Letters to the editor

THE national government is spending another P447 million next year to carry out the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program. The fresh funding is on top of the P843 million allotted this year to support the program.

The government is likewise arranging to provide another P2.2 billion in low-cost financing to help PUV operators and drivers acquire the newly configured buses, vans and jeepneys under the program. Once available, the P2.2 billion will be coursed through two state-owned lenders – the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines – at P1.1 billion each.

The P2.2 billion is lodged in the “unprogrammed appropriations” of the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019.

Unprogrammed appropriations “provide standby authority to incur additional agency obligations for priority programs or projects when revenue collection exceed targets, and when additional grants or foreign funds are generated,” according to the Department of Budget and Management.

We have very high hopes that the modernization program, once completed, will offer the public an easier and safer way to commute in the years ahead, while enabling PUV operators and drivers to upgrade their vehicles. There’s also no question the program will help improve air quality, because the new PUVs are meant to comply with lower emission standards.

I am counting on the program to help spur new jobs in the automotive sector.

Officially launched only in June last year, the PUV Modernization Program is being put into action by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Under the program, all PUVs more than 15 years old will be phased out and replaced with new models equipped with automated fare collection systems, digital security and dashboard cameras, Wi-Fi Internet connectivity, GPS tracking devices and speed limiters.

The new PUVs will run either on electric batteries with zero exhaust gas emissions, or on Euro 4 compliant diesel engines that discharge 68 percent less particulate matter, 57 percent less nitrogen oxides and 50 percent less carbon monoxide.

The modernization program also reforms the franchising system to reinforce regulatory supervision of PUVs. To build up accountability, enforcement and compliance, fewer new franchises will be issued to PUV operators and drivers who will be required to form themselves into cooperatives or firms.

In the case of jeepneys, for instance, each operator must have a minimum of 10 units to obtain a single franchise. Thus, drivers running their own units will have to band themselves into groups of at least 10 members to secure a franchise.

Under the program, the DOTr will draw up new PUV routes in consultation with local government units. An academy will also help re-instruct PUV operators and drivers on basic road discipline, courtesy and safety.--Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, House appropriations committee member


I challenge the readers or anyone who read this letter to explore the Bible verse by verse, from Genesis to Revelation. Some people explore the universe, mountains, planes, caves, subterranean rivers, volcanic craters, seas, ocean depths and other wonders of nature around the world. But all these explorations entail some risks.

Exploring the Bible is the safest kind of exploration. You need only to sit and read in a convenient place of your choice and at your spare or convenient time. You will find the truth that sets you free from being deceived, brainwashed, indoctrinated, guilt-tripped and frightened about the end of the world.

You will find interesting things not necessarily religious. You will realize that the defects of every society came from the Bible. Because we can realize our defects, we can also find the cure for such defects.

All organized religions exploited these defects, which also became the source of their money. Because of the defects encouraged by the churches to continue (because allegedly only the grace of God can cure your defects) many naive people became their milking cows.

The Bible is supposed to cure our defects because there are perfect human beings there whose lives we can imitate. We will know why we practice racial discrimination, sexual discrimination against women, and all kinds of bigotry and prejudice. The Bible would teach us to cure our defects and be perfect.

The funny thing is, sexual harassment was first committed by a woman. This is one of the many factors that make the Bible an interesting book and a must-read. So explore the Bible and discover that truth is stranger than fiction.-- Chito E. Germino


Another Filipino domestic worker in Kuwait has been reported missing.

Filipino household service worker Ronalyn Yonting Lagawan has been missing for 18 months now.

We’ve been advised that Ms. Lagawan’s family has lost all contact with her after she ran away from her employer in Kuwait in February 2017.

The Philippine embassy in Kuwait has already launched a social media campaign to find Lagawan, who went to work in Kuwait in 2015.

“We hope that she is okay and that maybe she is just afraid to surface or call her relatives,” a Philippine embassy representative in Kuwait said.

Foreign domestic workers in Kuwait who run away from their employers risk arbitrary arrest and imprisonment by the authorities.

“We appeal to anyone who may have knowledge of her (Lagawan’s) whereabouts to directly communicate with us at the embassy because her family is worried,” the Philippine embassy representative added.

Filipinos account for a large portion of the 660,000 foreign domestic workers in Kuwait that include nationals from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Ethiopia.

In May, the governments of Kuwait and the Philippines signed an agreement meant to assure Filipino domestic workers in the oil-rich emirate greater protection against potential maltreatment.

The accord also recognizes the rights of Filipino domestic workers to have at least one day off work every week, and to have physical possession of their passports that many Kuwaiti employers tend to confiscate, among other entitlements.

The pact was reached after the Philippine government ordered in February a ban on the deployment of newly hired Filipino workers to Kuwait.

The prohibition was imposed a month after the body of Filipino domestic worker Joanna Demafelis was found stuffed in a freezer in the apartment of her second employer in Kuwait--a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife.

Demafelis was reported missing a year earlier, and originally had a Kuwaiti national for an employer. She was later “sold” to the Lebanese-Syrian couple, who have since been sentenced to death by the Kuwait authorities.

It remains unclear whether the death sentences would ever be carried out, as the couple found guilty of killing Demafelis had already fled Kuwait.

The Philippine government has since lifted the labor deployment ban to the emirate.

Last month, Kuwaiti Instagram celebrity and makeup artist Sondos Alqattan drew a backlash and was dropped by several global cosmetics brands after she uploaded a video flaying the new entitlements of Filipino domestic workers.

“For her to take a day off every week, that’s four days a month. Those are the days that she’ll be out. And we don’t know what she’ll be doing on those days, with her passport on her,” Alqattan said. -- ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III


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