Items filtered by date: Thursday, 14 December 2017

'Urduja' slightly intensifies, barrels toward Samar island

Tropical Storm Urduja is expected to make landfall on Saturday morning or afternoon over Northern Samar-Eastern Samar area. File photo
MANILA, Philippines — Tropical Storm Urduja has slightly intensified on Friday morning as it barrels toward the eastern coast of Samar island.

In its 5 a.m. severe weather bulletin, PAGASA said "Urduja" has maximum winds up to 75 kilometers per hour and gustiness of up to 90 kph. It was 205 km east of Borongan City, Eastern Samar as of 4 a.m.
"Urduja," moving west northwest at 5 kph, is expected to make landfall on Saturday morning or afternoon over Northern Samar-Eastern Samar area.

Public storm warning signals are raised in the following areas:

SIgnal No. 1

Northern Samar
Eastern Samar
Signal No. 2


Camarines Sur
Burias Island
Ticao Island
Rice crops on their flowering state may suffer significant damage in these locations, PAGASA said. Areas under public storm warning signal no. 2 are alerted against possible occurrence of 4.1 to 14.0 meters storm surges.

"Estimated rainfall amount is from moderate to heavy within the 500 km diameter of the Tropical Storm," PAGASA said.

"Scattered to widespread rains will continue over Eastern Visayas and Caraga and is expected to prevail over Bicol Region and the rest of Visayas within 24 hours," it added.

Residents of these areas are warned against possible landslide and flashfloods. They are asked to coordinate with their local government and disaster risk reduction and management offices.

PAGASA also advised the public to remain alert as sea travel remains risky over the eastern seaboards of Bicol region and Visayas.

Forecast position

24 hours (Saturday morning): 110 km east northeast of Borongan City, Eastern Samar
48 hours (Sunday morning): In the vicinity of Calbayog City, Samar
72 hours (Monday morning): 85 km west of Roxas City, Capiz
96 hours (Tuesday morning): 120 km north of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan
120 hours (Wednesday morning): 325 km west of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan


Solons to file petition vs ML in SC before Christmas

By: Vince F. Nonato - Reporter / @VinceNonatoINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 04:17 AM December 15, 2017
Opposition lawmakers will ask the Supreme Court “definitely before Christmas” to strike down the yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao for being unconstitutional.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the members of the opposition bloc in the House of Representatives would not be the

only lawmakers to challenge President Duterte’s prolonged imposition of martial law, the second extension of which was approved by a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Although the Supreme Court voted 10-3-1 on July 4 to uphold Proclamation No. 216, dated May 23, for its original 60-day extent, Lagman said he hoped that “this time, [it] will see that there is no factual and constitutional basis for extension of martial law.”

He said the petition would argue that there was no “actual rebellion” going on in Mindanao, following the liberation of Marawi City on Oct. 23, five months after martial law was imposed on the entire island.

Administration officials argued that remnants of the Maute terror group have begun recruiting Muslim youths for a new wave of attacks, and also invoked the bogey of the 48-year-old communist insurgency.

But Lagman said these “only constitute threats” and not an “actual” rebellion, as required by the 1987 Constitution.

‘Inordinately long’

He also said the one-year extension, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018, was “inordinately long” and contrary to the restraints set by the Charter.

He added that the Constitution did not provide for the imposition of military rule and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus “in perpetuity.”

Saying that “an extension cannot be anymore extended,” Lagman argued that the Constitution allowed Congress to extend the original proclamation only.

When the original proclamation was about to lapse on July 23, Congress on July 22 first granted Mr. Duterte’s request to extend martial law in Mindanao for about five months until Dec. 31 this year. At the time, Lagman said Marawi was “still burning,” unlike now.

“We are more confident this time and we hope the Supreme Court [will] really look at the facts,” he said.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, a former soldier, said martial law was “not synonymous to military operations,” as the security sectors could deal with threats through normal operations and without resorting to a blanket permission for warrantless arrests.

He added that Mr. Duterte’s expansion of his proclamation to “communist terrorists” was also meant to “condition the mind of the people it could be expanded to Visayas and Luzon,” since the New People’s Army is present nationwide.

But the President’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, said critics should respect Congress’ decision to extend martial law in Mindanao.

The extension is intended to support Mr. Duterte’s fight against rebel forces that seek to wreak havoc in the country, Panelo said.

“The underlying principle of governance is, in the words of the Constitution, to serve and protect the people. As such, the Constitution instructs, commands and orders the President to exercise the extraordinary power given to him in order to secure the safety of the people, which includes the opposition and critics as well,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA

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No government work on Dec. 26, Jan. 2

President Rodrigo Duterte issued memorandum circular no. 37 in addition to the regular holidays declared on Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) and Jan. 1, 2018 (New Year’s Day) “in order to give the employees of the government full opportunity to celebrate holidays with their families and loved ones.” File
MANILA, Philippines — There will be no work in government offices on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2 next year.

President Duterte issued memorandum circular no. 37 in addition to the regular holidays declared on Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) and Jan. 1, 2018 (New Year’s Day) “in order to give the employees of the government full opportunity to celebrate holidays with their families and loved ones.”
In the one-page order, Executive Secretary

Salvador Medialdea said the order covers government offices, including government-owned and controlled corporations, government financial institutions, state universities and colleges, local government units, and other agencies and instrumentalities.

However, Malacañang said agencies whose functions involve the delivery of basic and health services, preparedness/response to disasters and calamities, and/or the performance of other vital services shall continue with their operations.

“The suspension of work in other branches of government and in independent commissions or bodies, as well as in private companies and offices on the said dates, is left to the sound discretion of their respective heads/management,” Medialdea said.

The Supreme Court (SC) had earlier suspended work in courts also on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2, allowing court workers to enjoy an extra day of quality time with their families and loved ones.

Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

In its official Twitter account, the SC suspended operations in courts nationwide on Dec. 26, which is the day after the Dec. 25 Christmas Day; and on Jan. 2, 2018, the day after New Year’s Day.

The SC made the announcement in light of “Proclamation No. 50 (s. 2016) and 269 (s. 2017) declaring Dec. 25, 2017 (Christmas Day) and Jan. 1, 2018 (New Year’s Day) as regular holidays and to allow officials and employees of the judiciary adequate opportunity to celebrate the holidays with their families, the Chief Justice has authorized the suspension of work in all courts nationwide on Dec. 26, 2017 (Tuesday) and Jan. 2, 2018 (Tuesday).”


Duterte’s TRAIN ratified

Tax reform measure to generate P130 B to fund infra, other projects

The proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), the first of four tax measures sought by President Duterte, is expected to go full steam in creating a more just, simple, and effective system of tax collection once it is signed into law after both houses of Congress ratified it late Wednesday night.

Under the TRAIN, the rich will have a bigger tax contribution and the poor benefitting more from the government’s programs and services.

The measure, once signed into law, is expected to generate P130 billion, which will fund the Duterte administration’s “Build Build Build” program, construction of public school facilities, and potable drinking water supply in public places, among others.

Key provisions

The TRAIN proposes to exempt from income tax persons who receive P250,000 earnings in a taxable year. It also raised to P90,000 the tax exemption for 13th month pay and other bonuses received by salaried workers.

Small businesses with total annual sales of P3 million and below will be exempted from paying value-added tax.

However, in order to raise foregone revenues due to the tax benefits, government pursued the TRAIN that would more than cover what will be lost in tax earnings.

House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said that among the other provisions harmonized by the Bicameral panel are the following:

Doubling the excise tax rates of all non-metallic minerals and quarry resources, and all metallic minerals including copper, gold and chromite;Tax of four percent for automobiles with a net manufacturer;s price of up to P600,000. Ten percent for over P600,000 to P1 million; 20 percent for over P1 million to P4 milionnad 50 percent for over P4 million;Socialized housing tax exemptions will kept for three years then expansion of tax privilege as sought by Senate will be implemented then;By 2018, a tax of P2.50 per liter of diesel fuel, P7 per liter of regular and unleaded premium gasoline, and P1 per kilogram of liquefied petroleum gas.“Invasive” cosmetic procedures, surgeries, and body enhancements directed solely towards improving, altering, or enhancing the patient’s appearance will be levied with five percent excise tax.Reduced and simplified donor’s tax to a flat tax rate of 6 percent on net donations for gifts exceeding P250,000 regardless of relationship between donor and recipient.Prevailing documentary stamp tax rates on documents, instruments, loan agreements and papers such as bank checks will be doubled from P1.50 to P3.

House, Senate voting

At the House of Representatives, TRAIN was ratified despite strong objections over quorum.

On a quick “ayes” and “nays” vote, Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu declared that there was unanimous approval of the Bicaneral Conference Committee report on the TRAIN at past 10 p.m., with only a handful congressmen present.

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, a senior member of the Makabayan bloc that recently severed ties with the Duterte administration, quickly rose to object to the motion to ratify the harmonized version of the TRAIN due to lack of “warm bodies” at the plenary.

Unable to stop the ratification, Tinio said the Makabayan bloc will question it before the Supreme Court.

“Since there was no quorum and no actual vote was taken, the alleged ratification is clearly invalid,” he stated.

Interviewed by reporters, Tinio said the plenary proceeding was a “total farce and travesty of the so-called representative democracy.”

He pointed out that there were not even 30 congressmen present when the TRAIN bill was ratified.

“Nasa Christmas party ng PDP-Laban sa Sofitel ang karamihan, kasama mismo si Duterte. GanyansaKongreso –“may boto kahit walang tao, pagpa-party sa five-star hotel habang nag papataw ng pahirap sa mga buwis sa mamamayan (Most were at the PDP-Laban Christmas party in the company of Duterte. That’s how it is in Congress, they vote even without members who were partying in a five-star hotel as they impose new taxes that would burden the people),” Tinio lamented.

Albay Rep. EdcelLagman, head of the Magnificent Seven minority group, backed Tinio’s protest, saying that the objection on quorum should have been heeded by Abu since this takes precedence over all other issues on the floor.

At the Senate, senator voted 16-4 to ratify the proposed TRAIN which aims to produce more revenues for the government by raising excise taxes on fuel, sugar-sweetened beverages, and automobile, among others.

Of the 20 senators present, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Riza Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Bam Aquino opposed the approval of the TRAIN.

Those who voted in favor of the tax reform measure were Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Franklin Drilon, JV Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gringo Honasan, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, Vicente Sotto, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, and Miguel Zubiri.

Senators resorted to nominal voting after objections were raised by some of them.

Angara, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the approval of TRAIN “would be the best gift that the government can give to Filipinos for Christmas.”

The ratified TRAIN, Angara said, contains provisions that ensures “further reduced” income tax rates. It also increases the take-home pay of minimum to middle-wage earners and raises the tax exemption for 13th-month pay and other bonuses.

Angara said that milk and three-in-one coffee will remain exempted from sweetened beverage tax, which levies a P6-per-liter excise tax for drinks using local sweeteners and P12-per-liter for beverages using high-fructose corn syrup.

Gordon noted TRAIN failed to justify how the profits will benefit the military. He, however, later voted “yes”after he was assured that 13 percent of the earnings will fund the needs of the soldiers, such as additional equipment.

Aquino, in explaining his vote, said the increase in excise taxes would burden consumers as prices of goods would be affected

Coal tax

Delay in the submission of the bicameral report was blamed on a deadlock between senators and congressmen in connection with the coal tax issue.

Deputy Speaker and Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo said a senator has proposed the repeal of a law exempting local coal from taxes but did never get off.

“It was clear to us that any repeal of an industry incentive is better taken up in Package 2 of the TRAIN,” Quimbo said.

Quimbo, former chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said the House contingent merely agreed to allow the removal of tax exemption for locally produced coal by imposing excise tax on all similar products, whether local or imported.

“Coal will not be exempted. It will be subjected to a new excise tax that is 500 percent higher than before the TRAIN,” he added.

The Senate version of the bill provides for the imposition of P300 excise tax on coal, up from P2 per metric ton.

The two panels agreed to a compromise that would impose excise tax of P50 per metric ton in the first year of implementation; P100 in the second year; and, P150 in the third and succeeding years.

Under Presidential Decree No. 972, the current law in place, local coals are exempt from any form of tax, including excise tax, value-added tax, and customs duties.

Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, who represented the House contingent in the Bicameral panel, said the House representatives have maintained a rejection of any hike on taxes imposed on coal.

Disgusted that the Bicam committee finally agreed to cut the proposed P300 excise tax imposition by 50 percent, Suarez did not sign the report, dramatizing an apparent protest.

Senators have reportedly raised an issue over the alleged “smuggling” into the bicameral report of a provision that exempted local coal distributors from taxes.

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