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Poe Bats for Price Freeze on Passport Fee Hikes

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Senator Grace Poe batted for the inclusion of an “anti-passport price increase” provision in the 2018 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in order to freeze the fee for the travel document even if its validity will be extended to 10 years pursuant to a new law.

“We can add one line which stipulates that the allocation is subject to the condition that the amount DFA will charge for a 10-year passport will not be increased and will remain the same as the fee for the current five-year passport,” Poe said, explaining that she will introduce an amendment to the proposed P19.56-billion DFA budget for 2018 when the Senate tackles the agency’s spending plan.

The provision, she said, can be imposed as a condition in appropriating P3.1 billion for the purchase of passport booklets next year.

If the number of pages will remain, then there is no reason to jack up the price, Poe stressed.

The DFA charges P950 for “regular processing” or passport delivery within 15 working days and P1,200 for “express processing” within seven working days.

President Duterte signed into law last Aug. 2 Republic Act 10928 which extends the period of validity of a Philippine passport from five to 10 years, except for those of minors which would only have a five-year validity.

“Gusto lang nating siguraduhin na ang passport na doble ang haba ng bisa ay hindi magiging doble ang presyo ng pagkuha,” Poe said.

She said that for most Filipino travellers, the 44-page current passport, 39 pages of which are stampable, would suffice. “Hindi naman lahat ng Pinoy jetsetter.”

“If the DFA will issue a passport that will have more pages, then the best recourse is to maintain the current price, or call for extensive hearings, especially among OFWs, if they plan to charge more,” Poe said .

About three million Filipinos apply for new passports or renew theirs annually.

“Hindi na kailangang tumubo pa ang ating pamahalaan sa pag-issue ng isang dokumento na kailangan ng ating mga OFW sa kanilang hanapbuhay. Higit P1.34 trillion ang remittances nila last year. Ang abot-kayang passport ang sukli natin sa kanilang mga sakripisyo,” Poe said.

Source: senate.gov.ph

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Challenges Facing Filipinos Overseas Tackled at Global Online Confab

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Senior officials of the government and private institutions will tackle different problems and challenges facing overseas Filipinos (OFs), including persistent illegal recruitment,  at a global conference for overseas Filipinos to be held here and shown live on YouTube on Feb. 24 and 25.

The “2018 Global Conference of Overseas Filipinos & Livelihood/Investments Exhibition” also aims to help OFs identify which profitable livelihood projects that they can put up back home to secure the financial security of their families.

Between January and November last year, USD28.24 billion (PHP1.41 trillion) were sent home by overseas Filipinos through banking channels, according to data of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Despite their huge earnings, many OFs have not put up sound investments, with scores still taking risks with illegal networking schemes.

“While overseas Filipinos are often hailed as modern heroes (bagong bayani) for sending home over USD20 billion a year, it is ironic that they are beset by numerous problems. This global conference aims to tackle these problems and help identify solutions to them with the assistance of government and private institutions,” said Alliance of Overseas Filipinos for Change (AOFC) President Juanito Concepcion.

Investments and livelihood are, therefore, a major focus of the conference organized by a Hong Kong-based NGO, AOFC, with LINKPAD Inc. in Manila as its secretariat and marketing arm.

 Further details about the event and sponsorships can be obtained from LINKPAD at (02) 734-6300, (02) 788-6521, and (02) 500-0040, 0908-6199582; 0917-5932000 or at globalonlinefilipinoconference@gmail.com.

Up to 10,000 overseas Filipinos  gathered in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and in different other countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America are expected to watch online this conference that will be shown live on YouTube and Facebook Live. (PR)

About 500 local participants — comprised of visiting OFs, OFs who have returned home for good, family members of OFs, officials of government agencies and private institutions relevant to OFs and other migration and development stakeholders — are also attending the conference.

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PH Top Officials Discuss Names on 5 Features in PH Rise

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Various government officials will meet to discuss possible Filipino names to give to the five underwater features in the Philippine Rise (formerly Benham Rise) named by China.

In a message Wednesday, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that this matter would be discussed by him, National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon and other members of the Cabinet.

“Pag-uusapan pa namin ni NSA (Esperon) and ibang Cabinet members. (We will talk about it with NSA and other Cabinet members) As for me, I would also give these features Philippine names,” he added.

The DND chief made this statement after maritime law expert Dr. Jay Batongbacal revealed that China successfully named five undersea features in the region, all within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country, as approved by the International Hydrographic Organization in 2017.

Three of the features were reportedly “discovered” during a survey by the Li Shiguang Hao of the China Navy Hydrographic Office in 2004 and the names were submitted to IHO for consideration in 2014.

The remaining two features were “discovered” by the same ship but proposals for names came in 2016. The features named are the Jinghao and Tianbao Seamounts said to be within 70 nautical miles east of Cagayan, and the Haidonquing Seamount located east at 190 nautical miles.

The other two named Cuiqiao Hill and Jujiu Seamount forms the central peaks of the Philippine Rise undersea geological province itself, said Batongbacal.

On Wednesday, Malacanang said the Philippine Embassy in Beijing already raised the subject with China.

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‘Basyang’-Affected Families Now at 37k

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The number of families affected by Tropical Depression Basyang has now climbed to 37,138 or 152,025 persons residing in 387 barangays in 15 provinces in western, central and eastern Visayas, and Caraga, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in its Thursday update.

Ricardo Jalad, NDRRMC executive director, said 10,307 families or about 40,089 persons have sought refuge in 194 evacuation centers, while another 470 families or 2,282 individuals are being aided outside evacuation centers.

Jalad also said that 350 houses have been damaged, 66 totally and 284 partially, in western and eastern Visayas, and Caraga.

A total of PHP2,801,016.94 worth of assistance has been provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units to affected families in Western Visayas and Caraga.

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DA Rolls Out ‘Bigas Ng Masa’ Affordable Rice Program

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The Department of Agriculture (DA) set its “Bigas ng Masa” affordable rice program rolling on Wednesday, initially launching it in Quezon City and shortly farming it out to its regional offices nationwide.

To make it more accessible to more Filipinos, the DA said Bigas ng Masa outlets can be set up in the regions, where farmers’ cooperatives can directly sell the affordable rice to consumers.

“We’ll help market their rice,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a media briefing Wednesday.

Aside from helping farmers earn, he said such marketing assistance under the Bigas ng Masa would eliminate price-raising layers of middlemen and other players crowding the supply chain, so consumers can buy rice that’s generally cheaper than what’s sold in the market.

With Bigas ng Masa, DA said consumers can buy quality rice at PHP38 per kilogram.

The DA assured looking into interventions that would further lower rice prices without draining the farmers’ income.

Piñol expressed disappointment over reported increases in commercial prices of rice after reports that the National Food Authority has dwindling rice stocks.

He said this should not be the case, as rice harvest in the country even increased last year, based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The DA and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) assured the country’s rice situation is under control, noting “there’s enough rice for everybody” for 92 days straight.

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