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PROGRESSIVES CALL TO LOWER OIL PRICE

ILOILO CITY – Earlier today, progressive groups under BAYAN-Panay held a picket-protest in front of the Land Transportation Office 6 to register their call to immediately lower the prices of petroleum products amid the successive oil price hike for more than two months now.

According to Bryan Bosque, spokesperson of the group, the government can and do have the power to do so by suspending or removing the excise tax and value added tax levied to said products.

Bosque added that the people should not be the ones shouldering said taxes especially on a prime commodity like petroleum.

According to the group’s account, P11-P15 per liter could be deducted from the current price of diesel if the government intends to do so.

For long-term solution, the group said that the government must regularize the oil industry in the country by junking the Oil Deregulation Law and to buy back Petron, which can have an influence in setting the oil prices in the market./PT

Iloilo City Schools Set to Open For Face-to-Face Classes

ILOILO CITY – The Nursing program of the West Visayas State University, as well as the Nursing, Medical Technology, and other allied health service programs of the University of San Agustin are set to open for face-to-face classes this October.

West Visayas State University has set to open limited face-to-face classes for 4th year Nursing students starting today, October 25, after the Commission on Higher Education approved their request for limited face-to-face classes.

Students and youth organizations of the said university welcomed this step towards safe re-opening of the school. Last October 18, students and youth organizations held a picket protest to demand from the national government additional funding for schools to ensure the health and safety of the students in the midst of the pandemic.

According to Hershey Sumpay, the Chairperson of the University Student Council of WVSU, they really welcome this positive step. However, Sumpay added that health protocols must be ensured and strictly followed. Therefore, additional funding must be given to the university to ensure that facilities and equipment are in place to ensure also physical distancing, sanitation, and other health protocols.

For Anakbayan Panay, the gradual opening of schools for physical classes is a very positive step, but it should not be left in the hands of the school administrations or the LGUs. According to Jasper Villa, spokesperson of Anakbayan Panay, the national government must stand up for its responsibility to ensure quality, free, accessible, and safe education for the people. Therefore, more funds should be allocated in education and healthcare.

Villa also added that funding for useless government projects such as NTF-ELCAC that redtags and endangers the lives and security of the students, should be diverted to education and health to ensure the rights of the people to education and other basic social services in the midst of a pandemic.

It has been a year since the country suspended face-to-face classes but it remains to be one of the only two countries in the world without face-to-face classes. It has been a year also that the students, teachers, and parents have been called for the ligtas na balik eskwela because distance learning has never been effective./PT

Farmers March for Land, Aid, and Justice

October 22, ILOILO Farmers held protest actions across the country last October 21 to voice out their call for land, aid and justice.

Together with progressive organizations led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng PIlipinas (KMP), the protest action is the culmination of the group’s October Peasant Month campaign. The protest action also commemorates the signing of Presidential Decree 27 or the land reform program of former Ferdinand Marcos.

According to Danilo Ramos, the chairperson of the KMP, PD 27 and subsequent agrarian reform programs have failed to destroy monopoly on land that has pushed farmers into extreme poverty.

According to KMP’s data, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program does not cover various lands especially those with 8% slope. The group added that the total 5.4 million hectares covered by CARP is only 44% of the total 12.4 million hectares of arable land. As of August 2021 alone, there were only a total of 2.9 million CARP beneficiaries and did not include the nearly 10.75 million farmers registered on various agrarian reform lists of the government.

Farmers from Bulacan, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija are demanding that agricultural lands, especially paddy fields, be protected against land use conversion. According to the KMP, Central Luzon, the country’s rice granary has become the hotspot for land conversions.

Farmers also called for a Php 15,000 production subsidy. According to PAMANGGAS, the pandemic has worsened their situation but they have not received adequate support from the government. The P5,000 cash assistance provided by the DA to the farmers is selective and not enough to address the production losses of the farmers.

Amihan, meanwhile, challenged those running for the presidency to address the farmers’ demands for land, aid and justice. The group challenges the candidates for presidency to lay concrete platforms that will address the decades-old call for genuine land reform, support services and production subsidies, and justice for all the victims of human rights violations.

The protest and call were joined by farmers from the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Cebu, Negros Occidental, Panay and other parts of the country./PT

COUNCILOR LOVE BARONDA PROMISES TO CARRY THE LIGTAS BALIK ESKWELA CAMPAIGN

ILOILO CITY – The Back-to-School Network Panay held a dialogue with Iloilo City Councilor Love Baronda on the safe re-opening of schools last October 5 at Iloilo City Hall. Councilor Baronda is the standing chair of the Committee on Education of the city council.

BTS Network Panay submitted a petition to the councilor’s office that included the 10 demands of the alliance, which the councilor affirmed to support.

During said dialogue, Sir Francisco Golez, a teacher and former president of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Union in the region, revealed that parents cannot afford to buy gadgets for their children and to purchase load daily to access the internet. He added that the situation is also difficult for the teachers and there are even times when the cost of printing of the modules comes from their own personal pockets.

Hershey Sumpay, the current University Student Council Chairperson of West Visayas State University, also expressed her sentiments as a student. According to Sumpay, the quality of education during face-to-face classes really changed and differ from online learning. She added that the people have the right to education and services and healthcare, therefore these must be ensured by the government at the same time.

The Philippines and Venezuela are the only remaining countries in the world that have not yet opened schools.

Baronda promised that she would bring the campaign of the BTS Network to the local council and she asked for additional data so that she can defend the alliance’s demands to the best of her ability.

The Back-to-School Network believes that this is a positive step towards the safe re-opening of schools in the midst of the worsening health crisis that the Duterte government failed to address.

The BTS Network is an alliance of students and faculty, and of various organizations that carry the people’s interests in education, health, and the economy./PT

ROXAS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL’S SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET, STILL HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED; HEALTH CARE WORKERS TO FILE MASS LEAVE

ROXAS CITY – The employees of the Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital (RMPH) intend to pursue their plan to file for leave of absence if the hospital’s supplemental budget will not be approved.

According to Dr. Edmarie Tormon, OIC of RMPH, there are more than 68 healthcare workers who have already filed for leave of absence and they have also received a petition from the employees who plans to file for mass leave if they will not get paid.

Last July 13 of this year, RMPH submitted their request for Supplemental Budget to the Provincial Budget Office (PBO), which amounts to P94,526,432.54. In July 22, RMPH submitted their revised request to the PBO, which amounts to P47,500,000.00.

Moreover, in August 3, RMPH submitted their request for Supplemental Budget to the Capiz Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), to which Governor Nonoy Contreras marked as “urgent”. The first budget hearing of the SP happened last August 27, while the second hearing happened last September 8.

In September 24, RMPH employees held a protest and candle lighting activity to demand to the Capiz SP to immediately approve their request for Supplemental Budget. According to the employees, they have not received their salary for two months now and the hospital resources are now depleting due to lack of budget. Employees added that they are now at a point where patients would have to bring their own oxygen tanks for them to be admitted to the hospital.

The employees further added that if the SP won’t approve their request, it will violate the people’s right to healthcare as the hospital can no longer attend its patients’ needs due to limited resources.

According to the SP, they need some documents from RMPH like the hospital’s list of employees to find out if there are so-called “ghost employees”. However, the employees said that they are not ghost employees.

The SP also questioned why the hospital needs supplemental budget as they still have budget left before the fiscal year ends. However, based on a certification from the PBO dated September 23 of this year, RMPH only has P12,489.36 left for its ‘other professional services’ and P1,183,665.75 for its general services.

According to the employees, more than 500 of them are the ones suffering from this ‘political war’ as they have not still received their salary since August.

According to Alliance of Health Workers – Panay, the responsibility of increasing the hospital funding should not be left in the hands of the local government units alone, the national government should also increase the funding for public hospitals to also increase the salaries of healthcare workers, additional facilities and equipment to strengthen the healthcare system.

The healthcare workers of the RMPH are calling for the immediate approval of their requested supplemental budget so that they can provide their full service to their patients especially this time of health crisis./PT

LIGTAS BALIK ESKWELA CAMPAIGN REACHED MORE COMMUNITIES IN ILOILO CITY

ILOILO CITY – Ligtas Balik Eskwela (LBE) campaign has reached more communities in Iloilo City and nearby towns. According to a report by Nagkakaisa nga Katilingban sang mga Kababainhan nga Imol sa Syudad, the campaign reached Oton town and barangays in Iloilo City such as Rizal, Calaparan, San Juan, Tabuc Suba, Bito-on, Punong, and Sinikway.

“I can’t help my child much in school because I’m working. The online classes are burdensome because I have to provide the gadget to my child and spend also for his internet. It would be good to implement LBE so that our burden as poor families will somehow be lifted,” said a parent in Lapuz when asked why they want their children to go back to school.

In a short period of time, according to the Kabataan Partylist-Panay, they were able to collect thousands of signatures from the communities for their campaign. This, they added, shows greater support for such campaign and a manifestation that students, teachers, and parents already want to open schools.

Ligtas Balik Eskwela is the major campaign of the Back-to-School Network (BTS). According to BTS Network spokesperson Phillipe Hiñosa, the so-called ‘online learning modality’ is an additional burden to the people who are now suffering from the pandemic where the price of goods is very high and the lockdown in the communities is still ongoing.

It can be noted that on September 12, the said alliance held an online discussion on the education crisis, where they explained why schools need to be open, and why is there a need to increase budget for education and health. The discussion also included the group’s demand for 10,000 pesos student aid.

On the day of class opening this year, September 13, youth groups Anakbayan, Kabataan Partylist, and others submitted the third batch of signatures they have collected under the LBE campaign to the offices of the City’s Mayor and Congressman, Commission on Higher Education 6 and Department of Education 6.

Last week, September 30, workers, youth, women, and peasants gathered in the House of Representatives for a protest action to condemn the government’s immediate passing of next year’s national budget without considering the condition of the people.

According to the Kabataan Partylist’s first nominee Raoul Manuel, a large percentage of next year’s budget is still reserved for confidential and intelligence funds despite the fact that millions of Filipinos are hungry and impoverished due to the pandemic. Among the calls of the group are to abolish the NTF-ELCAC and the realignment of military funds to education and social services.

ILOILO CITY DRIVERS COMPLAIN OF DELAYED PAYOUT UNDER LIBRE SAKAY PROGRAM

ILOILO CITY – Various transport groups in Iloilo City filed a complaint in the Department of Transportation (DOTR) over the unfair treatment experienced by Public Utility Jeepney Drivers and Operators in relation to the pay-out of the city’s libre sakay program.

The drivers said they were surprised that the Vallacar Transit, Inc. (Ceres buses) had already been allowed to ply for the city’s libre sakay program, who also competed with them. Drivers also complained that the pay-out of large companies like VTI was given priority compared to small drivers like them.

For Piston Panay, since the start of lockdown, the government’s negligence and incompetence has caused difficulties for small operators and drivers. The group further said that it has been two years already since the drivers face the health crisis but the PUJ drivers have not yet recovered.

The group added that the government’s libre sakay program is deceptive as it is only used to phase out the traditional PUJs, and to favor and support the business of corporatized transport cooperatives.

For PISTON, if DOTR and LTFRB 6 have the capacity to provide a budget for modernized buses owned by large companies, they should also set a budget for small operators and drivers to continue their service.

Finally, PISTON calls for the development of technology and industries for the creation of a public mode of transportation, which is owned and operated by the government and not by large companies like VTI and others./PT

ILONGGO ACTIVISTS ELECTED AS PARTYLIST NOMINEES

ILOILO City – Three Ilonggos were announced as Partylist nominees during the national convention of Makabayan Coalition held on September 27 at UP Diliman, Quezon City. Raoul Manuel and Jandeil Roperos are the first and third nominees of Kabataan Partylist respectively, while long-time women’s rights activist Lucy Francisco is elected as the third nominee of Gabriela Women’s Party.

Currently, Kabataan Partylist and Gabriela Women’s Party hold one seat each in the House of Representatives.

Manuel and Roperos both came from the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) in Miag-ao and served as chairpersons of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council in AY 2014-2015 and AY 2016-2017 respectively.

Manuel was a graduate of Applied Mathematics and was the first Summa Cum Laude of UPV. He also represented the UP studentry as a student regent in 2016. He was also the former national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines or NUSP and currently the national president of Kabataan Partylist.

Roperos is an advocate of LGBTQ rights. She is currently the national president of the NUSP.

This is Francisco’s third time as a nominee of the Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP). She was a founding member of the GWP and one of the founding members of Gabriela in Panay Island.

The Makabayan Coalition also announced the senatorial candidacy of former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares and Kilusang Mayo Uno National Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog.

Despite the incessant attacks against activists and progressive organizations, the Makabayan Coalition launched its participation in the 2022 national elections and has vowed to oppose any candidate of the Duterte administration.

The Makabayan Coalition is composed of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers Partylist, and Kabataan Partylist.

Currently, Makabayan Coalition has six representatives in the 18th Congress./PT

CAPIZ HEALTHCARE WORKERS DEMAND ADDITIONAL FUND FOR THEIR SALARY

ROXAS CITYEmployees of Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital protested last September 23 in front of the said hospital to call for the immediate approval of the supplementary budget intended for their salary.

Through the hospital’s official Facebook page, employees said that they are not ‘ghost employees’, instead, tired frontliners due to relentless service to the people in the midst of the pandemic.

That same night, employees held a candle lighting to convey to the government and other concerned agencies that the hospital is already in a critical situation.

The employees also stated to set aside any ‘political war’ as there is still pandemic. They further called that the requested supplementary budget, which has been demanded by the hospital management for a long time, should be approved immediately. According to the group, healthcare workers face risk every day in the hospital while attending their patients, that is why it is only right for them to receive a fair salary and other benefits./PT

COVID-19, FIFTH MOST DEADLY DISEASE IN THE COUNTRY

ILOILO – Despite the rising COVID-19 cases being projected in the media by the government and the Inter Agency Task Force, it is only the fifth most deadly disease in the entire country from January until June of this year.

Based on the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there are 303,364 total deaths recorded in the entire country for the last 6 months. The top cause of death is ischemic heart disease with 57,757 deaths, which is 18.7% of the total deaths. This is followed by cerebrovascular disease with 30,796 deaths. Moreover, the third deadliest disease in the country is neoplasms or cancer with 27,343 number of deaths, followed by diabetes mellitus with 19,802 deaths, and the fifth deadliest disease is COVID-19 infected deaths with 17,156 or 5.7% of the total number of deaths.

Particular to Western Visayas, there are a total of 28,943 deaths due to various diseases. There are 2,118 deaths in the province of Aklan, 2,242 in the province of Antique, 2,891 in the province of Capiz, 643 in the province of Guimaras, 7,269 in the province of Iloilo, 9,346 in the island of Negros Occidental, 2,580 in the city of Bacolod, and 1,854 in the city of Iloilo. Of which, the entire region has recorded only 661 total COVID-19 identified deaths.

Compared to the previous year, there is an increase of 25% in the total registered deaths for the year 2021. From 289,260, this increased to 361,480.

On the other hand, the healthcare system in the country is still backwards and not the main priority of the government, according to Alliance of Health Workers (AHW). The Department of Health needs not less than Php 171.5 billion funds but the proposed budget for this fiscal year is only Php 131.7 billion which is P39.8 billion less or -23.2%.

According to AHW the budget allocation is too insufficient, especially that we are still facing a public health crisis. According to the group, this only shows that the government has no plan on prioritizing the healthcare programs that are for the benefit of the people. The AHW also states that the funds allocated are not enough to sustain the needs of the people and the public health system.

The AHW also adds that each person has the right to affordable and accessible public health services. However, this remains unattainable due to the government’s privatization of said services instead of making them free.

The group also expresses frustration over the drama that DOH Secretary Duque is stirring after the report of the department’s misused and unused funds. According to the group, they have been told that there are insufficient funds for their hazard pay and benefits but in truth, Duterte, Duque, and their cohorts are the ones benefiting from the people’s taxes.

Because of this, health workers are demanding for Duque’s immediate resignation for his failure and incompetence to run the department.

The health care workers continue to demand, from the Duterte administration, bigger budget allocation to build public hospitals and hire additional health workers. The AHW also demands the immediate release of their hazard pay and the increase in salary of healthcare workers./PT