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Nation banking on farm tourism

Maria Romero

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The government is banking on agriculture and tourism to help revive the country’s economy after plunging into a recession due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As we transition to the new normal, the Departments of Agriculture (DA) and Tourism (DoT) tied up to promote so-called farm tourism.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar over the weekend said the DA would “vigorously promote farm tourism as it catalyzes and sustains the inclusive development of farming and fishing communities, and provides employment and livelihood to other rural folks, women, and youth in agri-tourism sites.”

The tourism sector has been badly hit by the pandemic as the strict lockdown measures affected both domestic and international travel.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat pointed out that more local residents are now interested in farm tourism, which she said could be a “good bounce-back strategy” for the government.

Dar likewise underscored that there are specific areas in which the DA could complement the DoT in pursuing the farm tourism program.

“We need to network the farm tourism sites all over the country, and link them directly to markets and restaurants so they can sell their fresh farm produce at better prices,” Dar said.

According to him, the DA would upgrade its regional integrated agricultural research centers by providing them additional funds to modernize their facilities, beautify their grounds and demonstration plots, and showcase the best technologies to farmers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, students and tourists.

The DA also vowed to provide farmers and fishers needed assistance to enable them to process and package their farm and fishery products, and sell these profitably to the tourism market.

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‘Why can’t Alan honor deal?’

Being mum on issues means I just don’t want to call attention to myself. Being a party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time

Aldrin Cardona

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A senior party-list representative on Wednesday called on President Rodrigo Duterte to break yet another deadlock in the term-sharing agreement for the House leadership which Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano no longer wants to honor.

Yesterday’s session became a parade of Cayetano’s leaders expressing their continued support to the Speaker, a show of force that started since Monday when Cayetano claimed a coup should have transpired.

Cayetano accused his rival Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco as having orchestrated the coup de etat — the fourth in his count, an accusation belied no less by his own peers at the House.

Buhay Partylist Representative Lito Atienza strongly reminded Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to honor the term-sharing agreement between him and Velasco, instead.

“With no conditions,” he said.

Presidential spokesman Secretary Harry Roque on Tuesday also said the Chief Executive had made known his desire for Cayetano and Velasco to honor their agreement.

Cayetano, however, does not have any intention to do so, or so some congressmen said.

“Speaker Cayetano assumed the Speakership on the basis of the term-sharing agreement between him and Cong. Velasco. They agreed upon that arrangement as suggested by Cayetano himself.

They agreed to this in front of no less than President Duterte himself,” Atienza reiterated.

The former Manila mayor questioned Cayetano’s sudden about-face, with some other congressmen claiming it was unexpected of the Speaker who also did not have much support when he sought President Duterte’s help to broker between him and Velasco. The third speakership hopeful then was Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.

Romualdez settled for the House Majority Leader’s post which he will hold for three years.

“Cayetano did not carry the majority numbers at that time, and Cong. Velasco did not ask for that to be a condition before he agreed to the agreement,” he said.

“Now that his term is about to end and Cong. Velasco is about to begin his, why is the Speaker’s supporters questioning if Cong. Velasco has the numbers? It is totally unfair to make it a condition now,” Atienza added.

Velasco was said to have the numbers when he gave way to Cayetano in respect to the President’s decision.

Atienza pointed out that the President’s intervention is needed now.

“Mr. President, please do not allow the breaking of this gentleman’s agreement to share terms. Otherwise, Congress is doomed to fail if palabra de honor (word of honor) and delicadeza (propriety) are not followed,” Atienza added.

The Chief Executive defused the three-way speakership war last year and allowed Cayetano, his former Foreign Affairs secretary, to sit as house Speaker for 15 months. He is to end his part of the deal on the last day of October.

Velasco will then take his turn to serve as House Speaker for 21 months until the 2022 elections.

Cayetano’s closest allies have confirmed the Taguig City congressman is seriously entertaining thoughts of running for the presidency in 2022. He lost his vice-presidential bid in 2016.

Aside from various statements from his leaders since Monday, Cayetano’s supporters manifested their support to him on the floor on Wednesday.

One of them, Caloocan Rep. Egay Erice even asked Velasco to give up his “aspiration” to serve as speaker.

“It can wait. He is young, brilliant and only in his second term,” Erice said.

Several other known Cayetano allies followed suit with the same call.

Velasco had kept his silence for long despite several taunts which came from Cayetano, himself.

It was not the first time that Cayetano had accused Velasco of trying to stage a coup.

But in March this year, it was discovered that Cayetano had planned a “self-coup” by raising a supposed call by his peers to declare all House seats vacant in what appeared as his first attempt to undermine their agreement made before the President.

It did not fly, though.

Several lawmakers last week questioned Cayetano’s large share from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) budget for 2021, some of which have been red-flagged by the Senate.

Cayetano’s Taguig City, with only two congressional districts but with the other occupied by his wife Lani, has 121 projects listed. It will receive nearly P10 billion from the DPWH fund.
His other allies will also receive more than the others.

Many congressmen were allocated with only P2 billion for their projects or even less.

After the discovery of Cayetano’s reserved DPWH funds, he again raised the accusation against Velasco. His supporters then issued statements of support to him one after another.

Velasco, however, remained cool despite these.

In a statement, Velasco said:

“I have been silent during the duration of the Gentleman’s agreement in deference and respect to the sitting Speaker.”

“My silence does not mean I’m disinterested nor I have turned my back on the covenant.”

“’Being mum on issues’ means I just don’t want to call attention to myself. Being a party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time.”

“When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately to the Filipino people.”

with Michelle Guillang
@tribunephl_mish

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Duterte brings WPS before the world

The Philippines rejects any attempts to undermine the ruling which spelled out the country’s marine entitlements in the disputed waters.

MJ Blancaflor

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President Rodrigo Duterte raised the country’s 2016 arbitral win against Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) during his debut speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) early Wednesday.

The Chief Executive, who was among the first speakers at the UNGA alongside presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, said the Philippines rejects any attempts to undermine the ruling which spelled out the country’s marine entitlements in the disputed waters.

“The award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon. We firmly reject attempts to undermine it,” Duterte said at the UNGA, considered as the world’s most important diplomatic stage.

“We welcome the increasing number of states that have come in support of the award and what it stands for — the triumph of reason over rashness, of law over disorder, of amity over ambition. This — as it should — is the majesty of the law,” he added.

The 2016 award junked virtually all of Beijing’s “historic rights” to the waters and ruled that it was inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

Other countries — the United States, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and most recently the United Kingdom, Germany and France — have invoked the arbitration award in their own complaints about Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the disputed waters.

‘Alipin’ no more
In separate statements, Philippine senators lauded the President’s assertion of the country’s legal victory in 2016, saying that Filipinos should no longer be confused about the Chief Executive’s stance in the maritime row.

“‘Alipin’ (slaves) no more! Hearing the President invoke the Award before the UN General Assembly while firmly rejecting any attempt to undermine it should now erase doubts on where he stands regarding the West Philippine Sea issue,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said.

“Filipinos from both sides of the political aisle should feel proud hearing the President express his strong and unequivocal position on the WPS issue… More importantly, I hope that China heard the President’s message loud and clear,” he added.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, a member of the minority bloc in the Senate, expressed hopes that President Duterte’s latest pronouncement is not just a lip service to appease critics.

“We welcome his strong pronouncement asserting the tribunal ruling. We hope he will match these strong words with actions to include bringing the matter officially before the UN as well as seeking support from our ASEAN allies such as Indonesia and Vietnam who have stood up to China and opposed its aggression in the disputed waters,” he said.

“We also hope he doesn’t change his mind and does a 180-degree turn moving forward,” Pangilinan added.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto lauded Duterte for his “cohesive, coherent and straight to the point” speech, adding that it might win an Emmy award for being well-written.

“The President’s unequivocal stance against China’s illegal reclamation in our seas should to put rest any ambivalence on where he and our government stand on this important issue,” Recto said.
“From where he spoke, with the whole world watching, he was able to plant our flag on a territory that historically and legally is ours,” he added.

Next step: lobbying
Former Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario and retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who were part of the team which filed the case before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, also welcomed the President’s pronouncement.

The two ex-officials, however, said the administration should lobby for support from other countries to enforce the arbitral award.

“Our government should work earnestly to get the support of more countries so that the arbitral award will be raised more emphatically next year. We hope that this puts to rest the misconception that bringing the arbitral award to the UNGA is litigating the case,” Del Rosario said.

“All Filipinos should now unite so that the world will help our country enforce the arbitral award against China,” he added.

Carpio also commended the President, adding that he hopes the invocation of the arbitral ruling becomes Philippine policy “across all levels.”

In his UNGA address, President Duterte noted that the Philippines’ commitment in the maritime row was in accordance with the 2016 landmark decision of arbitration court and the UNCLOS.

He also assured the country’s adherence to the UN Charter and the 1982 Manila Declaration on the Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes.

In a separate speech during the 75th UNGA, China’s Xi assured his country’s commitment to resolve disputes through dialogue and negotiation.

“We will never seek hegemony, expansion, or sphere of influence. We have no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot war with any country,” said Xi, without mentioning the South China Sea.

China has been heavily-criticized for refusing to recognize the 2016 ruling and its reclamation efforts in the disputed areas for military and research purposes.

Duterte, meanwhile, has set aside in the first three years of his presidency the country’s arbitral award that was pursued by his predecessor Benigno Aquino III. In October 2019, amid pressure from the public, he went to China and met with Xi to discuss the matter.

He returned quite empty-handed as Xi maintained that his government would not recognize the country’s legal victory.

Instead, Xi offered him a 60 percent share in the joint oil exploration in the South China Sea if the Philippine government would set aside the arbitral ruling.

In his fifth State of the Nation Address, Duterte even said that he is “inutile” and “cannot do anything” against China’s continuous takeover of the Philippine territory in the South China Sea.

with Hana Bordey AND Gabbie Parlade
@tribunephl_hana @tribunephl_gabs

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DU30 plea: Ensure vaccine for everyone

The world is in the race to find a safe and effective vaccine. When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld.

MJ Blancaflor

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President Rodrigo Duterte has urged the United Nations to ensure that all countries would have access to vaccines against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

He said it must be considered a “global public good.”

Speaking for the first time at the UN General Assembly, the President also said the 75-year-old international body, which he called “inutile” in the past should implement “bold reforms” in its processes as the world ushers into a “new normal” brought by the pandemic.

“The world is in the race to find a safe and effective vaccine. When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy,” Duterte said.

“The Philippines joins our partners in the ASEAN and the Non-Aligned Movement in raising our collective voice: the COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Let us be clear on this,” he added.

The President underscored that universal access to anti-COVID-19 technologies is pivotal in global pandemic recovery.

He has been pinning his hopes on vaccines to put an end to the pandemic which forced his administration to impose large-scale lockdowns that plunged the economy into a recession.

In his speech, the President added that the UN cannot be “business as usual” and should reassess, along with its member states, if it had been true to its principles.

“To make significant changes, we need to be bold. We need the same collective courage that finally made the United Nations a reality 75 years ago,” he said.

President Duterte urged the international organization to act on long-standing recommendations to improve the Security Council’s composition and working methods, to strengthen the role of the General Assembly and to streamline its processes and operations.

“Let us strengthen it so it can fully deliver its mandate to maintain peace and security, uphold justice and human rights, and promote freedom and social progress for all,” he said.

Duterte also emphasized the need for “coordinated international plans and efforts” to solve the pandemic even as he recognized that every nation has its own strategy to address the crisis.

With the world now at crossroads, Duterte said how the world addresses the pandemic will define its future.

The Philippines’ Chief Executive also called for a stronger World Health Organization (WHO), as well as a global health agenda with enough resources.

“We need a WHO that is quick to coordinate and quicker to respond. The Philippines will do its part in the pooling of global resources,” Duterte said.

In July, the Philippines expressed its intention to join the WHO-backed COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, a mechanism aimed at ensuring a fair and equitable access to vaccines.

During the summit, UN Secretary General António Guterres called the health crisis “our own 1945 moment” — a reference to World War II — and described COVID-19 as a “toxic virus shaking the democratic underpinnings in many countries.”

President Duterte acknowledged that the UN, which he has repeatedly slammed before over its supposed interference in domestic affairs including his anti-narcotics campaign, brought “relief and hope to so many countries and peoples around the world.”

Duterte also said the Philippines values the UN’s role in global efforts to address the health crisis.

“As a middle-income country whose economic advances have been derailed by the pandemic, we welcome the launch of the UN COVID Response and Recovery Fund,” he said, referring to the mechanism formed to support low- and middle-income program countries amid the pandemic.

Unlike his predecessors, Duterte has refused to participate in the previous general assemblies of the UN. But this year’s assembly is of “special significance” due to landmark commemoration of the UN’s 75th year and the “intensity and urgency needed to address global issues,” according to Malacañang.

The event marks the 75th founding year of the UN. It was held virtually this year due to the pandemic and strict quarantine regulations in New York City.

Instead of meeting in person, UN officials, presidents and prime ministers sent pre-recorded speeches to mark the occasion.

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Rody guides U.N. on drug war, terror law

Mr. Duterte told the UN that this new law shows the Philippines’ commitment to the resolutions passed by the Security Council and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

MJ Blancaflor

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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte speaks before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York. The Chief Executive delivered his speech virtually amid tight security brought about by a virus pandemic. / Manuel ELIAS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

President Rodrigo Duterte defended his anti-narcotics campaign and the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act in his debut appearance in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

He also accused “interest groups” of “weaponizing” human rights against his administration.

The President, in his speech aired early Wednesday, insisted that the government protects Filipinos from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism amid fresh calls for an independent probe on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

He pushed for an “open dialogue and constructive engagement” with the UN on human rights but said it must be done with respect, objectivity, non-interference, non-selectivity and genuine dialogue.

“A number of interest groups have weaponized human rights — some well-meaning, others ill-intentioned,” Duterte said.

“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly-elected government which in its last two years, still enjoys the same widespread approval and support,” he added.

The Chief Executive even claimed that “detractors pass themselves off as human rights advocates” while preying on the vulnerable sectors, including children.

“They hide their misdeeds under the blanket of human rights but the blood oozes through,” he said.

His speech came a week after UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged the Duterte administration to stop its “violent policies.”

The European Parliament later warned the Philippines that it would withdraw tariff perks granted to the country if the government will not cooperate with the probe on alleged human rights abuses.

Looming terrorism
During the summit, President Duterte stressed that the government remains firm on its commitment to protect people from threats as “terrorism looms large.”

He added that the Philippines is fighting terrorism and violent extremism by addressing its root causes as he guaranteed the rebuilding of communities affected by terrorist activities.

Duterte also defended the Anti-Terrorism Law he had signed early in July and in the middle of a pandemic, saying it provides a strong legal framework to address the problem.

“The Marawi siege, where foreign terrorist fighters took part, taught us that an effective legal framework is crucial. Our 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act shores up the legal framework by focusing on both terrorism and the usual response to it,” he said in his pre-recorded speech.

The President also said that the enactment of the law was pursuant to Security Council resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

The new law, currently the most contested measure at the Philippines’ Supreme Court, has earned local and international backlash as critics feared that it could be used as a tool to prosecute political opponents.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson said the President’s mention of the law before the UN General Assembly has made the legislation more significant.

In the same speech, Mr. Duterte told the UN that this new law shows the Philippines’ commitment to the resolutions passed by the Security Council and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

“PRRD is absolutely right on the issue of the Anti-Terrorism Law. UN members know we had the weakest law before,” Sotto, one of the main authors of the law, said.

“I couldn’t agree more with the President. Stating his strong position on the issue before the community of nations, many of whom are leaders of countries that continue to grapple with the threats of terrorism, made it more significant,” Lacson said.

“(The ATL) contains the needed legal backbone to let our security forces implement the law with efficacy and confidence, even proactively — as well as the needed safeguards to curb potential abuse and violation of the 1987 Constitution,” Lacson added.

with Hananeel Bordey
@tribunephl_hana

 

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Liza Soberano: ‘We won’t let this one pass’

Please do your best to help people out especially at a time like this when internet has become an essential. We’re all trying to survive and get school and work done.

Raye Sanchez

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LIZA stands firm against rape jokes. / Photograph courtesy of ig/lizasoberano

Kapamilya star Liza Soberano claps back at a netizen’s rape threat against her on social media following the actress’ complaint about a certain Internet service provider.

The Facebook comment reads: “Wala tayong magagawa, wala ng trabaho, kaya di bale ng masira ang image, magkapera lang. Sarap ipa-rape sa mga…. ewan!” (We can’t do anything. There are no more jobs, so never mind losing one’s image, just to earn money. It would be good to have you raped by… whatever!)

The comment was forwarded to Liza and her manager, Ogie Diaz, via Twitter by @oreoDani8.

The concerned netizen urged the actress and her manager to not let the nasty comment pass, as it may happen to other people with no power or influence.

The actress replied: “Don’t worry, we won’t let this one pass. They know my address.”

The employer of the netizen who allegedly posted the Facebook comment on 21 September said that the company does not tolerate such actions, and that they are dealing with the matter and will carry out proper disciplinary measures against its employee.

The issue started when Lisa tweeted a complaint regarding the slow Internet speed at her house earlier this month, and how fast another service provider responded to help her — a privilege not accorded to common folk.

Liza addressed the disappointment of other customers of her previous Internet service provider, saying it was not her intention to boast. She called on all internet service providers to “please do your best to help people out especially at a time like this when the Internet has become an essential. We’re all trying to survive and get school and work done.”

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Shell gives up Malampaya

Cusi assured that the planned sale will not affect the operations of Malampaya and that supply will remain intact.

Maria Romero

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The Department of Energy (DoE) on Wednesday confirmed that the Philippine upstream subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell is selling its 45-percent stake in the Malampaya deep water gas-to-power facility.

In an interview yesterday, Energy Chief Alfonso G. Cusi told the Daily Tribune that the agency was notified of the plan last Tuesday.

Cusi said the sale is part of Shell’s plan to rationalize its assets.

He assured that the planned sale will not affect the operations of Malampaya and that supply will remain intact.

Meanwhile, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) Managing Director and General Manager Don Paulino said the plan to divest its interest in Malampaya was part of their portfolio rationalization.

“Shell would ensure a smooth transition of the asset to a credible buyer who would be well placed to optimize the value of Malampaya,” Paulino said.

Shell’s former partner, American energy giant Chevron Corporation, has also sold its 45-percent interest in the gas field to Udenna Corporation led by Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy with a DoE-floated price of $565 million.

Despite the buyout, Shell remained as the operator of Malampaya.

Pilipinas Shell communications manager Cesar Abaricia previously told reporters that the transfer of ownership will not have any material impact on the operations of the gas-to-power facility since the expertise is still with Shell.

With Shell selling its stake, the Malampaya power plant may be operated by another firm.

The Malampaya gas-to-power facility fuels three gas-fired power plants with a total generating capacity of 2,700 megawatts (MW). It provides up to 30 percent of the power generation needs of Luzon.

Connected to onshore gas plants in Batangas, the Malampaya offshore facility in Northern Palawan was inaugurated in 2001.

Estimates showed that Malampaya gas field reserves are sufficient until 2022 to 2024.

However, the DoE recently pointed out that the exhaustion of the Malampaya gas field would lead to massive brownouts in Luzon.

To address energy insecurity, the Philippine Petroleum Association of the Upstream (Oil and Gas) Industry (PAP) was mandated to work closely with the government agencies to revitalize oil and gas explorations.

The DoE noted that the Philippines is still underexplored that even in Palawan — where oil and gas fields are also located — new prospects have already been delineated for drilling and exploration.

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Low-tech jammer

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As classes are conducted online to avoid face-to-face contact that may infect students and teachers with the contagious coronavirus disease, they actually need more than computers and

Internet connection or data for this new mode of learning.

Students and teachers in the countryside, where dead spots are common, will have the added challenge of finding a reliable hotspot not within their village but in high areas where trees don’t obstruct Internet signal.

In a province in Mindanao, teachers positioned themselves along a highway where signal was steady to take their orientation on online teaching. This was the same reason a student set up a makeshift desk on top of a tree.

In a hill near Lake Sebu in South Cotabato province, four kids discovered a spot where Internet signal was strong. The friends then built a shanty out of bamboo and coconut leaves at the site to serve as their online “classroom.” During bad weather or when they have homework, they stay at the shanty to sleep, so they also brought cooking utensils to prepare their meals.

Incidentally, it’s not only in third world countries like the Philippines where Internet access is proving to be a challenge. In fact, in the village of Aberhosan in Powys, Wales, United Kingdom, Internet signal got lost every morning.

Engineers from Openreach, the company that maintains the UK’s digital network, recently went to inspect the village to solve the problem. Thinking the network cable was bad, they replaced it, but the Internet still crashed every morning.

Openreach’s chief engineering team theorized that a phenomenon called single high-level impulse noise or SHINE, an electrical interference coming from an appliance, was causing the problem. Using a spectrum analyzer, the team searched the village for SHINE starting at 6 a.m.

Finally, they detected the electrical interference from a house. When they visited it, they learned the resident turned on an old TV every morning, knocking out the village’s broadband connection.

The resident no longer uses the TV, and the Internet interruption which persisted for 18 months finally ended.

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‘Honor 15-21 agreement’

Aldrin Cardona

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The “coup” at the House of Representatives was a dud with the allies of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano making the loudest noise charging Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco of orchestrating an attempt at forging a leadership change at the Batasang Pambansa.

Their statements almost effectively hazed the questions earlier raised by several members of the House about Cayetano’s large chunk of budget from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2021.

It was earlier reported that a coup de etat was to transpire at the House following frustrations by many House members over the budget inequity under Cayetano’s leadership.

Cayetano is supposed to hand over the House speakership to Velasco at end of October following their “gentlemen’s agreement” that was brokered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself last year.

The Chief Executive is hoping that the two House leaders will honor their agreement.

During a briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque quoted the President as saying that he “is hoping both parties will honor their words and abide by their agreement.”

“I asked him last night (Monday) and that was his answer,” Roque said.

That deal was dubbed as the “15-21 agreement” which should have Cayetano serving the first 15 months of their three-year term and Velasco taking his turn for 21 months until the elections next year.

It was Cayetano, however, who tried to stage a “self-coup” last year supposedly on the request of his peers to serve as speaker for the who three years. Cayetano’s camp says the Speaker has moist eyes on the presidency.

He is now reneging on that deal, though, with Velasco’s allies claim they will not allow.

Velasco was not part of the group that questioned Cayetano’s lion’s share from the DPWH budget. He stayed quiet on Tuesday despite the Cayetano camp’s taunts.

“He’s a gentleman who follows agreements,” one of his allies said. “He believes that one who backs down on vows to his peers could not be truthful to his vows to serve his country and people.”

Velasco issued a statement Tuesday night, saying “being a party to the term-sharing agreement, one does not and should not seek to compete with the current Speaker as a gentleman’s agreement is in force. We will have our turn at the right time.”

“When both parties finally honor the agreement, I will show my colleagues the kind of leadership I espouse. Thereafter, at the end of my term, my peers can then be the judge of my loyal service to God, to the President, and ultimately to the Filipino people,” Velasco added.

This was after lawmakers complained against Cayetano’s supposed favor of his closest allies whom earlier reports said partook of about P20 billion-worth of DPWH projects.

The other members of the House receive just P2 billion in projects, some of them even less.

Cayetano will receive P9,762,773,000 for 121 projects ranging from repairs, widenings and expansion of roads, construction of buildings and rehabilitation of old structures.

He will be sharing the amount with his wife Lani, who represents the other half of Taguig City. They are the only husband and wife living together who represent separate districts of a city.

Cayetano’s budget was defended by Eric Yap, the ACT-CIS Partylist Representative.

“I saw the NEP (national expenditure program) for 2021. (His budget) is P8 billion. But P6 billion of that is for 2020,” Yap said during an exclusive Daily Tribune “Straight Talk” online program.

“But that budget was surrendered to become part of the COVID-19 fight. That’s why we reinstated the amount for 2021. So, it now turns out that only P2 billion is given to Speaker Cayetano,” he added.

For Camarines Sur, some are saying the province is receiving P11 billion. CamSur has five districts with five congressmen. So that’s P2.2 billion each,” Yap continued. “It’s the same amount that Cong. Arnulfo Teves (Negros Oriental) is going to receive.”

Documents obtained by Daily Tribune, however, showed shares divided among five Camarines Sur representatives are not equal.

Cayetano, himself, is the acting representative of the first district that was left vacant by Marissa Lourdes Andaya who died of cancer early this year. He is getting P288,244,000 for three projects in the district.

District 2 will be receiving the most with P3,304,781,000 for 33 projects. It is represented by LRay Villafuerte, a known Cayetano ally who spoke yesterday to claim that a “supermajority of the House” continue to support Cayetano.

District 3 Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. was to receive P1,127,591,000 for five projects but he reportedly returned it.

District 4 Rep. Arnulf Fuentebella has 12 projects worth only 817,960,000; while District 5 Rep. Jocelyn Fortuno has 21 projects but these were pegged only at a measly P595, 605,000.

Villafuerte, himself, sent messages to the other congressmen and promised them budget for their soft projects that include scholarships, medical assistance, livelihood training and similar light programs.

The distribution of these funds was instructed by Cayetano on Saturday while calls for his removal as House Speaker was simmering over the weekend.

“Your allocated LGSF (Local Government Subsidy Fund) for 2020 which were missing are back,” a message attributed to Villafuerte stated. “We reinstated them as per instruction of the Speaker in Bayanihan 2.”

Bayanihan 2 funds are intended for the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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 message continued.

Cayetano came under attack over this inequity, leading to Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte to express his frustration and the Mindanao bloc threatening to declare all House leadership seats vacant last Monday.

It did not happen after Cayetano’s allies suspended Monday’s session.

The House went about its usual schedules on Tuesday despite Cayetano’s accusation that Velasco had tried to stage a “coup” four times in the past.

Velasco’s allies branded Cayetano’s statement as a lie.

with MJ BLANCAFLOR,
ELMER N. MANUEL
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Rangers recover Sawadjaan’s camp

Kristina Maralit

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Government forces closed in on wanted Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Commander Mundi Sawadjaan after troopers of the 5th Scout Ranger Battalion discovered and took over an ASG harbor site in Indanan, Sulu on Tuesday morning.

In a report by Col. Antonio Bautista Jr., commander of the 1101st Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over the town, the Rangers led by Lt. Col. Herbert Dilag discovered the site where Sawadjaan and around 40 members of the terror group have temporary set up camp for the past several days.

Sawadjaan leads the ASG faction affiliated with the Daesh terror group.

Found in the area were the bandits’ personal belongings and leftover food.

“We are employing the full force of JTF (Joint Task Force) Sulu’s military assets to track down the group of Mundi Sawadjaan. We are winning our peace and development campaign in the island of Sulu. In due time, the dwindling number of the terror group will surely be decimated with the active cooperation and support of the governor and municipal mayors,” BGen. William Gonzales, 11th Infantry Division chief, said.

It was last 20 September 2020 when elements of the Philippine Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion based in Patikul town clashed with Sawadjaan’s group with several of the notorious terrorist and bomb expert’s subordinates neutralized.

They were the same group behind the bloody twin blasts in Jolo, Sulu last 24 August 2020.

Sawadjaan was also responsible for the deadly twin bombings that rocked the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral, also in Jolo, in January 2019 that killed 20 people and wounded more than a hundred others.

From 25 August 2020 to present, three ASG members have died in the military’s follow up operations. Samir Sanni and two others were killed in a clash with the Scout Rangers in Patikul last 29 August 2020.

Several days later, nine bandits voluntarily surrendered to JTF Sulu for fear of being killed in an armed encounter with the security forces hot on the trail of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists.

Hot pursuit operations are still being conducted by military, utilizing all of the task force’s land, sea and air assets.

Civil-military cooperation is also being undertaken led by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan along with the 19 municipal mayors of the province.

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