Press Release
July 29, 2010

Excerpts from Kapihan sa Senado with Sen. Loren Legarda

On Committee Chairmanships If you will recall in all the Congresses, including 2007, it really takes one or two weeks para mag-organize ng mga bagong committee chairmanships. Sa Lunes hangang Miyerkules siguro ay maaayos na lahat ang mga chairmanships hanggang mga memberships ng mga committees kaya kahapon nag-caucus, siguro may final caucus sa Lunes at finally ma-nominate na sa floor ang mga chairmen ng committees.

I wouldn't like to look at it as squabbles because it is very natural to have more than one interested senator, because marami naman overlapping expertise, inclinations, interests, advocacies and that's very natural in any Congress.

On Committee Preference

Nothing is final. We will know by Monday, I think. I don't want to make announcements until the Senate President has formally announced nominations for the committee chairmanships and maybe the majority leader will announce them on the floor.

You know in the 12 years interrupted by three years, 2004, that I have been in the Senate, I have chaired various committees ranging from environment to social justice and rural development to economic affairs to climate change to agriculture, so I am open to chair any committee. Of course, there is such thing as expertise, interests, advocacies which you all very well know, but I will leave it to the wisdom of the Senate President and will never be a hindrance or a stumbling block towards the unity of the Senate.

I have many preferred committees but some of the committees, I willingly or supported my colleagues in sharing because I have shared it before. Marami naman like the agriculture which I presently chair, gusto ko sana ipagpatuloy 'yun but nobody has a franchise on any committee. Hindi porke nag-chair ka ng tatlong taon ikaw na palagi. So agrikultura, gusto ko sana ipagpatuloy pero I believe it has been committed to another senator. That's okay. 'Yung environment was being offered to me kaya lang na-craft ko na siguro lahat ng environmental laws. Ang gusto ko makita ngayon ang pagpapatupad so maybe another senator can have it. Nag-chair din ako ng health, many of my priority legislations, makikita n'yo dito ay about sa kalusugan pero ako din willing magsusuporta sa senador na gusto mag-chair nang health. Dahil ako ay isang climate change advocate at nag-chair na ng agrikultura at environment, siguro para kumpletohin 'yung picture, 'yung enerhiya na malaking problema sa buong bansa at para ipatupad yun renewable energy law pero again, as I said, I will leave it to the wisdom of the Senate President.

On National Survival Fund

First of all I am very happy, pleased, ecstatic that I have an ally in the Senate President. You will recall, 1998, 2007, I seemed like a lonely voice in the Senate. Upon the assumption of Senate President Enrile in 2008 as SP, I convinced him to create the Standing Committee and Oversight on Climate Change. Recently, he held a press conference and he talked to me and suggested the creation of a National Survival Fund. If you will look, 'yung aking original bill on the Climate Change Act, mayroon ako nun, ang tawag ko National Adaptation Fund. 'Yung National Survival Fund is the same as the National Adaptation Fund. However, in the amendments on the Floor nawala 'yun. I think it was amended or tinanggal. So, I am happy if it will be returned into the law through amendments and supported by the Senate President. Kailangan talaga dahil saan kukunin ang pondo ng mga lokal na pamahalaan na siyang mag-aadapt or gagawa ng mga pamamaraan para agapan ang pagbabago ng klima kundi sa isang pondo na ihahain pa ng ating pamahalaan.

On Climate Change Commission headed by former Sen. Heherson Alvarez

I'm not familiar with the resolution of the Senate President but I remember that the Commission that was under the office of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was created by the Climate Change Act six months ago. I am not familiar with the loans that he contracted. I don't think the Commission can contract loans directly. We have to verify with Senator Alvarez. In fact, I want to invite him here to meet the media and brief the senators on what the role of the commission is because I want to see the effective implementation of the Climate Change Act because the role of the Commission would be to provide technical assistance to the LGUs in adapting to climate change and disaster reduction. As to the procurement of loans, I am not certain whether the Commission has the authority to do that. Maybe, they are a recipient of the loans so they can download it to the LGUs but not the sole authority to procure loans.

On an "Alleged" Divided NPC Bloc and Villar's Suport for Enrile

The bloc is not divided. We are solid, we are allies and we are going to help each other. There is no division. I can only say this much because I can't talk for Senator Villar. All I know is that Manny and I have been coordinating since after May 10 and he decided to support, in a consensus with the group, to support Senator Enrile. That's all I can say. You have to hand it to Senator Villar that he is a very magnanimous statesman to support Senator Enrile along with the group.

On "Supposed" Concessions For Villar's Support For Enrile

Hindi naman siguro papayag si Senator Enrile ng ganun at si Senator Villar hihingi na bagay na ganun. Pero sila ang magkakapagsalita d'yan. Tanungin n'yo si Senator Villar or si Senator Enrile.

On NFA Rice Importations

Legarda: Unang-una, ito ay isang stand-out na item sa SONA. Pangalawa, mayroon namang kabilang panig na ibinibigay si Secretary Yap. Importante, na i-ascertain natin 'yung mga figures. Kung nagkaroon ng over-importation, kailangan ay ipamigay na bago pa mabulok. Hindi dapat ibenta kasi if you will flood the market babagsak naman lahat ng presyo. Gawing humanitarian or charity case at ipamudmud sa mga probinsya na may highest incidence of hunger.

Mayroon din akong bill noong nakaraang Kongreso pa on the restructuring of NFA. Maybe that restructuring of the NFA will solve this problem of oversupply and over-importation.

We have two figures here, the figure of the present administration and the figure of the past administration. The seemingly excessive importation because there was supposed to be a shortage, if you recall, a year or two years ago, natatakot tayo. May mga hoarding d'yan dahil may shortage. Ngayon naman lumalabas may oversupply. Another thing that should be taken into consideration ay 'yung mga disasters, pagdalas ng dating ng mga bagyo. Dapat talaga mayroon tayong nakatago na hindi nabubulok para sa biktima ng mga bagyo na dumadating. Dati, 20 typhoons a year, now perhaps more frequently. I think the Senate, especially when we go into the budget season, should look into the budget of importation of rice. Talaga bang sobra or 'yung sobra ay buffer stock at anticipation ng mga disasters. So I will hold my judgment until I see the correct figures.

On Rice Overstocking

At that time (as chair of the agriculture committee) we did not hold any committee hearings on the over-stocking; in fact what we dealt with was the rice crisis. Our concern was we were dependent on Vietnam and Thailand, even China. Sabi nga namin, let's avoid importation, let's rely on our own farmers because the onset of climate change, onset of overpopulation, the rice crisis at that time has evolved to be a national security issue because China, Vietnam and Thailand will take care of their own people rather than export to the Philippines. So, our position is kailangan, huwag tayo mag-rely sa iba, that's my position now. Almost 2.5 million metric tons of rice was imported last year. Imagine, magkano yan in dollars and cents. Kung 'yan nagbigay na lang tayong suporta sa mga magsasaka, siguro mas maganda; may kabuhayan na sila hindi pa tayo magde-depend sa Asean neighbors, may sekuridad pa tayo.

It will take up to 2012 or 2013 for us to be self-sufficient in rice according to then Secretary Yap but we don't know the basis of his statements then as compared to the present administration. My question is, kailan pa tayo magiging self-sufficient sa rice kung hindi tayo magsisimula ngayon magsuporta sa mga farmers? Bawasan na natin 'yung importation. Ang gusto kong marinig ay itong administration na ito ay tutulong sa magsasaka. And whatever amount in the past, maybe 10 years in the importation of rice, be drastically cut and instead the resource be geared towards technical, financial assistance to the farmers. That's what I want to hear.

On the broad strokes of Senator Legarda's proposed Bill

Their mandate or charter are two: regulatory & proprietary functions. In my proposed bill, 'yung regulatory or policy-making, pwede naman 'yun sa Department of Agriculture. 'Yung proprietary or the trading aspect will remain with the NFA. Ito 'yung pagbili at pagbenta ng bigas. Ngunit ito'y magiging National Food Corporation.

On how to aid the farmers from the high cost of production

We are dependent on imported farm inputs, basically fertilizer, kaya mahal. Kailangan tulungan din natin 'yung mga local source ng fertilizer, katulad ng mga gumagamit ng organic fertilizers´┐Ż gumagamit ng worms at iba pa. So, mas maganda na tulungan din natin 'yung mga gumagawa ng mga alternative fertilizers. These are all interconnected, our dependence on imported rice and imported fertilizers.

On how to cut down dependence on imported rice

Let's have a clear- cut policy on cutting down our consumption on imported rice. What is the daily average consumption of our 92 million Filipinos? 1.5 or 2 million metric tons. Ano 'yung necessary buffer stock? One month. Then let's say one- half lang d'yan ang iimport natin. Kailangang bumili tayo sa ating mga magsasaka. 'Yung pondo na pambili ng rice sa Thailand at sa ibang bansa ay ibigay natin sa mga magsasaka para may option sila na gumawa ng mga organic fertilizers upang bumaba ang cost ng kanilang farm inputs.

About giving subsidies to farmers

Subsidy to farmers is acceptable even in other countries. Although in our situation, medyo deficit pa tayo. Pwede siguro mag- subsidize sa mga farmers in the beginning, habang nag a-adjust pa sila. That would be a great help. Subsidies can also be in the form of technical assistance that can be provided by the agriculture officers in all municipalities so that farmers can also grow hi-breed crops. It can also be marketing assistance for their produce. It's not necessarily an outright financial assistance. All these assistance are never complied with since we open up our economy, including our agriculture more than 12 years ago, being a member of WTO.

On the importance of the proper implementation of the Renewable Energy Act

Mahalaga ang mabuting pagpapatupad ng ating Renewable Energy Act upang hindi na nga tayo lubusang aasa sa mga imported component sa pag-produce ng energy tulad ng fossil coals at oil. Meron ding batas si Senate President Enrile on how to reduce our cost power consumption. We can also utilize rationalization of our electric cooperatives.

On the effect of our country' membership to WTO

Yes. The farmers really need government subsidy to aid them in coping up with the increased competition of goods coming from other member countries due to trade liberalization. I guess, it's not yet too late to put the protection mechanisms that were supposed put in place upon our membership to the WTO in 1998.

On the Oversupply of Rice

It's disconcerting and puzzling because two years ago, the issue was crisis and now it's oversupply. Nakakabahala at hindi katanggap-tanggap na noong isang taon lang, tayo ay import-dependent mula sa Thailand, Vietnam, Tsina at ibang bansa at kailangan tayong magmakaawa sa kanila para mabigyan ng ating parte sa importation. Ngayon naman ay may oversupply kaya kailangan nating ayusin, tingnan natin kung ano ang ating utilization at reserba sa panahon ng disasters. We should really veer away from an import-dependent economy.

I have to check the 2008 or 2009 figures if there was what you call an artificial shortage because ayaw ko naman maghusga noon because at that time, tanggap namin sa Senado na mayroong shortage based on the figures given to us by the authorities then. That's something we need to do.

The price of rice is still high simply because it is stored in warehouses and it has only been discovered rotting and therefore, it is not in the market. So there is an oversupply that is hidden. It's not an oversupply in the market. Kapag nabulok ibig sabihin hindi man lang ibinenta. These were stored.

On Agri-Agra Law

Hinihintay ang Implenting Rules and Regulation ng Agri-Agra Law. Ito'y may malaking maitutulong sa mga magsasaka including the rice farmers kung ma-expedite na. Ang Agri-Agra Law ay mahalaga dahil ang ibig sabihin nito maaari nang magkaroon ng capital o source ng pondo ang ating mga farmers at istrikto na ang compliance ng mga bangko para sa agriculture sector, hindi 'yung pagbili ng government bonds. On the Expanded Senior Citizen's Law

I-clarify natin itong Expanded Senior Citizen's Law na tayo ang principal author ay ibinabalik sa 20% ang diskwento ng ating mga senior citizens. Naalala niyo, 'yung dati ay 20% pero nagkaroon ng 12% vat kaya naging 8% na lang; so ngayon ibinabalik natin sa buong 20%. Mahal pa rin ang presyo ng gamot dahil sa Cheaper Medicines Act; hindi nasakop 'yung buong 1,500 formulations at 'yung struktura na dapat may regulatory board ay hindi nasunod kaya a little more than 20 medicines lang ang sakop at hindi pa bumagsak nang malaki ang presyo. Kaya nai-file ko ang version ni Congressman Biron ng Mababang Kapulungan ng true Cheaper Medicines Act kung saan sakop ang 1,500 formulations na talagang magpapabagsak ng presyo ng gamot kaya hindi lang senior citizens ang makikinabang diyan kung hindi lahat ng mamamayan.

On Open Pit Mining in Cotabato Open pit mining is the worst kind of mining, as I understand. It is not allowed. All mining concessions have to go through a process. First, environment impact assessment; second, environment clearance certificate (ECC) tapos kasama sa ECC ay kailangan ng consultation with the LGUs and community para sa health, environment and livelihood effects. Kaya kung hindi tanggap sa mga tao doon, paano makakapasa?

On the Kasambahay Bill

Isa 'yan sa aking mga priority bills since 1998. Kasi karapat-dapat lang na ang ating mga kasambahay ay may mga benepisyo katulad ng PhilHealth at SSS; humane ang pagtrato sa kanila kasi ganoon ang pagtrato ko sa kanila, may batas man o wala. Gusto kong iinstitutionaliza ang pagtrato sa kanila and in the end, may benepisyo rin 'yan sa mga employers kasi kapag meron sila noon, hindi sila utang ng utang sa 'yo.

* press release by Public Relations and Information Bureau (PRIB)

News Latest News Feed