House solon wants charter change proposals shelved ‘indefinitely’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 21, 2020   •   299

Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro Second District Representative Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday said he will propose the suspension of deliberations on the controversial charter change (Cha-Cha) proposals amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Rodriguez, who chairs the House committee on constitutional amendments, said he is inclined to recommend to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to “shelve Cha-Cha indefinitely” to focus on discussing measures to address the public health crisis and help the Filipino people prepare for the ‘new normal’.

The lawmaker made the proposal following claims that the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and other advocates initiated moves to gather up to two million signatures in support of Cha-Cha.

“This is not the time for the DILG and its allies to relaunch their signature drive and renew their push for Cha-cha. They should postpone it until this health crisis is over,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“So my message to Cha-cha advocates and their DILG patrons is: stop it, it won’t fly while there is a pandemic,” he added.

Rodriguez said pushing for Cha-Cha can wait as Congress will first have to attend to measures that will “save lives and the livelihood of our people.”

The DILG earlier denied it has launched a signature campaign for Cha-Cha, branding these reports as fake news. RRD (with details from Correspondent Vincent Arboleda)

Congress to tackle proposed creation of a Medical Reserve Corps

Marje Pelayo   •   August 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives is set to discuss the possible creation of a medical reserve corps as a solution to the shortage of medical workers in the country. 

Under House Bill numbers 6809, 6821, 7007 and 7151, a medical reserve corps will be composed of graduates of medicine, nursing, medical technology and other health related fields despite not having a professional license.  

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is certain that many Filipinos in the medical community are willing to join the corps and help.

“We have so many capable kababayans from the medical community who are willing to help and are just waiting to be tapped. All we need to do is to institutionally allow them to do so,” he said.

Based on the 2012 data of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), about 16 percent to 19 percent of doctors and nurses in the country were working abroad because of the higher pay compared to working in the Philippines. 

Cayetano explained, however, that the Bayanihan 2 Bill has provided additional funds for private and public medical workers to address the issue of lower pay among healthcare workers. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte approves P5-B for OFW aid, repatriation

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced Sunday that President Duterte has approved the release of an additional P5 billion for the repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers affected by the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Dahil po mahal na mahal ni Pangulong Duterte ang ating mga bagong bayani, ibinigay po nya ang kailangan nating dagdag na pondo para sa repatriation at tulong para sa ating mga OFW,” Bello said.

In a statement issued on August 9, the Labor chief said a huge part of the said funds will be released to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) as the one that undertakes the repatriation of displaced OFWs due to lockdowns and closure of establishments overseas.

OWWA is also the one that shoulders the cost of COVID-19 tests of OFWs upon their arrival in the country, as well as their food and accommodation in hotels while awaiting test results of the test.

The agency also takes care of the OFWs transportation to their home provinces once they are tested negative for the virus.

OWWA has so far sent home close to 130,000 OFWs since May 15 via land, sea and air transport.

Other than the OWWA assistance, DOLE has been extending a one-time P10,000 or $200 cash aid under AKAP to pandemic-affected OFWs, both on-site and those stranded in the country, the statement said.

It added that the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) and OWWA had facilitated the processing and approval of the applications of 267,584 OFWs under the program that was meant to benefit only 250,000.

“I have directed our POLOs to accelerate the processing of the assistance so that a greater number of our OFWs will benefit soonest from the aid coming from our government,” Bello said.

The secretary had requested a P2.5 billion additional fund for the 597,469 OFWs who are requesting assistance from the government.

Bello believes that with additional funding, “more OFWs will benefit from the AKAP program and even more overseas workers will be repatriated and provided with assistance.” — /mbmf

DILG tells LGUs to start planning for local recovery even if COVID-19 crisis is not yet over

Robie de Guzman   •   August 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday urged local government units (LGU) to start planning and budgeting for local recovery and rehabilitation even if the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is not yet over.

In a statement, DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the DILG, with technical support of the World Bank, has developed the “Ready to Recover (We Rise as One) COVID-19 Local Recovery Planning Guide” to help the LGUs prepare and recover from the current public health crisis.

“We need to recover now kahit ‘di pa tapos ang COVID-19 crisis kasi mas lalala ang epekto nito sa ekonomiya at kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayan,” Malaya said.

“The DILG is collaborating with other national government agencies in the Interagency Task Force (IATF) to help LGUs prepare their recovery strategies and programs. The goal is to build back better,” he added.

Malaya said that with vast parts of the country now classified as low-risk, most of the country can now begin recovery efforts on the local level to protect jobs and stimulate economic activity. 

“With private consumption and investment still down, it is now up to the national and local governments to drive consumption and investment with government spending and policies that support the growth and recovery of local businesses,” he said.

The DILG spokesman said that the planning guide will simplify the recovery and rehabilitation planning to give LGUs flexibility in interventions as it has provided sample frameworks, templates, and suggested programs, projects, and activities.

“It will guide LGUs on the coordination of recovery efforts of national, regional, and local governments including the roles, responsibilities, and institutional structures,” he said.

Malaya also stated that LGUs need not create a new local body to do the local recovery planning and budgeting as this can be done through the creation of an economic cluster within the existing Local COVID-19 Task Force headed by a mayor or governor.

In financing the local recovery from the pandemic, Malaya said that the DILG has identified at least indicative fund source options based on existing government guidelines that can be tapped by LGUs to help address the challenges of fund availability.

He said these options include national government programs and financing assistance programs of select government financial institutions (GFIs) and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs).

Other possible sources are the Local Government Support Fund – Financial Assistance to LGUs (LGSF – FA), LGSF –Assistance to Municipalities, Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) Incentive Fund, Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan- Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services – National Community-Driven Development Program (KALAHI-CIDSS NCDDP), Regular Agency Budget, and the 20% Development Fund (DF), he noted.

“Hindi kayo basta iiwan na lang ng nasyunal na gobyerno. We will monitor your local recovery programs and projects and assess your progress to ensure you stay on track and achieve your intended results,” Malaya said.

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