Malacañang to release executive order on water shortage

Robie de Guzman   •   March 14, 2019   •   1789

People queuing for rationed water

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is drafting an Executive Order (EO) to address the ongoing water supply woes that hit parts of Metro Manila and Rizal Province since last week.

In a statement released Wednesday (March 13), Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Economic Cluster headed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and the Cabinet Assistance System (CAS) were already reviewing the proposed EO that would help the government better address issues.

“The proposed EO aims to address the fragmentation in the water sector by providing the framework for an integrated and coordinated effort in planning and implementing the programs and projects to address all issues in the water sector,” Nograles said.

The Palace official said the inter-agency efforts were prompted by water management issues that were flagged in the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP).

“If you go through the PDP, you will see that it admits that despite the country’s abundant water resources, there are issues in the development, utilization and management of water-related services,” Nograles added.

The issues include limited implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in many of the country’s river basins and watersheds, which results in the resources’ sub-optimal use and wastage, and uncoordinated plans, projects and programs and access to safe water supplies due to the uneven distribution of freshwater sources.

Nograles also mentioned the lack of updated and consolidated data on water resource availability, water stress levels, over/underutilization of resources, groundwater pollution, land subsidence and saltwater intrusion.

Nograles said that even before water supply issues hit Metro Manila, they had been working already on the order to resolve water-related issues.

“The administration knows that these issues have to be addressed and we know the fundamental challenges involved. Our priority now is to provide the President with a way to resolve these issues, and we should be threshing out the details in the next few days,” the Palace official said.

At least 32 agencies are involved in the water sector, with different offices involved in the various aspects of IWRM.

“The components include water supply, sewerage and sanitation, irrigation, flood management, watershed management, financing, policy formulation and coordination. Obviously, we need a whole-of-government approach to water, and that is on the agenda in the next CAS meeting,” Nograles added.

The next CAS meeting is scheduled to be held in Palo, Leyte on Friday.

Nograles said the EO is expected to be released next week. – Robie de Guzman

Palace says Duterte still pondering on attending ASEAN-US Summit

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 23, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

Malacañang said President Rodrigo Duterte is still pondering on whether or not to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United States Summit in March.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President expressed willingness to visit the United States, however the president is not sure whether his visa will be approved.

Panelo added Duterte might not want to visit the US since some US senators “would be unhappy to see him”. This is amid the resolution of banning the entry of Philippine officials involved in imprisoning former Senator Leila de Lima.

READ: Bato confirms his US visa has been canceled

The Palace official also clarified that the President is not enforcing conditions regarding his visit in the US.

“From what I look at his responses, gusto niya pumunta, iyan ang naisip ko, (he wants to visit, that’s what I think),” Panelo said. “[Duterte] just expressed certain sentiments relative to some issues that may affect his entry.”

Duterte has been previously invited by US President Donald Trump but he refused due to the extreme weather conditions in the US as well as the long-hour flight.

Panelo cited that the recent invitation was not a personal one so the President is still pondering on whether to accept the invitation or not.

READ: Trump invites Duterte, other ASEAN leaders for March Summit

“This one is an official invitation to all ASEAN leaders and there is a special summit,” he said.

Trump has invited Duterte and nine other ASEAN leaders for the US-ASEAN Summit in Las Vegas.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

OFW deployment ban to Kuwait to stay until 2018 labor pact fully implemented – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   January 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The total deployment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait will remain in effect until the labor agreement signed in 2018 between the two countries is fully implemented, Malacañang said Friday.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the labor department’s call for a total ban on deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to Kuwait following the killing of household service worker Jeanelyn Villavende.

“The Palace wishes to inform the public that President Duterte has approved the recommendation of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III on the total deployment ban of Filipino workers in Kuwait,” Panelo said.

He added that the ban will stay until the memorandum of agreement between the two countries is fully honored and “the terms contained therein are incorporated in every labor contract with our OFWs.”

Bello earlier said he recommended a total deployment ban to Kuwait after results of a re-autopsy by the National Bureau of Investigation revealed that Villavende had several missing internal organs and had “clear indications of sexual abuse.”

The re-autopsy was conducted after a certificate released by Kuwait’s Ministry of Health showed that Villavende died of “acute failure of heart and respiration” as a result of shock and multiple injuries.

In a statement on Thursday, Bello said the implementation of a total deployment ban of workers was fueled by the alleged attempt of the Kuwaiti government “to cover-up the true case of death” of Villavende.

He said the re-autopsy on the Filipino worker’s remains was in complete contrast to the report of the Kuwaiti authorities.

Bello also said that another cause for the ban was the failure of the Kuwaiti government to come into an agreement regarding the standard employment contract in accordance with the Memorandum of Agreement in 2018.

“Under the MOU, we were supposed to come up with a standard employment contract in order to provide sufficient protection for our OFWs. That’s almost two years ago of discussing and debating but until now, we have not finalized anything,” Bello said.

The total ban covers the processing and deployment of all household service workers, semi-skilled, skilled workers and professionals including Filipino crew seafarers for Kuwait.

However, skilled workers and professionals who have unexpired contracts or categorized as Balik-Manggagawa, and those who will be cleared by the Secretary of Labor are exempted from the ban.

“Those who will come home for a vacation and has an existing contract are still allowed to travel to Kuwait, however, workers with new contracts will be covered by the ban. This move is nothing less than for the protection of our workers,” Bello said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Palace suspends gov’t work, classes in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon due to Taal ashfall

Robie de Guzman   •   January 13, 2020

Villagers take shelter inside a church during an eruption of Taal Volcano, in Talisay, Batangas, Philippines, 12 January 2020. Thousands of people have been ordered to evacuate as authorities in the Philippines raised the alert due to increased activity of Taal volcano, located on an island near Manila. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) raised the alert level from 1 to 3 – on a scale of 5 – after an increase in activity in the crater resulted in an eruption spewing steam and ash up to one-kilometer-high. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has suspended classes in all levels and work in government offices on Monday, January 13, in Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon due to the Taal volcano ashfall.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, by authority of President Rodrigo Duterte announced the class and gov’t work suspension around midnight in areas affected by the ashfall “except frontline response agencies involved in disaster response,mdelivery of basic and health service, and/or other vital services.”

“The private sector is highly encouraged to suspend work for the safety of their employees,” Medialdea added.

Earlier, local government units have declared class suspensions in all levels in view of the Taal volcano ash explosion.

These areas include:
• Batangas province, including municipalities around Taal lake (Talisay, Balete, Mataas na Kahoy, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Sta. Teresita, San Nicolas, Agoncillo, Laurel)
• Cavite Province
• Laguna
• Metro Manila
• Bataan
• Bulacan province
• Pampanga
• Capas, Tarlac
• Concepcion, Tarlac

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has raised the alert level 4 over Taal Volcano on Sunday night, which means a hazardous explosion is imminent within hours or days.

Phivolcs also recommended that residents in Taal island and high-risk barangays in the towns of Agoncillo and Laurel in Bagangas be evacuated due to possible hazards of pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami.

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