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Palace: BBL should adhere to the Constitution

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should be purged of constitutional infirmities to avoid being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

“You need to pass a BBL that’s consistent with the Philippine Constitution, simply put,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a press briefing.

Roque noted that a similar effort — the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain — during the Arroyo administration was struck down by the Supreme Court for violating the Constitution.

In December, President Duterte said he had doubts about the draft BBL passing constitutional muster.
But on Monday, Roque said the President wanted the proposal passed before Congress proceeds with Charter change.
Roque also dismissed as “speculative” suggestions that Malacañang was prioritizing the BBL over Charter change because the House of Representatives-led campaign to revise the Constitution was antagonizing the Senate due to reports that it would be abolished.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III conceded on Tuesday that it was easier to pass the draft BBL than amend the Constitution, which Mr. Duterte now wants Congress to prioritize amid the division between the Senate and the House over the mode of pursuing the changes.
This developed as Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said he had assured the President that the Senate would prioritize the proposed BBL.



Taguig transport terminal breaks ground

An graphic image shows how the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange would look like when completed in 2020. INQUIRER / JOVIC YEE
Close to 4,000 provincial buses are expected to be taken off of Edsa and other major roads once the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange (ITX) becomes operational by the first half of 2020.

On Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade led officials in the groundbreaking ceremony of the second integrated transport terminal meant to not only improve the public’s commuting experience but also decongest Edsa.

To be built in partnership with Ayala Corp., the Taguig ITX will rise inside the 5.6-hectare FTI compound. It will host the provincial buses going to and coming from South Luzon, Bicol, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The six-story building will have a centralized ticketing area, a number of business and retail establishments, and can accommodate an estimated 160,000 passengers daily.
Construction of the terminal is set to start by the second half of this year. To ensure better connectivity, the terminal will be linked to the Philippine National Railways’ FTI station and the proposed subway system. /cbb



Doubling teachers’ pay to impact govt’s fiscal health — Diokno

BUDGET Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he was not opposed to the salary increase for teachers but clarified that doubling their pay would negatively impact the government’s fiscal health.

“The DBM [Department of Budget and Management] recognizes the important role of teachers. We are not strictly against the salary increase of teachers,” Diokno told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“I understand the crucial role teachers have in nation-building and I do believe they should be rewarded accordingly,” he added.

In fact, Diokno said that the take-home pay of teachers has already increased this year with the implementation of the third tranche of the Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

He said that currently, an entry-level public school teacher (Teacher 1) with a Salary Grade 11 under Tranche 3 of the SSL gets a monthly salary of P20,179.

“Annually, he/she enjoys bonuses and allowances of P74,358. This rounds up the monthly compensation package of teachers to P26,375,” he added.

The Budget chief said that by 2019, the monthly salary of an entry-level teacher will increase to P20,754 and the total annual bonuses and allowances will increase to P75,508, rounding up their monthly compensation package to P27,046, or P671 more per month.

He said the reason behind his previous statements in which he cautioned against the doubling of teachers’ salaries was its budgetary impact.

He clarified that President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction was “to look into increasing their salaries, not doubling them.”

Diokno said that doubling the salaries of teachers this year will require an additional P343.7 billion in recurring costs for the national government.

“Financing this P343.7 billion may require hiking the deficit from 3 percent of GDP [gross domestic product]to 5 percent of GDP, and it may put at risk the excellent international financial standing the Duterte administration has built over the past 18 months,” he said. MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO


Classes suspended in Bicol due to heavy rain

This satellite photo taken and released by Pagasa Wednesday morning, Jan. 17, 2018, shows the clouds (indicated by the colors yellow and orange) that are bringing heavy rainfall in much of Luzon. PAGASA IMAGE
LEGAZPI CITY – Classes on Wednesday in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, and some towns in Sorsogon were suspended due to heavy rainfall that poured without letup since Tuesday.

In Albay, Governor Al Francis Bichara said due to the orange warning or heavy rainfall warning issued by the weather bureau, classes in all levels in public and private schools were suspended. Flooding is possible in the low lying areas and near river channels, as well as landslides in the mountainous areas.

In Sorsogon, John Joseph Perez, information officer of Department of Education, said the local government of Pilar has suspended classes in all levels. In Sorsogon’s Castilla town, classes in pre-school to secondary were also suspended.

In Camarines Sur, Governor Migz Villafuerte also announced a suspension of classes in all levels due to the continuous rain that may cause flooding and landslide in some areas in the province. Sailing, island-hopping and water activities were also prohibited in Camarines Sur due to gale warning.
In Camarines Norte, Governor Edgardo Tallado also announced a suspension of classes but only in pre-school to senior high school.
The Orange Warning raised by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) was brought by the tail-end of a cold front. /cbb



Malaysia upholds death sentences for nine Filipinos over 2013 incursion

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian court on Monday upheld death sentences handed down to nine men from the Philippines in connection with an 2013 incursion into the Malaysian part of Borneo island by Philippine fighters seeking to stake an ancient claim.

The incursion by the fighters from the southern Philippines into Malaysia's Sabah state sparked a month-long crisis and at least 27 people were killed when Malaysian troops backed by fighter jets eventually subdued the militants.

The conflict disrupted operations in Sabah’s huge palm oil industry and at the time, raised concern that prolonged trouble could dampen investor interest in energy and infrastructure projects in the state.

The nine were among fighters captured.

A five-member Federal Court panel unanimously ruled that the death sentences were the most appropriate, upholding a decision by a lower court to increase the penalty from life sentences, according to the state news agency Bernama.

The court also upheld a lower court's decision to release 14 other men who had been held in connection with the fighting in the sleepy Lahad Datu district.

The fighters were from a group that has demanded recognition, and an increased payment from Malaysia, for their claim to be the rightful owners of Sabah, which an ancient sultanate leased to British colonialists in the 19th century.

Malaysia dismissed their demands and the Philippine government repeatedly told the group to put down their weapons and go home.

The fighters declared loyalty to the self-proclaimed Sultan of the southern Philippine region of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram, in the Philippines. — Reuters


Nene Pimentel's appeal to the public, speak out now

Former senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. has asked the public to voice out their opinion as the government seems to fast-track the implementation of a federal form of government.

"Mga kababayan ko, ang direct appeal ko sa inyo, huwag kayong maghintay na hindi na kayo makapagsalita," he said in an interview on "Bawal ang Pasaway kay Mareng Winnie" on Monday evening.

"Magsalita kayo ngayon," he added.

Pimentel, known as the father of federalism and the father of the Local Government Code, said the Local Government Code has not been implemented properly and it has not undergone a formal review.

"Nung naipasa natin yung Local Government Code, for the first time ang mga ka-barangayan, munisipyo, syudad, probinsya nagkaroon ng more or less na parang bagang concrete na kapangyarihan to address the concerns of the people. But only on three major departments, agriculture, health and social welfare," he said.

However, Pimentel pointed out that when Supertyphoon Yolanda struck Samar and Leyte the relief operations were still handled by Dinky Soliman, then secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

"A department whose personnel functions and funds had already been devolved to local government," he said.

Pimentel explained that the Local Government Code was a "logical successor towards the process of federalism."

In the process, the Code should have been reviewed every five years, so the needs of the local government can be addressed.

When asked if the Code was reviewed, Pimentel said, "as a Code i don't think that it ever was (reviewed). The Local Government Code was not implemented properly."

He said he did not ask for a review of the Code because he was still working on the implementation of the Code.

On the proposed transitory period to a federal form of government that would last up to 10 years, Pimentel said, "Totally unacceptable, I would like to say."

"Kayo pong, lahat kayo na nasa poder ngayon who are elected officials nandidiyan kayo kasi gusto ng taumbayan nandun kayo. Huwag ninyong isa tabi yung proceso where the people would exercise their sovereignty to place you in power, just so you can stay in power forever," he said.

He underscored that the government should conduct public hearings nationwide as part of efforts to educate the public about federalism. — BAP, GMA News


8 areas still positive for paralytic shellfish poison —BFAR

Shellfish collected from eight areas still tested positive for paralytic shellfish poison, said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Monday.

However, Maqueda and Villareal Bays in Western Samar are now free from the toxic red tides.

According to a BFAR bulletin dated January 15, all types of shellfish and alamang in the following areas are unsafe for human consumption as they contain “beyond the regulatory limit” of paralytic shellfish poison.

Irong-Irong Bay in Western Samar
Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar
Coastal waters of Leyte
Carigara Bay in Leyte
Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur
Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City in Palawan
Coastal waters of Mandaon in Masbate
Coastal waters of Bataan (Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal)
The BFAR warned against harvesting, selling, buying and eating shellfish from these areas.

Fish, squids, shrimps and crabs gathered from these waters can be consumed as long as they are fresh and washed thoroughly, and internal organs like gills and intestines are removed prior to cooking, said the bulletin.

"Paralytic shellfish poisoning is the most common shellfish poisoning syndrome in the Philippines. It is caused by red tides, or the high concentration of algae in bodies of water, giving it a discoloration that can also appear “yellow, brown, green, blue or milky, depending on the organisms involved,” according to a fact sheet from the Marine Biotoxins Laboratory of the BFAR.

The toxin can cause tingling of the lips and tongue, which could spread to the face, neck, fingertips and toes usually within 30 minutes, followed by headache, dizziness, and nausea.

“In severe cases, muscular paralysis and respiratory difficulty may occur within five to 12 hours. Fatalities from respiratory paralysis have been reported,” the fact sheet added. —ALG, GMA News


Carpio: PHL dumb to grant China request to do research in Benham Rise

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday said it would be "dumb" if the Philippine government would allow the request of China to explore the resource-rich Philippine Rise.

"China has squatted on the West Philippine Sea and refuses to leave despite the ruling of the UNCLOS tribunal. Now, China requests to be allowed to survey the Philippine Sea on the east side of the Philippines. The Philippines would be dumb to grant China's request," Carpio said in a 24 Oras report by Raffy Tima.

Magdalo partylist Representative Gary Alejano last week said that he had recieved information that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had granted the request of a Chinese entity to do research in waters off eastern Luzon.

The Philippine Rise, formerly known as the Benham Rise, is located east of Luzon and is part of the Philippines’ continental shelf.

In 2012, the United Nations gave the country exclusive sovereign rights over the rise, believed to be rich in minerals and gas.

Chinese vessels were spotted surveying the said area in 2017, prompting the Philippine government to send Beijing a note verbale, seeking clarification as regards the presence of its ships in the resource-rich area.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Carpio should respect the executive branch once a decision was already made.

"Sana respetuhin natin 'yung separation of powers kapag meron ng kasong nakahain sa kanya," Roque said.

DFA secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had said "Philippine law says research can be done as along as there is a Filipino on board."

"So there's nothing suspicious about approval or disapproval of scientific research whether they're Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, Singaporeans. If they comply we will approve, if they do not comply we will not approve," Cayetano said.

It is the DFA which usually grants applications to conduct research in the area, with coordination from technical agencies depending on the type of research. —Anna Felicia Bajo/NB, GMA News

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