VP Sara’s unfinished business in Makati | Inquirer Opinion
Sharp Edges

VP Sara’s unfinished business in Makati

/ 05:30 AM June 25, 2024

The next Education Secretary will have his or her hands full attending to unfinished businesses at the Department of Education (DepEd).

It seems Vice President Sara Duterte has failed to address many concerns in her two-year stint as the Cabinet official in charge of education. 

One example is the appeal from the Makati city government asking the Vice President, in her capacity as Education Secretary, to allow Makati to retain its management of three public schools located in the EMBO barangays. These barangays have been placed under the territorial jurisdiction of Taguig by the Supreme Court.

These are the Makati Science High School, Fort Bonifacio Elementary School and Fort Bonifacio High School. In the case of the last two schools, Makati, through Mayor Abby Binay, asked that they be integrated with the University of Makati, which is run by the Makati city government. Both Fort Bonifacio Elementary and High School are adjacent to the University.

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Mayor Binay first wrote Vice President Duterte in August 2023. The appeal was reiterated in February this year. Until now, we are told that the appeal has not been addressed.  

Why retain Makati Science? For one, Taguig already has its own science high school. A second one would be redundant. It’s also not uncommon for a local government to have a science high school outside its boundaries. Valeriano Estrella Fugoso Memorial High School in Marikina is being administered and managed by the city of Manila (the school is named after the 13th mayor of Manila).

More importantly, Makati has shown that is has the focus and the resources to continue providing Makati Science students with the kind of assistance that Taguig, admittedly, cannot match.  In the 1990s, Makati started giving students free bags, uniforms and school supplies. Today, such practice is commonplace and expected from local governments. And at the time, this was a pioneering endeavor.

Under Mayor Abby Binay, the program has been expanded and upgraded. Makati’s public schools’ students receive at the start of the school year complete school gear, which includes raincoats, leather shoes and sneakers. They get free school supplies and nutritious snacks and grocery bags. More recently, Makati has been providing students modern learning tools.

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What are the consequences of Vice President Duterte’s inaction? For one, Makati’s plan to increase the monthly stipend of Makati Science students has been suspended indefinitely. From P1,500, Makati intended to increase the monthly stipend to P3,000.  Plans to convert the classrooms into smart classrooms, complete with computer tablets, interactive white boards, free and unlimited wi-fi access, have also been put on hold.

This is very unfortunate. Makati has started converting its schools into smart schools but Makati Science students, supposed to be the cream of the crop, have been left behind because of Vice President Duterte’s failure to resolve the appeal.

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This is just Makati. We wonder how many more schools, and how many more public-school students, have been adversely affected by the Vice President’s failure to perform her duty as Education Secretary.

Will rice traders sell at promised P45 to P46 per kilo next month?

House Speaker Martin Romualdez met yesterday with the top officials of the Philippine Rice Industry Stakeholders Movement (PRISM) Orly Manuntag and Rowena Sadicon to discuss the expected reduction of rice prices on retail when the tariff cut takes effect next month. Also present were NFA OIC Larry Lacson, House Agriculture committee chair Mark Enverga, Deputy Majority leader Erwin Tulfo and Appropriations Chairman Zaldy Co.

After that meeting, the Speaker announced to media that beginning next month or July 10, prices of imported rice will go down between P45 to P46 per kilo, when EO 62 reducing tariff from 35 percent to 15 percent takes effect.

PRISM, the country’s biggest rice group, were advocating for a deferment of the implementation of EO 62, in order “to provide local farmers and stakeholders sufficient time to adjust and prepare for the economic impact”.

But this time, they were rejected perhaps due to this administration’s bad experience with “bad eggs” within the rice industry. Last year, the government imposed a price ceiling of P45 per kilo of rice. Also, numerous raids were conducted in Bulacan and Mindanao on warehouses suspected of hoarding and smuggling.

The Speaker, in a no holds barred meeting with PRISM members in September that year, issued a stern warning, “If you want to be part of the solution, you are with us, we will help you, we’re going to support you., But if you are part of the problem, “We will root you out”.   I remember PRISM’s offering to sell rice at P38 a kilo before the Speaker. At that time, landed cost of imported Vietnam rice was at P29.30 to P31 per kilo including the 35 percent tariff. If the rice traders offered P38, then admittedly they still have a big profit margin.

Today, landed cost of Vietnam rice today is still estimated at P32 per with the 35 percent full tariff. However, next month will be a different situation when rice tariff is reduced to just 15 percent. So, if PRISM agreed to the P45 to P46 per kilo as announced by the Speaker yesterday, then their profit margin is still very substantial after deducting their “trucking” and other expenses plus the add-ons of wholesalers-retailers. But of course, this is a theoretical assumption, because different things happen on the ground, particularly supply and demand which rice traders’ control.

But there is a good thing coming, and this is the expected approval of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report of the Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Bill that will penalize smuggling and hoarding of agricultural and fishery products and making it a non-bailable offense punishable by life imprisonment. Fines will be 3 times higher than the smuggled value. Government officials in cahoots with violators will face 12 years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.

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The rice industry knows this, and we expect Malacañang to approve this bill asap to finally stop hoarders and smugglers who continue to enrich themselves at the expense of our suffering people.

TAGS: opinion, Sharp Edges

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