New agreement on pork imports to benefit consumers — Sotto

Marje Pelayo   •   May 7, 2021   •   180

MANILA, Philippines – Senators and government economic managers have agreed to propose an amendment to the Executive Order 128 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Based on what both sides have agreed upon, import tariffs on in-quota on pork will be reduced to 15% provided it is within the minimum access volume (MAV) on the first three months of implementation.

After three months, it will be increased to 20% for the succeeding months.

Meanwhile, the initial recommendation of 400,000 metric tons for minimum access volume (MAV) will be reduced to 254, 000 metric tons.

Sotto believes this will benefit the economy, the local hog raisers and most importantly, the consumers.

“The swine industry has many allied industries like corn, crops, transportation. Kaya hindi porke hindi ka kumakain ng pork ay wala kang kinalaman dito. May kinalaman ka dito kapag tinamaan ka ng inflation na mabigat,” Sotto said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee of the Whole will soon release its committee report on the three hearings they conducted.

The reports are expected to contain recommendations on the possible amendments in EO 128 to prevent technical smuggling of pork imports and to clarify the role of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Sevice (NMIS) for that matter.

“The committee report will contain the content of the proceedings and what we feel should be legislated or if not, the executive department should work on,” Sotto said.

Sotto added that the Senate should be informed right away once the new EO is released. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate mourns death of ex-Pres. Noynoy Aquino

Robie de Guzman   •   June 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senators on Thursday expressed their condolences on the passing of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Aquino passed away this morning for still undisclosed reasons. He was 61.

“No matter what political side you’re on, when a former president passes away, the country mourns,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a message to reporters.

“His death diminishes us all. Sincerest condolences from the Senate and my family,” he added.

Senator Grace Poe also paid tribute to the late former president.

“Sa nagbukas ng pinto ng serbisyo publiko para sa atin, maraming salamat sa iyong legasiya ng pagsisilbi nang buong katapatan at dedikasyon. Ipinakita sa atin ni PNoy ang kahalagahan ng mabuting kalooban sa isang pinuno: walang pag-iimbot sa kapwa, malinis ang intensyon, at walang pagkagahaman sa kapangyarihan,” Poe said in a statement.

“Pinapahalagahan namin ang iyong matapat na paglilingkod, PNoy,” she added.

Senator Sonny Angara likewise honored Noynoy’s legacy as he expressed his sympathies to the Aquino family.

“Rest well knowing that in time your own legacy will be remembered as it should be, from a perspective that is objective. You have earned your place in the annals of Philippine history. May the Lord bring comfort to PNoy’s siblings and rest of the Aquino clan,” he said.

Senator Manny Pacquiao also remembered Aquino’s programs during his term as president.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Former President Benigno Aquino III. His love for the country was manifested in his term of service where he championed the ‘Daang Matuwid’ and the ‘Kayo ang Boss Ko,’” he said.

“We are sending our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the beloved family of the former president. His legacy will be remembered,” he added.

Senator Joel Villanueva, who served as director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) during the Aquino administration, expressed sadness over the passing of his friend.

“The nation lost a leader, and I, a friend. But he was more than that. He was a mentor, a brother to me,” Villanueva said in a statement.

“If I was Tesdaman, he was the TESDA Godfather. He believed in the great talents of our youth, waiting to be unlocked if given good training, right breaks, and inspiring success stories. By ordering that they be trained, he invested in their dreams,” he said.

Villanueva remembered Aquino as “a simple man, plain Citizen Noy,” after his stint in Malacañang, and “a compassionate tito, never missing the perks and the powers he once wielded.”

“When the passion of the present had died down, a fair assessment of his administration will bear the truth of great achievements, brave decisions and moral leadership,” he said.

“We now commit him to the embrace of our Lord, and his life and works to history’s kind judgement,” he added.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who served as Aquino’s rehabilitation czar in areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda, said Noynoy served his country “very well with humility, honor, and integrity.”

“It was indeed a privilege to have served with him – both in the Senate and the Executive Department, but more than that, to be his friend,” Lacson said.

“As our country’s leader, he did not deserve to be unappreciated. He served his country very well with humility, honor and integrity,” he added.  “Even as President, he always managed to promptly respond to my messages, no matter how casual and trivial.”

Prior to winning the presidency, Aquino served in the Senate from 2007 to 2010.

He chaired the Senate Committee on Local Government in the 14th Congress and was also vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

DOF assures enough funds for procuring vaccine supply

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Finance (DOF) on Tuesday (June 15) assured that the national government has enough budget to procure coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine doses.

During the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government’s P88.6 billion budget is enough to vaccinate 70 million adult Filipinos. This, he said, will cover 149 million vaccine doses.

Dominguez also said that the government will be able to obtain 200 million doses if the private sector will also procure around 25 million doses to be added to the 30 million doses that “are currently in the pipeline for negotiations”.

When asked about the price range for the procurement of vaccines, Dominguez replied it ranges from P323.75 – P1,323.30 per dose. He, however, did not disclose which brands, saying it would violate the non-disclosure agreements with vaccine manufacturers.

Senator Franklin Drilon stated the need for the Senate as well as the public to know the price range of the procured COVID-19 vaccines.

“To be clear, wala po akong sinasabing may nagnakaw. Maliwanag po iyan. Tinatanong ko lang kung magkano ba dahilan sa ito’y obligasyon natin bilang mga senador, obligasyon natin kung paano natin ginagastos ang kanilang pera,” he said.

(To be clear, I was not saying there is corruption. It is clear. What I am asking is how much were the doses since this is our obligation as Senators. It is our obligation to know how we spend public funds.)

“This is a public forum, we cannot disclose publicly. Now if COA [Commission on Audit] wants to audit us, it is open for audit. I personally designed the financing of this involving ADB [Asian Development Bank], AIIB [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank], and involving World Bank as a double-check. Because they will not pay for that if they see that we are overpaying,” Dominguez said.

The government is also reviewing to have an additional P20 billion to procure doses for the vaccination of children ages 12 to 15 years old. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it already released over P660 billion funds for the government COVID-19 response.

Meanwhile, the first batch of vaccine supply for the private sector will arrive on June 17.

Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also said that private companies will give excess doses to the local government.

“Most of the private sector indicated to me that they will donate it to the LGU. considering that when we procured the vaccine the intention of the private sector is really to help the government in producing the dosage,” he said. -AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Senate approves POGO tax bill on third, final reading

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 3, 2021

With votes of 17-3-0, the Senate has approved the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators or POGO Tax Bill on the third and final reading.

Senate Bill No. 223 which President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent seeks to impose additional taxes on POGO.

The Gross Gaming Revenue or receipts from POGO’s gaming operation will have 5% tax. The gross income of all alien employees of offshore gaming licensees and service providers will also be imposed with 25% withholding tax.

According to Senator Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and sponsor of the bill, an estimate of P28.7 billion worth of taxes will be collected in 2021 once it becomes a law. Meanwhile, an estimate of P32 billion will be collected in 2022.

However, several Senators do not agree in approving the said bill. Senator Risa Hontiveros said online gambling should not be the main source of income for foreigners in the country. She also reported crimes and syndicates where several POGO employees are involved.

“I think it is important for this chamber, Mr. President, to take a stronger position against online gambling and the illicit activity it has brought to our shores,” she said.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also agreed with Hontiveros.

“Indeed, whatever amount the BIR collects from POGOs may be used to fund projects to give relief to our people’s suffering during this pandemic. However, we cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the social costs that the POGO industry brings and has brought upon us,” he said. AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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