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

Robie de Guzman   •   December 12, 2019   •   961

(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.

Liberal Party still considering Robredo as presidential bet in 2022 polls

Robie de Guzman   •   February 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo is among those being considered by the Liberal Party to run as its presidential candidate in the 2022 elections, the political party’s president said on Thursday.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, however, stressed that the party has yet to finalize its decision on the matter.

“Siya ay mataas na opisyal ng partido at pinakamataas na elected official ng partido so she (Robredo) is also being considered,” he said.

Robredo serves as Liberal Party’s chairperson being the highest elected official in the party.

“But she herself has said na wala siyang desisyon, marami pang pwedeng mangyari. But in the meantime, we just focus on how we can help address this pandemic and the economic crisis,” he added.

Pangilinan also said that political issues “can wait” as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this week, supporters of Robredo launched an online petition urging her to run for president in the upcoming elections.

The petition called “I am ready for Leni” aims to gather 25,000 signatories.

Robredo has yet to issue a comment on the campaign initiated by her supporters but she has earlier said that it is too early to talk about 2022 polls and that she would rather focus on projects providing assistance for those affected by the pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Senate panel to conduct hearing on timing of Cha-Cha talks amid coronavirus pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   January 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments is set to conduct a hearing this week to discuss the timing of efforts to push for Charter Change anew amid the coronavirus pandemic, panel chairperson Senator Francis Pangilinan said on Monday.

In a statement, Pangilinan said the hearing, which is scheduled on Wednesday, January 27, will consult representatives from sectors affected by the proposed amendments.

Among the resource persons who have confirmed their attendance to the hearing are 1987 Constitution Framers Florangel Rosario Braid, Atty. Christian Monsod, and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide.

Also attending the hearing are Priest Ranhilio Aquino, former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, and Department of Justice Chief State Counsel George Ortha II.

Pangilinan said the hearing will tackle procedural concerns and “prejudicial questions” that need to be considered relative to the proposed Charter change.

“Una, given Covid and ‘yung ating krisis sa ekonomiya, napapanahon ba mag-Charter Change? Pangalawa, kung napapanahon ang Charter change, ito ba ay dapat con-ass [constitutional assembly] o con-con [constitutional convention]? Tapos pangatlo, kung con-con, e ‘di maliwanag yung eleksyon, kailan?” he said.

“Kung con-ass naman, mayroon pang isang isyu na hanggang ngayon hindi pa nareresolba: Ito ba ay dapat voting jointly ang Senate at House. Ibig sabihin ay 300 plus senators and congressmen sabay boboto ng three-fourths vote? O three-fourths vote separately, ibig sabihin three-fourths vote ang Senate, at three-fourths vote ng House,” he added.

The hearing will discuss Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s Resolution of Both Houses No. 1, Senators Francis Tolentino and Ronald Dela Rosa’s RBH No. 2, as well as Senator Richard Gordon’s Senate Joint Resolution No. 1.

Pangilinan called on DOH to reconsider Sinovac purchases

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan called on the Department of Health to reconsider its order to purchase China’s Sinovac vaccine.

In a statement, the Senator noted the results of a new study in Brazil which showed Sinovac yielding a 50.4% efficacy rate. He also noted the vaccine price is steeper compared to the other vaccines with a higher efficacy rate.

“Sinovac, with just over 50 percent efficacy, is six times more expensive than AstraZeneca, which in contrast shows a 70-percent efficacy. Sinovac is more expensive yet it has the lowest efficacy. Given these latest findings, we call on the DOH to cancel the purchase of said vaccines,” he said.

Panginilan added that the country should procure vaccines on the basis of both higher efficacy and lower cost.

Based on data, Pfizer and BioNTech has an efficacy rate 95% and cost P2,379, Gamaleya is at 92% with a P1,220 price, and AstraZeneca is at 70% costing P610. Sinovac, meanwhile, costs P3,629.50.

The Philippines has secured 25 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee of the Whole is scheduled to convene again on Friday, January 15, to further discuss the country’s vaccination program. -AAC

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