Senators mourn the passing of ex-DENR Sec. Gina Lopez

Robie de Guzman   •   August 19, 2019   •   893

Gina Lopez

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Monday mourned the passing of former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez.

In a statement, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said he is deeply saddened by the passing of Lopez, whom he called a “fearless advocate and a tireless philanthropist,” who dedicated “most her life for the betterment of her fellow Filipinos.”

Go added that Lopez’s “exceptional” dedication to protecting the environment has “no equal today.”

“I had the honor of working with her when she was the environment secretary of the Duterte Administration. As a former colleague in the government, I know how passionate, dedicated and humble she was as a public servant and as an Earth warrior,” he said in a statement.

“Ma’am Gina, taos-pusong pasasalamat po sa inyong hindi napapantayang serbisyo sa kapwa Pilipino. Isa kang katangi-tanging modelo ng tunay na pagmamalasakit sa kapwa tao. May your legacy continue for generations to come,” he added.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel also expressed condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of the late DENR chief. He described Lopez as “a famous philanthropist and staunch children’s rights advocate.”

“I am saddened by the demise of such a great public servant and environmentalist as Gina Lopez. She will truly be remembered for her advocacies and contributions in the service of Filipinos,” Pimentel said.

“As the Filipinos mourn the untimely death of former Secretary Lopez, we also pray that her legacy lives on in every person and community her good heart has touched,” Pimentel added.

READ: Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez dies at 65

Lopez passed away on Monday. She succumbed to multiple organ failure after battling brain cancer.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri recalled Lopez’s many efforts to preserve the environment and helping the aggrieved sectors of society especially poor children.

“Being the chief of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission is just one of the many tasks she carried out well as part of our government. She brought her environmental activism into every Filipino home in her travels around our beautiful archipelago,” he said in a statement.

Zubiri also expressed admiration for Lopez’s causes and for her grace and sublime courage with which she faced the pains of her sickness.

“She walked her talk, be it in defense of helpless children or displaced communities, or in nursing back to life polluted waters or ravaged forests,” he said.

“While in government, her habit of speaking the inconvenient truth to power was actually a strength, and not a character flaw in a bureaucracy straitjacketed by niceties. Though her stint was cut short, Gina was a great ‘secretary of defense of our natural resources’,” he added.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also said many will remember the late environmentalist as “a woman of courage” and a “firebrand,” who pushed for her environmental and child protection advocacies without fear and hesitation.

“She was all that. In or out of government, her life was about tireless creativity for all our collective future, through our children and our environment,” he added.

Senator Sonny Angara likewise paid tribute to Lopez, describing her as a “one-person green warrior” who took her “selfless” fight for environment protection to “where it matters.”

“She spent a lifetime pouring her considerable talents in bringing to the mainstream the powerless and the voiceless who exist forgotten in the margins of society. She fought for children who were incapable of seeking justice and care for themselves and eloquently spoke for the people in the communities whose voices have been crushed by exploitation,” Angara said.

“She was a one-person green warrior who took the fight to where it matters – in boardrooms, chatrooms, government offices, and in her favorite office – out in the open, under a forest canopy or underwater, where she was in her element with people she loved in a country she never gave up hope on,” he added.

Angara also stated that Lopez’s passing has “left us a bucket list to comply with and follow.”

Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, thanked Lopez for her efforts to protect the environment.

“Sec. Gina Lopez came in our midst and taught us love for mankind and the environment, our common home. Thank you for touching our lives in your impassioned way,” Poe said in a statement.

Go renews push for OFW department amid COVID-19 crisis

Robie de Guzman   •   May 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Friday reiterated his call for the establishment of the proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers (DOFW) amid challenges posed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to migrant workers.

In a statement, Go said that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the world economy, resulting in significant losses of jobs for Filipinos abroad.

Go has been pushing for the creation of a department that will manage the welfare and address concerns of OFWs.

“Noon pa lamang ay marami nang mga issues ang kinakaharap ng ating mga kababayang nagtatrabaho abroad. Ang paglipat-lipat ng ahensya ay naging pabigat na proseso sa kanila mula sa pagkuha ng kanilang mga permit, hanggang sa pagbigay ng tulong para maresolba ang mga problemang hinaharap nila sa ibang bansa,” he said.

“Mas lumala pa ngayon dahil sa hirap na dulot ng COVID-19 crisis. Kung mayroon pong DOFWs, mas mapapadali sana ang koordinasyon ng mga ahensya at may iisang departamento na tututok sa mga pangangailangan nila,” he added.

Go filed a bill seeking for the establishment of OFW department in 2019. The House of Representatives has passed its version in March this year while its Senate counterpart remains pending in the committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

His proposed Senate Bill 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019 proposes to put government agencies dealing with OFW affairs under one umbrella.

The measure also aims to address perennial issues, such as the need to ease the coordination among offices concerned with OFW affairs; immediate legal assistance to OFWs in distress; lack of full migration cycle approach in promoting migrant’s rights from pre-employment, onsite and reintegration services; and lack of shared database system that contains all information of all OFWs to aid in tracking their status and fast track delivery of assistance to distressed workers.

Currently, services and information about OFWs are scattered throughout several offices.

“Madaming dinadaanan pang iba’t ibang ahensya bago makaresponde ang gobyerno sa mga OFWs na humihingi ng saklolo. Iba-iba ang concern, iba-iba ang kailangang lapitan pa mula DFA, OWWA, MARINA, at iba pa,” Go said.

“Nalilito ang ating mga OFWs sa pangkasalukuyang sitwasyon. Sa oras na kailangan nila ng saklolo, hindi na nila alam sino dapat lapitan kaya sa media o Facebook sila nananawagan,” he added.

If a department for OFWs will be created, Go said this will make government more efficient and responsive to the concerns of Filipinos abroad.

“If mayroon na tayong department for OFWs, iisa na lang ang lalapitan at iisa na lang ang makikipag-coordinate na departamento. Magiging mas maayos ang pagresponde sa mga krisis at mas mabilis nating matutulungan ang ating mga kababayang humihingi ng saklolo,” he stressed.

The lawmaker stressed that the challenges currently faced by OFWs and the difficulties experienced by the government in responding to their needs show the relevance of the proposal to establish a department with a sole mandate to handle the concerns of our “modern day heroes”.

“Nakita po natin ang mga pagsubok na pinagdaraanan ng ating mga OFWs dahil sa COVID-19. Napapanahon na talaga para magtatag tayo ng departamento upang mas maprotektahan ang kanilang kapakanan,” Go said.

OFWs displaced by the public health emergency have been repatriated to the country through flights facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Labor and Employment have extended assistance to qualified OFW beneficiaries under the government’s livelihood and other assistance programs.

The Maritime Industry Authority, for its part, is implementing its Seafarers Uwi Pamilya program where seafarers stranded in Metro Manila are assisted in going home to their families in the provinces, subject to quarantine and other health protocols.

‘Some refused to deliver essentials to our home’: Sen. Angara’s wife bares difficulties amid COVID-19 quarantine

Robie de Guzman   •   March 30, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Days after Senator Sonny Angara confirmed he tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), his wife, Elvira “Tootsy” Angara took to social media to bare the difficulties they have to deal with amid their household quarantine.

In an Instagram post, Tootsy revealed that some have refused to deliver essentials to their home after news about the senator’s health condition broke out.

She also said that a neighbor wanted them out of the village.

“As soon as the news came out, some have refused to deliver essentials to our home, a neighbor wished to have us out of our neighborhood, and I don’t blame them,” she said on her profile on Saturday.

View this post on Instagram

I miss my Sonny boy 💖 the last time we held hands was during the Ama namin as we watched the online mass as a family 2 weeks ago. It was sad i couldnt give him a big tight hug to say it was going to be okay when he got his results. It pains me that i am not able to take care of him the way he took care of me when i was sick ..i feel sad thay we cant be there for him and he has to go through this physically alone.. its lonely for all of us but we know its just a matter of time 💖 As soon as the news came out… some have refused to deliver essentials to our home .. a neighbor wished to have us out of our neighborhood… and i dont blame them … To our other neighbors who showed us acts of kindness, thank you💖 I had to reach out and ask for help.. our entire household quarantined for 14 days…family and friends sent us drinking water when we ran out, they sent us oxygen too.. the 2 most essential things in life.. water and air 💖 some sent us fruits, vegetables, medical supplies ,cleaning aids, vitamins for our household 💖 The doctors.. the dear doctors who have been patiently answering my messages , my inquiries and questions.. i cannot thank you enough 🙏🙏🙏 I am forever grateful for all the beautiful and kind souls God blessed us with. I do have moments of weakness where i break down and cry ..because i miss him a lot and dont know what i can do to help.. but i choose to be strong and realized that prayer calmed my heart and made me believe Sonny was going to be okay.. I have faith God will help him get through this.. When I feel sad or scared I pray the rosary by myself of with other ladies on zoom or listen to the online masses. The kids and I have to stay healthy physically and spiritually because at this point that is all the counts.. then before we know it, sonner than later with GODs healing power we will have our dearest strong, healthy and funny Papi back.. 💖 To all our dear friends, may i ask for your prayers for Sonnys complete recovery 🙏 🙏🙏🙏 and pls keep yourselves safe 💖💖💖

A post shared by tootsyangara💖💖💖 (@tootsyangara) on

She, however, said there are those who helped the household as they undergo a 14-day quarantine. Some have sent them drinking water and food, vitamins and cleaning supplies.

“To our other neighbors who showed us acts of kindness, thank you… Our entire household quarantined for 14 days, family and friends sent us drinking water when we ran out, they sent us oxygen too, the 2 most essential things in life, water and air, some sent us fruits, vegetables, medical supplies ,cleaning aids, vitamins for our household,” she said.

She also thanked the doctors who patiently answered her messages during her husband’s battle against the virus.

“The dear doctors who have been patiently answering my messages, my inquiries and questions. I cannot thank you enough, I am forever grateful for all the beautiful and kind souls God blessed us with,” she said.

Angara’s wife also shared that she feels sad and pained for not being able to take care of her husband who is in quarantine, and admitted to breaking down amid the difficult situation.

“I do have moments of weakness where I break down and cry, because I miss him a lot and don’t know what I can do to help. But I choose to be strong and realized that prayer calmed my heart and made me believe Sonny was going to be okay,” she said.

“I have faith God will help him get through this,” she added.

Angara is the third Filipino senator to have contracted coronavirus following Koko Pimentel and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Senator Bong Go, several Cabinet execs to go on quarantine after exposure to virus-infected solon

Robie de Guzman   •   March 26, 2020

FILE PHOTO: Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go | PVI/Cerilo Ebrano

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Bong Go and several members of the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte will undergo a self-quarantine after exposure to a congressman who recently tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement issued Wednesday, Go said they have initiated contact tracing, particularly those present during the meeting he attended last Saturday.

“Wala naman po akong nararamdamang sintomas ng sakit. But since protocol requires that those who were directly exposed to persons positive for COVID-19 need to undergo self-quarantine, I am left with no choice but to comply,” Go said.

ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap’s confirmation that he contracted the coronavirus disease only came days after getting tested on March 15.

He apologized to those whom he may have exposed to the virus when he attended some meetings while his test results were still pending.

The congressman revealed he led a meeting of the House Committee on Appropriations on March 10; he also attended a meeting in Malacañang on March 21, as well as the House of Representatives’ special session on March 23.

House lawmakers who were exposed to Yap during the special session have been placed under home quarantine.

Cabinet members who were physically present during the meeting in Malacañang last Saturday also decided to undergo self-quarantine.

These include Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who serves as the spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), will also undergo a self-quarantine due to second-level exposure.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, on the other hand, said he had no contact with Yap during the meeting, and that he was wearing a face mask and observed social distancing.

The officials assured they will continue to perform their tasks and attend meetings via teleconferencing to discuss matters relating to the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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