Pangilinan calls for release of P6B compensation for rice farmers this December

Robie de Guzman   •   December 12, 2019   •   454

(FILE) A Filipino farmer walking along the edge of a rice terrace at Batad village in the town of Banaue, Ifugao province, Philippines, 20 February 2017.  EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday called on the Departments of Finance and Agriculture to release the P6 billion cash compensation for rice farmers this December.

During the bicameral conference committee meeting, Pangilinan said the release of the compensation will be a gift for rice farmers who were affected by the influx of imported rice in the local market.

“They need this reparation now,” he said.

In November, Pangilinan filed Senate Bill 1191 seeking to augment the 2019 budget with P6 billion to provide cash transfer from unprogrammed funds to rice farmers.

The senator believes the cash transfer will give them a lifeline to continue farming following the effects of the implementation of the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act, which imposes a minimum 35-percent tariff on rice imports in lieu of quantitative restrictions (QRs).

Since the passage of the law, farmgate prices of palay have plunged to as low as P7 to P10 per kilo in some provinces, while the price of rice dropped by 2.9 percent, and the price of palay by 17.48 percent.

The drop in farmgate price of palay has resulted in huge income losses for rice farmers and the industry, now estimated around P60 billion, and projected to double by yearend.

The liberalization of rice imports, while intended to give the country a steady supply, has led to declining palay farmgate prices in many rice-producing areas, according to Pangilinan.

“Hindi kasalanan ng ating mga magpapalay ang nangyayaring pagguho ng kanilang kabuhayan. Kailangan isalba natin ang pagpapalay dito sa atin, dahil kung hindi, tayo ring lahat na kumakain ng bigas ang sa huli ay magdudusa at kakapusin sa bigas,” Pangilinan said

(The damage to their livelihood is not our farmers’ fault. We need to save our rice farmers because if not, all of us who consume rice will, in the end, suffer and face rice shortage.)

The lawmaker said releases from the proposed supplemental fund will be made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) directly to the Department of Agriculture (DA), which shall make available the fund to the farmers.

The fund will be effective until December 31, 2020.

Probe on surge of fake Facebook accounts sought in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   June 9, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan is seeking a Senate investigation into the sudden proliferation of fake accounts on Facebook.

In filing Senate Resolution 444, Pangilinan urged the appropriate Senate committee to conduct an inquiry into the surge of Facebook accounts that use identities of students, government officials, journalists, and other users.

He noted that the sudden surge of dummy Facebook accounts follows the protests staged on the streets and online against the anti-terrorism bill.

“Some Facebook users reported to have received threats from said dummy accounts using their names. The threats even go as far as calling said users ‘terrorists’,” he said in a statement.

The senator said his resolution seeks to find out if there is a need to amend Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and other pertinent laws to make them more responsive to the situation.

The inquiry would also help determine “possible regulation of social media platforms, in accordance with the policy that respects the rights and freedoms of all Filipinos guaranteed by the Constitution.”

“It is the declared policy of the State to protect and safeguard the integrity of communications systems, networks, and databases, and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and data stored therein, from all forms of misuse, abuse, and illegal access,” the resolution read.

The senator also underscored in the resolution the need to look into the country’s existing laws “to increase the extent of liability and possible regulation of service providers or content hosts such as Facebook and other social media platforms.”

“Legislation must be carefully crafted so as to balance the rights and freedoms accorded to every Filipino by the Constitution and the public interest to be protected from dangerous acts online,” Pangilinan said in the measure.

Facebook earlier said it is currently looking into the suspicious activity on its platform. The Department of Justice also said it will conduct its own investigation.

“We should not be utterly defenseless against social media manipulation and threats. We must use our laws to fight the fakes online,” Pangilinan said.

Senators blast politicians taking advantage of COVID-19 crisis to campaign for 2022 polls

Robie de Guzman   •   April 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Minority senators on Friday lambasted politicians who are taking advantage of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis to advance their political agenda, hampering the speedy delivery of relief to millions of poor families.

In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros criticized politicians who are exploiting the current public health situation to campaign for the 2022 elections, leaving millions of vulnerable and low-income Filipino families unassisted.

“It is not red tape. It is the 2022 political campaign that is hampering the immediate distribution of relief to millions of poor families,” the senators said.

The lawmakers issued the statement following complaints regarding the “sluggish” release of assistance by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other government agencies.

“It saddens us that there are people who could be so heartless and power hungry as to take advantage of this crisis to advance their political ambition,” the lawmakers said.

“To presidential wannabees, hands off, please. Go away,” they added.

The senators stressed that the distribution of disaster aid and the bureaucracy is politicized when political campaign gets in the way.

“Worse, national and local officials who have shown initiative and innovation in responding to COVID-19 crisis are politicized, criticized and crucified, which would only add to the suffering of our countrymen and women,” they said.

The lawmakers also called on private corporations and charity groups to be discerning and to not allow themselves to be used for obvious political propaganda, especially during these trying times.

They also called on the DSWD and other government agencies to just use their existing database instead of distributing social amelioration cards (SAC) in implementing the government’s emergency subsidy program for the COV-19 crisis as provided in the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The SAC is a form being distributed at the barangay level to capture the family profile, which will be used as the basis in providing aid to the affected families.

“Let us spare our fellow Filipinos this unnecessary procedure. Our kababayans are getting hungry and desperate for help. They lost jobs. Give the aid ASAP,” they said.

PH gov’t urged to suspend issuance of all visas to visitors from Wuhan, other nCoV-hit Chinese areas

Robie de Guzman   •   January 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to suspend the issuance of all visas to visitors from Wuhan and other parts of China reported to have been hit by the spread of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In a statement, Senator Francis Pangilinan renewed his call for the suspension of visa issuances to Chinese nationals as the deadly virus continues to spread rapidly.

“Visa upon arrival lang ang suspended para sa mga Chinese. Yung tours, delegates, at businessmen, tulad nung cruise ships sa Subic, tuloy-tuloy pa. Dapat lahat,” Pangilinan said, referring to a cruise ship carrying close to 1,000 Chinese tourists that arrived in Manila from Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The cruise ship M/V World Dream and its 778 passengers were authorized to travel by the Bureau of Quarantine after it was declared cleared and safe during a mandatory inspection.

The ship was supposed to arrive at Subic Bay on Wednesday but it decided to cancel its arrival and head back to Hong Kong after residents and local officials in Olongapo protested the scheduled port call.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday, January 28 announced the temporary suspension of visa upon arrival (VUA) issuance for Chinese nationals following concerns on the spread of the novel coronavirus in China and other countries.

The bureau said the move aims to slowdown the influx of Chinese group tours in the Philippines, and possibly help prevent the entry of the new coronavirus strain. However, it clarified that there is no order yet barring Chinese nationals from entering the country.

Pangilinan also questioned the “unequal treatment” for Filipino and Chinese travelers after the Department of Health (DOH) said it would quarantine Filipinos who will be repatriated from China.

“But what is the rule for the thousands of Chinese arrivals? Bakit mga turistang Chinese galing China sakay ng cruise ship as per Bureau of Quarantine at Coast Guard, walang quarantine?” he said.

“DoH at Malacañang, kumilos kayo agad at huwag papasukin ang mga turista galing ng China habang nariyan ang outbreak,” he added.

Pangilinan also said that as of Tuesday, even Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in the area around Wuhan and have since expanded the travel ban to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million people.

Aside from China, he said Malaysia has suspended the issuance of visas for Chinese citizens from Wuhan and the areas around Hubei province to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV).

He also noted that the US State Department has issued a travel advisory to “reconsider travel to China due to novel coronavirus,” while the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued warning Level 3 urging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China, and Level 4 which means a ban on travel to Hubei province.

Chinese National Health Commission on Wednesday reported that the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has reached 5,974 as the death toll rose to 132.

The current figure of 2019-nCoV infection in mainland China has overtaken the 5,327 reported number of people infected by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2002-2003. SARS outbreak killed more than 770 people globally, including 349 in China.

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