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Barangay polls eyed next year

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 06:26

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

MEMBERS of the House of Representatives are pushing to move the barangay elections next year.

Lawmakers from Negros Occidental confirmed that during their caucus Monday, majority of the congressmen have agreed to postpone the village and youth polls, both slated this coming October, to May 2018.

Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez said the proposed new election schedule will coincide with the referendum of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

He also said there will be a holdover capacity for the incumbent barangay officials until the elections next year.

After the caucus, the House will tackle the bill filed by Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers postponing the barangay elections and will deliberate on the amendments, said Abang-Lingkod party-list Representative Stephen Paduano.

Barbers also proposed that the barangay officials will be appointed.
“I’m sure Congress will hasten the deliberation and pass the postponement because it is the consensus,” Paduano said.

First District Melecio Yap Jr. said the proposed law, once passed in the House, will then be transmitted to the plenary for the bicameral conference committee.

It will be done as soon as possible, he added.

Meanwhile, Councilor Noli Villarosa, president of Liga ng mga Barangay in Bacolod City, said the Senate will also hold a hearing on Wednesday about the postponement of the village elections.

Villarosa, a member of the Liga National Executive Board, said the Senate will deliberate on the House Bill 1469, postponing the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to October 2018, authored by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

Sotto filed the bill on May 23 to postpone the said elections from the fourth Monday of October this year to the fourth Monday of October next year in an answer to the appeal of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte had alleged that 40 percent of the barangay captains in the country are involved in illegal drugs.

Under the proposal, the term of office of incumbent barangay and SK officials shall be extended.

However, Villarosa said there are also proposals that only the punong barangays will stay in their respective seats and that they will appoint the new set of council members.

“The National Liga will push for the extension of terms or holdover not only of the punong barangays, but all barangay officials,” Villarosa said.

House for 2018 brgy polls

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 06:21

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Majority of the members of the House of Representatives agreed in a caucus yesterday afternoon to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections set in October this year to May 2018, two Negros solons said.

They also agreed that the incumbent barangay officials elected in October 2013 will be retained in a holdover capacity, Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) and Rep. Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod Partylist) said.

The SK and barangay elections next year will be synchronized with the plebiscite for Charter change and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said.

More than 200 congressmen attended the caucus to decide on the barangay elections, Paduano said.

However, the Senate has yet to decide on the postponement of the barangay elections, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday.

The Lower House bill postponing the barangay and SK polls will have to be reconciled with the Senate's before the final version is submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte who could sign it into law or veto it, Zubiri said.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon and the majority of local officials in Negros Occidental favor the postponement of the barangay elections and the retention of the incumbent officials in a holdover capacity.

Negros Occidental Comelec Supervisor Jessie Suarez said they will continue preparing for the barangay elections until they get a final order from their head office to halt their activities.*CPG

ANOTHER EXTENSION: House agrees to postpone brgy elections to next year

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 15:16

August 7th, 2017
By: Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer, Jose Santino S. Bunachita

Village officials may have to stay in their seats a little longer.

The members of the House of Representatives agreed to postpone the barangay elections for another seven months to May 2018.

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said lawmakers reached a consensus during a Monday afternoon caucus to synchronize the barangay elections with the plebiscite for Charter change and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

If the measures would not be ready by May, he added, the elections for the country’s smallest political units might be pushed back again.

Representatives Alfredo Abelardo Benitez of Negros Occidental and Stephen Panuano of Abang Lingkod Party-list said the more than 200 congressmen who attended the caucus agreed that the incumbent village officials be retained in a hold-over capacity.

The decision of the House must be concurred by the Senate before it would become final although no strong opposition on the proposal was expected from the Upper Chamber.

When reached for comment, Councilor Philip Zafra, president of Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in Cebu City, said the decision of the House must be viewed as a challenge for all barangay officials in the city.

“I can’t say that we will benefit from this. Instead, this is another challenge for us to work more, to do more and to make sure that their mandate that has been extended by law will not be put to waste,” he said.

Zafra said that he would leave it up to the congressmen and the senators to decide on the issue.

The barangay officials were elected in October 2013, but they had remained in their positions after the October 2016 elections were postponed to October 2017.

The Commission on Elections recently issued statements urging Congress to decide soon if the elections should be postponed to avoid wasting efforts in preparing for the October 2017 polls.

President Duterte first issued the call for Congress to postpone the elections again. At the time, he cited the alleged influence of drug money as a reason.

Rep. Sherwin Tugna, who chairs the suffrage and electoral reforms committee, said the House continues to keep the President’s justification in mind, and the postponement was precisely meant to prevent more narco-politicians from controlling the barangays.

“We are still citing it. … One of the the purposes of postponement is to prevent narco-politicians (from) using their money to support the election of those non-incumbent who are involved in drugs and the reelection of those who are involved in drugs,” said Tugna, representative of the party-list group, Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac).

But the congressmen turned down the proposal of President Duterte to just appoint the barangay officials.

Fariñas said House members agreed to retain the incumbent village officials in a holdover capacity instead of an earlier proposal by dangerous drugs committee chair Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers to empower President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint officers in charge.

Tugna said the House would be hitting two birds with one stone in moving to postpone the barangay polls to next year.

“That way, we will be hitting two birds with one stone. Meaning, through BBL, we can help achieve peace in Mindanao, and by having the plebiscite of the BBL during May 2017 barangay elections, we will save public money,” Tugna said.

Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao of the militant Makabayan bloc, however, told reporters that his group wants to push through with the scheduled elections in October “in accordance to a democratic exercise of our people.”

Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa of Cebu City South District was also opposed to the postponement.

“Postponing it (barangay elections) again only promotes a feeble-minded image of Congress, delays the people’s clamor for change of leadership in the grassroots, and disenfranchises the youth from being represented in governance,” he said in a text message.

Abellanosa described the decision of the “super majority” to postpone the elections as “overwhelming.”

Zafra agreed on the decision to retain the current barangay officials in a hold-over capacity.

He said the earlier proposal to just appoint barangay officials would have problems since the Constitution dictates that positions in the barangays should be elected and not appointed.
But Zafra said it would not matter to them whether the elections pushed through or not.

“We are ready with the elections whether this year, next year or any year. We are ready to run and seek reelection,” he said.


‘SIDA Law Designed to Support Farms Structures’

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 08:59

on Fri, 07/28/2017

The Sugarcane Industry Development Act (SIDA) is the first law designed to support the farm structure to become efficient. It was created to overcome the challenges of sugar prices in worst situations, said Congressman Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, 3rd District of Negros Occidental at the Sugar Summit of Mill District Development Council held at the Natures Village Resort and Restaurant in Talisay City on Wednesday, July 26. Theme was “The Strategic Role of Mill District Development Councils in Sugarcane Industry Development”.

The sugar industry is resilient because is has byproducts like sugar, ethanol and bagasse for power supply. The SIDA also provides for increasing the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry, improving the income of farmers and farm workers through improved productivity; product diversification; job generation and increased efficiency of sugar mills. This is intended to achieve economies of scale in the production of sugarcane and attain greater efficiency in production through the effective use of farm machineries and equipment as well as farmhands.

Congressman Albee Benitez said that “so many external problems arise in our sugarcane industry, but we will ensure our industry will be protected. After the SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte we have talked with the Senators and they are reluctant to approve the Tax Reform Bill with the proposal to tax on softdrinks companies that will not pass on the Senate.

P 6 billion was earmarked as SIDA Fund and yearly it has an appropriation of P1.6 billion which will be spent for infrastructure developments which includes farm to market roads and farm to mill roads among others; P 300 million for grants, benefits, socialized credits, P300 million for Socialized Housing, P300 million for Research and Development and P100 million for Education, Scholarships etc., There will be another P50 billion share of the sugarcane industry out of P650 billion infrastructure fund appropriation of DPWH for the next coming year. This is a clear picture for the sugar industry, Congressman Benitez bared.*

Click here to watch: Cong. Albee Benitez at the Sugar Summit held in Talisay City, Negos Occidental - Complete Speech

Love Negros meet eyed to tackle 2019 poll plans

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 17:17

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Love Negros aims  to hold a convention before the year ends to discuss the plans of   its members for the 2019 polls, Rep. Alfredo  Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said yesterday.

“It is about time to start discussing among ourselves our political plans,” Benitez said, pointing out that the filing of Certificates of Candidacy for the 2019 polls will be in October next year.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., who heads the United Negros Alliance,  also said earlier that UNegA  is planning a gathering of all its members this year.

Benitez, a Love Negros member, said he has yet to decide whether to run for governor of Negros Occidental or for senator. 

He said if he opts to run for governor,the choice of vice governor  will not be  his own preference, but based on a win-win consensus  of all political parties under an expected coalition.

There have been speculation of a possible UNegA, Love Negros merger for the  2019 polls.

Marañon  has said he will support Benitez if he runs for senator or governor. He also said that if Benitez runs for governor, he will leave  it to him to decide who his running mate will be.

However, Benitez  has not given up on a possible run for the Senate if there is “an opportunity  that will give better leverage for Negros”.

If it will help Negros, it will be a worthwhile undertaking, he said.

But  running for the senate would be  a big challenge, it would be easier if everyone was in agreement for him to opt  to run for governor, Benitez added.*CPG

Benitez seeking return of P1.6B

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 17:11

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The annual allocation for the sugar industry in the 2018 national budget is short  by P1 billion  as it does not include  funds for infrastructure, Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) said yesterday.

Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (2nd from left) with SRA Administrator Anna Rosario Paner, and Sugar Board members Roland Beltran and Hermenegildo Serafica (l-r) at the SRA-MDCC Summit yesterday*

Under the Sugar Industry Development Act he authored, P2 billion must be allocated annually for the industry, with P100 million for scholarships,   P300 million for block farms, P300 million for socialized credit, P300,000 million for research and development, and P1 billion for infrastructure.

“We will rectify this and make sure the missing P1 billion is included in the final budget for 2018,”  along with the P600 million shortfall in the SIDA budget for 2017, said Benitez who spoke at the Sugar Regulatory Administration-Mill District Development Councils Summit at the Nature’s Village Resort in Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

He said  the 2016 allocation for the sugar industry was also only P1.75 billion, short of P250 million of the P2 billion mandated by  law.

There seems  to be some communication gap between the SRA and the Department of Budget and Management, Benitez said.

He  said the P1.6 billion  he is  pushing for will be for farm to mill roads in sugar areas, and   he has asked the SRA officials led by Administrator Anna Rosario Paner for a list of such roads, which they promised to give him in a couple of days.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar hasalso  agreed to allocate P50 billion from his department’s budget for farm-to-market roads nationwide, he added.

Benitez also said some senators informed him that they are  reluctant to pass the  national tax reform bill because of the excise  tax imposed on sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs).

The tax on SSBs may not pass after all, he said.

Sugar industry stakeholders are opposing the tax on SSBs because they said this will drive down sales.

Meanwhile, Benitez debunked statements that the sugar industry will go the way of the tobacco industry that has  suffered  from the drop  in cigaret use, with the health campaign against the use of too much sugar.

The sugarcane industry is not a sunset industry, it is very resilient, he said.

 While tobacco only produces  one product – cigarets, sugarcane can produce many other products on top of sugar such as ethanol and power, he said.*CPG


Negros Occidental lawmaker: No direction yet for NIR

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 15:19

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TALISAY CITY -- The fate of Negros Island Region (NIR) remains uncertain as there are still government agencies that do not recognize its existence.

“As of now, there is no direction yet on how to treat NIR. We’re still in the status quo mode,” Negros Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez said Wednesday.

“We’ll leave it to that for 2018,” he added.

Benitez said the region continues to function even if it’s not included in the national budget since its establishment in 2015.

The budget of NIR is sourced from the previous regions of its two provinces – Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental.

“There’s a strong resistance to the creation of NIR. I’d rather it remains a status quo and stay alive,” the lawmaker said.

Benitez said the lobby to retain the NIR has to start from President Rodrigo Duterte.

“It has to start from the top. Until we can convince them, don’t get me wrong. There are still moves to re-establish NIR, but the lobbying would have to be with President directly,” he said.

He said the bill creating NIR authored by Abang Lingkod party-list Representative Stephen Paduano was already passed on first reading and was referred to the House committee on local government.

“It has a chance to pass in the Lower House. It has to be the Senate and the President we eventually have to reckon with,” Benitez said.

Sugar industry fund

Meanwhile, Benitez said the National Government is set to allocate an additional P1.6 billion for the Sugar and Industry Development Act (Sida) next year.

The Sida has an annual P2-billion appropriation for the sugar industry.

The fund, including the P1 billion for infrastructures, comprised the balance that was not included in the P2-billion annual allocation for two years, the lawmaker said.

Benitez, who spoke at the Sugar Regulatory Administration-Mill District Development Committee Summit in Talisay City yesterday, said he already asked the SRA to identify the projects.

Election plans

Meanwhile, Benitez said he has yet to decide on what to do in the next elections.

Should he run for governor, his running mate has to have the consensus of the group, he said.

“We have to make sure that all parties are actually considered. Whoever will be chosen as vice governor won’t be my personal preference, it would be a preference that would have a win-win selection of all parties involved,” said Benitez, who heads the Love Negros party.

He said he has talked with rival United Negros Alliance leader Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr.

“We would like what’s best for the province. His contention, if there is an opportunity that would give us better leverage to run for national office, Negros will be better off with a person in a higher office. Our discussions are always on the premise of what’s good for Negros. In that case, we have no conflict,” he said.

Even if Benitez and Marañon have different local parties, they both belong to the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.

Iloilo-Guimaras-Negros bridge feasible – Albee

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 11:05

By Dolly Yasa
on Thursday, July 27, 2017

BACOLOD City – Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez (3rd district, Negros Occ.) said the Iloilo-Guimaras-Negros bridge is feasible amid observations that it is a pie in the sky.

“Then the pie in sky will come down” Benitez said when asked for his reaction.

Benitez said the feasibility study on connecting the islands of Iloilo, Guimaras, and Negros is now in the works.

He added that the feasibility study will look into the bridge between Iloilo and Guimaras. It will also include the coastal road in the 3rd district of Negros.

“It will be China which will fund the project.”

Benitez recalled that the proposal to connect Iloilo to Negros via a bridge was initially pushed during the administration of former President Corazon Aquino.

It was also revived during the administrations of Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.

The proposed bridge connecting Iloilo to Guimaras is about 2.6 kilometers long.

Benitez pointed out that China is the best bridge builder in the world.

He was told by Chinese ambassador Zhao Jianhua in a dialog Sunday night that the 2 to 3-kilometer distance is “peanuts”, as the bridge connecting Macau and Hong Kong is longer.

Solon alerts nation on housing backlog

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 08:19

Published July 26, 2017, 3:17 PM
By Ben Rosario

As threats of more destructive natural disasters mount, the chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development has underscored the need for government and private housing developers to locate their projects away from geo-hazards, particularly earthquake fault systems.

Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Housing Forum 6, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo (Albee) Benitez aired this call as he strongly pushed for the prioritization of a housing and urban development legislative agenda that would address the huge housing backlog that could balloon from two million to 6.6 million when the country elects its next president in 2022.

Benitez said the housing problem in the country is no longer a “monopoly of the poor,” adding that aside from building new houses, making the structure safe should also be included in the housing development plan.

“And beyond providing housing, we need to ensure that the housing units will be built in locations safe from geo-hazards and they will withstand the test of natural disasters,” he stated.

Benitez said : “To that end, we should harness technological and engineering innovations that will buttress the quality of the housing structure.

He lamented that while government responded to the worsening shelter problem, it has focused on “off-city relocation” which showed “discouraging” results.

“Some families, met with limited choices in resettlement sites, return to Manila and rebuild their homes, Solonthus worsening our problem with informal settlements,” said Benitez, whose father was the late human settlements and urban development czar Conrado Benitez.

The House housing and urban development panel has approved House Bill 5347, a bill authored by Benitez that provides for “on-site, in-city or near-city housing”.

However, Benitez said the high cost of building in-city housing projects is expected to serve as one of the biggest setbacks in implementing the measure.

To address this, Benitez batted for the allocation to mass housing of government’s 3,419 hectares of land in Metro Manila, saying that this could “be more than enough for housing for the urban poor.”

“We will unlock more government lands if we transfer government offices outside Metro Manila as a way to decongest the metro and decentralize development,” he stressed.

Benitez is confident that the bill creating the Department of Human Settlements will be enacted soon, saying that the agency will undertake long-term urban planning and will lead the full implementation of the housing programs.

Lower House and Senate versions of the bill are undergoing “refinements” by their respective technical working groups

Benitez explained that  the creation of the new agency represents a  strong governance structure that “will create and sustain an enabling environment for different stakeholders to work together.”

“The creation of this Department reflects the government’s seriousness in giving priority to its mandate to provide access to affordable and decent shelter to its citizens,” he said.

Sugar Industry Summit Held

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 07:42

on Thu, 07/27/2017

In a historic move to further strengthen the Philippine Sugar Industry, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) held the Sugar Industry Summit July 25 to 26, 2017 at Nature’s Village Resort, Talisay City, Negros Occidental. Carrying the theme “The Strategic Role of Mill District Development Councils (MDDcs) in Sugar Industry Development,” the summit will specifically engage a key industry partner, the MDDCs. The Summit seeks to build consensus on how the MDDCs could perform their strategic role in the implementation of projects under the R.A. No. 10659 of the “Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015” (SIDA).

From left: SRA Administrator Atty. Anna Rosario Paner, Cong. Albee Benitez, Sugar Board Member Hermenegildo Serafica, and Sugar Board Member Roland Beltran

The Philippine sugarcane industry relies on the greater and more significant participation of its partners and stakeholders such as the MDDCs, which were created by the SRA to encourage the active involvement and participation of the private sector in the advancement of the sugar industry specifically in the field of research and development in the mill district level.

In order to enhance partnership between and among MDDCs, and between MDDCs and the government, there is a need to define appropriate policies, and clarify relationships between MDDCs and the government. The Summit seeks to address these needs.

The Summit will highlight the crucial role of the MDDCs in the implementation of SIDA projects. The SIDA aims to promote the competitiveness of the sugarcane industry, maximize the utilization of sugarcane resources, and improve income of farmers and farm workers.

Senator Cynthia A. Villar, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and main author of the SIDA delivered the Keynote Address at the Summit. Department of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol graced the Summit as Grace of Honor and Speaker. Meanwhile, one of the champions of the sugarcane industry, Representative Alfredo Benitez of the 3rd District of Negros Occidental will share an inspirational message. Around 25 MDDCs from across the country represented at the Summit, as they listen to presentation and engage in workshops about the accomplishments, status, and redefined roles of the MDDCs. About 150 participants were expected from sugar sector, including officials from key partner agencies of the SRA in SIDA project implementation, such as the Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and Department of Public Works and Highways.

The Summit aims to review the roles and accomplishments of MDDCs since their institutionalization, to survey the current state or situation of MDDCs in relation to accomplishing the purposes of their creation, to chart the way towards strengthening MDDCs through capacity development to enable them to become more effective partners of the government and to institutionalize and mainstream Gender and Development programs, projects and activities of the MDDCs.

The event is pursuant to the SRA’s mandate as set forth in Executive Order No. 18, series of 1986 which is to “promote the growth and development of the sugar industry through greater and significant participation of the private sector, and to improve the working condition of laborers,” SRA press release said.*([email protected], SRA tel 034) 434-3524)



AT SENATE: Tax reform package faces rough sailing

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 19:47

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

MANILA – The approval of tax reform package in full, including taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, as endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte, may face rough sailing in the Senate, although majority of its members are his allies.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and JV Ejercito, staunch supporters of the sugar industry, yesterday said that they will push for its amendments.

Zubiri said that he will not only push for the lowering of sugar taxes, but also for amendments ofthe tax reform bill.

The bill imposes a P10 excise tax on every liter of sugar-sweetened beverages containing locally produced sugar, while others will be taxed P20 per liter.

Zubiri said he will recommend that taxing of sugar-sweetened beverages should be consumption-based.

Ejercito, on the other hand, said, said that while he supports President Duterte's infrastructure development, and has committed to spend P3 trillion for it, “I cannot, in conscience,support the comprehensive tax reform package, being pushed by the Department of Finance, although the intention was good.”

They have to get the revenues somewhere else?excise tax or value-added tax.

The House of Representatives passed the tax reform bill in May, as a boost to the President's plan to build P8 trillion in new infrastructure.

In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte called on the Senate to support his tax reform bill in full, adding that “These reforms are designed to be pro-poor, especially when the people understand how the revenue will be spent,"

Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District), who authored the Sugar Industry Development Act, co-authored also by Senators Cynthia Villar, Zubiri and Ejercito, said he hopes that sugar taxes will be pushed in the Senate.

“We were lobbying for much less tax rates.”, Benitez said, adding that if the Senate will reduce it, it is more than welcome.

Ejercito expressed his apprehensions over the excise tax on petroleum, which, he said, will have an inflationary effect. If prices of petroleum increase, prices of basic commodities will also shoot up.

“Having been a co-author of SIDA, which is designed to stimulate the sugar industry, it will be inconsistent on my part to support the tax reform bill,” he said.

Putting Value Added Tax on housing, including socialized housing, will also increase the back log of housing needs, as developers may not enter socialized housing projects, as the margin of income for them is getting smaller, Ejercito said.

Zubiri and Ejercito said many Senate members will not agree to pass it in “toto”. “Many of us agree to amend it so that it will be more palatable to the people.”

“All of us are affected by the fact that it will be passed in the Senate, but we will haveto amend certain provisions,”Zubiri told the visiting journalists from Negros, who attended the Senate session yesterday.

Members of the Senate are scheduled to have another hearing today on the tax reform bill, which is being scrutinizedby the committee of Senator Sonny Angara.* GPB


Bredco eyeing to reclaim 2,000 hectares in Talisay

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 19:43

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
By Carla N. Canet

THE Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco), through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), is eyeing a 2,000-hectare reclamation project in Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

Talisay City Mayor Nilo Jesus Antonio Lizares on Monday, July 24, said he and Vice Mayor Samuel Siote and the members of the City Council are set to hold a preliminary meeting with the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA).

“Our first step is to address the PPP ordinance,” Lizares said, adding that this will be followed by the initial meeting with Bredco executives.

He said the reclamation project will be for “mixed use,” including for industrial purposes. Since it’s a PPP project, there will be an area for the city government’s utilization, he added.

Lizares said he is thankful to Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez for bringing in investors to the city.

The reclamation project will boost the economy of Talisay and fast track development, the mayor said.

Earlier, Lizares and Benitez met with Alberto Agra, chairman of the PRA Board, in Bacolod.

The PRA has a joint undertaking with Bredco and the City of Bacolod, which is an 108-hectare reclamation area for commercial and industrial uses.

Aklan positioned as cruise liner’s home port in Asia

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 15:23

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NEGROS Occidental Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez said the Visayan Bloc plans to Aklan as the cruise liner ’s home port in Asia.

Benitez, who leads the Visayan Bloc, noted it is part of their efforts in organizing a Special Committee on Visayas Development to ensure the development especially in terms of tourism industry.

He said Visayas has all the tourism potentials especially Boaracay, Cebu and Negros.

That is why they see the importance of government support to further develop the potentials of Visayas, the lawmaker added.

Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores said the Provincial Government of Aklan has signed a memorandum of agreement with Royal Caribbean for the cruise liner’s offshore docking.

Benitez said this is just an initial activity because they will work out with cruise liners around Asia to make Aklan their third home port.

The Visayan Bloc has been holding meetings in their new office at the Penthouse of the Southwing Annex Building of the House of Representatives. (TDE)

Love U Na possible - Benitez

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 15:14

Tuesay, July 25, 2017

MANILA- The two opposing local political parties in the 2016 elections in Negros Occidental appear to be heading for unity in the 2019 polls.

Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District), who has yet to decide if he will run for senator or governor of Negros Occidental, yesterday said the Love Negros members have not yet met as a group.

“It is about time to sit down. I am just waiting for the signal of the members of our group”, Benitez, who hosted lunch for several mayors of Negros Occidental and the Visayan bloc congressmen at the House of Representatives yesterday, said.

The five mayors of the 3rd district of Negros Occidental earlier endorsed Benitez for governor, as Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. is now completing of his third term as provincial chief executive.

“Politically, the first thing to do is to sit down and discuss,” Benitez, one of the LoveNegros stalwarts, said.

If ever that happens, we will talk of “Love-UNA, or Love U Na”. he said.

Marañon, who heads the United Negros Alliance, earlier said that he will support whatever the political plans of Benitez are in the future.

“It's up to him to decide, but as I have said,whatever position he will be running for 2019, I will support,” the governor stressed.

Benitez has been given a slot in the senatorial ticket of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.*GPB


Iloilo-Guimaras-Negros study of bridges starting

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 15:12

Tuesay, July 25, 2017

The feasibility study to connect Iloilo, Guimaras and Negros through bridges is now starting, Rep. Alfredo Benitez(Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) said yesterday.

Benitez said the feasibility study also includes the coastal road in the 3rd district of Negros Occidental. But the study will include first the bridge connecting Iloilo to Guimaras, he said.

China, the best bridge builder in the world,will fund the project, Benitez added.

The proposal to connect Iloilo to Negros started during the administration of then President Corazon Aquino. It also cropped up during the administrations of Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.

The proposed bridge connecting Iloilo to Guimaras is about 2.6 kilometers long.

He was told by Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in a dialog Sunday night that the 2 to 3 kilometer distance is “peanuts”, as the bridge connecting Macau and Hongkong is longer, Benitez said.

It is a pie in the sky, Benitez quoted the Chinese ambassador as saying.

Then, the pie will come down, Benitez quipped.* GPB

Negros solons back Mindanao martial law extension

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 12:52

Marchel P. Espina
Tuesay, July 25, 2017

ALMOST all lawmakers from Negros Island Region were in favor of extending the martial law in Mindanao.

During the special joint session convened by the Senate and the House of Representatives on Saturday, 10 of the 12 Negrense congressmen approved the extension of military rule until December 31, 2017 while only one was against it.

Those who voted “Yes” from Negros Occidental were Representatives Greg Gasataya (Lone District, Bacolod City), Melecio Yap Jr. (First District), Leo Rafael Cueva (Second District), Alfredo Benitez (Third District), Alejandro Mirasol (Fifth District) and Mercedes Alvarez (Sixth District) while those from Negros Oriental were Jocelyn Limkaichong (First District), Manuel Sagarbarria (Second District) and Arnolfo Teves Jr. (Third District).

Also in favor was Representative Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod party-list) while Magdalo party-list Representative Gary Alejano voted against it.

Negros Occidental Fourth District Representative Juliet Ferrer said she wasn’t able to attend the special joint session as she was out of the country.

Benitez and Yap said they voted for the five-month extension because they believe it’s needed in Mindanao to ensure peace.

Paduano said they were appraised by the situation in Mindanao and the basis warrants the extension.

“Hearing the sentiments of Mindanaoan congressmen, I voted yes. For me, the duration or how long it would be is not an issue because 60 or 150 days is not a deadline to quell terrorism and rebellion in Mindanao,” he said.

Gasataya said he voted in favor of the extension of martial law in Mindanao because he finds it necessary in resolving the crisis in Marawi City.

“This is based on the assessment of the President through the martial law implementers and the position of the representatives from Mindanao,” Gasataya said.

On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation 216, declaring martial law in Mindanao after the Maute extremist group engaged in a firefight with government forces tasked to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.

The security officials said that the Maute rebels and Hapilon have allegedly pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Duterte sought the Congress' approval to martial law extension as the initial 60-day declaration expired at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 22.

During the special joint session, 261 lawmakers approved the extension of martial law while only 14 voted against the proposal. Sixteen senators voted in favor of the 150-day extension, while four voted against.

On the other hand, around 245 House members approved the extension while 14 rejected it. (With reports from TDE)

3-day medical, surgical mission set

Sat, 07/22/2017 - 18:37

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Talisay City Mayor Neil Lizares III met with Nikki Lopez Benitez to plan the groundwork for a major 3-day medical and surgical mission, to start November 9, at the Teresita Jalandoni Provincial Hospital in Silay City, Negros Occidental.

Close to a 50-man medical team from the Makati Medical Center Foundation, including surgeons and operating room nurses, will operate on major and minor cases, including thyroid, hernias, cleft lip and palate, gallbladder stones, OB gynecological cases such as ovarian cysts and small breast masses, among others, a press release from Talisay said.

Benitez’s team was accompanied by Drs. Erwin Dizon and Jake Manalastas, and Jeceryl Jover, and was met by the mayor, Vice Mayor Sam Siote, Councilor Nicolai Jalandoni, Ismael Penado, Talisay City Health Officer, Dr. Joy Gladys Guanzon, Josel Faisan and Marlyn Simondo.

The schedule for the first screening of patients will be on October 7, and the final screening on November 7, the press release added.*

Two sugar summits set

Fri, 07/21/2017 - 13:58

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Negros Occidental provincial government is preparing to hold a Negros Sugar Summit geared towards creating a resilient, diversified, competitive and inclusive economy for Negros Island, with the sugarcane industry continuing to make a significant and sustainable contribution, former Gov. Rafael Coscolluela said yesterday.

The provincial government is holding the summit because it wants to consult stakeholders on the sugar situation and to engage them in the formulation of a strategic agenda to address the challenges affecting the industry in Negros, Coscolluela, provincial consultant on trade and investment, said.

The industry challenges affecting the sugarcane industry in Negros include competition from High Fructose Corn Syrup,and other imported or smuggled sweeteners, low world market and domestic prices, labor shortage, low average productivity, rising costs of production, and energy-intensive cane production and delivery systems, he said.

There is also the looming excise taxes on fuel and sweetened beverages, and the worldwide trend to reduce sugar consumption for health reasons, Coscolluela said.

All these problems will require serious and proactive measures, he said, adding that the date for the Negros Sugar Summit has yet to be decided on.

He noted that the Sugar Regulatory Administration will have a Mill District Development Council summitnext week that will focus on MDDCs, which have their share of organizational problems, constraints and limitations.

“I guess they will deliberate on how the MDDCs can perform their intended mandate as frontliners for sugar district development programs and interventions,”Coscolluela said, adding that the MDDC summit results will be a useful input for the Negros Sugar Summit.

The MDDC summit on Tuesday will be held at Nature's Village Resort, Talisay City, Negros Occidental, with Sen. Cynthia Villar and Rep. Alfredo Benitez (Neg. Occ. 3 rd district) as main speakers.

The theme is the Strategic Role of Mill District Development Councils (MDDCs) in Sugar Industry Development, SRA Administrator Anna Rosario Paner said yesterday.

At least 150 participants are expected to attend from the sugar sector, including officials from partner agencies of the SRA in the Sugar Industry Development Act implementation, such as the Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Department of Public Works and Highways, he said.

The summit aims to review the roles and accomplishments of MDDCs since their institutionalization, to diagnose the current state or situation of MDDCs in relation to accomplishing the purposes of their creation, to chart the way forward towards MDDCs' strengthening and capacity development to become more effective partners of the government, and to institutionalized and mainstream Gender and Development programs, projects, and activities of the MDDCs, a statement from the SRA said.*CPG


Reaching Out to Informal Settler Families in Metro 3rd

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 09:07

on Thu, 07/20/2017

Focusing on the other “H” in his  METRO 3RD ASENSO –IHELP (infrastructure-health & housing-education & environment-livelihood-policy) PROGRAM, Congressman Alfredo Benitez  initiated an inventory of informal settler families (ISF) and a review of the various housing programs of local government units in the Third District.

Marie June Pavillar Castro, women’s rights advocate, civic leader and former Silay City councilor who was  tasked as District Coordinator for Housing Concerns DCHC), said the initial inventory recorded close to 50,000 informal settler families in Victorias, EB Magalona, Silay, Talisay and Murcia.  As she works closely with the LGUs to assist fast-tracking their housing programs and other related concerns, the listing and mapping of ISFs continue to generate an accurate data-baseline for appropriate interventions and provide relevant inputs to policy initiatives to address the housing backlog and other issues.

Cong. Benitez  worked with the National Housing Authority and Victorias Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca to  facilitate the implementation of the Permanent Housing Project in Barangay 13 for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.  To date more than 300 units are occupied by ISFs of the total target 2,321 houses.

Victorias housing officer Primilo Solinap  recently reported that 1,300 ISFs will soon benefit from the free patent program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Villa Miranda.

DCHC Castro have also identified ISFs who have organized themselves into homeowners associations seeking assistance and conducted consultative meetings with these groups. Among them are  the Community Association of Barangay Zone IV of Talisay,  the Community Association of Purok Kapayas, Barangay Zone IV of Murcia.

Vital links are established with government housing agencies like the National Housing Agency (NHA) , Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC)  and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).  The District Office and the DCHC continue to conduct  various fora to assist the SHFC advocacy on  promoting the Community Mortgage Program (CMP) and the Local Community Mortgage Program (LCMP).

Ongoing is the coordination with the Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit housing organization whose vision is to provide decent shelter for underprivileged informal settlers. DCHC Castro said,  Habitat  plans for a housing project  in the province, using available indigenous materials.

Congressman Benitez who is also the House chair for the Committee on Housing and Urban Development have initiated groundwork on ways and means to tackle  the  housing backlog in the country, working closely with his counterpart in the Senate, Senator Joseph Victor  Ejercito

In his District, Congressman Benitez takes the lead in transforming lives of informal settler families through access to resettlement communities and socialized housing.

DCHC Castro together with Team Albee shared experiences of long and tedious meetings with stakeholders, rigorous systems and procedures that need improvements and even changes and most of all, the need to change attitude and mind set of people that have been rooted in the old ways.

But opportunities outweigh the constraints in the work towards improving lives of people.  For Congressman Benitez, the challenge of making shelter . . . housing . . . . and finally, decent homes a reality for informal settler families  is not an impossible dream.*

Negros execs split on proposed martial law extension

Wed, 07/19/2017 - 18:43

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of the year has garnered mixed reactions from local officials in Negros Occidental.

Former governor Rafael Coscolluela, a Capitol consultant, said the President has a bad track record in setting timelines.

“Better for him (Duterte) to just say that martial law will stay for as long as absolutely necessary, based on recommendations of the proper authorities and approval of Congress,” he said.

Coscolluela noted that the national government "needs to be more credible," adding that "broken promises and unmet targets are not very reassuring.”

He said the administration also needs to be more transparent and up front with the information they give the public.

“Unfortunately, even Congress has so far failed to perform their duty to determine the validity of the basis for the declaration of martial law,” he said.

Coscolluela said he is hoping for the early return to normalcy in Marawi City, and Lanao del Sur’s neighboring provinces.

Third District Representative Alfredo Benitez did not comment on the move, saying he wants to hear the report during the special session on July 22 first.

Duterte had asked the Congress to hold a special session on Saturday, July 22, to discuss the proposed extension of martial law.

The validity of martial law in Mindanao will end on July 22.

Duterte placed Mindanao under the military rule after Maute terror group attacked Marawi City in an attempt to establish a caliphate for Islamic State fighters in Southeast Asia.

Abang-Lingkod partylist Representative Stephen Paduano said the decision will depend upon the assessment of the lawmakers over the weekend.

“If the situation still warrants, besides, we will still get the basis during the joint session and the sentiment of the congressmen from Mindanao,” he said.

For his part, Bacolod City Representative Greg Gasataya said he is in favor of extending the military rule in Mindanao.

He said the Department of National Defense will make a presentation and a recommendation on the possible extension during the special session.

“For me, I’m in favor of the extension of the martial law considering the situation in Marawi. For the past two months, we did not receive reports of abuses by the military forces,” Gasataya said.

5-month extension ‘enough’

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Eduardo Año said Duterte’s proposed five-month extension of martial law in Mindanao is enough to end the insurgency in war-torn Marawi.

He said the martial rule in Mindanao needs to be extended, stressing the Marawi crisis is still "far from over."

Año noted that to date, around 60 to 70 members of the Maute terror group are still holed up in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, while the presence of more or less 800 "Islamic State-inspired terrorists" are reported in other areas in Mindanao.

“We can notice that it’s still far from over. We have to address it once and for all,” Año told reporters Tuesday.

Duterte sought Tuesday morning, July 18, the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until December 31.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the proposed extension aims to allow the security troops to proceed with their offensives against the terrorists in Marawi City and prevent spillover of the armed conflict.

Año said martial rule in the conflict-torn region might not reach until December if the government forces are able to “significantly degrade the capability of this terrorist group who staged this rebellion.”

“The President made it clear that once everything is normalized, we will even recommend for the early termination of martial law. It’s purely work. We do not have any interests, except to bring back normalcy and defeat all the threats, particularly the terrorists, the Maute, Isis group who staged this rebellion,” he said.

“If there’s already a ground for the lifting, we will make our recommendation,” he added.

Mindanao has been under martial law since May 23 when members of the Maute terror group occupied Marawi City to defend Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who has been on the US's list of most-wanted terrorists worldwide. (with reports from SunStar Philippines)