By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang reported that the fire incident in the LRT-2, the declining price of palay, and the reemergence of polio in the country were among the key issues discussed in the 42nd Cabinet Meeting President Duterte led Friday night.
According to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, Light Railway Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Reynaldo Berroya and Corporate Secretary Hernando Cabrera reported on what happened in the LRT-2 rectifier substation fire incident last October 3.
Panelo said that, while repair and replacement of the component were already ongoing, LRTA and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will continue bus augmentation for commuters from Santolan to Cubao.
He added that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (i-ACT), and the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) have also participated in the bus augmentation.
The LRTA said last week that operations in the Santolan, Katipunan, and Anonas stations of LRT-2 will remain suspended for at least nine months following the fire that hit one of the train’s power transformers.
Price of palay
Meanwhile, Panelo said Agriculture Secretary William Dar enumerated the measures done by his Department to address the declining price of palay.
These include: increase in the number of National Food Authority’s (NFA) palay buying stations to service more farmers; issuance of NFA rice coupons; and investigation of rice cartels, hoarding and price manipulation.
Panelo said the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PCPDM), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), and the Land Bank of the Philippines have already financial assistance to help the farmers.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the average farm gate price of palay slid to its lowest in eight years at an average of P15.96 in the third week of September.
Reemergence of polio
Panelo said Health Secretary Francisco Duque shared the Department of Health’s (DOH’s) response plans to the reemergence of polio and increase in diphtheria cases in the country.
“The DOH intensified its information drive for better understanding of diseases and what the people should do. The DOH advised the public to complete the rounds of immunization, maintain proper hygiene and participate in their supplemental activities,” he said.
Last month, Malacañang expressed concern about the reemergence of polio in the Philippines, 19 years after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the country to be free from the disease. The DOH earlier confirmed a polio case in Lanao del Sur and that the virus was also detected in water sewage samples in Manila and Davao.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi then reported the Department of Energy’s (DOE) preparations in light of the developments in Saudi Arabia which affected global oil supplies.
Panelo said the DOE proposed an executive order (EO) that will create an inter-agency body that will provide an oil contingency policy and review fuel purchase, conservation, substitution, and rationing, among others, in times of crisis.
He said the EO shall be reviewed first by the Office of the Executive Secretary.
The DOE also introduced amendments in the Republic Act No No. 8479 or the Oil Deregulation Act of 1998. These include the granting of power to the Secretary of Energy to define the maximum price of oil, and to authorize the unbundling of price of oil products.
Tourism and environment
According to Panleo, Duterte congratulated Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu for their efforts to rehabilitate Boracay which was recently recognized as the best island in Asia by Condé Nast Traveler in its 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards.
Meanwhile, Puyat, along with Nayong Pilipino Executive Director Michelle Aguilar-Ong, reported on the development of the New Nayong Pilipino Park located in Paranaque.
Panelo said that it was approved, during the Cabinet meeting, that there will be a hybrid scheme to develop the Nayong Pilipino Cultural Park and Recreation Facility.
“[It] means that the government will shoulder its construction and that the Bases Conversion and Development Authority will bid out its operations and management,” he said.
To curb corruption in government, Panelo said Budget Acting Secretary Wendel Avisado and Government Procurement Policy Board Executive Director Rowena Ruiz informed the Cabinet of the ongoing interventions and planned initiatives for efficient, effective, and responsive government procurement.
“The President wanted to initiate a move to introduce an amendment to Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Act from ‘lowest calculated responsive bid’ to ‘most responsive and advantageous bid,'” he said.
Panelo said Año reported that the DILG had been successful in fulfilling the directive of the President to clear all public roads. A total of 75 provinces have already submitted their compliance reports. It was also reported during the Cabinet meeting that all 17 cities in Metro Manila were commendably compliant and that Regions I to X also complied.
The Palace official noted that there were 6,899 local roads that were cleared nationwide.
In his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, Duterte asked Año to suspend all mayors or governors in Metro Manila and nearby cities if they will not heed his call to reclaim all public roads used for private purposes.
According to the President, the country loses P3.5 billion a day due to traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile Duterte also approved the Enhanced Partnership against Hunger and Poverty (EPAHP) proposed by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles. The EPAPH is geared towards addressing hunger mitigation, food security and poverty reduction.