Duterte skips Heroes’ Day ceremony

PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte on Monday skipped the National Heroes’ Day commemoration rites because he was not feeling well, his former aide Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go says. “He is indisposed. Seventy-four years old na po si Pangulo at kailangan niya ring magpahinga… Ang dami naming lakad (The President is 74 years old and he needs to rest too. He has so many affairs to attend to),” Mr. Go said in a televised media interview at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Monday.

He added that Mr. Duterte had met with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari in Davao City over the weekend. There will be follow-up meetings with bigger groups, he said.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said last week that Mr. Duterte is considering creating another autonomous government for the MNLF.

House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano represented the President at the National Heroes’ Day rites. In his message to the nation, Mr. Duterte called on the public to “embody solidarity and sustain our momentum towards positive change not only for ourselves, but for the succeeding generations as well.”

Mr. Duterte is scheduled to leave on Aug. 28 for his fifth visit to China, upon the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The visit runs until Sept. 1, a day earlier than initially planned.

The Palace earlier announced the trip will last until Sept. 2, but the DFA said the President will no longer visit Fujian province and instead fly back to the Philippines on the 1st. Mr. Duterte’s health has been the subject of public speculation since 2016.

On July 22 last year, before his third State of the Nation Address, the President was reported visiting a hospital. But the Palace said it was only for a regular medical examination. In February this year, rumors about his death circulated online. — Arjay L. Balinbin

Dar assures sufficient pork supply

DEPARTMENT OF Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar has assured there is enough pork supply for the coming Christmas Season amid increased hog mortality in some areas. “Wala pang problema sa (There is no problem yet with) supply. ‘Yan ang (That is the) commitment ng (of the) hog raisers, commercial raisers… We have enough pork supply,” he told reporters on Monday.

The DA on August 19 announced that is has received reports of increased hog mortality, which was “2% beyond normal” in areas that remain identified. However, reports from international media noted that Taiwan will be imposing special baggage check on passengers from the Philippines after a suspected outbreak of African Swine Fever in the provinces of Bulacan and Rizal.

ASF is a non-treatable and contagious disease, and can kill swine in as fast as two days. Mr. Dar said the department is considering one of the major economic swine diseases listed by the World organization for Animal Health (OIE) as the cause of the deaths. Based on OIE-listed diseases for 2019, the possible swine diseases and infections include infection with ASF virus, infection with classical swine fever virus, infection with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, infection with Taenia solium (Porcine cysticerosis), Nipah virus encephalitis, and Transmissible gastroenteritis.

Senator Cynthia A. Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture, called for calm among hog raisers and consumers while the DA is assessing the matter. “Ito naman ay isang (This is a) separate incident na hindi naman (that is not yet) proven na (as) ASF… so dapat relax lang tayo (so let’s just relax). We should just observe the proper practices to make sure that sanitary ‘yung ating mga (our) hog farm,” she told reporters. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang

Villar vows to push for Coco Levy Trust Fund bill passage within the year


SENATOR CYNTHIA A. Villar, chair of the Senate committee on Agriculture, said she aims to push for the passage of the Coco Levy Trust Fund bill within the year.

“We have talked to the Executive Department to find out what needs to be revised or incorporated in the bill or what the reason was for the veto. We talked about it and I think it was a fruitful discussion, so again we will be refilling the bill with the proper corrections and we hope to pass it before the end of the year,” she said during her speech for the opening of the 55th International Coconut Community Session and Ministerial Meeting on Monday in Pasay City. She said one of the revisions would be the creation of two committees, one for finance and another for implementation, to make sure that the funds will be used efficiently and effectively. This would also be in line with adjustments being undertaken at the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).

Coco levy are the taxes collected from coconut farmers by the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and his cronies. The 100-billion Coco Levy Fund, which will help alleviate the lives of about 3.5 million coconut farmers, was vetoed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in February this year. He said he wants more safeguards and a stronger Executive role in the implementation of the fund. He said in his State of the Nation Address last July, “I also have not forgotten my commitment to uplift the lives of coconut farmers and further develop coconut industry through the urgent utilization of the Coconut Levy Fund.” He also urged lawmakers to pass “a more responsive version” of the bill.

Meanwhile, Ms. Villar also said she will push more coconut farmers to practice intercropping with cacao and coffee, which would increase their income by $200 per month. Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar, for his part, said he aims to strengthen links between the private sector and farmers for the coconut industry’s growth. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang