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Digong gets a medical check-up before his 3rd SONA

Less than 24 hours before he was to deliver his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress this afternoon, July 23, President Rodrigo R. Duterte underwent a one-and-a-half hour medical check-up at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City.

But Spokesman Harry Roque said there was nothing to worry about, and that President Duterte went back to Malacanang after the check up to continue rehearsing his SONA. It was a routine check-up, Roque said.

Special Assistant Christopher Go said the prepared speech for the SONA consists of 16 pages.

The speech would not exceed 35 minutes for the President to deliver, according to Atty. Roque.PRRD_PUBHEALTH4-768x512

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Cynthia Patag’s fake news

The news about Cynthia Patag filing a letter with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) supposedly signed by 5,500 Ilonggos urging its esteemed members to adopt the 25% threshold for ballot shading in the poll protest filed by former Senator Bongbong Marcos was met with ridicule and contempt in her own city.

In the first place, there was no organized campaign to raise those 5,500 signatures in Iloilo City and Province. It just came out from nowhere, another of the magic tricks that the Liberal Party had mastered in obtaining electoral victory through fraud and deception. Not a single word has been heard about it; had it been real, it should have created so much noise here and the media would have gotten wind of it.

Secondly, Ilonggos are convinced there was massive cheating for the vice presidential race in the city and province. Leni Robredo was an unknown commodity in Iloilo in the May 9, 2016 elections. Bongbong Marcos was a one-term senator, and enjoyed high popularity and support among Ilonggos. His wife has many relatives in Iloilo province. There is quite a number of politicians who were once part of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) of his father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Add to that is the fact that Bongbong ran as vice president in tandem with the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago. That fact alone boosted the popularity and credibility of Bongbong in the eyes of Ilonggos.

In my radio commentary last Friday, July 20, 2018, I described this antic of Ms. Patag as “fake news”. It insults the intelligence of Ilonggos. The first insult happened when the Liberal Party made it appear that Robredo won over Bongbong by a landslide in the elections. Based on conversations I had with political leaders after the 2016 national and local elections, the results was the other way around: Bongbong had trounced Leni in Iloilo.

Aksyon Radyo picks up issue on Uygongco private port

I am flattered to know that Aksyon Radyo station manager and anchorman John Paul Tia has picked up the issue on the construction of a private port by La Filipina Uygongco Corp. in Barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City.
This is a matter of supreme importance, because as discussed last night by urban development and planner Francis Gentoral, good port facilities are a must for Iloilo City to be competitive.
Uygongco private port

This is the private port built and operated by the La Filipina Uygongco Corp. offshore in Barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City.

As it is, the existing Iloilo Commercial Port Complex is congested. On any given day, three or four foreign vessels lay at anchor in the Guimaras Strait to wait for their turn to dock and unload their cargo. Every day of delay is costly; shippers have to pay demurrage (penalty charged by ship owners) an estimated $2,500-3,000 per day of delay.
The reputation of the Iloilo Port is now close to being ruined in the shipping industry. According to my sources, owners of foreign vessels are starting to impose higher than usual demurrage. That means only one thing: Iloilo Port could be treated like a leper by international shipping companies.
This is the core of my expose on the Uygongco Port.
By building a private port near the existing ICPC, it has effectively blocked the room for expansion. This is detrimental to Iloilo’s economy. Also, it gave Uygongco unfair advantage over other companies who depend on the ICPC for their shipping requirements.
Right now, what is highlighted is the complaint of residents of Barangay Ingore about the noise and disturbance of the heavy equipment hauling soya, sorghum and wheat that are unloaded at the private port.
These are the raw materials for the manufacture of flour.
I am waiting for the Philippine Ports Authority to furnish me with all the records and documents relative to the grant of the permit to construct and operate to Uygongco.
There have been short-cuts made, and violations of the law may have been committed.
I think the business community should be interested in this issue.
Again, just for the record, I have nothing against Uygongco building its private port. It can build one twice or thrice the size of this one. My point is that such private port must be situated outside of the port development area for the ICPC.

No public consultation

The public consultation process has been enshrined in our laws with regard to applications for environmental compliance certificates and the exploitation of our natural resources. Even small-time riverbed quarrying is subject to the social acceptance principle to make sure that development is always balanced with public welfare and sustainable utilization of natural resources.

Hence, it came as a big surprise, and shock, for me when I learned that the private port development project of the La Filipina Uygongco Corp. in barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City did not go through a consultation with residents of the area. In an arrogant manner, Atty. Ana Lea Uy, chief legal counsel of the company, told local officials that the endorsement made by the City Council for this project four years ago was compliance to the public consultation requirement.

I’m sorry to tell Atty. Uy that it fails to satisfy that requirement. In fact, the city council should review its passage of the resolution because it was apparently done without much forethought about its long-term effects. The resolution was “muscled through” upon the intervention of a hefty politician from Iloilo City at the height of his power. Now, the short-cut taken by La Filipina Uygongco is coming back at them.

That’s because residents of Barangay Ingore are now up in arms over the anxiety and sleepless nights the hauling operations of the Uygongco company has brought upon them these last two years or so. Apparently, La Filipina Uygongco Corp. must have felt it was immune from public criticism now that they have the permit to operate the port.

That’s a wrong way of viewing the situation. The residents may have kept quiet for a while. But their suffering must have reached breaking point, and with the leadership of former Punong Barangay Ernie Poral, they filed a formal complaint before the City Council regarding the noise and road vibration during hauling operations. The issues raised are valid, and the City Council decided to convene as a Committee of the Whole to hear the complaint.

Several points were unearthed during the hearing on Thursday, July 12, 2018:

  • The company’s application for a Miscellaneous Lease Agreement (MLA) has as yet been approved. This is the legal instrument that would grant La Filipina Uygongco Corp. authority to utilize the 8,447 sqm. covered by its application and build a private port. Now it’s clearly of the cart before the horse. The port is finished and operating while the MLA application is still pending.
  • The PPA had issued a certificate of registration and temporary permit to operate to La Filipina Uygongco Corp. on January 14, 2017. But the port began operations in 2016, according to its own executives who attended the hearing. The company representatives claimed the PPA issued a provisionary permit to operate. They failed to present it during the hearing.
  • Company executive Francis de la Cruz insisted that the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) had given them a passing grade on the noise level in the area. He also said he has slept in the vicinity and didn’t experience sleepless nights. When asked exactly where had he slept, de la Cruz answered that it was inside the port complex itself, and not in the barangay where heavy trucks rumbled through the night.
  • A DENR official said just recently, Secretary Roy Cimatu had issued a policy that nobody will be allowed to enter an area subject of an MLA application until such time that it is approved. The company insisted that it was already given provisional authority to enter and develop their port.
  • And most important of all, this project obtained the requirements for the construction and operation WITHOUT PUBLIC CONSULTATION. This is a requirement enshrined in our laws. Just on that basis, I think Secretary Roy Cimatu of DENR should disapprove the MLA application and for the PPA to rescind the permit to operate. The PPA should then take over the operations of the private port. La Filipina Uygongco knew the risks of proceeding without fulfilling the requirements, especially the public consultatoin. It will have to pay for its gamble.

The City Council must take the first step of asserting the rule of law and protecting the welfare of its constituents. I would urge its members to withdraw the endorsement given to the project four years ago which was obtained through political strong-arm tactics. As concession, La Filipina Uygongco can be given preferential rights for docking, but the PPA should run it, and allow other foreign vessels chartered by other companies to dock there.

 

Duterte continues to enjoy people’s trust

Pulse Asia disclosed just today that President Rodrigo Duterte enjoys the full trust of 87% of the Filipino people.

Pulse Asia survey June 2018

The survey was conducted during the period June 15-21, 2018.

VP Leni Robredo’s trust rating was a far 56%.

Here’s the full report of Pulse Asia (just click on the link below).

http://www.pulseasia.ph/june-2018-nationwide-survey-on-the-performance-and-trust-ratings-of-the-top-national-government-officials-and-the-performance-and-trust-ratings-of-key-government-institutions/

Uygongco’s private port

It was only two weeks ago that I discovered there’s a private port now operating offshore of Barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City. I was talking with Atty. Eduardo Jalbuna, who is the lawyer for cement and hotel entrepreneur Boy So (of the La Carmela de Boracay fame), about the congestion at the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex in Barangay Loboc.

This congestion was made apparent during a trip by pumpboat to Buenavista, Guimaras recently. I saw three or four foreign vessels laying at anchor on the Guimaras Strait. I have heard about importers hurting badly from the demurrage they have to pay to owners of chartered vessels for delays in unloading their cargo. Owners of chartered vessels also don’t like making Iloilo a port of call because their schedules are turned topsy-turvy.

Uygongco private port

This is the private port built and operated by the La Filipina Uygongco Corp. offshore in Barangay Ingore, Lapaz, Iloilo City.

Definitely such a situation does not augur well for Iloilo City, especially as it now positions itself as the new hub for trade and commerce in Central Philippines. And the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is fully aware of this handicap of the ICPC being inadequate for the city’s growing needs for shipping. If Iloilo City wants to become a major player for the export market, its port facilities should be upgraded to accommodated more and bigger ships.

As far back as 20 years ago, I have heard PPA talk about building a longer berthing pier and reclaiming land for cargo handling at the ICPC. But it’s obvious its efforts to achieve that goal has fallen behind the growth of cargo ship traffic. The number of vessels laying at anchor and charging demurrage to importers is enough proof of that. That failure directly affects the ability of the city to fulfill its potential. It cannot grow fast enough without bigger and better port facilities.

ships at anchor off iloilo port

Foreign vessels lay at anchor in the Guimaras Strait to wait for berthing space to be vacated at the Iloilo Commercial Port Complex. Each day that these ships wait at anchor cost shippers demurrage charges of $2,500 per day of delay.

Hence, the construction of this private port by La Filipina Uygongco is detrimental to the interest of Iloilo City’s economy. What is objectionable isn’t the fact that the flour maker built its own port; it has every right to do that. But building it in the expansion area for the ICPC is what makes it wrong. The private port is sitting right on where the expansion of the ICPC should be.

The PPA has a lot of explaining to do on this issue. My sources told me that Uygongco has long attempted to get a certificate of no objection from PPA, but was always turned down. Then, in 2014, somebody so powerful in the Aquino administration twisted arms at the PPA to force its top management to drop its objection to the private port. It’s that simple. A powerful politician who claims he wants Iloilo City to grow and prosper is also the same person who thwarted it.

I have asked the DENR to provide me with a copy of the Miscellaneous Lease Agreement (MLA) that would give it authority to build the private port in the foreshore area. My sources told me the MLA application is still pending approval. If this is true, then why did the Uygongco flour company just go ahead and build the private port? That’s putting the horse ahead of the cart. And that would put PPA officials involved in the grant of a permit to operate (temporary) in deep, deep trouble.

 

 

MIWD poised to file criminal, administrative raps vs Iloilo City mayor

The Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) is set to file criminal and administrative charges against Iloilo City mayor Jose Espinosa III next week over the appointments — illegally, it asserted — he issued for five individuals as members of the Board of Directors in the last week of May 2018.

This was revealed last night (July 6, 2018) by Atty. Roy Villa, corporate legal counsel of the MIWD, in an interview over my radio program, “Maayong Gab-i, Iloilo” over 89.5 Home Radio and simulcast on Facebook Live.

“The complaints are ready, and we are just waiting for the board resolution authorizing the MIWD general manager to sign them,” Villa said. He expects the authority to be signed by Monday, July 9.

Villa said the MIWD will charge Espinosa with two counts of usurpation of official function and violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 which punishes a public official or employee for causing undue injury to the incumbent board members and giving unwarranted benefits to the five-person board he appointed.

At the same time, Espinosa will be charged administratively for grave misconduct for making these appointments in defiance of an existing court order granting such authority to appoint to Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.

Villa said the Supreme Court decision handed down on December 16, 2016 which partially struck down Section 3 (b) of PD 198 as it applies to the Metro Cebu Water District and gave it to the City Mayor of Cebu did not create a vacancy in the MIWD board.

“In the first place, the dispositive portion of the decision clearly referred only to the appointing authority for the MCWD,” he said. If ever, Espinosa should have filed a petition in court to reverse the decision of the Iloilo Regional Trial Court Branch 24 in 2013 that gave such power to the provincial governor of Iloilo, he said.

And even if Espinosa wielded such power, he should have waited for a vacancy to occur, and allowed the MIWD corporate secretary to solicit nominations from the concerned sector, screen the nominees and submit a list for him to choose from, Villa said.

He pointed out that the power to appoint given to local chief executives does not carry with it the power to remove.

“Such power ends after an appointment is issued, and the local chief executive cannot remove any member of the board,” he said.

The incumbent board of directors of MIWD is composed of Teodoro Robles as chairman, Juanito Acanto as vice chairman, Josephine Beata Abad-Caram, Ramon Cua Locsin and Jessica Salas as directors.

Espinosa signed appointments to Ronald Raymund Sebastian (educational sector), Antonio Sangrador (professional associations), Felicito Tiu (business sector), Ray Celis (civic oriented clubs) and Rebecca Maravilla (women’s sector) in the last week of May 2018.

Villa said the MIWD was not even aware about the appointments until it was asked by the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) to file a comment on the matter on June 18, 2018.  The MIWD submitted its comment last June 29.

It may be recalled that sometime in December 2017, Espinosa issued a “cease and desist notice” against the incumbent board and demanded that they vacate their positions.

The MIWD board simply ignored the action of Espinosa as it had no enforceability in the first place.

But with the appointments made last May, the MIWD is compelled to take action and protect its interests, Villa said.

Villa is inclined to believe that these actions of Espinosa to forcibly oust the management board of MIWD is being orchestrated by the Villar family, which owns the Prime Water business. Espinosa belongs to the Nacionalista Party which is also led by former Senator and presidential candidate Manny Villar and his wife, incumbent Senator Cynthia Villar.

“It belongs to realm of speculation, but there is basis to believe that,” he said.