"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Philippines pledges relief aid to Myanmar

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines has pledged $100,000 (P4.3 million) in cash and another $250,000 (P10.9 million) in kind as assistance to cyclone victims in Myanmar, Sen. Richard Gordon said Tuesday.

Gordon said a 30-member Philippine medical team on Monday brought medicines and relief goods to Rangoon (Yangon) via a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane for the disaster victims in Myanmar.

The senator headed the six-member Philippine delegation in the International Pledging Conference (IPC) organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations in Rangoon on Sunday.

A total of 51 countries and 22 international organizations participated in the conference which generated about $30 million (P1.3 billion) in new pledges.

Gordon said the amount was on top of the pledges of some $100 million (P43 million) in bilateral and multilateral contributions that the UN had raised before the IPC.

“With this recent turn of events, it is now up to the Myanmar government to open its doors to the ASEAN, members of which have now made available various facilities and assistance... to reach the suffering,” Gordon said.

The conference was meant to mobilize greater international assistance for Myanmar, also known as Burma, in the aftermath of Cyclone “Nargis” that devastated and flooded parts of the country on May 2 and 3.

About 130,000 have died, 19,000 have been injured while 56,000 are still missing. Total damages to agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, communication and industrial sectors have reached $10.67 billion (P466.7 billion).

Gordon said during the conference, Myanmar officially announced that it would welcome assistance and aid from any country or organization, provided there would be no strings attached or politics involved.

At the first meeting of the ASEAN Task Force for the Humanitarian Coalition for the Victims of Cyclone Nargis, Gordon likewise proposed that the task force tap the expertise, network and goodwill that the ASEAN Red Cross/Red Crescent societies have already established.

“The Philippine delegation and I feel that the international community will provide more money and resources to Myanmar once its government has assured access to all areas in dire need,” said Gordon in his statement during the conference.

Philippines pledges relief aid to Myanmar
By Cynthia Balana, Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:36:00 05/28/2008

Bacolor Rehabilitation Council needs support

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The full rehabilitation of lahar-devastated Bacolor town looms bigger and nearer.

A bill filed by Pampanga third district Representative Aurelio Gonzales Jr. breezed through what may be a record-setting decision at the Senate committee level last Thursday.

House Bill (HB) 3389, which seeks to rebuild Bacolor under a proposed multi-sectoral council and a funding of P1 billion, was approved without any objection by the Senate committee on local government.

"The hardy people of Bacolor deserves our full support to help them rise from the tragic and devastating effects of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption from which they had since worked hard to recover," Gordon said in a brief statement.

Gordon, who was commended by Bacolor Vice Mayor Diman Datu for his efforts to help the people of Bacolor since the eruption, suggested that the multi-sector council be known as Bacolor Rehabilitation Council. He said the council should be headed by the town mayor.

Bacolor Mayor Romeo Dungca Jr. was not present in the hearing, but his vice mayor, members of the Municipal Council, barangay officials and other representatives from non-government organizations trooped to the Senate in a show of force.

Pampanga Governor Eddie Panlilio, who was also invited, did not make it due to an earlier commitment. Board Member Johnny Quiambao also showed up to express his support to the bill.

Regional directors of National Government agencies, among them Director Remigio Mercado of the National Economic Development Authority, Director Alfredo Tolentino and Engineer Rico Guilas of the Department of Public Works and Highways, also came to the meeting.

Except for Datu, all the guests sat through probably one of the shortest and uncontested deliberation on a bill in the Senate, which will tackle next the Bacolor measure in its plenary for final approval.

Datu, who spoke the longest, reminded the senators of Bacolor's colorful historic past, having been once the capital of the Philippines and Pampanga, and once dubbed "the Athens of Pampanga," a reference to the literary center of ancient Greece.

Gonzales said Bacolor appears to be "the missing link" in the overall development of Pampanga as he cited the need to push a more aggressive and comprehensive effort to rebuild the town.

"Among Pampanga's 21 towns, Bacolor seems like the missing link in the progress and development that the province is now enjoying," he said.

The House of Representatives passed Gonzales' bill on third and final reading on February 19.

Sun.Star Pampanga
(May 30, 2008 issue)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

RP relief team off to Burma

The Philippines will take part in the international effort to bring relief aid to Myanmar, whose military junta still limits the foreign aid it accepts.

Sen. Richard Gordon, concurrent chair of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), will head the Philippine delegation to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-United Nations International Pledging Conference for the Myanmar cyclone victims to be held in Yangon tomorrow.

Gordon will fly to Yangon after attending the 17th Governing Board Meeting of the International Federation of the Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland.

Last May 9, Gordon sent off the first two members of a three-man PNRC disaster assessment team to Myanmar to help in disaster management, particularly in the areas of relief goods distribution and water sanitation.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon personally went to Myanmar on a mission to persuade the country's military government to allow a large-scale international aid effort for the cyclone victims.

In a meeting with Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein, Ban stressed the need to speed up delivery of humanitarian aid.

Reports quoted Ban as saying mutual trust was needed between Myanmar and the international community, which was prepared to send in planes and helicopters to help.

Myanmar is still reluctant to accept more than a handful of experienced foreign rescue and disaster relief workers, particularly from the United States.

RP relief team off to Burma
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star
Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tourism to solve power prices surge

“THE high prices of food, fuel, and electricity are realities that are here to stay. Talk of subsidies, cutting taxes, and threatening Meralco into lowering the price of electricity sounds good. But sadly, it may be nothing more than a distraction while we pay our bills. What we really must focus on is the creation of a better means for millions of our countrymen to earn more, and boosting our country’s tourism industry presents us with this opportunity.”

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on tourism, declared that Senate Bill No. 2213, also known as the “Tourism Act of 2008”, will strengthen the Philippine tourism industry as an effective instrument for economic development.

“Imbis na nagmamakaawa lang tayo na bababaan ang presyo ng mga bilihin at bayarin, dapat maghanap tayo ng paraan para mapalakas ang hanapbuhay ng mamamayan natin at makikita natin ito sa turismo, sa tulong ng Tourism Act. Kahit anong batikos ang gawin natin sa Meralco at sa oil companies, malamang pa rin na hindi nila ibaba ang presyo ng serbisyo o produkto nila -- ang pinaka-importante sa mga kumpanyang ito ay ang proteksyunan ang tubo ng kanilang mga kumpanya.” said Gordon.

Gordon also believed that “a strong and organized tourism industry is the answer to our woes. Not only will we reacquaint ourselves with our own history, culture and traditions, we will also entice the appreciation of the international community for our country. When these happen, and with a well-defined system in place after the faithful implementation of the Tourism Act of 2008, both domestic and foreign tourist arrivals will increase tremendously.”

Of the 898 million tourists worldwide in 2007, the Asia-Pacific region received 185 million. Of these 185 million, the Philippines only received 3,091,993 tourist arrivals.

“Tourism is the largest industry in the world, with 898 million tourists a year, collectively spending hundreds of billions of dollars. It is the key to lifting our people out of their poverty, giving them jobs and opportunities and allowing them to live in pride and dignity,” said Gordon

He lamented that the Philippines has lagged behind its neighbors in the tourism industry. He noted that in 2007, Malaysia had visitors in excess of 18 million, while Thailand and Singapore both had more than 10 million. Even Vietnam, a country that had been ravaged by war, surpassed the four million mark in tourism arrivals, while the Philippines is stuck at barely more than three million.

With the Tourism Act of 2008, Gordon said, the country can be assured of better promotion activities, increased infrastructure development and more effective regulatory measures, all of which work toward increasing tourism receipts and providing more job opportunity for our people.

People's Tonight
May 26, 2008 06:02 PM Monday

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The Tourism Act of 2008 aims to create thousands of job opportunities for Filipinos all over the country, said Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Tourism.

“The Tourism bill aims, among other things, to provide our people with much-needed job opportunities here in our country, so that they do not have to leave their families behind and languish in foreign lands in search of greener pasture. It seeks to bestow upon our people the dignity that comes with being able to earn a decent living to put food on the table,” said Gordon.

To make this possible, Gordon believed that the country needs to have fundamental reforms in the tourism sector. These reforms are at the heart of the Tourism Act of 2008, namely: (1) to regulate and uplift the standard of tourism services, (2) to strengthen promotional capability of our tourism industry, (3) to create infrastructure such as hotel development and beaches, (4) to encourage private sector participation, (5) to ensure and focus a cooperative approach among various agencies and institutions, and (6) to ensure competitiveness and increase market share.

‘We must remember that tourism is a global business and tourism must be the business of the entire country because it will create jobs and increase the people’s purchasing power,” Gordon explained.

He added that, with the faithful implementation of the Tourism Act of 2008, the country can have a better institution to regulate and promote tourism and install the necessary infrastructure to make our country truly world-class.

“We can have more jobs for our people, who will no longer have to search for their future in foreign shores, but right here in their native Filipinas,” he noted.

Gordon, who authored Senate Bill 2213, also envisions more job opportunities for Filipinos as more tourists arrive in the country. He noted that “every tourist that comes in means one more person with real money that can buy our goods.”

“Tourism means jobs for the Filipino people. The industry has an immense impact on the economy. Every foreign tourist spends 50,000 pesos in shopping, eating, touring and staying at resorts. On an average year, 2.6 million foreign tourists give our economy a billion pesos and that billion pesos generate jobs across the board, from the ordinary street vendor, to waiters, to the hotel bell boy,” said Gordon.

The Senator also said that tourism is the largest industry in the world, with approximately 800 million tourists a year, collectively spending hundreds of billions of dollars. It is the key to lifting our people out of their poverty.

“If we focus on tourism, we will generate jobs and opportunities for all. For every tourist that comes in, there will be one more person to take a cab from the airport, take his meals at a restaurant during the day and drink our beer at the bars at night, check into a hotel, go to the beach and pay for a massage on our white sand and buy bead bracelets and necklaces, go diving or hike through our forests, paying for guides and equipment along the way, shop at our malls to buy our shirts and our shoes. These directly translate to various job opportunities for the Filipinos,” said Gordon.

The Tourism Act of 2008 was originally presented to the Senate in December of 2005. Unfortunately, the measure was not passed on third reading in the House of Representatives before the close of the Thirteenth Congress, despite strong lobby from the Tourism industry private sector and the diligence and persistence that the members of the Senate demonstrated in completing their tasks and passing Senate Bill No. 2138.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On The Death Of Rep Crispin Beltran

Kate and I express our sincere condolences to Rosario and the family of Ka Bel. We share in their grief and commiserate over their loss.

Certainly, he was a man of great conviction whose work as a labor leader had been seen and felt in the long years spent fighting for the welfare and interests of every Filipino working man. He made known a view that needed to be heard and represented. Congress and the Filipino people will sorely miss Ka Bel and the positions he stood up for.

20 May 2008
Geneva, Switzerland

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

COMELEC lauded for Automation

Richard J. Gordon yesterday lauded the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for finally signing a P525-million automation contract with one of its bidders last Friday, saying the poll body’s move signals the first step towards truly modernizing Philippine elections.

The Comelec’s automation contract with Smartmatic, which will supply the poll body with its Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system, will be utilized for the municipality of Maguindanao during the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections on Aug. 11, 2008.

"I am happy for the country and for our people with this significant progress in our democratic life. With computers in the precincts, our fellow Filipinos in the ARMM are assured that their votes will be counted and counted fast, possibly within the hour, and their right to choose their leaders protected," Gordon, co-chairman of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election Systems, said.

"Certainly, automation at the polls will create a level playing field in our elections, which hopefully will spread to all facets of our political and economic life," he added.

The Comelec, meanwhile, is negotiating other contracts for the automation of the elections in five other provinces in the ARMM, namely, Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. Only last month, the poll body came under fire for saying it has abandoned attempts to computerize the ARMM elections for lack of time. Congress even expressed willingness to approve a resolution that would allow provide the Comelec legal cover in its bidding transactions.

However, after Comelec’s supplier demonstrated before the committee other systems such as Optical Media Recording (OMR) machines which are intended for election use, Congress abandoned plans to draft a resolution that would have allowed the body to bypass the Government Procurement Act and instead urged the Comelec to automate the elections as the law mandates it to do.

"Securing this partial victory has required nothing short of a battle against those who benefited as the country remained stuck in the antiquated system of voting and canvassing. The law did not specify any technology, thus, giving the Comelec a huge leeway in searching for appropriate systems to use," Gordon said.

"There is no substitute for clean, honest, and orderly elections. The true interest of poll automation is to make sure that the vote of the poor equals the vote of the rich."

The P525-million contract for Maguindanao is part of the P867-million budget earlier released by the Department of Budget and Management for the automation of the ARMM elections.

Gordon welcomes start of election computerization
Hannah L. Torregoza
Manila Bulletin
Monday, May 12, 2008

Assistance to China earthquake victims

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said they would provide the emergency personnel for the Philippine team to China.

At the same time, Gordon filed a resolution at the Senate, expressing sympathy to China following the earthquake.

“We can only hope that our offer of assistance, however meager, may help to ease the suffering and pain of your people. We truly believe in the universal brotherhood of men, the need to respond to the needs of others in distress is truly imperative,” Gordon said in his letter to Chinese Ambassador to Manila Song Tao.

“Recognizing that China is a big nation with a wealth of resources, we nevertheless extend our hand of friendship to you by offering our humble assistance in any way possible,” Gordon said.

NDCC sending team to China
By Marvin Sy with Aurea Calica, Pia Lee-Brago
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Philippine Star

DBM chief grilled over Rice Crisis

When asked by Senator Richard Gordon on how much the government would need to avert the rice crisis, Andaya, during his confirmation at the CA, said the budget department was allotting an additional P12 billion for seed distribution, farmer support, irrigation and rice importation.

"For total package this year, including importation of rice, I cannot give [a] specific amount, including support services for farmers, would be an additional P12 billion,” he said.

He added that the budget was included in the P50-million package for agriculture until 2010.

Gordon, however, said that Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap estimated that the government would need about P20 billion for the importation alone.

Andaya clarified that the additional incentive was “over and above” the 2008 budget of the Department of Agriculture, which had been allotted for addressing the rice crisis caused by soaring prices and stagnant production.

DBM chief Andaya gets appointments committee nod
Gov’t allots P12B to deal with rice crisis, he say
First Posted 13:25:00 05/13/2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Philippine National Red Cross Chairman and Senator Richard J. Gordon sent off the first two members of a three man PNRC disaster assessment team to Myanmar where they will lend their expertise in disaster management, particularly in the areas of relief goods distribution and water sanitation, community health and nursing. Gordon personally sent off Nenita Briones, PNRC Cotabato Chapter Administrator [right], and Edwin Tatalagsa, PNRC Davao Chapter Disaster Management Service [left] at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Both have been part of Red Cross Regional Disaster Response Teams in Pakistan under the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). A third member of the PNRC assessment team, Evelyn Lacsina, will join up with Briones and Tatalagsa in Myanmar. Lacsina, has been to Myanmar in previous Red Cross missions.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

RP Red Cross to aid victims of Myanmar cyclone

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) will join international agencies in providing emergency aid to cyclone-stricken Myanmar, its chairman, Senator Richard Gordon, said Thursday.

As a member of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the PNRC is committed to helping other countries in need of emergency assistance, said Gordon.

He said the PNRC has been “actively providing assistance not just in the Philippines but also to other countries struck by disasters and we are now rising to the call to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable."

"We are shocked and saddened with the news of the tragic devastation wrought by a cyclone," Gordon said.

Myanmar's state media said Cyclone Nargis has killed at least 22,980 people and left 42,119 missing, but only a handful of UN aid workers had so far been allowed into the impoverished Southeast Asian country, which the government has kept isolated for five decades to maintain its iron-fisted control.

International assistance began trickling in Wednesday with the first shipments of medicine, clothing and food. But the junta, which normally restricts access by foreign officials and groups, was slow to give permission for workers to enter.

The PNRC started to become a donor society when it sent $85,000 in emergency aid to the victims of the Asian tsunami in December 2004, said Gordon.

It also sent a $10,000 donation to victims of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the US Gulf Coast in September 2005, he said.

In October 2005, the PNRC dispatched a three-man team to Pakistan to lead the Southeast Asian Regional Delegation, which helped victims of a devastating tremor.

RP Red Cross to aid victims of Myanmar cyclone -- Gordon
First Posted 18:45:00 05/08/2008
Kathleen Martin, contributor; with The Associated Press