Month: September 2014

Statement of Sen. Bam Aquino on the Impending Eruption of the Mayon Volcano

The local government of Albay and the national government must work closely to ensure the welfare and safety of our countrymen residing around the Mayon Volcano.

 Also, we call on residents living near the danger zone to follow the government’s evacuation order because your lives are at stake as the volcano may erupt anytime.

We commend the present efforts of the provincial government of Albay with the leadership of Governor Joey Salceda in the preparations and we are supportive of the initiatives to have zero casualties in this looming disaster.

Disaster response interventions should be properly placed – evacuation measures, psychosocial assistance, and even livelihood opportunities should be available for our countrymen, especially to the farming communities and indigenous people living on the slopes of the volcano.

Sen. Bam Refiles Vetoed Magna Carta of the Poor Bill

As the Philippines grows, no Filipino should be left behind.
Senator Bam Aquino emphasized this as he refiled Senate Bill No. 2370 or the Magna Carta of the Poor Act, which was vetoed by Malacanang last Congress for being ‘unrealistic.’
This time, Aquino expressed confidence that his version of the bill will be signed into law, saying it went through the necessary revisions and consultations with stakeholders before it was refiled.
“The bill is now fine-tuned to make the country’s strong economic growth felt by all of one hundred million Filipinos,” said Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.
In his explanatory note, Aquino said the country’s economic performance in recent years has been impressive and unprecedented. 
“Our 7.2% GDP growth in 2013 was the highest in the ASEAN earning the country improved investment grade ratings,” the senator said.
However, Aquino said the country still faces many challenges as millions of Filipinos are jobless and a fifth of the populace remains poor.
“The daunting task for the State is how to capitalize on its outstanding growth, the critically acclaimed reform efforts and the renewed global confidence, in order to make growth more inclusive and felt by all of the one hundred million Filipinos,” the senator said.
Aquino’s measure seeks to ensure the protection and promotion of five basic rights of every Filipino: the right to food, employment, education, shelter and basic health care.
“It supports the creation of a just and dynamic environment where prosperity is shared through the provision of adequate social services, enabling a rising standard of living and improved quality of life for everyone,” the senator explained.
Under the bill, concerned government agencies are mandated to establish a system that will provide opportunities for the full enjoyment of the five basic rights, which are essential requirements towards poverty alleviation.
The Departments of Social Welfare and Agriculture will focus on the right to adequate food while the Department of Labor will ensure that the poor’s right to decent work is assured.
The Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will promote quality education while housing will be the responsibility of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
The Department of Health, for its part, will assure that the poor’s right to highest attainable standard of mental and physical health is assured.

Worsening Traffic Condition to Hamper Growth of Auto Industry – Sen. Bam

Senator Bam Aquino warned that worsening traffic conditions would hinder the growth of the country’s automobile industry.
“Aside from economic losses amounting to billions of pesos a day, our booming auto industry will also take a huge hit due to our traffic problems,” said Aquino.
To address this and other issues hounding our car industry, Aquino has filed Senate Resolution No. 929 seeking an inquiry to ensure that the automotive industry roadmap is consistent with and integrated into other existing government policies and plans.
“Given the local demand for automobiles and the worsening road condition and congestion, there is a need to ensure that the automotive industry roadmap is aligned with the country’s infrastructure roadmap,” said Aquino.
Earlier, the Board of Investments (BOI), the Philippine Automotive Competitiveness Council Inc. and relevant government agencies have been tasked to formulate development roadmap for the auto industry to ensure its viability and competitiveness.
Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, stressed that a clear direction is crucial for the auto industry with the 2015 ASEAN Economic Integration fast approaching.
“I believe that the Philippine Motoring Industry can be at the forefront and be the driver of this movement, with our capability to develop world-class products that are globally competitive and backed by a culture of quality and excellence,” the senator said.
Presently, Aquino said the auto industry is one of the country’s key economic drivers, accounting for 12 percent of the total manufacturing sector output and about four percent to the total GDP of the country.
In addition, the auto industry directly employed 60,000 workers and indirectly hired 500,000 more.
“Total investments have reached P120B and the industry has remitted P30B annually to the government in the form of taxes and other duties,” the senator said.
Aquino said the local auto industry has grown rapidly in the past three years. In 2013, it has breached the 200,000 unit sales mark with 212,414 units sold while 250,000 cars are expected to be sold this year.
However, locally assembled vehicles presently account for only 32 percent of the supply while competitiveness of the country’s auto parts companies is weak compared to other countries in Asia.
“The government should further develop and improve strategic programs to reduce the cost of doing business by cutting red tape, which ultimately benefits consumers,” Aquino said.
The lawmaker added that the roadmap should also encourage the entry of electric vehicles and it should be integrated in the long-term plans for the country’s environmental protection and preservation.

Sen. Bam’s Tax Bill to Unburden the Poor Gets Support

Several stakeholders are pushing for the passage of Senator Bam Aquino’s measure that exempts marginal income earners (MIE) from paying income tax.
The Tax Management Association of the Philippines (TMAP) and the Magna Carta for Workers Alliance (MAGCAISA) both expressed their support during the committee hearing on Aquino’s Senate Bill No. 2777 or the Marginal Income Earners (MIE) bill.
Representatives from both TMAP and MAGCAISA said the passage of Aquino’s measure would help unburden poor Filipinos, which is composed mainly of farmers, fishermen, tricycle drivers, small sari-sari storeowners and other micro-entrepreneurs.
Aside from throwing support behind the MIE bill, TMAP president Rina Manuel also called for the simplification of tax filings and processes for individuals and businesses.
MAGCAISA Steering Committee representative Elizabeth Angsiaco, for her part, batted for the expansion of the bill to cover all MIEs.
After the hearing, Aquino welcomed the snowball of support for his bill, saying the government should not take way the little income that poor Filipinos earn from their livelihood.
“I consider it a great disservice to our countrymen if the government will take away what was left of their meager income,” Aquino said.
Aside from hampering its growth, Aquino stressed that poor Filipinos will be discouraged to enter the formal economy if they would be subjected to tight scrutiny by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
The senator noted that the number of registered MSMEs in the country – currently pegged at approximately 800,000 – has not grown in years.
“If we want to help them grow, we need to create an environment conducive for small businesses to thrive. We need to encourage those businesses in the informal economy to register and join the formal sector,” he added.
Aquino’s bill seeks to spare micro entrepreneurs, or self-employed individuals who earn not more than the minimum wage equivalent in their regions, from paying income tax, just like minimum wage earners.
The senator filed the measure after the Bureau of Internal Revenue released a memorandum circular – Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) No. 7-2014 – compelling MIEs to pay income tax returns.
According to BIR’s circular, MIEs include agricultural growers/producers such as farmers and fishermen selling directly to consumers, small sari-sari stores, small carinderias or “turo-turos,” and drivers/operators of a single unit tricycle.

Ensure Supply, Prices of Goods in Typhoon-Hit Areas – Sen. Bam to DTI, LGUs

Senator Bam Aquino has called on concerned government agencies, led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), to strictly monitor the supply and prices of basic goods, especially in areas devastated by Typhoon Mario.

“Ensuring supply and prices will keep unscrupulous traders who might take advantage of the situation in check,” said Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

Aquino also urged the local government units to closely coordinate with the DTI in monitoring businesses in typhoon-hit areas.

“I also urge the public to report businessmen who will unjustly hold supply and jack up prices in typhoon hit areas so they can be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law if guilty,” said Aquino.

According to latest reports, Mario has affected 258,976 families or 1,160,050 people in 1,126 barangays in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central and Southern Luzon, Bicol, Central Visayas, Cordillera, and Metro Manila.

The death toll remained at 11 with 12 injured and two still missing while at least 81 roads and six bridges remained impassable in Ilocos, Central Luzon, and Metro Manila.

In addition, the lawmaker called on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to speed up the repair of damaged roads and other infrastructure so as not to hamper the delivery of goods to typhoon-hit areas.

Usually, Aquino said prices of basic products in areas devastated by typhoons and other calamities increase because of supply problems.

In addition, Aquino said Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act imposes an automatic price freeze in areas placed under state of calamity to ensure that goods remained at prevailing prices until the state of calamity is lifted.

Among the products covered by the price freeze are basic non-agricultural necessities, including canned fish and other canned marine products, processed milk, coffee, laundry soap, detergents, candles, bread, and salt.

Also included in price freeze are fresh vegetables, roots crops, sugar, cooking oil, firewood, charcoal and medicine classified as essential by the Department of Health.

Transcript of Sen. Bam Aquino’s Interview after the Cabotage Bill Hearing

Lowering of Logistics Costs

I’d like to know specifically if they (DTI) have a study already and how much this measure can lower costs (of logisitics). Kasi at the end of the day, ang pinaka-pakay naman ng bill and all of the things that we are talking about is lower the cost of logistics.

Many people have commented and I think it’s largely accepted already that our cost of logistics is higher that a lot of our countries, iyong pagship natin ng mga produkto.

This hearing was conducted to check ways how we can lessen costs of our logistics. This proposal came from DOTC and is supported by everyone here.

Before proceeding, I would like DTI and even other agencies here to at least give a forecast pag pinasa natin ito, how much ang puwedeng ibaba ng presyo ng ating bilihin, number one.

Number two, I think malinaw rin that if we even file this bill, this is just one of many reforms na kailangang gawin. We have to look at costs in our ports, even in taxes currently being collected from shipping industry and even the operational costs of the shippers themselves.

The suggestion of Atty. Banez was to benchmark this across the ASEAN para makita natin how competitive we really are.

One of slides that they showed earlier showed na pagdating sa taxes, ang taas ng tinatax natin sa mga shippers natin. When we tax the shippers, they charge it to their clients.

At the end of the day, babagsak din ito sa mga Pilipino.


Policy Direction on Taxes 

We’d like to also have a clarified policy regarding, is the policy to collect more in taxes or is the policy is lower the cost of prices.

In this case, posibleng magkasalungat ang mga polisiyang iyon. We want to get a clearer picture from our friends from DOTC, MARINA, PPA and DOF.

If through this measure, if we can lower the cost of logistics even by five to ten percent, that will have an impact sa cost of goods natin.

Most goods in the Philippines pass through logistics and shipping industry because were islands. If you look at the different components that comprise the cost of a product, we’re tackling the logistics part doon.


President’s Agenda

Apart from the President pointing this out in his SONA na kailangang magpasa tayo ng policies which will lower cost, many people commented na just to ship products from the Philippines, it’s cheaper to send it to another country than to send it to another port.

In fact, one of the resource speakers mentioned that she hopes that we don’t stop here. We start with this bill, we look at the costs, we look at the taxes and eventually, we really push for long-term vision with regard to our port situation.

The current problem sa ating Port of Manila, hindi natin nalagyan ng long-term thinking that in an economy that’s growing, ang liit-liit naman ng port mo. Hindi ka gumagawa ng mga measures na palakihin at palakasin ito.

Hopefully, this will also lead to a serious reflection on our infrastructure in the Philippines and see if even now, we can really start the process of planning ahead.

We’re a growing economy. I believe that we can be a middle-income economy in a decade but that means that our ability to trade needs to be protected also and to be safeguarded. That means a long-term vision to our port infrastructure.

Ang mga usaping ito, it all leads to that. Kumbaga, nagtatahi-tahi ang issues. We have short-term solutions, we have policies that we can push but at the end of the day, ang hinahanap talaga natin ay mas mahabang pagtingin sa situation ng mga port natin.


Q: How will this solve port congestion?

Technically, the goal of this hearing is to lower prices. Kung ang port mo congested, tataas talaga ang presyo mo dahil very inefficient ang ports natin.

In short, if our ports are congested and we haven’t solved that problem, even if we pass this bill, haharapin pa rin tayo ng problema ng congestion.

But hopefully, if we able to decongest the ports and have a better policy framework for shipping, mas mura ang cost natin, posible talagang bumaba iyong presyo ng bilihin because of this measures.

But if our ports continue to be congested, maliliit, inefficient at any single point, posibleng magkagulo dahil kulang talaga ang infrastructure, then prices will go up.

If we have better infrastructure there at kung maipasa ang mga polisiyang ito, bababa naman ang presyo ng bilihin. Of course, ang hinahanap ng maraming Pilipino, bumaba ang presyo ng bilihin.



Transcript of Sen. Bam Aquino’s Interview after the Internet Hearing

Q: Is NTC capable of ensuring na mabilis ang Internet?

 A: Si Commissioner Corboda, said it for the record, currently, wala silang kapangyarihan na i-dictate ang presyo pero nasa kanilang poder na mag-set ng mga minimum standards. Ito ang hinahanap natin sa susunod na hearing and they’re coming up with the memorandum circular on the matter.

Sabi ko naman hindi puwede na ang stated rate, o ang napapangakong rate at iyong minimum standard mo napakalayo, kailangan naman may batayan pa rin iyon.

So they’ll come up with suggestions, one is iyong possible amendments sa RA 7925. Napag-usapan din kung dapat bang gawing basic service ang Internet service kasi sa ngayon, value-added service lang siya.

Pangatlo, napag-usapan din kung paano maabot ang hard-to-reach areas. DOST has a current pilot using iyong frequency ng TV o tinatawag na white space project. There’s already a pilot in Bohol at iyong pilot sa Bohol ay doon sa mga palaisdaan.

In that area, using the white space frequency, 12 megabytes per second iyong speed nila. Kung tutuusin mas mabilis pa ang white space project na ginagawa ng DOST kaysa doon sa ibang lugar dito sa Metro Manila.

We’re also trying to explore if DOST needs more support para maikalat ang white space project nila para maabot ang far-flung areas.

For the next hearing, pag-uusapan din naming ang Open Access Bill. This is a bill which will help telcos put up more infrastructure. Kasi marami rin sa kanila may mga complaints na pagdating sa local government unit or even mga barangay, hindi rin ganoon kadali para makapagpatayo ng cell sites.

In the end, ang tao din ang nagsa-suffer kasi pangit ang services natin.

In the meantime, we’re waiting for the recommendations of NTC sa Republic Act 7925, sa memorandum circular on minimum speed ng ating telcos.

DOJ is also coming out with a memorandum circular stating na iyong advertisements ng ating telcos, kailangan ding mas malinaw para sa mamamayan natin.

May mga advertisement na nagsasabing unlimited pero hindi naman pala unlimited. Dapat hindi na iyon payagan.  DOJ will step in along with DTI to make sure that consumer complaints are also met.


Q: Malaking bagay ba kung magagawa bang basic service ang Internet connection sa speed at presyo?

 A: If it becomes a basic service, then government has all the powers to actually regulate it. Currently kasi, dahil commercial transaction ito, walang kapangyarihan ang gobyerno para mag-set ng presyo.

But I will have to admit, this would not happen if we experienced good experience pagdating sa ating Internet.  Sabi ko nga kanina, kung maganda ang serbisyo natin, mura, mataas ang kalidad at regular iyong kalidad ng ating Internet, we wouldn’t be having this hearing. Hindi pa mapag-uusapan na gawing basic service ang Internet.

At this point, I think government really needs to step in. Whether it’s getting all players to agree to IP peering, proposing minimum standards to protect our consumers or even just to make sure na ang far-flung areas natin ay mayroon pa ring Internet service.

It’s time government steps in.  It’s budget season now, kung kinakailangang maglaan ng pera ang gobyerno para ma-improve ito. Palagay ko dapat napag-uusapan na natin o napa-plano na natin iyan.


Q: Kanina nabanggit niyo doon sa mga ads na maximum usually ang nababanggit, iyong minimum hindi masyado.

A: Actually, magandang clarification nga ni Undersecretary Dimagiba, is that, kahit na may fine print iyan, iyong may asterisk tapos napakaliit na sulat diyan, iyong dahilan pa rin ng consumer complaint is of course the stated number, iyong ‘up to.’

So we’re asking the telcos to state very clearly kung ano ba ang pangako natin sa taumbayan. Ang ‘up to’ kasi, kung iyong ‘up to’ mo naman, ilang oras lang sa isang araw. Ang hirap rin kung iyon ang ina-advertise natin. We should advertise what is our assured speed and people should be paying on the assured speed and not based on ‘up to’, especially kung ilang oras lang sa isang araw mo makukuha iyon.


Q: Pumayag ba ang telcos?

A: They agreed and they nodded. For the record, nag-nod sila babaguhin nila ang advertisement. In fact one of the telcos mentioned that they’ll be doing away with the unlimited advertisement and state already kung anong volume ang puwedeng makuha based on your plan or based on what you paid for.

I think that’s an improvement. At least, in that sense, mas malinaw sa taumbayan na malinaw ang kanyang binabayaran at kung ano ang nakukuha niya.


Q: Kailan po magiging totoo ang ads nila?

A: Soon daw. Soon they won’t have a choice once DOJ comes out with the circular, they have to follow.

I’m hoping na unahan na nila ang circular ng DOJ at baguhin na nila ang ads. I also mentioned to them na tina-track naming ang ads, may ilang ok na at may ilan pa ring vague.

I got their commitment earlier na babaguhin nila ang kanilang practices.


Q: Pagdating sa IP peering?

A: Kailangang pag-usapan na natin iyan. I think at this point, NTC wants to bring in the players. I support that but at the end of the day kasi, if it’s a commercial transaction and not regulated by government, wala kang kapangyarihan na sabihin sa isang grupo na libre na iyan ah.

So, the question is, do we provide the right powers to the NTC so that they can do that. One, which might mean amendments to the law, or two, we come up with an agreement among stakeholders, which I hope is the better solution, so we can push for IP peering among local players.

At the end of the day, ang pinaka-objective naman ng IP peering is all local content, keep it local. Para at last iyong local content natin, di hamak na mas mabilis ang pagtanggap sa ating devices.


Q:  Can the government demand it to be mandatory?

A: If we amend RA 7925 and make Internet a basic service, then government will have the power to say that this has to be mandatory. Currently, it’s voluntary at sinasabi ng ibang telco, is that we’re ok with IP peering but we will charge.

To be frank, ako I’m fine with that but we charge the right rates. Kasi what the small ISPs are saying, ang taas ng charge ninyo, hindi naman ma-justify.

Right now, the NTC will try to bring all stakeholders together and hopefully, through these hearings and through meetings, pag-uusapan if they’re gonna stick to kung kailangang mag-charge, at least have a rate that’s acceptable to all. In fairness naman, meron naman silang investment doon.

The other extreme is i-amend mo iyong batas, gawin mong basic service ang Internet, and then have government step in and already regulate the sector, which, again is the extreme example.

The fastest example is just to get all the players to agree, ano ba iyong pinakamagandang patakaran between all of us.

High Local Shipping Cost Increases Prices of Goods – Sen. Bam

The costly and cumbersome inter-island shipping is one of the roadblocks in increased prices of goods that will be a burden for consumers and will hamper the growth of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, a senator said.

“As an archipelago composed of more than 7,100 islands, the country relies heavily on sea routes interconnecting the islands. Inter-island shipping is crucial in the transport of goods especially this coming Christmas season,” said Senator Bam Aquino.

However, inter-island shipping is exclusively reserved for ships bearing the Philippine flag and shipping cost impacts the movement and price of traded goods in the country.

“While this helps the domestic shipping industry, the cost of shipping is hampering trade especially for the MSMEs,” said Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

As a response to the call of the President and key stakeholders, Aquino has filed a bill seeking to allow foreign ships to call in multiple ports provided that their cargoes are intended for import or export and duly cleared by the Commissioner of Customs.

Aquino’s Senate Bill No. 2364 will amend Section 1009 of the Presidential Decree No. 1464, otherwise known as the Tariff and Customs Code of 1978 to introduce reform in the shipping industry.

During one of the committee hearings, it was discovered that it is cheaper to send products from other countries to the Philippines than to ship goods within the country.

For example, the cost of shipping a 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) from Kaoshiung, China to Cagayan de Oro is $360 or P16,000 only.

However, the cost of shipping the same cargo from Manila to Cagayan de Oro will take $1,120 or almost P50,000.

“MSMEs who are importing or exporting goods will be able to access a cheaper alternative in transporting their goods through co-loading in foreign ships. Ultimately, this leads to lower prices of goods for the Filipino public,” Aquino said.

If passed, the bill will allow importers and exporters to co-load in foreign ships going in or out of the Philippine jurisdiction.

Moreover, this bill gives clarification on the definition of common carriers and public service in the shipping industry.

With this bill, foreign cargoes shall not be subjected to the law concerning common carriers and public services as defined in the Civil Code and the Domestic Shipping Development Act, respectively.

Lower Customs Cost for OFWs’ Balikbayan Boxes, Packages – Sen. Bam

Good news for 10 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) burdened by the tedious and costly process of sending balikbayan boxes to their loved ones in the Philippines.

Sending balikbayan boxes and other low-value and low-risk packages to the Philippines will be faster and cheaper if the proposal of Senator Bam Aquino to update the current de minimis threshold is enacted into law.

“Sending a balikbayan box home especially this coming Christmas season becomes burdensome for these modern-day heroes. Currently, these packages undergo a tedious process in the customs and are charged fees that are discouraging for OFWs to send more regularly,” the senator said.

“There is a need to provide the ten million Filipinos abroad, who have been already contributing greatly to the economy the past four decades, a better customs administration by reducing the de minimis threshold,” he added.

Currently, the Philippines has the lowest de minimis threshold, or the minimal volume of declaration of goods in the customs for consignments, in the ASEAN, at PhP10 or US$0.23. The ASEAN average threshold is at a hundred dollars.

“The extremely low Philippine threshold has not been changed since 1957 and is clearly antiquated. It needs to be updated to be reflective of current prices,” the senator said.

The lawmaker explained that thresholds for customs declaration signify increased documentation and processes for shipments at entry points in the country.

“Increased documentation leads to larger turnover and delivery time of goods, and larger administration costs that would yield lower revenue impact for both businesses and government,” he added.

 By increasing the de minimis level to a more realistic and relevant figure of P10,000, Aquino saidbalikbayan boxes and other packages of OFWs, entrepreneurs and other individuals will be processed by Customs faster with minimum fees.

“Also, it will enable the Bureau of Customs to focus its efforts in looking out for high-value, high-risk and high-revenue goods for collection and enforcement, thereby making customs processes more efficient,” he added.

Senate Bill No. 2365: Basic Education Teachers Pay Increase Bill of 2014

Accompanying the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, education reforms that were jumpstarted in recent years have been encouraging. These reforms sought to address backlogs in the building of classrooms and facilities, reorient systems for purchasing textbooks and other school supplies to curb corruption, and add teaching and non-teaching personnel to address the growing needs of schools. Truly, it is an exciting time for the Philippine public school system, with growing recognition that the Filipino student must be given the best education and learning experience to compete in the tough job market.

Unfortunately, our public school teachers, on whom we depend on to facilitate this experience, have been largely left out of these reforms. Even if education has the highest allocation in the national budget, teacher salaries have remained the same, forcing teachers to be creative in their monthly subsistence.

With the increasing cost of living, teachers and other school personnel must tighten their belts to get by on their modest salaries. They turn to loan agents, both formal and informal, to make ends meet. They go into debt in order to provide for their families’ needs, even to the extent that the entirety of their salary end up going to loan payments. This dire situation makes it unattractive for our brightest graduates to take on a public school education career. Furthermore, seasoned educators are forced to leave their vocation for practical reasons – to seek greener pastures in other industries or even abroad.

It is pivotal for national development to add support and proper compensation for our teachers, as they shape and form the country’s future. Additional benefits would make a public education career not only noble, but practical and sustainable as well. Moreover, it helps enable our best and the brightest teachers to stay true to their calling and make a significant contribution to nation-building.

In view of the foregoing, the approval of this bill is earnestly sought.



Filed: August 19, 2014





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