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Defiant folks smoked out

I was frightened, so I ran away from our place, along with others.

Kristina Maralit

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White steam emits from Taal volcano crater as seen from a Philippine airforce helicopter during an aerial survey on January 21, 2020. - Philippine authorities ordered a crackdown on January 20 on evacuees' daily visits to homes in the danger zone around Taal volcano, amid a warning it could be "recharging" for a more powerful explosion. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)

Resistive residents were literally “smoked out” of the danger zone on Friday after Taal Volcano spewed a tall column of thick, white steam signifying the intensifying activities underneath its crater.
Some residents admitted being thrown in panic after white smoke spewed out of Taal at around 5:15 a.m. yesterday — days after the volcano’s relative lull.

In a broadcast interview, Joseph Cabrera said he ran for safety after feeling at least two strong earthquakes which was followed by thick white smoke coming out of the restive volcano.
“I was frightened, so I ran away from our place, along with others. The smoke that came out was so thick and different from the previous one. It was really scary,” Cabrera shared in an interview by radio station DzBB.

He said there were others who went with him while some remained within the locked down areas.

Despite a total lockdown imposed on 199 barangays classified as high-risk areas, defiant residents still sneaked into the danger zone to tend to their livestock and check on their properties.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), however, assured the thick steam-laden plumes exhibited by Taal Volcano should not trigger panic for now.

Mariton Bornas, the Phivolcs Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Prediction Division head, said the thicker cloud-formed smoke coming out of the volcano was steam that resulted from magma rising underneath, which heated up the ground water.

“We noticed that the steam slightly subsided in recent days. It’s possible that the vents were just blocked. Now that the steam is more intense, the blockage might have been removed,” Bornas explained during a press briefing.

She added that the plumes changing in color were only the steam mixing with the old ash from the volcano.

More volcanic earthquakes were also listed, with the Taal Volcano Network registering 486 volcanic earthquakes including four low-frequency events in the past 24 hours.

Bornas said this is an indication of magma continuing to rise.

Elevated sulfur dioxide emissions were also detected, now at an average of 224 tons per day from the previously recorded 141 tons.

Taal Volcano remains under Alert Level 4 with the 14-kilometer danger zone still in effect.

“Phivolcs strongly reiterates total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in the hazard maps within the 14-km radius from Taal Main Crater and along the Pansipit River Valley where fissuring has been observed,” Phivolcs said in its latest advisory.

Housing assistance assured

Meanwhile, the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) vowed that it is ready to provide housing assistance to residents displaced by the ongoing eruption of Taal Volcano.

In a press conference during the 16th founding anniversary of the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC), DHSUD Secretary Eduardo del Rosario stressed President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to provide housing to those in need, especially disaster-stricken families.

Del Rosario said that DHSUD, through the National Housing Authority (NHA), could extend full housing grant to the displaced families in close partnership with the concerned local government units (LGU).

“For disaster-stricken families, the President is always open to give them full grant. So, it’s either the LGU will purchase the land and the national government undertakes the site development or the actual construction of houses,” Del Rosario explained.

This early, Del Rosario said that the DHSUD has already coordinated with the provincial government of Batangas in case permanent resettlement sites will be needed.

“We are preparing for the worst-case scenario and the government is ready for this eventuality,” Del Rosario said.

Affected residents rise

As of Friday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that the number of families displaced by the restive Taal Volcano has climbed to 88,842 composed of 346,244 persons.

The affected families are from Batangas, Cavite, Laguna and Quezon.

Families staying in 488 evacuation centers are placed at 37,311, or the equivalent of 137,538 individuals while the remainder are being aided outside of the centers.

“In all these situations, the main problem is the available lots for residential development. The participation of the LGU to provide the lots is key so that the national government can undertake the intervention of site development and actual construction,” Del Rosario said.

INC response

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), through the Felix Y. Manalo (FYM) Foundation, also continuously provide relief assistance to those affected by the eruption.
Members of the INC’s Society of Communicators and Networkers International or SCAN were among the first responders when Taal Volcano erupted last 12 January.

with Alvin Murcia @tribunephl_alvi

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Paolo nixes Cayetano

Aldrin Cardona

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The hours leading to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s requested meeting today with Davao City Representative Paolo Duterte was quickly broken by the presidential son’s jig away from the squabble over the uneven budget distribution at the Batasang Pambansa.

Several lawmakers claimed Cayetano has sent an SOS to the young Duterte as his seat is now threatened with barely two months left in his 15-months of the term-sharing deal for the speakership brokered by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.

A meeting with the Davao City lawmaker, one congressman said, could save Cayetano from ouster if the planned call to declare all House seats vacant today transpires.

The young Duterte, however, opted to distance himself from the burning issue.

“As much as I am part of Congress with a duty to be involved in the goings on inside, I cannot discount the fact that I am a Duterte,” he said. “Anything that comes out of my actions or mouth could be construed or manipulated as having the blessing of my father. And so I would rather suffer or work in silence rather than sacrifice the supposed independence of the House from the Palace.”

That said, another Daily Tribune source stated, makes Cayetano’s hold on the speakership untenable despite the deal which he now reportedly wants to unilaterally scrap.

That “gentlemen’s agreement” was for Cayetano to lead the House of Representatives for 15 months — which his camp said would end in October — before Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco takes his turn at the House leadership for 21 months until 2022. The third party to that deal, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, agreed to sit as House Majority Leader for one full term.

Not so gentlemanly
Cayetano’s peers, however, are saying the Speaker is reneging on that deal. Last week, Cayetano had asked the President’s position on the deal but received a vague answer.

A day after, leading house members questioned the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) over its distribution of projects in the billions of pesos to the districts of the City of Taguig and Camarines Sur.

Taguig City is divided into two districts, one of which is represented by Cayetano while the other has his wife, Lani, as representative. They used separate addresses and voted in separate precincts when they ran, despite being husband and wife.

Camarines Sur’s District 2 is represented by Cayetano ally Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte.

District 1 has Cayetano, himself, as its “caretaker congressman” following the death of Marissa Lourdes M. Andaya on 5 July this year due to cancer.

The Cayetanos’ and Villafuerte’s districts received more than P20-billion worth of projects from the DPWH, whose secretary Mark Villar (son of Manny and Senator Cynthia), is a Nacionalista partymate of Cayetano and Villafuerte.

This sent a good number of congressmen grumbling about what they called was an “unfair treatment” from Cayetano. Many of them receive less than P2 billion in infrastructure funds yearly.

These congressmen said they are supporting calls to declare all house seats vacant. It could be raised today, they said.

The young Duterte had earlier expressed his frustration on the uneven budget distribution, a fact he admitted in his statement.

In his message to his allies, Duterte said he was never consulted by Cayetano on the budget distribution and opted to stay away from the wrangling bunch.

The young Duterte added: “I will ask the Mindanao bloc to declare the seat of the speaker and deputy speakers vacant on Monday. The Mindanao congressmen will not perish if they will not be given a share of the budget. I am also encouraging the minority.”

“Most of these concerns shrouded doubts over the process and mistrust of the lawmakers ruling the House, those who are acting as if they are bigger than their colleagues,” he stated.

“Now as Congress continues to be hounded by the issue of budget — something that finds its way up to the current House leadership, how it treats its members, how it approves allocations and budgets with fairness or lack of it — let me reiterate my position: I do not want to get involved. However, I wish to help my fellow lawmakers find answers to their questions or remedies to the budget that they proposed for their people.”

Spare chamber’s credibility
“I could only hope that Congress and its members will be able to resolve this issue before everything goes out of hand, before it could bludgeon the credibility of the institutions and inflict damage beyond repair,” he explained.

“I leave this issue to the members of Congress as I believe that it is within their rights as elected officials to come up with a favorable solution to an issue that could badly impact the development of their districts and their people.”

“As a collective body, the members of Congress have the power to change the course of which the leadership is leading them to and address a problem to ensure that the programs and projects for their people are delivered and delivered expeditiously.”

“The members of Congress have the power to correct everything that they perceive as wrong happening within the Lower House or change leadership as they demand fair treatment and reforms.”

“If the members of Congress will push for a change in House leadership, as a reaction to their sentiments, obviously I would be among the casualties because I am a deputy speaker. I am ready to accept the consequences,” he closed.

with HANANEEL BORDEY
and MICHELLE GUILLANG

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Go: Medics need back up

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With the unrelenting pandemic, the country direly needs to form a Medical Reserve Corps to address the health crisis and those that may emerge, Sen. Lawrence Christopher “Bong” Go said.

He expounded that the coronavirus disease contagion took the whole world by surprise since in just a span of a few months, the health crisis altered the way humanity lives.

“It will continue to influence the way we move forward in the foreseeable future,” he explained in his weekly “GOing Forward” column.

He noted that it has been a tough fight for the whole country, especially for medical professionals who are at the frontlines of this battle.

“While we continue to handle this crisis with a whole-of-society approach, we learn lessons on where our country lacks in resources and where we need to improve our response to this health threat,” the senator indicated.

As Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, Go said it is his duty to push for measures that will improve the well-being of Filipinos.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that our country of more than 100 million Filipinos needs proper and sufficient healthcare facilities to cater to all their medical concerns,” he averred.

Better health force
Go is advocating the swift passage of Senate Bill 1451 or the Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020, which aims to mobilize a dedicated group to complement the existing health force and support emergency response efforts during a crisis.

The bill seeks to give the Secretary of Health the authority to mobilize, in coordination with the Secretaries of the Departments of National Defense, Education and Interior and Local Government, persons with degrees in medicine, nursing, medical technology and other health-related fields who have yet to obtain their licenses. Of course, they will be duly compensated once called for duty.

“It is a grim reality that our medical personnel are already strained by the number of COVID-19 patients. This, in turn, hinders our overall capacity to combat other diseases immediately and effectively. This also leads to the delayed treatment of our fellow Filipinos who are suffering from other ailments,” according to the close ally of the President.

“We believe the additional support provided by a medical reserve corps will be of great help to our limited healthcare system,” he added.

Measures pushed
The senator had authored and filed laws that aim to improve the country’s health infrastructure such as increasing the bed capacity of government hospitals, creating numerous quarantine facilities and testing laboratories and establishing different health units across the country to enhance the capabilities in epidemiology and disease surveillance.

In the 18th Congress, through the concerted efforts of legislators, Go listed several health-related measures which were eventually signed into law such as the Malasakit Centers Act; bill increasing the salaries of our civil servants, including our government doctors, nurses and other allied professionals; and bill increasing the hospital bed and service capabilities of several government hospitals scattered around the country.

“While I am glad that we are making good strides on this aspect, there remains another gap that needs to be addressed — and that is the low number of country’s medical personnel,” according to the solon.

Medical professionals can only handle so much during a health crisis, Go noted. “I have personally seen how exhausted and affected they are during this pandemic. In order to help them, we need to increase our medical human resource. President Duterte himself has acknowledged this and deemed this an urgent matter in his latest State of the Nation Address,” the senator related.

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Why Enchong, Erich are getting cozier

Care Balleras

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ENCHONG and Erich reunite for new drama. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF IG/MR_ENCHONGDEE

More than a decade after their tandem’s debut in Katorse, actors Enchong Dee and Erich Gonzales prove are still in the race for most effective reel loveteams in showbiz, with their lockdown-born series You.Me.Maybe — a 10-part digital series produced by Erich herself.

Concentrating on uplifting moods amid the pandemic, EnRich went with a light-hearted love story on Gian and Gianna. The story might have perky vibes, but it also tackles both the deep and mundane experiences of couples who go through various uncertainties.

With this vision in mind, the two huddled with Through Night and Day’s writer Noreen Capili and took multiple roles beyond acting.

Enchong revealed during his recent guesting in a Kapamilya chat that they almost quit as early as the second day of filming. But seeing the Enrich Originals YouTube channel gaining traction, the two persevered and crafted the series with love.

EnRich chemistry remains intact with new series ‘You.Me.Maybe.’
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF IG/ENRICHORIGINALS

Staying in reel
The two call each other “Mylabs” and often share photos of themselves getting cozy. For the actress’ birthday yesterday, 20 September, Enchong shared their sweet black and white photo with the caption, “I will celebrate life extra today because of you.”

Tracing this much-awaited comeback, EnRich took social media by storm with a reunion photo of their wine night last June. Their fans might have been stoked for a real relationship because of the post but realizing that the two are only getting back to collaborate for a series still satisfies the parched fans.

With all these good as real stunts, EnRich are susceptible to be linked together for real, but the two have managed to stay within reel as they remain best friends.

This might be the true secret of on-screen partners to last — staying in reel. Remember John Lloyd and Bea Alonzo’s digital comeback years after A Second Chance that shook the country’s entertainment industry last April?

This might be EnRich’s peg to keep the friendship and sustain screen chemistry for their respective careers.

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New age lawyer

Care Balleras

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Emerging as the lone representative from Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano (MVGS) Law Offices to establish a place in the esteemed roster of Top 100 lawyers in the Philippines, Atty. Eduardo “Dindo” Martinez signals a new age for the firm he founded and currently leads as Litigation department head.

Apart from being actively involved in the Alternative Dispute Resolution and being an accredited Appeal Court Mediator by the Philippine Judicial Academy, the legal paragon adds another accolade to his exemplary career with his inclusion in the said list crafted by Asia Business Law Journal.

The extensive compilation was brought by global professionals and companies analyzing legal developments in the region. To be included in such a list is not only an honor but also reflects promising contributions made by legal professionals in the country.

Embarking on his legal journey
After finishing his Legal Management and Juris Doctor degrees at the Ateneo De Manila University, he immediately began his battle in the legal arena way back in 1992.

His first foray in the field was in Ponce Enrile Cayetano Reyes & Manalastas where he learned the different front of law practice areas. Thereafter, he went to Castillo Zamora & Poblador to sharpen his legal mind, concentrating on litigation, labor, immigration and intellectual property. He was also the first representative of the Philippines in the 1998 Intellectual Property Rights Training Course of the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation.

Taking all the courage and solid legal armor from years of primed experience, he founded his own firm in 2000 which later become MVGS after he was joined by lawyers Mark Vergara, Manuel Gonzalez and Elmer Serrano in 2006.

Currently, Martinez not only stands at the helm of the firm in general but also accelerates its family law practice, taking full responsibility of clients who need representation for adoption, annulment of marriage, legal separation and other domestic relations cases.

Making law understandable
While bearing the name of the firm in its legal service, Martinez also manages good public rapport as a regular columnist of Daily Tribune.

Through his “Anteroom” series, he effectively translates legal concepts to become less intimidating and more understandable for the readers.

Despite enlightening readers on business and labor laws through his column, Martinez does not forget to shape minds on current social issues.

In one of his recent columns, he wrote, “If we all have the discipline, and I mean all of us, the path towards eradication of the virus will be short. The trek will be faster,” as he talks about the continuing health crisis.

Clients also vouch for Martinez’s legal brilliance. Upon knowing that he was regarded as one of the top 100 lawyers in the country, Lexie Yllana, daughter of his former clients, shared on Facebook how he helped her parents overcome a hopeless case that was previously dismissed by the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

“My parents will always be grateful to Martinez for handling and winning a case from them on appeal more than 14 years ago. They thought it was a hopeless case after losing the fight in the RTC when it was handled by a different lawyer. He truly deserves the recognition.”

More than being on the prestigious list, Martinez’s greatness in the legal realm surpasses the halls of law offices and extends to touch the lives of people — may it be his clients or not. Truly, he gives a new light to how law in the country should be — for the greater good of the citizens.

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EU move hurts small firms

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Amid a European Union (EU) Parliament’s threat to revoke trade privileges to the Philippines over its claim of a worsening human rights situation in the country, European Chamber of Commerce (ECC) President Nabil Francis warned it will be small Filipino companies that will absorb the strongest impact from it.

Implementing the sanctions will aggravate the situation of low-income sectors, its members and the country’s economy, according to Francis.

In an interview, Francis said the ECC is strongly calling for the retention of the GSP+ perks to the Philippines.

“EU is among the largest trading partners of the Philippines. The year after qualifying for the GSP+, Filipino exports to the EU expanded by 27 percent,” Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) data showed.

The removal of GSP+ will put at risk thousands of jobs generated in both the agriculture and manufacturing sectors,” according to Nabil, who heads the group of more than 200 predominantly European businesses with local operations.

The ECC reiterated that EU’s proposed revocation of tariff benefits in the midst of a pandemic will also exacerbate the economic situation of the country.

“The International Trade Center has estimated that the total export and import loss of the Philippines from EU trading partners could reach $300 million and $175 million, respectively, from pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions,” Francis told the Daily Tribune.

The ECC in its July survey said 91.8 percent of its members have significantly been affected by the pandemic and that a cancellation of the GSP+ rating will impose a new burden to its members.

“The Chamber’s membership roster widely varies in terms of industry and company size. A considerable number of them are GSP+ beneficiaries. Among the top Philippine exports to the EU are agricultural oil products, electrical machinery, processed meat and fish, optical products, processed vegetables, fruits and nuts,” Francis emphasized.

Investor confidence among the European-Philippine business community remains dampened due to the uncertainties based on a recent study conducted by the ECCP, according to Francis.

6,274 goods affected
In a 17 September decision, the EU legislative assembly ruled “given the seriousness of the human rights violations in the country, calls on the European Commission, in the absence of any substantial improvement and willingness to cooperate on the part of the Philippine authorities, to immediately initiate the procedure which could lead to the temporary withdrawal of GSP+ preferences.”

GSP+ status covers 6,274 locally-made products, including those manufactured by the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).

The country’s largest group of exporters believes the looming withdrawal of EU incentives, if itis pursued, will not be abrupt and may take two years before it is enforced.

In a radio interview, Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. president Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. expects the EU to reconsider since European businesses will also suffer from the imposition.

“It might take two years before the revocation may take effect. If they take you out, they will give you a chance to prepare. We are all affected. But I’m confident this will be solved. We are often threatened but there are counters within the EU that defend us,” Ortiz-Luis said.

His statement jibed with that of DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez who said the EU Commission has a mechanism in place and process to follow to verify issues before sanctions are imposed.

20% exports affected
“Of course, it’s alarming because nine percent of our exports go to European Union. I think, in 2019, we had 8 billion euro in trade. And out of that, we enjoyed a GSP preference for some 1.9 billion euro,” Lopez, stating EU’s threat to suspend Manila’s Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status will affect up to 20 percent of exports to EU, said.

“We will lose an opportunity. It is not that easy to develop a market. And if you cannot find a replacement, of course, companies will be affected, especially during this pandemic, they will find it hard to get back on their feet. If the status will be removed, many jobs will be affected,” Ortiz-Luis indicated.

The tuna industry, which is one of the major exports of our country, is one of the industries that expects a severe blow from the looming sanction.

“The industries of coconut, marine products, semiconductors, and leather goods might take a hit, especially the tuna industry. And these are big companies,” Ortiz-Luis added.

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Alan ‘hijacks’ Bayanihan 2

Aldrin Cardona

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Scrambling to retain his post, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano over the weekend promised to restore the lawmakers’ Local Government Subsidy Fund (LGSF) and conciliate with forces questioning his lion’s share from the infrastructure projects.

Cayetano is using money meant for the Bayanihan 2, funds which are supposed to alleviate the people’s fight against the new coronavirus pandemic.

But parts of it will now be used for congressmen’s soft projects through the LGSF, which include funding for scholarships, medical assistance, livelihood training and similar light projects.

The distribution of these funds was instructed by Cayetano yesterday as calls for his removal as House Speaker simmered following the discovery of his gargantuan share from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) projects to be funded by the General Appropriations Act in 2021.

“Your allocated LGSF for 2020 which were missing are back,” a message attributed to Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte stated. “We reinstated them as per instruction of the Speaker in Bayanihan 2.”

Favored Nacionalistas
Along with Cayetano, Villafuerte is also being accused by his peers of being able to gain more projects in the billions of pesos from projects of the DPWH.

Cayetano and Villafuerte are Nacionalista partymates. DPWH Secretary Mark Villar is the son of NP bosses Manny and Senator Cynthia Villar.

“Here with guidelines please. Favor, kindly as you LGU (local government units) beneficiaries (through) Katy to comply ASAP because deadline is end of October,” Villafuerte’s supposed message continued.

The Bayanihan 2 will expire on 19 December 2020.

It is not clear yet how the lawmakers have accepted the information although a couple of them said “it is now clear that they (Cayetano’s camp) are racing to restore the congressmen’s funds to appease the House members.”

Cayetano’s hold on the speakership is still being shaken by a growing number of congressmen who found his and his wife Lani’s separate districts in Taguig City as recipients of big funds for infrastructure projects courtesy of the DPWH.

P12B for one city
Several congressmen are now saying the Cayetanos’ Taguig City is getting P12 billion in DPWH projects.

Villafuerte, meanwhile, is said to be a recipient of P11.8-billion infrastructure funds.

Daily Tribune was able to obtain a list of some of the Cayetanos’ infrastructure projects in Taguig City.

These are just 21 of their projects worth P3,179,680,000 which have been listed in the 2021 National Expenditure Program of the government.

Set for construction are: Multi-purpose building and site development at Lakeshore in Lower Bicutan (P195,500,000); multi-purpose building at Western Bicutan (P153,000,000); site development of multi-purpose baseball stadium at Barangay Ususan (P255,000,000); Cayetano Sports Complex at Bagumbayan (P212,500,000).

Multi-purpose building at Barangay Sta. Ana (P59,500,000); multi-purpose building and facilities at Calzada Tipaz (P127,500,000); multi-purpose building and integrated parking terminal with park facility at Central Bicutan (P297,500,000); multi-purpose building and site development (SPED center) at Calzada Tipaz (P51,000,000).

Juicy list
Multi-purpose building at Camp Bagong Diwa, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P204,000,000); multi-purpose building and site development at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building and site development at Bambang (P51,000,000); multi-purpose building at Bagong Tanyag (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Central Signal (P85,000,000).

Multi-purpose building at Pinagsama (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Upper Bicutan (P59,500,000); multi-purpose government center at Lower Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose and site development (P212,500,000);multi-purpose sports stadium (P204,680,000), and Taguig City Parola at Napindan (P272,000,000).

These figures have sent the other congressmen seething as majority of them were allocated only P2 billion each in projects or less.

Total allocation for the Visayas bloc, meanwhile, is only eight percent of the 2021 budget.

“He’s in a panic and was trying to appease the congressmen,” a Tribune source said. “Many are up in arms because only a few of them are getting billions of pesos in allocations while the rest have not been released.”

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Tempest brews over Sabah

Chito Lozada

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Recent drumbeatings by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin and the Daily Tribune about the need for a closure on the country’s claim on Sabah had produced results including the call of a top Malaysian minister to bring the conflicting positions between Manila and Kuala Lumpur before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, who has an influential voice in his country, called on the Malaysian government to take the intensifying dispute to the ASEAN.

Shafie was endorsed by former leader Mahathir Mohamad as an alternative to his predecessor Muhyiddin Yassin.

While criticizing the rhetorics that Locsin had launched, Shafie refused to sidestep the issue by telling the Nikkei Asian review that “the Malaysian government must make it a serious agenda under the ASEAN platform. This must be once and for all, resolved.”

Shafie’s stand created a political storm in Malaysia as Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak branded Shafie’s thrust for government-to-government talks with the country on an ASEAN platform as a “big mistake” since it will give “legitimacy to Philippine’s claim over the state.”

Hishammuddin who is also Najib’s cousin, posted a social media statement saying Shafie should be more assertive than yielding “to foreign claims that undermine Sabah’s sovereignty.”

Former deputy defense minister Liew Chin Tong joined the fray as he denounced Hishammuddin’s alleged political opportunism. Liew said Hishammuddin should resign for shifting the blame on the territorial dispute to Shafie.

Liew, who is now Johor head of the dominant Democratic Action Party, said Hishammuddin has been trying to downplay the seriousness of the issue. He accused Hishammuddin of trying to “act tough” by claiming Shafie’s request for the opening of talks with the Philippines acknowledges the legitimacy of the Philippines’ Sabah claim.

“Hishammuddin is unscrupulous in making false claims and should just resign his position for electioneering foreign policy matters,” Liew said in a statement.

“We need mature politicians who do not lie and doublespeak. And Malaysia can do without a foreign minister who uses foreign affairs, which should be a bipartisan affair as much as possible, for instant electoral gains. Such an act by Hishammudin is highly irresponsible,” the official added.

Pols as is their wont
“I am appalled that Hishammuddin has taken Najib’s cue to attack Shafie, claiming that Shafie was soft on the Philippines,” he said.

Liew branded Hishammuddin’s attempt to exploit the issue to portray himself as “tough” while Shafie as “soft” on the Philippines “is utterly disgusting political opportunism.”

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved recently a bill that will require the printing of the country’s map, including a 200-mile exclusive economic zone and Sabah, on Philippine passports. Locsin said during a panel hearing that the country will revive the Department of Foreign Affairs’ North Borneo Affairs which is dedicated to efforts in reclaiming Sabah, which he described as “the tropical island of Borneo.”

Locsin indicated that settling the issue is urgent for the sake of stateless individuals living in the territory. He was referring to Filipinos whom the Malaysian government do not recognize. They refuse to acquire Philippine passports, however, fearing deportation by the Malaysian government.

In the DFA budget before the House Appropriations Committee, Locsin lambasted Malaysia by reminding its government that the stateless individuals “are human beings.” He indicated his plan to revive the Marcos-era Office of North Borneo Affairs.

“The source of conflict here is Malaysia, I should look into it but I can tell you we should proceed very carefully, I do not recognize they are stateless, they must be Filipinos because Sabah is ours, and that’s all there is to it,” he indicated. “The question of ASEAN amity won’t get in the way of my assertion of what is ours,” Locsin noted.

President Rodrigo Duterte during a recent national address, requested the Malaysian government to assist Filipinos stranded in Sabah despite the territorial dispute.

Sultanate sides with Locsin
The Sultanate of Sulu gave its full backing to Locsin as it noted the late Sultan Moh. Esmail Enang Kiram “was the former Head of this Office.”

“As the heir of his father and grandfather as head of the Royal House of Sulu, His Royal Majesty Ampun Sultan Hadji Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram urges the government to reopen this important Office,” the Sultanate said in a statement.

The Royal House of Sulu reiterated the statements of Amroussi Rasul, Wazir of the traditional government of the Sultanate of Sulu that “there is only one Sultan of Sulu. He is Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram, direct descendant of Sultan Mahakuttah and Sultan Esmail — father and grandfather of Sultan Muedzul-Lail.”

“I have decided to reactivate the North Borneo Bureau after realizing that the rest of the world has forgotten our Sabah claim, casually designating it as another country’s territory when we have not forgotten it,” Locsin said.

Sabah, which lies on the northeastern tip of Borneo, is about 500 kilometers from the Philippines. The Sulu Sultanate considers it as a gift from the Sultan of Brunei whom it helped quell a rebellion in the 15th century.

Strong position
Shafie, who hails from a well-established political family in Sabah, insisted Malaysia has a strong case and can withstand the aggressive Philippine claim.

He cited Sabah’s decision to join the Federation of Malaysia, which was achieved through a referendum arranged by the British-initiated Cobbold Commission.

The commission, led by former Bank of England Gov. Lord Cobbold, was set up in 1962 to gather feedback from the people of Sabah and Sarawak before the formation of Malaysia the following year. It consisted of Malaya, Brunei, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak.

Brunei and Singapore later separated from Malaysia to form their own sovereign nations.

“That (referendum) is constitutional evidence that Sabah is part of Malaysia and it would remain that way,” Shafie said. “No one should question the referendum,” he noted.

Shafie also highlighted the timing of the renewed pressure from the Philippines as elections are scheduled in Sabah on 26 September.

“It seems to me that this issue only crops up during the election period,” Shafie said. “I don’t want to accuse anyone but somebody is using it as a tool to scare some of our voters here,” he added.

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It used to be that trash is thrown in a bin and taken to the dump by garbage trucks. Then they started getting exported and shipped to another country loaded inside steel containers while others float in oceans and stay there.

Countries that export trash supposedly for recycling include Australia, Canada, the United States, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Slovenia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Hong Kong, France and Britain. Countries that import or receive trash from these countries started reexporting or returning them.

In June 2019, some 1,500 tons of garbage shipped in 2013 to the Philippines from Canada were returned in the same fashion to the country of source via 69 containers at a cost of $1.15 million to the Canadian government. The container ship carrying the trash made a stopover in Taiwan before crossing the Pacific for its final destination.

One year ago, Indonesia did the same thing as the Philippines by starting to reexport imported trash inside 2,000 containers unloaded at four local ports after inspectors found them to be mixed with non-recyclable plastic trash.

Soon, trash will not just be traveling across the oceans onboard cargo vessels. Thailand is starting a new mode of circulating garbage: via the postal system.

The Khao Yai National Park, about 180 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, will collect trash left by visitors and mail it to their address. More than a million visitors go to the park each year to see its rich wildlife and waterfalls, including the 80-meter Heo Narok, and Heo Suwat featured in the 2000 film “The Beach,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Many of the guests also leave tons of trash in the park.

Varawut Silpa-archa, Thailand’s minister of natural resources and environment, recently announced the regulation that is expected to be costly but beneficial to the moribund postal industry and couriers. The park will have to pay not only trash collectors but also postmen who will carry the mailed rubbish to the home or office of litter bugs.

If this scheme already has approval from postal authorities, post offices will see the revival of its service that had been rendered obsolete by e-mail.

For the litter bugs who get a package containing trash, they can simply drop it in the trash bin. However, they would be blacklisted and banned from the park. Those caught in the act of littering in the park will also face prosecution.

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Cayetano to lose seat?

Aldrin Cardona

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Calls to declare all seats vacant in the House of Representatives grew louder over the weekend as its leadership scrambled to douse a fire sparked by the uneven distribution of project funds.

This sent Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s office in a frenetic race to call the lawmakers so that he could regroup his forces as his post has suddenly become untenable.

He is also reportedly meeting with Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte’s son, tomorrow for an assurance that he stays as the top House leader.

While staying silent on the issue that presently conflagrates the House, the young Duterte is seen as one having a strong voice in the Chamber.

House sources are in unison in claiming that Cayetano is reneging on his promise to vacate his seat at the end of October as part of his term-sharing deal with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco.

He even asked President Duterte’s blessing so that he could stay put middle of this week. He got a vague answer.

But Cayetano’s hold on the speakership is still being shaken by a growing number of congressmen who found his and his wife Lani’s separate districts in Taguig City as recipients of big funds for infrastructure projects courtesy of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Several congressmen are now saying the Cayetanos’ Taguig City is getting P12 billion in DPWH projects.

Cayetano’s close ally, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte, meanwhile, is said to be a recipient of P11.8-billion infrastructure funds.

Daily Tribune was able to obtain a list of some of the Cayetanos’ infrastructure projects in Taguig City.

These are just 21 of their projects worth P3,179,680,000 which have been listed in the 2021 National Expenditure Program of the government.

Set for construction are: Multi-purpose building and site development at Lakeshore in Lower Bicutan (P195,500,000); multi-purpose building at Western Bicutan (P153,000,000); site development of multi-purpose baseball stadium at Barangay Ususan (P255,000,000); Cayetano Sports Complex at Bagumbayan (P212,500,000); multi-purpose building at Barangay Sta. Ana (P59,500,000);

Multi-purpose building and facilities at Calzada Tipaz (127,500,000); multi-purpose building and integrated parking terminal with park facility at Central Bicutan (P297,500,000); multi-purpose building and site development (SPED center) at Calzada Tipaz (P51,000,000); multi-purpose building at Camp Bagong Diwa, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P204,000,000);

Multi-purpose building and site development at TCU Compound, Central Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose building and site development at Bambang (P51,000,000); multi-purpose building at Bagong Tanyag (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Central Signal (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Pinagsama (P85,000,000); multi-purpose building at Upper Bicutan (P59,500,000);

Multi-purpose government center at Lower Bicutan (P170,000,000); multi-purpose and site development (P212,500,000); multi-purpose sports stadium (P204,680,000), and Taguig City Parola at Napindan (P272,000,000).

These projects are under DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, son of Nacionalista Party (NP) power couple Manny (a former senator) and incumbent Sen. Cynthia Villar.

Cayetano and Villafuerte are both leading members of the NP.

These figures have sent the other congressmen seething as majority of them were allocated only P2 billion each in projects or less.

Total allocation for the Visayas bloc, meanwhile, is only eight percent of the 2021 budget.

Cayetano, however, was said to have tried making amends with several congressmen on Friday and Saturday, assuring them of equitable shares from the still unused 2020 budget.

“He’s in a panic and was trying to appease the congressmen,” a Tribune source said. “Many are up in arms because only a few of them are getting billions of pesos in allocations while the rest have not been released.”

Some of these funds were supposedly from the budgets turned over by the different agencies to the Executive Department which were earlier repurposed for the COVID-19 battle.

The money which could not be released this year were supposedly put in the 2021 budget.

“Now, they’re trying to release the funds for the projects intended for 2020,” the source said. “These are funds branded as FLR or For Late Release.”

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, meanwhile, branded the FLR as “unconstitutional and pure nonsense”

“There were no FLR when I was in Congress from 2007 to 2016. When I returned in 2019, I came to know of these FLR,” he stated.

“The Constitution provides for line item budgeting. The items aproved in the GAA (General Appropriations Act) should all be released. These FLR become the discretionary funds of the DPWH as to which district it will release to,” he added.

“If the line items are approved by the GAA in Congress, they should all be released. No ifs, no buts. This FLR scheme should be stopped, discontinued and set aside,” Rodriguez emphasized.

Another congressman, however, was more curt when he said: “Cayetano should enjoy his days as House Speaker. They may end very soon.”

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