[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 5 January 2007 Afternoon

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Fri Jan 5 15:25:53 PHT 2007

Newsbriefs 5 January 2007 Afternoon

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan



Second people's initiative to be tackled next week (abs-cbnNEWS.com) 


Bataan Gov. Enrique Garcia revealed on Friday that local officials will meet next week to discuss a second people's initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution.


Garcia said the main agenda of the meeting is the proposal to hold a plebiscite for Charter change simultaneous with the May 2007 elections.


"The government will save P4 billion if we hold the plebiscite simultaneous with the elections," Garcia told DZMM.


But instead of a parliamentary form of government with just one house of Congress, Garcia said that the proposal would be for a presidential form, but with only one congressional branch.


He also said that the new proposal would abide by the recent Supreme Court decision, which stated that there should be an adequate law for a people's initiative.


"The Supreme Court said if you change the system of government from presidential to parliamentary, it's a revision but if you change presidential-bicameral to a presidential-unicameral, that's amendment," he said.


Comelec issues new guidelines on people's initiative (www.philstar.com)
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has opened the door for the filing of a new petition for a people's initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution. 

Upon returning from the holiday break, Comelec commissioners approved last Tuesday the new guidelines for the conduct of a people's initiative for Charter change (Cha-cha). 

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the poll body approved Resolution No. 7796 in preparation for a possible plebiscite on whether or not to amend the Constitution. 

"Now that we have already laid down the rules at least there is now a process that can be followed in case a new petition for people's initiative is filed before the Commission," Sarmiento said.


US on VFA review: Premature (INQUIRER.net)

THE UNITED States does not share the Philippines' position that the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries must be reviewed, calling the move "premature," a US Embassy spokesman said Friday.

Matthew Lussenhop told the INQUIRER.net that the "the current case of [US Marine] Daniel Smith was still in the "judicial system" so any formal review of the VFA would be considered "premature."

Smith was convicted of raping a Filipina at the Subic Bay Freeport last year and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. His sudden transfer from a local jail to the US Embassy has raised a furor because it was done without a court order although US and Philippine officials justified the move by citing the VFA.

After putting Smith in the custody of US authorities, the Palace said Thursday that it would seek a review of the VFA whose provisions have been deemed more favorable to the US than the Philippines.

"The government is resolved to review the Visiting Forces Agreement and, if warranted, to work with Congress to amend certain provisions thereof in order to prevent future controversies," said Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.

Lussenhop said there have been no negotiations so far although there have been regular discussions "with our Philippine partners" on the VFA.

"We consult regularly and often with our Philippine partners on the implementation and interpretation of the VFA," the US embassy spokesman said, citing the recently de-classified guidelines for US service members on their behavior while in the Philippines.

ERC OKs Meralco rate hike (www.philstar.com)
More than four million customers of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) will pay 26.14 centavos more per kilowatt-hour (kwh) this month. 

This developed after the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the country's power sector regulator, approved the petition for adjustments in the generation charge and systems losses, including the value-added tax, of Meralco for October 2006. 

In its petition for a rate increase before the ERC, Meralco said that it incurred higher generation cost due to the trading in the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), which reached P5.5 billion in October with the corresponding downward adjustment. 

Meralco originally sought a P1.30 per kWh adjustment in its generation charge due to spikes in WESM prices.       

But due to the decision of the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) to bring prices down and closer to the level of the spot market's second month of commercial operation, Meralco was prompted to revise its application for a generation charge adjustment. 

Were it not for the adjustment of PEMC, the generation cost of Meralco in WESM would have reached P6.8 billion. 

Taking all of these matters into consideration, ERC said the approved generation charge of Meralco for its January 2007 billing cycle would be P4.6904 per kWh as compared to existing generation charge of P4.4290 per kWh. 

Another driver of the rate hike, the Meralco petition said, was the firm's system loss recovery, which increased from 72.96 centavos per kWh in August to 76.82 centavos per kWh for residential and general services customers for the month of October. 

The recovery period of the new generation charge is a one-time charge for the month of January only, according to the ERC ruling.


Australian foreign minister to skip Asean summit (www.philstar.com)
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will not attend the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit set in Cebu on Jan. 10-15. 

Diplomatic sources said yesterday Australia has informed the Philippines that Downer will visit the United States beginning next week and will not be able to take part in the ASEAN gathering. 

"Australia has informed the Philippines that Foreign Minister Downer will not attend the ASEAN summit because of conflict of schedule," a source said. 

"He has a previous engagement. He'll be in the US during the ASEAN summit." 

Sources said Australia had confirmed Downer's attendance in the foreign ministers' and leaders' summit last month before it was postponed ostensibly because of a typhoon. 

"But Minister Downer is not available on the new date for the summit since he's scheduled to visit the US," another source said.
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