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If government wants to stop smuggling, then it should embrace XLOG technology

The country’s Bureau of Customs is leaking like a sieve, which explains why until now, smuggling of illegal drugs hasn’t abated. Shabu that is being sold on the streets of the archipelago are manufactured in China. There are no shabu laboratories in the country anymore. Several shipments worth billions of pesos have been intercepted, but this represents only a fraction of the shabu coming into the country. This leaves me wondering if President Duterte is raising his hands in surrender in the face of this pipeline of shabu flowing right under the noses of our customs bureau. Or put another way, it raises questions on whether the government even wants to stop smuggling of shabu.

This is rather tragic because putting a stop to smuggling could have been accomplished as early as the first quarter of 2018 with software developed by Filipino IT experts. Called “XLOG”, the software has been tested and retested, and consistently proved that the leaks in the system could be plugged permanently. It basically removes human intervention in the entire process, and with it, the opportunities for corruption.

If put to use by our Bureau of Customs, XLOG can eliminate delays in getting cargoes processed and released, and ensure that the government collects the right tariffs. What more can the government ask for? It will make exporters and importers happy, get rid of corruption, and increase collections. It’s a simple formula and it’s hard to understand why Customs officials refuse to embrace the technology.

On top of the crystal clear benefits it will bring to the government, XLOG is not even to cost the Bureau of Customs a single centavo. It is being offered entirely for free. All it needs to do is accept the technology, install the application at all ports of entry, and government will reap the rewards in one smooth movement. The technology has been proven effective in plugging the leaks in the present set-up. Government cannot possibly find a better solution to the smuggling problem and the corruption issue.

Of course, once in place, XLOG will eliminate corruption, which is perhaps the reason why there is resistance in the Bureau of Customs. No matter how many shake-ups will be carried out, the corruption will continue to plague the agency, for as long as officials are given broad discretion on letting a cargo shipment go through its checkpoints. Money, especially when it involves millions of pesos for a single transaction, can dilute the strongest of principles among officials.

Hence, we can only watch with despair as more and more smuggling take place on a daily basis at our ports of entry, both for sea and air cargo. We are losing the war, and government has only itself to blame. If Customs chief Isidro Lapena wants to change the situation, all he needs to do is get XLOG to come into the picture. It’s been waiting there on the sidelines. The picture can change in an instant: smuggling can be eliminated once the buttons for XLOG are pressed.

 

 

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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/

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.

 

 

No vacancy at the MIWD

City Mayor Jose Espinosa III should quickly pull out the appointments he made for the Board of Directors of the Metro Iloilo Water District and reverse his position that the entire five-man board was rendered vacant.
In December 2016, the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional a provision in the Local Water Utility Act (PD 198) that gives the power to appoint members of the BOD to the provincial governor when the number of active users of an HUC fall below 75% as it applied to the Metro Cebu Water District.
The ruling did not create a vacancy in the existing BOD of the MCWD.
What happened was that one seat in the BOD was vacated in December 2016 which was about when the decision came out. That’s because the six-year term of Atty. Manuel Legaspi expired at the end of December 2016. The next month, January 2017, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena appointed Jose Mari Yu to replace Atty. Legaspi.
Yu is now the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the MCWB.
The other four BOD members whose terms had not expired continued to occupy their board seats and will remain there until their terms expire.
LET ME REPEAT: CEBU CITY MAYOR TOMAS OSMENA APPOINTED ONLY ONE DIRECTOR TO FILL UP ONE VACANCY.
This has been my position since this controversy broke out since last year.
True, the ruling on the MCWD applied to all water districts in the country that are similarly situated. But the Supreme Court ruling did not create a vacancy in the MIWD. It certainly did not happen that way in the case of Cebu City.

Hence, the power of the City Mayor to appoint did not arise as yet. Besides, there are procedures to be followed in the appointment process. For instance, the law requires that when a vacancy occurs, the Board Secretary is required to solicit nominations and submits a short list to the appointing authority.
Before the City Mayor gets into deeper trouble, my advise is for him to recall the appointments. Better to be embarrassed than be knocked out by a suspension on this.
I’m sorry to say this, but Mayor Joe III has gotten bad advice on this. He should be careful about making decisions on matters that can have enormous repercussions.

Boracay closure necessary for unhampered rehab work, and here’s why

abs cbn photos beachfront pipe

It’s week one since Boracay was closed to tourists and non-residents, and already DPWH technical crews have discovered a pipe along the beach that is discharging untreated waste water into the sea. In simple terms, this is like a food tube directly emptying its nutrients — human waste is a feast food for algae — into the beaches of Boracay. It confirms what many have suspected all along: that fecal matter isn’t properly deposited in septic tanks and the water it mixes with doesn’t undergo treatment and cleaning before being released out to sea.

Such work, which is like looking for needles in haystacks, could not have been accomplished if Boracay remained open to tourists as what some sectors have demanded. The measure imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte was too harsh, they argued, and only establishments found to have violated the laws, especially with respect to the water and clean air acts, should have been padlocked.

They missed the whole point. The work that needs to be done is Herculean. And for the government to carry out the mission swiftly is give the agencies involved freedom of movement and action, with not a single hindrance, to do it. How could the engineering crews have unearthed the pipes buried under the sand if there were thousands of tourists enjoying the sun, and the green algae?

We don’t know just how many such pipes have been buried, and hidden, under the sun. It’s possible there are quite a number that were buried deep and the end part far out into the sea to avoid discovery. And then there are the drainage issues that impact on flooding, and the possible trespassing on wet lands and other public spaces.

Clearly, closure was the best course of action, and we are just starting to see why.

Boracay closure not only for rehab, but also for public safety

Tomorrow (April 26, 2018), what tourists had known as the paradise island will be closed to visitors, at least for six months to allow rehabilitation work to be carried out without hindrance. This is bite-the-bullet treatment imposed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte after an inter-agency task force validated the rampant violations of environmental laws and the building code in the over-congested island. Many businessmen and workers on the island protested that this measure is too harsh. “Punish only those who broke the law,” many resort owners urged.

Boracay

Government workers get ready to provide assistance to displaced workers in Boracay when it is shut down to tourists starting April 26. (Inquirer photo by Nestor Burgos)

But it’s not about finding out who did wrong and limit the fall-out to them and their employees. Boracay Island is now an ICU patient from the environmental point of view. Pictures emerging from the island last week showed the green algae growth on the beaches has gone up, an indication that the coliform level in the water has reached a dangerous point.

Hence, this closure is not only about a clean-up; it’s also protecting the tourists from possible diseases caused by coliform bacteria. It’s a public health issue that should not be ignored in favor of protecting businessmen and workers from the economic losses the closure will bring.