BIR to submit report on Pharmally probe by yearend

BIR to submit report on Pharmally probe by yearend | Juan Manila

 

The Bureau of Internal Revenue committed to submit a consolidated report on Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation and government contractors involved in the alleged anomalous billion-peso budget deals in the procurement of pandemic-response medical supplies.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has earlier urged the BIR to form a task force to perform a special audit on taxes padi by government suppliers during the pandemic.


 

MANILA, Philippines — The revenue agency has started its investigation on Pharmally and other government suppliers, according to a document cited by the head of the Senate Finance Committee Juan Edgardo Angara.

The probe “is being undertaken by concerned revenue district office per memos o the Commissioner issued in September and November,” Angara said.

Based on a conversation with BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay, Angara explained that the probe is conducted by regional districts because the companies under probe are located in different revenue district offices.

He went on to remark that considering the conditions, conducting a single probe is challenging. The revenue service bureau, on the other hand, stated that a consolidated report will be issued by the end of 2021.

President Rodrigo Duterte told senators earlier that they may imprison Pharmally executives for failing to pay their taxes.

On 28 October, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon stated that Pharmally claimed a tax credit worth ₱96 million in 2020 but failed to pay any tax, citing BIR documents.

He continued saying that a single investigation is difficult to conduct under the circumstances. However, the revenue service bureau said it will come up with a consolidated report by the end of 2021. (RA/JuanManila)

Who is going to pay for all the debts?

Who is going to pay for all the debts? | Juan Manila

 

Should we start worrying when people in government start asking about who is going to the country’s “soaring debt”?

Lest we forget, we are heading for a national and local elections. All actors at play are bleeding out large amounts of cash, influence, and good will for a six-year term target to manage the country’s affairs, both foreign or national.


 

MANILA, Philippines — Brought up during budget plenary debates in the Senate was the national debt inventory, which, as of end-September, is at 61.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) or the country’s economic output, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Treasury.

According to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the figure has already surpassed the global standard in assessing a country’s ability to pay it debts, which is at 60 percent GDP.

At the same time, the government keeps on borrowing money, left and right, in the name of the pandemic, when it has little time left for the incumbent to address repayment, debt obligations, or debt servicing.

Meanwhile, analysts said debt levels are monitored by credit rating agencies, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic causing the economic downturn.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, head of the Senate Finance Committee, stated that governments have the option to spend more on loans in extreme circumstances. He spoke on behalf of the country’s economic managers during the session.

“In normal times, it’s 60 percent of debt percentage of your GDP; but in abnormal times, like now, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has revised that figure to go up to 70 percent,” Angara explained.

“Most countries now have breached their predicted deficit levels,” he continued.

“I think the goal of Finance Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez and the other economic managers [is] to be somewhere in the middle. Our credit rating is not affected and consumers and the government can still avail of favorable credit terms,” Angara further expounded.

In comparison, during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the debt-to-GDP ratio as of Q3 (the third quarter) of 2005 was the highest at 65.7 percent, according to the records from the Treasury Bureau.

The percentage of loans compared to the economy will remain within the 60 percent range even as the government incurs more debt as growth expands, Angara disclosed while citing the country’s economic managers.

With outstanding government loans ballooning to ₱11.9 trillion in September after authorities borrowed more to build up on COVID-19 funds, according to Angara, the figure is expected to ease to ₱11.7 trillion by year-end because of net payments.

“Loans (should) go to the productive side of our economy rather than the pockets of corrupt officials,” the minority leader stressed.

In an earlier statement, presidential aspirant Senator Panfilo Lacson said that every Filipino, even “those born today”, is already indebted with ₱220,000 in debt. (RA/JuanManila)

200 fisherfolk call on Duterte to halt reclamation in Cebu

200 fisherfolk call on Duterte to halt reclamation in Cebu | Juan Manila

 

Around 200 fisherfolk from a coastal village in Consolacion, Cebu recently held protest against a reclamation project brought about by a partnership between the town’s officials and a private consortium.

The protesters signed a petition against the reclamation project, addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte, in hopes of garnering help with the issue.

This was the third time a petition written against the reclamation project was sent to the President, the first being signed by at least 2,000 shipyard workers, while the second was signed by the residents of Barangay Tayud.

All signatories have livelihoods that will be affected by the reclamation project if it pushes through.


 

CONSOLACION, CEBU, Philippines — Protesters gathered at around 6 in the morning this past Sunday, 07 November, carrying posters, and continued on despite the rain.

The initial protesters came from Sitio Baha-Baha in Barangay Tayud, and were soon joined by fishermen from the nearby cities of Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue. All were against the Seafront City, a 235.8-hectare reclamation project that could, according to a study, cause irreversible damages to marine resources if it were to push through.

The study was conducted by Dr. Filipina Sotto from the Cebu-based think tank FBS-Environment and Community Research and Development Services. She stated that the area is rich in marine resources, as it has seven mangrove species and 75 coral species.

On the morning of their protest, the fisherfolk even cooked and ate some crabs and shellfish they gathered along the shoreline, seeking to prove that the sea is abundant with marine life.

The fisherfolk’s protest was the second against the Seafront City—it came less than a month after the first, which involved fifty fishermen boarding their boats to catch fish in order to refute the claims of Consolacion Mayor Johannes Alegado and Vice Mayor Teresita Alegado that the shipyards in the area have caused the absence of fish. (RF/JuanManila)


Featured image: Fisherfolk protest against the Seafront City reclamation project pushed by local officials. /Credit: Sunstar Cebu

Robredo lays down ₱500B recovery plan, identifies sources

Robredo lays down ₱500B recovery plan, identifies sources | Juan Manila

 

It may seem ambitious but that is what Vice-President Maria Leonor Robredo calls her recovery plan.


 

MANILA, Philippines — In a recent press conference, Robredo laid down her recovery plan, which includes the payment of all government debts in hospitals.

If she becomes president in 2022, she would use items in the national budget to fund her ₱500 billion proposal to set the country to a path to recovery.

For starters, she identified the ₱4.5 billion discretionary fund of the Office of the President and the ₱54 billion special purpose fund from different government agencies.

She said with the huge problem the country is facing, ambitious solutions are necessary.

“Kailangan maging ambitious tayo kasi ang laki ng problema natin ngayon,” Robredo said.

(We need to be ambitious because we are facing a huge problem.)

She discussed the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s huge debt owed to hospitals claiming unpaid medical services rendered. The hurdles in the agency will be removed to ensure the smooth processing of payment claims.

Her administration, she said, will make sure that all medical workers are compensated fairly, every barangay health center will have its own nurse and medical equipment.

After attributing the slow pandemic response to the inaction of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, a Robredo administration will set a competent health secretary who will make the bureaucracy accountable, with technical expertise, and who can empathize with the Filipinos.

She will push for the creation of a ‘unemployed insurance system’ for people who have lost their employment, in which displaced workers may get 80 percent of their wage for three months in order to support their families while seeking for a new job.

With it, she plans to come up with a ‘modern aid system’ that will simplify the distribution of cash aid to reach especially those in communities under localized lockdowns.

This is a response to the ₱780 million worth of cash aid during the pandemic that the Department of Social Welfare and Development failed to disburse.

Education, according to Robredo, will be based on the alert level status of a certain locality, not a one-size-fits-all policy. Low risk areas will enjoy ‘balik-eskuwela’ program while in high-risk locales, e-learning devices with internet capability will be distributed to student so they will not be left out.

She also looks forward to a strong private-public relationship. She said private sector confidence is important so that government can implement more social programs.

She stressed that the path to recovery starts with a trustworthy leader who has a clear sight of the direction to take, and a good example to all. (RA/JuanManila

Make economic aid mandatory over vaccination—Farmers

Make economic aid mandatory over vaccination—Farmers | Juan Manila

 

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health (DOH) recently proposed to make vaccination against Covid-19 mandatory for certain sectors.


 

MANILA, Philippines — In response to this, an organization of farmers called on the government to instead make the offering of economic aid to vulnerable members of the community mandatory instead.

Ang dapat na gawing mandatory at mabilisan sa ngayon ay ang pagbibigay ng ayuda at pang-ekonomikong tulong sa mamamayan,” said Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Chairperson Danilo Ramos in a statement.

(What must be made mandator and urgent now is the provision of aid and economic assistance to the people.)

“The government can’t just impose a jab on anyone or discriminate against anyone who still hasn’t got the COVID vaccine.

“Convincing people to get a vaccine will be a continuous process of education and public information on the necessity of achieving herd immunity,” he added, noting a high vaccine hesitancy in far-flung rural areas due to “lack of convincing information.”

The government should be concerned with the ensuring of steady livelihood and food accessibility for the Filipinos in addition to their focus on mass inoculation.

“If the majority of the people remain jobless and lacking in livelihood, it will be hard to stay healthy both physically and mentally,” the peasant leader noted.

“In fact, COVID worsened the hunger situation, with food inflation still high at 5.6 percent despite the slower pace of price hike of meat, vegetables, and fish.

Hindi abot-kaya ng masa ang presyo ng pagkain. Wala pang pambili kaya gutom talaga ang marami.”

(Food prices are not affordable to the masses so a lot of people are really getting hungry) (HMP/JuanManila)

Bello to expedite OFWs’ back pay and endo benefits

Bello to expedite OFWs’ back pay and endo benefits | Juan Manila

 

Coming to the rescue of the ‘bagong bayani’, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has vowed to expedite the release of back pay and end-of-contract benefits owed to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) forced to return home from Saudi Arabia in 2016.


 

MANILA, Philippines — Bello said the Saudi Arabian government is expected to pay ₱4.6 billion in unpaid salaries to 9,000 OFWs.

In a statement, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it will create a technical working group whose members will include the Riyadh-based labor officer, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), as well as representatives from a Saudi Arabia OFW group “to determine all details relevant to the release of the full settlement.”

Bello also “ordered the inclusion of OFW representatives in the group that will meet with its counterpart from KSA (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in order to hasten the processing of claims by some 9,000 OFWs.”

The DOLE statement further said that the Philippine and Saudi Arabian governments led by Bello and Saudi Labor Minister Ahmed al-Rajhi held talks in Dubai last week.

Citing OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, DoLE said all specifics, such as eligibility, distribution, and documentary requirements will be finalized through the technical working group and should be ready before the scheduled visit of the Saudi Arabian labor minister in December. (JD/JuanManila)


Featured image:  Saudi Labor Minister Ahmed al-Rajhi.

Taiwan now allows entry of Filipino workers starting this week

Taiwan now allows entry of Filipino workers starting this week | Juan Manila

 

After a six-month lockdown enforced by Taiwan on 22 May 2021, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are now allowed to go back to their work in the island nation, as Covid cases have declined.

Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) similar to the Philippines IATF gave the official go for migrants to get into their borders.


 

MANILA, Philippines — Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor requested the CECC to allow migrant workers to enter the country owing to a shortage of trained labor in huge building projects and understaffed industries producing electronic items.

More than 270 factories from China’s mainland have relocated. Due to China’s increasing economic circumstances and electricity problems, activities have been relocated to Taiwan.

Around 4,000 Filipino employees who were granted visas before the 22 May shutdown would be able to join the firms who hired them by next week.

Meanwhile, after the Chinese New Year from 01 to 06 Feb 2022, 20,000 more OFWs are be expected to be deployed in the island nation.

For the past 30 years, Taiwan has been the most sought-after foreign employment for OFWs because it pays the greatest wages for blue-collar employees and provides very substantial social insurance benefits.

Currently, the country has around 180,000 OFWs, the greatest number in the world, followed by Thais and Vietnamese. (ER/JuanManila)

DoE vows to transition to clean energy

DoE vows to transition to clean energy | Juan Manila

 

Participating in the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the Department of Energy said it would keep its promise to gradually transition from fuel energy into clean energy.


 

MANILA, Philippines — Among the things that DoE Secretary Alfonso Cusi promised to Alastair Totty, Charge d’ Affairs of the British Embassy, in his letter dated 03 November 2021 are the following:

“a. We commit to work together to make clean power the most affordable and accessible option globally, with ensuing economic and health benefits as we build back better from the COVID pandemic;

b. We commit to the following actions to drive this global transition forward, and we encourage others to make similar commitments:

#1. To rapidly scale up deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures in our economies, and to support other countries to do the same, recognizing the leadership shown by countries making ambitious commitments, including through the Energy Transition Council.

#2. To rapidly scale up technologies and policies in this decade.
#3. To strengthen our domestic and international efforts to provide a robust framework of financial, technical, and social support to affected workers

c. We recognize that while significant progress has been made to realize our shared vision, our task is not yet complete, and we call on others to join us as we redouble our effort to accelerate the global energy transition over the coming years.”

Cusi also backed the agency’s sentiments on climate justice.

“Likewise, we wish to emphasize that energy security is foremost because our energy transition comes as a means to improve the lives of our people and our country’s economic development,” he said.  (HMP/JuanManila

QC part of 94 megacities addressing climate change

QC part of 94 megacities addressing climate change | Juan Manila

 

Quezon City, with a population of 3 million and an annual budget of around 109.1 billion, was chosen to be a member of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40).

The C40 is a group of 94 megacities dedicated to combating climate change. According to C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF) principal project adviser Ferdinand Larona, these cities account for around 15 percent of the world population and 20 percent of global GDP.

“Quezon City supports progressive climate action and it is working on ambitious goals for environmental sustainability,” said Mr Larona.


 

MANILA, Philippines – The German government has proposed a 3- megawatt solar panel project in at least 50 public schools and three public hospitals in Quezon City.

The project will be funded by the C40 Cities Finance Facility (CFF). The German government will offer technical design and financial analysis for the project, as well as training and tools to assist the city’s technical working group in project preparation.

Meanwhile, through its collaboration with the C40, the CFF will provide consulting and capacity building services through its German development agency GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit).

Solar panels will be purchased for the Quezon City General Hospital, Rosario Maclang Bautista General Hospital, and Novaliches District Hospital this year or early next year. The solar panels for the 50 public schools will be installed as soon as regular classes resume.

With the current electricity rates charged by the Manila Electric Co (Meralco), the city government will save ₱38.77 million  per year after the solar panels are installed.

Another advantage is the annual reduction of 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Following the first installations, the city administration plans to install solar panels in over 100 more public schools and city-owned institutions, according to Mr. Larona.

Secondary cities are also being considered for the initiative, with mentorship programs on solar panel project preparation being offered. These are now ongoing in Batangas, Butuan, and Pasig.

“They can use the knowledge they gain when they replicate or scale-up the project in other city-owned buildings,” said Mr Larona. (RA/JuanManila)

MMDA lifts curfew in Metro Manila today

MMDA lifts curfew in Metro Manila today | Juan Manila

 

The unified curfew prevailing all over the metropolis will be lifted today, 04 November says the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

The curfew from 12 midnight to 4 a.m. was installed as a measure to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.


 

MANILA, Philippines – MMDA chair Benjamin Abalos Jr, in a radio interview said, curfew will be lifted after a meeting with Metro Manila mayors and mall owners.

“Yes, tatanggalin na po simula November 4,” he said during an earlier interview with Teleradyo.

The lifting of the curfew is to give way to the reopening of more economic activities in the National Capital Region as Covid-19 cases and its transmission continue to drop.

It was also agreed during the said meeting that mall hours will be from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. starting 15 November while Christmas sales will be held only during weekends.

Midnight sales, however, will be allowed depending on regulations prevailing within the local government unit. (RA/JuanManila