BCDA: No John Hay lease talks / Splitting DENR / Passports

>> Monday, October 10, 2016

Alfred P. Dizon

BAGUIO CITY -- Contrary to news reports, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) is not renegotiating the lease agreement for the 247-hectare John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ), which BCDA entered into with Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo) in 1996. 
According to the new management, BCDA is now conducting exhaustive review of JHSEZ to ensure all actions will protect the government’s interests and ensure long-term development of the area. 
BCDA also denied that any decision to renegotiate the lease contract was ever made, as was reported in recent news. 
The new BCDA leadership said it remains committed to working with local government units of areas covered by BCDA’s mandate, such as Baguio to establish transparent dialogue with LGUs and ensure their active participation in development of these areas for benefit of local communities. 
Environment Secretary Regina Lopez did not like the idea of a legislative move to split the agency into separate Departments of Environment and of Natural Resources.
Kabayan Rep. Harry Roque asked Secretary Lopez about the idea of splitting her office during the appropriations hearing of DENR's proposed budget next year which is P28.671 billion.
“There seems to be a conflict between that seeks to protect the environment and to promote the ultimate use of natural resources," Roque said.
He added the Environment Secretary has the mandate to protect the environment, while the other hand is tasked to utilize the resources, "for the benefit" of the country.
Will you be supportive of such legislative initiative to separate Department of Environment and Natural Resources so you won’t have a schizophrenic personality?” Roque asked Lopez.
Lopez said splitting the DENR would not allow the department to make a choice between cracking down on irresponsible mining and ensuring responsible use of resources.
“If you divide it, then you’re saying that whatever happens we’re going to mine anyway. So there’s no possibility of making a choice as to the best utilization of the area,” Lopez said.
“I use the computer, the phone. I’m not against the mining industry. What I’m against is the suffering of the people. I’m very much against if the farmers and fishermen suffer, if lives are adversely affected, and some people make a lot of money. We cannot build a world based on suffering,” she added.
The Senate committee on foreign relations, chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano conducted its first public hearing Wednesday on proposal to extend the validity of Philippine passports to ten years
The proposal was in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to amend Republic Act No. 8239, known as Philippine Passport Act of 1996, which sets validity of a regular Philippine passport to five years.
The committee looked into alleged delays in the passport appointment process and other related issues.
Cayetano said he recognizes various reforms introduced by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), but cited need to amend the 20-year-old Passport Act and introduce much-needed reforms in the country’s passport processing system to make it more “seamless, convenient, and pro-people” and abreast with technological advances and world standards.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address, said  many passport applicants have to stay overnight, sleeping on pavements, because the DFA's passport issuance facilities can only cater to a limited number of applications per day,” Cayetano said in a statement.
He added government agencies were established to serve and assist citizens, not to burden them with inefficiencies and incompetence. As such, he said the passport application process should be more simplified in order to ensure that applicants will no longer be troubled with unnecessary delays.
The senator said in 2015, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) suffered a backlog of 42,230 delayed passports. “If the DFA had not been able to deliver on its duty to issue passports within the required period of time, then the simple solution is to cut the number of people applying for licenses by extending the validity of passports to ten years,” he said.
“The DFA should make a priority the passport applications of OFWs because delays in the issuance of their travel documents can be detrimental to their job opportunities abroad,” the senator said, stressing the need to install special access facilities for OFWs in DFA's consular and satellite offices, here and abroad.

"The passage of a law amending the 20-year old Passport Act will institutionalize the various reforms implemented by the DFA, including the provision of special lanes for senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), pregnant women and minors seven years old and below, to make the passport application and renewal more convenient for them,” he added. 


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