Nationwide round-up (03/17/21)

Senator calls for lower loan interest rate on modern public transport

A SENATOR asked transportation authorities to reduce the interest rate on loans for public vehicles procured under the modernization program to 4% from 6% to lessen the burden on operators and drivers. In a statement on Wednesday, Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares urged the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the LandBank of the Philippines to cut the interest as the sector was hit hard by the pandemic. “If we want to really help our public transport sector transition to PUV (public utility vehicle) modernization, all support must be extended to our operators and drivers who have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” Ms. Llamanzares, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said in a statement. Danilo C. Yumul, chairman of the Confederation of Drivers and Operators in Central Luzon, said during the Senate committee hearing on Tuesday that drivers and operators cannot borrow money to buy modern units because of the interest rate and the loan term. He added that drivers could not afford the P40,000 monthly payment for a new vehicle even before the pandemic. Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said the interest rate reduction can serve as a subsidy to the drivers and operators. The Senate on Tuesday tackled Senate Bill No. 867 or the Just and Humane PUV Modernization Act, which proposes that government provide financial assistance of not less than 10% of the total price per unit and the interest rate on loan amortization should not exceed 4%. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Duterte to meet recipient villages of anti-communist funds in Eastern Visayas

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte will meet with barangay leaders in Eastern Visayas on Mar. 18 as the development program aimed at ending communist rebellion is rolled out in the region, according to the Presidential Palace. National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. said the President will hold a dialogue with the beneficiaries of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s controversial Barangay Development Program (BDP). “With the President personally witnessing the implementation of the BDP and other socio economic initiatives, he is ensuring that the improvement of the human conditions in Region 8 will be delivered with all possible haste,” Mr. Esperon, who co-chairs the task-force, said in a statement on Wednesday. The BDP’s allocation of about P16.4 billion in the 2021 national budget was questioned by Congress but eventually allowed for inclusion. The program incentivises barangays in 197 local governments that have supposedly cleared their areas of Maoist rebels. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Drilon says High Court recognizes limits of President’s power despite dismissal of petition on ICC withdrawal

SENATE Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said the Supreme Court recognizes the limitations of the President’s authority on foreign policy despite dismissing the petition questioning the country’s withdrawal form the International Criminal Court (ICC). “While the Supreme Court dismissed the petition questioning the validity of the Philippine government’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute for being moot and academic, the High Court acknowledged the limitations on the power of the President as chief architect of foreign policy,” Mr. Drilon, who was one of the case petitioners, said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is a clear recognition of the limitations of the power of the President with respect to foreign policy. Most striking is the acknowledgement that the power of the President to withdraw ‘unilaterally’ can be subject to limitations by the Senate,” he added. The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the petition against the withdrawal from ICC for being moot. The decision penned by Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen acknowledged that the President’s decision to withdraw unilaterally “can be limited by the conditions for concurrence by the Senate” or when a law allows negotiation of an international agreement, the court said in a statement. The Philippines officially had withdrawn from the ICC in Mar. 2019. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Solon tells PCSO to digitize lotteries to improve revenue

A LAWMAKER told the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) that it must digitize the operations of small town lotteries (STLs) to improve revenue after the agency reported losses last year. Albay 2nd District Rep. Jose Ma. S. Salceda, in a hearing of the House of Representatives committee on ways and means that he chairs, told PCSO officials, “Can you please prioritize digitizing the STLs?” Mr. Salceda also said the PCSO should improve its management of STLs, which continue to serve as fronts for the illegal numbers game known as jueteng. “It’s like you’re providing legal camouflage,” he said. Mr. Salceda said the PCSO can earn up to P256 billion in revenues if it adopts a digital platform that will be accessible to bettors nationwide. PCSO officials said the agency is currently studying the proposal as well as ways to conduct the Super Lotto draw online. The agency said revenues were lower in 2020 compared to previous years due to the closure of its franchises for half a year due to coronavirus-related restrictions. The PCSO reported an P18.6 billion income in 2020, a 58% drop from P44 billion in 2019. Lotto draws accounted for over P11 billion of the earnings while STLs contributed more than P5 billion. — Gillian M. Cortez


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