Duterte blames regulator for toll mess

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday night warned toll officials to improve their service amid public complaints against cashless toll transactions or step down.

The President in a televised speech blamed the Toll Regulatory Board for glitches in radio frequency identification systems at toll gates that had caused traffic congestion at major expressways.

He called the regulator incompetent for failing to do a trial run. “The system was not tested thoroughly, which translates into something like incompetence.”

The government adopted a cashless toll payment system at about 200 toll gates after some workers got infected with the coronavirus.

Senators hit the regulator for failing to penalize toll operators for their faulty implementation of the cashless toll scheme since 2017.

“You have the power but you’re not using it,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian told a Senate hearing on the RFID system. — Gillian M. Cortez and Charmaine A. Tadalan

House deputy speakers balloon to 32

THE HOUSE of Representatives now has 32 deputy speakers, just two months after Speaker Lord Allan Q. Velasco assumed the leadership.

Congressmen on Wednesday — the last day of sessions this year — elected Cavite Rep. Abraham Tolentino and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab as deputy speakers.

The deputy speakership is one of the chamber’s top posts. A deputy speaker can vote in all committees.

Some of the elected deputy speakers had helped oust Taguig City Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano, Mr. Velasco’s predecessor. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

80,000 more OFWs to return

MORE than 80,000 migrant Filipino workers are expected to come home early next year as countries continue to reel from the impact of a global coronavirus pandemic.

“We are expecting over 80,000 to come home,” Hans Leo J. Cacdac, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief, told a news briefing on Thursday. “That’s for the first half of next year.”

More than half-a-million Filipinos have come home after being displaced by the pandemic, International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB) Director Alice Visperas told a separate briefing.

The government had helped more than 370,000 out of 550,000 overseas Filipino workers who got displaced to return to their home provinces, she said.

About 350,000 returning migrant workers also received a one-time cash aid of P10,000 each. — Gillian M. Cortez

NEDA bats for pilot physical classes

THE NATIONAL Economic Development and Authority (NEDA) on Thursday said a government plan to pilot-test face-to-face classes in January would help children learn more and boost the economy in the long run.

“We are glad as health systems improve and as we relax quarantines, we are now going to pilot face-to-face learning starting January,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua told a news briefing. “It will have a big impact on the economy because children will learn more and become more productive.”

“But we have to do it safely and slowly,” Mr. Chua said.

More than a thousand out of 61,000 schools in the country have been nominated to take part in the pilot run, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said on Wednesday. — Beatrice M. Laforga