DOE urged to create body to monitor new round of fuel tax hikes

Robie de Guzman   •   January 2, 2020   •   480

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to create a task force that will closely monitor the implementation of the new round of increases in excise tax on fuel.

Gatchalian made the call as the third and last tranche of tax hikes on petroleum products under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law took effect on Wednesday, January 1, 2020.

He said that under the TRAIN Law, the estimated rate impact on pump price for unleaded premium gasoline would be around ₱1.01 per liter, while the estimated rate impact of the third tranche of the excise tax on diesel price is ₱1.65 per liter.

For 100 percent coal contracted power distribution utilities, the estimated rate impact is around ₱0.03 per kilowatt hour.

The senator said the creation of the task force is aimed to protect consumers from premature price increases and profiteering.

“Kailangan paigtinging mabuti ng Department of Energy (DOE) ang pagbabantay laban sa hoarding at profiteering sa bansa ngayong nakaamba ang dagdag na excise tax sa huling pagkakataon,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“Huwag na nating hayaan ang ilang mapagsamantalang retailers na ibenta sa mataas na halaga ang kanilang mga lumang imbentaryong produkto, gayong nabili nila ito bago pa man maimplementa ang third tranche ng excise tax sa fuel,” he added.

Gatchalian noted that local oil companies maintain a minimum inventory equivalent to 15-day supply of petroleum products as provided under DOE’s Department Circular No. 2003-01-001 or the Implementing Guidelines for the Minimum Inventory Requirements of Petroleum of Oil Companies and Bulk Suppliers.

The DOE earlier said the new round of fuel tax hikes are only applicable to new stocks imported beginning January 1, 2020. It also advised oil firms to deplete old stocks before implementing new price schemes reflecting the new levies.

Gatchalian also called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to monitor the prices of goods in the market in order to ensure that unscrupulous businessmen will not take advantage and pass on the impact of higher oil prices to consumers as a result of the third tranche of the TRAIN law implementation.

“Mabigat na sa bulsa ng bawat isa ang pagpataw ng excise tax sa krudo. Sana naman ay huwag na natin dagdagan ang pasanin ng taong bayan sa pamamagitan ng hindi makatarungang pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin,” he said.

Gatchalian eyes probe on COVID-19 impact on PH basic education

Robie de Guzman   •   May 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday said he has filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the basic education system in the country.

In a statement, Gatchalian said he filed Senate Resolution No. 391, which aims to probe and assess the crisis’ impact on schools and help identify recovery and transition measures that would create a sustainable and resilient education system in time of emergencies.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, said the COVID-19 pandemic not only interrupted learning for the country’s more than 28 million students as it also aggravated the plight of vulnerable and marginalized learners and the existing disparities within the education system.

He added that students confined to their homes face other risks such as poor nutrition, mental health problems, and increased exposure to violence and exploitation.

“Hindi lamang natin sisikaping makabangon ang ating sistema ng edukasyon mula sa naging epekto ng COVID-19, kailangan nating patatagin ang kakayahan ng ating mga paaralan na ipagpatuloy ang pagbibigay ng dekalidad na edukasyon sa panahon ng mga krisis at sakuna,” Gatchalian said.

“Higit sa lahat, kailangan din nating ihanda nang maigi ang mga mag-aaral sa tinatawag na new normal na sistema ng edukasyon,” he added.

The Department of Education earlier announced that School Year 2020-2021 will open on August 24.

Gatchalian said learning from home would probably become the new normal for students, parents and teachers amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He also noted the Department of Education’s (DepEd) preparations for the shift to other learning platforms and tools such as online, radio, television, and printed materials to reach all learners.

Gatchalian also acknowledged the need to help private institutions.

Citing data from the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations, he said more than 409,757 private school teachers and personnel are receiving either reduced or no pay because of school closures.

Around 15.5 percent of elementary and high school students are enrolled in private schools, Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian says home-based learning may be ‘new normal’ in upcoming school year

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Learning from home may become the “new normal” for millions of students when school year 2020-2021 opens in August, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, said that the Department of Education (DepEd) should use every platform to ensure the continued education and safety of more than 27 million learners amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

He said the mix of digital, low-tech, and no-tech methods will help DepEd reach all learners, especially those in the far-flung areas without access to the internet.

Since not all learners have connectivity and available gadgets for online-based learning, the senator said that television and radio will be key to reaching more learners nationwide.

“Marami pa rin sa ating mga mag-aaral sa buong bansa ang hindi nakakagamit ng internet, kaya malaki ang potensyal ng radyo at telebisyon upang maipagtuloy natin ang edukasyon sa loob ng ating mga tahanan,” Gatchalian said.

“Sa pagpasok ng SY 2020-2021, mahalagang magamit natin lahat ng paraaan upang maipagpatuloy ang edukasyon ng ating mga kabataan at mapanatili ang kanilang kaligtasan,” he added.

The lawmaker also proposed that the number of subjects under DepEd’s Learning Continuity Plan be reduced only to core subjects amid the health crisis situation.

He also suggested that the time leading to the opening of classes on August 24 should be spent on preparing teachers, parents and learners on using different tools for home-based learning.

The DepEd earlier said it is studying various modes of learning for students depending on the situation in their areas. Its guidelines will be released when finalized.

Bill seeking to institutionalize alternative learning system gets Senate nod

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to institutionalize the alternative learning system (ALS) and establish an ALS community learning center in every locality in the country.

During its first “hybrid” session, the upper chamber passed the Senate Bill 1365 of the ALS Act with 22 affirmative votes.

The Senate resumed its session on Monday with 15 senators physically present while seven attended the hearing through teleconference.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, head of the Senate committee on basic education arts and culture and the bill’s principal author, said putting up ALS centers in every community will give more Filipinos outside the formal school system a second chance to complete their basic education.

He also said that the measure reflects the need for continued education amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis as the bill seeks to utilize a mix of learning modalities such as digital learning, modular instruction, and radio and television-based instruction to help ensure the safety of learning under the “new normal.”

Gatchalian said that the ALS is the Department of Education’s (DepEd) parallel learning system for those who cannot access formal education due to economic, geographic, political, cultural, and social barriers, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, children in conflict with the law, persons deprived of liberty, migrant workers, and other marginalized sectors of the society.

He added that in 2019, there were 738,929 learners enrolled in ALS.

In comparison to the formal education system, ALS is a non-formal education that happens outside the classroom, community-based, usually conducted at community learning centers, barangay multi-purpose halls or at home at an agreed schedule and venue between the learners and learning facilitators for free.

“The ALS Act is, in its very essence, a bill about second chances. It is a bill about providing opportunities for a better life to our fellow Filipinos who have fallen into hard times,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

Citing World Bank’s May 2018 Philippines Education Note, Gatchalian said that at least 24 million Filipinos aged 15 and above have not completed basic education.

The same report said that an additional 2.4 million children aged 5 to 14 were not in school.

“Kung bawat lungsod o munisipyo sa bansa ay magkakaroon ng ALS Community Learning Center, mas madali nating maaabot at mabibigyan ng dekalidad na edukasyon ang bawat Pilipinong napagkaitan ng pagkakataong tapusin ang kanilang pag-aaral,” the senator said.

“Malaking hamon ito para sa lahat ng stakeholders lalo na’t pinaghahandaan natin ngayon ang tinatawag na new normal sa muling pagbubukas ng eskwela,” he added.

The proposed bill also seeks to strengthen the ALS Teacher Program to address the shortage of ALS teachers and facilitators.

It also mandates the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to create teaching positions for ALS teachers.

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