Science and Technology

Sen. Bam to gov’t: Remove VAT on electricity to lower power rates

With consumers facing another electricity rate hike, Sen. Bam Aquino called on government to take the necessary steps to lower prices of power, particularly the removal of value-added tax (VAT) on electric generation, transmission and distribution.

“Kawawa naman ang ating mga kababayan. Hindi pa nga nakakaahon sa taas presyo, dagdag singil naman sa kuryente ang kanilang papasanin,” said Sen. Bam, 

“Dapat kumilos agad ang gobyerno para maibsan agad itong pahirap sa ating mga kababayan,” he added.

Sen. Bam has filed Senate Bill No. 670 seeking to lower power rates by removing VAT from the sale of electricity by all electric companies and cooperatives.

The senator is pushing for the removal of VAT on electric generation, transmission and distribution as the costs of which are ultimately being passed on to already heavily burdened consumers.

Aside from removal of VAT, Sen. Bam also mentioned other recommendations that the government can undertake to lower prices of electricity.

“Kailangan simulan agad ang mga mahahalagang reporma sa power industry para hindi mahirapan ang taumbayan,” he said.

Sen. Bam said government must prioritize energy infrastructure projects to help address the country’s supply issues, and to remove red tape to enhance competition and encourage more players in power generation.

Sen. Bam’s bills for startups, scientists and students one signature away from becoming laws

Three measures principally sponsored and/or authored by Sen. Bam Aquino moved closer to becoming laws after their bicameral conference committee reports were ratified by the Senate late Wednesday. 
On the last day of regular session, the Senate adopted and ratified the bicameral conference committee report on Senate Bill No. 1532 or the Innovative Startup Act and Senate Bill No. 1534 or the Magna Carta for Scientists.
The Senate also ratified the bicameral conference committee report on Senate Bill No. 1597 or the Student Fare Discount Act, which was principally authored by Sen. Bam.
Sen. Bam pushed for the passage of Senate Bill No. 1532 as principal author and sponsor and of Senate Bill 1534 as principal sponsor during his time as chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology.
The three measures will be transmitted to Malacanang for President Duterte’s signature. 
If enacted into law, Senate Bill No. 1532 will provide support to innovative and tech startups, which pertain to businesses that provide unique and relevant solutions to pressing problems, such as transportation, financing, agriculture and healthcare.
Under the measure, host agencies, including DOST, DICT and DTI, are authorized to provide subsidies to innovative startups to help defray the costs of business registration, and the use of space, facilities, equipment and other services for their operations. Start ups will also receive subsidies for travel costs related to their participation in local and international start up events and competitions. 
In addition, the law creates a Start Up Grant Fund administered by DOST, DICT, and DTI to provide grants-in-aid for research, training, expansion, or scaling up and a Start Up Venture Fund administers by DTI to fund match investments in start ups by investors.
Senate Bill No. 1534 eyes to remove set limits on additional honoraria sourced from externally funded grants for S&T professions and foster ease in accessing benefits for S&T personnel in departments and agencies other than the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
“Malaking tulong ang dalawang panukalang ito upang lalo pang mapalakas ang sektor ng Science and Technology at para mabigyan ng tamang suporta ang entrepreneurs na may hatid na solusyon sa mga problema sa bansa,” said Sen. Bam.
Senate Bill No. 1597, for its part, grants mandatory 20-percent fare discounts to students on all land, air and water transportation, even during weekends and holidays.
In almost six years as lawmaker, Sen. Bam has 35 laws to his name, including the landmark free college law and the Go Negosyo Act.

Sen. Bam: Protect BPOs to secure jobs of Filipinos, livelihood of families

A senator reiterated the need to guard the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector from external and internal threats that may lead to loss of livelihood for thousands of Filipinos and their families.

“Libu-libong Pilipino at kanilang pamilya ang babalik sa kahirapan kung hindi natin poprotektahan ang BPO sector laban sa mga banta na maaaring makaapekto rito,” Sen. Bam Aquino said in his speech during the inauguration of the Global Payments Inc. office in Mandaluyong City.

As chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, Sen. Bam has conducted hearings to look into and craft solutions for the threats that affect the BPO sector, most especially artificial intelligence (AI).

Sen. Bam also committed to block provisions in the second package of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law that could affect the employment of thousands of Filipino workers in the BPO sector.

In his speech, Sen. Bam also renewed his commitment to help BPO companies through legislation to enable them to expand and provide more employment to Filipinos.

“We hope that we make it easier for you to do business here, we make it profitable for you to do business here so in turn you can provide jobs our countrymen need,” Sen. Bam said.

Sen. Bam underscored the need to support the BPO sector as any slowdown in the industry could lead to loss of jobs for thousands of Filipinos.

“More centers that open up, more centers to expand means more families will partake in the gains that our economy is currently experiencing. We’re here to make sure that this industry will continue to grow,” added Sen. Bam.

Recently, Sen. Bam was recognized as BPO champion by the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) for his contribution to develop and strengthen IT and BPO sector through legislation.

The IBPAP presented Sen. Bam with the IBPAP-PLDT Azure Flare For Industry Luminary award during the IBPAP Flare Awards 2018.

Sen. Bam to conduct Senate hearing on increasing telco players in PH

The government should keep the market open to more telecommunications companies to give the public a better choice for quality and affordable internet connection, according to Sen. Bam Aquino.
“Kailangan natin ng dagdag-kumpetisyon sa ating bayan. Why limit the industry to 3 players? The more, the merrier the consumer,” said Sen. Bam, principal sponsor of the law providing free internet in public places.
“Iyong mga bansa gaya ng Singapore na pagkaliit-liit, tatlo hanggang apat ang kanilang telco, tayo dalawa lang,” added Sen. Bam.
As chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, Sen. Bam will conduct a hearing tomorrow, November 20, to look into the possibility of adding more telco players to the mix.
“Habang marami ang player at open ang playing field, mas maraming pagpipilian, mas gaganda ang serbisyo, at mas magmumura ang presyo para sa ating mga kababayan. Bakit natin ito pipigilan?” said Sen. Bam.
The senator added that the hearing will also investigate other issues about the third player Mislatel, including concerns about national security and accusations of spying against one of its partner China Telecoms.
Sen. Bam has been investigating the slow and expensive internet connection in the country since the 16th Congress during his time as chairman of the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.
Aside from determining necessary legislation to boost internet speed, the hearings also compelled the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to come out with guidelines on minimum internet speeds and conducted speed testing in various areas of the Philippines to check compliance of telcos.
Sen. Bam also led the ‘Nakaw Load’ hearings in the Senate, allowing for irate customers to push for changes in the telcos’ policies on load deductions.

Sen. Bam on Sen. Honasan’s appointment as DICT Secretary

We’ll miss Sen. Honasan in the Senate. We wish him the best in his new position as DICT Secretary. 
We look forward to working with him to strengthen the ICT sector in the Philippines and improve access to quality and affordable internet services for more Filipinos. 
As chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, we hope to get Sen. Honasan’s support in enabling more internet service providers and players in the industry, the upgrading of laws for our digital age, and in ensuring the effective implementation of the free internet in public places law. 
Itutuloy po natin ang trabaho para bumilis at maging abot-kaya ang internet sa bansa na matagal nang dinadaing ng ating mga kababayan.

Sen. Bam: Maximize Sci-Tech to address effects of storms, natural calamities

Our science and technology sector can strengthen the country’s mitigation and response to natural calamities and disasters, according to Senator Bam Aquino. 
“Malaki ang maitutulong ng science and technology sa pagsasaliksik, paghahanda at pagbuo ng mga hakbangin upang mapagaan ang epekto ng mga natural na kalamidad,” said Sen. Bam, chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology. 
One of Sen. Bam’s measures to strengthen the country’s response and mitigation during natural calamities and disasters is Senate Bill No. 1211 or the Philippine Space Act. 
Sen. Bam said the measure, if enacted into law, will beef up existing government programs on disaster prevention, including the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s disaster risk management, PAGASA’s astronomical science programs and National Mapping & Resource Information Agency’s satellite information gathering. 
“Makatutulong ito upang mapalakas pa ang kaalaman ng ating mga scientist at mananaliksik pagdating sa paghahanda at pag-aaral ng mga kalamidad na maaaring tumama sa bansa,” added Sen. Bam.
Sen. Bam is scheduled to deliver his sponsorship speech anytime and present the measure for the consideration of the plenary. 
“The PhilSA would be responsible for developing space science technology policies, implementing research and education programs, establishing industry linkages between private and public sector stakeholders, protection of national territory, natural resources accounting, and capacity building for telecommunications,” Sen. Bam said. 
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), headed by Sec. Fortunato dela Pena, expressed hope that the bill would enacted into law this year.

Sen. Bam: Drive down price of PH internet, encourage competition in telco sector

Competition will help lower the price and improve the quality of internet service in the country, Senator Bam Aquino maintained.

“Nalulunod na nga sa taas ng presyo ng bilihin, pati internet napakamahal dito sa atin. Mahal na nga, mabagal pa,” said Sen. Bam, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology.

“We need more than three telcos to have a healthy competition. We should look at other countries aside from China,” added Sen. Bam.

As chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, Sen. Bam is currently working on Senate Bill No. 171 or the Open Access in Data Transmission Act of 2016.

If enacted into law, Sen. Bam said the will enable more players into and promote competition in the internet industry.

Sen. Bam has been working to improve the quality of internet in the country. In the 16th Congress, he spearheaded an investigation into the slow and expensive internet in the country during his stint as chairman of the Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.

The probe helped determine needed legislation to address the internet problem in the country and led to the release of a Department of Justice opinion on telco advertising.

The hearing also compelled the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to come out with guidelines on minimum internet speeds and conducted speed testing in various areas of the Philippines to check compliance of telcos.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Sen. Bam pushed for the passage of Republic Act 10929 or the Free Internet Access Program in Public Places as principal sponsor.

Sen. Bam welcomes passage of his 22nd law in support of Filipino scientists

Senator Bam Aquino welcomed the passage of the law that provides necessary assistance to Filipino scientists who will return to the country and help strengthen its research and development capability. 
Sen. Bam pushed for the passage of Repubic Act 11035 or the Balik Scientist Act in the Senate as principal sponsor and principal author. The law is Sen. Bam’s 22nd in his five years as senator. 
“Malaking tulong ang batas na ito upang mahikayat ang mga Pinoy scientists na bumalik sa bansa at tumulong sa pagpapaunlad sa bayan at sa buhay ng mga Pilipino,” said Sen. Bam, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology. 
“Matutugunan din ng batas na ito ang kakulangan ng bansa sa scientists, upang makasabay na tayo sa ating mga kapitbahay sa Asya na mas marami ang nagtatrabaho sa research and development,” added Sen. Bam. 
During the committee hearing, it was discovered that the country has 189 scientists per million, far from the ideal ratio of 380 scientists per million. 
Currently, the Philippines trails South Korea and United States, which have 5,300 and 3,500 scientists per million, respectively. Malaysia, for its part, has 2,000 scientists per million. 
The Balik Scientist Act will provide overseas Filipino scientists with financial benefits and incentives to encourage them to return to the Philippines and help boost the country’s research and development. 
Aside from the Balik Scientist Act, Sen. Bam is also the principal sponsor and co-author of the Amendments to the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, and Researchers bill and the Innovative Start-up Act, which is currently being tackled in the plenary. 
Meanwhile, President Duterte also signed into law Republic Act 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Law, which Sen. Bam pushed as co-author.

Sen. Bam pushes daily load notifications to resolve ‘nakaw load’ issue

Sen. Bam Aquino, chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology, instructed telecommunications companies to provide free daily notifications to subscribers regarding their load balance.

“Bigyan na ng resibo araw-araw ang mga subscriber at bigyan ng pagkakataong mag-reklamo kapag mayroong nakitang mali” said Sen. Bam, who spearheaded the committee hearing on the complaints of subscribers regarding disappearing load.

According to Sen. Bam, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has committed to issue a memorandum circular that aims to address the problem of disappearing load or “nakaw load”, which will include his suggestion of daily notifications or receipts to subscribers.

“Bantayan natin para matiyak na maglalabas talaga ang NTC ng memorandum circular upang maipatupad ang pagbibigay ng digital na resibo o notification ang mga subscribers,” said Sen. Bam, referring to the NTC’s commitment to release the memorandum by June or July.

The NTC said that it also plans to include a minimum two-step process for subscribing to value-added services (VAS).

For their part, the telecommunications companies committed to the implementation of a three- or four-step verification process so clients are well-informed of the services they subscribe to.

“Ang hinahanap natin ay aksiyon. Solusyunan na natin agad itong isyu ng nawawalang prepaid load,” insisted Sen. Bam, the only senator in the hearing.

 The hearing was called by Sen. Bam through Senate Resolution No. 595, directing the committee to determine the capacity and readiness of relevant government agencies and regulators to implement rules that will protect prepaid mobile subscribers.

Sen. Bam to gov’t: Protect 1.4M BPO jobs from impending threats

A senator reminded relevant government agencies to protect the 1.4 million jobs in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector from identified threats and prepare for the next Senate hearing.

“Our resource speakers have identified 3 major threats to jobs in the BPO sector: Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), the tax reform law and the shifting economic policies of other countries. We must prepare for these threats and not be caught flat-footed,” said Sen. Bam Aquino, who recently held a second hearing on threats to the BPO sector as the chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology.

“Hindi maaaring mawalan ng kabuhayan ang Pilipino, lalo na sa panahon ngayon,” he added.

During the first Senate hearing on the threat of AI, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) mentioned that they are anticipating a decline in demand for low-skilled jobs in the IT-BPO industry of about 43,000 jobs by 2022.

On the bright side, there is potential to open up 388,000 jobs for mid-skilled tasks, and 309,000 jobs for high-skilled tasks also by 2022, jobs that Sen. Bam hopes the Filipino workforce can be ready for.

“The clear solution is to retrain our workers and upgrade their skills to be viable for higher job levels. Our training centers and academic institutions must start offering courses for these higher-skilled BPO jobs. Kailangan din na mayroong scholarships at TESDA vouchers,” said Sen. Bam, who also pushed the free college law as principal sponsor in the Senate.

However, Sen. Bam says the government agencies are not working quick enough.

“I want to see urgency in our agencies to move this forward quickly and with purpose. This is the first time in years that the BPO industry will be at risk. We need to protect our countrymen’s jobs,” said Sen. Bam.


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