Month: March 2015

Senate Bill No. 1832: Microfinance Code of the Philippines

In all parts of the country, microenterprises comprise the bulk of business enterprises in the country. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) estimates that, as of 2011, at least 99.6% of all businesses in the Philippines were classified as micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), while the remaining 0.4% were large enterprises. Of the total number of MSMEs, at least 91.0% were micro enterprises, with asset sizes not greater than Three Million Pesos (P3 million) and with up to 10 employees.

At their very core, micro enterprises enable poor families to undertake entrepreneurial activities to meet their minimum basic needs, including income generation. However, one major barrier for micro entrepreneurs is their lack of access to credit or capital. One way for them to access such funding is through micro finance.

“Microfinance”, as defined in this bill, “refers to the viable and sustainable provision of a broad range of financial services to poor/unbanked/financially underserved/low-income households engaged in livelihood and microenterprise activities. It uses nontraditional and innovative methodologies and approaches such as, but not limited to, the extension of small loans, simplified loan application procedures, group character loans, collateral-free arrangements, cash flow based lending, alternative loan repayments, minimum requirements for CBU/minimum balance retention, and small denominated savers’ instruments-aimed to improve their asset base and expand their access to capital and savings.”

However, the microfinance sector has yet to be acknowledged by government as an integral partner in poverty alleviation. Moreover, the unique structure and purpose of microfinance institutions (MFls) have yet to be recognized as different from those of purely commercial enterprises.

Therefore, we are proposing the Microfinance Code of the Philippines to develop the microfinance sector in the country. This measure seeks to define the rights and responsibilities, institute performance management and standards, and provide an accreditation process for MFls. It also seeks to provide an enabling policy environment for MFls through appropriate incentives and support. Finally, this measure will promote a social reform strategy that will empower the poor, aid them in managing financial risks, and, in doing so, expand access to micro finance services, such as: microcredit, microsavings, health care, and others. This Act also opens up access to a broad range of financial, business, and other human development services. The ultimate goal of the Microfinance Code of the Philippines is to lift people out of poverty and enable them to live more productive, self-sufficient lives.

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



Senate Bill No. 1874: Urban Development and Housing Act

The country’s inclusive growth imperative demands that no sector of society be left behind in progress and development. However, recent data shows that despite the healthy and sustained growth enjoyed by the Philippine economy, a large sector of the population remains jobless, poor, and hungry. Among the most marginalized sectors is the urban population, which comprises about 12.8% in 2009 of the total Philippine population.

One of the key issues hounding the urban poor is that of housing and relocation. According to the Philippine Development Plan for 20’10 to 2016, the country’s total housing need, including “backlog” and “housing for new households,” is estimated to reach around 5.9 million units by 2016. Informal settlements have increased by more than 22% (or 1.2 million) between 2003 and 2009. Meanwhile, other data show that the Philippines’ annual expenditure for housing accounts for less than 0.1 of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP)-the lowest figure in Asia.

Clearly, much more needs to be done for the country’s urban poor; to provide security of shelter is an urgent first step.

No less than the Philippine Cons~itution provides for the protection of the marginalized, the powerless, and the oppressed citizens of this country against any violent eviction and/or demolition. It likewise mandates the provision of decent public housing at affordable costs, coupled with basic services and livelihood opportunities. Section 10, Article XIII of the Constitution states that “urban or rural poor dwellers shall not be evicted nor their dwelling demolished, except in accordance with law and in a just and humane manner.”

To carry out this constitutional mandate, Republic Act (RA) No. 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act was enacted to, among others, “uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban areas and in resettlement areas” and “provide for’ an equitable land tenure system that shall guarantee security of tenure to Program beneficiaries.” However, recent incidences of violent evictions and demolitions show the gaps of the current law, requiring the review and amendment of the law.

This bill, therefore, strengthens the Urban Development and Housing Act by further securing the urban poor from violent and unjust evictions and demolition of their homes. It also seeks to ensure that, in the case of relocation, housing beneficiaries be relocated near their homes where they have access not only to basic services but also, and just as important, to jobs and livelihood that will give them the means to raise themselves and their families out of poverty.

The bill further provides that consultation must be effectively done with the active participation of affected communities, particularly in the identification and approval of relocation sites. This also expands the mandate of the law by requiring developers to develop an area for socialized housing equivalent to at least twenty percent (20%) of the total area or project cost-at the option of the developer-not only on proposed subdivision projects but all other land develop”;1ent projects.

This bill also broadens the penalties on violations of the Urban Development and Housing Act.

We firmly believe that it is the duty of the State to protect those who are unable to protect themselves. As the great late President Ramon Magsaysay had once said, “He who has less in life should have more in law.”

In view of the foregoing, the immediate passage of this measure is earnestly sought.



Senate Bill No. 1942: Adjusting the Level of Net Taxable Income and Nominal Tax Rates

As the Philippines pushes for inclusive growth, it is imperative that Government create the necessary mechanisms to enable the vast majority of Filipinos to feel the fruits of this growth. At present, efforts are underway to promote ease of business; generate jobs; support the growth of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); and address rising unemployment and underemployment.

In spite of all these, however, ordinary Filipinos are still feeling the pinch of high taxes and rising prices. The Consumer Price Index shows that a basket of goods worth Php100 in 1998 is already worth Php196 in 2013, almost doubling in a space of 15 years. While the private sector has a role in responding to the needs of its employees, many enterprises also struggle with ensuring fair and equal pay for their workers while keeping their own businesses afloat.

Thus, the government has to play the delicate balancing act between the growing demands of its labor force and the limitations of the private sector. One solution is to review and reform the current tax system in a way that reflects current prices, and enables a more equitable distribution of wealth for its citizens.

The Tax Reform Act, therefore, seeks to amend Section 24 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended, by adjusting the levels of net taxable income and simplifying the nominal tax rates for the purposes of .computing the individual income tax, based on current 2013 prices. The Tax Reform Act effectively lowers the taxes on the Filipino working class-which comprises around 22 million of the Philippine population-allowing them to enjoy a higher net income and increasing their purchasing power, without necessarily imposing a burden on the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that comprise a majority of employers in the Philippines. The collections from The Tax Reform Act also adjust the tax level of the upper one percent. (1%) of taxpayers, making sure that the government is able to collect a larger share of income from those who can afford to pay more. A more just tax system will also serve to encourage citizens to declare their true income and pay their taxes.

In effect, the Tax Reform Act serves as one of the important reforms to create a more equitable, just, and effective tax regime for Filipino taxpayers. It supports the government’s push for inclusive growth while ensuring that government is still able to raise funds for social programs that directly benefit the poor. It is a systemic, win-win solution that offers the greatest benefit to the greatest number of Filipinos.

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



Senate Bill No. 1943: Creation of Local Development Councils

It is the basic policy of our State to give primordial importance to the autonomy of the local government. Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the “Local Government Code” aims to provide a more accountable local government structure and institute a system of decentralization.

Section 106 of the Local Government Code mandates each local government to have a Local Development Council (LDC) at the provincial, city, municipal or barangay level. The LDC is expected to set the direction of economic and social development within its territorial jurisdiction. At the provincial, city and municipal level, the functions of the LDC are to: (1) Formulate long-term, medium-term, and annual socio-economic plans and policies; (2) Formulate the medium-term and annual public investment programs; (3) Appraise and prioritize socio-economic development programs and projects, among others. At the barangay level, the LDC is expected to mobilize people’s participation in local development efforts and to monitor and evaluate the implementation of national or local programs and projects.

Our laws recognize the significance of multi-sectoral representation and participation in the LDC. This is made clear in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code that mandates that the composition of Local Development Councils shall include representatives from duly accredited people’s organizations (POs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector operating therein. Further, NGO representation shall not be less than ¼ of the total membership of the fully organized council. However, despite the express provisions of our laws and implementing rules, many local government units still do not adhere to them. There are also NEDA reports showing that many local special bodies do not meet regularly thus minimizing the participation of NGO’s and PO’s in local governance.

In any democratic nation, every individual must share in the sovereign power and must be able to participate equally in the government of the local body. Each sector of a nation must give their voice in the decisions that will affect them all. The local NGOs and POs must be given a place in the local councils for rightful representation. The local government’s goal should support the creation of a better life for its people, echoing the voice of the people and help to build resilient and prosperous communities, now and over the long term.

For this purpose, this bill seeks to bolster the noble goals of R.A. 7160 in ensuring that the NGOs and POs are made active partners in the pursuit of socio-economic welfare in the local autonomy. The bill mandates LDCs to convene at least four times in a year: March, June, September and December. The leagues of LGUs are further mandated to monitor such meetings through the Oversight Committee on Local Government. Finally, the bill seeks to provide punitive actions to local executives who fail to execute such laws.

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



Senate Bill No. 2118: Filipino Sign Language Act of 2014

Have you ever had a dream where you were screaming for help and nobody could hear you?

For the over half a million members of the Filipino Deaf community, scenarios like this are not just a dream or a nightmare-they are part of their everyday reality. Because much of society does not naturally understand the culture of the Filipino Deaf, or are equipped to do so, many Deaf individuals are left without proper communication or access to information.

Worse, because of this large communication gap, Deaf individuals have become more vulnerable to abuse. According to data shared by the Cebu-based nongovernment organization Gualandi Volunteer Service Programme, Inc., up to 70 percent of Deaf boys and girls “are being molested”, while 63 percent are being “abused by their own fathers.” Their data also shows that one out of three Deaf women has been raped.

In order to build a safer and more inclusive society for the Filipino Deaf community, government, civil society, academe, and the private sector must work together to give Deaf individuals access to communication, information, and tools that are necessary to lead productive lives. Thus, this representation appeals for the urgent passage of the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) Act of 2014, which shall declare Filipino Sign Language as the national sign language of the Filipino Deaf and the official language of, the Philippine government in all transactions with the Deaf, and which shall likewise mandate the use of FSL in schools, workplaces, and broadcast media.

Such a language would not only produce highly successful learners, it would also respect the Filipino Deaf community’s rights to identity, access to education, and direct communication, among others.

Moreover, this Act provides for FSL to be the medium of official communication in all transactions involving the Deaf and the language of instruction of Deaf education. It shall also be the official language of legal interpreting for the Deaf in all public hearings, proceedings, and transactions of the courts, quasi-judicial agencies, and other tribunals, as well as in all public and private workplaces, and in all other public transactions, services, and facilities.

To make information more accessible in broadcast media, this Act also requires FSL interpreter insets in news and public affairs programs. Subsequently, the NTC shall take steps to promote the use of FSL in all other broadcasts and programming.

Under this proposed Act, the National Council for Disability Affairs (NCDA), with the involvement of the Deaf community and other stakeholders, shall establish a national system of standards, accreditation, and procedures for FSL interpreting. Likewise, the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and other national and local agencies shall take appropriate steps to propagate sign language competency among hearing people, by offering FSL as an optional language subject in the regular or mainstream curriculum, among others.

We fervently believe that a humane, just, and inclusive society protects the vulnerable, integrates the marginalized, breaks down the barriers of discrimination, and gives equal access to opportunity for every Filipino. Mandating and promoting the use of FSL, we believe, is a step toward social justice for the Filipino Deaf community.

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



Senate Bill No. 2117: Filipino Sign Language Act in Broadcast Media of 2014

In a truly inclusive society, the welfare of the poor and the marginalized are always upheld, and nobody gets left behind in the push for development.

In the same vein, a society that values transparency must always ensure that information transmitted through mass media is made accessible especially to the more ~vulnerable sectors of society, especially persons with disabilities (PWDs) and those with hearing impairments.

This bill seeks to require the broadcast of television programs and showing of motion pictures and other audio-visual presentation with “closed captions” (CC), and providing penalties of violation thereof to respond to the needs of hearing-impaired individuals.

“Closed captioning”, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States government, “allows persons with hearing disabilities to have access to television programming by displaying the audio portion of a television program as text on the television screen.”i

Moreover, the FCC website states that closed captioning “provides a critical link to news, entertainment and information for [the hearing-impaired] … Captions also help improve literacy skills.”

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) states: “The prevalence of disabling hearing loss in children is greatest in South Asia, Asia Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa,” with the Asia Pacific as the region with the second highest incidence next to South Asia, Moreover, “In children, prevalence decreases exponentially as gross national income per capita (GNI) increases,” and “in most regions, prevalence in children decreases linearly as parent’s literacy rate increases.” Meanwhile, “in adults of 65 years and older, prevalence decreases exponentially as income increases.”

This means that a poor individuals that are either deaf, mute or hard of hearing have a lesser chance of accessing information through mass media.

In the Philippines, 1.23% of the entire population is either deaf, mute, or hearing impaired. As of 2009, the projected deaf population is already at 241,624 for those who are totally deaf and 275,912 for those who are partially deaf. That means that at least 517,536 people currently have very limited access to media and information because of their hearing impaired ness.

We firmly believe that, as the late great President Ramon Magsaysay had said, “those who have less in life should have more in law.” Therefore, this bill seeks to provide to hearing impaired Filipinos a luxury which many of us take for granted.

By making closed captioning compulsory for all franchise holders of operators of television stations, producers of television programs, home video programs, and motion pictures, we seek to open access to information, learning, and entertainment to Filipinos who are currently denied this basic right.

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



Senate Bill No. 2122: Anti-Discrimination Act of 2014

The Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution guarantees equal protection for every Filipino, and prohibits discrimination of persons based on ethnicity, race, religion or belief, political inclination, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, civil status, medical condition, or any other status in the enjoyment of rights. The fundamental law also declares that the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights (Section 11, Article II, 1987 Constitution). It also imposes on the State the duty to ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men (Sec. 14, Id.).

In addition, the Philippines is a signatory to numerous international agreements that seek to ensure respect for the human rights of all persons regardless of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, political inclination, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, civil status, medical condition, or any other status. These international human rights instruments have been constantly upheld by international institutions, such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Unfortunately, reality has yet to catch up with the noble intentions of these numerous laws and international agreements. In schools, workplaces, commercial establishments, public service, police and the military, prejudicial practices and policies based on sexual orientation, gender and cultural identity limit the exercise and enjoyment of basic human rights and / fundamental freedoms, as well as impede or delay the delivery of basic services.

We still see, for instance, employment practices that prioritize single over married job applicants, despite the fact that there is no empirical link between a person’s civil status and his or her job performance. There are also other cultural practices that suppress an individual’s right to practice his or her religion, faith, or cultural belief.

Moreover, many Filipinos in indigenous communities have yet to be fully integrated into the workforce; ignorance about their cultural practices often leads to stigma and marginalization. Moreover, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) community continues to be oppressed through various forms of cruelty by society at large, primarily because of misconceptions and ignorance. LGBT students, for instance, are refused admission or expelled from schools due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Companies block the promotion of LGBT employees due to the deeply embedded notion that homosexuality is an indication of weakness. Laws such as the anti-vagrancy law are also abused by law enforcement agencies to harass gay men. Government offices restrict or delay the delivery of services to deserving individual/s due to discrimination.

In a democratic society that claims to give equal access and opportunity to each of its citizens, many Filipinos are still treated as “second-class citizens” when they try to exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to define and penalize practices that unjustly discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, political inclination, social class, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, civil’ status, medical condition, or any other status.

In view of the foregoing, and of the need to correct the longstanding discrimination against marginalized communities in Philippine society, the early passage of this bill is earnestly urged.


Senate Bill No. 2158: Amending Art. 355 (Decriminalizing Libel)

The Filipino nation was built on our forefathers’ fight for freedom of expression and democracy. In the age of foreign colonizers, Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and EI Filibusterismo, and Graciano Lopez Jaena’s La Solidaridad, helped to ignite the spark that galvanized a fragmented people and lit up a revolution.

Decades later, in the midst of Martial Law, Filipinos once against used the power of words and ideas to fight against tyranny and oppression. Although many of the country’s top journalists were jailed for exposing the truths behind an unjust dictatorship, they inspired an entire nation to rise up and wage a bloodless revolution for democracy.

This spirit lives on in the Information Age. Around the world, citizens are using the power of ideas and words-transmitted over a globally connected network-to expose corruption, challenge unjust regimes, pursue the common good, and ensure good governance.

In the words of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, “Freedom of expression-in particular, freedom of the press-guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy.”

In the Philippines, freedom of speech has given rise to a robust civil society. No less than the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution protects this fundamental human right, saying: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Moreover, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which the Philippines is a state party, protects these same rights while recognizing citizens’ responsibility in exercising these freedoms. Article 19 states:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:

(a) For the respect of the rights or reputations of others;

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

In light of all of these, this representation seeks to decriminalize all forms of libel (i.e., in broadcast media or online) to encourage free and responsible discourse without necessarily compromising the State’s ability to hold persons accountable for irresponsible behavior.

No less than the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) called Philippine libel laws “excessive” and incompatible with Article XIX, paragraph 3 of the ICCPR. It said: “States parties should consider the decriminalisation of defamation 113 and, in any case, the application of the criminal law should only be countenanced in the most serious of cases and imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty. It is impermissible for a State party to indict a person for criminal defamation but then not to proceed to trial expeditiously-such a practice has a chilling effect that may unduly restrict the exercise of freedom of expression of the person concerned and others.”

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



Senate Bill No. 2151: Electric, Hybrid and Other Alternative Fuel Vehicles Promotion Act of 2014

According to the latest ASEAN State of the Environment Report (2009), “Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, typhoons, sea level rise, and heat waves.” The growing impact of climate change has made it crucial for governments and the private sector throughout the ASEAN region to invest in climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts while providing economic opportunities to empower poor and vulnerable sectors.

One big opportunity for the Philippines lies in the Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) sector. According to a report released by international consulting firm Grant Thornton in 2012, “Asia is currently the largest market for hybrids/electrics (56%).” Further: “The trend toward alternative fuels is visible in global sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), projected to reach 5.4 million vehicles by 2021 (more than 6% of the automotive market), up from 810,000 vehicles in 2010 (approximately 2% of market share).”

The same report states that, “Around a quarter of global companies (24%) have introduced or are considering vehicles that run on alternative fuels for their businesses … Companies in the ASEAN region (31%) were most likely to use or consider alternative-fuel vehicles.”

This regional trend is congruent with the Philippine government’s moves to incentivize the manufacturing and use of AFVs. The Department of Energy’s goal of putting 100,000 electric tricycles on the road by 2017 and the Electric Vehicles Association of the Philippines’ (EVAP) goal of 1 million electric vehicles by 2020 represent key milestones toward dramatically reducing dependence on oil while ensuring that the Philippines leads in the growing electric vehicle manufacturing industry in the Asian region.

Moreover, the integration of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 presents a key opportunity for the Philippines to emerge as a leader in this sector and cater to a regional market. This can very well pave the way for more investments, jobs, and livelihood opportunities to reach more Filipinos.

In order to leverage on these potentials, we need stronger policy support to encourage investment in manufacturing facilities, enable technology demonstration and deployment, and provide incentives to promote the adoption of and drive consumer demand for electric, hybrid, and other alternative fuel vehicles.

Thus, in order to bolster the benefits and the marketability of these vehicles, this Act provides non-fiscal incentives to drive consumer demand, including the following:

a. Priority in registration and issuance of plate number;

b. Priority in franchise application;

c. Exemption from Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) or Number-Coding Scheme; and

d. Provision for free parking spaces in new establishments

It is recognized that while the costs of electric and hybrid vehicles are higher compared to those of regular vehicles, these non-fiscal incentives will make the acquisition and conversion of vehicles more attractive to consumers and manufacturers alike.

In the 15th Congress, both the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress passed on Third Reading similar measures entitled, “An Act Providing Incentives For The Manufacture, Assembly, Conversion And Importation Of Electric, Hybrid And Other Alternative Fuel Vehicles, And For Other Purposes.” Clearly, Congress recognizes that the emerging industry of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) can significantly contribute to investment generation, job creation, poverty reduction, and climate change mitigation.

In view of the foregoing, the passage and enactment of this bill is earnestly sought.



Senate Bill No. 2179: National Coastal Greenbelt Act of 2014

Last year, super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit Eastern Visayas and left thousands of people dead. Millions more became homeless and now, are struggling to cope with the loss of loved ones, life savings and livelihood.

Previous storms, Ondoy, Pablo and Sendong have wrought havoc to other cities and provinces in the past half-decade, crippling the economic and social development of the Filipino people. The Philippines is battered by more than 20 typhoons a year, with an increasing number in the super-typhoon category. These could bring as much damage as Yolanda. The losses attributed were caused by storm surges and strong winds coming from the open ocean. In the age of global climate change, this has unfortunately become the new normal.

The poor coastal communities’ natural exposure to storm surges and lack of resources for preparation and recovery make them most vulnerable.

It is imperative to think of innovative, sustainable and cost-efficient ways for Filipinos to protect themselves, their properties and communities from the devastating impacts of natural disasters.

The Philippines is taking great strides in disaster preparedness. Recent laws created the Climate Change Commission (R.A. No. 9729) and strengthened the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (R.A. No. 10121). In addition, the People’s Survival Fund (R.A. No. 10174) was created to support adaptation activities of local governments and communities to increase their resilience.

Disaster preparedness comprises a whole suite of items, such as early warning systems, elevated shelters, hard engineering (e.g., breakwaters) and green engineering/infrastructure.

An establishment of greenbelts of mangroves and beach forests along coastlines is a proven green engineering intervention. As the Philippines’ 36,000 km coastline is among the longest in the world, coastal greenbelts effectively mitigate the damaging impacts of waves and storm surges. Some of the scientifically proven benefits are:

• Wave height of wind and swell waves can be reduced by 13-66% over 100m of mangroves;

• Storm surge attenuation of 5-50 cm.1 per kilometer width of mangroves;

• Surface wind waves can be reduced by more than 75% over one kilometer of mangroves; ,

• 50% reduction in storm surges by a 7-km band of mangroves.

Furthermore, coastal forests can reduce the force, depth and velocity of a tsunami, lessening damage to property and reducing loss of life. Coastal greenbelts are also cost-effective for disaster preparedness in the long term. The total valuation of mangroves is estimated at US$14, 000-16,000 per hectare, of which about 80% is for coastal protection value. The cost of establishing coastal greenbelts to protect against storm surge and tsunami would only be a fraction of the damages that could be brought by the yearly battering of typhoons.

A number of existing laws, policies and regulations on mangroves have been issued over the years resulting in a fragmented and conflicting policy environment. This bill aims to come up with a strategic program to rationalize the development of mangroves and beach forests for coastal protection; it is anchored on a comprehensive policy framework that addresses the fragmented approach in the past.

Establishing the National Coastal Greenbelt Program shall provide the agency mandates, funding, and general guiding principles for implementing a science-based and· cost-effective program. The proposed National Greenbelt Program mandates establishment of 100-meter protection zones, initially for the Eastern Pacific seaboard, where typhoons make landfall. This Program can also reap added benefits. The establishment of science-based coastal greenbelts is expected to protect biodiversity, improve fisheries productivity, and enhance the tourism and livelihood potential of the area. Transforming vulnerable coastal villages into highly resilient and sustainable communities is a step towards a nation that is inclusive for all.

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



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