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Sen. Bam Urges Stakeholders: Work for Better Internet System Before 2015

Better shape up or be left behind.

Senator Bam Aquino urged the government, local telecommunications industry and other stakeholders to find ways to quickly improve the country’s Internet systems, with the 2015 ASEAN Economic Integration fast approaching.

“With its slow and expensive Internet connection, the country may be left behind in the battle for the information and communications technology (ICT) market,” said Aquino, chairman of the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

“We should step up and shape up or we will be eating dust from the competition,” added Aquino, who recently called for an investigation regarding the country’s slow and expensive Internet connection.

The lawmaker said the ASEAN is pushing for the strengthening of the ICT industry as it is seen as one of the drivers in the economic and social transformation of the region.

According to the ASEAN ICT Master Plan, Aquino said one of the main goals is to create conducive business environment to promote trade, investment and entrepreneurship in the ICT sector.

However, the senator expressed apprehension over the country’s capacity to compete with neighboring countries with far more advanced technology in terms of Internet connection.

“One of the foundations of a good ICT industry is a reliable and fast Internet service. If we don’t have that, the country’s chances to grab a lion’s share of the market is lessened,” Aquino stressed.

Aquino cited a study commissioned by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and released by Boston Consulting Group (BGC), saying the Philippines is trailing its ASEAN neighbors in terms of Internet infrastructure.

According to the report, the Philippines ranked 47th out of 65 countries covered by so-called BGC “e-Friction Index”, or factors that can inhibit consumers, businesses and others from fully participating in the national and the international Internet economy.”

The Philippines garnered an overall e-Friction score of 64, third among the six ASEAN member-countries covered by the report, behind Singapore (15th overall) and Malaysia (28th).

Thailand was one spot lower than the Philippines at 48th, Indonesia was 59th and Vietnam, 61st.

However, the Philippines was 53rd in terms of infrastructure friction component, composed of fixed- and mobile-broadband connections, bandwidth speeds, and pricing, among other things.

Also, the study showed the Philippines has the eighth most-expensive fixed broadband pricing among 65 countries included in the study.

“I called for an investigation to find solutions that will fix the situation and eventually, provide better service to consumers and improve the country’s business climate,” Aquino said.


Sen. Bam Calls for Investigation on Slow, Expensive Internet

Senator Bam Aquino calls for an investigation to determine if consumers are indeed getting their money’s worth from Internet service being provided by telecommunication companies.

The senator made the move after it was reported that the Philippines is lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of Internet speed.

According to ASEAN DNA, the Philippines (3.6 megabytes per second) lags behind Laos (4.0 Mbps), Indonesia (4.1 Mbps), Myanmar and Brunei (4.9 Mbps), Malaysia (5.5 Mbps) and Cambodia (5.7 Mbps).

Other countries mentioned in the report include Vietnam (13.1) and Thailand (17.7), the only two other Southeast Asian countries joining Singapore (61.0) as those above the ASEAN average of 12.4 MBPS.

The senator wants to determine why some neighboring countries in Southeast Asia enjoy faster Internet speed at a much cheaper price while the Philippines bear the brunt of slow connection.

“There are constant complaints about the provider’s failure to deliver on its promised connection speed, which usually leads to slow Internet link,” the senator said.

On the average, consumers shell out around P1,000 a month for Internet service with speeds of up to two megabytes per second (MBPS) while some telecommunication companies offering speed of up to five MBPS for around P2,000 a month.

“This is expensive compared to Singapore and Thailand where we can find some of the fastest Internet connections in the world,” Aquino said.

Singtel, the largest telecommunications company in Singapore, offers 15 megabytes per second of Internet speed for 36.90 Singapore dollars or around P1,312 a month (P87 per MPBS).

Thailand’s True Internet, for its part, provides 12 MBPS of connection for about 799 baht or P1,100 (P92 per MPBS).

“Do we always have to pay a steep price for slow and sometimes unreliable Internet connection? NTC should provide a logical and clear explanation on this,” Aquino emphasized.

The senator added that the investigation should look into ways on how to improve the country’s poor Internet connection, which is crucial to the country’s economic growth.

“We have to find ways to improve the system and fast, especially with the ASEAN Economic Integration happening a year from now,” Aquino said.

Senator Bam Aquino’s Statement on the Signing of the Bangsamoro Comprehensive Agreement

The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signals the start of a new era of peace and economic development in Mindanao.

With this pact, we are hoping for an end to the decade-long conflict between the two sides that resulted in death of thousands and loss of homes and livelihood of millions more in Mindanao.

Also, this also marks the start of the long-awaited development of the region known for its rich natural resources.

If there is peace and security, Mindanao will become a magnet for business and investments that will provide jobs and other livelihood to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao.

With the help of this agreement, the government’s quest for inclusive growth will be easier to achieve.

Photo source: PNoy’s Official Facebook Page

Sen. Bam to Private Companies: Help Solve Job Mismatch Woes

Senator Bam Aquino calls on private companies to relax its educational requirement rules in hiring employees to help address the problem of job mismatch in the country.

“I’m aware that companies have certain educational standards regarding their employees but they also have the responsibility help the country and one way of doing it is to at least relax their requirements,” Aquino said.

Job mismatch happens when an applicant cannot comply with the demands of educational requirements for a position.

“This problem contributes to our growing unemployment rate, which, as of last count increased from 7.1 percent to 7.5 percent in the first quarter of 2014,” Aquino said, citing a report from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

DOLE reported that there are 3.8 million job vacancies waiting to be filled, especially in industries such as services, construction, tourism, and information, technology and communications, and the business process outsourcing (BPO).

“However, many of these vacancies remain as such because of the job and skills mismatch,” said Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

Aside from the cooperation of private companies, Aquino said the government should take steps to address job mismatch, which stemmed from lack of proper education and training of applicants for a particular line of work.

Aquino called on the DOLE, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to join forces in combating the prevalent job mismatch problem.

“These four government agencies should launch a massive awareness drive in high schools to inform students on what the right course to take in college,” Aquino said.

Sen. Bam: Substandard Steel Products Killed Hundreds in Bohol, Cebu

A senator blamed substandard steel products for the death of hundreds of people in the Magnitude 7.2 earthquake that devastated Bohol and Cebu last year.

“Hundreds of lives were lost because of substandard and inferior steel products used in houses and other infrastructure,” Sen. Bam Aquino stressed as he filed a resolution seeking to investigate alleged proliferation of uncertified, substandard and smuggled steel products in the country.

Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, witnessed the devastation caused by the earthquake in a recent trip to several areas in Bohol.

“During my visit, I saw two houses just several meters apart. One was completely destroyed and the other was still standing after the earthquake,” he said.

Overall, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that the death toll from the earthquake was 222.

“Selling substandard steel is a question of greed and a question of corruption. That’s why we need to investigate this before we lose hundreds of lives to another earthquake or devastation, God forbid,” Aquino stressed.

Backing up his claim, Aquino mentioned a report by the Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (PISI) in the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake that inflicted severe damage in the provinces of Bohol and Cebu.

Aquino said a technical team deployed by PISI discovered that there was widespread use of substandard bars and angle bars in the construction of residential houses and public structures such as public markets and bridges.

The senator also received reports from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), PISI and Steel Angles, Shapes and Sections Manufacturers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (SASSMAPI) on the rampant selling of substandard steel products like reinforcing steel bars or rebars in different parts of the country.

Rebars are used in construction of buildings and other infrastructure to ensure strength and integrity in their concrete foundations and structures.

In their respective reports, PISI and SASSMAPI said they purchased substandard steel products from hardware stores in Bulacan while DTI seized thousands of uncertified products like rebars and angle bars from different hardwares in Caloocan City.

The DTI said the confiscated steel products had no Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) or PS Mark, raising suspicions that they are smuggled into the country. The other confiscated products had PS Mark but failed the standard test conducted on them.

Earlier, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has confiscated P24 million worth of smuggled steel from China at the Manila port.

Also, the BOC filed smuggling-related cases against Shine Rapadas Montes, owner and proprietress of Thunder Birds Trading for misdeclaring her firm’s importation of steel angle bars.

Sen. Bam: Brownouts Big Threat to Economy

The looming rotating brownouts and power shortage pose a big threat to the economy, as it could lead to huge business losses and massive worker layoffs

“This is the same thing that happened in Mindanao, where many companies had to close shop and many workers lost their jobs because of the widespread power shortages,” said Sen. Bam Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship.

According to several Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Mindanao, hundreds of millions of pesos were lost due to long brownouts.

“If this happens in Metro Manila and in other business hubs in Luzon, we will surely experience more losses, and many more lives will be affected,” Aquino emphasized.

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) earlier warned of rotating brownouts and a power shortage after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the latest power rate hikes.

According to Sen. Aquino, one solution to the power shortage is to make it easier for companies to come in and engage in power generation.

“There are many companies interested in venturing into the power sector, but they are dismayed by the slow and tedious process of getting a permit to operate,” Aquino emphasized.

Aquino underscored that more power plants are needed to ensure the steady supply of electricity, at a lower cost.

“If we have more generating plants, even if four of five shut down, the market should be able to sustain our energy needs,” Sen. Aquino said, adding that prices of electricity will be reduced with the entry of more players into the power sector.

The senator also revealed his plan to investigate whether or not the government is providing enough support to companies who are interested in entering the power sector.

“I intend to investigate this to make sure that new players who want to engage in putting up power plants are given the right support by government,” he said.

The senator stressed that the livelihood of millions of Filipinos should not be dependent on only a few power producers.

Photo source: Rappler.com

Sen. Bam Aquino Pushes for 24-Hour Disaster Response

Senator Bam Aquino pushed for a maximum response time of 24 hours following natural calamities, saying that it “currently takes three to four days for the national government to respond [to disasters].”

He likewise called for a “higher level of preparedness… [from government],” as he spoke at the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, held at the Senate on Monday morning.

“What do we need to increase efficiency and capacity? Regional relief depots? Better search and rescue vehicles and equipment? Pre-positioned military and police? Disaster-proof evacuation centers? Given that climate change is upon us and disasters are sure to hit the country again next year, even our measures for assessing disaster preparedness need to change.”

“The best way to honor our countrymen who had passed away is to make sure that we are more responsive the next time disaster strikes,” Sen. Aquino stressed.

The senator also indicated his support for moves to create a department for disaster relief and rehabilitation, replacing the existing National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

He also emphasized that greater focus needs to be placed on ensuring tighter coordination between the national government and local government units.

“Miscommunication severely hampers our ability to respond quickly to crisis situations. If we work more closely together, we will be better able to respond to the needs on the ground,” Sen. Aquino pointed out.


Sen. Aquino also pushed for greater support for rehabilitation efforts of the private sector, citing that “markets are alive [and] vibrant” even in disaster-stricken towns.

While on a ground assessment in Guiuan in Easter Samar and in Tacloban City, Palo, and Tanauan in Leyte on Sunday, the senator observed that most entrepreneurs have been relying on loan sharks—what is locally known as“five-six”—to finance their rehabilitation efforts.

“Equally important in rebuilding public infrastructure is seeing how we can rehabilitate the private sector. We all know that ‘five-six’ bears excessively high interest rates. We need to explore long-term loans, low-interest loans, microfinance loans to help micro, small, and medium entrepreneurs get back on their feet.”

He cited a positive observation by a representative from the international organization UNICEF, which said that it took the Philippines only “ten to fifteen days to begin rebuilding” after the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda, versus the eight weeks that it took markets to open in other countries that were severely hit by natural disasters.

“The Filipino spirit is indeed resilient. As government, we need to honor that spirit by providing more support to our countrymen.”

Sen. Bam eyes active role of LDCs in disaster preparedness

Senator Bam Aquino calls on Local Development Councils (LDC) to maintain a more active role in disaster and calamity preparedness.

Aquino said LDCs will play a crucial role in disaster preparedness, as they involve not only local government units but also people’s organizations, non-government organizations, and the private sector.

“LDCs should be strengthened and made more active because they are one of the keys in the disaster preparedness of a community. Community needs will be better diagnosed and addressed if different sectors converge and discuss more regularly,”said Sen. Aquino.

Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code mandates each local government to have a LDC at the provincial, city, municipal, or barangay level.

However, Sen. Aquino discovered that many LDCs do not meet regularly, minimizing the participation of non-government, people’s organizations, and the private sector in planning, local governance, and disaster preparedness.

To resolve this, Sen. Aquino has filed Senate Bill No. 1843 to ensure that LDCs will have an active role and make NGOs and POs 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, preferably every March, June, September, and December.

The leagues of LGUs are further mandated to monitor such meetings through the Oversight Committee on Local Government.

The measure also seeks to provide punitive actions to local executives who fail to execute such laws.

The bill calls for a 30-day suspension for the first violation. Subsequent violations will be slapped a 90-day suspension.

Photo source: www.nydailynews.com

Sen. Bam to Private Companies: Jobs for Yolanda Survivors

Senator Bam Aquino urges private companies to adopt survivors of super typhoon Yolanda as workers and employees.

The lawmaker particularly mentioned malls, fastfood chains, restaurants and other businesses that have branches Leyte and other parts of Visayas that were devastated by the typhoon.

“For example, a fastfood chain can employ workers from its branch in Leyte and transfer them to other branches so that they will have a continuing source of livelihood,” said Aquino.

For the lawmaker, the hiring of additional workers is timely for companies involved in the service and manufacturing industries because of the start of the peak season during Christmas.

Sen. Bam is convinced that the move will help Yolanda survivors more quickly get back on their feet.

“For those whom we have already successfully evacuated and provided relief, the provision of jobs is the next important step, so we can help survivors recover from this tragedy,” he added.

Aside from employment, Sen. Aquino said private companies could take it a notch further and help Yolanda victims by offering temporary shelter while working.

A Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) report said four million workers have lost their livelihood due to typhoon Yolanda.

The labor department has started an emergency employment program that will tap typhoon survivors to help in the rehabilitation and repair of areas devastated by Yolanda.

“We welcome this program, as this will definitely help survivors for both rehabilitation and livelihood. We hope this paves the way for government to implement more long-term and sustainable solutions in response to this crisis,” the lawmaker said.

Photo by Erik de Castro, Reuters

#YolandaPH #ReliefPH: How to Find Missing People

  • Welfare Desks including RFL and tracing services are established in the affected areas. National Societies abroad that are approached by families without news of their loved ones can contact the PRC Social Services Department:Email: sos@redcross.org.phzenaida.beltejar@redcross.org.ph. Mobile: 09175328500, 09473844497, Landline: 5270000 loc. 126, 5270867.
  • Philippine National Red Cross, if you are looking for a family or friend, contact our Social Services Restoring Family Links and Tracing Services, please call 0917-5328500

Photo source: GMA News

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