News Briefs: March 24, 2017

Chinese envoy visits new DFA chief Manalo

MANILA – Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua visited the new Philippine foreign secretary, Enrique Manalo, two weeks after Manalo took his post.

In a news release, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the meeting took place at the DFA headquarters in Pasay City on Thursday, March 23.

The DFA said Manalo and Zhao "discussed" and "reaffirmed" Philippines-China relations. 

Zhao paid the courtesy call a day after China denied planning to build an environmental monitoring station on the disputed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Before this, China also drew flak for a Chinese survey ship was seen plying the waters of Benham Rise off Aurora for around 3 months. – Paterno Esmaquel II


Senate report: 2 laws in first quarter of 2017


MANILA – The Senate produced two laws in the first two and a half months of the year before it went on recess, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III reported on Friday, March 25.

Enacted into law during the first quarter of the year are the bills extending for 25 years the franchise of TV company GMA Network, Incorporated and mobile service provider SMART Communications Incorporated.

The Senate approved on 3rd reading 7 bills and sent them to the House for concurrence: Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, Free Higher Education For All Act, Philippine Food Technology Act, PNP Reorganization Act, Speech Language Pathology Act, Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2017 and the National Tech-Voc Day.

Pimentel said Senate has placed highest priority on the Duterte administraton's bid to shift to federalism when Congress resumes session in May.


Negros Occidental agriculturist suspended for grave misconduct, malversation

BACOLOD CITY – Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr ordered the preventive suspension of Provincial Agriculturist Igmedio Tabianan for 60 days due to grave misconduct and malversation of public funds.

In the memorandum order dated March 21, Marañon ordered the provincial agriculturist to refrain from entering the premises of the capitol and any of its offices during the duration of the suspension or from doing such acts that will influence the witnesses and the proceeding “to avoid embarrassment and/or any untoward incident.”

The order said that administrative charges of grave misconduct/malversation of public funds warrant a preventive suspension as Tabianan exercises authority over the witnesses and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA), where other evidence, testimonial or documentary are available.

In November 2016, Tabianan received two notices of disallowance from the Commission on Audit (COA).

These are the P299,000 amount spent for the fertilizer project in 2013 after he failed to comply the required documents including the list of beneficiaries, purchase order, and bids and awards committee resolution; and the various vegetable seeds program worth P239,805.80 in 2014 after he failed to submit the list of recipients.

Tabianan had settled the P299,000 disallowed amount while he was given 6 months to comply with the needed requirements for the other disallowed amount.

Provincial Economic Enterprise Development Department head Japhet Masculino has been installed concurrently officer-in-charge of the Office of the Provincial Agricuturist. – Marchel Espina