DOE

1st State of the Nation Address of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III

2010 SONA President Benigno S. Aquino III

State of the Nation Address

of His Excellency

Benigno S. Aquino III

President of the Philippines

to the Congress of the Philippines

Session Hall of the House of Representatives

July 26, 2010

[Batasan Pambansa Complex, Quezon City]

PANIMULA

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay; Chief Justice Renato Corona; Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps; my fellow workers in government;

Mga minamahal kong kababayan:

Sa bawat sandali po ng pamamahala ay nahaharap tayo sa isang sangandaan.

Sa isang banda po ay ang pagpili para sa ikabubuti ng taumbayan. Ang pagtanaw sa interes ng nakakarami; ang pagkapit sa prinsipyo; at ang pagiging tapat sa sinumpaan nating tungkulin bilang lingkod-bayan. Ito po ang tuwid na daan.

Sa kabilang banda ay ang pag-una sa pansariling interes. Ang pagpapaalipin sa pulitikal na konsiderasyon, at pagsasakripisyo ng kapakanan ng taumbayan. Ito po ang baluktot na daan.

Matagal pong naligaw ang pamahalaan sa daang baluktot. Araw-araw po, lalong lumilinaw sa akin ang lawak ng problemang ating namana. Damang-dama ko ang bigat ng aking responsibilidad.

Sa unang tatlong linggo ng aming panunungkulan, marami po kaming natuklasan. Nais ko pong ipahayag sa inyo ang iilan lamang sa mga namana nating suliranin at ang ginagawa naming hakbang para lutasin ang mga ito.

Sulyap lamang po ito; hindi pa ito ang lahat ng problemang haharapin natin. Inilihim at sadyang iniligaw ang sambayanan sa totoong kalagayan ng ating bansa.

PROBLEMA SA BUDGET

Sa unang anim na buwan ng taon, mas malaki ang ginastos ng gobyerno kaysa sa pumasok na kita. Lalong lumaki ang deficit natin, na umakyat na sa 196.7 billion pesos. Sa target na kuleksyon, kinapos tayo ng 23.8 billion pesos; ang tinataya namang gastos, nalagpasan natin ng 45.1 billion pesos.

Ang budget po sa 2010 ay 1.54 trillion pesos.

Nasa isandaang bilyong piso o anim at kalahating porsyento na lang ng kabuuan ang malaya nating magagamit para sa nalalabing anim na buwan ng taong ito.

Halos isang porsyento na lang po ng kabuuang budget ang natitira para sa bawat buwan.

Saan naman po dinala ang pera?

CALAMITY FUND

Naglaan ng dalawang bilyong piso na Calamity Fund bilang paghahanda para sa mga kalamidad na hindi pa nangyayari. Napakaliit na nga po ng pondong ito, ngunit kapapasok pa lang natin sa panahon ng baha at bagyo, 1.4 billion pesos o sitenta porsyento na ang nagastos.

Sa kabuuan ng 108 million pesos para sa lalawigan ng Pampanga, 105 million pesos nito ay napunta sa iisang distrito lamang. Samantala, ang lalawigan ng Pangasinan na sinalanta ng Pepeng ay nakatanggap ng limang milyong piso lamang para sa pinsalang idinulot ng bagyong Cosme, na nangyari noong 2008 pa.

Ibinigay po ang pondo ng Pampanga sa buwan ng eleksyon, pitong buwan pagkatapos ng Ondoy at Pepeng. Paano kung bumagyo bukas? Inubos na ang pondo nito para sa bagyong nangyari noong isang taon pa. Pagbabayaran ng kinabukasan ang kasakiman ng nakaraan.

MWSS

Ganyan din po ang nangyari sa pondo ng MWSS. Kamakailan lamang, pumipila ang mga tao para lang makakuha ng tubig. Sa kabila nito, minabuti pa ng liderato ng MWSS na magbigay ng gantimpala sa sarili kahit hindi pa nababayaran ang pensyon ng mga retiradong empleyado.

Noong 2009, ang buong payroll ng MWSS ay 51.4 million pesos. Pero hindi lang naman po ito ang sahod nila; may mga additional allowances at benefits pa sila na aabot sa 160.1 million pesos. Sa madaling sabi, nakatanggap sila ng 211.5 million pesos noong nakaraang taon. Beinte-kuwatro porsyento lang nito ang normal na sahod, at sitenta’y sais porsyento ang dagdag.
Ang karaniwang manggagawa hanggang 13th month pay plus cash gift lang ang nakukuha. Sa MWSS, aabot sa katumbas ng mahigit sa tatlumpung buwan ang sahod kasama na ang lahat ng mga bonuses at allowances na nakuha nila.

Mas matindi po ang natuklasan natin sa pasahod ng kanilang Board of Trustees. Tingnan po natin ang mga allowances na tinatanggap nila:

Umupo ka lang sa Board of Trustees at Board Committee meeting, katorse mil na. Aabot ng nobenta’y otso mil ito kada buwan. May grocery incentive pa sila na otsenta mil kada taon.

Hindi lang iyon: may mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, at Financial Assistance. May Christmas bonus na, may Additional Christmas Package pa. Kada isa sa mga ito, nobenta’y otso mil.

Sa suma total po, aabot ang lahat ng dalawa’t kalahating milyong piso kada taon sa bawat miyembro ng Board maliban sa pakotse, technical assistance, at pautang. Uulitin ko po. Lahat ng ito ay ibinibigay nila sa kanilang mga sarili habang hindi pa nababayaran ang mga pensyon ng kanilang mga retirees.

Pati po ang La Mesa Watershed ay hindi nila pinatawad. Para magkaroon ng tamang supply ng tubig, kailangang alagaan ang mga watershed. Sa watershed, puno ang kailangan. Pati po iyon na dapat puno ang nakatayo, tinayuan nila ng bahay para sa matataas na opisyal ng MWSS.

Hindi naman sila agad maaalis sa puwesto dahil kabilang sila sa mga Midnight Appointees ni dating Pangulong Arroyo. Iniimbestigahan na natin ang lahat nang ito. Kung mayroon pa silang kahit kaunting hiya na natitira – sana kusa na lang silang magbitiw sa puwesto.

ROAD USERS’ FUND

Pag-usapan naman po natin ang pondo para sa imprastruktura. Tumukoy ang DPWH ng dalawandaan apatnapu’t anim na priority safety projects na popondohan ng Motor Vehicle Users Charge. Mangangailangan po ito ng budget na 425 million pesos.
Ang pinondohan po, dalawampu’t walong proyekto lang. Kinalimutan po ang dalawandaan at labing walong proyekto at pinalitan ng pitumpung proyekto na wala naman sa plano. Ang hininging 425 million pesos, naging 480 million pesos pa, lumaki lalo dahil sa mga proyektong sa piling-piling mga benepisyaryo lang napunta.

Mga proyekto po itong walang saysay, hindi pinag-aralan at hindi pinaghandaan, kaya parang kabuteng sumusulpot.
Tapos na po ang panahon para dito. Sa administrasyon po natin, walang kota-kota, walang tongpats, ang pera ng taumbayan ay gagastusin para sa taumbayan lamang.

NEGOTIATED CONTRACTS

Meron pa po tayong natuklasan. Limang araw bago matapos ang termino ng nakaraang administrasyon, nagpautos silang maglabas ng 3.5 billion pesos para sa rehabilitasyon ng mga nasalanta nina Ondoy at Pepeng.

Walumpu’t anim na proyekto ang paglalaanan dapat nito na hindi na sana idadaan sa public bidding. Labingsiyam sa mga ito na nagkakahalaga ng 981 million pesos ang muntik nang makalusot. Hindi pa nailalabas ang Special Allotment Release Order ay pirmado na ang mga kontrata.

Buti na lang po ay natuklasan at pinigilan ito ni Secretary Rogelio Singson ng DPWH. Ngayon po ay dadaan na ang kabuuan ng 3.5 billion pesos sa tapat na bidding, at magagamit na ang pondo na ito sa pagbibigay ng lingap sa mga nawalan ng tahanan dahil kina Ondoy at Pepeng.

NAPOCOR

Pag-usapan naman natin ang nangyari sa NAPOCOR. Noong 2001 hanggang 2004, pinilit ng gobyerno ang NAPOCOR na magbenta ng kuryente nang palugi para hindi tumaas ang presyo. Tila ang dahilan: pinaghahandaan na nila ang eleksyon.
Dahil dito, noong 2004, sumagad ang pagkakabaon sa utang ng NAPOCOR. Napilitan ang pambansang gobyerno na sagutin ang dalawandaang bilyong pisong utang nito.

Ang inakala ng taumbayan na natipid nila sa kuryente ay binabayaran din natin mula sa kaban ng bayan. May gastos na tayo sa kuryente, binabayaran pa natin ang dagdag na pagkakautang ng gobyerno.

Kung naging matino ang pag-utang, sana’y nadagdagan ang ating kasiguruhan sa supply ng kuryente. Pero ang desisyon ay ibinatay sa maling pulitika, at hindi sa pangangailangan ng taumbayan. Ang taumbayan, matapos pinagsakripisyo ay lalo pang pinahirapan.

MRT

Ganito rin po ang nangyari sa MRT. Sinubukan na namang bilhin ang ating pagmamahal. Pinilit ang operator na panatilihing mababa ang pamasahe.

Hindi tuloy nagampanan ang garantiyang ibinigay sa operator na mababawi nila ang kanilang puhunan. Dahil dito, inutusan ang Landbank at Development Bank of the Philippines na bilhin ang MRT.

Ang pera ng taumbayan, ipinagpalit sa isang naluluging operasyon.

NFA

Dumako naman po tayo sa pondo ng NFA.

Noong 2004: 117,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply ng Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 900,000 metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit pitong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra pa rin ang binili nila.

Noong 2007: 589,000 metric tons ang pagkukulang ng supply sa Pilipinas. Ang binili nila, 1.827 million metric tons. Kahit ulitin mo pa ng mahigit tatlong beses ang pagkukulang, sobra na naman ang binili nila.

Ang masakit nito, dahil sobra-sobra ang binibili nila taun-taon, nabubulok lang pala sa mga kamalig ang bigas, kagaya ng nangyari noong 2008.

Hindi po ba krimen ito, na hinahayaan nilang mabulok ang bigas, sa kabila ng apat na milyong Pilipinong hindi kumakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw?

Ang resulta nito, umabot na sa 171.6 billion pesos ang utang ng NFA noong Mayo ng taong ito.

Ang tinapon na ito, halos puwede na sanang pondohan ang mga sumusunod:

Ang budget ng buong Hudikatura, na 12.7 billion pesos sa taong ito.

Ang Conditional Cash Transfers para sa susunod na taon, na nagkakahalaga ng 29.6 billion pesos.

Ang lahat ng classroom na kailangan ng ating bansa, na nagkakahalaga ng 130 billion pesos.

Kasuklam-suklam ang kalakarang ito. Pera na, naging bato pa.

ZERO BUDGET

Narinig po ninyo kung paano nilustay ang kaban ng bayan. Ang malinaw po sa ngayon: ang anumang pagbabago ay magmumula sa pagsiguro natin na magwawakas na ang pagiging maluho at pagwawaldas.

Kaya nga po mula ngayon: ititigil na natin ang paglulustay sa salapi ng bayan. Tatanggalin natin ang mga proyektong mali.
Ito po ang punto ng tinatawag nating zero-based approach sa ating budget. Ang naging kalakaran po, taun-taon ay inuulit lamang ang budget na puno ng tagas. Dadagdagan lang nang konti, puwede na.

Sa susunod na buwan ay maghahain tayo ng budget na kumikilala nang tama sa mga problema, at magtutuon din ng pansin sa tamang solusyon.

IMMEDIATE STEPS

TAX EVASION

Ilan lang ito sa mga natuklasan nating problema. Heto naman po ang ilang halimbawa ng mga hakbang na ginagawa natin.
Nandiyan po ang kaso ng isang may-ari ng sanglaan. Bumili siya ng sasakyang tinatayang nasa dalawampu’t anim na milyong piso ang halaga.

Kung kaya mong bumili ng Lamborghini, bakit hindi mo kayang magbayad ng buwis?

Nasampahan na po ito ng kaso. Sa pangunguna nina Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares at Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez, bawat linggo po ay may bago tayong kasong isinasampa kontra sa mga smuggler at sa mga hindi nagbabayad ng tamang buwis.

EXTRALEGAL KILLINGS

Natukoy na rin po ang salarin sa mga kaso nina Francisco Baldomero, Jose Daguio at Miguel Belen, tatlo sa anim na insidente ng extralegal killings mula nang umupo tayo.

Singkuwenta porsyento po ng mga insidente ng extralegal killings ang patungo na sa kanilang resolusyon.

Ang natitira pong kalahati ay hindi natin tatantanan ang pag-usig hanggang makamit ang katarungan.

TRUTH COMMISSION

Pananagutin natin ang mga mamamatay-tao. Pananagutin din natin ang mga corrupt sa gobyerno.

Nagsimula nang mabuo ang ating Truth Commission, sa pangunguna ni dating Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Hahanapin natin ang katotohanan sa mga nangyari diumanong katiwalian noong nakaraang siyam na taon.

Sa loob ng linggong ito, pipirmahan ko ang kauna-unahang Executive Order na nagtatalaga sa pagbuo nitong Truth Commission.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS

Kung ang sagot sa kawalan ng katarungan ay pananagutan, ang sagot naman sa kakulangan natin sa pondo ay mga makabago at malikhaing paraan para tugunan ang mga pagkatagal-tagal nang problema.

Napakarami po ng ating pangangailangan: mula sa edukasyon, imprastruktura, pangkalusugan, pangangailangan ng militar at kapulisan, at marami pang iba. Hindi kakasya ang pondo para mapunan ang lahat ng ito.

Kahit gaano po kalaki ang kakulangan para mapunan ang mga listahan ng ating pangangailangan, ganado pa rin ako dahil marami nang nagpakita ng panibagong interes at kumpyansa sa Pilipinas.

Ito ang magiging solusyon: mga Public-Private Partnerships. Kahit wala pa pong pirmahang nangyayari dito, masasabi kong maganda ang magiging bunga ng maraming usapin ukol dito.

May mga nagpakita na po ng interes, gustong magtayo ng expressway na mula Maynila, tatahak ng Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, hanggang sa dulo ng Cagayan Valley nang hindi gugugol ang estado kahit na po piso.

Sa larangan ng ating Sandatahang Lakas:

Mayroon po tayong 36,000 nautical miles ng baybayin. Ang mayroon lamang tayo: tatlumpu’t dalawang barko. Itong mga barkong ito, panahon pa ni MacArthur.

May nagmungkahi sa atin, ito ang proposisyon: uupahan po nila ang headquarters ng Navy sa Roxas Boulevard at ang Naval Station sa Fort Bonifacio.

Sagot po nila ang paglipat ng Navy Headquarters sa Camp Aguinaldo. Agaran, bibigyan tayo ng isandaang milyong dolyar. At dagdag pa sa lahat nang iyan, magsusubi pa sila sa atin ng kita mula sa mga negosyong itatayo nila sa uupahan nilang lupa.
Sa madali pong sabi: Makukuha natin ang kailangan natin, hindi tatayo gagastos, kikita pa tayo.

Marami na pong nag-alok at nagmungkahi sa atin, mula lokal hanggang dayuhang negosyante, na magpuno ng iba’t ibang pangangailangan.

Mula sa mga public-private partnerships na ito, lalago ang ating ekonomiya, at bawat Pilipino makikinabang. Napakaraming sektor na matutulungan nito.

Maipapatayo na po ang imprastrukturang kailangan natin para palaguin ang turismo.

Sa agrikultura, makapagtatayo na tayo ng mga grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, maayos na road networks at post-harvest facilities.

Kung maisasaayos natin ang ating food supply chain sa tulong ng pribadong sektor, sa halip na mag-angkat tayo ay maari na sana tayong mangarap na mag-supply sa pandaigdigang merkado.

Kung maitatayo ang minumungkahi sa ating railway system, bababa ang presyo ng bilihin. Mas mura, mas mabilis, mas maginhawa, at makakaiwas pa sa kotong cops at mga kumokotong na rebelde ang mga bumibiyahe.

STREAMLINING PROCESSES

Paalala lang po: una sa ating plataporma ang paglikha ng mga trabaho, at nanggagaling ang trabaho sa paglago ng industriya. Lalago lamang ang industriya kung gagawin nating mas malinis, mas mabilis, at mas maginhawa ang proseso para sa mga gustong magnegosyo.

Pabibilisin natin ang proseso ng mga proyektong sumasailalim sa Build-Operate-Transfer. Sa tulong ng lahat ng sangay ng gobyerno at ng mga mamamayan, pabababain natin sa anim na buwan ang proseso na noon ay inaabot ng taon kung hindi dekada.

May mga hakbang na rin pong sinisimulan ang DTI, sa pamumuno ni Secretary Gregory Domingo:

Ang walang-katapusang pabalik-balik sa proseso ng pagrehistro ng pangalan ng kumpanya, na kada dalaw ay umaabot ng apat hanggang walong oras, ibababa na natin sa labinlimang minuto.

Ang dating listahan ng tatlumpu’t anim na dokumento, ibababa natin sa anim. Ang dating walong pahinang application form, ibababa natin sa isang pahina.

Nananawagan ako sa ating mga LGUs. Habang naghahanap tayo ng paraan para gawing mas mabilis ang pagbubukas ng mga negosyo, pag-aralan din sana nila ang kanilang mga proseso. Kailangan itong gawing mas mabilis, at kailangan itong itugma sa mga sinisumulan nating reporma.

Negosyante, sundalo, rebelde, at karaniwang Pilipino, lahat po makikinabang dito. Basta po hindi dehado ang Pilipino, papasukin po natin lahat iyan. Kailangan na po nating simulan ang pagtutulungan para makamit ito. Huwag nating pahirapan ang isa’t isa.

Parating na po ang panahon na hindi na natin kailangang mamili sa pagitan ng seguridad ng ating mamamayan o sa kinabukasan ng inyong mga anak.

FREEING UP FUNDS

EDUCATION

Oras na maipatupad ang public-private partnerships na ito, mapopondohan ang mga serbisyong panlipunan, alinsunod sa ating plataporma.

Magkakapondo na po para maipatupad ang mga plano natin sa edukasyon.

Mapapalawak natin ang basic education cycle mula sa napakaikling sampung taon tungo sa global standard na labindalawang taon.

Madadagdagan natin ang mga classroom. Mapopondohan natin ang service contracting sa ilalim ng GASTPE.

Pati ang conditional cash transfers, na magbabawas ng pabigat sa bulsa ng mga pamilya, madadagdan na rin ng pondo.

PHILHEALTH

Maipapatupad ang plano natin sa PhilHealth.

Una, tutukuyin natin ang tunay na bilang ng mga nangangailangan nito. Sa ngayon, hindi magkakatugma ang datos. Sabi ng PhilHealth sa isang bibig, walumpu’t pitong porsyento na raw ang merong coverage. Sa kabilang bibig naman, singkuwenta’y tres porsyento naman. Ayon naman sa National Statistics Office, tatlumpu’t walong porsyento ang may coverage.

Ngayon pa lang, kumikilos na si Secretary Dinky Soliman at ang DSWD upang ipatupad ang National Household Targetting System, na magtutukoy sa mga pamilyang higit na nagangailangan ng tulong. Tinatayang siyam na bilyon ang kailangan para mabigyan ng PhilHealth ang limang milyong pinakamaralitang pamilyang Pilipino.

LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

Napakaganda po ng hinaharap natin. Kasama na po natin ang pribadong sektor, at kasama na rin natin ang League of Provinces, sa pangunguna nina Governor Alfonso Umali kasama sina Governor L-Ray Villafuerte at Governor Icot Petilla. Handa na pong makipagtulungan para makibahagi sa pagtustos ng mga gastusin. Alam ko rin pong hindi magpapahuli ang League of Cities sa pangunguna ni Mayor Oscar Rodriguez.

Kung ang mga gobyernong lokal ay nakikiramay na sa ating mga adhikain, ang Kongreso namang pinanggalingan ko, siguro naman maasahan ko din.

Nagpakitang-gilas na po ang gabinete sa pagtukoy ng ating mga problema at sa paglulunsad ng mga solusyon sa loob lamang ng tatlong linggo.

Nang bagyo pong Basyang, ang sabi sa atin ng mga may prangkisa sa kuryente, apat na araw na walang kuryente. Dahil sa mabilis na pagkilos ni Secretary Rene Almendras at ng Department of Energy, naibalik ang kuryente sa halos lahat sa loob lamang ng beinte-kwatro oras.

Ito pong sinasabing kakulangan sa tubig sa Metro Manila, kinilusan agad ni Secretary Rogelio Singson at ng DPWH. Hindi na siya naghintay ng utos, kaya nabawasan ang perwisyo.

Nakita na rin natin ang gilas ng mga hinirang nating makatulong sa Gabinete. Makatuwiran naman po sigurong umasa na hindi na sila padadaanin sa butas ng karayom para makumpirma ng Commission on Appointments. Kung mangyayari po ito, marami pa sa mga mahuhusay na Pilipino ang maeengganyong magsilbi sa gobyerno.

Sa lalong madaling panahon po, uupo na tayo sa LEDAC at pag-uusapan ang mga mahahalagang batas na kailangan nating ipasa. Makakaasa kayo na mananatiling bukas ang aking isipan, at ang ating ugnayan ay mananatiling tapat.

Isinusulong po natin ang Fiscal Responsibility Bill, kung saan hindi tayo magpapasa ng batas na mangangailangan ng pondo kung hindi pa natukoy ang panggagalingan nito. May 104.1 billion pesos tayong kailangan para pondohan ang mga batas na naipasa na, ngunit hindi maipatupad.

Kailangan din nating isaayos ang mga insentibong piskal na ibinigay noong nakaraan. Ngayong naghihigpit tayo ng sinturon, kailangang balikan kung alin sa mga ito ang dapat manatili at kung ano ang dapat nang itigil.

Huwag po tayong pumayag na magkaroon ng isa pang NBN-ZTE. Sa lokal man o dayuhan manggagaling ang pondo, dapat dumaan ito sa tamang proseso. Hinihingi ko po ang tulong ninyo upang amiyendahan ang ating Procurement Law.

Ayon po sa Saligang Batas, tungkulin ng estado ang siguruhing walang lamangan sa merkado. Bawal ang monopolya, bawal ang mga cartel na sasakal sa kumpetisyon. Kailangan po natin ng isang Anti-Trust Law na magbibigay-buhay sa mga prinsipyong ito. Ito ang magbibigay ng pagkakataon sa mga Small- at Medium-scale Enterprises na makilahok at tumulong sa paglago ng ating ekonomiya.

Ipasa na po natin ang National Land Use Bill.

Una rin pong naging batas ng Commonwealth ang National Defense Act, na ipinasa noon pang 1935. Kailangan nang palitan ito ng batas na tutugon sa pangangailangan ng pambansang seguridad sa kasalukuyan.

Nakikiusap po akong isulong ang Whistleblower’s Bill upang patuloy nang iwaksi ang kultura ng takot at pananahimik.

Palalakasin pa lalo ang Witness Protection Program. Alalahanin po natin na noong taong 2009 hanggang 2010, may nahatulan sa 95% ng mga kaso kung saan may witness na sumailalim sa programang ito.

Kailangang repasuhin ang ating mga batas. Nanawagan po akong umpisahan na ang rekodipikasyon ng ating mga batas, upang siguruhing magkakatugma sila at hindi salu-salungat.

PEACE PROCESS

Ito pong mga batas na ito ang batayan ng kaayusan, ngunit ang pundasyon ng lahat ng ginagawa natin ay ang prinsipyong wala tayong mararating kung walang kapayapaan at katahimikan.

Dalawa ang hinaharap nating suliranin sa usapin ng kapayapaan: ang situwasyon sa Mindanao, at ang patuloy na pag-aaklas ng CPP-NPA-NDF.

Tungkol sa situwasyon sa Mindanao: Hindi po nagbabago ang ating pananaw. Mararating lamang ang kapayapaan at katahimikan kung mag-uusap ang lahat ng apektado: Moro, Lumad, at Kristiyano. Inatasan na natin si Dean Marvic Leonen na mangasiwa sa ginagawa nating pakikipag-usap sa MILF.

Iiwasan natin ang mga pagkakamaling nangyari sa nakaraang administrasyon, kung saan binulaga na lang ang mga mamamayan ng Mindanao. Hindi tayo puwedeng magbulag-bulagan sa mga dudang may kulay ng pulitika ang proseso, at hindi ang kapakanan ng taumbayan ang tanging interes.

Kinikilala natin ang mga hakbang na ginagawa ng MILF sa pamamagitan ng pagdidisplina sa kanilang hanay. Inaasahan natin na muling magsisimula ang negosasyon pagkatapos ng Ramadan.

Tungkol naman po sa CPP-NPA-NDF: handa na ba kayong maglaan ng kongkretong mungkahi, sa halip na pawang batikos lamang?

Kung kapayapaan din ang hangad ninyo, handa po kami sa malawakang tigil-putukan. Mag-usap tayo.

Mahirap magsimula ang usapan habang mayroon pang amoy ng pulbura sa hangin. Nananawagan ako: huwag po natin hayaang masayang ang napakagandang pagkakataong ito upang magtipon sa ilalim ng iisang adhikain.

Kapayapaan at katahimikan po ang pundasyon ng kaunlaran. Habang nagpapatuloy ang barilan, patuloy din ang pagkakagapos natin sa kahirapan.

PANAWAGAN

Dapat din po nating mabatid: ito ay panahon ng sakripisyo. At ang sakripisyong ito ay magiging puhunan para sa ating kinabukasan. Kaakibat ng ating mga karapatan at kalayaan ay ang tungkulin natin sa kapwa at sa bayan.

Inaasahan ko po ang ating mga kaibigan sa media, lalo na sa radyo at sa print, sa mga nagbablock-time, at sa community newspapers, kayo na po mismo ang magbantay sa inyong hanay.

Mabigyang-buhay sana ang mga batayang prinsipyo ng inyong bokasyon: ang magbigay-linaw sa mahahalagang isyu; ang maging patas at makatotohanan, at ang itaas ang antas ng pampublikong diskurso.

Tungkulin po ng bawat Pilipino na tutukan ang mga pinunong tayo rin naman ang nagluklok sa puwesto. Humakbang mula sa pakikialam tungo sa pakikilahok. Dahil ang nakikialam, walang-hanggan ang reklamo. Ang nakikilahok, nakikibahagi sa solusyon.

Napakatagal na pong namamayani ang pananaw na ang susi sa asenso ay ang intindihin ang sarili kaysa intindihin ang kapwa. Malinaw po sa akin: paano tayo aasenso habang nilalamangan ang kapwa?

Ang hindi nabigyan ng pagkakataong mag-aral, paanong makakakuha ng trabaho? Kung walang trabaho, paanong magiging konsumer? Paanong mag-iimpok sa bangko?

Ngunit kung babaliktarin natin ang pananaw—kung iisipin nating “Dadagdagan ko ang kakayahan ng aking kapwa”—magbubunga po ito, at ang lahat ay magkakaroon ng pagkakataon.

Maganda na po ang nasimulan natin. At mas lalong maganda po ang mararating natin. Ngunit huwag nating kalimutan na mayroong mga nagnanasang hindi tayo magtagumpay. Dahil kapag hindi tayo nagtagumpay, makakabalik na naman sila sa kapangyarihan, at sa pagsasamantala sa taumbayan.

Akin pong paniwala na Diyos at taumbayan ang nagdala sa ating kinalalagyan ngayon. Habang nakatutok tayo sa kapakanan ng ating kapwa, bendisyon at patnubay ay tiyak na maaasahan natin sa Poong Maykapal. At kapag nanalig tayo na ang kasangga natin ay ang Diyos, mayroon ba tayong hindi kakayanin?

Ang mandato nating nakuha sa huling eleksyon ay patunay na umaasa pa rin ang Pilipino sa pagbabago. Iba na talaga ang situwasyon. Puwede na muling mangarap. Tayo nang tumungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pinangarap.
Maraming salamat po.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay, Chief Justice Renato Corona, Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; Members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps;

My beloved countrymen:

Our administration is facing a forked road. On one direction, decisions are made to protect the welfare of our people; to look after the interest of the majority; to have a firm grip on principles; and to be faithful to the public servant’s sworn oath to serve the country honestly.

This is the straight path.

On the other side, personal interest is the priority, and where one becomes a slave to political considerations to the detriment of our nation.

This is the crooked path.

For a long time, our country lost its way in the crooked path. As days go by (since I became President), the massive scope of the problems we have inherited becomes much clearer. I could almost feel the weight of my responsibilities.

In the first three weeks of our administration, we discovered many things, and I will report to you some of the problems we have uncovered, and the steps we are taking to solve them.

This report is merely a glimpse of our situation. It is not the entire picture of the crises we are facing. The reality was hidden from our people, who seem to have been deliberately obfuscated on the real state of our nation.

In the first six years of this year, government expenditure exceeded our revenues. Our deficit further increased to PhP196.7 billion. Our collection targets, which lack PhP23.8 billion, were not fully met, while we went beyond our spending by PhP45.1 billion.

Our budget for 2010 is PhP1.54 trillion. Of this, only PhP100 billion – or 6.5% of the total budget – can be used for the remaining six months of the current year. Roughly 1% of the total budget is left for each of the remaining month.

Where did the funds go?

A calamity fund worth PhP2 billion was reserved in preparation for anticipated calamities. Of this already miniscule amount, at a time when the rainy season has yet to set in, PhP1.4 billion or 70% was already spent.

The entire province of Pampanga received PhP108 million. Of this, PhP105 million went to only one district. On the other hand, the province of Pangasinan, which was severely affected by Typhoon Pepeng, received a mere PhP5 million, which had to be used to fix damages inflicted not even by Pepeng, but by a previous typhoon, Cosme.

The funds were released on election month, which was seven months after the typhoon. What will happen if a typhoon arrives tomorrow? The fund has been used up to repair damage from typhoons that hit us last year. Our future will pay for the greed of yesterday.

This is also what happened to the funds of the MWSS. Just recently, people lined up for water while the leadership of the MWSS rewarded itself even though the pensions of retired employees remain unpaid.

The entire payroll of the MWSS amounts to 51.4 million pesos annually.

But this isn’t the full extent of what they receive: they receive additional allowances and benefits amounting to 81.1 million pesos.

In short, they receive 211.5 million pesos annually. Twenty four percent of this is for normal salaries, and sixty six percent is added on.

The average worker receives up to 13th month pay plus a cash gift. In the MWSS, they receive the equivalent of over thirty months pay if you include all their additional bonuses and allowances.

What we discovered in the case of the salaries of their board of trustees is even more shocking. Let’s take a look at the allowances they receive:

Attending board of trustees and board committee meetings, and you get fourteen thousands pesos. This totals ninety eight thousand pesos a month. They also get an annual grocery incentive of eighty thousand pesos.

And that’s not all. They get a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, and financial assistance.

They not only get a Christmas bonus, but an additional Christmas package as well. Each of these amounts to eighty thousand pesos. All in all, each member of the board receives two and a half million pesos a year exclusive of car service, technical assistance, and loans. Let me repeat. They award themselves all of these while being in arrears for the pensions of their retired employees.

Even the La Mesa watershed wasn’t spared. In order to ensure an adequate supply of water, we need to protect our watersheds.

In watersheds, trees are needed. Where there should be trees, they built homes for the top officials of the MWSS.

We cannot remove them from their positions quickly because they are among the midnight appointees of former president Arroyo. We are investigating all of these things. But if they have any shame left, they should voluntarily relinquish their positions.

Now let’s discuss funds for infrastructure. The DPWH identified two hundred forty six priority safety projects to be funded by the motor vehicle user’s charge. This needs a budget of 425 million pesos. What they ended up funding were only 28 projects. They disregarded 218 projects and replaced these with seventy projects that weren’t in the plans. The 425 million pesos originally asked for became 480 million pesos, increasing because of projects allocated for a favored few.

These projects make no sense: unstudied and unprepared for, sprouting like mushrooms.

The era of such projects is at an end. Under our administration, there will be no quotas, there will be no overpricing, the funds of the people will be spent for the people.

There’s more. Five days before the term of the previous administration ended, they ordered 3.5 billion pesos to be released for the rehabilitation of those affected by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. This was supposed to fund eighty-nine projects. But nineteen of these projects amounting to 981 million pesos didn’t go through public bidding. Special Allotment Release Orders hadn’t even been released and yet the contracts were already signed. It’s a good thing Secretary Rogelio Singson spotted and stopped them.

Instead, they will all go through the proper bidding, and the funds will be used to provide relief to those who lost their homes due to typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

Let’s discuss what happened in Napocor. From 2001 to 2004, the government forced Napocor to sell electricity at a loss to prevent increases in electricity rates. The real motivation for this is that they were preparing for the election.

As a result, in 2004, NAPOCOR slumped deeply in debt. The government was obligated to shoulder the 200 billion pesos it owed.

What the public thought they saved from electricity, we are now paying for using public coffers. Not only are we paying for the cost of electricity; we are also paying for the interest arising from the debt.

If the money we borrowed was used properly, then there would be added assurance that constant supply of electricity is available. However, this decision was based on bad politics, not on the true needs of the people.

The people, after having to sacrifice, suffered even more.

This is also what happened to the MRT. The government tried again to buy the people’s love. The operator was forced to keep the rates low.

In effect, the guarantee given to the operator that he will still be able to recoup his investment was not fulfilled. Because of this, Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines were ordered to purchase the MRT.

The money of the people was used in exchange for an operation that was losing money.

Let us now move on to the funds of the National Food Authority (NFA).

In 2004: 117,000 metric tons (of rice) was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they (the government) bought were 900,000 metric tons.

Even if you multiply for more than seven times the amount of shortage, they still bought more than what was needed.

In 2007: 589,000 metric tons was the shortage in the supply of the Philippines. What they bought were 1.827 million metric tons. Even if you multiply for more than three times the amount of shortage, they again bought more than what was needed.

What hurts is, because they keep purchasing more than what they need year after year, the excess rice that had to be stored in warehouses ended up rotting, just like what happened in 2008.

Is this not a crime, letting rice rot, despite the fact that there are 4 million Filipinos who do not eat three times a day?

The result is NFA’s current debt of 177 billion pesos.

This money that was wasted could have funded the following:

– The budget of the entire judiciary, which is at 12.7 billion pesos this year.
– The Conditional Cash Transfers for the following year, which cost 29.6 billion pesos.
– All the classrooms that our country needs, which cost 130 billion pesos.

This way of doing things is revolting. Money was there only to be wasted. You have heard how the public coffers were squandered. This is what is clear to me now: change can only come from our determination to stamp out this extravagance and profligacy.

That is why starting now: we will stop the wasteful use of government funds. We will eradicate projects that are wrong.

This is the point of what we call the zero-based approach in our budget.

What used to be the norm was every year, the budget merely gets re-enacted without plugging the holes.

Next month we will be submitting a budget that accurately identifies the problem and gives much attention on the right solution.
Those that I have mentioned were only some of the problems we have discovered. Here now are examples of the steps we are undertaking to solve them.

There is a case of one pawnshop owner. He purchased a vehicle at an estimated cost of 26 million pesos.

If he can afford to buy a Lamborghini, why can’t he pay his taxes?

A case has already been filed against him. Through the leadership of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, Customs Commissioner Lito Alvarez, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, every week we have new cases filed against smugglers and against those who do not pay the right taxes.

We have also already identified the suspects of the cases of Francisco Baldomero, Jose Daguio and Miguel Belen, 3 of the 6 incidents of extralegal killings since we assumed the Presidency.

Fifty percent (50%) of these incidents of extralegal killings are now on their way to being resolved.

We will not stop the pursuit of the remaining half of these killings until justice has been achieved.

We will hold murderers accountable. We will also hold those who are corrupt that work in government accountable for their actions.

We have begun forming our Truth Commission, through the leadership of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. We will search for the truth on the alleged wrongdoing committed in the last nine years.

This week, I will sign the first ever Executive Order on the formation of this Truth Commission.

If the answer to justice is accountability, the answer to the dearth in funds is a new and creative approach to our long-standing problems.

We have so many needs: from education, infrastructure, health, military, police and more. Our funds will not be enough to meet them.

No matter how massive the deficit is that may keep us from paying for this list of needs, I am heartened because many have already expressed renewed interest and confidence in the Philippines.

Our solution: public-private partnerships. Although no contract has been signed yet, I can say that ongoing talks with interested investors will yield fruitful outcomes.

There are some who have already shown interest and want to build an expressway from Manila that will pass through Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, until the end of Cagayan Valley, without the government having to spend a single peso.

On national defense:

We have 36,000 nautical miles of shoreline, but we only have 32 boats.

These boats are as old as the time of (US General Douglas) MacArthur.

Some had this proposition: they will rent the Navy headquarters on Roxas Boulevard and the Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio.

They will take care of the funding necessary to transfer the Navy Headquarters to Camp Aguinaldo. Immediately, we will be given 100 million dollars. Furthermore, they will give us a portion of their profits from their businesses that would occupy the land they will rent.

In short, we will meet our needs without spending, and we will also earn.

There have already been many proposals from local to foreign investors to provide for our various needs.

From these public-private partnerships, our economy will grow and every Filipino will be the beneficiary. There are so many sectors that could benefit from this.

We will be able to construct the needed infrastructure in order to help tourism grow.

In agriculture, we will be able to have access to grains terminals, refrigeration facilities, orderly road networks and post-harvest facilities.

If we can fix out food supply chain with the help of the private sector, instead of importing, we will hopefully be able to supply for the needs of the global market.

The prices of commodities will go down if we are able to make this efficient railway system a reality. It will be cheaper and faster, and it will be easier for travelers to avoid crooked cops and rebels.

A reminder to all: creating jobs is foremost on our agenda, and the creation of jobs will come from the growth of our industries. Growth will only be possible if we streamline processes to make them predictable, reliable and efficient for those who want to invest.

We make sure that the Build-Operate-and-Transfer projects will undergo quick and efficient processes. With the help of all government agencies concerned and the people, a process that used to take as short as a year and as long as a decade will now only take six months.

The Department of Trade and Industry has already taken steps to effect this change, under the leadership of Secretary Gregory Domingo:

The never-ending horror story of registering business names, which used to take a minimum of four to eight hours depending on the day, will be cut down drastically to fifteen minutes.

What used to be a check list of thirty-six documents will be shortened to a list of six, and the old eight-page application form will be whittled down to one page.

I call on our local government units to review its own procedures. While we look for more ways to streamline our processes to make business start-ups easier, I hope the LGUs can also find ways to implement reforms that will be consistent with the ones we have already started.

All will certainly benefit from this streamlining — be it businessmen, soldiers, rebels and ordinary Filipinos. As long as the interests of Filipinos will not be jeopardized, we will explore all available avenues to make this a reality. We must start now, and we should all help achieve this and not stand in each other’s way.

The time when we will no longer be made to choose between our people’s security and the future of our children is upon us now.

Once we implement these public-private partnerships, we will be able to fund public service in accordance with our platform.

This will enable us to fund our plans for education.

We will be able to expand our basic education cycle from seven years to the global standard of twelve years.

We can build more classrooms, and we will fund service contracting under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education Program (GASTPE).

Conditional cash transfers that aim to lessen the burden of education on parents will also be funded if this partnership becomes a reality.

Our plans for improving PhilHealth can now be within reach.

First, we will identify the correct number of Filipinos who sorely need PhilHealth coverage, as current data is conflicting on this matter. On one hand, PhilHealth says that eighty-seven percent (87%) of Filipinos are covered, then lowers the number to only fifty-three percent (53%). On the other hand, the National Statistics Office says that only thirty-eight percent (38%) of Filipinos are covered by Philhealth.

Even as we speak, Secretary Dinky Soliman and the Department of Social Welfare and Development are moving to implement the National Household Targeting System that will identify the families that most urgently need assistance. An estimated 9 billion pesos is needed in order to provide coverage for five million poor Filipinos.

Our country is beginning to see better days ahead. The private sector, the League of Provinces headed by Governor Alfonso Umali, together with Governors L-Ray Villafuerte and Icot Petilla, are now ready to do their share when it comes to shouldering the financial burden. I know that the League of Cities under the leadership of Mayor Oscar Rodriguez will not be far behind.

If the local governments share in our goals, I know that I can surely count on Congress, the institution where I began public service, to push for our agenda for change.

Our Cabinet has already showed it skill by identifying not just problems but also proposing solutions in a matter of three weeks.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Basyang, we were told by those in the power sector that we would be without electricity for four days. The quick action of Secretary Rene Almendras and the Department of Energy resulted in the restoration of power to almost all those affected within twenty-four hours.

The so-called water shortage in Metro Manila was quickly attended to by Secretary Rogelio Singson and the Department of Public Works and Highways. Secretary Singson did it without prodding, which alleviated the suffering of those affected.

We also witnessed the competence and initiative of those we appointed to be part of our Cabinet. It is but just that they not be forced to go through the eye of a needle to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

Should this happen, competent Filipinos will be encouraged to help our country by becoming public servants.

In the soonest possible time, we will convene the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to discuss the important bills that need to be addressed. Rest assured that I will keep an open mind and treat you honorably.

We will push for the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, which will limit spending bills only for appropriations that have identified a source of funding. We need 104.1 billion pesos to fund those laws already passed but whose implementation remains pending because of lack of funds.

We will re-evaluate fiscal incentives given in the past. Now that we are tightening our purse strings, we need to identify those incentives that will remain and those that need to be done away with.

We will not allow another NBN-ZTE scandal to happen again. Whether from local or foreign sources, all proposed contracts must undergo the scrutiny of correct procedures. I now ask for your help with amending our Procurement Law.

According to our Constitution, it is the government’s duty to ensure that the market is fair for all. No monopolies, no cartels that kill competition. We need an Anti-Trust Law that will give life to these principles, to afford Small- and Medium-Scale Enterprises the opportunity to participate in the growth of our economy.

Let us pass into law the National Land Use Bill.

It was in 1935, during the Commonwealth, that the National Defense Act was passed. There is a need to amend for a new law that is more responsive to the current needs of national security.

I appeal to our legislators to pass the Whistleblower’s Bill to eradicate the prevalent culture of fear and silence that has hounded our system.

We will strengthen the Witness Protection Program. We must remember that from 2009 to 2010 alone, cases which involved the participation of witnesses under the program resulted in a ninety-five percent conviction.

There is a need to review our laws. I call on our lawmakers to begin a re-codification of our laws to ensure harmony in legislation and eliminate contradictions.

These laws serve as the basis of order in our land, but the foundation of all rests on the principle that we cannot grow without peace and order.

We face two obstacles on our road to peace: the situation in Mindanao and the continued revolt of the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Our view has not changed when it comes to the situation in Mindanao. We will only achieve lasting peace if all stakeholders engage in an honest dialogue: may they be Moro, Lumad, or Christian. We have asked Dean Marvic Leonen to head our efforts to talk to the MILF.

We will learn from the mistakes of the past administration, that suddenly announced an agreement reached without consultations from all concerned. We are not blind to the fact that it was done with political motivation, and that the interest behind it was not that of the people.

We recognize the efforts of the MILF to discipline those within its ranks. We are hopeful that the negotiations will begin after Ramadan.

To the CPP-NPA-NDF: are you prepared to put forth concrete solutions rather than pure criticism and finger-pointing?

If it is peace you truly desire, then we are ready for an immediate cease-fire. Let us go back to the table and begin talking again.

It is difficult to begin discussions in earnest if the smell of gun powder still hangs in the air. I call on everyone concerned not to waste a good opportunity to rally behind our common aspiration for peace.

Our foundation for growth is peace. We will continue to be shackled by poverty if the crossfire persists.

We must understand that now is a time for sacrifice. It is this sacrifice that will pave the way for a better future. With our freedom comes our responsibility to do good unto our fellows and to our country.

To our friends in media, especially those in radio and print, to the block-timers and those in our community newspapers, I trust that you will take up the cudgels to police your own ranks.

May you give new meaning to the principles of your vocation: to provide clarity to pressing issues; to be fair and truthful in your reporting, and to raise the level of public discourse.

It is every Filipino’s duty to closely watch the leaders that you have elected. I encourage everyone to take a step towards participation rather than fault-finding. The former takes part in finding a solution; from the latter, never-ending complaints.

We have always known that the key to growth is putting the interest of others beyond one’s own. One thing is clear: how do we move forward if we keep putting others down?

How will those without education secure quality jobs? How will the unemployed become consumers? How will they save money for their future needs?

If we change all this, if we prioritize enabling others, we will open a world of opportunities not just for ourselves but for those who direly need it.

We have already begun the process of change, and we are now able to dream of better things for our country. Let us not forget that there are those who wish us to fail, so that they will once again reclaim power to do as they please at the expense of our people.

My firm belief is that our fate is in the hands of God and our people. While we focus on uplifting the lives of our fellow men, I have an unshakeable faith that Almighty God will give us His blessings and support. If we remain firm in our belief that God is on our side, is there anything impossible for us to achieve?

The mandate we received last May 10 is testament to the fact that the Filipino continues to hope for true change. The situation is not what it was before; we can all dream again. Let us all become one in achieving a fulfilment of our hopes and aspirations for our country.

Maraming Salamat Po!

PMP bets vow review of flawed laws

PMP bets vow review of flawed laws
By Jose Rodel Clapano
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Senatorial candidates of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), led by Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, vowed yesterday to review the controversial Oil Deregulation Law, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and the Fair Election Act if they win in the May 10 elections.

Estrada told editors and reporters of The STAR that if re-elected, he would file a resolution to review the EPIRA and Oil Deregulation Law.

“These (laws) have to be studied. This is a very sensitive issue. I will manifest, once I win, to revisit the two laws,” Estrada said.

Estrada chided President Arroyo for appointing former secretary Angelo Reyes to the Department of Energy (DOE).

“GMA (President Arroyo) should not have appointed Reyes. I think he is not an expert on energy. She should have chosen someone with wide knowledge on energy. Reyes should have also declined his appointment as energy chief. Only I and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, among the members of the Commission on Appointments, objected to Reyes’ appointment before the CA. Maybe, Reyes had talked to other members of the CA,” Estrada said.

Estrada said he has also sponsored a bill seeking to amend the EPIRA co-authored by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, his party mate.

“I forgot the particular amendments. I don’t know if the House also passed a counterpart bill. Maybe in the next Congress, I will push for it again,” Estrada said.

Former Negros Occidental Rep. Apolinario “Jun” Lozada said the Oil Deregulation Law is everybody’s concern.

He said good laws are useless if the one heading the agency to implement such law is not good.

Lozada said the Department of Energy (DOE) should reorganize following the power crisis in Mindanao.

“There must be a reorganization of the DOE from top to bottom. Who really is the energy czar of the country? Not only the EPIRA, but also the Charter of the DOE (has to be restudied). Who really calls the shots? There is the PNOC (Philippine National Oil Company), the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), and DOE. The law by itself has to be reviewed. Unless the people knew what they are doing,” Lozada said.

Lozada said the present difficulties facing the country showed that the power crisis in Mindanao had already affected Metro Manila where residents have complained of increased power rates.

Former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad said the main purpose of the EPIRA is to encourage competition to lower power rates.

“It did not encourage competition and it makes the government powerless. There is a cartel among big oil companies. Cartel could drive away investors. It’s time to revisit it particularly in the face of the power crisis,” Tatad said.

Lawyer JV Bautista said the government must have full control of the industry to protect the people from greedy businessmen whose only objective is to gain more from their profit at the expense of the poverty-ridden Filipinos.

“We have an energy secretary lawyering for oil companies. Reyes, for not being able to do anything on the series of oil prices increases, said it’s deregulated. The state, during the Marcos regime, was able to control the prices of oil because he created Petron. It subsidized the oil industry and competed with privately owned oil companies. Why is it that every time there is an increase in oil products, the increases are not impeded, but when there is a decrease in oil prices, it’s not decreasing, NEDA says there is a decrease in oil, but DOE says there is none,” Bautista said.

Fair election act

On the issue of the Fair Election Act, Estrada said there are candidates who are now circumventing the law.

“They are using the party-list (groups) to have themselves included in the political advertisements. I’m in favor of revisiting the Fair Election Act,” Estrada said.

Estrada said the PMP has spent way below the allowed amount for the campaign.

He said the Fair Election Act was created out of the insecurity of politicians who cannot equal the wide publicity that movie actors-turned politicians like him are getting from media.

“Actors like me, who turned politicians, do not need political ads because the people are seeing us almost once in a while on television and in the movies,” Estrada said.

Tatad said there must be a complete ban on political ads.

He said candidates must not spend more than what they will earn legally once they win.

“If the candidates spent billions during the campaign, how will they recoup that once they win? We will need real electoral reform, not on the 11th hour… Who undergo the survey? What post the margin of error, etc. etc,” Tatad said.

Tatad said he wrote the Commission on Elections to enforce the provisions of Republic Act 9006 or the Fair Election Act on Pulse Asia, Social Weather Station (SWS) and other poll survey firms on their conduct and publication of survey results during the current campaign.

“I will be filing charges later. On our television ads, we should get 30 percent discount from TV ads, 10 percent from the print from the prevailing rates 12 months before the elections,” Tatad said.

Bautista agreed, saying that the Fair Election Act is turning into an “Unfair Election Act.”

“There must be electoral reforms. There should be no TV ads that are private. TV ads should be equal to all candidates. It’s not a matter of if I paid this much? The state must have a corresponding duty. Surveys should be regulated. If it has to be private, it should not be published. Mass media should not publicize it,” Bautista said.

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The military will be placed on red alert starting today as part of security preparations for the May 10 elections.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)–Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections), said the red alert status will be implemented until May 20 to allow the military to monitor the security situation in the field.

“The red alert will start at 8 a.m. It will be nationwide. We will start the manning of our (HOPE) operations center and that is the signal for us to start implementing our security operations,” Nepomuceno said.

A red alert means that all the military personnel should be readily available for deployment anytime. Such alert level would also entail the cancellation of all leaves to ensure adequate manpower.

Nepomuceno said the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the citizen arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), would send representatives to the HOPE operations center to enhance the gathering of poll-related updates.

He said the agreement with the PPCRV would allow HOPE to get feedback on the security issues on the precinct level.

The HOPE operation center would be located at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City and will be open to the media.

The PPCRV, as the Comelec’s deputized citizen arm, has been authorized to monitor the results of the May 10 elections. This is intended to promote transparency and accountability in the conduct of the polls.

The AFP is not allowed to engage in partisan politics but has been tasked to provide security during the transport of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to polling precincts nationwide.

In fact, heavily armed police and military forces were already deployed in strategic areas of Metro Manila yesterday to ensure the safe delivery of the PCOS machines.

Joint elements of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) and the AFP’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) in full battle gear were seen securing vehicles transporting 7,555 PCOS machines, 6.13 million ballots and ballot boxes and election paraphernalia to 743 precincts in Metro Manila.

NCRPO chief Director Roberto Rosales said the police and NCRCom vehicles securing the delivery trucks had global positioning system (GPS) devices for monitoring purposes.

The central hub is being secured by eight NCRPO and 15 NCRCom personnel who barred police officials and journalists who cannot produce access cards issued by Smartmatic from entering.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, on the other hand, said that agencies like the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Energy (DOE), Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the local government units (LGU) help in the implementation of safety measures during the polls.

“All other government agencies cannot afford to be mere bystanders in this historic and very important national exercise. Everyone has a moral obligation and duty to choose a new set of national and local leaders in an honest and orderly manner,” said Verzosa.

Because of this overwhelming effort by the AFP and the PNP, Malacañang expressed confidence that their respective members would remain professional and not allow themselves to be influenced by partisan groups.

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said the soldiers and policemen would remain true to their oath to defend democracy.

“Let us remember even in election time despite attacks on the integrity of certain individuals, the fact is the AFP and the police have performed their jobs in securing the elections and affirming our democratic exercises even beyond the call of duty,” Saludo told a news briefing.

He said the Armed Forces and the PNP play a key role in ensuring the success of the elections.

Old generals support Noynoy

Meanwhile, a group of retired military and police officers yesterday expressed support for the candidacy of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and vowed to guard against cheating in the upcoming May 10 polls.

In a statement, the group claiming to be EDSA 1986 veterans said Aquino can implement genuine reforms in the government and provide solutions to the problems plaguing the county.

“Many of us in recent years followed our ailing President Cory Aquino in her crusade to change a more oppressive, corrupt regime and unite the Filipino people in a fight for true reforms in ourselves, in our institutions and in our national character,” the statement read.

“Our beloved President Cory is now in the heavens but the torch of this crusade is now passed to her son, Senator “Noynoy” Aquino, who is seeking the presidency in 2010 to effect the reforms that all Filipinos are longing for,” it added.

“We would like to inform our people that we are now prepared to protect the votes of every Filipino and to ensure that these votes will be counted. We will see to it that the PNP and armed forces will do their duty,” he said.

Montaño said they will also remind those in active service to be faithful to their duties and to remain non-partisan.

He said they have learned their lesson in 2004 when they backed the candidacy of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., the closest rival of President Arroyo in the presidential race.

“If we know how we were cheated last time, we know how to counter it,” Montaño said. – Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero

NP claims Noynoy forming a 'GMA Cabinet'

NP claims Noynoy forming a ‘GMA Cabinet’
abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Nacionalista Party (NP) on Saturday scored Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino Jr. for allegedly forming a Cabinet way ahead of the May 10 automated elections.

“Aquino is clearly jumping too soon,” the NP said in a statement, hinting that Aquino is being overconfident that he will win the presidential race.

Aquino has slowly regained his wide lead over the NP standard-bearer Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. in the presidential survey. The latest Pulse Asia survey showed Aquino gaining a double-digit margin from his closest rival.

“This is proof that Aquino is already thinking of holding the highest position in the land when the election is still a month away. How can he do this when he has yet to prove that he will win the election?” the NP said. “And worst is that the Aquino presidency will be a virtual Arroyo administration with a GMA rehash Cabinet.”

Without naming its source, the NP said that among the future appointees of Aquino is Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Undersecretary Thomson Lantion.

It said Lantion, a former police official who is close to President Arroyo’s current executive secretary, Leandro Mendoza, will be appointed by Aquino as DOTC secretary.

The NP claimed that the other future Aquino appointees are re-electionist Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza as head of the Department of Agrarian Reform; North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol as secretary the Department of Energy; Avelino “Nonong” Cruz as National Defense chief; former Education Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad as Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways; former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman as Department of Environment and Natural Resources head; Ed Gana as Department of agriculture chief;

Former Economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, now running for senator under the Liberal Party as head of the Department of Finance; Makati Business Club’s Ramon del Rosario as Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government; Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement as Presidential Management Staff chief; and former Pangasinan governor Victor Agbayani as secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry.

The NP predicted that if Aquino wins, they expect him to appoint relatives and friends to his future Cabinet.

'Energy crisis needs to be resolved soon'

‘Energy crisis needs to be resolved soon’
By Jose Rodel Clapano
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada said yesterday that the next Chief Executive must prioritize resolving the energy crisis.

Estrada expressed frustration over alleged corruption and incompetence at the Department of Energy, which is causing the present power crisis in the country.

“As far back as two years ago, at the height of the rice crisis, analysts were already saying that the country will be facing an energy crisis in 2010. Why did the government sleep on this?” he said.

“The problem with this present government is that they do not appoint men of competence. A president must appoint men of unquestionable integrity and competence. The best example is in the field of energy, they appointed Angelo Reyes (chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during his administration). What does he know about energy?” Estrada said.

“In the field of energy we need long-term solutions. You cannot rush it. I will call a meeting of the best minds in the field of energy to come together at the beginning of my term so that by the end of my term the Philippines can be the leading country in Asia especially in the field of alternative energy,” he said.

Mikey's party-list bid hits snag in new guidelines

Mikey’s party-list bid hits snag in new guidelines
abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – A bid by President Arroyo’s son, Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, to remain a member of Congress through the party-list elections could be jeopardized by new Commission on Elections (Comelec) guidelines on screening party-list organizations.

According to Comelec Resolution 8806, a nominee should be “one who belongs to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition he seeks to represent; and able to contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole.”

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said that under the guidelines, the party-list nominees must submit evidence to prove that they are members of the marginalized sector including speeches and articles about that advocacy.

He said that in the case of Mikey Arroyo, the President’s son must prove that he is a member of the marginalized sector that he wishes to represent in Congress. Arroyo has been named as the nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP), which seeks to represent security guards and tricycle drivers in Congress.

“What we are saying here is that a person who wants to represent a party-list group as the nominee has to show that he is part of the party-list group. If he is not a tricycle driver and the party-list group is representing tricycle drivers, it would look like there are grounds for his disqualification,” he said in an ANC interview.

Jimenez said the party-list nominee should have the tools to make laws that will benefit the sector that he is representing. He said the nominee should have a track record of participation in activities involving that particular sector. “By that definition, someone like a parent of a disabled child could possibly squeak past the requirement. It will have to be on a case to case basis,” he said.

He said the same argument could be made in the case of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes who is running as the party-list nominee of 1-UTAK, a group representing the transport sector.

“If he can show that [his post as DOE chief] can be equated to him belonging to a marginalized sector, I suppose he could make that argument…It seems as a whole, the guidelines require a more personal connection to the underrepresented sectors,” he said.

Under the new guidelines, party-list groups must submit documentary evidence to prove that their group advances the causes of marginalized sectors. Party-list groups must also prove their nominees adhere to the principles and advocacies of the group by submitting copies of declarations, speeches and articles made by nominees.

Party-list nominees should be members of the party-list group 90 days before the polls. There should aso be proof that the nominees are not only advocates of the party-list groups but also bona fide members of the marginalized sectors they represent.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said a nominee could be disqualified if a petition for disqualification is filed against him within 5 days after the last day of filing for party-list nominees. The deadline for the May polls is March 26.

Nominees could also be disqualified if they are nominees of more than one party, if they have not given their written consent or oath to be nominees, and if they are candidates for other positions or lost in the previous election.

The other qualifications are based on Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act: nominees should be Filipino citizens, registered voters, residents of the Philippines for not less than a year before the elections, literate, and aged 25 and above.

Sarmiento described the resolution as a modest effort of the Comelec using its plenary powers to fine-tune the party-list law, which he said badly needs improvement.

“We have all these problems because of un-fine-tuned provisions,” he said, adding that the law should have been fine-tuned by Congress a long time ago.

Disqualification case filed vs Arroyo

Two party-list lawmakers on Thursday filed a disqualification case against Mikey Arroyo as a party-list group nominee, saying that there is no way that Arroyo could claim to represent security guards and tricycle drivers.

In their petition, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza said party-list organizations including their nominees must factually and truly represent the marginalized and underrepresented constituencies.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño earlier noted that Arroyo cannot be a member of the party-list group because he is currently a ranking member of the ruling party Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

“He has always been a leader of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD. He is a representative in Congress as a ranking member of Lakas-Kampi-CMD. I don’t know when he decided to switch parties,” he said.

Casiño said their group is also planning to seek the disqualification of other party-list nominees, including Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, who is being considered by transport group 1-UTAK as their nominee for the May 10 elections.

He said Reyes’s pending nomination would be ironic since most members of various transport groups are angry at him for his failure to stop oil price increases since he was appointed secretary of the Department of Energy.

Casiño and other members of the opposition believe that the party-list and district representation bids of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies, including her son, is a clear sign that the administration is attempting to form a “very powerful block” at the House of Representatives.

The other Arroyos seeking congressional posts are Mrs. Arroyo’s son Diosdado “Dato” in Camarines Sur, brother-in-law Ignacio “Iggy” for the 5th district of Negros Occidental, and sister-in-law Marilou for party-list Ang Kasangga.

Casiño sees Supreme Court rejecting Mikey's party-list bid

Casiño sees Supreme Court rejecting Mikey’s party-list bid
abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – An incumbent party-list representative said Thursday that he is confident the Supreme Court (SC) will not allow Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo to run as representative of security guards in Congress.

“According to the Supreme Court [in a decision] in 2001, a party-list nominee should come from the sector that he represents,” Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño told ANC’s Headstart ahead of their group’s filing of a disqualification case against Arroyo.

Casiño said Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, who are both running for senator as guest candidates of the Nacionalista Party (NP), will file the disqualification case before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday afternoon.

He said they cannot go directly to the SC because the Comelec has immediate jurisdiction over the disqualification case.

The activist congressman said one of the issues they will raise in the petition is Arroyo’s qualification as representative of Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP), a party-list group that claims to represent security guards.

“We can’t say that Mikey Arroyo represents tricycle drivers or security guards. He has a lot of security guards but he cannot represent the sector,” he said.

He added that Arroyo cannot be a member of the party-list group because he is currently a ranking member of the ruling party Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

The Constitution says a party-list nominee should be a member of the group for at least 90 days.

“He has always been a leader of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD. He is a representative in Congress as a ranking member of Lakas-Kampi-CMD. I don’t know when he decided to switch parties,” he said.

Casiño said their group is also planning to seek the disqualification of other party-list nominees, including Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, who is being considered by transport group 1-UTAK as their nominee for the May 10 elections.

He said Reyes’s pending nomination would be ironic since most members of various transport groups are angry at him for his failure to stop oil price increases since he was appointed secretary of the Department of Energy.

Forming a powerful block in Congress

Casiño and other members of the opposition believe that the party-list and district representation bids of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies, including her son, is a clear sign that the administration is attempting to form a “very powerful block” at the House of Representatives.

The other Arroyos seeking congressional posts are Mrs. Arroyo’s son Diosdado “Dato” in Camarines Sur, brother-in-law Ignacio “Iggy” for the 5th district of Negros Occidental, and sister-in-law Marilou for party-list Ang Kasangga.

Mikey has denied accusations that the Arroyos’ congressional bids will help Mrs. Arroyo become House Speaker in the next Congress.

“I don’t understand that scenario. Assuming there are 4 Arroyos in Congress, 4 Arroyos cannot make Speaker. It will still be a vote of the majority,” Rep. Arroyo told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday.

Casiño, however, said that if all the Arroyos and their allies win seats in Congress, “she will have a strong block to support her move.”

“This block can be used to push for Charter change or to push for an impeachment of the next president. That’s a very powerful block,” he said. “There are many ways to maneuver within Congress, given who Mrs. Arroyo is and the kind of power and influence that a former president can yield.”

He said that Mrs. Arroyo can also use her influence at the House to block “investigations into the things that she did during her term as president.”

Members of the political opposition have threatened to prosecute Mrs. Arroyo for alleged corrupt activities during her presidency.

The DOE’s Php 10 Billion Deal

The DOE’s Php 10 Billion Deal
By Dean De La Paz
Filipino Voices

The plan was to skip the safeguards, skirt congressional debate and virtually write a Php 10 billion check for 160 megawatt (mw) generators for Mindanao. One reader says let’s cut through the crap. Let’s do that. Let us analyze this deal from the perspective of accounting, tariffs, and cost-benefits.

Freed from checks, of the amount open to risk and spending-as-they-please (anything from matches and kindling to rain dancers and glow worms), half comes from calamity funds, another, from contingencies. By applying the US$ 1.0 million per megawatt benchmark for the development of diesel-fired plants, Php 20 billion calamity and contingency funds can buy 444.50 megawatts at Php 45.00 to the dollar.

The ratio assumes capitalized expenditures (capex) depreciated over continuous annual cash flows. Of that 25% are pre-operating development plus financing charges, while from 55% (for Japanese-branded engines) to 75% (for European-branded equipment) are capex.

If diesels generators were purchased by the National Power Corporation (NPC), cost capitalization applies and capex depreciates thus allowing fewer encumbrances on downstream tariffs. Unfortunately, NPC does not have that kind of money for a crisis they predicted would hit in 2008 when Mindanao’s 1,697mw demand surpassed 1,681mw capacities.

Ad hoc cabinet gatekeepers should crunch the math before opening their mouths. Should local government units (LGU) lease or buy 160mw generators, both ways, acquisition is charged in the present.

Under government accounting protocols, equipment acquisition must be expensed in real-time. Calamity and contingent funds are not allowed depreciation when expended by LGUs. Their acquisition costs cannot be capitalized over time. Together with real-time lease charges, operation and maintenance (O&M) and fuel costs inflict inordinately heavy burdens on tariffs when we consider that the crisis is quickly washed off by the coming rains.

When the Energy Department pushed for emergency powers they estimated the cost of the Mindanao fix between Php 8 billion to Php 10 billion. Where did they get those numbers?

At Php 10 billion for leases, the effective expense of US$ 1.40 million/mw against capital expenditures ranging from US$ 550 thousand to US$ 750 thousand per megawatt is excessive. There would be no financing or pre-operating costs. For every dollar only from 39% to 54% goes to generating capacity. This raises red flags. The fudge represents funds risked to “other costs”, corruption and windfalls for middlemen.

Until the rains come in July, that’s a monthly operating expense of Php 2.5 billion against the estimates of business losses of Php 1.0 billion from revenues foregone and incremental expenses from self-generating units. If Php 2.5 billion includes fuel and O&M charges, the unsubsidized fuel-cost soars north from Php 19.60 to over Php 24.11 per kilowatt-hour. Higher if fuel costs were not included.

Why? The emergency funds must cover leasing, O&M and fuel costs. Our basis is NPC’s Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) full costs and subsidies.

Modulars run on diesel, barges, on bunker. Bunker is cheaper. Officials want diesel-fired 160 megawatt modulars forgetting the four dormant bunker-fired 242mw barges moored off Navotas.

Fuel costs for SPUG’s bunker-fired plants range from Php 12.00/kwh to Php 18.00/kwh. When generators cost US$ 1.4 million/mw, minimum diesel costs start from Php 19.60/kwh to Php 24.11/kwh. Costs per kilowatt-hour increase given load factors of 90% and below. Sensitivity runs indicate as much as Php 25.29/kwh. Now add leasing and O&M.

Back to the bigger picture, the net effects are additional losses of at least Php 5 million where the Php 1.0 billion monthly business losses vanish but are replaced by total monthly costs of Php 2.5 billion (Php 10 billion divided by four months) and astronomical increases in tariffs.

After spending Php 10 billion, over Php 750 million in residual monthly losses will continue as the 160mw patchwork hardly covers Mindanao’s 650mw deficiency.

On logistics, because modulars come in increments of 1.0mw and 2.0mw units, 160mw entails at least eighty separate power purchase agreements (PPA) where each PPA creates a Gordian knot of stranded asset and contract costs. Because of the abbreviated crisis period, take-or-pay provisions are likely.

In summary, government accounting compels real-time expenses. The benchmark equipment costs, whether leased or purchased, allow margins that license corruption. The per kilowatt-hour charges for this 160mw scare, skirt and suck strategy show suddenly-bloated tariffs. By expensing Php 2.5 billion to mitigate Php 1.0 billion in monthly losses in the Garci and Ampatuan sandbox, this ludicrous gambit adds to the Mindanao curse as it falls short of the temporary deficiency but recklessly allows unchecked, corruption-prone leeway.

Palace: No need to worry about use of calamity funds

Palace: No need to worry about use of calamity funds
By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang allayed fears raised by some politicians that the authority of local government units (LGU) to manage the calamity funds could become a source of corruption and abuse.

Presidential spokespman Ricardo Saludo, in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan, said that these comments, especially coming from opposition candidates, were expected as they would say anything get to their names in the news.

However, he said there are several mechanisms already in place to prevent such abuses, especially since all eyes would be on the LGUs in Mindanao to see how they would address the power crisis. It would thus be very difficult for them to divert the calamity funds for their own purposes.

He said the Procurement and Transparency Group (PTG), led by a representative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, and other civil society groups and watchdogs from the private sector would be monitoring the activities of the LGUs.

He emphasized that the declaration of a state of calamity in Mindanao should prompt the LGUs as well as the Department of Energy (DOE) to take immediate actions to ensure that the power crisis is addressed.

Mindanao Development Authority (MDA) chairman Jesus Dureza, meanwhile, said that in a worst-case scenario, power providers should shut out supplies for users and divert power to polling centers to ensure that the elections in Mindanao will not be disrupted by the power shortage. Speaking at the weekly radio program “Para Sa Iyo Bayan” of Vice President Noli De Castro, Dureza said buying, leasing and using high speed generators would mean higher cost of power in Mindanao.

Dureza noted that the Pulangui and Agus hydro power plants that are daily sources of 900 megawatts in Mindanao are now only generating 15 megawatts.

As a mitigating effort, he said the Cabinet agreed on Friday to assist the private sector, which is considering leasing “quick power generating” machines like those used during the Beijing Olympics that can be installed in 30 to 40 days.

Rains hardly mattered

Meanwhile, intermittent rains have failed to add to the dwindling water level of Magat Dam, which temporarily stopped generating power for the Luzon grid.

“The rains failed to have any effect on the dam’s water level,” said engineer Saturnino Tenedor, head of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) based at the Magat dam hydroelectric and irrigation project located along the Isabela-Ifugao border.

Tenedor said that despite the rain, the dam’s water elevation further dipped to 152.57 meters as of 1 p.m. yesterday, compared to 153.1 meters registered the other day.

Last Wednesday, the Magat power plant temporarily stopped generating power after the dam’s water level dropped below 153.5 meters.

For the Magat power plant to generate the maximum amount of power, the dam’s water level should not be below 183 meters, or at least its minimum operational level at 160 meters.

The state-run NIA, which still owns the Magat dam’s irrigation facility, said that it is also anticipating closing its gates for irrigation if the dam’s water level reaches below 150 meters.

The dam is the second biggest power provider of all hydro facilities to the Luzon grid after Pangasinan’s San Roque Dam, which is also expected to hit its critical level in the next three weeks.

According to SRPC vice president for social responsibility Tommy Valdez and NIA engineer Seferino Sta. Ana, San Roque Dam, which lies at the boundary of San Manuel and San Nicolas in Pangasinan, “is dropping at about .4 meters a day and at that rate, the minimum critical low level of 225 meters may be hit by April.”

As of March 12, the water elevation of the dam was at 243.56 meters.

The dam’s average daily power dispatch is only 66 megawatts (MW), 50 MW during non-peak hours and 95 MW during peak hours, the officials said.

At 225-meter water elevation, officials said the plant could only generate power and will not be able to provide water for irrigation.

No need for emergency powers

Meanwhile, Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said farmers displaced by the impact of the El Niño should be employed by the government state-funded construction projects to ensure that they will have a source of income during the lean months before the next harvest.

Liberal Party (LP) standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, on the other hand, is pushing for the expansion of renewable energy sources.

He also insisted that there is no need to grant President Arroyo emergency powers to address the power crisis, because there are enough laws to address the problem.

“She has been in power for almost nine years, and yet here we are still facing blackouts during a crucial election season,” he said.

He pointed out that it would take two to three, or even five years to build a power plant. But he acknowledged that there are large-capacity generators which government can buy to address the lack of supply.

The LP bet said he prefers developing clean, renewable energy because it is less polluting than fossil fuels. — Aurea Calica, Delon Porcalla, Jaime Laude, Pia Lee Brago, Charlie Lagasca

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