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Road infra projects facilitate mobility in far-flung Bukidnon communities

October 27, 2020

The road projects that have been implemented linking far-flung communities in the town of Impasug-ong, Bukidnon greatly helped in the transport of local goods to the market, Mayor Anthony Uy reported on Monday. In an interview, the local chief executive noted that it used to take a few hours before reaching some of the 13 barangays there, such as Hagpa and Calabugao which are 46 kilometers away from the town proper. “Noon, four hours yung travel ng mga tao papunta sa kanilang mga barangay galing sa Poblacion papunta ng barangay Calabugao, Hagpa, at Bulonay [Before, it would take residents four hours to travel from the Poblacion back to their barangays in Calabugao, Hagpa, and Bulonay],” he said during the Network Briefing News with host Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar. “Pero dahil sa road rehabilitation ng ating Pangulo, na pinakamalaking proyektong naibigay dito sa Impasug-ong, ngayon ay almost 70% na yung sementado yung daan. Hindi na mahihirapan yung mga farmers natin o mga tao na mag-travel o mag-transport ng kanilang local products [But because of the road rehabilitation of our President, which is the biggest project we received here in Impasug-ong, almost 70% of our roads here are already concrete. Our farmers and people here no longer have the difficulty to travel or transport their local products],” he added. According to Mayor Uy, 68% of the total population there is composed of indigenous peoples identified as the Higaonons, who are the major beneficiaries of the assistance poured by the national and local government. The economy of the municipality largely depends on agriculture. That is why, the local government is now looking into providing a more centralized marketing venue for farmers, especially their local produce of potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, and lettuce. “This pandemic has greatly affected our farmers. So, yung plano ng munisipyo is magkaroon ng Bagsakan Center dito para yung mga high value crops ng ating mga farmers, dito na nila ibagsak lahat [This pandemic has greatly affected our farmers. So, the plan of the municipality is to have a Bagsakan Center, where they can market their high value crops],” he said, noting that this will also help farmers bargain better prices for their products. Through the aid of the Department of Agriculture, the town of Impasug-ong provides livelihood projects such as livestock dispersal of cattle and native chickens. It also has commercial poultry breeder farms and communal cattle ranch. The 642-hectare communal ranch is the only government-owned communal ranch in the country. With these assistance from the government, Mayor Uy said that the locals continue to do their part in attaining development for the municipality, including the IP communities. “Yung mga Higaonon din natin is aktibo po sila na nagsusuporta ng lahat ng mga programa ng ating Pangulong Duterte lalo na yung ‘Balik-Loob program’ to end local communist armed conflict [Our Higaonons here are active in supporting all of the programs of President Duterte, especially the ‘Balik-Loob’ Program to end local communist armed conflict],” he said. Impasug-ong is one of the first-class municipalities in Bukidnon, and comprises the largest land mass in the province reaching to about 10% total area or 105,000 hectares. (PCOO)

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1,200 market vendors in Tanay, Rizal receive assistance from Bong Go

October 27, 2020

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go’s team distributed on Friday, October 23, various forms of assistance, such as food packs, masks and face shields, to 239 stall owners and 961 market workers in the municipalities of Tanay, Jala-Jala, Baras, and Morong in Rizal, bringing in a total of 1,200 beneficiaries. The distribution activity was done at Tanay Gymnasium in Tanay town in strict compliance with health and safety protocols imposed to avoid the further spread of COVID-19. “Importanteng maprotektahan ang mga kababayan natin na madalas nasa palengke kasi habang sinusubukan ninyong pasiglahin muli ang inyong kabuhayan at buhayin ang ating ekonomiya ay nagiging mas vulnerable po kayo sa sakit,” Go said. “’Yung transmission ng COVID-19 ay madalas pong nangyayari sa public places, tulad ng market. Kaya pinapaalalahanan ko kayo, mag-ingat po tayo palagi. Kung maaari ay huwag kayo masyado mag-gather at magtagal sa isang lugar. Pagbayad, puwede na po umalis ang bibili. Ingat po dahil delikado pa po ang sitwasyon sa panahon ngayon, kailangan natin ng kooperasyon sa bawat isa,” he explained further. Due to limited transportation, Go also provided bicycles to those who need them most in their commute to work. He also gave away tablets to another set of selected recipients for their children to use in the blended learning platforms implemented in schools. “Mayro’n din akong ipinadalang bisikleta at may pinadala rin po akong tablets na magagamit ng inyong anak sa pag-aaral. Sa mga kabataan, mag-aral kayong mabuti,” he reminded. “Ipakita natin sa ating magulang na nag-aaral kayong mabuti. Tayong mga magulang, nagpapakamatay po para mapag-aral ang ating mga anak, kaya kayong mga kabataan, mag-aral kayong mabuti. Ang inyong puhunan sa mundong ito ay edukasyon,” he added. One of those who received assistance, 63-year old Neptali Castro, who is a glassware, kitchen pots and plasticware vendor, said in an interview that he is appreciative of the efforts of the Senator to help the poor and vulnerable sectors. “Nagpapasalamat ako kay Senator Bong Go sa ginagawa niya at inaaksyunan niya. Binibigyan n’ya ng gabay at tulong ang maliliit na manininda tulad ko. Buong puso akong nagpapasalamat sa kanila. Sana kapain pa nila ang dapat kapain at tulungan ang mahihirap na tulad namin,” Castro added. Personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development also came to provide financial assistance and food packs to beneficiaries. The Department of Trade and Industry was also present to assess possible beneficiaries for the alternative livelihood assistance the government agency will provide. “Bukod sa tulong na inabot ng aking opisina, maraming salamat din sa DSWD na magbibigay sa inyo ng financial assistance habang ang DTI naman ay may livelihood programs po. Halimbawa, gusto n’yo magtayo ng sari-sari store o eatery, pwede kayong bigyan ng puhunan at turuan magnegosyo ng tama,” Go explained. Go also urged the market vendors with health concerns to avail of medical financial assistance from the nearest Malasakit Center around Rizal province located at Antipolo City Hospital System Annex IV (Mambugan), Margarito A. Duavit Memorial Hospital in Binangonan, and Bagong Cainta Municipal Hospital. “Huwag po kayong mag-atubiling lumapit sa akin, dahil trabaho ko po ang magserbisyo sa inyo. Huwag po kayo mawalan ng pag-asa. Magtulungan ho tayo at kapit lang, mga kababayan ko. Patuloy tayong magbayanihan at magmalasakit sa kapwa,” he said. “Alam ko hirap na kayo, kami rin po ni Pangulong Duterte hirap din kami pero hindi po kami nawawalan ng pag-asa dahil ang nagpapalakas po ng aming loob at nagbibigay lakas sa amin ay ang kapwa naming mga Pilipino,” Go added. (OSBG)

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Bong Go proposes expanded task force against systemic corruption; urges authorities to impose preventive suspensions on accused officials to preserve integrity of probe

October 27, 2020

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has earlier recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte for the creation of an expanded inter-agency task force to address systemic corruption in government. This, he said, is in support of initiatives of various agencies to cleanse its ranks in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s intensified campaign against corruption. Go’s proposal came after reports of prevalent systemic corruption in various agencies, such as alleged anomalies in the Department of Public Works and Highways, the 'pastillas’ scheme in the Bureau of Immigration, extortion in the Bureau of Customs, the embezzling of funds in Philippine Health Insurance Corporation and the rice smuggling in the agriculture sector, among others. “It is enraging to hear such reports because we, led by President Duterte, have always adopted a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. This is why I am recommending to the President to create an enhanced task force to put an end to these unscrupulous activities plaguing our bureaucracy,” Go said. “Imbestigahan dapat lahat. Wala tayong pipiliin, wala tayong sasantuhin. Kasuhan na ang mga dapat makasuhan. Tuluyan ang mga dapat tuluyan. Towards the last one year and eight months of this administration, we must not hesitate in cracking down on corruption,” he emphasized. Go explained that the proposed task force can be a more empowered version of the previous task force created to investigate PhilHealth — with an expanded scope as it should cover all government agencies and should be allowed to operate until President Duterte ends his term in 2022. “Nag-usap po kami ng Pangulo. Bagamat exasperated na po siya dahil sa mga nababalitang laganap na corruption, hindi tayo papayag na masira ang magandang pagbabago na pinaghirapan nating lahat noong nakaraang mahigit apat na taon dahil lang sa kalokohan ng iilan,” he said. “Sa natitirang isang taon at walong buwan, mas palalakasin pa natin ang kampanya laban sa korapsyon, kriminalidad at iligal na droga,” Go added. The Senator said that the expanded task force must be empowered enough to conduct probes on any government agency with the support of concerned governing bodies, such as the Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission, among others, as well as all branches of government. “Magtulungan tayong lahat para matigil na ang katiwalian sa gobyerno mula sa pinakamababa hanggang sa pinakataas. Kung paano tayo magbabayanihan ngayon para labanan ang pandemya, magkaisa rin dapat tayo para puksain ang sakit na korapsyon sa ating sistema,” he urged. Go said that the proposed task force will be mandated to investigate allegations of corruption in any agency, conduct lifestyle checks on officials, audit public funds, prosecute and file charges against those accused, recommend suspensions when necessary, and put in jail those who will be found guilty. “It is important to remove the ‘bad eggs’ para hindi na makasira pa sa serbisyo ng gobyerno o makahawa pa sa mga ibang kawani ng gobyerno na nais lang magsilbi sa kapwa Pilipino,” he previously said. Go urged the proper authorities to recommend or impose preventive suspensions on public officials and government employees who are suspected of graft, corruption or negligence. “Dapat po pilayan o putulan na ng daliri para hindi na makagalaw. Ang preventive suspension ay mainam na paraan para hindi na makagawa pa ng kalokohan o makipagsabwatan para maitago ang katotohanan,” he explained saying that the integrity of the ongoing probes must be free of any influence from abusive officials. Go also warned public servants to live within their means and adhere to the values and standards set forth in Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. “Hindi lang po ‘yon, dapat po ma-lifestyle check rin ang mga nasa gobyerno para matingnan po kung saan nila kinukuha ang kanilang pera. ‘Yung iba dyan hindi naaayon sa kanilang sweldo ang pamumuhay — sweldong gobyerno pero buhay milyonaryo,” he said. In line with a zero-tolerance policy against corruption, Go reiterated that there must be more safeguards to protect public funds from corruption, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “Filipinos must know where their money is going and how it is being used. They entrusted this money to us so it can benefit all and not just a few. That is why every peso should be accounted for up to the last centavo and used solely for public service,” he emphasized. “I now reiterate my appeal to our agencies and my fellow public servants to shape up now, because our people deserve nothing less but the best kind of service from a government that puts the welfare and interests of every Filipino first before their own,” he added. (OSBG)

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Go continues to respond to calls for help from victims of calamities amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; sends aid to 300 flashflood victims in Lopez, Quezon

October 27, 2020

After distributing relief assistance in Lucena City and Gumaca town, Quezon province the past days, the Office of Senator Christopher “Bong” Go proceeded to the municipality of Lopez to extend similar assistance to the flash flood victims on Friday, October 23. The activity, held at the Lopez National Comprehensive High School, benefited 300 individuals who were provided with meals, food packs, masks and face shields. “Ako po ay nalulungkot dahil marami pong nasalanta. Huwag ho kayong mag-alala dahil magtutulungan tayo para makabangon kayo. Sa abot ng aming makakaya, tutulong kami ng Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa inyo,” encouraged Go in his video call to the residents. Ang mahalaga ay buhay tayo. Ang pera pwedeng kikitain pero ang buhay hindi nabibili ng pera kaya kapit ho tayo at malalampasan rin natin ‘to,” he added. His staff gave away bicycles to several recipients as alternative mode of transportation amid travel restrictions. Others with children were given tablets for use in the online classes carried out by schools under the blended learning approach. “Pakiusap sa mga estudyante: mag-aral kayong mabuti. ‘Yan lang ang kaligayahan naming mga magulang ang makapagtapos kayong mga anak. Kami ay nagpapakamatay makapag-aral lang kayo. So, bilang ganti o konsuelo, mag-aral kayong mabuti,” he urged. Representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development were also present to distribute cash assistance and additional food packs. Additionally, the Senator thanked local officials for the support they extended to the victims, including Governor Danilo Suarez, Representative Angelina Tan, Representative Anna Villaraza-Suarez, and other local officials. Go also announced that President Rodrigo Duterte plans to distribute additional benefits to barangay officials, specifically barangay captains, kagawads, secretaries and treasurers as well Sangguniang Kabataan chairpersons and Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representatives this Christmas season in recognition of their service. “Tiis lang po tayo. Alam kong hirap kayo. Kami rin po dito hirap na hirap na kami pero hindi kami nawawalan ng pag-asa hangga’t nakikita namin ang bayanihan at pagmamalasakit ng kapwa nating mga Pilipino,” Go said. “Kayo ang nagbibigay lakas sa amin para makapag-serbisyo pa kami ng maayos at paigtingan pa ang pagtutulungan natin sa isa’t isa. Patuloy lang po kaming magsisilbi at magseserbisyo para sa kabutihan ng bawat Pilipino,” he added. (OSBG)

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DOF takes steps to untie legal knot on gov’t-held mining assets

October 27, 2020

The Department of Finance (DOF) is pursuing steps to untangle the legal issues tying down idle mining interests held by the government in an effort to speed up the privatization of these assets and revive their operations.    According to the Privatization and Management Office (PMO), lawsuits filed by the private sector proponents in the operations of these once-flourishing mining assets have hampered efforts by the government to privatize them.    “We are forming an interagency team to study ways on how we can clear the path for these assets to be privatized and revive their operations,” Dominguez said.    He said the team will be composed of representatives from the DOF, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the DOF-attached Privatization and Management Office (PMO), and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).    A memorandum by the PMO to Dominguez identified the copper-gold project of the Maricalum Mining Corp. (Maricalum Mining) in Negros Occidental, the nickel mines of the Nonoc Mining and Industrial Corp. (Nonoc Mining) in Surigao del Norte, and the gold- and copper-rich North Davao Mining Property (North Davao Mining) in Davao del Norte as among the idle mining assets held by the government that have long been under litigation.    The PMO also said the copper mines of the Basay Mining Corporation (Basay Mining) in Negros Oriental and the nickel mine once operated by the Marinduque Mining and Industrial Corp. (MMIC Bagacay Mine) in Western Samar have also remained inoperational because of legal concerns on how these assets should be disposed.   Dominguez recently told business leaders during the 46th Philippine Business Conference and Expo hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) that the DOF had done a comprehensive assessment of state-held mining assets.   He said during the conference that the government is pushing the revival of the mining industry to provide jobs and energize economies in the countryside, as part of national efforts to restart the economy in the face of the pandemic-induced global economic downturn.   The mining industry, Dominguez has said, “provides jobs in (rural) areas where there are no other alternative jobs” available.    “Definitely, we are pushing for the revival of the mining industry,” he said during the PCCI virtual conference.    Maricalum Mining, Nonoc Mining and North Davao Mining were once successful mining companies that have failed to settle their debts with government financial institutions, leading to their foreclosure and transfer of their assets and shares of stocks to the national government.    The government then auctioned off the shares of these mining firms, but the firms with the highest bid failed to fulfill their obligations, which resulted in decades of litigation that have left these mining assets idle.    Maricalum Mining, led by its President, Teodoro G. Bernardino, has been tied up in litigation since 1995.  The winning bidder, G Holding Inc. (GHI), refused to pay the balance of the price of its purchased shares under its Purchase and Sale Agreement with the government. In the last General Information Sheet (GIS) filed by GHI with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2005, it indicated Michael G. Bernardino as the Chairman of its Board with Eleanore B. Gutierrez as its major stockholder.   Nonoc Mining was acquired by the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Philippine National Bank (PNB) in 1984 and turned over in 1987 to the then-Asset Privatization Trust (APT).  In 1996, APT sold 22.5 million shares of stock of Nonoc Mining to Philnico Mining and Industrial Corp. (PMIC), now Philnico Industrial Corporation (PIC). Based on its 2018 GIS, the PIC Chairman of the Board is Ramon S. Ang, and its President is Horacio C. Ramos   The sale represented 90 percent ownership of Nonoc Mining.    Under the Amended and Restated Definitive Agreement (ARDA) between the two parties, PMIC agreed to pay APT the peso equivalent of US$263.762 million as purchase price, payable in two sets of installments and in accordance with the schedule set in the ARDA.   The government moved for the reversion of the shares sold to PMIC when the latter defaulted.    This led to numerous cases filed by both the private sector and the government against each other that eventually reached the Supreme Court (SC).   The issue is now awaiting resolution by the high court, the PMO said. To date, there has been no collection on the P14.9 billion purchase price.      The North Davao Mining case involved the bidding for a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) to develop its mining assets in partnership with the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC), a wholly owned and controlled government corporation designated as the new implementing arm of the DENR in undertaking the mining and mineral processing operations in Compostela Valley Province, among others.      The Asia-Alliance Mining Resources Corp. (AAMRC), led by its President Simon L. Paz, was qualified and considered as the highest calculated and responsive bid, failed to comply with the conditions of the Notice of Award in 2009, including failure to pay the commitment fee, secure a performance bond, and execute the JOA. A series of litigation ensued, and is still pending with the Court of Appeals (CA).    Basay Mining, formerly the CDCP Mining Corp. was established in 1970, but its operations were suspended in 1983 because of lack of working and operating funds. Basay Mining had entered into a Deed of Assignment of Mining Claims and Leasehold Rights with the PNB to secure credit and loan accommodations from the Bank.    Technical studies by the PMO indicate that the Basay mine is estimated to contain at least 105 million tons of copper ore and could generate at least Php 1 billion.   Similarly, MMIC Bagacay mine which has been mired in environmental complaints was foreclosed by the DBP and PNB in 1984 with an outstanding claim of P19.5 billion. Its assets were transferred to APT for privatization.    According to PMO, DENR Administrative Order (AO) No. 2012-07, which states that the MGB shall formulate the guidelines for the privatization of mines through public bidding, needs to be harmonized with the Privatization & Management Office’s mandate to dispose of state assets for a successful tender. (DOF)    

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Meat safety is a shared responsibility – Agri chief

October 23, 2020

Agriculture Secretary William Dar challenged the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to advance current practices and level up its food and meat safety protocols.   “Food safety, particularly meat safety, is a shared responsibility. We each have to do our part to keep and maintain safety in our own locality, and in the entire country, to ensure the health and wellness of all consumers,” said Secretary Dar, underscoring the importance of safe and clean meat industry, during the 48th anniversary of the DA-NMIS on October 20, 2020, in Quezon City.   “As part of the government and the DA family, the officers and personnel of the NMIS serve as gatekeepers of safe meat in our markets, and must continue to fulfill their duties and functions as public servants,” Secretary Dar said.   “Let us not miss the mark. We must not be distracted by the difficulties. No matter what difficulty we are in, whether we are in a pandemic or not, we proceed head-on. After all, we have sworn to protect the public against unsafe meat that can bring direct and indirect hazards and risks to our health,” the DA chief said.   He emphasized that NMIS should ensure that necessary standards and regulations are observed, urging employees to always practice good governance and sustain anti-corruption efforts.   Guided by the theme “Sa Anumang Panahon, Malinis na Karne ang Layon,” the 27th Meat Safety Consciousness Week — which also coincides with the 48th founding anniversary of NMIS — highlights the role of the agency in ensuring that the Filipino consumers enjoy quality, affordable and wholesome meat amidst increased threats to food safety and food security.   The Meat Safety Consciousness Week, held every third week of October, is mandated under Proclamation 276 and signed by then-President Fidel V. Ramos.   Secretary Dar said the agency should work closely with the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to address transboundary animal diseases such as African Swine Fever (ASF) and Avian Flu.   He also reiterated the importance of building strong partnerships with stakeholders as well as local government units (LGUs) that are at the forefront in ensuring meat safety particularly when border controls were set up to control ASF and lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.   Further, he directed the inspection service to help LGUs enhance their capabilities in implementing the Meat Inspection Code of the Philippines in their respective localities.   He also urged NMIS staff members to properly carry out the guidelines specified in the Food Safety Act of 2013, particularly now that the country is in the midst of a health crisis.   “You must strictly monitor concerns on the potential transmission of Covid-19 virus to meat products, compliance of meat manufacturers on imposed health safety protocols,” he added.   For his part, NMIS executive director Dr. Reildrin G. Morales reported the accomplishments of the agency, including efficient data collection on inspections, development of the National Accreditation and Registration Information System (NARIS), implementation of the electronic payment systems and Automated In-Plant Line Inspection Reporting System (AIPLIRS) in selected regional offices, extension of meat plants licenses, mandatory application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) program, and non-stop monitoring and surveillance to ensure that consumers have ready and immediate access to safe and quality meat.   Dr. Morales added that the NMIS plans to intensify staff technical trainings and will soon offer scholarships for graduate studies.   He said a study is also being conducted to review the current state of the country’s meat industry, the total number of processing facilities in the country, and the current gaps the agency is facing, among other major concerns. (KM/ DA-AFID)

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