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Captain of sunken boat in Recto Bank says sorry to Duterte

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The captain of the Filipino fishing boat hit by a Chinese vessel in Recto Bank on June 9 apologized to President Rodrigo Duterte following reports that he snubbed the Chief Executive in their supposed meeting in Malacanang.

F/B GEM-VER 1’s boat captain Jonel Insigne said he didn’t know that it was Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol who asked to meet him and not the President.

“Humihingi po ako ng paumanhin sa ating mahal na presidente na hindi pala ako ipinatawag niya kundi si Secretary Piñol ang nagpatawag sa akin,” Insigne said.

“Hindi po ako natuloy, umatras ako dahil masama ang pakiramdam ko,” he added.

This was clarified by the Secretary himself during the hand over of assistance to the affected fishermen in San Jose, Oriental Mindoro on Wednesday (June 19).

“There was no any invitation from Malacañang. It was I, the Secretary of Agriculture, who wanted to talked to them and they came,” Piñol said.

The group of fishermen, through Insigne, appealed to President Duterte to help them and bring justice to what they have suffered at sea.

“Gusto ko po sana mapanagot po iyong kapitan nang bumangga sa amin, iyon lang po ang hiling ko sa ating mahal na presidente.” Insigne said. (with details from Sherwin Culubong)

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President Duterte’s memorable quotes during SONA

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Here are some of President Rodrigo Duterte’s memorable quotes during his speech at the State of the Nation Address on Monday (July 23).

Duterte also lifted a verse from the Bible when he said the government would defend the rights of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.

“There’s a time for everything. A time to negotiate and a time to quarrel. With your enemy, with your political opponents, with your wife. A time to antagonize, and a time to make peace, and a time to go to war, and a time to live, and a time to die. That’s Ecclesiastes 3,” he said.

The chief executive also agreed on reinstating death penalty on heinous crimes and plunder.

READ: Duterte calls on Congress anew to reimpose death penalty

He also addressed his critics saying, “They write what I say, not what I mean.”

Before he ended his speech Duterte said, “I will not stop until I reach the finish line. Our goal for the next three years is clear, a comfortable life for Filipinos.” AAC

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SONA 2019 Highlights: Towards a ‘better’ Philippines

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

No surprises, no fiascos. President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth state of the nation address (SONA) has been smooth despite the more than one hour delay due to sudden rains.

Nevertheless, the annual event pushed through with the President starting his speech at 5:14 p.m. and ending it at 6:47 p.m., an almost expletive-free 93-minute talk.

President Duterte opened his fourth SONA with the usual pleasantries and his expression of gratitude “to all who kept faith with me in our most trying times.”

He noted that the landslide victory of administration candidates in the May 2019 polls as well as recent survey results just proved the Filipino people’s support to his presidency as compared to the only 3% disapproval rating, which he joked about with the members of Congress.

“I hope that the members of Congress – sana hindi kayo included sa 3%,” he said earning laughter from the audience.

This amount of support, the President said, inspires him with determination to pursue relentlessly what the government has started even at the beginning of his term as the highest leader of the country.

No matter how controversial, the President said his policies on the fight against illegal drugs and corruption will remain “whatever be the opposition.”

“For it is not the eagle in the fight but the fight in the eagle that matters,” he said.

“Believe me, I will end my term fighting,” the President said strongly to start his SONA.

For those who did not have the time to sit and watch the President’s SONA, here are some of the highlights.

Illegal Drugs, Corruption, Death Penalty

The President acknowledged that the government still has a long way to go to fight the social menace that is illegal drugs, which he believes is a by-product of corruption.

 “The drugs will not be crushed unless we continue to eliminate corruption that allows this social monster to survive,” he noted.

This is the reason, he said, why he advocates on the reinstatement of death penalty.

“I respectfully request Congress to reinstate the death penalty for heinous crimes related to drugs, as well as plunder,” the President said.

Ease of Doing Business

The President, likewise, emphasized the necessity to ensure a responsive government to the needs of the people.

Even after signing the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, he said, much has yet to be done.

Thus, he ordered specific government agencies to simplify their transactions and impose the law “to improve service delivery and fight corruption.”

The agencies mentioned were the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Social Security System (SSS), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Land Registration Authority (LRA), and the Pag-IBIG Fund.

He also called the attention of local government units (LGU) to do the same.

“My directive to the government and instrumentalities, including the LGUs and the government corporations: simplify,” he said warning those concerned to suffer sanctions if they again fail.

“Simplify and make your services responsive to — client-friendly. Your client is the Filipino, our employer — from where the money in our pockets come from, from our salaries,” he stressed.

Priority Legislation

Aside from the revival of death penalty, the President directed Congress to pass the creation of new agencies vital to the accomplishments of the administration’s programs for development.

Noting natural disasters as ‘poverty creators,’ the President asked Congress to fast track the establishment of a Department of Disaster Resilience that would focus on programs that would mitigate the impact of natural hazards and climate change.

Recognizing the damaging effect of El Niño to the country’s agriculture sector and the inconveniences it caused brought about by water crisis, he urged lawmakers to pass a bill creating the Department of Water Resources and Water Regulatory Commission.

Similar to his appeal last year, the President called Congress to establish the Department of Overseas Filipino Workers to ensure Filipino workers abroad access to government services as well as protection from abuse in foreign lands.

The Chief Executive also urged lawmakers to enact the Magna Carta for Barangays and to postpone the May 2020 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections to October 2022 to provide sitting barangay officials ample time to finish their programs and projects.

To encourage the country’s MSME sector, the President urged Congress to immediately pass Package 2 of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program also known as Trabaho bill which he said would create more jobs for Filipinos.

In addition to these priority bills, President Duterte also asked Congress to pass a new Salary Standardization Law to increase salary for government workers, including public school teachers and public hospital nurses.

He also asked Congress to approve the National Defense Act, Uniformed Separation and Retirement Pension Bill, and the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

“Very important,” the President said referring to military training to re-instill the spirit of patriotism among Filipino students.

 “Kapag mag giyera, 10 out of 10 hindi marunong maghawak ng baril (If war breaks out, 10 out of 10 do not even know how to hold a gun) to defend even his father and mother and brothers and sisters. Itong mga bata ngayon (youth nowadays,) they are bereft of the patriotism and the love of country. Balik sila dito (Let’s encourage them on this),” he said.

Traffic woes

President Duterte specifically directed Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to suspend mayors or governors who refuse to heed his order to “reclaim all public roads that are being used for private ends.”

With the help of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the President wants immediate action “to ensure speedy and smooth flow of vehicular traffic” in Metro Manila.

On China

True to his promise, the President did ‘educate’ the Filipinos regarding the West Philippine Sea issue, how it started and why his administration cannot drive away China from Philippine waters.

Again, he reiterated that war is not an option as it leaves “widows and orphans in its wake.”

“More and better results can be reached in the privacy of a conference room than in a squabble in public. That is why I will do in the peaceful way,” he said.

Amid criticisms, the President still promised that he would assert the country’s sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea “in due time.”

A better Philippines ahead

Through the end of his SONA, the President assured the Filipino people that his government will continue to propel towards a better Philippines.

“Our goal for the next three years is clear: a comfortable life for everybody, all Filipinos,” he promised.

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Duterte asks Congress to fast-track passage of Coco Levy Trust Fund bill

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Coconut farmers lament over the cheap price of copra that burdens their income at present.

“Bagsak na bagsak na talaga ang copra kaya wala na halos (ikabuhay), (Our copra industry is dying. We are losing income,” said Froilan Revilla, a coconut farmer from Mauban, Quezon.

Revilla said the current price of copra which is at P13.50/kg gives his family an earning of only P2,000 which they need to budget for three months.

The said amount, Revilla explained, was far lower than P8,000 earning per harvest that they used to get from P56/kg price of copra some years ago, specifically in 2000.

According to Revilla, other coconut farmers opted to sacrifice copra farming to venture into alternative sources of income to survive.

For his part, Revilla said he augments his income by planting and selling vegetables and fruits to be able to support his child’s education, though it pains him that his son no longer has interest in coconut farming.

Ayaw ko po sa bundok. Mahirap po ang trabaho, (I don’t like farming as a living. It’s difficult),” said Revilla’s son Reniel who dreams of becoming a policeman.

Given their situation, Revilla and other members of “Kilos Magniniyog” have high hopes in the proposed Coco Levy Trust Fund that President Rodrigo Duterte has been urging the legislators to create.

The Coco Levy Fund is comprised of Marcos-era levy imposed on coconut farmers which has been estimated to have ballooned to P100-B.

The Coco Levy Trust Fund bill has already been forwarded to the President for signing after he made the same plea to the lawmakers in his third SONA in 2018.

But in February this year, the Chief Executive vetoed the proposed legislation because it lacked “vital safeguards” against corruption.

In his SONA on Monday, the President explained that though he understands the urgency of resuscitating the almost dying coconut industry in the country, he still cannot find ‘an honest man’ to manage the fund.

“Kaya ako very careful until now, (That’s why I am very careful until now),” he said.

“This is sacred money. This money was taken out of the pockets of the Filipinos arbitrarily. Tama ang (I agree with the) Supreme Court. You can no longer trace the truthful owner of the land,” he added.

Thus, the President suggested that instead of giving cash to farmers, it would be better to create a trust fund and invest some amount on improvements and developments in the coconut industry.

“Ang plano ko kung gusto ninyo, (My plan and if you agree with me,) you save the money. You invest the money. Siguro magabot iyan ng (The amount is estimated to have reached) more than P100 billion. Lagay na lang ninyo ng (Put it in a) trust fund for the government, (the) P5 billion. Iyon na lang (ang) gastusin ninyo (That would be enough) to reserve the money,” he said.

Though appeased by the President’s plan, coconut farmers said what they want to see now are results of his promise in 2016 that the Coco Levy Fund would be utilized within his first 100 days in office.

“Ito’y salita palang ng Pangulo. Ang katiyakan nito para malubos yung aming tuwa nito gawan ng Pangulo lahat ng paraan para maibalik kaagad yung pera ng Coco Levy sa aming mga magsasaka,” said Ed Mora of the group ‘Kilos Magniniyog”

(That was mere talk from the President. For us to be fully satisfied, the President must find ways to return the benefits of the Coco Levy to us coco farmers.)

The group pushes for a provision that owners of coconut farms larger than five hectares would be excluded from the benefits of the Trust Fund.

Likewise, they suggest that only the interest of the Coco Levy Fund should be utilized for coco farmers’ projects so as to reserve the fund.

They also believe in the importance of creating a joint committee that will manage the Trust Fund with representations from the government and from the coconut farmers as well.

Aside from copra, the coconut farmers also want to promote other coconut-based products such as the virgin coconut oil, one of the country’s export-quality product.

With the President half-way through his term, the coconut farmers hope that the passage of the bill will be accelerated through the House Speakership of Alan Peter Cayetano who is one of the main supporters of the President’s campaign promises. – with details from Rey Pelayo

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