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Gov’t grants farmers P10-B under the Rice Tarrification Bill

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, November 30th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: Farmers

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Wednesday (November 28) ratified the report of the bicameral conference committee on the rice tariffication bill.

The bill aims to lift quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

Instead, importers will be required to pay 35% levy or tariff on rice imports.

“Talagang we have to liberalize because it’s the provision of our agreement with the WTO so we have to tariffy to protect our farmers. Kasi kapag walang tariff, mas mura talaga ang import and the tariff proceeds will go to them for programs that make them competitive,” explained Senator Cynthia Villar, the Senate chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

The measure aims to prevent another shortage of rice supply and to ensure that the low price of commercial rice is maintained in local markets.

Critics of the bill argue that with restrictions on rice importation being lifted under the bill, there will be an oversupply of imported rice in local markets and the ones to suffer the burden first would be the local farmers.

But Villar allayed the farmers’ fears on the matter, saying the government has allotted a P10 billion fund to help them.

“Magbibigay po ang gobyerno ng sampung bilyong piso every year sa susunod na anim na taon para kayo ay maging competitive against import,” Villar assured.

On November 22, the bicameral committee approved the allocation of P10 billion to the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or Rice Fund.

This will be utilized for the improvement of farm machinery and equipment, seed production, training for rice farming, and loan programs among other means to help the local farmers.

Several farmers expressed gratitude to the efforts of government to help them sustain their livelihood.

“Iyon po ang pinakagusto kong natalakay ni Ma’am Senator Cythia Villar na magkakaroon ng farm school dahil karamihan ng mga farmers ay wala pang sapat na edukasyon tungkol sa crop production, inter cropping, multicrop production,” said Association of San Felipe Farmers president Joely Reguidon.

“Malaking bagay, dahil nagbibigay sila ng mga traktora, hindi masyadong mahal ang upa, pero mas maganda kung gagabayan ng gobyerno yung upa ng traktora. Kasi sa amin wala na kaming kalabaw, hindi namin naaaffordan yung traktora,” added Rolan, also a member of the farmers’ group.

As of press time, the Rice Tariffication Bill is awaiting the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte before it fully becomes a law. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Leslie Huidem)

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Attention space geeks: Senate OKs bill creating the Philippine Space Agency

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

Courtesy : Pexels

The senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to establish a Philippine Space Agency.

On Monday (May 20), the Senate voted 18-0 in favor of Senate Bill No. 1983 or an Act Establishing the Philippine Space Development and Utilization Policy and Creating the Philippine Space Agency.

The bill was introduced by Senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, Vicente Sotto III, Loren Legarda, and Sonny Angara.

According to Senator Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, the bill aims to improve disaster management as well as enhance production and profitability of agribusinesses.

“Satellites can improve disaster management from providing accurate information that allows early warnings and predicting of disasters to reliable and quick communication during relief and recovery operations,” Aquino said in his sponsorship speech.

Once the law is passed, the new agency will have an initial funding of P1 billion for the space program from the current fiscal year’s appropriation of the Office of the President.

“An additional P10 billion will come from the gross income of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) for five years after the effectivity of the act, with P2 billion to be released to PhilSA yearly,” the statement said.

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Senate okays shorter workweek bill

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Voting 17-0, the Senate approved on Monday (May 20) a bill allowing Filipino employees to render services with shorter workweek arrangement.

Filed by Senator Joel Villanueva, the proposed measure on compressed workweek arrangement allows employees to opt out of the regular eight-hours-five-days-per-week schedule.

Instead, employees may choose to enter into an agreement with the employers as long as it is a “mutually agreed voluntary work arrangement”.

Specifically, employees may prefer to work for a fewer number of days in a week but with longer hours as long as they meet the required workweek load of 40 hours, although the law upholds the 48-hour work limit per week.

Even with the a mutually agreed work schedule, employees will still be entitled to the existing company benefits.

With Senate approving the bill, it is now for submission to the Office of the President for signing to be enacted into law. – Marje Pelayo

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Congress resumes sessions, to tackle priority bills

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

Courtesy : HOR Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate and the House of Representatives are set resume their sessions today in a bid to pass several priority bills before the 17th Congress formally adjourns in three weeks.

The sessions will resume on Monday at three in the afternoon.

But before the plenary session begins in the Senate, majority of senators will first meet for a caucus called by Senate President Vicente Sotto III to finalize the legislative agenda of the upper chamber.

Sotto said that among the priorities that the Senate is looking to approve before the 17th congress adjourns on June 7 is the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act.

Sotto is referring to the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2019, which seeks to amend the Republic Act No. 9372 by redefining the acts of terrorism that are punishable by law and strengthening its provisions to deter terror groups.

The Senate will also try to finish tackling the proposed amendments to the Public Service Act. The bill seeks to amend Commonwealth Act No. 146 to address the confusion in the definition of a public utility and public services in order to provide Filipino consumers with more choices, better services and lower prices on utility services.

The measure is pending on second reading.

Sotto also expressed hope that the Medical Scholarship Act, which he authored, would be given equal priority before the sessions adjourn.

The bill seeks to address the issues of scarcity and unequal distribution of physicians in the country through the granting of scholarships to deserving medical students, provided that they would serve the country for five years.

The proposed measure is currently pending in the Senate committee on health and demography chaired by Senator JV Ejercito.

Other measures that the Senate is expected to discuss are the Budget Reform Act, Foreign Investment Act and the proposed granting of emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to address transportation woes in the country.

The lower House, for its part, is looking to approve more pro-people bills in the tight three-week schedule.

House Majority Leader Rep. Fredenil Castro said that among the bills they will tackle are the proposed Strengthening Drug Prevention and Control Act and the creation of Overseas Filipino Workers Sovereign Fund.

The Congress has nine session days before the sine die adjournment of 17th Congress. (with details from Nel Maribojoc)

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