5 bets take stage in CDO debate
Gerry Lee Gorit (The Philippine Star) - February 20, 2016 - 9:00am

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – “It’s all systems go” for the presidential debate here today with all five candidates confirming their participation, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez said yesterday.

In a radio interview, Jimenez said security has been tightened in and around the Capitol University where the debate will be held at 5 p.m.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Director Chief Supt. Lyndel Desquitado said they are prepared for the “big event,” along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Desquitado said they have already inspected the debate venue and checkpoints have been set up across the city.

The police official also said they have urged local residents to help the police and the military in the peacekeeping efforts.

To take part in the debate are Sen. Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Manuel Roxas II and Sen. Miriam Santiago.

The “PiliPinas Debate 2016,” organized by GMA 7 and the Inquirer in cooperation with the Comelec, will start in the afternoon. Each of the participants would be given one minute to give his or her opening statements and 90 seconds to answer a question, Jimenez told Magnum radio.

The three major topics in the debate are peace and security, poverty alleviation and agriculture.

With many Filipinos expected to stay home today, Malacañang said they should sacrifice a little by watching the debate to know the candidates better.

“These will just be two hours of our busy schedule and on a Sunday when everyone wants to relax and de-stress a bit. Maybe this is a little sacrifice for the country – that we all watch, talk about the answers and the questions themselves and through this our decision for the country will be aided,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said over dzRB.

He said the people should realize the real winners in these debates would be themselves and the country in general.

“This becomes the way for the candidates to really face the important questions and give everyone time to reflect,” Quezon said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon also urged voters to tune in to the televised debates so they can make more informed decision come May 9.

He said the debates would provide voters with information about the plans and platforms of candidates that they could use as basis on who to elect as the next president and vice president.

“I hope that the public will not miss this chance to tune in and listen to the answers that will be given by those who want to lead this country for the next years, and if they really can continue the progress which we have already made in the past six years,” he said.      

“These debates will give the voters throughout the country an important mechanism to know where the candidates stand on critical issues, such as on the fight against corruption, poverty alleviation, ending political dynasties, job generation and tax reform.” 

If the Comelec decides to hold debates for the senatorial candidates, he would definitely participate in all of them, Drilon said.

“I will welcome any such opportunity to present my platforms and my suggestions, as a veteran lawmaker, on what political, social and economic reforms we need to undertake to ensure our nation’s continued progress,” he said.  Drilon is running for reelection.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, national chairman of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP), said his party would choose its candidate based on their statements in the debate.

“The presidential candidates must tackle the clamor for Mindanao is for a federal system of government, so that we can let each region of Mindanao, not only the Bangsamoro people, develop by giving them federal status,” Rodriguez said.

Another presidential debate sponsored by The STAR, TV5 and the BusinessWorld is scheduled in Cebu on March 20. A third debate will be held in Luzon sponsored by ABS-CBN and Manila Bulletin.

A vice presidential debate will be held on April 10 in Metro Manila.

Fish and food 

Meanwhile, former lawmaker Angelo Palmones said it is important that presidential candidates tell the public their plans on how to arrest the decline in fish and food production.

Party-list group Agham, which he heads, would like to know if the candidates would consider transforming the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources into a department, he added.

Palmones said fisheries should be given special attention, since the country’s territory is 70-percent water.

“Agham scientists predict that this will surely affect the country’s food security,” he said. 

In Bicol over the weekend, Liberal Party standard bearer Manuel Roxas II and runningmate Leni Robredo said they would boost agricultural productivity through the Daang Matuwid Bukid Revolution if they get elected.                 

“This program will empower farmers and fisherfolk by giving them more affordable loan rates to fuel their livelihood, as the government implements the construction of infrastructure that can bring farm produce to more customers,” he said.

Roxas said in Albay in particular, the program would build on the province’s achievements in increasing farm output.

Gov. Joey Salceda and some 5,000 residents of Albay welcomed the Roxas-Robredo tandem and their senatorial candidates.

Salceda briefed his visitors on how the farming sector in the province recovered from devastation caused by typhoons.

Albay is now almost 100-percent self-sufficient in farm products, he added.

The efficient use of national government funds and provincial money has made this possible, Salceda said.

Word from Poe-Chiz

Another party-list group, Anakpawis, asked the ticket of Sens. Poe and Francis Escudero to reveal how they intend to attain rice self-sufficiency for the country if they win in May.

“We are eager to hear Poe’s platform on rice self-sufficiency as this is a vital issue hounding the country,” Anakpawis said. “We all know that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has failed to achieve it.” 

In a statement yesterday, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said Poe has yet to speak about her particular stand on agriculture and food security. 

He urged Poe to heed the Filipino farmers’ demand for the attainment of rice self-sufficiency through free land distribution; securing farmers’ tenure on lands; cessation or moratorium on the conversion of agricultural lands; abolition of irrigation fees; insitutionalization of farm subsidies, post-harvest and marketing support.  

Poe was also urged to oppose the liberalization of agriculture by withdrawing its commitments to the World Trade Organization-Agreement on Agriculture (WTO-AoA) and other “unfair trade agreements leading to dumping of imported rice in the domestic market.”

Anakpawis belied Alcala’s claim that the country is about to achieve rice self-sufficiency. 

Hicap cited government data indicating that imported rice still accounts for seven percent of the country’s supply, contrary to Alcala’s claim of 97 percent rice self sufficiency.

He also noted studies showing that per capita rice consumption went down from 121.51 kilos in 2009 to 114.2 kilos in 2014 and that rice stocks have become more commercialized as the share of the National Food Authority in the overall rice stocks went down from 37 percent to 12 percent, with the rest of the stocks being in the hands of the private sector.

“Under the Aquino administration, rice stocks are systematically being controlled by the private sector, which is a threat to food security as they (administration) are unable to dictate the flow of supply and prices,” Hicap said.

The Church-based election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), for its part, asked the candidates to dignify the debates by speaking truthfully.

“Please give dignity to the debate. Speak the truth, act justly, love goodness, walk and talk humbly and respect your audience,” PPCRV national chairperson Henrietta de Villa said.

She also asked the candidates to seek guidance from God and pray.

The PPCRV head also advised voters to watch or listen to the debates, as they are “noteworthy events wherein the voters can discover how the candidates carry themselves under stress.” 

She added that their PPCRV coordinators and volunteers based in CDO have been drumming up support for the debates. – With Aurea Calica, Jess Diaz, Ding Cervantes, Evelyn Macairan

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