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DON’T KILL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

DON’T KILL FREEDOM OF INFORMATION:
WE BEG OUR SENATORS TO ACT ON S.B. 3308 NOW!

Last 9 November, we welcomed with deep appreciation the Senate’s commitment to pass the Freedom of Information Act without delay. We gave our full confidence to their assurance, made through Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, that Senate Bill 3308 will be passed on second reading by November 18, and on third reading by 1 December. This timetable only gives enough time to convene the bicameral conference committee and report back for final approval of the bill before Congress breaks for the elections on 5 February 2010.

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We quote Senator Zubiri’s manifestation in plenary session:

“I assure them, we assure them, that before the break on November 19 that hopefully we will be able to approve this on second reading, and when we get back on December 1, we approve this on third and final reading. We assure them.”

But the promise was not met; the Senate adjourned with the bill still failing to hurdle the periods of interpellation and amendments.

We, representatives of over 100 organizations and coalitions from various sectors comprising the Right to Know. Right Now! Campaign, beg all our Senators to send Senate Bill 3308 to bicameral conference before it again adjourns on 18 December 2009. Since the Senate resumed session last December 1, two session days have passed without any action on the bill. From December 7, we count a mere 6 session days within which to pass S.B. 3308 on second and third reading, and for both Houses to name their delegates to the bicameral conference committee.

Group for Transparency in the Mining Industry to be Formed

The Philippine equivalent of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) is being formally organized in the Philippines. Action for Economic Reforms (AER) and Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), in cooperation with PWYP, Revenue Watch, and 11.11.11, organized a two-day workshop on 13-14 October 2009 towards forming a network that likewise serves as an institute that will advocate transparency of contracts, revenues, spending and the whole value chain of the extractive industries. Given, the pressing concerns, the composition of the group, and the resource constraints, the focus of the advocacy, at least on the early stage, is mining.

Thirty-two (32) representatives, representing 19 organizations participated in the two-day workshop. The participating individuals and organizations came from different sectors. Some are environmental groups; others focus on transparency issues. A few individuals or groups work on economic issues (e,g., taxation) And a significant number are groups opposed to or critical of the way extractive industries are being done in the Philippines.

Taxes in the Philippines

Half of the population of the Philippines live in poverty. If multinationals were to pay the correct amount of taxes, the Philippines government would have more resources to help people like Wilson Manuba, a disabled fisherman who isn’t getting the medical care he desperately needs to treat his life-threatening illness…

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This video was produced by Christian Aid. The key informants for this video were Undersecretary Gil Beltran of the Department of Finance and Filomeno Sta. Ana III, the Coordinator of Action for Economic Reforms.

Policy Forum on Local Economic Development

As recent headlines tell about President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s
alleged USD 20,000 dinner in a New York City restaurant while millions
of Filipinos go hungry, a low-key forum last week gathering heads of
local governments from north to south of the Philippines showed that
the country still has a wealth of stories on good governance,
transparency and accountability.

The Policy Forum on Local Economic Development, organized by the
non-government Galing Pook Foundation, gathered in Makati City about 15
local government leaders whose programs in their respective provinces,
cities or towns have shown that amid the deep-seated distrust on
government people, there are local government units (LGUs) who keep
making good in helping their people enjoy the fruits of meaningful
socio-economic growth, good health and clean environment.

What
was remarkable in the forum was that the LGU executives came from
different political leanings. Some even came from opposing political
parties or for a certain time, were direct political opponents. But
what bound them was the recognition, through Galing Pook’s annual
awards in good governance, of their programs in recent years for
effectively addressing local economy, health of the people,
environmental issues and declining agricultural conditions brought
about by unsustainable practices.

Focus on development, not just staying afloat

MEASURES TAKEN by the Philippines to keep the economy afloat amid the global slowdown — more public spending and wider access to credit — are correct but policy makers should particularly devote resources to achieving economic development in the medium to long term, a United Nations (UN) official said.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, UN assistant secretary-general for economic development, said developing countries such as the Philippines should increase investments toward the development of industries.