Both hands together
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2020 - 12:00am

Last Monday, I was invited by officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to be the “Discussion” moderator for their event where some 30 members of Congress were invited to discuss various laws, pending and proposed that would greatly help the DILG and local governments operate better and deliver quality services. It seems that the DILG took it upon themselves to catalog and evaluate all proposed legislations that are before the House of Representatives, proposed laws that have sponsors in the Senate but do not have counterpart bills in the House, as well as needed laws or legislation to address lapses or inconsistencies in governance and procedures as well as existing laws. Judging from the DILG handouts that was three pages back to back, there are a ton of such bills.

Perhaps the most significant item on the list was the need to review and update the Local Government Code that was suppose to be reviewed every five years or so in terms of effectivity and benefit. However no such thing has happened and all the members of Congress that were present fully supported the idea of a review. Second to the review of the Local Government Code, the Congressmen all agreed that something had to be done about the actual implementation of the Supreme Court decision increasing the internal revenue allotment of LGUs.  Initially, I thought that the invited members of Congress might show disinterest since lawmakers don’t need to be reminded that they have so much backlog and inconsistencies when it comes to laws. But I was wrong for one simple reason. The DILG organizers strategically invited members of Congress who have been or were formerly local government officials such as mayors or governors before being elected to the House of Representatives.  As a result, all of them have had experiences where they could not do their jobs well due to misalignments between the laws and the bureaucratic set up.

Congressman Barzaga of Cavite shared his frustration at generating tax revenues for his province because they could not get the needed information on revenues and taxes of corporations under their jurisdiction. Even the BIR declared that they could not and would not share information about revenues of taxpayer corporations because it would be against the law. Congresswoman Sharee Tan shared their two-year delay in building a much needed hospital because the law requires them to get the approval of design from the official architect of the Department of Health! Another, Congressman Chatto of Bohol pointed out that IRA is based on land area which is unfair to smaller LGUs that are Island municipalities. The most unfair perhaps is that the poor gets the poorer share of IRA such as Eastern Samar. Congresswoman Maria Fe Abunda called on her colleagues to band together to fix such an injustice. The way I would put it in Tagalog would be: “Mahirap na Pinahirapan pa.” What’s enlightening is that other Congressmen such as Jayjay Suarez of Quezon province and Dan Fernandez of Laguna cited how certain ultra rich barangays and cities such as Makati and Quezon City are already swimming in their local tax revenues and still end up with the lion’s share of IRA.

Aside from revisiting the Local Government Code and Internal Revenue Allotment, the DILG had included the need for a law that would strengthen political parties by requiring the “joint” election of governorsand their vice governor candidate, mayor and vice mayor tandems. While making the vote a party vote, it would also reduce the situations were the governor ends up constantly fighting with a vice governor from another party etc. I’m just hoping that our friends in Congress will also return the favor to the DILG by giving the DILG Secretary more power to govern because at it stands, the DILG Secretary has to go through a circuitous process just to get tricycles off our main highways! Like I said the list of items went three pages long so I’ll have to do a follow up once I’ve fully understood all the handouts. But in the mean time congratulations to the DILG for clearly being pro-active so that members of Congress can address the many loopholes in local governance.

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I just interviewed Agriculture Secretary William Dar yesterday and we learned from him that the recent outbreak of African Swine Fever in a remote town in Davao could have been caused by various possibilities. First suspect were holiday travelers who went home during the Christmas holidays bringing with them contaminated pork products that became leftovers that were turned into kanin baboy or swill feed. Another suspected source were leftovers or swill feed from boats that travel back and forth from Indonesia. But one suspected spot that got shot down was a trading post like the auction places where farmers sell cows, carabaos, goats, pigs and chickens.

As a result, there is now the probability that the DA might prohibit the sale of pigs in public auctions or livestock markets to prevent the spread of ASF. The good news is that Secretary Dar recently met with the association of hog raisers nationwide and they reported having over produced hogs by ten percent. Makes sense given that sales went down last year but farms can’t simply shut down their breeding or operations because of the over production, the supply of hogs won’t be seriously affected even with the radical preventive culling of hogs inside the 1-7-10 kilometer zone. In fact, experts are forecasting that prices will go up as demand begin to return to normal. So for those of you living in fear that you will no longer get to taste your lechon kawali or chicharon bulaklak. Have no fear!   

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Email: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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