Most Filipinos consider themselves poor

>> Friday, January 25, 2019


At least 11.6 million Filipino families considered themselves poor according to the fourth quarter 2018 survey by polling agency Social Weather Station (SWS).
The survey said around 50 per cent of the respondents believed they are poor. This is a 2-point decrease from the 52 per cent (est 12.2 million) who said they are poor in September 2018.
Malacañang hailed the survey’s result and expressed hope that more Filipinos would continue to feel “more comfort this year”.
“With the President’s tireless efforts in addressing and taming the inflationary effects of the prices of basic goods and commodities, we remain optimistic that many Filipino families would continue to feel more comfort this year”, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Despite the “positive development,” Malacañang recognizes that poverty among Filipinos is “still high.”
“The country must sustain high economic growth that creates many jobs and reduce prices and inflation to eradicate poverty”, Panelo added.
President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 5 in October 2016 providing for the adoption of “Ambisyon Natin 2040“, a long-term vision for development planning. Under the 25-year vision, the government will aim to “triple real per capita incomes and eradicate hunger and poverty by 2040, if not sooner.”


PNP recalls police escorts of politicians/ DFA booboo

Alfred P. Dizon

Political candidates and private individuals who wish to have the service of police escorts or security should lodge a request from the Commission on Election ahead of the midterm polls in May.
The Philippine National Police’s Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG) has recalled all security details of political candidates and private individuals across the country ahead of the midterm polls in May.
The order was in accordance with Comelec Resolution 10429 and 10446 which imposed a nationwide gun ban and prohibition of police details across the country.
Escort requests made to Comelec are subject to screening and verification if the applicant is indeed in need of such service.
Among the factors that the Comelec considers in approving such request is whether the applicant is facing imminent threat on his/her life.
Slain congressman, Rodel Batocabe’s police escort was also killed when the lawmaker was assassinated.
Since then, PSPG Director Chief Supt. Filmore Escobal said the number of applications increased especially from individuals in Bicol.
Overall, the agency has a total of 457 police escorts across the country.
Each individual, whether a politician or a private citizen, can be entitled to at least two police escorts.
“In cases of high-risk individuals, they may be allowed to apply for another additional security but they have to apply it to Comelec,” Escobal explained.
At present, the PSPG has a total of 51 applications for police security.
Among the already approved applications are that of reelectionist Mayor Reynaldo Tianco, Congressman Toby Tiangco and former Special Assistant to the President, senatorial aspirant Bong Go.
Applications still pending at PSPG include that of Franklin Drilon; Koko Pimentel; Imee Marcos; Ronald dela Rosa and Francis Tolentino.
All police escorts will only be of service until the end of the election period in June.
After that, individuals need to re-apply depending on the level of threats to their safety.
Meanwhile, certain government officials are given the privilege to have their respective police escorts during the course of their terms in office.
They are the president, the vice president, the chief justice, the Senate president, the House Speaker, and the commissioners of the Comelec among others.
Meanwhile, coinciding with the start of the official election period is the effectivity of the gun ban.
Individuals who wish to carry their firearms on the duration of the gun ban should apply for an exemption so as not to be held liable under the law. 
Malacañang on Monday assured that the National Privacy Commission has already been ordered to investigate the recent passport data breach at the Department of Foreign Affairs which the Palace considered as a “serious and grave matter”.
The incident, disclosed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin himself, stemmed when a previous contractor got disappointed that its contract was terminated and left with all passport applicants’ data.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement on Monday said the NPC has been directed also “to ascertain whether certain provisions of Republic Act No. 10173, otherwise known as the Data Privacy Act of 2012, have been violated, particularly with respect to the personal information of the data subjects.”
Panelo explained that applicants “should not be burdened” by submitting original copies of their birth certificates and the submission of the old or current passport should be enough requirement to renew their passports.
“The ongoing practice is not only cumbersome to everyone affected but is a form of red tape which this administration frowns upon and will not tolerate,” Panelo said.
“The investigation should not, however, end here since the current arrangement for the printing of passports should also be examined to determine if there are violations of pertinent laws which may be detrimental to the public,” he added.
In a tweet on Jan. 13, Locsin assured that there is “no leak so far” of the passport holders’ data. “But the data is possibly hopelessly corrupted and at any rate inaccessible now or we are being lied to as usual,” he said.
In another tweet, Locsin said he will definitely identify those behind the mess which he considers a prelude to “social media campaign against” him by his detractors.


Colonialism from within

Perry Diaz

When Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the island of Homonhon in Samar on the feast day of Saint Lazarus of Bethany in 1521, he named the group of islands Las Islas de San Lazaro in honor of Saint Lazarus.  Twenty-two years later in 1543, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos reached the same islands and named them Las Islas Felipinas in honor of the Prince of Asturias, the then Philip II of Spain. 
But Spanish colonization didn’t start until 1565 when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi became the first Governor General of the Spanish East Indies, which included Las Islas Felipinas (The Philippine Islands) and other Pacific islands.  In 1571, Legazpi named Manila the capital of the Spanish East Indies.
To populate the Philippine Islands with Hispanic people, he attracted them from Nueva Espana (New Spain), which is now Mexico, by giving them land ownership.  Most of them came without families.  Needless to say, these single men intermarried with native women. 
In my article, “The Landed and the Landless” (October 21, 2005), I wrote: “Land ownership, the Filipinos’ ultimate dream, has been the exclusive domain of the rich. Truly, ‘land ownership’ separates the rich from the poor — the landed from landless.
“Land ownership for the rich has its beginning when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, upon colonizing the Philippines, instituted the Encomienda system. He divided the archipelago into large parcels and assigned each parcel to a favored Spaniard for administration and care. Encomienda, which means ‘to entrust,’ was adopted in Spain to reduce the abuses of forced labor. It was implemented in Spanish America and the Philippines to take care of the economic and spiritual welfare of the natives. However, its benevolent purpose was circumvented and abused by the Spanish grantees — the ‘encomenderos.’  They collected tribute from the natives. Pretty soon the tribute became rents to powerful landlords and the natives became share tenants. In the end, the natives became virtual slaves of the encomenderos. In 1674, the Spanish Crown abolished the Encomienda system in all of its colonies. However, for more than 100 years after its abolition, it remained in effect in the Philippines.
“The Encomienda system evolved into the Hacienda system. Land grants were given to the ‘hacenderos’ – ‘Filipinos’ (pure Spanish), ‘mestizos’ (mixed Spanish and native ‘indio’), and the favored families (the ‘indio’ elite). The hacenderos expanded their influence in all sectors of the economy. They became the political masters, second only to the Spanish masters.
“When Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States at the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the Americans were precluded from touching the Friar lands because the treaty bound the US to protect the land owned by religious orders. When Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo established the first republic in 1899, he promised to confiscate large estates particularly the Friar lands. But that did not materialize because he spent his time fighting the Americans until he was captured and forced to pledge allegiance to the new masters.
“During the commonwealth period under American colonial rule, the Rural Program Administration, created in March 1939, provided for the purchase and lease of haciendas and their sale and lease to tenants. However, the tenants were so poor, they simply could not buy the land they were farming.
“When the Philippines gained its independence from the United States in 1946, the hacenderos had complete control of the economy. They also became the political masters of the new republic. They constituted the new aristocracy and the oligarchy, all bundled into an exclusive class.
“The new Philippine government grappled with the problems of land ownership. Numerous agrarian reforms were instituted. During the presidency of Ramon Magsaysay, former HUK dissidents and landless farmers were resettled and given land ownership. His untimely death stopped the program.”
Communist insurgency
Today, Philippine society is still divided between the landed and the landless.  Large segments of the rural population are still poor and landless.  They work for the landed – the hacenderos.  But many of them look up to the insurgents for deliverance.
It did not then come as a surprise that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its military wing, the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) thrive because of their toehold in the rural areas where dissidence is common and unemployment high.  They have been successful in attracting young men and women into the ranks of insurgents that have been at war with the government since the Philippines gained independence in 1946.  In fact, they’re the only communist insurgency that exists in the world today. 
Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70, which ordered the creation of a national task force that would seek to “end local communist armed conflict.”  The EO reads, “There is a need to create a national task force that will provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspiration of the Filipino people to attain inclusive and sustainable peace.  Towards this end, the Government shall prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected areas and -vulnerable communities, facilitate societal inclusivity, and ensure active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.” The President shall chair the task force, while the National Security Adviser shall serve as vice-chair.
While it’s commendable that Duterte has finally focused on ending the communist insurgency that has been taking a high toll on the social and economic agenda of the government, this author believes that there is one element missing in this “whole-of-nation” approach to achieve peace and prosperity.
Social Justice
It’s interesting to note that what made the then Secretary of Defense Magsaysay successful in breaking the back of the Huk communist movement was his “Land for the landless” program, which by the way, was “borrowed” from the Huks’ own slogan, “Land for the Landless.”  For each insurgent who surrendered his weapon, the government gave him a carabao, a plow, and several hectares of arable land in Mindanao.  Within two years, the communist insurgency was defeated.  The anti-Huk campaign propelled Magsaysay to national fame.  In 1953 he ran for president against his former boss, President Elpidio Quirino, and won with the support of 68.9% of the voters.
The social problem that Legazpi imposed on the “indios” in 1571 still exists today -- two classes of people – the landed and the landless, the rich and the poor.  The Philippines is still a rural and agricultural society.  And this situation provides a climate for dissatisfaction and resentment against the ruling elite.  And that’s the reason why the country is still fighting an insurgency that seeks social justice, which by the way, was enshrined in the Constitution. 
But the old colonialism is no longer around.  It’s the present-day colonialism from within that hinders our progress.   Indeed, the elite today are the new encomenderos.


In memoriam: The power of presence

Ramon Dacawi

{We must not forget the date –January 25, 2015 -, a day of tragedy when 15 Cordillera warriors under the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police fell in the Mamasapano Massacre. This piece revisited was written after the remains of the SAF heroes were returned home through Camp Dangwa. The final homecoming haunts us still, as it should, for the gallantry and heroism of the native Cordillerans and other Filipino police officers who perished in the massacre should be part of Cordillera memory. – RD)
 Many in the early morning  crowd  a-forming at Camp Dangwa felt no  need for them to say a word. All they needed to do-and did after getting wind of the arrival of the heroes - was to be there in silence - in and around  the chapel of the regional police headquarters. All they wanted was to witness,  in their  anonymity, the  solemn, final arrival home of the fallen warriors of the Cordillera. They believed their presence would somehow ease the pain of the fallen warriors’ kin.
Less is more, we, verbose journalists  are reminded now and then. The less words  there are, the clearer and stronger the message becomes. So the  silence of the  crowd gathered  became a fitting and most powerful expression of the common grief, sense of loss and community  of Cordillerans over the violent deaths of  15 of their  young warriors. Representing all walks and hardly knowing each other, they kept coming that morning into Camp Dangwa and, in silence,  witnessed the dignity of the  slow, unhurried, respectful pace with which the mortal remains were borne on the shoulders of the heroes’ fellow officers of the peace.
There were 15, not 13, sons of the Cordillera among the 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police who fell in that ambush in Mamapasano, Maguindano. The biggest number came from this region of warriors, joining the growing roster of Cordillerans who, over the years, made the ultimate sacrifice in the protracted struggle for peace in the troubled Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. They were warriors, and, as such, they volunteered to join SAF, as can be borne out of the growing roster of police graduates from the Cordillera joining that force because that’s where the warrior is supposed to be.
From their ranks as junior officers (Police Officer 1 to Chief Inspector) and photographs,    we presume most – if not all – were in their 20s or early 30s, born  after Sept. 13, 1986. That was the month, day and year when rebel priest Conrado Balweg of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army signed the “sipat” (cessation of hostilities”) with then Philippine revolutionary government President Corazon Aquino. 
True to that truce,  the Cordillera Administrative Region that was formed stood faithful to the pact for peace forged in Mt. Data. Still, the date, despite being termed “historic” then, now hardly comes to memory. (The only and most feeble attempt I remember to mark its significance was when retired regional director Henry Aliten of the Department of Agrarian Reform mounted a “sipat” anniversary chess tournament a few years ago.)   
               Given our wanting of a sense of history, chances are  the gallantry and heroism of the 15 SAF members from the Cordillera and those of the rest from various parts of the archipelago, would soon be forgotten, slowly erased, yet as brutally as some of their identities were mangled by the overkill with which they were peppered with bullets after they had fallen.
What happened was a “pintakasi”, as an ARMM official  said it, with several rebel forces coming in to fight a common enemy, in this case the SAF officers and men.
The prayer, the hope is that the sense of community at Camp Dangwa that week-end when the heroes’ remains were brought home would transform into action so that this part of the history of this region of warriors, gory as it was, would be told our children. The fear is that it would be lost and unlamented,  as many of us lost, or  never knew of the heroism of our forebears against foreign intrusion and domination. For one, only a few of the succeeding generations are aware of the first resistance of our Ibaloy ancestors in the un-remembered Battle of Tonglo, Tuba, the exact site of which remains unknown today.    
 Two of the 15 Cordillera heroes who fell in Mamapasano were not officially listed as from the Cordillera as  their addresses were in Region 2: P03 Rodrigo F. Acob Jr. of Kalinga whose address  was in Isabela, and P02 Joel B. Dulnuan of Kiangan,  Ifugao  who was a resident of Barangay Ocapon, Villaverde, Nueva Vizcaya where he was laid to rest.
Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan found it only proper their inclusion in that week-end’s news obituary page tribute of the city government to the fallen Cordillera warriors.
At the honor rites inside the chapel in Camp Dangwa (named after Maj. Bado Dangwa, the Igorot warrior and guerrilla fighter from Kapangan, Benguet ), Cordilleran regional police chief, Chief Supt. Isagani Neres called out the names of his fallen comrades: Chief Inspector Gednat Garambas Tabdi of La Trinidad, Benguet; Senior Inspector Cyrus Paleyan Anniban of Tabuk, Kalinga; ; PO3 Robert Domollog Allaga of Banaue, Ifugao; PO3 Noel Onangey Golocan of Baguio City; P02 Peter Indongsan Carap  of Kabayan, Benguet; PO2 Walner Faustino Danao of Baguio City; P02 Franklin Canap Danao of Tinoc, Ifugao; P02 Jerry Dailay Kayob of La Trinidad, Benguet; P02 Noble Sungay Kiangan of Mankayan, Benguet; P02 Nicky de Castro Nacino Jr. of Baguio City; P01 Russel Bawaan Bilog of Baguio City; P01 Gringo Charag Cayang-o of Sadanga, Mt. Province; and P01 Angel Chocowen Kodiamat of Mankayan, Benguet. 
Fighting off tears, Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan narrated how Chief Insp. Tabdi was brought home to La Trinidad, Benguet for an overnight vigil, after which his remains were  transported to Zamboanga where his wife,  Leah Mefranum, a nurse from Basilan who was  six months pregnant, waited for him to finally come home.
Three other sons of Ibaloy couple Garcia and Edna Tabdi are in the police force.  One is assigned in Laguna, another in Pampanga, and still another is under training with the SAF.   
The firefight was termed a “mis-encounter”. It could have been,  if only it had  lasted far short of  the 10 hours that it actually raged,  against combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its break-away  Bangsamoro Islamic  Freedom Fighters   and other forces only known to but repeatedly disowned in the aftermath by the  MILF rebels.
Also termed as a “carnage”, the firefight drew lingering suggestions, demands and questions needing answers. On top of these is the cry for justice from the relatives and fellow officers of the slain police officers that ranking SAF officer, Superintendent Jonathan Calixto pointed out at the honor rites in Camp Dangwa.
In the wake of this latest carnage in Maguindanao, Mayor Domogan,  a leading advocate of autonomy for the  Cordillera who admits the bill seeking self-rule here pales compared to the new one being pushed by the national leadership and the MILF in the ARMM , strongly suggested a review of the Bangsamoro Basic Law being rushed for passage in Congress.
Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping Jr. had enough reason to say he and Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan wouldn’t push for the passage of the BBL until justice for the fallen soldiers is served.
Noting  the huge crowd of mourners, then  La Trinidad Mayor Edna Tabanda found consolation in the sense of community of Cordillerans who  feel the need to be there in  wakes and funerals, even  for “kailians” they had never met until the final rites.
Such is the soothing, consoling and healing power of presence, of ordinary people being there when grief strikes a fellow Cordilleran’s family and kin.  As someone once observed, there are moments when a sudden connection is made somewhere in this world, powerful and undeniable.
This was one of those moments.  (e-mail:


Gun ban

March Fianza

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet - Last week, cops from the Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) arrested two gun-for-hire bosses and one of their members for possessing illegal firearms, explosives and ammunition in Abra by virtue of search warrant.
The guns and ammos confiscated from the suspects were a hand grenade, a caliber .22 revolver without serial number, a Smith & Wesson Caliber .38 revolver without serial number, live ammunitions for several calibers, an improvised caliber 5.56 MM pistol with five empty shells.
At the onset of the election period on January 13, 2019, the police arrested four violators of the election gun ban in the provinces of Kalinga and Abra.
In the 2013 election, implementation of the Commission on Election gun ban resulted to the arrest of 883 persons and confiscation of 692 firearms. In the 2016 elections, the number of firearms confiscated, recovered, or surrendered reached 3,527.
In a column many years ago, I said the loose firearms today were the guns seized yesterday. While authorities make arrests and confiscations, the total gun ban measure that comes out before every election cannot be implemented consistently and honestly.
As an initial step to stop the spread of loose firearms, government might ponder on stopping the issuance of licenses so that gun stores will practically close shop and the guns for sale will be inventoried, properly receipted and temporarily kept in government-accredited depositories for safekeeping.
The expected result is for both licensed and unlicensed firearms not to be brought out. Guns owned by private persons will be kept in the house and only law enforcers and enlisted military personnel will be the ones seen carrying firearms.
When then President Marcos as Commander-in-Chief of the AFP and the Philippine Constabulary declared Martial Law in 1972, he issued a stern warning for known owners of unlicensed and licensed guns to turn-over their pieces to the nearest police detachment for safekeeping, or else face the consequences of an unceremonial house to house search.
For fear of being raided and getting killed in the process, many law-abiding gun owners surrendered their guns to Camp Holmes (now Camp Dangwa). But after Martial Law was lifted in 1981, the guns were never returned to their owners because the items were no longer there.
Apparently, the firearms were taken or stolen by the men tasked to “safekeep” them. That is why I said the guns that were confiscated during Martial Law for “safekeeping” are today’s loose firearms.
It looks like the culture of losing confiscated items has become part of a faulty system in police agencies. We know that confiscated drugs and carnap vehicles get lost while in the hands of the police. Eventually, these items return to the streets where they were confiscated. The drugs are resold while the cars are sold to innocent buyers.
               Recall that in the Atimonan, Quezon rubout of personalities allegedly involved in jueteng and illegal gambling in 2013, it turned out that the SUVs that were riddled with bullets were alleged to be carnap vehicles.
Same thing with guns. These are confiscated, get lost during safekeeping and resold to whoever buys them. Most probably, these will end up in the armory of a politician warlord or a gambling lord.
The guns may also end up in the armory of police officials who are in cahoots with carnappers and gun-for-hire characters. When government soldiers staged a coup in 2005, they complained about corrupt AFP generals who have been selling government guns and ammo to their enemies in war-torn Mindanao.
As proof to what they were griping about, it was discovered in the investigations following the Maguindanao massacre that the firearms hurriedly buried in the estate of the Ampatuans bore serial numbers belonging to guns issued to the AFP.
Under a total gun ban atmosphere, only law enforcement personnel will be allowed to carry government issued licensed firearms. Although, there are PNP and AFP men who possess unlicensed guns, despite being issued their official firearms.
In 2013, the PNP estimated that around 530,000 loose firearms have yet to be accounted for before the implementation of the election gun ban during that election year.  The number only included licensed guns that were not renewed, but did not include smuggled and unregistered firearms.
Luckily, despite the presence of loose firearms in this country, there are no reported mass killings by gun-wielding nuts, as compared to the US that had 1,042 mass killings since 2012. For 2013 alone, 353 mass killings was reported in the US.
In all the developed world, the United States has the most liberal laws on gun ownership. In fact, the right to keep and own firearms is enshrined in the second amendment of the US constitution.
It is therefore not surprising that it has also the worst gun violence in the whole industrialized world and the highest gun ownership in the world. The Philippines meanwhile, is one country that has the strictest gun laws in the world. It is difficult to own and license a firearm and much harder to get a permit to carry the firearm outside one’s residence.
Actually, carrying a low caliber bullet can land one in jail for six years. This is one of the reasons why the extortion industry of “tanim-bala” (bullet planting) to extort money from unsuspecting travelers has been going on for years.
But going back to the issue of gun ownership in the country, the police estimated that there are more than 600,000 loose firearms in the country. This figure was arrived at by counting the number of gun owners who failed to renew their licenses.
Although arguably, these firearms are technically not loose in the sense that the location of the firearms are known. Loose firearms are those that cannot be accounted for in the files of the police. The latest estimate is that there are over a million of these loose firearms all over the country.
Proof of this is that almost all gun deaths are caused by untraceable firearms. Also, daily news never fails to mention the number of people getting killed by firearms every day. Police reports do not say how many people get killed by the use of firearms but the figure may be close or even more than the US figure.
There is a distinction between the number of homicide and murder. But if we were to add both, it would show that even with very strict gun ownership laws, it is not a guarantee to a more peaceful country. Maybe the trick is to have simpler rules that can be implemented properly and efficiently.
Complicated rules only make it difficult for responsible gun owners to comply and would only benefit the criminal who does not want his gun to be registered. In this age of terrorism, government must make sure that by strictly implementing the gun ban law, it must see to it that law-abiding citizens have the means to protect themselves.


Reinventing universal health care

Ike Señeres

At the outset, I originally thought that aiming for zero casualties in a typhoon or zero backlogs in a maze of bureaucratic targets. Eventually, I came to realize that universal healthcare is doable, depending of course on how we define the nature of the objectives. Obviously, the number of casualties in a typhoon is beyond our control and we could not even say that it is preventable.
Perhaps, we could say at most that we could try to aim for lesser casualties with some amount of safety precautions, in the same way that we could aim for lesser backlogs by adding more manpower. In the case of universal healthcare however, it involves more than just manpower, because it is an entire universe of factors that are interacting with each other, like planets colliding with meteors.
As I see it, it would be more practical to aim for “universal access to healthcare”, rather than aim for “universal healthcare” per se. I do not mean to sound sarcastic, but “having access” does not necessarily mean “unlimited access” or “open access”, if you know what I mean. In reality, everything in this equation boils down to “healthcare coverage” and further down, it boils down to what the patient pays at the bottom line. In other words, the real bottom line here is how much the patient still has to pay after deducting what the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH) has to pay in terms of the coverage that is due to their members. In a manner of speaking therefore, it could be said that PHILHEALTH could be a tool in allowing most everyone to have access to healthcare, but it does not mean that everything will be paid for.
I recall that I was the one who prepared the first comprehensive Information Systems Strategic Plan (ISSP) for PHILHEALTH. I accepted the assignment based on the joint assumption that it is an insurance company, and not a social services agency. On the basis of that assumption, I submitted the completed plan that was then accepted and approved.
Later on, I found out that the ISSP was eventually disapproved, because a foreign consultant had opined that it did not provide for a social component. Having heard that, I realized that my original assumption had been demolished, and it saddened me, because I knew from the very start that because of that, the actuarial science of PHILHEALTH would not be precise, because I do not see how an insurance company could double up as a social services agency.
Fast forward to today, it appears that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has found a solution to the problem, by coming out with a Universal Health Care (UHC) law that mandates certain government agencies to contribute funds so that everyone could be covered.
In other words, those who would have the capacity to pay would contribute their own money for the premiums, while those who do not have the capacity to pay would in effect have their premiums paid for by the mandatory contributions. It’s actually a simple idea but it is a brilliant move, because by doing that, everyone as in everyone would have coverage, and in other words, that could already be interpreted to mean universal access to healthcare.
Going direct to the point, we should all understand that universal access to healthcare should not only mean insurance coverage, but also it should mean being able to access all other medical services that are not covered by medical insurance, and that could mean a lot. In that context, having access to private hospitals and clinics is not part of the equation, because in those places, the private patients could presumably pay for every service or procedure, regardless of whether these are covered by medical insurance or not.
Again in this context, what should be in the equation are those patients who have no other choice but to go to the public hospitals and clinics, where in theory everything should be free, such that having medical insurance has no direct bearing at all.
In order to provide for all other medical services that are not covered by medical insurance, it would be necessary to upgrade the facilities of all public hospitals and clinics everywhere. That might sound too ambitious, but it is not any more ambitious than aiming for universal access to healthcare. Of course it could not happen overnight, but it could be a long term goal that could be achieved over the years.
In as much as President Duterte is trying to a lot of things at the national level, it is about time for the local government units (LGUs) to more at their level. After all, these are the local constituents that we are talking about. Perhaps in order to make that happen, we have to reverse history because in the past, many LGUs have not funded their own public hospitals and clinics.
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Ex- PNP Chief Bato emotional in MP visit


BONTOC, Mountain Province – Former Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, an adopted son of Mountain Province turned emotional during his visit here saying Cordillera was one of the places closest to his heart to visit.
Dela Rosa was given the adopted name “Moling” when he graced the Mountain Province Founding Anniversary in April last year.  “Moling” means “unbreakable” or “firm” in Bontoc dialect.
It is also a river boulder that is hard, smooth and almost unbreakable.
During his visit at the Bontoc municipal capitol on Jan. 9,  Dela Rosa was moved to tears when the Bontoc Market Vendors Association (BOMARVA) whose members are dominated by women serenaded him a welcome song. 
“Para na rin akong kinantahan ng aking ina,” he said. 
In his message, he said that he is proud of his name “Moling” which was given to him as an adopted son of the province. 
He said he loves everything about the Cordillera -- the place,  culture and its people. This is the reason why he keeps coming back to visit the province.
Dela Rosa rose from the ranks in the police force. He retired from the PNP in April last year with the four star rank of director general.
He was later appointed as Director General of the Bureau of Corrections.
He said  since he entered the uniformed service until he retired, he was never involved in corruption and other issues that violate human rights. He attributed this to his faith and fear of the Almighty, and honest and genuine public service.
In October last year, Dela Rosa filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for senator.
He is part of the President's national party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, and Hugpong Ng Pagbabago, the regional party of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.
If successful, he will be the second former PNP chief to be elected to the Senate after incumbent Panfilo Lacson, who rose to fame fighting kidnap for ransom rings.
Meanwhile, Bontoc Mayor Franklin Odsey extended the warmest welcome of the people and officials of Bontoc to Dela Rosa as their brother.
“You are our brother “Moling”. I know that it is a sentimental trip for you to come back home as an adopted son of Mountain Province,” Odsey added.
Also present to welcome home Dela Rosa were employees and officials of the Bontoc municipal government, barangay officials from the 16 barangays of Bontoc, Municipal Peace and Order Council, BOMARVA, Bontoc Women’s Brigade, senior citizens and constituents from this capital town’s four central barangays. Alpine L. Killa


On the market glut of highland vegetables

Dr. Cameron P. Odsey

A market glut on highland vegetables that occurred Dec. 24, and 29-31 last year and Jan. 2-7, 2019 was attributed to a confluence of factors including effects of typhoons and unprogrammed production.
This resulted in low prices, dumping of produce, and income loss by some farmers.
Assumptions and reactions expressed by netizens to this unfortunate event are way too far from the realities on the ground that eventually contributed to the vegetable market glut on the above-cited dates in the local trading centers.
Normally, some of the major vegetable varieties grown in the last quarter of the year are Chinese cabbage, carrots, and radish.
There are other minor commodities grown. For the 4th Quarter of 2018 to January 13, a total of 25- 27 commodities (major and minor) were monitored to have been traded at the La Trinidad Trading Post.
Chinese cabbage, carrots, and radish were specifically highlighted and figured in the blogs and photos in social media posts for overproduction and consequently dumping by affected farmers.
The total production for these commodities under normal conditions based on consolidated data from the provincial government of Benguet is 50,788 metric tons in 2017.
In 2018, production total was 42, 729 metric tons. Production decreased for the above commodities by 8,059 metric tons as a direct effect of Super Typhoons Ompong and Rosita and the monsoon rains that lasted for almost the whole month of August.
Normally, farmers plant their crops targeting the Christmas Season when high demand and good prices are expected for their produce. After the holidays, the demand and prices start to go down and stabilize.
Climate change is affecting agricultural production cycles in a number of unexpected ways.
For instance, Super Typhoons Ompong and Rosita that hit the Cordillera in the early days of the last quarter of 2018 caused the distortion of the annual planting schedules of the farmers resulting to late planting and harvesting of vegetables that were transported to the market and contributed to the observed market glut. This was so even as the production for the last quarter of 2018 was 16% lower at 19,473 metric tons than that of the same period in 2017 at 23,118 metric tons.
The occurrence of Typhoon Usman that hit the Visayas and Bicol Region on the last week of December also affected the normal trading of vegetables. Besides Metro Manila and some urban areas in Luzon, the Visayas and Bicol are big markets for Benguet vegetables. Around 13% to 15% (180 metric tons) of the vegetables traded outside CAR daily goes to the Visayas and Bicol Region.
The inability of the sea and ocean-going vessels to ply their route and the floods in Bicol, at the height of the Tropical Depression Usman, prevented the traders to come up to Benguet and buy the vegetables intended for both areas.
Typhoon Usman also triggered the occurrence of showers in Benguet and some areas of the Cordillera. This caused the early harvesting of Chinese cabbage that the farmers simultaneously brought to the markets in La Trinidad, Benguet and Baguio City towards the end of December and early January. Early harvesting for the crop was done because, Chinese cabbage, when exposed to the rainy weather tends to rot.
The recent parade of the Black Nazarene in Manila has also hindered the vegetable truckers from coming to the Benguet Agri Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) to collect vegetables.
And the on-going repair and closure of Kennon Road, the shortest route to Baguio City is also a contributory factor on the high cost of transport of highland vegetables and lack of interest of some traders to come up to Baguio City as the remaining routes are congested by traffic especially during holidays.
Contrary to reports in the social media, there are very few farmers who dumped their produce allegedly due to very low prices. It was observed that on the dates that the market glut occurred, only one out of twenty vehicles loaded with vegetables that arrived at the BAPTC, opted to return home because of low prices at that time.
A validation team created by the DA-CAR interviewed several farmers on January 11, 2019, in the major vegetable areas of Benguet about overproduction of vegetables and the dumping that happened due to low prices. Some 27 farmers and their barangays officials were interviewed by the team compared to the few who complained about the market glut.
According to the farmers and their barangay officials, the traders have informed the farmers of their unavailability during the Christmas holidays.
Normally, no trading of vegetables at the BAPTC and elsewhere is done on December 24, 30-31beacuse traders already fulfilled their procurement for Christmas and New Year. The early days of January are still holidays for most and trading is hardly done.
According to the farmers interviewed by the validation team their fellow farmers, who brought their produce to the market on the above dates, gambled with their chances.
Notably, the market glut problem highlights the need to strengthen the BAPTC and the La Trinidad Trading Post to operate and connect to “a wider market network and institutionalize a coordinated production system based on market demand,” to avoid market gluts.
Meanwhile, a number of activities have been initiated to directly respond to the problem, as follows:
Compensation for affected farmers
In response to Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s order, a validation process is on-going to identify, validate, and provide compensation for insured affected farmers based on their losses and “the estimated value of the vegetables they threw away.”
The validation process by the DA and Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) is expected to be completed in the next two weeks, after which the release of the insurance payments would start, Secretary Piñol ordered.
Field Validation on low prices and overproduction of vegetables
A Field Validation of the Reported Issue on Low Prices Due to Overproduction of Highland Vegetables in Benguet and Other Provinces of CAR was conducted last January 8-12, 2019.
This activity was undertaken in the major vegetable production areas in Benguet and Mountain Province.
The areas covered in Benguet Province are Barangays Cattubo and Paoay of Atok; Barangay Madaymenof Kibungan; Barangays Natubleng, Amgaleygey, Amlimay, and Loo of Buguias; and Barangay Balili of Mankayan.
Several farmers interviewed said they(farmers) understood that the non-arrival of buyers from the Visayas, and Bicol region due to Tropical Depression Usman; and, the heavy traffic in Manila due the Feast of the Black Nazarene contributed to the market glut.
The Barangay Officials of Cattubo, Atok, Benguet supported this observation. They said that “the temporary oversupply during the period from December 24, 29-31 and January 2-7 was due to the non-arrival of truckers and low demand of vegetables after Christmas and New Year celebrations as normally observed.
“No one is to be blamed. Traders have been advising farmers on the schedule of shipment but some farmers gambled and delivered their produce when there are no on-going trading and shipment for vegetables,” according to a farmer in Cada, Mankayan, Benguet. (As cited in the Validation Team report)
In Madaymen, Kibungan, farmers claimed that they are following the crop programming system of coordinated production.
Barangay Chairman, Mr. Homer Teliaken of Madaymen, said that he has been encouraging his constituents to diversify their crops which are being followed up to this time.
The other local barangay officials also claimed that the farmers' plant not only cabbage but diversify it with other crops like strawberry, potato, carrot, radish, lettuce, and cut flowers in greenhouses.
With regards to the issue of produce being brought back home or dumped due to low prices and oversupply, a majority of the barangay officials also affirmed that the DA has nothing to do with the manipulation of prices. Instead, they advised their fellow farmers to understand and follow the crop zoning and programming being advocated by DA and the LGUs to ensure that there will be no problem of overproduction. They hope that this will soon be implemented in all vegetable growing areas as a way to stabilize market prices.
Media interviews and the Social Media
Several interviews by journalists from the local print, TV and radio outfits were undertaken mainly with the DA-CAR OIC-regional executive director and also Mr. Raffy Panagan, DA Consultant for Northern Luzon, and Mr. Robert Domoguen, information officer to clarify issues and set the records straight on the false accusations against the Secretary and the DA for doing nothing for the vegetable farmers.
Meetings and consultations
Several informal meetings were undertaken with the DA-CAR’s partners to assess the problem and explore possible solutions to the reported market glut and dumping of vegetables.
A consultation was also done with a group of farmers gathered at the Strawberry Valley Hotel and Restaurant, La Trinidad, Benguet. The DA-CAR senior staff headed by Dr. Odsey and Mr. Panagan explained to the farmers the accomplishments of the DA under the leadership of Secretary Piñol for the vegetable industry, Benguet Province and the Cordillera as a whole.
It is hoped that the conduct of forums and consultations ahead will result in an agreement on the institutionalization of a crop zoning and programming for highland vegetables. This is seen to address a number of marketing concerns, particularly market gluts.
Monthly crop surveys
The local government units (LGUs) monitor and undertake monthly standing crop surveys. These surveys are used mainly as a tool to assess damage during calamities and occurrences of pest and diseases, among others. It can certainly be utilized to advise farmers on crops planted by other farmers in the neighboring barangays and towns of the province. In effect, the sharing of this information through the local government units (LGUs), radio broadcasts, and farmer convocations will help them make better and wise decisions on what crops to plant and avoid the occurrences of market gluts in the future.
A shared sentiment
Arising from the brief information campaign that the DA-CAR has mounted, is this shared sentiment from our farmers. They are grateful to the efforts done by this administration to help and advance the interest and welfare of local farmers.
Indeed, never in the history of the Republic and the DA as a whole, has development assistance and support been poured to the Cordillera Administrative Region, than now, with an average budget allocation of over PHP 1 billion annually, in the last three years. -- (Dr. Cameron P. Odsey is the OIC regional executive director of Dept. of Agriculture Cordillera.)


Dangerous ‘lambanog’/ Road rights of way

Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Mauricio Domogan last week advised businessmen and consumers here to heed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory against selling or drinking the native alcoholic beverage “lambanog” that are not FDA-registered.
The mayor’s move was in compliance with the Dept. of Interior and Local Government (DILG) advisory dated Dec. 12, 2018 urging all local chief executives in the country to ensure that lambanog that are not approved by the FDA will not be sold or made available in the localities. 
The DILG action was pursuant to the FDA Advisory No. 2018-325 advising the public “to exercise extreme caution in purchasing and consuming the alcoholic beverage Lambanog specifically those not registered with the FDA following series of deaths that occurred purportedly as a result of the consumption thereof.”
The FDA in its advisory said a product verification and laboratory analysis it conducted with the Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau confirmed that the lambanog ingested by the fatalities contained high levels of the substance methanol and were not registered with the FDA.
“Products that are not registered with the FDA pose potential health hazards to the consuming public since they have not gone through the agency’s evaluation and testing.  Thus, the FDA cannot guarantee their quality and safety,” the FDA noted.
“Ingestion of products with high amounts of methanol poses serious adverse effects like blindness and permanent neurologic dysfunction among others and may even lead to death.”
The FDA advised the public to only purchase or consume lambanog products that are registered with the FDA.
“Retail outlets and other dealers of alcoholic beverages are warned against the sale of unregistered products under the pain of being prosecuted for violation of the FDA Act of 2009, the Food Safety Act of 2013 and other relevant laws, rules and regulations,” the FDA said.
“All  Local Government Units (LGUs) and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) are requested to ensure that these products are not sold or made available in their localities or areas of jurisdictions.”
The city government will tighten the requirements in issuing clearances for lot registration applications to prevent the titling of lots that are part of road right-of-ways (RROWs).
Mayor Mauricio Domogan said that aside from the usual requirement of a certification that the lot being applied for is within or outside the identified city or barangay needs being issued by the City Planning and Development Office, the city will impose another requirement this time a certification showing if the lot is within or outside the road right-of-way.
The RROW clearance will be issued by the City Engineering Office for city roads and the Dept. of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for national roads.
The mayor said this procedure would help the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) identify lots that are within the RROWs and are therefore not qualified for titling.
This was reached during the recent meeting of the City Lands Identification Committee chaired by Mayor Mauricio Domogan and co-chaired by council committee on lands chair Coun. Edgar Avila, where the officials agreed to toughen the city’s stance to ensure that RROWs and even areas considered as critical or danger zones will not be built upon.
During the meeting, the committee also agreed to pursue the survey of all public lands identified for city or barangay needs to make the claims absolute and guarantee their preservation and protection from unscrupulous land speculators.
The mayor earlier formed a task force to undertake the final survey of all the identified lands while a P5 million fund was set aside to finance the survey.
“By all means we have to finish the final survey of these lands so we can save them from enterprising individuals and allot them for use of the public,” the mayor said.
During the meeting, it was also agreed that small parcels of land located in between a titled property and a road will automatically be made part of a greenbelt area and therefore will also be considered as no-build zones.
As to the lots covered by 211 titles, the mayor said the committee’s stand remains that there is no need to open those unvalidated for revalidation as doing so would create more trouble.
“As we all know, these unvalidated lots have long been made alienable and therefore are now occupied thus making them open for revalidation would pit old and new claimants against one another and would result to conflicts.  We would not want that to happen,” the mayor said.


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