Senate to probe on Chinese investments in three islands in Cagayan, Zambales provinces

Maris Federez   •   August 9, 2019   •   648

A fisherman repairs his boat overlooking fishing boats that fish in the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, at Masinloc, Zambales, in the Philippines April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Senate seeks to investigate reports that Chinese investors are planning to develop the Fuga Island in the province of Cagayan and the islands of Grande and Chiquita in Zambales.

In a statement, Senator Risa Hontiveros said she is wondering why the government allowed these movements despite China’s alleged bullying practices in the West Philippine Sea.

She added that these islands are no ordinary islands as they have an important role in the military’s history.

“Amid China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea, it is baffling that the Duterte government allowed this to happen. These are no ordinary islands. These parcels of land are strategic maritime fronts that play a significant role in our military history, which only proves how invaluable they are to our national security,” the senator’s statement reads.

Senator Panfile Lacson also pointed, “security concerns dahil kung Chinese investors ang magde-develop at yung proximity dun sa mga facilities. Lalo’t may report na lumabas na yung western command in Palawan merong allegedly Chinese tourists na kumukuha ng pictures so anong intention [security concerns because if Chinese investors will the ones to develop (these islands) and their proximity is in (our military) facilities. Especially now that the Western Command in Palawan has reported that there is an alleged Chinese tourists taking pictures, on what intention]?”

Aside from the three islands, the Senate may possibly discuss the development of the 32-hectare lot of Island Cove Resort in Kawit, Cavite that is to be used by the Philippine Off Shore Gaming Operator (POGO) industry.

This is only several kilometers away from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) air and naval bases. (with details from Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

Senate OKs Malasakit Center bill on final reading

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to institutionalize the establishment of Malasakit Centers in hospitals run by the Department of Health (DOH) across the country.

The Senate Bill No. 1076 or the Malasakit Center Act of 2019 was approved with 18 affirmative and zero negative votes.

The measure seeks the establishment of one-stop-shop centers for medical and financial assistance provided by the DOH, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in all 73 DOH-run hospitals nationwide.

“We are a step closer towards making quality health care more accessible and affordable for all Filipinos, especially the indigent and poor patients in need of medical assistance from the government,” Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, the author and sponsor of the bill, said in a speech after the bill was passed.

Citing a 2017 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Go said that out-of-pocket payment accounted for 55 percent of health expenditures despite benefits provided by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

“To clarify, we are not providing additional funds for assistance, we are merely establishing a one-stop-shop for medical and financial assistance,” he further stated, adding that there are currently 50 Malasakit Centers nationwide serving 160,000 patients.

Under the bill, hospitals run by local government units (LGUs) and other public hospitals may also establish their own Malasakit Centers provided that they guarantee the availability of funds for the operation of their centers including its maintenance, personnel, staff training, among others.

Patients who would be admitted to LGU and other public hospitals but are eligible for medical and financial assistance could also seek assistance from the Malasakit Centers.

Among the functions of the Malasakit Centers would be to provide patients with a referral to the health care provider networks as well as information on membership, coverage and benefits packages in the National Health Insurance Program.

The bill hurdled the Senate after it adopted amendments introduced by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Franklin Drilon.

Hontiveros said that Malasakit Centers should provide “critical information on healthy behaviors and conduct health promotion activities in the hospital” as well as “further enhance the health promotion function of the center.”

Drilon, meanwhile, said the measure should not limit the “access to or availability of medical and financial assistance only to indigent and financially incapacitated patients referred through Malasakit Centers.”

AFP sends soldier-athletes to 2019 SEA Games

Robie de Guzman   •   November 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is expecting its soldier-athletes to perform well in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games which is set to be held in the country from November 30 to December 11.

Around 127 soldiers on active duty will join the Filipino contingent competing in this year’s SEA Games.

Overall, the AFP is sending over 400 soldier-athletes, coaches, and emergency preparedness and response teams and security personnel from the military’s Regular and Reserve Forces.

A send-off ceremony, led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and AFP chief of staff Noel Clement, was held for the AFP contingent on Monday, Nov. 11.

“We have all been tirelessly working for this momentous event. We are able to lay down the joint operational guidelines for our troops who will be deployed. Similarly, our soldiers have relentlessly trained for their various events. These are clear indications of our strong will and desire for a safe and successful conduct of the Games,” Clement was quoted as saying in a statement.

“On behalf of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I offer my heartfelt support to our athlete-soldiers and coaches joining the 30th SEA Games. Show the world your discipline and dedication and may you have God’s favor” he added.

The 30th SEA Games will open on November 30 in Bulacan.

Around 12,000 athletes and their coaches, 1,000 international media members, 15,000 volunteers, and spectators, among others are expected to participate and watch the games.

It is said to be the biggest SEA Games yet as it features 56 sports and 530 events in 44 venues. Although these events will be conducted in various parts of Luzon, a bulk of these tournaments will be held in Metro Manila.

The closing ceremony of the games will be in the New Clark City in Tarlac on December 11.

AFP to heighten security in Mindanao following death of 3 suicide bombers

Maris Federez   •   November 6, 2019

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) is set to intensify the security in Mindanao following the slaying of three suicide bombers in Indanan, Sulu on Tuesday (November 5).

AFP-WESMINCOM chief LtGen. Cirilo Sobejana said part of the security adjustment that they will implement is the stricter chokepoint and checkpoint operations, as well as the conduct of foot patrol in the different areas in Mindanao.

“I directed all commanders and under Western Mindanao Command to take extra miles to monitor the hostile plans of this threat group,” Sobejana said.

He added that they will not set aside the possibility that several members of the terrorist groups in the country are planning to wreak havoc after ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdhadi was killed in a US Forces-led operation in northwest Syria.

The PNP, meanwhile, allayed the public’s fear brought about by the series of suicide bombings in the country.

PNP spokesperson PBGen Bernard Banac said the PNP and the AFP are in control of the situation in Mindanao and that there is nothing to be worried about.

“Sa ngayon ay mataas na ang ating level ng security sa bahagi ng Western Mindanao at yung nangyari kahapon at patunay na mahigpit ang ipinatutupad na seguridad doon,” said Banac.

The authorities said the death of the three suicide bombers had helped prevent the bomb threat in Metro Jolo. (from the report of Lea Ylagan) /mbmf

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