Metro Manila Council, earlier recommended further easing of restrictions to boost the country’s economy battered by the pandemic. The president may decide on the matter on Monday evening.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian expressed support for proposals to further reopen the economy, arguing that local government units are now handling the pandemic better than they did at the onset of the crisis with the emergence of testing centers and even the emergence of needed software application program for easier contact tracing in their respective localities.

“Kung ako ang tatanungin, ako sang-ayon ako na mag MGCQ na tayo. Mayroon na tayong kakayahan at alam na natin ang gagawin kung mayroong nagkasakit o may nag-positive sa COVID-19. Mayroon na tayong kakayanan. Sanay na tayo,” Gatchalian said.

“Ang pinakaimportante dito sakaling mag-MGCQ na tayo ay tuloy pa rin yung social distancing, pagsusuot ng face mask at face shield. Hindi pwedeng tanggalin yan. Pero pwede nang buksan nang dahan-dahan ang ating ekonomiya dahil isa lang ang gamot para umangat ang ekonomiya natin–buksan natin para pwede nang makapagtrabaho ang marami nating mga kababayan. Pero hindi naman natin pwedeng biglain. So itong MGCQ from 50% gawin nating 70% at tingnan muna natin doon kung ano ang epekto,” he added.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Acting Director General Karl Chua earlier proposed to Duterte to place the entire country under the most lenient quarantine status citing the need to revive the ailing economy of the country and mitigate sickness, hunger, poverty, job and income losses that are rising.

Chua likewise proposed the increase of public transport operations from 50 percent to 70 percent and gradually expand the age group allowed to go out.

The NEDA Chief also recommended the resumption of face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

The OCTA Research Group, however, warned that a premature shift to MGCQ would trigger yet another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Gatchalian pushes for educators’ academy institutionalization to boost teachers’ training

Robie de Guzman   •   February 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said he has filed a bill seeking the institutionalization of the National Educators Academy of the Philippines (NEAP), which serves as the Department of Education’s (DepEd) professional development arm, to help enhance the quality of teacher education and training in the country.

In filing Senate Bill 1887 or the Teacher Education Council Act, Gatchalian proposes to strengthen the collaboration between DepEd, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) to improve the quality of teacher education and training from pre-service to in-service.

Under the measure, the NEAP is mandated to guarantee that professional development activities are at par with the 21st century learning environment and linked with the career progression of teachers and school leaders.

While the 2021 national budget provides for seminars and trainings to help teachers cope with the new normal way of teaching, Gatchalian said that institutionalizing the NEAP will be part of long-term efforts to make the basic education sector more robust, inclusive, and resilient, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The transformation of NEAP is also part of DepEd’s initiatives on upskilling and reskilling teachers, one of the pillars of the national reform plan Sulong Edukalidad, which pivots focus from access to quality in education.

“Ang ating pagpapatibay sa National Educators Academy of the Philippines ay isa sa ating mga panukalang hakbang upang matiyak na tuloy-tuloy ang ating pagbibigay ng dekalidad na pagsasanay sa ating mga guro at school leaders upang maiangat ang kanilang mga kakayahan nang sa gayon ay maiangat din natin ang kakayahan ng ating mga mag-aaral,” Gatchalian said.

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