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Senate Pushes for Piloting Face-to-Face Classes

February 25, 2021

Senators are pushing for a return of face-to-face classes on a limited basis, following President Duterte’s directive to postpone them until the government can roll out its vaccination program against Covid-19. In a hearing of the Senate committee on basic education on Wednesday, its chairman Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said that face-to-face classes can still be piloted even if the government policy was to put them on hold. “This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of Covid,” Gatchalian said. Senator Imee Marcos, who pushed for face-to-face classes as early as December last year, cited health statistics to allay fears about schools causing widespread infection. Marcos cited that those 20 years old and below made up “less than 10% of infections and diagnosed cases” and that the pandemic’s total fatality rate remained low at about 2%. The return of face-to-face classes would also allow parents to resume work full-time or to find jobs, Marcos added. Senator Nancy Binay said the Department of Education should have been “more persuasive” in its recommendation to the President to let students return to the classroom while observing health and safety protocols. Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan said that the lessons drawn from piloting face-to-face classes would be helpful in expanding their application when more people get immunized.

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Imee: U.S. Dapat Lang Magbayad ng Patas sa Paggamit sa PH Military Bases

February 24, 2021

  Idinepensa ni Senador Imee Marcos ang paninindigan ni Pangulong Duterte na karapat-dapat lang magbayad ng patas ng U.S. sa Pilipinas dahil sa delikadong papel nito sa pagbibigay ng unang depensa sa Amerika sa Indo-Pacific region.  “Hindi lang nabibigyan ng Pilipinas ang American forces ng unang depensa sa Indo-Pacific region kundi pati paggamit nila sa tubig at kuryente sa ating mga military bases ay binabayaran din natin,” ani Marcos. “Napakaraming Pilipino ang hindi kayang magbayad sa tubig at kuryente ngayong may pandemya. Itutuloy pa rin ba ang subsidiya sa mga Amerikano? Tanong ni Marcos, sabay banggit sa U.S. military benefits na nakasaad sa Article 7 ng Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Isinulong muli ni Marcos ang pagsuri sa EDCA dahil napapaikutan ng Amerika ang prohibisyon sa ating Konstitusyon sa mga foreign military bases sa bansa. Dagdag ni Marcos, ang dating bayad sa ating gobyerno bago mapaalis ang mga U.S. bases halos tatlong dekada nang nakaraan ay naiiwasan din ng Amerika.     “Kahit ang mga superpower nangangailangan din ng mga kaibigan, at ang bagong pagtingin ng Amerika sa Asia-Pacific ay nagpapatibay sa malaking ginagampanan ng ating rehiyon at ng Pilipinas,” ani ni Marcos, bilang sagot sa batikos kay Presidente Duterte na ang paghingi ng patas na bayad ay pangingikil. Sumang-ayon ang senadora sa Presidente na ang $3.9 bilyon na ibinabayad ng Amerika sa Pilipinas noong 2001 hanggang 2017 ay napakaliit kumpara sa $16 bilyon na ibinabayad sa Pakistan. “Natatakot ang Amerika na kapag bumagsak ang gobyerno ng Pakistan, ang 150 nuclear warheads nito ay magagamit ng Taliban laban sa Amerika,” ani Marcos. “Kung wala ang Pilipinas, ang kalakal ng Amerika pati na ang mga pangako nito sa seguridad ng rehiyon ay hihina. Ngunit dahil sa pagtanggap natin sa U.S. forces, magiging target naman ang Pilipinas ng mga kalaban ng Amerika, kahit hindi tayo direktang kasali sa anumang gyera na maaring pumutok sa ating rehiyon,” dagdag ni Marcos.  “Kung susugurin ng China ang Taiwan dahil sa pagsulong nito ng independence, hindi gaano magiging mabilis ang pag-responde ng Amerika dahil manggagaling pa ng Japan, South Korea, Guam o Australia ang mga pwersa ng military nito,” paliwanag ni Marcos.  Dagdag pa ni Marcos, maaring gamitin ng Amerika ang mga human rights issues upang tawaran sa isang isyu na dapat pang-seguridad lamang.  

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IMEE: Scrap Pork Imports

February 24, 2021

  Senator Imee Marcos has called on the government to prevent pork importers from taking over local market supply and pushing Filipino producers out of business. “The slaughter of our local hog raisers will begin if the Department of Agriculture (DA) succeeds in its push to raise the minimum access volume of pork imports from the present 54,000 metric tons,” Marcos said. In a Senate hearing last Monday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that the government was considering pork imports that may exceed 400,000 metric tons. Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, said that pork imports “may deal the coup de grace to our pork industry before Vietnam could release a vaccine against African swine fever (ASF) later this year,” Marcos added. The spread of African swine fever has forced Luzon to import some 80% of its pork supply from the Visayas and Mindanao. Marcos said the government can bring down meat prices by subsidizing the cost of transporting pork products to Luzon, pointing out that the DA got the single biggest item for emergency and stimulus funding under Bayanihan 2, amounting to Php24 billion. “Many local hog raisers have already shut down their business. Importation amid the Covid-19 pandemic means more local jobs will be lost and surrendering the country’s food security to foreigners,” Marcos said.  

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Pacquiao visits birthplace, reminisces  hard life

February 24, 2021

FOR the first time since  his family quietly left his birthplace in the rural town of Kibawe,  Bukidnon to try their luck in the city, Senator Manny Pacquiao has returned in a grand homecoming that allowed him to share not only the fruits of his success but his story of hardships  that molded him to greatness.   Kibawe municipal hall, Mayor Reynaldo "Jimboy Tebontu" S. Ang Rabanes said they invited Senator Pacquiao to Kibawe to give tribute not only for his extra-ordinary achievements in boxing but also for his unparalleled dedication to serve the people.   In a symbolic ceremony at the Kibawe municipal hall,  Rabanes turned over to  Pacquaio a copy of his birth certificate to show that he is truly a son of Kibawe.   Pacquiao  was only five years old when his family decided to leave Kibawe and move to General Santos City because of the constant skirmishes between government security forces and communist rebels.   Pacquiao's mom, Mommy Dionisia was originally from the town of Glan, Sarangani ( originally part of South Cotabato)  but after a tortous marriage, she  eloped with her second husband and went to Kibawe where he was born.   But with the constant fighting in the town that was once infested with insurgents, Senator Pacquaio's family struggled to make ends meet and survived on root crops. The hard life forced his family to move to General Santos City where Pacquaio continued to live a life of struggle and hardship.   Pacquiao said that his visit to Kibawe is a fitting reminder of his roots which was built and strengthened by his sheer determination to succeed.   " Hinding-hindi ko makakalimutan itong lugar dahil dito ako namulat kung paano ang maging mahirap. Ang Kibawe na kinamulatan ko ay  napakahirap ang pamumuhay at pugad ito ng mga rebelde noon kaya  kailangan naming umalis at makipagsapalaran sa Gensan," Pacquiao related.   "Kahit madilim ang hinarap ng aming pamilya hindi ako nawalan ng pag- asa. Tulad ng marami sa ating mga kababayan dito sa Kibawe  ay araw -araw tayong lumalaban sa kahirapan at kalayaang makapamuhay kahit simple basta malayo sa takot at ligtas ang ating pamilya," he added.   After the symbolic ceremony and a brief meeting with local government officials,. Pacquaio went on to give away grocery packs and P1,000 cash gifts to poor residents.   In his speech, Pacquiao renewed his challenge to rich politicians to share their money to the poor. He said that if only rich officials would all pitch in to help the poor,  the number of impoverished Filipinos would be a lot lesser.   He said if given the chance, he would prioritize building a "mega prison" facility which would be intended for corrupt government officials.   "Sa puso ko gusto kong bigyan ng hustisya ang mga kababayan nating mahihirap mula sa mga kurap na politiko," Pacquiao said.   "Wala na akong kailangan. Di ko na kailangan ang kasikatan at kanya. God always provide. But i want to give justice to the poor. Kaya sa mga ganid na  politiko na walang ginawa kundi magnakaw sa gobyerno, may araw din kayo," he added.   Accompanying Pacquiao in his homecoming trip to Kibawe are Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri and other provincial government officials.

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La Vina shuts down quarry operations in PHIVIDEC ESTATE

February 22, 2021

  In an offort to prolect the people living along the Tagoloan River, PHIVIDEC Admirnistrator Pompee La Viña ordered the shutdown of all illegal quarry operations within the Industrial Estate today, February 22, 2021.   Five quarries will be barred from continuing their operations within PHIVIDEC promises. Three of the quarry operators will be served a cease and desist order by Acting Security Chief Officer Col. Pedrito Daquipil (Ret.) upon La Viña's instruction. La Viña also ordered to restrict the access of all five quarry operators to PHIVIDEC roads going to the quarry   sites.   The plan to close the quarry operations is based on the conduct of a thorough intelligence work that La Viña ordered just weeks after he was   appointed PHIVIDEC Administrator by President Rodigo Duterte.   La Viña said that he is afraid of the possible consequence to the people when a landslide occurs during heavy rains due to increased erosion on the river bank caused by the quarry operations.   The problem dates back to the 1990's but was not resolved. This is why Administrator La Viña is taking direct action.   According to La Viña, PHIVIDEC could be blamed in the future if this problem is not directly addressed now.   La Viña wants to ensure that the lives of the people living along the coast, especially the poor, are not jeopardized and to avert a Sendong-like tragedy in Tagoloan.   When Typhoon Sendong hit Cagayan de Oro in 2011, the disaster claimed about 2,000 lives and caused billions-worth of economic damages.   Based on a 2019 survey, it was found out that PHIVIDEC has already lost 70 hectares of its 3,000-hectare from years of quarry operations in its area.   The sand along the banks of the river within the PHIVIDEC estate has been hugely depleted due to bank eroslon.   La Viña is deeply concerned that th e plants inside PHIVIDEC will be in danger if the quarry operations continue.   La Viña also raise an alarm on the destruction and the damages to the environment because of over-quarrying.   With this, La Viña urged local government units including the relevant the Provincial Government to cooperate in his desire to   agencies and protect the people against any kind of disaster such as flooding and cooperate in his desire to landslides, of disaster such as flooding and Under Presidential Decree No. 538, PHIVIDEC has the right to close the quarry, especially when the operation takes place right inside its property.   According to its Legal Department, PHIVIDEC Industrial Authority has the power to shut down the illegal quarry operations within the 3,000-hectare estate on the following grounds:   First, not a single operator has been issued a permit to operate by PHIVIDEC.   Second, the LGUs failed to obtain a Certificate of No Objection from PHIVIDEC before issuing permits.   Third, even if the permit issued is valid, the operator still violates the agreement stipulated such as quarrying beyond the 1-meter limit issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.   La Viña added that in any city, over-quarrying results to flooding.   Floods also exacerbated by uncollected garbage and clogged drainages. Floods also disrupt traffic flow and interrupt personal travel and business operations.  

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Right information, science-based legislation, needed to accelerate end of cigarettes

February 21, 2021

Leaving cigarettes behind can be much faster if everyone plays a role, said a top-ranking Philip Morris International (PMI) executive.  This was the key message of Tommaso Di Giovanni, PMI’s vice president for global communications, during the 27th National Public Relations Congress held virtually by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP). He said the ambition of PMI, the parent company of PMFTC Inc., is to replace all cigarettes with better alternatives based on science as soon as possible. Di Giovanni said it’s no secret that smoking causes diseases and is addictive. Yet, the vast majority of smokers don’t quit.  It’s estimated by the World Health Organization that there will be the same number of smokers around the world in 2025. According to Di Giovanni, this is what prompted PMI to explore “creative solutions to the problem. We decided to think, is there anything that we can do to change our business and give all those smokers who would otherwise continue using cigarette a better alternative?” “We started working at products that do not burn and therefore generate significantly lower levels of harmful compounds. We call them heated tobacco.  And that has been our focus since then,” he said. Di Giovanni said more than 350 studies by PMI on these new products have been peer-reviewed, making PMI the fifth largest holder of patents filed with the European Patent office. “Today, 99 percent of our R& D expenditures and 76 percent of our commercial expenditures are behind this huge effort to transform an industry into something that is much better, and we hope that it would not only be our company but the whole industry and the whole world that are behind it,” he said. Having the capacity and the technology to do something different, and to do something that will benefit consumers, Di Giovanni said PMI invested over $8 billion in research and development, scientific substantiation and early manufacturing of alternatives to cigarettes. In 2015, PMI commercialized IQOS, a product that heats tobacco rather than burning it. Understanding Nicotine “The vast majority of people simply don't understand what causes disease with cigarettes. The vast majority of people still think it’s nicotine. It’s not the case,” Di Giovanni said. He said, the cause of diseases is found in harmful compounds that are in smoking, and that the vast majority of which are produced by burning tobacco. “So when you eliminate the burning we realize you can do something that's much better than cigarette,” he said. Citing the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the United Kingdom, DI Giovanni said nicotine is addictive but it’s not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases.  “Virtually all health authorities around the world say this. And it’s something that the vast majority of smokers don’t know. And if they don’t know it. They simply won’t understand the value of the new proposition,” he said. Despite the advancement in technology, however, Di Giovanni said major challenges remain, including the need to address the massive misinformation about nicotine, which the communications community can plays a big role.   “The biggest challenge is that the vast majority of people don't know and don't understand the value of those alternatives because they haven’t been informed,” he said, adding that many people still believe that it is the nicotine that causes diseases when people smoke. Di Giovanni also noted the need to update legislation. “Legislation takes time. The fact of the matter is the vast majority of laws around the category were built in the 80s and in the 90s when the technology and the science we have today simply did not exist,” he said.  He acknowledge that many governments are acting, but “it takes time.” He cited the United States as the first country to act and change these laws to ensure there’s a review of any claim made on tobacco products that are better choice for smokers. Di Giovanni said the US Food and Drug Administration last year authorized IQOS for commercialization with claims of modified exposure, “and they do it because they believe this can, it’s their words, promote public health in the country.” Currently, there are almost 18 million smokers worldwide who have switched to PMI’s heated tobacco products and about 25 percent of PMI’s revenues already come from these better alternatives to cigarettes today. “Today, our leading heated tobacco product IQOS is sold in 64 countries around the globe. Almost 18 million smokers use (IQOS), and 72 percent of them abandoned cigarette completely.  We’re now expanding the portfolio because we also know that smokers have different preferences,” he said. PMFTC Inc., an affiliate of PMI, opened its IQOS stores in Metro Manila in September 2020 in a bid to reduce smoking rate in the country. Di Giovanni said, however, that quitting smoking remains the best option.  “If you don't smoke, don't start.  If you smoke, quit. And if you don't quit, change. Because today, there are options that are much better choice for smokers.”

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