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DoF UNDERSECRETARY: MINING COUNCIL ON 3-MONTH REVIEW OF MINING OPERATIONS
[RELATED: Gina - Solons bribed P50m to vote vs me]
[RELATED(2): Gina unfit for DENR job—solons]


FEBRUARY 21 -Open-pit mining / Manila Bulletin file photo Open-pit mining / Manila Bulletin file photo
The multi-stakeholder team of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) has proposed a three-month review of the operations of 23 mining firms rdered close by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said members of the team, which had their first meeting Monday, had agreed on the “composition, scope and process by which we will undertake the review.” ”No programs (yet but) essentially the matter by which we will undertake the review,” he told members of the media after the review team’s meeting that finished Monday night. Agabin, the Department of Finance’s (DOF) Legal Affairs head and in charge of the Domestic Finance Group (DFG), said they planned to start the review by March but the team must first get the approval of the MICC on administrative issues as well as on the budget. READ MORE...RELATED,
Gina: Solons bribed P50m to vote vs me...RELATED(2), Gina unfit for DENR job—solons---

ALSO: CHED halts field trips after deadly tour bus accident in Tanay last Monday
[RELATED: Bus crash wake: CHED bans school field trips]


FEBRUARY 22 -14 students dead after bus hits post in Tanay Rizal. FEB 20 MONDAY, NIÑO JESUS ORBETA / Inquirer.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) yesterday ordered all higher education institutions to suspend the conduct of field trips and other out-of-school activities following the deadly bus accident in Tanay, Rizal on Monday. CHED Commissioner J. Prospero de Vera said the full commission unanimously approved his proposal to impose a moratorium on all educational tours and field trips in all public and private colleges and universities effective immediately. “This is being done in consideration of the safety of students and it will allow an investigating committee to look into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy that happened in Tanay,” De Vera said in a press conference. He said the moratorium will also allow the commission to revisit a memorandum order issued in 2012 that provides for the framework on the conduct of educational tours and field trips for college students. READ MORE...RELATED, Bus crash wake: CHED bans school field trips...

ALSO: DepEd bans field trips until June
[RELATED: Tanay bus mishap victims get financial assist]


FEBRUARY 23 -Educational field trips will now be temporarily banned in all public elementary and secondary schools after the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) decided to issue a moratorium on out-of-campus learning trips and other similar activities. In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the DepEd announced that it will be issuing a moratorium on field trips in all public elementary and secondary schools nationwide until June, 2017. “This is following the tragic bus accident that claimed the lives of college students in Tanay, Rizal on Monday,” DepEd explained. DepEd said that the decision was reached in consultation with Regional Directors in a meeting with Education Secretary Leonor Briones. The moratorium, DepEd said, will be “for three to four months to allow for a review of existing policies and to harmonize the implementing details of regions.” The review, DepEd said, will “cover alignment of field trips to learning outcomes, security and safety, and responsibilities and accountabilities not only of schools but also of parents and of other relevant government agencies.” READ MORE...RELATED, Tanay bus mishap victims get financial assist ...

ALSO: Gov’t needs 0.2 M teachers, health professionals


FEBRUARY 28 -The government needs to hire 234,542 additional public school teachers and health professionals in connection with its plan to boost infrastructure by building more schools and to improve the delivery of medical services to the poor. STAR/File photo
MANILA, Philippines - The government needs to hire 234,542 additional public school teachers and health professionals in connection with its plan to boost infrastructure by building more schools and to improve the delivery of medical services to the poor. Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said the Department of Education (DepEd) is set to hire 181,980 teachers starting this year until 2020, while the Department of Health (DOH) will recruit 52,562 health practitioners starting this year until 2022. The public sector’s projected demand for teachers and health professionals were culled from papers submitted by the Cabinet to Congress in connection with the Duterte administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Program. “We are releasing these figures to help graduating high school students as well as first year and second year college students to decide what courses they may take or shift to if they are considering future employability in the public sector,” Campos explained. READ MORE...

ALSO: Laughter as subversion - Martial Law Jokes at Iba Pa . . .


FEBRUARY 27 -NOW THEY CAN BE TOLD The cover of Maslog’s “Martial Law Jokes At Iba Pa”
One of the earliest anecdotes about martial law was how then popular TV host Ariel Ureta was arrested and made to bike around Manila for tweaking that era’s slogan: “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disciplina ang kailangan.” True or not, what became urban legend also had a chilling effect on the country’s sense of humor, with jokes and puns about martial law, the Marcoses, Gen. Fabian Ver, and later Sen. Ninoy Aquino and Rolando Galman, flourishing only through whispers and knowing winks. Which explains the recent release of Dr. Crispin Maslog’s “Martial Law Jokes at Iba Pa: Stories I Couldn’t Share Under Marcos’ Dictatorship,” a collection of jokes that people traded freely among themselves in private conversations, but dared not publish during those dark years. The jokes mocked the Marcoses’ known penchant for grandeur and extravagance, the former first lady’s insatiable lust for pomp and circumstance,Ver’s dull wit, and later, after the Aquino assassination in 1983, the government’s inept handling of the airport incident and of fall guy Galman. READ MORE...

ALSO: FORECAST - THE Dry season soon here


FEBRUARY 24 -Vacationers flock to the beach during dry season in the Philippines. TripMoBa.com
The country is now in the transition stage from the wet season. Weather forecaster Robert Badrina said the weather bureau is close to declaring the onset of the dry season, or “summer,” because the cold northeast monsoon has started to weaken. The northeast monsoon or “hanging amihan” will end likely in the second or third week of March, he said. Last year, PAGASA officially declared the start of dry season on March 18. The dry season normally lasts until mid-June. The Philippines has only two seasons – dry and wet – unlike other countries which have four – winter, spring, summer and fall. The northeast monsoon is the mass of cold air from China and Siberia that blows into the country usually from mid-October to early March. When the northeast monsoon is gone, warm air from the Pacific Ocean will start to blow into the country, signaling the start of the dry season, Badrina said. – Angela Lopez de Leon  FULL REPORT


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Led by DoF Undersecretary: MICC eyes three-month review of PH mining operations


Open-pit mining / Manila Bulletin file photo Open-pit mining / Manila Bulletin file photo

MANILA, FEBRUARY 27, 2017 (MANILA BULLETIN) Published February 21, 2017, 12:14 AM  - The multi-stakeholder team of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) has proposed a three-month review of the operations of 23 mining firms rdered close by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin said members of the team, which had their first meeting Monday, had agreed on the “composition, scope and process by which we will undertake the review.”

”No programs (yet but) essentially the matter by which we will undertake the review,” he told members of the media after the review team’s meeting that finished Monday night.

Agabin, the Department of Finance’s (DOF) Legal Affairs head and in charge of the Domestic Finance Group (DFG), said they planned to start the review by March but the team must first get the approval of the MICC on administrative issues as well as on the budget.

READ MORE...

“We will certainly try to start as soon as we can,” he said.

Agabin said the team planned to get experts from the academe but decided to exclude those from mining companies as part of the review team. He, however, declined to give names as they have yet to talk to these people.

He said the study will be “done in a scientific manner” and will take into account the “technical, economic, and social aspects of the mining operations.”

He said any decision on mine site visits would depend on the review team.

Results of the fact-finding measure would be submitted to the MICC and recommendatory in line with Executive Order (EO) 79, which established the MICC, he said.

Agabin said MICC was mandated to conduct review of the country’s mining operations every two years, thus, the team and the MICC, as a whole, would respect the DENR orders.

Asked what the team’s decision would be if its audit had different results than that of the DENR, the DOF official said: “I do not know if there is a mismatch.”

“We’ll just have to see what the review team comes up,” he said.

The review would not include the cancellations of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA) of sites that were within watershed areas, he said.

Agabin added that they had not decided when the next meeting of the review team would be. (PNA)

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Gina: Solons bribed P50m to vote vs me posted February 23, 2017 at 12:01 am by Christine F. Herrera and Maricel V. Cruz, John Paolo Bencito


Environment Secretary Regina Lopez

THE House contingent to the powerful Commission on Appointments rebuffed Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, who was seeking an audience with the lawmakers ahead of her confirmation hearing, after she accused them of accepting bribes of P50 million each to vote against her.

San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, chairman of the House contingent to the bicameral body, said he canceled the courtesy call Lopez requested on Monday and decided to just see her during the CA hearing next Wednesday.

“I have canceled Gina’s courtesy call on our contingent on Monday, and will just meet her in open sessions on Wednesday at her confirmation hearings,” Zamora told the Manila Standard.

Members of the powerful panel were aghast at the charges Lopez made in a speech to the Makati Rotary Club last Tuesday when she lashed at her critics and claimed to have received information that CA members were promised P50 million each if they blocked her confirmation.

“My confirmation is on March 1. Let the [sword] fall where it may. I don’t care. I was told that every congressman was offered P50 million if they voted against me. I don’t know. I heard there’s a kitty out there. I don’t know. That’s people talking,” Lopez told the businessmen.

“To my detractors, stop it already, I mean if you’re gonna fight, at least fight clean. These are below the belt attacks. For example, Inquirer puts headlines, which are not even true. Manila Standard puts things, which are not even true. Play the game well. If you think that what I’m doing is not right, at least tell the truth,” Lopez said in a video she posted on her Facebook page.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III was incensed by Lopez’ accusations.

“She heard? She just heard and she took it already as gospel truth? What’s her motive for making it public? So that people would think the CA members got bribed when the congressmen vote against her?” Albano asked.

“We definitely would want to know who wanted to bribe the congressmen with P50 million. Who are they? How about the senators? How much did they get?

“Did they also bother to approach Senator Loren Legarda, a staunch environmentalist, and offered her millions? I would just love to know how Senator Legarda will react to that,” he said, adding that Lopez should have foreseen the opposition against her.

“What did she expect? She ran over so many. These aggrieved parties definitely do not want her there at the DENR. [But] at the same time, those who support her advocacies are lobbying hard for her,” Albano said.

Albano said Lopez “should stop acting like a prima donna and instead explain why she deserve to be a DENR secretary despite strong opposition against her confirmation by several sectors.”

But other congressmen lambasted Lopez for making wild accusations against legislators when she does not even attend congressional hearings on mining-related bills pending at the House.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said resources persons in congressional hearings in aid of legislation should not just ignore invitations from Congress.

“The committee should reprimand her and send a strongly worded letter to her for ignoring the [invitation] of the committee,” Barbers said.

“She should be taught that she cannot ignore the invite; otherwise, the committee should cite her for contempt,” Barbers added.

The committee, chaired by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, is considering 11 mining-related bills and invited Lopez to attend, but she declined the invitation without any explanation.

Lopez earlier earned the ire of lawmakers after she snubbed the hearing conducted by the House committee on ecology on the adverse environmental impact of mining.

Lopez this month closed 23 mining companies and suspended five others for alleged violations of environmental laws. She later canceled 75 mining contracts with companies that she accused of damaging watersheds and causing siltation of coastal waters and farmlands.

Deputy Speaker and South Cotabato Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez earlier suggested to the committee, chaired by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing, that it issue a subpoena to Lopez to compel her attendance.

“Since this is not the first time the DENR secretary did not attend this committee’s hearing, there has to be a strongly worded letter from the chairperson to compel the DENR secretary to attend the next hearing and a warning for a subpoena if she fails again to attend it,” Hernandez said.

Suansing’s panel moved to send another invitation compelling her to attend the next hearing on March 1, 2017.

Suansing said Lopez, who has been under intense criticism for her decision, has already snubbed three hearings of his panel.

They also vowed to grill Lopez and make her explain her reported “squandering away” of millions in public funds over environment projects that benefited her and her family owned ABS-CBN Foundation Inc., among other issues raised against her.

These were multimillion projects that spanned several years under the previous administrations at the expense of the government, they said. The projects included the Sabsaban Falls Eco-tourism project in Palawan, the La Mesa Ecopark project in Quezon City and the Pasig River Rehabilitation project.

Lopez herself answered the controversy on her Facebook page and maintained that her department “followed due process every step of the way.”

“To the mining companies, you talk about contracts, [but] how about our contract to life? I have every right and it is my duty and obligation to review contracts in light of the common good,” she said.

“That is the duty of government: To check which contracts benefit everyone, and then if we see that a contract was made that affects the community, it’s our duty and responsibility to help them.”

On Wednesday, the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) said Lopez was unfit to lead the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Expressing its opposition to her confirmation as DENR secretary, the group said Lopez willfully circumvented due process when she disregarded the findings of a technical review committee to suspend erring mining companies.

“Secretary Lopez’s deep-seated bias against mining in general has compromised her ability to lead a government agency. Her personal views about mining have unfairly portrayed the mining industry as the villain and has damaged the reputation of many responsible mining companies in the country in the eyes of the general public,” the PNIA said.

The nickel miners said her decision to close mining companies on her own without basis was already enough grounds to disqualify her for a Cabinet post on the grounds of gross misconduct, gave abuse of power and conduct unbecoing of a public officer.

Benguet Corp Nickel Mines Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Benguet Corp., said Wednesday Lopez has no legal basis in canceling its mining contract in Zambales province.

In a disclosure to the stock exchange, the mining company said that the order failed to identify specific environmental violations of BNMI that would warrant cancellation of its mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA) with the government.

“As in the suspension order, we strongly object to such arbitrary actions being made without observance of due process and without basis in fact and in law,” said BNMI president Leopoldo S. Sison III.

DENR’s order alleged that BNMI has impaired the function of the watershed in the area.

But Sison said the company’s approved MPSA issued in 2005 states that BNMI’s contract area is located within the Zambales Chromite Mineral Reservation.

“This specific mineral reservation has been excluded from government declared watersheds as proven by area clearance issued by the DENR prior to the MPSA approval. Our nickel project continues to be operated outside of any known, critical or declared watershed,” Sison said. With Anna Leah E. Gonzales

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RELATED(2) FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Gina unfit for DENR job—solons posted February 20, 2017 at 12:01 am by Christine F. Herrera


Environment Secretary Regina Lopez

LAWMAKERS and mining company executives on Sunday vowed to block the confirmation of Environment Secretary Regina Lopez before the Commission on Appointments, citing her “mental incapacity” and what they said was her use of illegal drugs when she was still a minor.

Lopez has come under intense fire since she ordered the closure of 75 mining companies for allegedly violating environmental laws, and is the target of a lobbying effort to oust her from the Cabinet of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Sources in the mining industry said Lopez was a drug dependent at a young age, and was confined twice in St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City for “traumatic brain injury and stage 4 brain cancer.”

“Lopez was confined first on Nov. 4, 2012 under brain surgeon Dr. Nick Cruz for traumatic brain injury. She paid hospital bills amounting to P87,000,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity.

“Second, on April 11, 2016, she was again admitted for ‘undisclosed reasons’ under another brain surgeon, Dr. Samuel Ang. She paid P70,000 in hospital bills,” the source told the Manila Standard.

“We question her mental capacity to head an agency because we believe these explain her unilateral decisions and why she passes judgment without observing due process,” the source said.

“She knew she is dying and thus is in a hurry to leave a legacy even if [it is] at the expense of the mining industry, the government and the economy.”

Supreme Court documents show that on July 4, 1974, Regina Paz Lopez was voluntarily submitted by her mother, Conchita, to the Court for treatment and rehabilitation for drug dependency.

The younger Lopez was committed to the Dare Foundation Inc., a duly accredited rehabilitation center, on the same date. But on Sept. 23, 1974, Lopez escaped from the drug rehabilitation center, after the Court ordered expert psychiatrists to examine her to determine whether she was still drug dependent or suffering from a personality disorder.

In the same year, Lopez and her friends in the Ananda Marga sect filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus against her mother and the Dare Foundation, a petition that was thrown out a year later when Lopez reached the age of majority.

Officers of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines—Artemio Disini, Nelia Halcon and Ronald Recidoro—filed an opposition to the confirmation of Lopez before the CA committee on environment and natural resources on Feb. 10, 2017.

In their letter, they said Lopez’s recent actions show an “undeniable bias” against and antagonism towards large-scale mining, “rendering her unfit and incapable of a responsible, fair, just and balanced implementation of the Constitution, the Philippine Mining Act and related laws and regulations, and of upholding personal interest and advocacies over public interest.”

The complainants said Lopez had shortcut legal and administrative processes, disregarded due process and vested rights, and even ignored the sanctity of contracts between the government and its mining contractors.

“Lopez is grossly unfit and does not have the administrative experience and competence to lead the DENR. Lopez has a poor track record in leading and managing environment and eco-tourism projects,” the complainants said.

They said Lopez attended Assumption College and Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston, “apparently without earning any degrees.”

However, they said, she is supposed to have a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and a doctorate degree in Humanities (Honoris Causa) from the Ateneo de Naga University.

“Lopez spent 20 years as a yoga missionary in Europe, India and Africa, returning to the Philippines only in the late 1990s. Little is known about Lopez before she sat as the managing director of the ABS-CBN Foundation. Lopez is most recognized only as an active spearhead of the foundation’s core projects, Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig, Bayan ni Juan and Bantay Kalikasan. Lopez apparently has no experience in leading and managing in an executive capacity in any organization other than the foundation,” the complainants told the CA.

The complainants said Lopez’s appointment as DENR secretary brought to fore the key issues of competence and conflict of interest.

“She is clearly inexperienced and incompetent to head and manage a key executive department, especially one as complex as the DENR. More importantly, the Lopez family’s many involvements in the energy sector highlight the glaring conflict of interest: How will she resolve the environmental catastrophes that involve her family’s energy business, such as the 2010 FPIC (First Philippine Industrial Corp.) pipeline leak that effectively ruined the West Tower Condominium?” they said.

On Monday, a mutli-stakeholder team of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) will hold its first meeting as part of a review of Lopez’s closure orders.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who co-chairs the MICC, said the team is essentially a “technical working group” that will review the operations of the mine sites affected by the DENR order.

“The technical working group, [is] the one going to do the reviews. That was part of the board resolution, so they’re going to implement it on Monday. They will decide what to do,” Dominguez said.

The multi-stakeholder review team will also include representatives from relevant government agencies and institutions.

Invitations were sent to the co-chairpersons of the MICC—Dominguez and Lopez, along with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Director General Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority.

Also invited to the meeting are Secretaries Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry, Ismael Sueno of the Interior and Local Government Benjamin Diokno of Budget and Management, Alfonso Cusi of Energy, Emmanuel Pinol of Agriculture, Rafael Mariano of Agrarian Reform, Vitaliano Aguirre III of Justice, Silvestre Bello III of Labor and Employment, and Judy Taguiwalo of Social Welfare and Development.

Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Solicitor General Jose Calida, Undersecretary Ferdinand Cui Jr. of the Presidential Management Staff, Chairperson Leonor Oralde-Quintayo of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Executive Director Sandra Paredes of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines are also invited to the meeting.

Earlier, the MICC affirmed the primacy of both “procedural and substantive” due process in the final resolution of DENR’s series of actions on existing mineral production sharing agreements.

“As discussed during the MICC meeting last week, there is a need to observe due process. Due process is both substantive and procedural. Substantive due process means that there are valid grounds in law to support the cancellation. Procedural due process means the procedure for cancellation as provided for in the contract or under relevant laws were followed,” said Finance Undersecretary Bayani Agabin, who heads the department’s Legal Services Group.

MICC Resolution No. 6 said both the DENR and the Council “recognize the requirements of due process in the applicable mining laws, rules and regulations.”


PHILSTAR

CHED halts field trips after deadly tour bus accident in Tanay By Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 22, 2017 - 12:00am 1 5 googleplus0 1


CHED Commissioner J. Prospero de Vera said the full commission unanimously approved his proposal to impose a moratorium on all educational tours and field trips in all public and private colleges and universities effective immediately. CHED/Released

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) yesterday ordered all higher education institutions to suspend the conduct of field trips and other out-of-school activities following the deadly bus accident in Tanay, Rizal on Monday.

CHED Commissioner J. Prospero de Vera said the full commission unanimously approved his proposal to impose a moratorium on all educational tours and field trips in all public and private colleges and universities effective immediately.

“This is being done in consideration of the safety of students and it will allow an investigating committee to look into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy that happened in Tanay,” De Vera said in a press conference.

He said the moratorium will also allow the commission to revisit a memorandum order issued in 2012 that provides for the framework on the conduct of educational tours and field trips for college students.

READ MORE...

“During the interim while the moratorium is in place, the commission will be able to review the existing policies, correct whatever deficiencies it might have and issue a new memorandum order as soon as possible,” he said.

“The new order will cover succeeding field trips and educational tours of students. Hopefully we will be able to do it in time for the opening of the next school year,” he added.


FEBRUARY 22 -14 students dead after bus hits post in Tanay Rizal. FEB 20 MONDAY, NIÑO JESUS ORBETA / Inquirer.

According to De Vera, the moratorium will cover all out-of-school activities, including fieldwork, immersion in communities and even public service programs such as medical missions.

“We are instructing all colleges and universities to develop alternative activities to compensate for the field trips and educational tours,” he added.

At least nine buses full of students of Bestlink College of the Philippines in Novaliches, Quezon City were on their way to a resort in Tanay on Monday, when one bus figured in an accident.

They were en route to a camping activity that was part of the school’s National Service Training Program.

The driver of the bus reportedly lost control of his vehicle, which slammed into a concrete lamppost, killing him, a school staff and at least 13 students. About 40 students were seriously injured.

Some parents claimed their children were asked to pay P2,200 for the field trip.

The CHED regional office in Metro Manila has directed the administration of Bestlink College to submit an incident report, but De Vera said the school has yet to respond to their request.

In a separate interview, Bestlink school coordinator for school activities Zanny Samsona said the school will comply with all the directives of CHED regarding the incident.

“We’re very open to communicate with them,” he told reporters outside the funeral house where the remains of the victims were processed yesterday.

CHED chair Patricia Licuanan said the commission will study if the college has complied with the prescribed policies and guidelines in connection with the conduct of the educational tours.

“The security and safety of students should be of utmost importance to higher education institutions in the conduct of educational tours or field trips,” she said.

“CHED will study if its prescribed policies and guidelines were met,” she added.

According to De Vera, the CHED investigation will focus on the administrative issues surrounding the incident, saying the criminal aspect will be handled by the police and the courts.

He said Bestlink may lose the authorization to offer courses if they are found to have violated the existing guidelines on the conduct of educational tours.


DE VERA
 

“Let’s not jump the gun. We’re still waiting for the incident report from the school and the investigating team of CHED has just been organized and they will take the necessary steps and make sure there’s due process in the investigation,” he added.

DepEd urged to also ban field trips Unlike the CHED, the Department of Education (DepEd) has not issued an order halting the conduct of field trips in elementary and high schools in the country.

Lawmakers yesterday urged DepEd to also impose a ban on field trips.

“We should immediately stop other schools from conducting similar trips pending the establishment of their relevance to their study and the assurance of the student’s insurance and safety,” Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano lll said the DepEd should regulate field trips and excursions organized by schools and hold school owners responsible for anything untoward that happens during a field trip.

“I am for having field trips if these are for educational purposes like visits to historical sites. But going to a resort? I see no educational value in it,” he said.

DepEd assistant secretary Tonisito Umali said the department has a strict policy when it comes to the conduct of field trips.

“We don’t have that (moratorium) because we have existing guidelines,” Umali said in an interview with radio dzBB.

He said field trips in elementary and high schools are not mandatory and cannot be used as a basis for the grades of the students.

Umali, however, noted that field trips are also part of the learning process of the students.

“But it is important to have the consent of the parents,” he added.

PAO: Bestlink College could be held liable Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said Bestlink College could be held liable for the bus crash and tapped PAO lawyers to provide legal assistance to the families of the casualties and injured students.

“There could be civil liability on the part of the school. The waiver, if there’s really any, was unilateral on the part of the school. It was not a license to allow the deaths and injuries,” Acosta stressed.

She also bared that a team of PAO lawyers would study possible criminal negligence of the school, apart from its civil liabilities.

The legal team is led by public attorney Mariel Baja, sister of one of the 14 passengers of the Florida Trans bus that plunged into a ravine in Mountain Province in 2014.

The PAO chief also cited media reports quoting parents of the victims that the school required the students to attend the medical and survival training at Sacramento Adventure Camp in Tanay as part of the NSTP program.

“That trip should have not been mandatory because it’s not an academic subject,” she argued.

Castelo noted that schools are making big profits from out-of-town activities. Reports reaching his office “show that some schools make a killing out of this scheming practice of excursion in the guise of educational tours.”

“The tours have no relation at all to their studies. Students are asked to pay exorbitant fees lest they get a failing mark. The schools are doing this to hapless students whose parents work hard to make ends meet,” he added.

Bus company to face charges Meanwhile, the Rizal police is set to file a charge of negligence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries against Panda Coach Tours and Transport Inc., the owner of the bus that figured in the accident.

Senior Supt. Randy Peralta, Rizal police director, said they are gathering statements of survivors and witnesses to pin down the owners of the Panda Coach Tours.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will also probe Haranah Tours Corp. which subcontracted the services of Panda Coach Tours.

LTRFB member Aileen Lizada said the agency will summon Haranah Tours Corp., which was the firm hired by Bestlink for the transport service for the camping trip.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), on the other hand, sent a team to investigate if Panda Coach Tours violated occupational safety and health standards.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has tasked Zenaida Campita, director of DOLE Region 4-A, to lead the probe.

Based on a DOLE order issued in 2012, transport companies should adhere to public road transport safety by improving the working conditions, compensation and competence of bus drivers and conductors.

SENATE INQUIRY

The Senate committees on education and public services are also set to conduct an inquiry into the tragic bus accident.

Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, chairman of the education panel, said the inquiry will focus on reforms to ensure such incidents will no longer happen in the future.

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the public services committee, said she wants to focus on the quality of bus drivers and the safety features of public utility vehicles.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, vice chairman of the public services committee, said the tragedy as well as previous fatal bus accidents could have been avoided if the LTFRB issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Speed Limiter Act.

He said the law was enacted seven months ago but it cannot be implemented because of the lack of IRR.

Malacañang condoled yesterday with the families of the victims and has ordered agencies to ensure the road worthiness of buses.

“The Palace expresses its condolences to the families of the victims who died in the fatal bus mishap in Tanay, Rizal,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing.

“The LTFRB has already been directed to ensure the road worthiness of the buses and to remind public utility drivers to guarantee the safety of all their passengers,” he added. – With Jess Diaz, Edu Punay, Sheila Crisostomo, Romina Cabrera, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Non Alquitran, Delon Porcalla

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Bus crash wake: CHED bans school field trips posted February 22, 2017 at 12:01 am by Rio N. Araja


ACCIDENT-PRONE CURVE The ill-fated bus was traveling downhill on an accident-INQUIRER FILE

THE Commission on Higher Education on Tuesday suspended all field trips and educational tours in private and state universities and colleges after 14 students from the Bestlink College of the Philippines perished in a bus accident in Tanay, Rizal Monday.

The commission en banc agreed to ban such activities until a thorough investigation of the incident was completed.

Commissioner Prospero de Vera III also recommended a review of guidelines and policies on field trips and educational tours.

Under a 2012 CHED memo, universities and colleges are required to report to their respective CHED regional office the nature of the tour or field trip, including its purpose, schedule, destination and cost at least a month before the opening of classes every academic year.

The memo states that the destination of such field trips should be near the school to minimize cost.

De Vera said CHED must determine if public and private colleges and universities have been complying with safety requirements.

“The Tanay tragedy is a reminder that we must be very strict in the regulation of the use of public transportation for school-sponsored trips,” he said.

“While it is true that field trips are essential to give students the opportunity to see and explore new things, enhance their learning experience in a natural setting, and provide for interest-driven and hands-on training, the safety of the students on field trips must be ensured at all times by school authorities.”

At least 14 students of Bestlink College of the Philippines in Novaliches, Quezon City were killed along with the driver, after their bus crashed into a concrete electric post in Sitio Bayukan, Barangay Sampaloc, in Tanay, Rizal, on the way to a school-sanctioned camping activity.


FLAMING EPITAPH. Students of the private-run Bestlink College of the Philippines in Novaliches, Quezon City, light candles and offer prayers at the school campus lobby Tuesday for the 14 students and one driver who died Monday in a bus accident in Tanay, Rizal, 60 kms away from the school (facade inset). Manny Palmero

Charlie Cariño, vice president for academics at Bestlink, denied early Tuesday morning that the school has done nothing for the victims of the deadly bus crash, noting that it paid for the medical and funeral expenses of the victims.

The crash was an accident, he said, and denied that the school forced parents to sign a waiver. The school only asked for the parents’ consent, he said.

Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public services, said her panel would investigate the incident, and would look into the granting of permits to drivers of commercial buses. She said she also wants to know the safety features of the buses, which can continue to operate into their 15th year, as well as the experience required of drivers.

“Having a license is not enough if a driver has been driving for only three months,” Poe said.

Senator Cynthia Villar said buses or other vehicles to be used in field trips must be properly checked before they are used for that purpose.

The chief of the Public Attorney’s Office, Persida Rueda-Acosta, said a waiver, if it was signed, will not exculpate the school of liability in case of accidents during the trip.

“There could be civil liability on the part of the school. The waiver, if there’s really any, was unilateral on the part of the school. It was not a license to allow the deaths and injuries,” Acosta said.

But Acosta said the criminal and civil liability of the driver, Julian Lacorda Jr., was extinguished when he died.

A team of PAO lawyers has been sent to assist the families of the victims.

The PAO chief also said that the trip should not have been mandatory because it was not for an academic subject.

Malacañang on Tuesday ordered the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to ensure the safety of all passenger buses following the fatal accident.

“The Palace expressed its condolences to the families of the victims who died in the fatal bus mishap in Tanay, Rizal. The LTFRB has already been directed to ensure the roadworthiness of the buses and to remind public utility drivers to guarantee the safety of all their passengers,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said.

“The CHED is likewise conducting the necessary investigation to determine if proper procedures were observed by school authorities,” the Palace official added. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, Rey E. Requejo and John Paolo Bencito


MANILA BULLETIN

DepEd bans field trips until June 0 SHARES Share it! Published February 24, 2017, 12:08 AM by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Educational field trips will now be temporarily banned in all public elementary and secondary schools after the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) decided to issue a moratorium on out-of-campus learning trips and other similar activities.

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the DepEd announced that it will be issuing a moratorium on field trips in all public elementary and secondary schools nationwide until June, 2017. “This is following the tragic bus accident that claimed the lives of college students in Tanay, Rizal on Monday,” DepEd explained.

DepEd said that the decision was reached in consultation with Regional Directors in a meeting with Education Secretary Leonor Briones. The moratorium, DepEd said, will be “for three to four months to allow for a review of existing policies and to harmonize the implementing details of regions.”

The review, DepEd said, will “cover alignment of field trips to learning outcomes, security and safety, and responsibilities and accountabilities not only of schools but also of parents and of other relevant government agencies.”

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DepEd, however, clarified that for schools that have secured permits and where contracts have already been perfected prior to the moratorium, “they may push through with the scheduled educational field trips, provided that existing guidelines especially on safety are strictly followed.”

PRIVATE SCHOOLS EXCLUDED

The DepEd clarified that while the moratorium is only for public schools, the “policy for both public and private will be covered by review.”

In a separate statement, representatives of private schools will also be included in the study committee. “The exclusion from moratorium for now is because of more direct responsibility of private schools for their activities,” DepEd said.

“Should the committee see the need and propriety to extend the moratorium to private (learning institutions), the DepEd will do so at the proper time,” DepEd added.

CHED MORATORIUM

Meanwhile, the moratorium on all educational field trips in higher education has taken effect as issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

In a CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) signed by Chairperson Patricia Licuanan dated February 21, 2017, all presidents and officers-in-charge of state universities and colleges, local universities and colleges, and private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as well as all CHED central and regional office directors were directed to comply with the moratorium on all field trips and other similar activities.

Licuanan, in the said CMO, explained that the moratorium was issued “in view of recent events concerning field trips and similar activities of HEIs that have resulted to death and serious injuries to students and other members of the academic community.

The Commission en Banc, during its 487th regular session on Wednesday and with the concurrence of the CHED’s Management Committee has approved the imposition of a moratorium on the conduct of all field trips and similar physical activities in all public and private HEIs, “effective immediately.”

“In lieu of field trips or external campus activities, all HEIs should institute replacement activities that will serve the purpose intended by such off-campus activities, preserve the objectives sought to be achieved, and see to it that no student shall be negatively affected by this moratorium,” Licuanan said.

Licuanan explained that the said “moratorium shall continue and remain in effect until all measures have been undertaken to effectively address the issues concerning field trips and the stringent procedures supposed to be adopted by HEIs to ensure the safety and welfare of the concerned HEI stakeholders, as embodied in the enhanced CMO regarding the conduct of field trips and other related activities.”

CHED also warned HEIs who will fail to comply with this directive that the necessary actions will be meted on them. Student Internship Programs and practicum/OJT local and abroad are not covered by the moratorium.

SOLONS HIT BESTLINK

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas yesterday chided the administrators of Bestlink College Philippines for failing to address the financial needs of families of victims of the tragic Tanay educational field trip that killed 15 persons, mostly students of the school.

This developed as Rep. Winston Castelo (LP, Quezon City) called on the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education not to lift the moratorium imposed on educational tours until issues of safety are addressed and the trips are deemed basic requirements in educating the youth.

Vargas lamented that Bestlink officials snubbed an invitation for dialogue with the families of the victims which he organized on Wednesday.

“The families of the victims, most of whom are my constituents, have been running back and forth without direction and guidance – to the school, to hospitals, to morgues – with many of their questions unanswered, like who will pay for the funeral and the hospital, how to bring their dead home, and how to get medical assistance for the survivors who suffered major injuries,” he said.

“I will not allow this accident to become just a statistic. I am committed to see the investigations through, to ensure that all the needs of the victims and their families are met, their legal rights explained, respected, and protected, so that this kind of tragedy can be fully prevented,” he stated.

PANDA LIABILITIES

Panda Coach Tourist and Transport, Inc. assured that it will face the liabilities over the tragic accident that killed 15 persons in Tanay, Rizal on Monday.

“Panda will face its obligations… We will stand by it… If they (the victims) are really decided to file charges, there’s nothing we can do but to face the charges,” said Atty. Bernie Panagsagan, Panda Coach’s legal counsel.

“If possible, if we could settle this amicably (with the relatives of the victims), we would. Because we know court cases are lengthy, it’s very taxing to families. We will try,” he said.

He also discounted reports that the Panda Coach bus which carried the students was a dilapidated unit and was not roadworthy.

The LTO (Land Transportation Office) will not register the unit of it didn’t pass the motor vehicle safety inspection test, if it was not roadworthy.”

Records acquired by the Manila Bulletin/Tempo from the LTO showed that the Panda Coach bus was a 2004 model and was registered in 2016.

Panagsagan also allayed claims that the bus was overloaded when it left the school for the camping activity.

“As far as I know, all 59 (students) were seated. No one was sitting in the aisle, we don’t have a provision for that. Those reports are not true,” he said.

Panda Coach vowed to give out P280,000 for the immediate families of the slain victims.

A cash assistance of P20,000, meanwhile, will be handed as a reimbursement to the hospital expenses of the injured students.

LTFRB board Member and spokesperson Atty. Aileen Lizada said they are conducting a parallel investigation on the incident.

“Ever since (it’s started operating) 2014 to February 2017, Panda Coach has not been involved in any accident. So this is their first time,” Lizada said, citing their records. (With reports from Ben R. Rosario and Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola)


MALAYA

Tanay bus mishap victims get financial assist February 24, 2017


Insurance benefits sa field trip tragedy victims, ibinigay na! Angie dela cruz | Updated February 24, 2017 - 12:10am Tinanggap na ng kapa-milya ng mga nasawi at nasugatang biktima sa naga­nap na field trip tragedy sa Tanay, Rizal ang initial financial assistance mula sa insurance company ng Panda Coach Tour sa isang simpleng seremonya sa Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) kahapon. LIFTED FROM PILIPINO STAR NGAYON (PHILSTAR)

SOME relatives of the victims of the bus crash in Tanay, Rizal last Monday received yesterday financial assistance from the bus firm and its insurance provider.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) board member Aileen Lizada said Panda Coach Tours & Transport Inc. released an initial amount of P30,000 to the families of those who died in the accident, while SCCI Management and Insurance Agency Corporation gave them P50,000 each.

Based on a memorandum of the LTFRB, the bus company, through its insurance provider, should indemnify the family of each of the deceased with P200,000.

Archie Ropa, claims manager of SCCI, said the P30,000 financial support given by Panda Coach Tours to the families of the dead yesterday was separate from the P200,000 maximum cover for the insurance.

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“Iyong P50,000 na ibinigay namin ay iyon po ang kasama sa P200,000 na cover ng insurance,” he added.

Ropa said a P20,000 medical reimbursement will also be released by the insurance firm to the injured victims.

“Kung sakaling lumampas po sa P20,000 iyong cost ng hospital and medical expenses bahala na po ang bus firm na magbigay ng tulong sa injured victims,” he noted.

As of 3 p.m. yesterday, Ropa said at least eight relatives of the 15 people who died in the bus accident appeared at the LTFRB main office in Quezon City to get their financial assistance, while only three from the 30 injured victims applied for medical reimbursement.

Ropa said they gave two of the injured victims P5,000 each, while the other received P7,400 based on the hospital and medical bills submitted.

He said the remaining P150,000 will only be given to the families of the victims upon the submission of the claim requirements.

“Pinagbigyan na po namin sila ngayon. Halos lahat kulang sa required documents. Pero ibinigay pa rin namin para tulong sa kanila,” he said.

“Pero sa pagbibigay po ng natitirang P150,000, kailangan na po talaga nilang madala ang mga kailangan na documents para ma-process po nang maayos,” he added.

The LTFRB has set up a help desk for the insurance company in its main office to cater to the families of the victims.

Ropa said a representative of the insurance firm will continue to stay at the LTFRB help desk until the financial assistance to all the kin of the victims is fully settled.

But a report from GMA News TV said some of the relatives of the victims complained the compensation is not enough to replace the lives of those who died and the trauma that the injured had to go through.

On Monday morning, a Panda Coach Tours bus slammed on to a post alongside a road at the Magnetic Hill in Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay.

The accident resulted in the killing of 15 people, including 13 students of Bestlink College of the Philippines, who were on their way to a camping activity at a resort in Tanay, when the bloody incident occurred. – Angela Lopez de Leon


PHILSTAR

Gov’t needs .2 M teachers, health professionals By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 27, 2017 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


The government needs to hire 234,542 additional public school teachers and health professionals in connection with its plan to boost infrastructure by building more schools and to improve the delivery of medical services to the poor. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The government needs to hire 234,542 additional public school teachers and health professionals in connection with its plan to boost infrastructure by building more schools and to improve the delivery of medical services to the poor.

Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said the Department of Education (DepEd) is set to hire 181,980 teachers starting this year until 2020, while the Department of Health (DOH) will recruit 52,562 health practitioners starting this year until 2022.

The public sector’s projected demand for teachers and health professionals were culled from papers submitted by the Cabinet to Congress in connection with the Duterte administration’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Program.

“We are releasing these figures to help graduating high school students as well as first year and second year college students to decide what courses they may take or shift to if they are considering future employability in the public sector,” Campos explained.

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This year alone, DepEd is spending P15.5 billion to fill up 53,831 new teaching positions.

“The fastest-growing profession in the years ahead will be teaching, as DepEd steps up hiring to cope with the demands of a rapidly expanding public school system. The need for Math and Science teachers in particular will be exceptionally strong,” Campos said.

Excluding benefits and allowances, teachers in public schools now receive a monthly salary ranging from P19,077 for entry-level Teacher I (Salary Grade 11, Step 1) to P39,768 for Master Teacher III (Salary Grade 20, Step 1).

These pay rates will increase every year until they reach P20,754 for Teacher 1 and P51,155 for Master Teacher III starting Jan. 1, 2019, under Executive Order 201 of 2016, according to Campos.

As for the DOH, it needs 39,466 nurses, 3,288 pharmacists, 2,862 medical technologists, 2,497 universal health care implementers, 2,424 doctors, 1,114 dentists, and 911 public health associates.


INQUIRER

Laughter as subversion: Martial Law Jokes at Iba Pa . . .Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:48 AM February 26, 2017


NOW THEY CAN BE TOLD The cover of Maslog’s “Martial Law Jokes At Iba Pa”

One of the earliest anecdotes about martial law was how then popular TV host Ariel Ureta was arrested and made to bike around Manila for tweaking that era’s slogan: “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disciplina ang kailangan.”

True or not, what became urban legend also had a chilling effect on the country’s sense of humor, with jokes and puns about martial law, the Marcoses, Gen. Fabian Ver, and later Sen. Ninoy Aquino and Rolando Galman, flourishing only through whispers and knowing winks.

Which explains the recent release of Dr. Crispin Maslog’s “Martial Law Jokes at Iba Pa: Stories I Couldn’t Share Under Marcos’ Dictatorship,” a collection of jokes that people traded freely among themselves in private conversations, but dared not publish during those dark years.

The jokes mocked the Marcoses’ known penchant for grandeur and extravagance, the former first lady’s insatiable lust for pomp and circumstance,Ver’s dull wit, and later, after the Aquino assassination in 1983, the government’s inept handling of the airport incident and of fall guy Galman.

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The opposition’s quick and smart-alecky comeback to Marcos decrees and pronouncements—which would have landed them in jail had they been uttered during martial law—are also documented in this slim volume.

The book by communication professor Maslog, “is a precious record of how Filipinos managed to learn truthful trends despite the dictatorship,” wrote Alice C. Villadolid in her foreword.

“… Thanks to the good humor which is natural to most Filipinos, conversations or jokes that were not being watched or recorded on site became a vehicle for conveying truthful developments. Danger from agents of the dictatorship emerged when they arrested and interrogated veteran newsman Toto Olivera after he ended his speech at the Manila Overseas Press Club with a joke about the Dictator, “the foreword added.


Crispin C. Maslog —Asia Pacific Report

Maslog noted that after the Aquino assassination, “when it became apparent that the Marcos government was (somehow involved) … (and being) unable to take up arms to oust the dictator, people expressed their indignation in the form of jokes and satirical songs and rhymes, a medium for people’s emotional release, their way of venting their emotions to hit back at the dictator.”

Like most people, Maslog gathered some of those jokes, told and retold them privately, and forgot about them when Marcos was kicked out at the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution … “until one day, we came upon them by accident as we ransacked our files while researching for our papers and books.”

But aside from provoking laughter, “let this book remind everyone of that horrible era in Philippine history when a tyrant once ruled and plundered the country, and the people were speechless and reduced to sharing jokes in whispers. We hope, however, that many readers of this book would still remember the context in which the jokes were invented, told and retold,” he added.

To make sure of that, Maslog had extensive footnotes to explain the background behind the jokes. And for good measure, there are six appendices that dwell briefly but substantially on contentious events and issues during martial law that have become favorite subjects for alternative facts in social media.

These appendices tackle the following: How Marcos plundered the Philippine economy; human rights abuses under martial law; the assassination that sparked a revolution; Philippine media under martial law: Lessons from martial law, and Philippine media after Edsa.

Some of the jokes may sound dated among those who have heard them all before, but the incisive information in the appendices alone makes this publication worth your while.

The book, Maslog writes, is also a timely reminder to today’s generation “that once upon a time they did not have the freedom to express themselves freely as they do now.” —PAC


MALAYA

THE Dry season soon here February 24, 2017


Vacationers flock to the beach during dry season in the Philippines. TripMoBa.com

The country is now in the transition stage from the wet season.

Weather forecaster Robert Badrina said the weather bureau is close to declaring the onset of the dry season, or “summer,” because the cold northeast monsoon has started to weaken.

The northeast monsoon or “hanging amihan” will end likely in the second or third week of March, he said.

Last year, PAGASA officially declared the start of dry season on March 18. The dry season normally lasts until mid-June.

The Philippines has only two seasons – dry and wet – unlike other countries which have four – winter, spring, summer and fall.

The northeast monsoon is the mass of cold air from China and Siberia that blows into the country usually from mid-October to early March.

When the northeast monsoon is gone, warm air from the Pacific Ocean will start to blow into the country, signaling the start of the dry season, Badrina said. – Angela Lopez de Leon


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