Senator seeks to regulate operation, ownership of private drones

Robie de Guzman   •   October 11, 2019   •   625

An agricultural drone used for crop- spraying

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino Pimentel III has filed a bill seeking to regulate the ownership and operation of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles by private individuals.

Under Senate Bill No. 1098, Pimentel wants to penalize private persons who are not authorized to own and operate drones either for recreational or commercial use.

Pimentel noted that over the last two decades, drones have been used for photography, to increase crop production, in commercial use and to conduct surveillance and law enforcement operations.

Just recently, United Parcel Service (UPS), an American multinational package delivery and supply chain management, was granted approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a “drone airline.”

“With this ubiquity, comes the need for regulation,” Pimentel said.

“The same drones that are used for recreational and commercial purposes might be exploited by terrorists, used to violate rights, or could pose a hazard to aircraft,” he added.

The lawmaker cited the drone attacks claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels that struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia, damaging facilities that process the vast majority of the country’s crude output and raising the risk of a disruption in world oil supplies.

He said he first filed the measure during the previous Congress.

The bill seeks to regulate only drones purchased, owned and operated by private persons, whether used for hobby or commercial purposes, and does not cover use of drones by the government.

The proposal states that only a registered commercial drone owner may apply for a permit to operate.

The permit shall be issued periodically only upon proof that the owner qualifies for a radio operator’s certificate of proficiency; has been awarded a passing rating in an aviation license theory examination; has completed a training course in the operation of the type of drone that will be operated; has at least five hours of experience operating drones outside of controlled airspace; has valid insurance over the drone; and has not incurred any violations for drone ownership or use in the five years immediately preceding an application for permit.

The bill authorizes the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to regulate and classify drones into types.

CAAP will also be authorized to prohibit the use of drones, whether for hobbyist or commercial use or both, in any part of the Philippines, whether permanently or for a designated period of time, subject to notice that must be published in at least two newspapers of national circulation.

The bill states that the notice must clearly delineate the no-drone zone and must be published at least three weeks prior to the effectivity of the prohibition. Notice can only be foregone in emergency situations, as determined by the CAAP.

The bill also requires all drone owners, whether for hobby or commercial use, are required to periodically register themselves and their drones with the CAAP’s Public Safety and Security Command Center.

The measure also states that an unregistered drone may be confiscated by the CAAP. Operating a drone for commercial purposes without a permit shall result in the confiscation of the drone and a fine between P50,000 and P100,000.

Any violation of the general safety regulations and restrictions on drone usage stated in the proposal shall result in a fine between P100,000 and P500,000, without prejudice to any separate civil or criminal charges that may be brought against the drone owner and/or operator for any injury or damage resulting from the violation.

Senator Pimentel on possible raps over his ‘breach of COVID-19 protocol’: I will respond in due time

Robie de Guzman   •   March 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Friday said he is ready to face and will respond in due time to charges reportedly being prepared against him in line with his visit to the Makati Medical Center (MMC) while he was under investigation for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Pimentel said he will respond to the allegation after reading and comparing with what is in the law.

“We are in an entirely new environment where everything is in a state of flux. I believe even the so-called protocols have changed over time. Everything will be clarified in due time,” he said.

Former University of Makati Law Dean Rico Quicho said he and his associates are looking to file charges against Pimentel, who tested positive for COVID-19.

Quicho said they are determined to pursue charges against the senator for allegedly breaking the home quarantine protocol and unduly exposing MMC hospital personnel to possible infection.

He also expressed hope that the MMC would eventually press charges against Pimentel even if it has released a statement wanting to move forward from the issue.

“We respect MMC’s decision to just focus on the fight against COVID 19. We, on the other hand, will also do our part in making sure that our frontliners are protected from not just the virus but also against the abuses of those in power,” he said.

Quicho said they are planning to charge the senator for violating Section 9 of the Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act, which states that “(d) Non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern; and (e) Non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public concern.”

Violators of the law may face fine of P20,000 to P50,000 or a jail term of one to six months.

Quicho said Pimentel could also face suspension or revocation of his civil service eligibility, as well as disbarment for his actions.

“Naiintindihan po natin ang pag-aalala ng isang expectant father who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19. But as a father, more so a public servant, he should also know the virtue in sacrifice, lalo na’t maraming buhay ang nadamay at maraming frontliners ang na-expose. His selfish act led to the quarantine of a whole department and greatly handicapped critical medical services,” he said.

Justice Secretary Menard Guevarra earlier assured that they will act upon the filing of a proper complaint by any interested party against Pimentel, and that they will “temper the rigor of the law with human compassion as people are prone to commit violations during abnormal times.

But Quicho scored the Department of Justice’s “indifference” on Pimentel’s case, saying the senator clearly violated the protocol of home quarantine.

“Hindi naman tayo papayag sa pinakitang indifference ng DOJ. Lalo natin dapat palakasin complaint natin. Malinaw na may paglabag si Koko sa mga batas. Hindi dahilan ang excitement para expose ang madaming tao at mga medical practitioners sa kapahamakan,” he said.

“Anong human compassion? Libu-libo hinuhuli on the spot for violation of enhanced community quarantine. Kasi nga kailangan social distancing,” he added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Makati Medical Center denounces Pimentel’s alleged ‘breach of protocols’

Marje Pelayo   •   March 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III is in hot water after violating his home quarantine protocol when he entered Makati Medical Center (MMC) on Tuesday night (March 24) while waiting for the test result for potential coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection.

Pimentel was reported to have rushed his pregnant wife to the hospital for delivery.

In a television interview, Pimentel said he considered his home quarantine as a general quarantine and he did not know that he tested positive for coronavirus when they went to the hospital.

“Iyong home quarantine ko is the general quarantine nating lahat, hindi ba? Kung non-essential movement, huwag na tayong gagalaw. Wala naman akong positive test noon. Manganganak ang misis mo. Sa mata ko, this is an essential movement,” Pimentel argued.

(My home quarantine is a general quarantine like everybody else, right? We should not go out if for non-essential movement. I didn’t have a positive result then. My wife is in labor so in my view it was an essential movement.)

The senator explained that they arrived at the hospital at around 6 to 7 in the evening and he only received the call from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) at 9 o’clock in the evening.

“Noong pumunta po akong ospital, wala po akong word o confirmation na ako po ay positive. And then two hours later, nalaman ko, and then tinawagan ko agad doktor, and OB-GYN na in-charge sa wife ko, tinawagan ko siya na ‘ I got this information,’ and umalis agad ako ng ospital,” he added.

[When I went to the hospital, I had no word or confirmation that I am positive. Then two hours later, I was informed by my doctor. I called the OB-GYN who was in charge of my wife and told her I got this information. So I immediately left the hospital.]

READ: Senator Koko Pimentel tests positive for COVID-19

However, the MMC says, the senator breached the hospital’s protocol.

In a statement, the hospital accused Pimentel of violating his home quarantine protocol when he entered the delivery room premises as he “unduly exposed healthcare workers to infection.”

The MMC denounced the senator’s action, describing it as “reckless” and “irresponsible”.

“As a result, a number of our nurses and doctors may need to be quarantined which will further deplete the dwindling workforce of the hospital. The entire Delivery Room Complex will have to undergo decontamination and disinfection before it can be used,” the hospital said.

Despite this, Pimentel begs for the understanding of everybody.

“I will not debate with Makati Med, pero ang pakiusap ko na lang po, (but please I ask of you) not to discriminate my wife and the child in her tummy and then, take care of her,” the Senator appealed.

The Department of Health (DOH), meanwhile, has yet to comment on the incident.

Pimentel is the second senator to announce positive for COVID-19 following Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri. MNP (with details from Harlene Delgado)

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Senator Koko Pimentel tests positive for COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III on Wednesday confirmed he has tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement, Pimentel said he underwent a swab test last Friday, March 20 and was informed of the result on Tuesday night, March 24.

“Since the last day of session, March 11, 2020, I had already tried my best to limit my movement. I will call (to the best of my ability) those I remember meeting during those crucial days so that I can inform them of my test result,” he said.

He added that he has put himself under quarantine as advised by his physician, and assured he is following the protocol.

“I feel I am, with God’s help, on the way to recovery,” he said.

He has asked for prayers, especially for his wife who is currently pregnant.

“I would like to ask for your prayers, especially for my wife Kath, who is about to give birth in the next few days to our first baby girl, and with whom I cannot be at the very important point in our lives as parents,” he said.

The senator also called on the public to continue observing social distancing rules, proper hygiene, and obey the measures being implemented by the government to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“I also urge all of us to observed the social distancing, enhanced community quarantine measures, washing of hands and personal hygiene being implemented because they are the best strategies to beat this disease at this time,” he said.

“I have faith that together we can overcome these challenging times,” he added.

He also expressed gratitude for all medical workers in the country who are putting their lives at risk on daily basis to bring a halt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They are the true heroes in this fight,” he said.

Pimentel is the second senator to test positive for the virus after Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri confirmed on March 16 confirmed that he contracted coronavirus.


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