Senator asks Duterte to certify bills on teachers’ pay hike as urgent

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2019   •   784

Kindergarten students follow a teacher during a morning exercise routine at the Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Quezon City, Philippines, 03 June 2019. EPA-EFE / ROLEX DELA PENA

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday asked President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent bills seeking to raise the salary for teachers.

Gatchalian made the statement after Duterte assured that the teachers’ wage increase will be given this year.

In a statement, the senator welcomed the president’s promise to grant the awaited pay hike for public school teachers before the end of 2019.

“Napakagandang balita ito para sa ating public school teachers, kaya naman natutuwa at nagpapasalamat ako kay President Duterte sa pagdinig sa matagal nang hiling ng teachers natin na itaas ang kanilang mga sahod,” Gatchalian said.

The clamor for teachers’ pay increase came after the Duterte government hiked the salaries for soldiers, police officers and other uniformed personnel in 2018.

Teachers’ groups have been asking the government for a salary increase, ranging from P10,000 to P30,000 per month, saying their present pay is no longer enough to sustain their needs.

In a separate interview, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said they are now working on passing a bill that would raise teachers’ salaries to at least P30,000.

He added that he also authored a bill that would exempt all public teachers from paying income taxes.

Beyond the across-the-board salary increase, Gatchalian said, some lawmakers are eyeing to upgrade the starting pay of teachers “to bridge the gap between the salaries of entry-level teachers positions and that of higher positions.”

“We would also like to increase and institutionalize the benefits and allowances that our teachers receive so that they would no longer need to shell out money from their own pockets just to buy teaching supplies,” he added.

According to the senator, these bills are still pending in both Houses of Congress.

“I would like to ask the President to certify these measures as urgent so that our teachers may get the adequate remuneration they deserve,” he said.

DOE urged to create body to monitor new round of fuel tax hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a task force that will closely monitor the implementation of the new round of increases in excise tax on fuel.

Gatchalian made the call as the third and last tranche of tax hikes on petroleum products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law took effect on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

He said that under the TRAIN Law, the estimated rate impact on pump price for unleaded premium gasoline would be around ₱1.01 per liter, while the estimated rate impact of the third tranche of the excise tax on diesel price is ₱1.65 per liter.

For 100 percent coal contracted power distribution utilities, the estimated rate impact is around ₱0.03 per kilowatt hour.

The senator said the creation of the task force is aimed to protect consumers from premature price increases and profiteering.

“Kailangan paigtinging mabuti ng Department of Energy (DOE) ang pagbabantay laban sa hoarding at profiteering sa bansa ngayong nakaamba ang dagdag na excise tax sa huling pagkakataon,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Huwag na nating hayaan ang ilang mapagsamantalang retailers na ibenta sa mataas na halaga ang kanilang mga lumang imbentaryong produkto, gayong nabili nila ito bago pa man maimplementa ang third tranche ng excise tax sa fuel,” he added.

Gatchalian noted that local oil companies maintain a minimum inventory equivalent to 15-day supply of petroleum products as provided under DOE’s Department Circular No. 2003-01-001 or the Implementing Guidelines for the Minimum Inventory Requirements of Petroleum of Oil Companies and Bulk Suppliers.

The DOE earlier said the new round of fuel tax hikes are only applicable to new stocks imported beginning January 1, 2020. It also advised oil firms to deplete old stocks before implementing new price schemes reflecting the new levies.

Gatchalian also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to monitor the prices of goods in the market in order to ensure that unscrupulous businessmen will not take advantage and pass on the impact of higher oil prices to consumers as a result of the third tranche of the TRAIN law implementation.

“Mabigat na sa bulsa ng bawat isa ang pagpataw ng excise tax sa krudo. Sana naman ay huwag na natin dagdagan ang pasanin ng taong bayan sa pamamagitan ng hindi makatarungang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin,” he said.

Fireworks-related injuries prompt renewed calls for ban

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020

Medical personnel at East Ave Medical Center, Quezon City checks 11-year-old Justin Villafando, who was hit by a firecracker PVI/ Paul Junel aquino

MANILA, Philippines – Some lawmakers have renewed their calls to ban the sale and use of firecrackers in the country in support of the proposal of the Department of Health (DOH) to have zero injuries in the future.

In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said a firecracker ban will accelerate the decline in New Year celebration-related injuries and air pollution levels.

“Bagama’t naging bahagi na ng ating tradisyon ang pagpapaputok tuwing Bagong Taon, walang saysay ang pagpapanatili sa mga ito kung nalalagay naman sa panganib ang ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga kabataan,” Gatchalian said.

The DOH on Wednesday reported at least 164 individuals sustained injuries related to fireworks since December 21, 2019 until the New Year festivities on January 1, 2020.

This figure is lower by 87 cases from the previous year’s record of 251.

Data from the DOH also revealed that the National Capital Region has recorded the most number of cases with 84, followed by CALABARZON with 13 cases.

Most of the victims were male between the ages of one and 71 years old. They sustained blasts and burns, which totaled 71 cases reported. This was followed by eye injuries with 26 cases.

Most of the injuries were due to kwitis, luces, fountain, piccolo, and baby rocket.

The DOH noted that legal firecrackers caused 69 percent of all injuries.

The agency earlier stressed that all firecrackers and fireworks, including the legal ones, can cause injuries. Banning the sale and use of these firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices can help achieve the target of zero casualty.

“Sa pagbubukas ng bagong taon, lagi nating hinihiling ang maayos na kalusugan para sa atin at sa ating mga pamilya pero paglabas ng ating mga bahay ang sumasalubong sa atin madalas ay makapal na usok. Maliban sa mga sugat, ang pangmatagalang epekto ng mga paputok ay ang iba’t ibang malubhang sakit na dulot ng maruming hangin,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian has filed in July 2019 Senate bill 724 or an act banning the sale, distribution and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices, which in effect repeals inconsistent provisions in RA 7183, an act regulating the sale, manufacture, distribution and use of firecrackers.

Under the proposed measure, entities who want to have fireworks displays need to secure a special permit from the Philippine National Police Fireworks and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO). Upon presentation of the permit, the LGU will designate an area where the fireworks display will be held.

The bill also requires technically-equipped professionals to handle the fireworks.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also filed Senate Bill 493 or the Firecrackers Ban Act, seeking to institutionalize President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order no. 28.

The EO, which was issued in 2017, orders the limited use of firecrackers to community fireworks display as well as stricter regulation of all uncontrolled and unregulated firecrackers and similar devices.

Sotto’s bill seeks to prohibit the unsupervised use of firecrackers regardless of the occasion. It also wants to require those who want to use fireworks in designated areas to secure permits from local government units.

The bills on firecracker ban are still pending on committee level.

Gatchalian pushes waste-to-energy bill to solve PH problem on garbage

Robie de Guzman   •   December 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday renewed his call for the passage of a bill that would convert waste to energy to solve the country’s problem on garbage.

In pushing Senate Bill No. 363 or the Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Act, Gatchalian believes that its passage will encourage the development of new technologies in the treatment and disposal of solid waste.

He said the measure also supports the expansion of bioenergy to attain sustainable energy.

WTE refers to the energy recovered from waste, usually the conversion of non-recyclable waste materials into useable heat, electricity or fuel through a variety of processes.

“Meeting our growing power demand without sacrificing our environment and draining our natural resources need a delicate balancing act,” Gatchalian said in a statement.  

“With the passage of the WTE bill, the country will be able to maximize the energy we can produce from waste, be it in the form of electricity, fuel, or gas, and in the process address the waste problem,” he added.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy, also believes that the WTE projects would benefit the country in terms of a more secure energy system while addressing the issue of the waste management system.

The lawmaker renewed his call for the passage of the WTE bill following Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu’s pronouncement that the country, particularly Metro Manila, is now in the middle of the garbage crisis.

Citing Cimatu, the senator said that Filipinos generate more waste during the holidays than any other time of the year.

Data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission showed that the yearly amount of the country’s projected waste generation is expected to increase from 14.66 metric tons in 2014 to 16.63 metric tons in 2020 and up to 20.51 metric tons in 2030.

Data also showed that Metro Manila’s waste generation continues to increase from 3.60 metric tons in 2014 to 4.44 metric tons in 2020 and 6.32 metric tons in 2030.

In 2014 alone, Metro Manila’s waste was 24.2 percent of the entire country’s waste. By 2030, it is projected to reach as high as 30.80 percent.

Gatchalian noted that the DENR has issued guidelines on the establishment and operation of WTE facilities, hoping that the country will be able to demonstrate in a pilot basis one solution to the waste problem without necessarily violating Republic Act 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act.

“Our ASEAN neighbors have started to invest in waste-to-power plants. Singapore, for instance, aims to reduce the average daily amount of waste by 30 percent by 2030. Indonesia is moving forward on plans for WTE plants as well as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia,” he said.

“With the DENR’s issuance of the guidelines, the government may now be able to implement a 2016 resolution of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) which allows the entry and operations of WTE projects,” he added.


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