AFP underscores significant positive developments n Marawi conflict

MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday underscored significant positive developments this week in war-torn Marawi City following the retaking of the Marawi City Grand Mosque.

AFP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., said it took the government troops almost a month to retake the Grand Mosque or the Islamic Center from the terrorist Maute group.

We did not conduct a frontal attack because we wanted to preserve the Grand Mosque, owing to the promise of our Commander-in-Chief, the President, and our Chief of Staff, who strongly provided guidance not to destroy any place of worship even if international protocols would allow us to do that, Padilla said during the regular Mindanao Hour briefing in MalacaAang.

We met resistance in the surrounding areas over that less than a month of time, until we got to that point when we were able to assault the Grand Mosque, Padilla explained.

The AFP official said the government forces are now clearing the Grand Mosque of unexploded ordnance and IEDs.

The Grand Mosque is located in the central area of Marawi. It is the most significant landmark because it being the biggest mosque in the area, Padilla said.

So having it under the hands of government provides us the impetus to symbolically say that nakuha na natin ‘yung sentro mismo ng bayan, he said.

Padilla explained that it took a month to retake the Grand Mosque to ensure that it will not be destroyed during the conflict, and that there would be a place of worship for Muslim brothers and sisters to go to when the conflict is over.

Aside from the Grand Mosque, Padilla said government troops were able to retake the Marawi City Police Station.

With these developments, Padilla said the battle area has been reduced to about one-half square kilometer grid.

Padilla meanwhile said President Rodrigo Duterte was able to visit Marawi City anew last Thursday afternoon.

Ito po ay pagnanais ng ating Commander-in-Chief na makapiling ang mga tropang direktang nakikipaglaban sa mga kalaban natin, Padilla said.

Siya po ay nagpaabot ng kanyang pasasalamat sa ating mga kasamahan at ganun din, nag-abot po ng ilang tulong at pampa-high morale na mga bagay tulad ng relo at iba pang mga grocery items na kinakailangan po nila, he said.

In the same briefing, meanwhile, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Assistant Secretary Kristoffer James Purisima said there is no humanitarian crisis in Marawi.

We do not think it’s a humanitarian crisis because we’re addressing the situation that’s happening. We know what’s happening on the ground and we’re addressing all the needs of our IDPs, whether they be in our evacuation centers or home-based, Purisima said.

Purisima said that Task Force Bangon Marawi has already started its post-conflict needs assessment, which is part of the comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery program.

Kung wala tayong ginagawa on the ground, maaring sabihin na may krisis. Pero, I differ on that because I know that we’re doing everything we can on the ground, Purisima said.

This is an inter-agency effort. Hindi lamang ito Office of Civil Defense, hindi lamang ito DND or DSWD or AFP. Lahat ito ng mga ahensya na kasama sa Task Force Bangon Marawi, 23 agencies and growing, he added.

So makakaasa ho ang ating mga kababayan na hindi natin pinapabayaan ang sitwasyon sa ground and this is not a humanitarian crisis, Purisima said.

Meanwhile, Purisima said the proposal to distribute chickens to the evacuees would need the approval of the Task Force.

Pag-aaralan natin ‘to. Dahil syempre kailangan ‘yung welfare ng ating mga evacuees, ating mga IDPs ang nakasalalay dito at syempre hindi tayo gagawa ng isang plano o isang programa na makakasakit lamang sa ating mga IDPs, he said.

Palace fetes Filipino athletes win in SEA Games

In the same briefing, Presidential Communications Office Director Omar Romero congratulated Filipino athletes who have won in the ongoing Southeast Asian Games.

The Philippines now has 15 gold, 18 silver, and 31 bronze medals, as of August 25, this morning at 1 am, Romero said.

Gold medals were bagged by Eumir Marcial for Boxing Middleweight – 75 kilograms event; Marvin John Tupas for Boxing Lightweight – 81 kilograms event; Curte Robert Guarin, Emmanuel Portacio, Leoncio Carreon Jr., and Ronald Lising for Lawn Bowls-Men’s Four event; Trenten Anthony Beram for the Athletics Men’s 400 meters; and the Philippine Men’s Ice Hockey Team.

Silver medals were meanwhile won by Mario Fernandez for Boxing Men’s Bantamweight – 56 kilograms event; Marisa Baronda, Nancy Toyco, Nenita Tabiano, and Sharon Hauters for the Lawn Bowls � Women’s Four event; and Yvonne Alyssa Dalida and Jemyca Aribado for the Squash Women’s Jumbo Doubles.

Filipino athletes who won bronze medals were Lois Kaye Go for the Golf Women’s Individual Stroke Play; Amparo Teresa AcuAa for Shooting Women’s 50-meter Rifle Prone; Ian Clark Bautista and Charly Suarez for Boxing Men’s Flyweight – 52 kilograms event and Light Welterweight – 64 kilograms event, respectively.

Also winning bronze medals were Janry Ubas for Men’s Athletics Long Jump; Warren Kiamco and Dennis Orcollo for Billiards & Snooker Pool 9 Ball Doubles; David William Pelino and Robert Andrew Garcia for Squash Men’s Jumbo Doubles; as well as Bowling Tenpin Team of Five, and the Women’s Karate Kumite Team.

Source: Philippine News Agency

More pro-health groups back fuel excise tax adjustments in TRAIN

Two more health advocacy groups have joined the snowballing clamor to adjust the excise taxes on fuel under the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act to squarely address the worsening air pollution in cities and help mitigate the devastating impact of global warming on the environment.

In two separate positions papers, the Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) group and the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) called on the government to use the TRAIN as a tool to clear the way for the country’s quick transition to more renewable energy sources to help ensure a cleaner, safer and more sustainable means of supplying the needs of the power and transport sectors.

The ICSC also said it is supporting the TRAIN for its progressive intent and equitable effects, as incremental revenues are needed for investments in human capital and badly needed infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the oppositors of tax reform contend that any increase on refined petroleum products is anti-poor. We don’t agree with that proposition. Instead, we support the assertion of the DOF (Department of Finance) that the poor can better be helped through improved targeting of poverty alleviation programs, instead of subsidizing pollutive behavior. The poor, in fact, suffer most�from health damages caused by pollution and from the impacts of climate change, the ICSC said in its position paper submitted to the Senate ways and means committee chaired by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara.

The Committee has been holding public hearings on the proposed TRAIN, which was filed as Senate Bill No. 1408 by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III. The House of Representatives had approved its version of TRAIN�House Bill 5636�last May 31.

The ICSC also commended the DOF and the authors of SB 1408 for taking this visionary initiative of adjusting fuel excise taxes as a way to help implement the provisions of the Clean Air Act.

For its part, the HCWH said the TRAIN’s provisions on fuel excise taxes can help address the adverse health and environmental impacts of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to global warming and threats to public health.

The HCWH noted that outdoor air pollution as a result of emissions of fossil fuels remain one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide.

In 2012, it was responsible for 3.7 million premature deaths from heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and acute lower respiratory infections in children, HCWH said in its position paper that was also submitted to the Senate ways and means committee.

Besides worsening air pollution in the country, greenhouse gases emitted by the burning of fossil fuels also settle in the oceans. This, in turn, leads to ocean warming that is harmful to marine life and can also lead to oceanic acidification resulting to coral bleaching and eventual changes in the migration and feeding cycles of marine species, according to HCWH.

This series of adverse developments lead to a decline in fish catch and contamination of food sources, it added.

The HCWH called on the Congress to make use of the excise tax to stimulate the quick transition to renewable energy, paving the way to a cleaner, safer and more sustainable transportation in the country.

Earlier, the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) and the Clean Air Philippines Movement, Inc. (CAPMI) also backed the the TRAIN’s fuel excise tax provisions.

In separate statements, they said that the additional revenues to be collected from the fuel excise tax adjustments could be used to fund health care programs and other initiatives to improve the physical health and well-being of Filipinos.

They also lauded the DOF, which had craft the original version of TRAIN, for pursuing this health-friendly tax policy.

CAPMI said, meanwhile, that We applaud the DOF’s effort to address this growing issue through a tax policy that would help curb behavior of Filipinos. We look forward to working with them and provide technical assistance towards our shared goal of a Clean Air Philippines. Their proposal has reinforced our hope that this administration is taking on a more prominent, inter-agency approach to relevant and pressing issues, including those that concern the environment.

Source: Department of Finance