Friday, December 31, 2010

Malaysians urged to build a better future

Malaysians are urged to fulfill their responsibility in building a better future for the coming generations and place the country in its rightful position.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak made this call today in his 2011 New Year message, explaining that the government cannot be successful in its efforts to spur development in the country without the peoples' cooperation.
"Let’s not be satisfied and just sit back to be mere critics. Let’s mould a better future for the coming generations," Mr. Najib was quoted by state-run news agency Bernama.
Mr. Najib has been linked to controversies, including the questionable deals for the purchase of two Scorpene submarines and 18 Sukhoi fighter jets in 2008. 
Malaysia was seen plunging down to a lowest corruption rating in 2010, according to a Transparency International report, with an index score of 4.4. The country ranks at 56 out of 178 countries rated.
“Learning from mistakes, throughout 2010, we built a strong foundation to ensure that the nation’s potentials and resources can be stimulated and mobilised towards achieving the national vision,” he said.
He identified the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) along with the six National Key Result Areas (NKRA) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) with the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) as the basis of the New Economic Model, the 10th Malaysia Plan and Budget 2011, which served as a comprehensive roadmap to raise the living standard and quality of life of the people to a higher level.
The prime minister also took a swipe on the opposition for criticising the construction of several projects including the North-South Expressway, the Petronas Twin Towers and the Penang Bridge. He said they were now too embarrassed to admit their mistake because these projects had brought much benefit to the people.
“The question is if their opinions have proven to be wrong in such major matters, how can the people possibly trust any of their promises?” he said.

Singapore connects to Android users

Android users may now have access to the latest information about Singapore as its government recently launched a software developed for smartphones running Google's operating system.

Gov.Sg, an application available free of charge at the Android Market, was launched November 19 by Singapore's Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) in addition to the version built for iPhones last year.

"The public can now enjoy the convenience of accessing the latest government news updates and electronics services such as calendar of events, directory of contact information, feedback channels, on-the-go," MICA said in a statement.

Remote village gets electricity

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Dark nights are things of the past for a community living 50 kilometers away from downtown, whom for years never experienced what it is to live with electricity lighting their homes especially this holiday season.

Some thirty houses built for the same number of families in the area by Gawad Kalinga – Davao were lighted with LED bubls using electricity from 13-plate batteries. This development was made possible through a partnership with Gawad Kalinga and Davao Light & Power Co (DLPC).

“This is the  most  precious  gift  we ever received in so many Christmas seasons that came in our lifetime,” said one of the residents of the Gawad Kalinga Violet Hills Village in Kabalang, Marilog, this city.

The Aboitiz-owned electric utility installed a solar-powered battery charger in a strategic location right in the GK community. The  company  also  procured  the  initial 30 batteries to be given to each household  beneficiary  for  their  use. With each battery, Davao Light also donated 3 LED light bulbs.

A fully  charged  battery can last up to 20 days with the Three  LED bulbs switched on at night time and switched off during the day. It can also operate a small black and white television set, said Art Milan, DLPC executive vice president.

Germanico  Sayca, a 63-year old resident of Kibalang who has been there for the  past  30  years said that in the beginning they do not understand what was  Gawad  Kalinga  up to, except that there was a commitment to give them houses  that they can call their own. He waxed some kind of Greek mythology when  he sort of likened GK as the “rich low-lander bearing gifts” for them during the initial implementation of the housing construction.

Policy-making leaders to intervene over aerial spraying issue

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- Regional policy leaders of this region are dipping its hands to revisit the issue of aerial spraying and look “objectively” into its effects in a bid to make a position that is not based on accusations from parties for nor against it.

Vicente T. Lao, RDC XI co-chair and Mindanao Business Council (MinBC) chair, said they are keen on reassessing the pros and cons of aerial spraying, this time with their participation as they have seen how several campaign groups have made their position based on sentiments.

“Earlier, MinBC did not intervene (on the issue). But evidences (surfaced) that some groups fabricated facts to advance their cause,” Lao told journalists recently at the Marco Polo Hotel.

The unresolved proposal to ban aerial spraying of fungicides has been identified by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) as one of the three major challenges to the region’s economic activity in 2010.

In 2009, the Social Development Committee of RDC recommended an independent body to conduct a comprehensive and interdisciplinary study on the effects of aerial spraying of fungicides. This, after an earlier study commissioned by Department of Health that revealed traces of insecticides that cause cancer were found in residents in Davao del Sur was found to be inconclusive.

“We also do not want to compromise public health, but we will not base our position on what is the sentiment of lobby groups,” said Lao.

The Pest Management Council of the Philippines (PMCP), meanwhile, endorses aerial spraying as the safest and most effective method for the control of the dreaded black sigatoka virus, the pest responsible for the decimation of the banana industry in Latin America in the early 1960s which caused the shift of global demand to Asia, principally the Philippines.

In Congress, there are three new separate bills introduced in Congress filed by Reps. Jonathan C. Yambao, Rufus B. Rodriguez and Akbayan partylist Rep. Arlene “Kaka” J. Bag-ao that seeks to ban the said agricultural practice. This development prompted some banana growers in Mindanao to ask the Department of Agriculture to look into the mater that the cultural practice not be banned on baseless decisions.

Samal mango growers eye Aussie market

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- The emerging multi-billion mango industry of Island Garden City of Samal is being groomed by the Australian government to become a mango value chain and as a best practice demonstration and vehicle dissemination to other growers in the southern part of the country, it was learned yesterday.

To harmonize this, Pastor Lozada, general manager of the Samal Island Mango Growers Association (SIMAGA) said they are eyeing to penetrate the Australian market especially in months where their country could not supply its own mangoes.

Australia does not have a supply of the said fruit during March to September, said Lozada, who is pinning his motivation to export mangoes to the country on the said period.

Lozada’s group, through the collaboration with Davao del Norte provincial agricultural office, recently visited Australia for a research and development mango study tour.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) said on its website that the Australian government has poured AU$60,000 to the project that would benefit Samal Island growers from June 15 to June 30 next year.

Part of the project would tour the growers in Queensland to study technologies used by Australian growers.

The mango industry in Samal Island has emerged into a mult-billion peso industry, with 7,000 hectares of high value fruit planted similar to the sweetest mangoes being produced in the island of Guimaras in the Western Visayas region, city administrator Cleto Gales, Jr. said.

“The island can produce about 10 million kilos of mango annually and could increase for up to 30 million kilos depending on the absorptive capacity of he market,” said Lozada.

SIMAGA has around 3,500 members that takes a cooperative approach to production, marketing and research. Samal mangoes are bought at P20 per kilo at the farm, but would be increased to P100 if their plan to penetrate the Australian market would be successful, said Lozada.

“Laborers could be pulled out from poverty if the price of mango would be multiplied and sold to a new foreign market,” he said.

Philippine freedom of information bill facing discreet opponents in Congress

The House of Representatives is poised to pass the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act despite some contentious issues that attempt to block it in the 15th Congress, a lawmaker said Thursday.

Deputy Speaker and Quezon Province Rep. Lorenzo R. Tañada said twelve bills have been filed in Congress where majority of it are based on the bicameral conference version of the previous congress.
He said some lawmakers have been very discreet on their stand that they are not revealing their position “because it would be a political suicide.”

“Many are disguising that they are supporting freedom of information,” Tañada, chair of the House Committee on Public Information, told reporters at the Ateneo de Davao University on Thursday afternoon.

There are four remaining contentious issues, according to Tañada, where three of which come from Malacañang.

“Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma argues in his position paper that the smooth exercise of government functions can be put at risk if information currently being used by government agencies for decision-making or project management are subjected to access requests at every step of the way. Also, providing access to transcripts and minutes of official meetings may diminish candid and open discussions by public officers. In addition, I have also heard various feedback that Malacañang has apprehensions over safeguards on state security,” he said.

A “reproduction” of the previous Congress’ bill has been filed by Davao 1st district Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles. But he added a provision that would only make legal to get information from government during the passage of the bill and during the incumbency of the President “at the time the request for information has been made.”

Nograles’ bill has been protested by a coalition called “Right to Know, Right Now” and has gathered signatures to coerce the congressman to defeat the bill which they said could compromise public interest.
“The non-retroactivity provision in Nograles’ bill is an unreasonable limitation of the right to information,” said Atty. Nepomuceno Malauan, lead convenor of the coalition.

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