News Update

School Feeding program

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The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 5269 which seeks to institutionalize the national school feeding program for public kindergarten and elementary school pupils.

The bill aims to mitigate malnourishment among school children, thus ensuring that they will be adequately prepared for the formal learning system.

It likewise seeks to establish a system for early identification, prevention, referral, and intervention of developmental disorders and disabilities in early childhood.

The bill establishes the National School Feeding Program (NSFP) which shall serve as an alternative approach for providing free supplementary meals, including fresh milk and fresh milk-based food products, through a program menu particularly for all children studying in public kindergarten and elementary schools nationwide.

It authorizes the Department of Education (DepEd) to lead the NSFP administration and implementation.

Several national government agencies, in coordination with the DepEd, shall be tasked to make available such resources as may be necessary to ensure the successful implementation of the NSFP.

They are the Department of Agriculture (DA), National Food Authority (NFA), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Dairy Authority (NDA), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), National Nutrition Council (NNC) and Food and Nutrition Research Center (FNRC).

Aside from its consultative and inter-departmental coordinative functions, the DepEd shall also administer the NSFP in coordination with concerned government institutions.

The NSFP involves a minimum of 120 feeding days per school year to be done five days a week. There shall be one feeding activity per school day to provide the prescribed calorie and protein levels on dietary supplementation to be issued by the NNC.

The DepEd shall likewise ensure that the beneficiary school children eat their meals and drink their milk inside the classroom only, and shall thus be prohibited from taking their rations home.

Moreover, the DepEd shall conduct orientation-training activities utilizing its core of trainers to all DepEd health and nutrition unit personnel at the regional and division levels as to generate their support to the NSFP’s objectives and mechanics.

The procurement, storage, and handling of appropriate food supplies shall be spearheaded by the DepEd, in coordination with the NNC, the FNRI and other concerned government agencies.

The bill also provides for the creation of a Child Feeding and Nutrition Committee (CFNC), chaired by the DepEd Secretary or a duly authorized representative, co-chaired by the DOH Secretary or a duly authorized representative, and with members composed of a representative each from the NNC, DA, DILG, DSWD, DTI, NEDA, FDA, FNRI, NDA, teachers’ organizations, and parent-teacher associations.

It shall be the responsibility of the CFNC to formulate a school-based feeding and nutrition framework, oversee its review and evaluation, and may recommend the necessary refinements on the implementation of the NSFP.

The bill states that in case of shortage of funds, priority in the implementation of the NSFP shall be given to public kindergarten and elementary schools situated in municipalities and cities which are determined and identified by the NNC or by any competent government agency to have high malnutrition rates.

Any donation or bequest made to the DepEd for the NSFP shall be exempt from the donor’s tax and the same shall be considered as allowable deduction from the gross income of the donor, in accordance with the provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1997, as amended.

Among the authors of the bill are Reps. Raul Del Mar, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Jose Christopher Belmonte, Raul Tupas, Salvador Belaro, Jr., Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr., Carlos Isagani Zarate, Estrellita Suansing, Horacio Suansing, Jr., Reynaldo Umali, Wes Gatchalian, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Harry Roque, Jr., Maximo Rodriguez, Jr. Evelina Escudero, Karlo Alexie Nograles and Dakila Carlo Cua. / MVIP

Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Water Challenge Forum
Promoting Innovative Solutions to Address the Water Challenges in the Philippines”

Water is a basic need yet it is a resource that we have taken for granted. Perhaps the seeming abundance of it-as the Earth is composed of two-thirds water-creates a sense of complacency without realizing that of all the world’s water, only 0.5% is suitable for human consumption.

In 2015, 91% of the world’s population had access to an improved drinking-water source, compared with 76% in 1990. About 4.2 billion people now get water through a piped connection; while 2.4 billion access water through other improved sources such as public taps, protected wells and boreholes.[1]

However, at least 1.8 billion people around the world use a drinking-water source that is fecally contaminated. Moreover, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025.

Here in the Philippines, around eight million Filipinos still lack access to safe water and about the same number still practice open defecation.

While we try to address these problems, we are faced with new challenges.

A study by the World Resources Institute revealed that the Philippines will likely experience severe water shortage by 2040 due to the combined impact of rapid population growth and climate change. Furthermore, the Philippines ranks 57 out of 167 countries that are highly vulnerable to severe water shortage.

Moreover, water affects our food security as agriculture accounts for 70-85% of our water consumption.

But water security is not only about the provision of sufficient water for the needs of our people and our economic activities, it is also about having healthy ecosystems and building resilience to water-related disasters, including storms, floods and droughts.

Extreme weather events, such as intense or more frequent rains and increasing number of hot days, along with weak resource management, are factors that lead to low water security.

The continued overlapping and fragmented regulation of water supply services in the country by several government entities is one factor that hinders the enactment of a doable and long-term solution to prevent water shortage.

The degradation of our environment is likewise a threat to water security especially because forested watersheds and wetlands supply 75% of the world’s accessible freshwater.

The result of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR’s) mining audit released this year is a cause for concern. Many of those recommended for closure or suspension are said to have caused the destruction of functional watersheds. Some of these operations may have given employment, but what if they caused irreparable damage to the environment?

We also need to strengthen resilience to water-related disasters. The country needs to evaluate existing programs to combat desertification and prevent flooding, and improve its evacuation strategies, early warning systems and disaster risk reduction and management plans. Capacity-building activities for indigenous peoples must be undertaken so they can adapt to water extremes.

In the context of climate change, water management is very crucial. We have witnessed several times how extreme weather events such as stronger rains and storms have caused massive inundation, claiming lives and destroying livelihoods.

In 2016, farmers in Kidapawan City staged a protest as the climate-related drought affected the lives and livelihood of their farming communities. The bloody dispersal that ensued claimed the lives of at least three farmers and wounded several others.

Water stress, amplified by climate change, will create a growing security challenge.

In order to address the water challenge, we need a holistic approach.

The issue of having over 30 water agencies has been a challenge because of overlapping mandates and conflicting programs. We need to consolidate all water agencies in the country and craft a roadmap for sustainable water use.

Much work needs to be done and it needs everyone’s cooperation. We should all be reminded that we are the stewards of the Earth, not here to exploit, but to sustainably manage our natural resources. Just as it is our right to access clean water, it is also our responsibility to ensure that the well never runs dry.

Thank you.

House approves early

voting for

seniors, PWDs

The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading a bill providing for early voting of qualified senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in national and local elections to make the voting process more comfortable and convenient for them.
Through the motions of Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin (Party-list, AAMBIS-OWA) and Rep. Cristina Roa-Puno (1stDistrict, Antipolo City), the House approved House Bill 5661 in the plenary last May 29, 2017.
The bill aims to enhance the voting process to make it more comfortable and convenient for the voters, particularly PWDs and senior citizens, by giving them the option to vote earlier than the date set for election.
Section 2 of the bill provides that for the national and local elections, there shall be early voting, where a qualified senior citizen or a PWD may choose to cast his ballot at accessible establishments designated by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) within seven working days before the date set for the election.
The bill also provides that there shall be a nationwide registration for senior citizens and PWDs who wish to avail of their early voting privileges. Those who are not registered under the Act shall vote on election day itself.
The COMELEC is mandated to keep a record of senior citizens and PWDs who are registered voters.
The COMELEC shall also coordinate with local government units (LGUs), the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to design a registration system that will allow senior citizens and PWDs to register and opt for early voting in order to improve their voting experience in national and local elections.
Moreover, the COMELEC shall ensure the full implementation of Republic Act 10366, entitled “An Act Authorizing the Commission on Elections to Establish Precincts Assigned to Accessible Polling Places Exclusively for Persons with Disabilities and Senior Citizens”, such that polling places for senior citizens and PWDs are safe, highly accessible and fitted with the necessary communication, visual and physical aids, and other forms of assistance where senior citizens and PWDs may be able to cast their votes with ease.
Lastly, the COMELEC shall mount an intensive information campaign on early voting for qualified senior citizens and PWDs.
The amount necessary to fund implementation of the Act shall be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the corresponding fiscal year.
The provisions of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 or the Omnibus Election Code, Republic Act 7166, entitled “An Act Providing for Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms, Authorizing Appropriations Therefor, and for Other Purposes,” and other election laws not inconsistent herewith shall be applied to facilitate the early voting of senior citizens and PWDs.
House Bill 5661 earlier substituted: HB 5019 authored by Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, expanding the coverage of absentee voting to PWDs and senior citizens; HB 45 by Deputy Speaker and Marikina City Second District Rep. Romero Quimbo, authorizing the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to establish precincts assigned to accessible polling places exclusively for PWDs and senior citizens; HB 743 by Rep. Emmiline Y. Aglipay Villar (Partylist-DIWA), providing for qualified early voting for senior citizens, PWDs, and workers required to work on election day; HB 1371, providing for local absentee voting for lawyers, HB 1372, providing for local absentee voting for PWDs, and HB 1373, providing for local absentee voting for senior citizens by Rep. Angelina D.L. Tan (4th District, Quezon);
HBs 2486 and 2487, providing for local absentee voting for senior citizens and PWDs, respectively, by Reps. Estrellita B. Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija) and Horacio P. Suansing Jr. (2nd District, Sultan Kudarat); and HB 4539, providing for early voting for the national and local elections, by Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez Jr. (2nd District,Cagayan de Oro City).
President Rodrigo R. Duterte urged local elective officials to be guided by the noblest intentions and to keep in mind the public’s interest at all times despite unrelenting criticism.  Speaking before the Philippine Councilors League’s  10th National Congress  at the  World Trade Center in Pasay City on Wednesday, March 8, the President reminded councilors  that national progress relies immensely on peace and order at the local level.
“I hold it as an article of faith that …no progress and development can take place ‘pag ang lugar mo magulo at maraming krimen. Tandaan ninyo ‘yan,” the Chief Executive said in his speech.  Duterte, who served lengthily as a mayor and vice mayor in Davao City before he became President, reminded the councilors not to be swayed by critics, who are out to smear the government’s efforts to initiate meaningful change.   Sabi nga ni Lincoln and it is good for you to remember.  “If I were to try,” and I quote him, “If I were to try to read, much less answer all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I can and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. But if the end brings me out wrong, ten angels of God swearing I was right would make no difference.”Commenting on numerous criticisms raised against him by other countries, President Duterte reiterated that public servants remain only “answerable to the Filipinos.”
 During the event, the President also said the Philippines is reaping rewards due to its improved diplomatic relationships with China.“They are willing to buy anything that we can sell. And may mga grants tayo and they will take care of yung railway from North to South, and we will begin immediately. Kita mo ‘yung sincerity talaga ng Chinese,” Duterte said.“So let me publicly again thank President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people for loving us and giving us enough leeway to survive the rigors of economic life in this planet,” he added.


The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center on Thursday, March 9, assured that the Duterte administration is committed to improve the country’s infrastructure using quicker approval processes.
In a press briefing in Malacañan, PPP Center Executive Director Ferdinand Pecson reported about completed as well as ongoing projects, noting that the government’s approval process has become shorter.
“The President is impatient and, in fact, the message we are getting from him is that he is more concerned with the results rather than cropping up with a lot of documents being submitted to him,” Pecson said.
Pecson noted that in the last NEDA Board meeting a year ago, quite a number of projects were approved very quickly. He said there are also measures set in place to prevent anomaly from happening during the implementation of those PPP projects.
Currently, the Philippine PPP program has 50 projects in the pipeline worth P472.9 billion, Pecson said.
Completed projects are the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway, the NAIA Expressway, and the Automated Fare Collection System, more popularly known as the Beep Card.
The latest project to be completed is the Department of Education’s Phase 1 of the PPP for school buildings and infrastructure project, erecting 9,266 classrooms. The project benefits an approximately half a million students in the Ilocos, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon regions.
  DOE Lauds EU Assistance Towards Full Electrification

TAGUIG CITY, Philippines (10 March 2017) – Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi extended his gratitude to the European Union (EU) delegates and assured them that the Philippine government is working doubly hard to provide full access to electricity to Filipinos.

Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella delivered the Secretary’s message at the Philippine-EU Access to Sustainable Energy Program (ASEP) conference held on 9 March 2017 at Bonifacio Global City.

The ASEP is a joint undertaking of the DOE and the EU collectively espousing total electrification, energy security, efficiency and sustainability in the Philippines.  “The Philippine government is accelerating its identified households for electrification in order to meet the 100% target by 2022,” said Fuentebella.DOE Undersecretary Jesus Cristino P. Posadas highlighted the DOE’s overall objective in line with the programs of ASEP in expanding sustainable energy projects and   assisting its short- and medium-term targets pursuant to the Philippine Energy Roadmaps.According to the EU, the Philippines has been granted 60 million Euros (more than P3 billion) worth of assistance to help the country meet its rural electrification targets through various energy and efficiency programs‎.

Interim Team Leader Dr. Ernesto N. Terrado provided details of the ASEP’s various Technical Assistance (TA) projects.

In October of last year, ASEP also held a technical planning workshop where the DOE and other stakeholders identified the immediate technical assistance needs of the local energy sector and came up with a framework in achieving the targets set by the energy family.




President Rodrigo Roa Duterte accepted credentials of new ambassadors to the Philippines in a ceremony held at the Reception Hall in Malacañan Palace on Tuesday, January 10.
Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Mohammed Rida El Fassi of Morocco, Venetia Sebudandi of Rwanda, Shiferaw Jarso Tedecha of Ethiopia, and Anne Namakau Mutelo of Namibia were present during the ceremony.
Estonian Ambassador to the Philippines Jaak Lensment was not able to arrive due to bad weather.
Prior to the ceremony, the ambassadors were given arrival honors at the Kalayaan grounds.
The presentation of credentials to the president of host country is a diplomatic requirement for newly-appointed ambassadors before they begin their tour of duty.
President Duterte had a brief meeting with each ambassador right after the  credential submission.
After welcoming the new foreign ambassadors, President Duterte  met with outgoing Vietnamese Ambassador to the Philippines Truong Trieu Duong in a farewell call.
The President conferred the Order of Sikatuna award, with the rank of Grand Cross Gold Distinction or “Datu Katangiang Ginto”, to Ambassador Duong in a ceremony held in the Palace’s Music Room.
President Duterte commended Ambassador Duong for his exemplary performance and meritorious service in fostering and strengthening diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Vietnam.‎
In the citation, Ambassador Duong was recognized for showing his “demonstrated concern for the Filipinos” during national calamities, particularly in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, and for his “laudable representation of his government”, which gained the momentum of vibrant relations between the Philippines and Vietnam.
Also present in the occasion were Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Vietnamese Embassy Political Officer Le Thi Thu Thuy who witnessed the awarding ceremony. PND

GSIS slates release of cash benefit to members

Jan. 6 to 31

State pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has started releasing last January 6 a total amount of Php185 million in cash benefit for its members.
“The total cash benefit this year is far lower than the Php848 million GSIS released last year due to the decreased net income from Php140 billion in 2014 to Php47 billion in 2015,”  Officer-in-Charge and concurrent Senior Vice President for NCR Operations Nora Malubay-Saludares said.
OIC Saludares added that GSIS’s income was affected by the decline in the Philippine stock market in 2015.


Members whose compulsory life insurance policies have been in force for at least one year as of December 31, 2015, are entitled to cash benefit.  Also eligible are active members whose policies matured within 2015 and whose employers were suspended as of December 31, 2015.  Back in July 2013, GSIS has restored the loan and cash benefit privileges of members working in suspended agencies.

Meanwhile, GSIS members whose policies lapsed in 2015 are ineligible to receive the benefit.  Similarly, policyholders whose policies were terminated due to death, retirement, or separation as of December 2015 are ineligible to the benefit.

Members with outstanding consolidated loan balances or unpaid premiums for at least 12 months as of December 31, 2015 are also excluded.
GSIS has begun electronically crediting the cash benefit of qualified GSIS members to their GSIS eCard or unified multipurpose identification (UMID) card, which is expected to be completed by January 31, 2017.  Crediting of the benefit is done by batch or cluster to maintain orderly withdrawals.
SSS tightens enforcement of employer compliance, collects P1.4-B thru legal action
Employers who disregard their obligations with the Social Security System (SSS) can expect criminal and civil legal actions against them following the directive from the new SSS management to intensify the agency’s enforcement of their compliance with the law.
SSS Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel Voltaire P. Agas noted that SSS has initiated legal actions such as issuance of demand letters and filing of cases against over 34,000 delinquent employers since 2010, bringing in almost P1.4 billion in collections to date 
“We will not hesitate to go after and file cases against those discovered to be violators of the Social Security (SS) Act, such as non- and under-reporting of employees, as well as non- and under-remittance of contributions. For the past several years, SSS has been actively going after delinquent employers, and we will continue to strengthen our campaign to ensure that companies obey the law,” he said.
The efforts of SSS also resulted in a total of 41 employer convictions since 2010, with a corresponding collectible delinquency of P61.66 million. SSS plans to further intensify its campaign to bring down employer delinquency using the full strength of the law under the current administration 
Agas emphasized the need for the pension fund to maximize the powers provided by the SS Act so that it can increase its contribution collections to enable the fund to grant higher pensions and benefits.
Under the law, employers who fail to report workers for SSS coverage and remit employees’ monthly contributions will be punished with a fine of P5,000 to P20,000, imprisonment of six years up to 12 years, or both based on the discretion of the court. Employers with delinquent employee contributions are also charged a monthly penalty of three percent until the overdue SSS premiums are fully paid.
“Employers who deduct SSS payments from their workers’ salaries but fail to remit these to the SSS are likewise guilty of committing the crime of estafa, which is also punishable by imprisonment under the Revised Penal Code,” Agas said.
Under the SS Act, private companies are required to report new workers for SSS coverage within 30 days from the start of employment and remit the proper amount of contributions – including the employer and employee share — to SSS every month.

the noblest motive is the greatest good for the greatest number