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Senators call to prioritize job generation in COVID measures

SENATORS ON Monday pushed for measures that will create and preserve jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic that has so far left 7.3 million Filipinos unemployed. Senator Imee R. Marcos, economic affairs committee chairperson, has filed Senate Bill No. 1590, the Trabaho sa Oras ng Pandemya bill, which mandates government agencies to integrate their job generation programs. “Ang unang-una natin kailangan gawin ‘yung (The first thing we should address is) joblessness,” Ms. Marcos said in an online briefing Monday. “Ang gobyerno may programang ganyan kaso watak-watak (The government’s current program is disorganized),” she said, citing the cash-for-work program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the cash assistance to displaced workers from the labor department, among others. The bill calls for the establishment of a council that will draft a national plan on job creation and provide assistance to unemployed Filipinos in coordination with various government agencies. It will also appropriate P200 million annually through the national budget. The bill was filed in light of the increasing unemployment rate after a lockdown was imposed since mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation. While the government has eased restrictions in most areas, the economic downturn due to the coronavirus outbreak lingers. “Our economy simply cannot afford another ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) or even a continued persistent lockdown,” Ms. Marcos said. For his part, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian asked state economic managers to increase spending for preserving jobs through a stimulus package. “Sa akin, iisa lang ang dapat tutukan ng (For me, the focus of the) stimulus package at ito ‘yung (should be) job preservation,” Mr. Gatchalian, who is vice chairman of the economic affairs committee, said in a statement Monday. The proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One law provided for a P140 billion standby fund for targeted sectors. The Senate was unable to pass the measure on final reading in the absence of a notice certifying the bill as an urgent measure from Malacañang. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

OVER 1.3M families served with cash aid round 2


MORE THAN 1.3 million families have received their cash aid under the second round of the government’s social amelioration program (SAP), which targets 18 million low-income households affected by the lockdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak. “Ang total number na nabigyan na natin ng ayuda na second tranche ay (The total number of those given aid for the second tranche is) 1,345,102,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said in a briefing on Monday. He added the total amount distributed was P6.79 billion. The SAP is a two month financial subsidy program, ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per month depending on the region’s minimum wage level, intended to help families during the strict quarantine period from mid-March to May. The first round of distribution has been widely criticized for delays, inefficiencies, and alleged corruption in several localities. The government vowed improvements in the second tranche with the use of electronic platforms for distribution. — Gillian M. Cortez

DA taps renewable energy for urban agriculture program

THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) will maximize the use of renewable energy to sustain food production under its Urban Agriculture Project. In a statement on Monday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said he has received 19 units of 30-watt solar panels from Weather Philippines Foundation Inc. President Maribeth L. Marasigan, which will be used to power water systems for vegetable production. Mr. Dar said the solar panels will generate electricity to sustain the DA’s aquaponics and hydroponics technologies located in the gardens of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) in Malate, Manila. “We are promoting,in a big way, renewable energy in agriculture as this is the key to level up food production in the future,” Mr. Dar said. Mr. Dar encouraged other private companies to partner with the DA for projects involving primary production, secondary, and tertiary processing through their agribusiness efforts and corporate social responsibility programs. Meanwhile, BPI Director George Y. Culaste has collaborated with Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. on various innovation activities and support in value-adding and agribusiness. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

POGOs’ pull out not an economic loss — senator

THE DEPARTURE of Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) is not considered a loss to the country’s economy, a senator said on Monday. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. disclosed over the weekend that two POGO firms have left the country over difficulties in securing tax clearance from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). “POGOs won’t be a loss to the Philippine economy. We should attract companies that invest in Filipino people. Good riddance,” Senator Joel J. Villanueva said in a phone message Monday. Senators have previously slammed POGO operations over violations such as the failure to pay taxes, illegal employment of foreign workers, and alleged link to the rise in human trafficking incidents. Mr. Villanueva and Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel noted that the firms pulling out their operations from the country should still settle their tax dues. “The exiting POGO companies should still pay the taxes they owe us. Otherwise, we should blacklist them and name them publicly so that other countries will be warned about the behavior of these companies,” Mr. Villanueva said. POGOs are subject to a 5% franchise tax, in lieu of all kinds of taxes; normal income tax, value-added tax and other taxes on other related services income from non-gaming operations, among others. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

2020 bar exams postponed

THE 2020 Bar Examinations, annually held in November, has been moved to a still undetermined schedule next year, the Supreme Court announced Monday. Associate Justice Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, in a bulletin, said the postponement in consideration of the coronavirus outbreak “will definitely not be held at a date earlier than February 2021.” Mr. Leonen has previously said that the next bar exams will be held in Manila and Cebu City.

Past bar exams were held on the four Sundays of November at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. In the 2019 exam for lawyers, 2,103 out of 7,685 takers passed. Their oath-taking was held online on June 25. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

Justice chief again nominated for Supreme Court seat

JUSTICE SECRETARY Menardo I. Guevarra is again nominated for a seat in the Supreme Court to be vacated by Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes, Jr. who will retire on September 18. This is the second time Mr. Guevarra was nominated by retired Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Raoul V. Victorino to the Judicial and Bar Council, with the first nomination late last year for the associate justice post vacated by now Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta. Mr. Guevarra declined the nomination then, saying he is “still in love” with the Department of Justice. In his letter to the JBC, Mr. Victorino said Mr. Guevarra is a “person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence and his sense of patriotism through his socio-civic engagements… This time, I believe, is that he will meet his true love to the other side part of Padre Faura, Manila. May his love for justice move the Secretary of Justice to the glorious and historic halls of the Supreme Court,” the nomination read. The JBC revised its rules effective June 8, including provisions specifying remaining years of service required for applicants prior to retirement. Applicants for associate justice or chief justice position must have at least 2.5 years remaining if they have served as associate justice or presiding judge of an appellate court, court administrator, chairperson of constitutional commission, solicitor general or department secretary, according to the revised rules. Five remaining years prior to retirement is required for applicants who have not served any of the said positions. Applicants to the high court must be at least 40 years old and have been a judge of the lower court or engaged in practice of law for 15 years. Mr. Guevarra is now 66 years old.— Vann Marlo M. Villegas