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Farm damage due to Taal eruption rises to P578 million; volcanic ash to replenish soil nutrients in affected areas

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Farm damage due to Taal eruption rises to P578 million; volcanic ash to replenish soil nutrients in affected areas

While the Taal Volcano eruption has already damaged P577.59 million worth of crops and livestock, the volcanic ash that covered several areas also brings benefits as it will improve soil fertility over the long term, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

Data released by the DA office in the Southern Tagalog region as of January 14 showed that the eruption has already affected 2,772 hectares of farm lands and 1,967 animal heads. 

Damaged farms had rice, corn, coffee, cacao, banana and high-value crops.

Alert Level 4 is still up in the area, which means a hazardous eruption is expected within hours or days.

Although currently destructive, the volcanic ash deposits will also contribute to the so-called “birth of soil”, or the renewal and replenishing of soil nutrients in the affected farms. The Bureau of Soils and Water Management said this will improve soil fertility on medium to long term.

The DA interventions so far include P21.7 million worth of crops and livestock to be distributed by DA CALABARZON to 17 LGUS including Agoncillo, San Nicolas, Talisay, Lemery, Laurel, Lipa City, San Jose, Nasugbu, Mataas na Kahoy, Balete, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Padre Garcia, Tanauan City, Malvar and Taal. 

“These interventions include the provision of livestock for restocking and rice and corn seeds, high-value crops planting materials and other production inputs,” the DA said.

Also, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) has available drugs and biologics to be provided for the affected livestock. Also, two trucks are available to mobilize the affected areas for animal rescue and evacuation.

The DA added: “As for the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), a total of 5,000 coffee mother plants and 1,000 cacao seedlings are ready for distribution for damaged coffee and cacao areas.”

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will prepare immediate assistance in the form of fingerlings (7M fingerlings for tilapia; 20,000 for Ulang; 50,000 for hito; 100,000 for Bighead Carp; and 5,000 fingerlings for Ayungin) once aquaculture operation in the Lake will resume.

“Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) has an initial amount of Php 30M ready to provide to Rural Bank of Mt. Carmel as funds for the implementation of Survival and Recovery (SURE) Loan Assistance that will benefit around 1,200 farmers/fisherfolk in Batangas. In addition, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) has available and enough funds to pay for the indemnity of the affected insured farmers and fisherfolk,” the DA said.

Road fissure caused by volcanic tremors destroys homes in a town near Taal Volcano

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Road fissure caused by volcanic tremors destroys homes in a town near Taal Volcano
A family in a van crosses a damaged road in Lemery town in Batangas province Tuesday. Photo: EPA-EFE

The frequent tremors caused by the Taal Volcano activity have caused a 3-kilometer fissure on a road in the nearby town of Lemery, Batangas, destroying around 20 houses and triggering fears among residents that it could be an active fault line.

Teresa Atienza, village leader of Barangay Sinisian, said the crack originated from the Taal Lake and had since branched into several small fissures since it was first noticed in the morning of January 13, or just hours after Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday (January 12).

“Ako po ay natatakot na baka isa itong fault line…ako po ay humihingi ng tulong sa mga expert para malaman kung ano talaga ang dahlian ng pagbitak na ito,” Atienza said in an interview over radio station DZMM.

Lemery is only about 12 kilometers away from Taal. 

Atienza said residents of the damaged houses have been relocated. They were advised not to return to their homes as the structures are no longer safe due to the continuous quakes in the area.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said around 200 tremors of below Intensity 5 have been recorded since Taal Volcano heightened its activity.

Taal Volcano’s condition remains on Alert Level 4, which means a destructive eruption can happen within hours.

Atienza said the fissure, reminiscent of scenes in the 2009 movie “2012” when cracks started to appear on Los Angeles roads before it was totally obliterated from the map, could reach as far as the city of Muntinlupa in Metro Manila, where there is an existing fault line.

The whole province of Batangas is now under a state of calamity, with more than 16,000 people already evacuated from areas within the danger zone as of the afternoon of January 14.

How the ashfall from Taal Volcano can harm you

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How the ashfall from Taal Volcano can harm you

The Department of Health (DOH) has advised the public to minimize exposure to the volcanic ash blown to Metro Manila cities after the Taal Volcano eruption on Sunday (January 12).

This is because the ashfall contains harmful substances such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, fluorine and hydrochloric acid, among others.

Among the harmful effects of volcanic ash are: nose and throat irritation, coughing, bronchitis-like illness, discomfort while breathing, eye irritation and skin irritation.

Particularly vulnerable to these harmful substances are people suffering from asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is why they are advised to remain indoors. 

Interviewed over radio station DZMM, pulmonologist Giancarlo Arandia said the ash particles are so small that can easily enter the openings of the respiratory system.

Those who can’t avid gong outdoors, Arandia said they should use N95 masks or damp towel in covering their nose.

Ophthalmologist Nilo Flor Cruz also told DZMM: “Irritating ‘yung ash na ‘yon dahil medyo acidic ‘yon eh. Kung dati sa panahon ng Pinatubo, pwedeng mangalawang ‘yung mga bubong, paano pa ‘yung mata natin.”

He recommended the use eye of lubricant drops to remove the tiny ashes and also regular washing of the face.

The Philippine office of the World Health Organization gave these recommendations to the public: stay indoors unless absolutely necessary; avoid low-lying areas and areas downwind from the volcano; for children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems, wear masks that block small particles of ash; for the general population, wear a simple mask; wear protective eye gear; make sure food and water you consume are safe.

EDITORIAL: Does US Senate Resolution 142 carry weight?

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Does US Senate Resolution 142 carry weight?
Image Credit: Tabloid PH

Does Resolution 142 passed by the US Senate (or S.Res. 142) carry weight? In Washington, maybe; but in Manila, especially under a maverick Chief Executive like Rodrigo R. Duterte, nada.

The world knows that the Philippines gained its complete independence from America in 1946 through the “Tydings–McDuffie Act”, or the Philippine Independence Act, signed by President Harry S. Truman.

This means that for the Philippines, S.R. 142 should be nothing but an expression of the sense of the US Senate regarding the detention of Senator Leila de Lima, the oft-criticized bloody war against illegal drugs launched by the Duterte administration, and the perceived muzzling of critical press and political opposition in the country.

S.R 142, titled “Condemning the Government of the Philippines for its continued detention of Senator Leila De Lima, calling for her immediate release, and for other purposes”, calls on the Philippine government to immediately release de Lima, “drop all charges against her, remove restrictions on her personal and work conditions, and allow her to fully discharge her legislative mandate, especially as Chair of the Committee on Social Justice.”

It also urges the government of the Philippines to “guarantee the right to the freedom of the press, and to drop all the charges against Maria Ressa and Rappler.” The resolution also calls on the President of the United States to impose sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (subtitle F of title XII of Public Law 114–32822 U.S.C. 2656 note) with respect to—

(A) members of the security forces and officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for extrajudicial killings; and

(B) officials of the Government of the Philippines responsible for orchestrating the arrest and prolonged detention of Senator De Lima.

There is no way Malacanang would heed these calls of the US Senate. President Duterte had declared too many times that he wouldn’t mind losing the support of Washington and would prefer to be an ally of Beijing.

Not only that, Malacanang had repeatedly said also that the case of de Lima is now in the hands of the Judiciary. Any intervention on the case of de Lima from the Executive Branch, as what S.R. 142 is demanding, would prove the claims that— as mentioned in the resolution— “indeed, she has been the target of partisan persecution”.

President Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, in response to S. R. 142, said de Lima and Ressa “have been criminally charged in accordance with the law. They have availed – and are still availing – of legal remedies for their defense.”

So let the wheels of justice grind. If the prosecution couldn’t prove the guilt of both de Lima and Ressa, they would be freed in due time—with or without S.R. 142. The Philippines is an independent country with an independent judicial system. S.R. 142 should not carry any weight in their cases. Otherwise, the resolution would just be contradicting itself.

Local airlines commit to help in repatriation of Filipinos via free flights from Middle East

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Local airlines commit to help in repatriation of Filipinos via free flights from Middle East
AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

The Philippine government now has multiple options—both via sea and air— in repatriating Filipinos that will be put at risk should tensions between the US and Iran escalate, after two local carriers have committed to free provide free flights from the Middle East.

This was disclosed by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Jim Sydiongco on Friday (January 10).

“Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have agreed to accommodate free of charge stranded Filipinos in the UAE or in any of its available Middle East flights, once the plans for the repatriation has been outlined,” said the CAAP official in a statement. 

Aside from air transport, the government is also preparing for the evacuation of Filipinos in Iraq, Iran and other areas in the Middle East via sea vessels.

Already dispatched to the region was the newly purchased BRP Gabriela Silang, which will be on stand by should the repatriation operation commence.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles also told reporters on Friday that “if needed, we might have to charter a cruise vessel para mas malaki.”

Nograles said the government is considering Qatar as transit point for the Filipinos that will be repatriated.

An initial P100-million budget was readied for the evacuation of Filipinos in Iran and Iraq alone.

Malacanang ordered the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq after a series of missile attacks was launched by Iran against US installations in Iraq, in retaliation to the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

US President Donald Trump called off a counterstrike after he was informed that no American was killed or injured in Iran’s “calibrated response” to the Soleimani assassination.

Still, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said mandatory repatriation from Iraq remains in effect, “while Filipinos in Iran, Libya and Lebanon who wish to come home because of the recent tensions will be assisted by the government.”

Two battalion of soldiers will also be deployed to assist in the rescue in repatriation of Filipinos, and not to engage in combat.

“Personnel to be deployed in the conflict areas will exclusively assist in the repatriation and humanitarian operations,” Lorenzana said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. said the government will pay for the penalties or debts of Filipinos that will be repatriated.

Competitive salaries for state personnel to allow the government to retain, attract talented workers

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Competitive salaries for state personnel to allow government to retain, attract talented workers
Image Credit: PhilippineRetirementVisa

Malacanang is hopeful that the salary increase for state employees under a new law signed by President Duterte on Wednesday (January 8) will allow the government to retain human resources that are either opting to go to private firms or work abroad due to their meager income.

Secretary Salvador Panelo, Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel, said the 8-percent to 30-percent hike to be granted under the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, or Republic Act (RA) 11466, puts the compensation of government personnel on a par with their private sector counterparts.

This, Panelo noted, will help the government retain—and even attract—talented state workers.

He said: “The Palace hopes that this latest round of salary adjustment will motivate everyone in the public sector to work doubly hard and put more dedicated and competent service in their respective jobs.”

RA 11466 hikes the salaries of employees with Salary Grades 10 to 15 by 20 percent to 30 percent. Those with Salary Grades 23 to 33, meanwhile, will get an 8-percent increase.

The adjustments will be given in four tranches beginning this month up to 2023.

President Duterte has a Salary Grade 33, although he is not included in the compensation adjustment under the law.

Also excluded are Vice President Leni Robredo, the present members of Congress, military and uniformed personnel, employees of government-owned or -controlled corporations covered by RA 10149, and individuals whose services are engaged through job orders, contracts of service, consultancy or service contracts with no employer-employee relationship.

“The Office of the President notes that the law is at the initiative – and has the strong support – of President Duterte pursuant to his desire to upgrade the standard of living of government employees,” Panelo said. “The law is aimed at benefitting those hardworking men and women in the government, including our teachers and nurses who unfortunately have been neglected in the past.” 

Newly purchased vessel BRP Gabriela Silang redirected to Middle East for repatriation of OFWs

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Newly purchased vessel BRP Gabriela Silang redirected to Middle East for repatriation of OFWs
Image Credit: Dung Tran / Youtube

Newly purchased Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) vessel BRP Gabriela Silang just received its first mission order even before it could reach Philippine waters after it was designated to head to the Middle East to help in the repatriation of Filipinos in the region as tension between the US and Iran escalates.

The French-made BRP Gabriela Silang is on its maiden voyage and was supposed to reach the Philippines on February 20 after it left Saint-Nazaire, France last December 30.

However, with Iran already starting its retaliatory actions against the US for the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, BRP Gabriela Silang’s course was redirected to the Middle East for its first tour of duty.

The Philippine Mission in Baghdad just announced on Wednesday (January 8) that Alert Level 4 has been declared over Iraq, which means Filipinos there need to be evacuated immediately. Alert Level 4 means there is large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack in the subject country.

This was after a series of missile attacks was launched by Iran on a military base in Iraq housing American forces.

In a Facebook Live advisory, Chargè d’ Affairès Jomar Sadie in Iraq said : “Inatasan na po ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang iba’t ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan ng Pilipinas, kasama na po ang Embahada ng Pilipinas sa Iraq para ilikas ang mga Pilipino dito sa bansa. Ang marching order sa amin ay mandatory repatriation.” 

BRP Gabriela Silang will now had to Dubai and Oman as a standby vessel for the repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East. 

Around 1,600 Filipinos are currently situated in Iraq alone. Sadie advised them to contact the Philippine mission in Iraq at 07816066822, 07516167838, 07518764665 and 07508105240 for any concern regarding their documents and release from employers.

He said: “Kung wala kayong employer at biktima ng human trafficking, tumawag po kayo sa amin para matulungan namin kayo o pumunta directly sa embassy,” he added, noting that appropriate travel documents will be issued to them by the embassy. Kapag gusto ninyong umuwi at ayaw kayong pauwiin ng employer at hindi ninyo siya mapakiusapang mabuti, tawagan ninyo po kami at kami ang kakausap sa employer ninyo.”

Duterte to Iran, Iraq leaders: Keep Filipinos out of harm’s way or else…

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Duterte to Iran, Iraq leaders: Keep Filipinos out of harm’s way or else…

President Duterte is ready to ditch his anti-United States sentiment and even side with Washington if Filipinos are hurt in any retaliatory move by Tehran against American soldiers and installations.

This will be the message that Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Abdullah Mamao will be delivering to the leaders of Iran and Iraq, Duterte’s legal adviser and spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters on Tuesday (January 7).

Panelo said Mamao has been dispatched to the Middle East to personally inform the governments of Iraq and Iran of the “friendly caution” of Duterte.

“Hindi tayo magiging neutral. The President was very specific in saying last night that if the Filipinos are harmed, he will side with the Americans. The President will not sit idly and watch,” Panelo said. As to what action that support to the US would translate into was not detailed by Panelo.

Duterte is known to have pivoted toward China in his diplomatic and trade policies. He didn’t like the criticisms he was getting from the US government over his administration’s bloody war against drugs.

Just recently, he banned US senators from entering the Philippines for espousing the release from prison of Senator Leila de Lima, a known political enemy of Duterte.

The President gathered his Cabinet and security advisers Monday night to discuss the impact of the tension between the US and Iran over the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

The government is preparing to repatriate Filipinos in Middle Eastern areas that would be put in harm’s way should the rift between Tehran and Washington escalate into actual military tussles.

There are around 4 million Filipino workers in the Middle East, and around 6,000 of them are in Iran and Iraq.

Duterte earlier said he fears that “so many lives of our countrymen” could be put in jeopardy. “Kinakabahan ako. Iran seems to be hell-bent on a retaliation, which I think will come. It’s a matter of time. I do not have anything, nary a worry, were it not for a fact that there are a lot of Filipinos there… We need the money. I need it before it actually starts.”

DOH quarantine bureau at airports on heightened alert after the spread of unknown disease in Wuhan

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DOH quarantine bureau at airports on heightened alert after spread of unknown disease in Wuhan

Passengers arriving from China and Hong Kong will be made to undergo physical tests, including temperature scanners, upon arrival at Philippine airports to make sure the currently unknown disease that has infected more than 50 people in Wuhan, China will not enter the country, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday (January 6).

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, DOH spokesman, said arriving passengers would be quarantined if necessary, especially if they were found to have flu-like symptoms and coughs.

“Doble bantay lang po sa mga flights galing China at Hong Kong para ma-detect lang po natin agad kung may mga pasaherong may lagnat. I-interviewin, phyisical exam at kung meron nakitang dahilan, baka kailangan natin i-quarantine,” Domingo said in an interview over DZMM radio station.

According to the report of Agence France-Press, the Wuhan infection broke out between 12 and 29 December, with some of the patients employed at a seafood market in the city that has since been closed for disinfection. No obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found so far, added the province’s health commission. 

Domingo said there is still no indication if the disease is caused by the SARS virus, which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2003. 

Still, Domingo advised Filipinos traveling to China and Hong Kong to avoid going to populous places. They should also wear face masks and regularly wash their hands. He said Hong Kong was included on the watch list because two of its residents returned home sick from Wuhan.

Domingo also urged Filipinos who just arrived from China and Hong Kong to immediately see a doctor if they are not feeling well. “Pa-check up na, lalo na sa mga infectious disease hospitals like San Lazaro, para malaman natin and avoid na rin makahawa,” he said.

Domingo stressed that the Philippines need to handle the matter with prudence since it is a new disease and “we don’t know yet its extent”. The DOH’s Bureau of Quarantine at the airports, he said, is already on top of the matter.

DTI pushes proposal requiring registration of prepaid SIM cards to prevent text scams

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DTI pushes proposal requiring registration of prepaid SIM cards to prevent tex scams
Image Credit: DTI.Philippines / FB

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has joined the call for mandatory registration of prepaid SIM (subscriber identity module) cards, believing that this will prevent the so-called text scams.

Bills have been filed in Congress requiring consumers to register their SIM cards first before usage, just like in other countries.

“It is now high time to require the registration of prepaid SIM cards to know the identity of the SIM card holders,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

Lopez made the statement as the DTI again reminded the public to be vigilant and not to be fooled by unscrupulous marketing ploys via text messages.

Reports said text scammers are now even using the names of government agencies and officials like Senator Bong Go as endorsers.

“Again, the government nor its officials do not engage in private commercial transactions and personal promotion campaign or activity and abhor techniques that fraudulently use their good name. While the DTI enforces the sales promotions provisions of the Consumer Act, it does not particularly endorse, partner nor support them, especially lucky draw games and raffles,” the DTI advised the public.

It added: “Please do not entertain nor transact with them. You may check and validate the registered sales promotions on the DTI website (www.dti.gov.ph), or email us at [email protected], or call 1-DTI (384) to ensure their validity.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson’s Senate Bill 25, or the “Prepaid Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards Regulations Act of 2019”, aims to prevent the illegal or malicious use of prepaid SIM cards.

Lacson noted in his bill: “Not only is this prepaid SIM card easily accessible, i.e., it can be bought almost anywhere, the owners thereof can likewise easily evade detection since prepaid SIM cards are virtually undetectable. Due to this, unscrupulous individuals almost always take advantage of the same in the pursuit of their criminal activities to the detriment not only of a particular interest but that of the whole nation.”

DOH, EcoWaste insist total ban on fireworks only way to prevent injuries during revelries

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DOH, EcoWaste insist total ban on fireworks only way to prevent injuries during revelries
Image Credit: Tabloid.PH

The Department of Health (DOH) is still pushing for a total ban on firecrackers and fireworks despite the huge 35-percent drop in the number of related injuries during the 2019 holiday season revelries.

This was seconded by environmental advocate EcoWaste Coalition, which insisted that the only way to prevent injuries is to totally ban the traditional use of fireworks in greeting the start of a new year.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, in an interview with GMA News on Thursday (January 2), said the problem with a selective or partial ban is people are still getting hurt by legal types of firecrackers.

This was evident in the last revelries, where the majority of injuries were due to the use of legal fireworks, like those commonly called by Filipinos as kwitis, luces and fountain.

“Ang stand po ng Department of Health sana magkaroon natayo ng batas na talagang maging illegal na lang lahat ng fireworks, lalong-lalo na po kung gagamitin sa bahay or for personal use,” Domingo said in the interview.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported on Wednesday that only 164 firecracker-related injuries were recorded by the DOH from December 1 to January 1, 35 percent lower than the 251 cases in the previous same period.

The DOH chief attributed the considerable drop in injuries to the implementation of Executive Order 28, which limits the use of firecrackers in the country, as well as the department’s information campaign “IwasPaputok”.

Still, EcoWaste said in a statement that to achieve zero injury and zero pollution during the New Year revelry, “we need to seriously look at banning firecrackers and fireworks altogether.”

“We are saddened and dismayed by the bodily injuries inflicted by firecrackers and fireworks, especially on young victims. One injury is one too many and our society has to do more to discontinue the bloody and polluting tradition of ringing in the New Year with firecrackers and fireworks, legal or not,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner at EcoWaste.

The government, the group added, should look for alternative livelihood for the sectors that will be affected by a total ban on fireworks.

Domingo said the use of fireworks should only be allowed during “well-controlled and organized” events.

Expect checkpoints, curfews to continue in Mindanao despite lifting of Martial Law

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Expect checkpoints, curfews to continue in Mindanao despite lifting of Martial Law
Image Credit: ABS-CBN News

Despite the formal lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao today (January 1), the government will maintain visibility of soldiers in the region and implement measures such as checkpoints and curfews to ensure quick response versus rebels and insurgents.

“The present number of troops will remain where they are and will continue to collaborate with the LGUs (local government units) to sustain peace and stability,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarified.

Bangsamoro Transition Authority member of parliament Zia Alonto Adiong said under Memorandum No. 3, the military can still implement curfews and establish checkpoints to suppress lawless violence and acts of terror in Mindanao and prevent such violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country. 

The memorandum mandates the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to coordinate the immediate deployment of additional forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Our security forces will still be able to accurately respond to the threats,” Adiong said.

On Tuesday (December 31), Lorenzana announced that the Martial Law in Mindanao, which was in effect since May 23, 2017, was to end “at midnight 31 December 2019 … after two years and seven months or 953 days of effectivity.”

The attack of the ISIS terror cell Maute Group in Marawi City prompted President Duterte to declare Martial Law in Mindanao. Congress extended it thrice.

“Upon the recommendation of the security sector, the President has decided to allow martial law to lapse and not ask for another extension anymore,” Lorenzana said.

AFP Spokesman Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said Proclamation No. 55 is still in effect so the “people can then be assured that the AFP will deploy to suppress any and all forms of lawless violence to prevent them from spreading and escalating.”

“We encourage local government executives to continue their robust partnership with government security agencies. In the event that isolated incidents of violence and lawlessness erupt in Mindanao after martial law has lapsed, there still is Proclamation 55 in effect,” Arevalo said.

As 30th SEA Games nears, let us put aside politics and ‘We Win As One’

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As 30th SEA Games nears, let us put aside politics and ‘We Win As One’
Image Credit: Tabloid PH

The Philippines, it seems, has already lost in the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) even before Filipino athletes could compete.

With politics again rearing its ugly head just days before the opening ceremonies on November 30, the Philippines already earned a “zero” scorecard as far as the 2019 SEAG theme is concerned—We Win As One!

Clearly, even an important event that we are hosting couldn’t zip the mouths of our politicians. Every “wise” word they say only further divides the nation, which should not be the case now. 

Can there be a political ceasefire for at least a few weeks?

In support of the Filipino athletes and in the spirit of the Game’s theme, local politicians should have opted to keep their mouths shut first and refrain from grandstanding until after the conclusion of the 30th edition of the biennial meet. That is only until December 11. But no, they just can’t.

Just because of a cauldron—be it overpriced, extravagant or a worthy work or art—focus was shifted to political bickering instead of boosting the morale of the athletes.

We commend Senator Sonny Angara for urging politicians to suspend the debates over the SEAG-related expenses, especially the P50-million cauldron. We also agree with House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano that this matter should be better looked into right after the SEAG.

However, the damage has been done, obviously. The time spent debating over a cauldron should have been devoted by the opposition and administration in working together to address the needs of Filipino athletes. The issue obviously just distracted the athletes and the Filipino people. It was just another issue that divided the nation ahead of the SEA Games.

Seeing the political leaders working as one would have also united Filipinos so we could cheer as one for our athletes. It would have also united Filipinos in ensuring quality hosting by the Philippines. 

With just a few days before the opening of the games, we hope our politicians will listen to sound advice. Instead of debating, let’s us rally Filipinos to supporting our athletes in each game they will be competing in. Let us urge Filipinos to be good hosts to our neighbors, and let them experience the kind of hospitality that we are known for all over the world.

Putting politics aside, let’s cheer as one, and hopefully, we will also win one as one, at least in the 30th SEA Games.

Robredo to reveal all she discovered about Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs

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Robredo to reveal all she discovered about Duterte’s bloody war against illegal drugs
Image Credit: bise_leni / IG

If the Duterte administration believes that it has seen the last of Vice President Leni Robredo in the campaign against illegal drugs, it is mistaken.

Robredo, just a day removed from her former post as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), said on Monday (November 25) that she will reveal everything that she knew about Duterte’s flagship program in her brief stint at the agency. 

“Kung sa tingin nila, matatapos ito dito, hindi nila ako kilala. Nagsisimula pa lang ako,” Robredo said, as she threatened to expose all the things she discovered in the coming days.

She also vowed to continue her crusade to bring to justice all those who abused their authority in the administration’s bloody war against narcotics.”Kahit tinanggalan ako ng posisyon, hinding-hindi nila kayang tanggalin ang aking determinasyon — determinasyong itigil ang patayan, determinasyong panagutin ang kailangan managot at ipanalo ang kampanya laban sa ilegal na droga.”

Robredo earned the ire of President Duterte over reports that she was conferring with and inviting foreign governments and organizations to help in the war against illegal drugs. These include the United Nations, whose Human Rights Council wants to try Duterte for alleged crimes against humanity.

Robredo denied doing this, saying the President should not believe in “fake news”. Still Duterte decided to remove her from ICAD after just 18 days of leading the agency.

Duterte’s spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said Robredo was just using ICAD for grandstanding.

Robredo said when she accepted the post, she already asked what the Duterte administration does not want the public to know about the anti-drug war.

“Noong tinanggap ko ang trabahong ito, ang una kong tinanong sa kanila ay, handa na ba kayo sa akin. Ngayon, ang tanong ko, ano bang kinatatakutan n’yo?” she asked.”Ano bang kinatatakutan n’yo na malaman ko? Ano bang kinatatakutan n’yo na malaman ng taumbayan?”

Aside from revealing what she discovered, Robredo said she will also report to the public her recommendations to reform the anti-narcotics campaign.

DOH, FDA raring to implement Duterte’s policy pronouncement on vaping ban

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DOH, FDA raring to implement Duterte’s policy pronouncement on vaping ban
Image via e-cigarette Reviewed

The Department of Health (DOH) welcomed the policy pronouncement of President Duterte banning vaping in public places.

Health Undersecretary Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo said they will now wait for the executive order (EO) to be issued by the Office of the President to determine how it would be properly implemented.

“Very clear yung words ng Presidente, kung saan bawal magsigarilyo, bawal din mag-vape,” Domingo said.

For the enforcement side, Domingo said the DOH will coordinate with the police and the local government units.

As for the ban, the DOH will be working with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Domingo is also the officer in charge of the FDA.

Domingo said the DOH already released last August an administrative order (AO) tasking the FDA to regulate the sale of vapes. However, sellers managed to secure temporary restraining orders from two regional trial courts against the AO. 

“Because of the TRO, we had to put the regulation on hold; but we are fighting for it. So now they can continue selling vapes unregulated. But when we see the actual EO of the President, we will work on that immediately,” Domingo said.

He stressed that they would not just accept the argument that vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking. “Even if you say it is less harmful, still it is harmful, and we need further studies on that.”

He recalled that some 40 years ago, regulators were saying that “cigarette smoking may be harmful to your health.” Now, it has confirmed that smoking really kills. “So we should not wait for another 40 years to say that vaping can really kill people,” he said.

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