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National Newsbits for January 9,2014

NO NEED TO VISIT ARROYO

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III should not be forced to visit former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) just to prove that he is a statesman, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday. 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, who served as Secretary to the Cabinet during Arroyo administration, said: “I don’t think that the President should visit former President Arroyo to show that he is a statesman. I would understand the President if he does not visit her,” he said in an interview. (Charissa M. Luci)

SCHOOL CALENDAR

The Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture said it will hold public hearings to discuss the viability of moving the school opening from June to September as part of initiatives to align the academic calendar with those of Southeast Asian neighbors ahead of the ASEAN integration in 2015. Senator Pilar “Pia” Cayetano, chair of the committee, said: “As one of the region’s most dynamic economies, I agree that there are benefits that may be gained by way of opportunities to develop our human resources as universities in the ASEAN are integrated into one regional academic community.” But she added: “We must take the time to consider all the possible effects of revising our school calendar, carefully weighing social, cultural, economic and other factors that are unique to our country.” (Hannah L. Torregoza)

MAKE PREMIUM HIKE VOLUNTARY

Saying that millions of Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) members are suffering from galloping price increases in basic commodities and services, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Paulino Salvador Leachon called for a “voluntary” increase in premium contributions among those with high incomes. Leachon said instead of making the premium hike mandatory on all members, the SSS and PhilHealth should focus on running after delinquent employers who have not been paying their workers’ contributions for too many years estimated at P90 billion. “We Filipino people must not be punished by the hike in premium contributions,” he said. Leachon also supports the move of the House leadership to look into the financial status of SSS and PhilHealth and to ask for justification of the collection of higher premiums. (Charissa M. Luci)

AIRPORT CCTV

The Senate Committee on Public Order chaired by Sen. Grace Poe appealed yesterday to aviation authorities to install closed circuit television (CCTV) systems at Manila’s airports to improve security and provide comfortable arrangements for passengers. Poe said she knows that the aviation sector has been given a budget this fiscal year for the installation of CCTVs at the three terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Earlier, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said lack of money should not be an excuse for not improving security and passenger comfort at the NAIA as three government agencies derive much of their combined annual P16.5 billion income from what has been tagged as ‘’the world’s worst airport.” (Mario B. Casayuran)