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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

OFWs REMAIN SKEPTICAL EVEN AFTER PNoy ORDERED LINA TO STOP RANDOM OPENING OF BOXES
[Palace said ‘No politics’ involved in stopping physical inspection of balikbayan boxes]


AUGUST 26 -AQUINO --Despite President Aquino’s directive stopping the random physical inspection of balikbayan boxes, a coalition of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) groups and advocates vowed to remain vigilant over government policies and programs that directly affect the welfare and rights of Filipino migrant workers. A day after stopping the Bureau of Customs (BOC) plan, Malacañang assured that there was “no politics” behind President Aquino’s decision, dispelling allegations that the Chief Executive changed his mind on the issue supposedly for fear of a backlash on the administration candidates in the 2016 elections. The President’s main consideration in overturning the BOC plan is the welfare of the OFWs and their families in the country, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. “In his decision, President Aquino took into consideration the importance of the balikbayan box which is the fruit of hard work of each OFW to provide for his family. The President listened to the sentiment of his bosses, including the OFWs,” Coloma said in a Palace press briefing. “Our OFWs are not looking for special treatment,” said John Bertiz, the official spokesman of the coalition that include the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, the United Filipino Seafarers, the Filipino Migrant Workers, and the OFW Family Partylist, among others. “All they ask for is for the government to treat them with respect and dignity.” READ MORE...

ALSO Protest vs Aquino govt, BoC: OFWs stage Zero Remittance today
[The Aquino administration’s most recent statements belittling the Zero Remittance Day, only incited OFWs and their families. “They feel insulted. They feel challenged. They feel confronted. There is no love lost now between OFWs and their families and the Aquino government,” Migrante Int'l said.]


AUGUST 28 -Migrante said OFWs around the world agreed to mount Zero Remittance Day to protest the Aquino government and the Bureau of Customs’ imposed P600-million revenue target from balikbayan boxes. STAR/File photo
MANILA, Philippines - Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are staging a “Zero Remittance Day” today to signify their protest against the Bureau of Customs (BOC)’s new policies. Militant groups led by the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) yesterday held a protest rally in front of the BOC and threw empty balikbayan boxes with pictures of Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina. PLM chairman Sonny Melencio said they are calling for the resignation of Lina for “conflict of interest.” The militant overseas workers group Migrante said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in over 16 countries have signified to take part in the Zero Remittance Day. “We have been receiving reports from OFW groups and communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Middle East, Vietnam, Thailand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland and other parts of the world, telling us that they are already gearing for tomorrow’s protest,” said Connie Regalado of Migrante. “Aug. 28 will be biggest, most defiant Zero Remittance Day against the Aquino administration,” she added. READ MORE...

ALSO: BSP SAYS, YESTERDAY's HAS NO ECONOMIC IMPACT; OFWs warn of more protests
[According to Regalado, the OFWs felt insulted and vowed to take more anti-government actions when President Aquino’s allies belittled no-remittance day. Regalado said yesterday’s Zero Remittance Day was a success and showed OFWs’ unity. She said Filipinos from at least 16 countries participated.]


AUGUST 29 -Migrante's poster on the "zero remittance day" drive. Yesterday’s “Zero Remittance Day” had no significant economic impact, according to the central bank, but overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) warned of more mass actions against plans to tighten rules on balikbayan boxes. The OFW protest also prompted Customs officials to draw up revised guidelines regarding the handling of balikbayan boxes. The new rules may be out by next week.
The militant labor group Migrante said yesterday’s no-remittance day was not the last of the Filipino migrants’ “show of force and unity” against the government’s anti-OFW policies. Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante party-list chair, said OFWs would turn the Zero Remittance Day into a Zero Vote campaign against administration candidates in the coming 2016 elections. “Those who belittle our political exercise also look down on our strength and unity as a sector. Our message today is clear: The migrant sector is a force to reckon with. Those who have insulted us will feel the brunt of OFWs and their families’ ire this coming election season,” Regalado said. “We have millions of overseas absentee voters, we have millions of relatives back home who are voters. Let today’s Zero Remittance Day serve as a preview of the migrant sector’s unity come election time,” she added. According to Regalado, the OFWs felt insulted and vowed to take more anti-government actions when President Aquino’s allies belittled no-remittance day. Regalado said yesterday’s Zero Remittance Day was a success and showed OFWs’ unity. She said Filipinos from at least 16 countries participated. READ MORE...

ALSO: Massive Iglesia rally set in Davao City; 100,000 marchers seen


AUGUST 30 -NIÑO JESUS ORBETA/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Preparations have been underway for a massive rally here by members of the influential Iglesia ni Cristo from Southern Mindanao on Monday, authorities said.An estimated 100,000 people from 22 districts in Mindanao were expected participate in the four-day gathering in the regional capital, and close to 100 policemen and civil disturbance management (CDM) personnel would be deployed to provide security and traffic control, said Senior Insp, Milgrace Driz, city police spokesperson.Coming from the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Davao Occidental, as well as from the cities of Davao,Panabo, Tagum, Digos and Samal, the participants would have arrived here Sunday midnight, with the rally beginning around 7 a.m. Monday (Aug. 31), Driz said.She said the mass action would be centered at the Hall of Justice building in Ecoland area, just across the Davao City overland transport terminal (DCOTT), a major transport hub for buses plying major Mindanao routes.READ MORE...

ALSO: 59 state schools suffer budget cuts[Among the heftiest reductions are those for Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography, from P32.4 million to P16.6 million; Mindanao State University, from P418.8 million to P274.2 million and Iloilo State College of Fisheries, from P34.2 million in 2015 to P24.1 million]


AUGUST 27 -Fifty-nine state universities and colleges (SUCs) will suffer funding cuts next year, including the University of the Philippines with a P2-billion reduction in capital outlay. Philstar.com/File
 Fifty-nine state universities and colleges (SUCs) will suffer funding cuts next year, including the University of the Philippines with a P2-billion reduction in capital outlay. The combined budget for all the 114 state-owned schools of higher learning, however, will increase by P1.5 billion, Rep. Terry Ridon of party-list group Kabataan said yesterday. “Despite the increase in the total budgets of SUCs, from P42.3 billion this year to the proposed P43.8 billion in 2016, 59 SUCs will incur a net decrease in funding,” he said in the course of a hearing on the education sector’s outlay by the House appropriations committee chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab. Ridon said that while there is an across-the-board increase in funds for salaries for all SUCs, 59 of them would suffer cuts in allocations for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO). The MOOE represents an agency’s budget component for day-to-day operations and utilities, while the CO is provision for new infrastructure. Ridon said the total MOOE cuts for the 59 state schools would amount to P477.8 million. READ MORE...

ALSO: Student groups hold rally to protest budget cuts for State Universities & Colleges (SUC)


AUGUST 28 -Student groups yesterday staged a protest action against budget cuts for state universities and colleges (SUC) in the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2016.Despite the nominal 4 percent increase in the budget of 11 SUCs from a total P42.3 billion in 2015 to the proposed P43.8 billion in 2016, 10 SUCs will incur a net decrease in their respective budgets, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon revealed in a congressional deliberation of the budget of the Commission on Higher Education and SUCs.“At first glance, the budget for SUCs in 2016 seems to be nominally bigger than last year’s budget. But if we analyze each component of the budget carefully, one will see that the increase in the personnel service outlay actually hides the cuts in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) components,” Ridon said.A more in-depth analysis of the budget of SUCs, however, reveals that with 59 SUCs set to incur cuts in the budget for their MOOE, another 40 SUCs are set to have cuts in their capital outlay budget, Ridon said.
Personnel services refer to the budget for salaries and benefits of an agency’s personnel. The MOOE is an agency’s budget component for day-to-day operations and utilities while CO is the budget for new infrastructure. READ MORE...

ALSO: Tourist from Down Under falls into Naia ‘sinkhole’


AUGUST 27 -There’s no end to problems at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). After fixing the air conditioning, toilets and leaking ceilings, the once worst airport in the world is now dealing with “sinkholes.” The new problem was discovered last month when an Australian tourist fell into a hole after part of the floor in the arrival area gave way as he was walking to the transit gate. The incident happened at 9 p.m. on July 25, but became known only on Wednesday after somebody posted on Facebook the incident report to Rafael Regular, Naia Terminal 2 chief of operations. According to the report, three airport staff employees helped the 40-year-old tourist get out of the hole, which was a square-meter wide and 0.6-meter deep. The tourist, who arrived from Hong Kong on the same day, was not injured and he filed no complaint, but Naia people started to watch their step at the airport. The Naia Terminal 2 manager, Rico Gonzalez, told the Inquirer Wednesday that the Manila International Airport Authority was checking the floor throughout the airport for other possible sinkholes to prevent a repeat of the latest embarrassment for Naia.Pocket garden
Gonzalez said the part of the floor that collapsed was an area reclaimed by Philippine Airlines (PAL) over a year ago.
“That part used to be a pocket garden. PAL asked for more space because they said the pathway to their transit lounge was too narrow,” Gonzalez said. When the pocket garden was removed, it left a deep hole that apparently was not properly filled up by the contractor hired by PAL. “Instead of filling up that hole with soil to ensure that it was compact, the contractor apparently just covered it with wooden trusses before covering it with marble tiles,” Gonzalez said, adding that the wood naturally weakened over time, something the contractor failed to anticipate. He said PAL immediately filled up the hole, and the work was completed two weeks ago. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

OFWs remain skeptical: Palace said ‘No politics’ involved in stopping physical inspection of balikbayan boxes

MANILA, AUGUST 31, 2015 (MANILA BULLETIN) by Genalyn D. Kabiling and Roy C. Mabasa August 26, 2015 - Despite President Aquino’s directive stopping the random physical inspection of balikbayan boxes, a coalition of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) groups and advocates vowed to remain vigilant over government policies and programs that directly affect the welfare and rights of Filipino migrant workers.

A day after stopping the Bureau of Customs (BOC) plan, Malacañang assured that there was “no politics” behind President Aquino’s decision, dispelling allegations that the Chief Executive changed his mind on the issue supposedly for fear of a backlash on the administration candidates in the 2016 elections.

The President’s main consideration in overturning the BOC plan is the welfare of the OFWs and their families in the country, Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“In his decision, President Aquino took into consideration the importance of the balikbayan box which is the fruit of hard work of each OFW to provide for his family. The President listened to the sentiment of his bosses, including the OFWs,” Coloma said in a Palace press briefing.

“Our OFWs are not looking for special treatment,” said John Bertiz, the official spokesman of the coalition that include the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, the United Filipino Seafarers, the Filipino Migrant Workers, and the OFW Family Partylist, among others. “All they ask for is for the government to treat them with respect and dignity.”

READ MORE...

OFWS’ WELFARE

But Vice President Jejomar C. Binay slammed the malicious presumption held against OFWs.

“Let’s not soil the image of our OFWs. The opening of boxes sends the message that they are smugglers and law-breakers. Let’s stop that perception,” Binay said in an interview over Radyo 5 Tuesday.


BINAY

Balikbayan boxes usually contain just “candies and chocolates” for migrant Filipinos’ loved ones in the Philippines anyway, Binay noted.

But Coloma maintained that the original plan of the customs bureau to randomly inspect boxes was meant to intensify the campaign against smuggling, not deliberately undermine the welfare of OFWs. He noted that they have reports that some groups have exploited the balikbayan boxes to circumvent the law.

“The BOC balikbayan box fiasco shows that our public officials also have much to learn from and about our OFWs,” Bertiz added in a statement issued Tuesday.

The coalition nevertheless expressed gratitude to President Aquino for his timely intervention.

“We deem it unfortunate, however, that the balikbayan box controversy had to reach at Palace doorstep for it to be resolved,” said Bertiz, a former OFW himself. “It reflects poorly on the consultative mechanisms within government agencies, such as the BOC.”

Bertiz said had the government reached out to the OFW global community before abruptly undertaking random checks, the “conflagration” could have been averted.

Monday night, the President ordered the customs bureau to stop the random physical inspection of balikbayan boxes and instead implement a 100 percent x-ray and K-9 inspection of the cargos.

The bureau will only conduct physical inspection of boxes in cases of derogatory findings. However, this will be done in the presence of a representative of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) or a designated officer of an OFW organization.

Aquino’s decision was reached after a meeting with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Customs chief Alberto Lina in Malacañang in the wake of public outcry against the rigid inspection of the OFW boxes.

Several lawmakers, OFWs and their families, and other concerned sectors have criticized the administration for bullying the modern-day heroes instead of focusing on the crackdown on big-time smugglers.

MOVE VS SMUGGLING

In explaining the screening of the balikbayan boxes via x-ray and canine, Coloma said it is the duty of the government to stop groups engaged in smuggling weapons, illegal drugs and other expensive items to evade taxes.

“This is the reason the President ordered a 100 percent x-ray and K-9 inspection of the container vans at no cost to the sender or to the OFW,” he said.

The OFW coalition asked Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina to disclose to the public the result of his agency’s investigation into the alleged abuses of balikbayan boxes containing what the government claimed smuggled goods.

Despite President Aquino’s decision, Congress intends to pursue investigation of the BOC.

The House of Representatives will continue with its probe of the BOC operations in stopping smuggling in the country.

Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Nery Colmenares said the President’s decision to stop the BOC plan should not be credited to Aquino but to all Filipinos, particularly OFWs, who joined the protest against it.

OFW Family

Party-List Rep. Roy V. Señeres revealed that various OFW groups held a dialogue with Lina to personally express their opposition.

Seneres appealed to Lina to scrap the plan, noting that the holiday season is fast approaching and many OFWs are expected to flood the BOC with balikbayan boxes for relatives and loved ones.


NANCY BINAY

At the Senate, Sen. Nancy Binay urged Lina to disclose who gave him the orders to open and unduly impose taxes on balikbayan boxes.

Binay, who filed a resolution calling on her colleagues to probe the BOC plan, said she believes the latest anti-OFW policy has the imprimatur of Malacañang.

Binay said she believes the BOC chief is merely following instructions from his superiors like a good soldier.

“Chairman Lina is a good soldier and may just be following orders from his bosses. Matagal nang pinag-iinitan ng Palasyo ang mga OFWs (Palace officials have long been hitting on OFWs),” Binay noted.

She recalled that at the height of the “zero remittance” call made by OFWs two years ago, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the government doesn’t benefit from their remittances as they go directly to their families.

“Di na nga mabigyan ng tamang tulong-ligal at suporta ang ating mga OFW, may gana pa ang administrasyon ipitin sila dahil di naman daw nakikinabang ang gobyerno sa padala ng mga kababayan nating nagsasakripisyo abroad (our OFWs have been lacking in legal assistance and support and yet this administration has the gall to ignore them saying the government is not gaining anything from their sacrifices abroad),” she said.

Meanwhile, Lina encouraged the public to report unauthorized physical inspections of balikbayan boxes.

“We enjoin the public to report Customs employees who commit unauthorized physical inspections of balikbayan boxes to submit photos and videos of these acts to helpdesk@customs.gov.ph with the necessary details so we can act on them,” Lina said in a statement. (With reports from Ben R. Rosario, Hannah L. Torregoza, and Jenny F. Manongdo)


PHILSTAR

OFWs stage Zero Remittance today By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 28, 2015 - 12:00am 1 523 googleplus0 1


Migrante said OFWs around the world agreed to mount Zero Remittance Day to protest the Aquino government and the Bureau of Customs’ imposed P600-million revenue target from balikbayan boxes. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are staging a “Zero Remittance Day” today to signify their protest against the Bureau of Customs (BOC)’s new policies.

Militant groups led by the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM) yesterday held a protest rally in front of the BOC and threw empty balikbayan boxes with pictures of Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina.

PLM chairman Sonny Melencio said they are calling for the resignation of Lina for “conflict of interest.”

The militant overseas workers group Migrante said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in over 16 countries have signified to take part in the Zero Remittance Day.

“We have been receiving reports from OFW groups and communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Middle East, Vietnam, Thailand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland and other parts of the world, telling us that they are already gearing for tomorrow’s protest,” said Connie Regalado of Migrante.

“Aug. 28 will be biggest, most defiant Zero Remittance Day against the Aquino administration,” she added.

READ MORE...

In the United Arab Emirates alone, over 26,000 OFWs expressed their intention to join the protest.

“OFWs from different regions around the world have expressed their intent to participate in tomorrow’s protest. Here in the Philippines, we have also monitored families telling their relatives abroad to join the Zero Remittance Day,” Regalado said.

Migrante said OFWs around the world agreed to mount Zero Remittance Day to protest the Aquino government and the Bureau of Customs’ imposed P600-million revenue target from balikbayan boxes.

The Aquino government has put a stop to the BOC’s random inspection of balikbayan boxes after OFWs took to social media to express their outrage.

But Migrante said the government remains mum on how it plans to retrieve revenues it allegedly lost from “smuggled goods” or “non-declared goods” in balikbayan boxes.

As long as the P600-million target collection stays, Migrante said OFWs and their families have every reason to protest.

Regalado said they expect the Zero Remittance Day to be a success and a resounding declaration of the OFWs’ collective action against the Aquino administration.

The Aquino administration’s most recent statements belittling the Zero Remittance Day, she said, only incited OFWs and their families.

“They feel insulted. They feel challenged. They feel confronted. There is no love lost now between OFWs and their families and the Aquino government,” she said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the launching of the Zero Remittance Day against the Customs policy is unnecessary.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the government has addressed the OFWs’ concerns about the new policy.

“That is unnecessary since the government had already made efforts to stop the inspection of balikbayan boxes following the complaints,” Jose said.

The Federation of Overseas Filipino Workers (FOFW) in Negros Occidental, on the other hand, hailed President Aquino’s order to the BOC to stop its random physical inspection of balikbayan boxes.

FOFW Negros Occidental president Salvacion Barrios said they are amenable to the President’s order for a mandatory X-ray and K-9 examination of the boxes without cost to the OFW sender, instead of a random check.

The opening of balikbayan boxes and physical inspection of goods should only be done in case of derogatory findings or if unscrupulous items are seen, “but with the presence of the owner or their representative,” she added.

Barrios pointed out there have been failures on the part of Customs, where some items inside the balikbayan boxes were lost or whole boxes were reported missing or recalled for a different reason.

“We have members who have experienced having their balikbayan boxes seemingly ransacked,” Barrios said.

When families of OFWs complain about it, the freight services would always refer them back to Customs.

Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina had insisted balikbayan boxes are being used to smuggle illegal drugs and ammunition, which necessitated a random check on packages.

BOC Intelligence chief Jessie Dellosa said they are not discounting the possibility that smugglers are using balikbayan boxes.

“That is a possibility. Based on our information, we act only if there is reliable information. We cannot just open everything, how about the innocent, how about the legal (shipments)? Many would be inconvenienced, so we would act on intelligence information,” he added.

Dellosa pointed out that given their limited personnel, they focus their resources more on formal entry. – Evelyn Macairan, Danny Dangcalan, Pia Lee Brago


PHILSTAR

OFWs warn of more protests By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 29, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Migrante's poster on the "zero remittance day" drive.

MANILA, Philippines - Yesterday’s “Zero Remittance Day” had no significant economic impact, according to the central bank, but overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) warned of more mass actions against plans to tighten rules on balikbayan boxes.

The OFW protest also prompted Customs officials to draw up revised guidelines regarding the handling of balikbayan boxes. The new rules may be out by next week.

The militant labor group Migrante said yesterday’s no-remittance day was not the last of the Filipino migrants’ “show of force and unity” against the government’s anti-OFW policies.

Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante party-list chair, said OFWs would turn the Zero Remittance Day into a Zero Vote campaign against administration candidates in the coming 2016 elections.

“Those who belittle our political exercise also look down on our strength and unity as a sector. Our message today is clear: The migrant sector is a force to reckon with. Those who have insulted us will feel the brunt of OFWs and their families’ ire this coming election season,” Regalado said.

“We have millions of overseas absentee voters, we have millions of relatives back home who are voters. Let today’s Zero Remittance Day serve as a preview of the migrant sector’s unity come election time,” she added.

According to Regalado, the OFWs felt insulted and vowed to take more anti-government actions when President Aquino’s allies belittled no-remittance day.

Regalado said yesterday’s Zero Remittance Day was a success and showed OFWs’ unity.

She said Filipinos from at least 16 countries participated.

READ MORE...

“We have once again proven that we are worth much more than the dollars, and the balikbayan boxes, we send,” she said.

OFWs initiated the no-remittance day to signify their protest against the Bureau of Customs’ plan to conduct random inspection of balikbayan boxes.

Regalado said the government agreed to stop the random inspection, but still planned to impose additional taxes on balikbayan boxes.

“For as long as the P600-million target collection stays, the BOC is given license to ransack our balikbayan boxes or impose other tax schemes. In fact, we have received reports from families who still receive ‘inspected’ boxes even after the BOC order was issued. Our main demand today is for the Aquino government to retract its P600-million target collections on OFWs’ balikbayan boxes now,” Regalado said.

Malacañang earlier downplayed the no-remittance day, saying it will have no effect on the economy.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) believes the staging yesterday of zero remittance had no significant impact on the country’s economy.

Francisco Dakila Jr., managing director of the BSP’s Monetary Policy sub-sector, said the protest would have no significant impact but would affect the families of Filipinos living and working abroad.

Cash sent home by overseas Filipinos help fuel the country’s consumption-induced economic growth.

Following the protests, the BOC announced it would come out next week with the revised regulations on how they would handle balikbayan boxes.

BOC Deputy Commissioner Arturo Lachica said they are in the process of finalizing the revised rules.

“The only thing missing is that we want to consolidate with the people in the field, just in case there is something that we forgot to include,” Lachica said.

He said a meeting was set on Tuesday to finalize the draft regulation before it would be presented to Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina for signing on Wednesday.

“We would have a district collectors’ conference on Friday in Davao City, maybe that would be an opportunity for us to give instructions to all the Customs district collectors on how to treat the balikbayan box in consonance with the instruction of the President,” Lachica said.

Lachica refused to disclose the draft rules but gave assurance that this would comply with the instructions of President Aquino for the BOC do away with the physical examination of balikbayan boxes and instead have them placed under X-ray.

On the other hand, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada stressed the need to establish a clear-cut policy on how to treat balikbayan boxes in order to avoid the current outrage over the plan of BOC to conduct random inspection of the contents of these packages.

Estrada said a balance must be struck between the mandate of the BOC and the interest of all concerned parties when it comes to the balikbayan boxes.

However, Estrada said the unwarranted inspection and implementation of “draconian procedures” on the balikbayan boxes should never be allowed.

“It is important that a clear-cut policy regarding balikbayan boxes should be institutionalized, isolating it from any politically driven decisions and making it consistent despite changing leaders,” Estrada said.

Estrada filed Senate Resolution 1549 calling for an inquiry into the issue of the inspection of balikbayan boxes in response to the recent directive of President Aquino for the BOC to stop the plan to inspect these packages. – Evelyn Macairan, Marvin Sy, Lawrence Agcaoili


INQUIRER

Massive Iglesia rally set in Davao City; 100,000 marchers seen By: Frinston L. Lim @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Mindanao 08:23 PM August 30th, 2015


NIÑO JESUS ORBETA/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Preparations have been underway for a massive rally here by members of the influential Iglesia ni Cristo from Southern Mindanao on Monday, authorities said.

An estimated 100,000 people from 22 districts in Mindanao were expected participate in the four-day gathering in the regional capital, and close to 100 policemen and civil disturbance management (CDM) personnel would be deployed to provide security and traffic control, said Senior Insp, Milgrace Driz, city police spokesperson.

Coming from the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Davao Occidental, as well as from the cities of Davao,Panabo, Tagum, Digos and Samal, the participants would have arrived here Sunday midnight, with the rally beginning around 7 a.m. Monday (Aug. 31), Driz said.

She said the mass action would be centered at the Hall of Justice building in Ecoland area, just across the Davao City overland transport terminal (DCOTT), a major transport hub for buses plying major Mindanao routes.

READ MORE...

The INC crowd would be occupying a two-lane street. They are expected to cause traffic outside the main bus terminal in the city.

The sect members were granted a permit to rally for four days but there was no definite time as to when they would leave, said Driz.

“Organizers had a meeting with the DCPO and they assured the rally would be peaceful,” the city police spokesperson told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by mobile phone.

She said the city police office has drawn out preparations for the massive gathering believed to be in connection with the recent events in Manila concerning one of the country’s most powerful religious sects.

Driz said 30 police officers would provide security at the area while the city traffic group would be deployed to manage traffic congestion. About 50 CDM personnel would also be on standby “for any eventuality,” Driz said.

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RELATED FROM THE TRIBUNE

Senate to probe BoC tack on OFWs’ boxes Written by Tribune Wires Wednesday, 26 August 2015 00:00 By Angie M. Rosales and Joshua L. Labonera


A group advocating for the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers has set August 28 as "No Remittance Day," following the Bureau of Customs earlier plan to implement random balikbayan box inspections. According to Migrante International, the event is a way to show the government, particular the BoC under Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina, the OFWs' sentiments regarding the plan. PHOTO FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

The Senate will probe the origin of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) decision to randomly check balikbayan boxes or parcels coming from the estimated 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) despite the government’s withdrawal of the policy.

The Palace insisted no politics was involved in the sudden turnabout in the administration’s policy on the random inspection of balikbayan boxes as it maintained that President Aquino’s order for the Bureau of Customs’ (BoC) to withdraw its new rule was in consideration of the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and their families.

But since Aquino ordered the withdrawal of the policy, Sen. Nancy Binay wants to know who gave Customs chief Alberto Lina instructions “to unduly tax and open them (Baliknayan boxes).”

Despite Aquino’s order recalling the policy, the Senate will proceed with the investigation on the issue, Binay said.


P-NOY

Aquino immediately rescinded the latest policy of the BoC after the Palace admitted complaints from OFWs flooding the Office of the President.

The President’s move, however, was an apparent move to prevent public support from slipping away from administration candidates for next year’s elections including his anointed Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

Binay believes that Lina’s action has the imprimatur of Malacaang and the Customs chief was just following instructions of his superiors with regard to the bureau’s move to inspect balikbayan boxes and tax personal items.

“Chairman Lina is a good soldier and may just be following orders from his bosses. The Palace has been zeroing-in on OFWs. It can be recalled that at the height of the ‘zero remittance’ call of OFWs two years ago, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that the government does not gain anything from them (OFWs),” she noted.

“The comment came from an official of a government which failed to even provide legal assistance and support to OFWs,” she added.

READ MORE...

Binay filed

Senate Resolution 1533 yesterday directing the proper Senate committees to conduct an inquiry on the BoC’s new policy.

She added that “it is necessary that an inquiry be conducted to determine whether the new policy of the BoC is in accordance with law, not unduly burdensome to OFWs and not in violation of the rights and privileges of OFWs.”

Binay noted that there are some policies that are anti-OFWs like the collection of the P550.00 terminal fee at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which the amended Migrant Workers Act exempts them from paying.

“The terminal fee is integrated into the airline tickets which the OFW can collect when he goes home after the end of his contract,” Binay said.

Another example is the low budget allocation to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) legal assistance fund, which is used to provide legal assistance to OFWs needing it.

The senator likewise asked the BOC to present studies to justify the issuance of its policy in opening OFW balikbayan boxes for inspection.

The senator said that taxing Balikbayan boxes just to cover the inefficiency of the BoC is insensitive and callous.

“If they want to plug ‘leaking revenues’ because some enterprising agencies or individuals use the consolidated cargo privilege extended to Pinoys abroad, they should not train their eyes on the innocent OFWs. Why not go after big syndicates that try to beat the system using the huge budget of the BoC on intelligence,” Binay noted.|

In the 2015 national budget, BoC has P19.5 million budget for intelligence and P257 million fund is allocated for puposes of surveillance and prevention of smuggling.

At present, the government exempts from taxes contents of Balikbayan boxes worth $500 or less.

OFW remittances in 2014 reached $26.93 billion, up from 2013’s $25.35 billion, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The BoC said Balikbayan boxes may be considered as smuggled goods for noncompliance to the Philippine Tariff and Customs Code.

It added that the agency is allowed by law to do a 100 percent check of Balikbayan boxes.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., however, denied that Aquino is politically motivated in pulling out the rule, noting that he merely listened to the sentiments of the OFWs and allowed their opinions to prevail.

“The welfare of OFWs and their families prevailed in the decision made by the President. In the decision, President Aquino considered the importance of the balikbayan box for it is the fruit of the hardships of our OFWs, to uphold and establish the future of their families,” Coloma said in a press briefing.

“It is the duty of the state to stop abuse of those involved in smuggling arms, drugs and expensive articles for which taxes must be paid. That is why the president directed a full X-Ray and K9 inspection of container vans and no-cost-to-the-sender OFWs,” he said.

Purisima, Lina summoned

Asked on whether the action would compromise the BoC’s work to thwart illegal activities, Coloma said “The primary basis and purpose is to ensure the welfare of our workers, while we continue to acknowledge the duty of the administration and customs to levy tax under our laws on items or things that are taxable.”

Aquino immediately summoned Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Lina after he attended an event in Cebu following the outcry of OFWs on the restrictive balikbayan box policy, which enables customs officials to have discretion in opening packages.

The Palace denied that Lina was scolded by Aquino over the new policy.

“We understand that it is part of the normal duty of Customs to look into the items sent to the country and ensuring that right taxes are paid for dutiable, imported goods,” he added.

At the same time, Vice President Jejomar Binay reiterated his earlier statement that the Aquino administration remains insensitive and a failure, specifically on OFWs this time, as he assailed the supposed statements of Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda that remittances do not help the country.

Vice President Binay also lashed at the BoC for treating overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as no different from criminals trying to smuggle goods through the balikbayan boxes they send home.

“Let us not destroy the image of the OFWs. The mere idea of opening their balikbayan boxes is tantamount to accusing them of smuggling, that they are violating the laws. Let us not look at them that way,” the Vice President said in an interview over Radyo 5 Tuesday.

“Why can’t we look at it from a point of view or presumption that whatever they are sending is in accordance with the law,” he added.

Binay, the former Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, said only the courts can decide if a person has violated the law or not.

“What they are doing are mere accusations, and all lies. I believe it should only be the court which is in the position to say someone is guilty or not. When they open up the boxes, they are searching as if the sender is smuggling something,”” he added.

The BoC previously planned on imposing stricter policies on balikbayan boxes supposedly to curb smuggling. The measures included the random opening of boxes.

“‘The presumption is there is already a violation when it still has to be proven.

They are totally ignoring the contribution of the OFWs to our economy through their remittances,” Binay said.

The plan has since been scuttled by the President after it met widespread criticism.

The Vice President in a previous statement said the government should not blame OFWs for its failure to curb smuggling.

“The rise in smuggling cases is not due to the balikbayan boxes the OFWs send to their families as the maximum content of every box is limited. And no OFW would evr be sending thousands of balikbayan boxes to their families every month,” he said.

Binay also condemned the statement previously made by Secretary Edwin Lacierda that the remittances sent by OFWs do not go to the government and therefore does not directly impact the country’s economy.

“Oh my God! This administration is really insensitive and incompetent. What we are taking here is nothing petty. This involves billions of dollars in remittances, one of the contributing factors why our economy is dong good. It’s really saddening for the secretary to be commenting like that,” he said.

Meanwhile, vice presidential spokesman, lawyer Rico Paolo Quicho reacted to Aquino’s tirades against Binay the other day when he said the vice president should need to consult his doctor and get a new pair of eye glasses for failing to see what the Aquino administration had done for Cebu the past five years.

“With all due respect to our President, the eyesight of Vice President Binay is very good as he can see clearly how hunger and poverty are still prevalent as he travels around the country,” said Quicho.

“He (Binay) can clearly see how our countrymen have been neglected and offloaded in as they traverse their ‘Daang Makipot at Kapos.’ Many of them have left behind in the progress they have been bragging. That is what Vice President Binay wants to change,” Quicho said.

Quicho also chastised Aquino for bragging he had allotted P22.848 billion for infrastructure projects in Cebu in reaction to Binay’s statement the present administration had neglected the vote-rich province.

“But that is still funds for projects which have yet to be completed,” said Quicho.
“Let us compare what this administration had allotted to the Province of Cebu to the billions of pesos spent and still to be spent on Iloilo, a Liberal Party (LP) bastion under Senate President Franklin Drilon. And much more to the billions of pesos allotted to Batanes, the province of Budget Secretary Butch Abad. While Cebu is a premier city and premier province, still, they neglected it even though an LP member is sitting at the provincial government,” Quicho noted.

“It only means that even within the LP, there exists second-class citizens and there are those who are truly blessed. That is clear,” he said.

“It is only the people who can say if it is not clear if the administration is truly insensitive and incompetent, if it is still not clear to the MRT services is at its worst, if it is not clear if the administration is employing the right laws and power of the state in harassing its political opponents,” quiche said.
Charlie V. Manalo


PHILSTAR

59 state schools suffer budget cuts By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 27, 2015 - 12:00am 0 64 googleplus0 0


Fifty-nine state universities and colleges (SUCs) will suffer funding cuts next year, including the University of the Philippines with a P2-billion reduction in capital outlay. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines - Fifty-nine state universities and colleges (SUCs) will suffer funding cuts next year, including the University of the Philippines with a P2-billion reduction in capital outlay.

The combined budget for all the 114 state-owned schools of higher learning, however, will increase by P1.5 billion, Rep. Terry Ridon of party-list group Kabataan said yesterday.

“Despite the increase in the total budgets of SUCs, from P42.3 billion this year to the proposed P43.8 billion in 2016, 59 SUCs will incur a net decrease in funding,” he said in the course of a hearing on the education sector’s outlay by the House appropriations committee chaired by Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab.

Ridon said that while there is an across-the-board increase in funds for salaries for all SUCs, 59 of them would suffer cuts in allocations for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO).

The MOOE represents an agency’s budget component for day-to-day operations and utilities, while the CO is provision for new infrastructure.

Ridon said the total MOOE cuts for the 59 state schools would amount to P477.8 million.

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Among the heftiest reductions are those for Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography, from P32.4 million to P16.6 million; Mindanao State University, from P418.8 million to P274.2 million and Iloilo State College of Fisheries, from P34.2 million in 2015 to P24.1 million

“Western Visayas is the most affected by the MOOE cuts, followed by Eastern Visayas,” Ridon said.

He said in the case of the UP, it is set to suffer a P2.2-billion CO reduction, while Marikina Polytechnic College, Cagayan State University and Bulacan State University “have virtually no CO allocation for 2016.”

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has said UP’s CO fund would go down because most of the university’s building and other infrastructure projects would be completed this year.

Ridon also questioned the huge salaries and allowances SUCs’ officers are getting.

He said the highest-paid SUC official is Emanuel de Guzman, president of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), considered the poor’s man state school.

PUP vice presidents Samuel Salvador and Joseph Mercado received P2.7 million each; while the university’s executive vice president, Manuel Muhi, was paid P2.4 million, he said.

He said the other SUCs’ officers with fat compensation are Philippine Normal University president Ester Ogena, P2.2 million; Cavite State University president Divinia Chavez; P2.19 million; and Jose Rizal Memorial State University president Edgar Balbuena, P2.07 million.

Cavite State University is where Vice President Jejomar Binay delivered his version of the State of the Nation Address, in which he decried the school’s supposed lack of funding.

In contrast, Ridon said UP president Alfredo Pascual received P1.3 million, while Patricia Licuanan, chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which regulates higher education schools, earned P2 million.

“How can these executives justify such large salaries and compensation, many getting even higher than what Dr. Licuanan and CHED commissioners get, despite the fact that SUCs badly need funds for operations?” he asked.

He said the highest grossers are officials of PUP, which is in dire need of additional operating funds.

Fewer college scholarships next year There will be fewer scholarships next year for poor but deserving students in state universities and colleges, according to the CHED.

Licuanan told the House committee that scholarship funds under the “Tulong Dunong” program would be reduced by P328 million, from P1.314 billion this year to P986 million.

She said the funds would be allocated equitably among all congressional districts, where public officials and even concerned citizens could nominate scholars.

She said the nominations should be submitted to CHED regional offices.

She added that aside from “Tulong Dunong” funds, CHED would have P539 million in 2016 for financial assistance to poor students under its own regular scholarship program.

Ridon said the “Tulong Dunong” is a new hiding place for congressional pork barrel funds.

“CHED started it this year. It sprouted only after the Supreme Court declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund, otherwise known as the congressional pork barrel, unconstitutional. Lawmakers used to finance scholarships with their PDAF allocations,” he said.

“My suspicion is that the Tulong Dunong program just replaced the PDAF under CHED and state universities and colleges. Under this program, CHED may be allowing legislators to tap funds and identify beneficiaries, much like how they used to do under the PDAF regime,” he said.

Responding to questions, Licuanan admitted that lawmakers are allowed to nominate scholars, provided the students “comply with our requirements.”

After the annual P25-billion PDAF was abolished, Ridon said lawmakers diverted P4 billion of the pork barrel funds to CHED, which downloaded P3.8 billion of the money to SUCs.

“Of the P3.8 billion, the Commission on Audit has noted that as of yearend 2013, P3.6 billion remained unaccounted for,” he said.

The proposed CHED budget for 2016 amounts to P10.5 billion, more than three times its P3.402 billion funding this year.

The regulator will get a huge increase in allocations for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), from P3.146 billion this year to nearly P10 billion in 2016.

It will have P286 million for capital outlay (infrastructure and equipment), which it does not have this year.

Licuanan said the bulk of MOOE funds would be used for the K-12 program.


TRIBUNE

Student groups hold rally to protest budget cuts for State Universities & Colleges (SUC) Written by Tribune Wires Friday, 28 August 2015 00:00



Student groups yesterday staged a protest action against budget cuts for state universities and colleges (SUC) in the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2016.

Despite the nominal 4 percent increase in the budget of 11 SUCs from a total P42.3 billion in 2015 to the proposed P43.8 billion in 2016, 10 SUCs will incur a net decrease in their respective budgets, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon revealed in a congressional deliberation of the budget of the Commission on Higher Education and SUCs.

“At first glance, the budget for SUCs in 2016 seems to be nominally bigger than last year’s budget. But if we analyze each component of the budget carefully, one will see that the increase in the personnel service outlay actually hides the cuts in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) and capital outlay (CO) components,” Ridon said.

A more in-depth analysis of the budget of SUCs, however, reveals that with 59 SUCs set to incur cuts in the budget for their MOOE, another 40 SUCs are set to have cuts in their capital outlay budget, Ridon said.

Personnel services refer to the budget for salaries and benefits of an agency’s personnel. The MOOE is an agency’s budget component for day-to-day operations and utilities while CO is the budget for new infrastructure.

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When totaled, the cuts in the MOOE of the 59 state schools amount to P477.8 million. Some of the heftiest MOOE cuts include the Mindanao State University (MSU)-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography — 48.8 percent decrease in MOOE, from the current P32.4 million down to P16.6 million; Mindanao State University — 34.5 percent decrease, from P418.8 million to P274.2 million, and Iloilo State College of Fisheries — 29.7 percent decrease, from P34.2 million in 2015 down to P24.1 million.

Western Visayas is the region most affected by the MOOE cuts, with eight schools in the region affected. At close second is Eastern Visayas, with seven schools in the said region also about to suffer MOOE cuts.

Meanwhile, 40 SUCs will incur cuts totaling P4.1 billion in their CO budget. The largest decrease will be suffered by the University of the Philippines (UP), which is set to incur a P2.2 billion budget cut for its CO.

Three SUCs, meanwhile, have virtually no capital outlay allocation for 2016. These are Marikina Polytechnic College, Cagayan State University and Bulacan State University.

Meanwhile, activist group Anakbayan said these deliberate budget cuts “worsen profit-oriented education” as they will trigger tuition increase.

“These show further commercialization of education under Aquino and a policy to further increase tuition and other school fees. This is unacceptable,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chairman.

Crisostomo said since Aquino took power, from 2010 to 2015, tuition rates in both public and private institutions have been “skyrocketing.”


INQUIRER

Tourist from Down Under falls into Naia ‘sinkhole’ SHARES: 1686 VIEW COMMENTS By: Jeannette I. Andrade @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 05:55 AM August 27th, 2015


Picture of repaired collapsed floor at NAIA terminal 2. Photo provided by Manila International Airport Authority media affairs division.

There’s no end to problems at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
After fixing the air conditioning, toilets and leaking ceilings, the once worst airport in the world is now dealing with “sinkholes.”

The new problem was discovered last month when an Australian tourist fell into a hole after part of the floor in the arrival area gave way as he was walking to the transit gate.

The incident happened at 9 p.m. on July 25, but became known only on Wednesday after somebody posted on Facebook the incident report to Rafael Regular, Naia Terminal 2 chief of operations.

According to the report, three airport staff employees helped the 40-year-old tourist get out of the hole, which was a square-meter wide and 0.6-meter deep.
The tourist, who arrived from Hong Kong on the same day, was not injured and he filed no complaint, but Naia people started to watch their step at the airport.

The Naia Terminal 2 manager, Rico Gonzalez, told the Inquirer Wednesday that the Manila International Airport Authority was checking the floor throughout the airport for other possible sinkholes to prevent a repeat of the latest embarrassment for Naia.

Pocket garden

Gonzalez said the part of the floor that collapsed was an area reclaimed by Philippine Airlines (PAL) over a year ago.

“That part used to be a pocket garden. PAL asked for more space because they said the pathway to their transit lounge was too narrow,” Gonzalez said.

When the pocket garden was removed, it left a deep hole that apparently was not properly filled up by the contractor hired by PAL.

“Instead of filling up that hole with soil to ensure that it was compact, the contractor apparently just covered it with wooden trusses before covering it with marble tiles,” Gonzalez said, adding that the wood naturally weakened over time, something the contractor failed to anticipate.

He said PAL immediately filled up the hole, and the work was completed two weeks ago.

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“This time we made sure the contractor really filled it up so nobody would fall [there again],” Gonzalez said.

He said passengers hardly passed through the portion of the floor that collapsed.
“It is not really a passenger movement area,” he said.

Nevertheless, Gonzalez said he had ordered all “reclaimed areas,” specifically portions of the floor that used to be pocket gardens, to be inspected to make sure they were not hollow.

Airline counters and food concessionaires are located in the reclaimed areas, he said.

“Passengers are not allowed in these areas,” he said.

That leaves only airline staff, restaurant employees, other airport personnel, including managers, vulnerable to still undetected holes under the floor.

Indoor rain

In May, Naia Terminal 1, still undergoing a P1.3-billion facelift, fixed leaks on the ceiling in the east and west concourses of the departure area.

The contractor, DM Consunji Inc., owned up to causing the leaks after it stripped off the waterproofing for the application of carbon fiber reinforced polymer.

The absence of waterproofing became obvious when it rained on May 27 and it also rained in the departure area, forcing airport employees and passengers to use umbrellas indoors to keep dry.

The rain also damaged the carpets in the concourses and electronic equipment in the airport ground support services office and in several airline lounges.

Airport authorities demanded that DMCI immediately fix the ceiling and make sure it stays fixed. (Jeannette Andrade, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

RELATED STORIES

Palace: Officials addressing issues hounding ‘high risk’ Naia

Naia 1 is rated ‘world’s worst airport’

Originally posted: 07:57 PM August 26th, 2015


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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