Weekend News Tidbits from the Philippines (31 Jan to 6 Feb)


A new week has passed and the Philippines is busier than ever. Before we look forward to what new things this week is bringing, let’s take a look back at what went on around the country last week.


House of Representatives Sees No Hope for FOI and BBL

  Congress has adjourned to pave the way for the 90-day electoral campaign, which means that landmark bills like the Freedom of Information (FOI) act and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) have no hope of being passed just yet.   According to House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, the lack of a quorum has become such a huge hindrance to the passage of these important bills. This lack of quorum, according to him, can be blamed on everyone’s focus on the upcoming elections.   Congress House of Representatives   The BBL is still being amended, and would still have to be sent to the Senate should it be miraculously passed through Congress. As for the FOI bill, it is said that despite President Aquino’s promise of its passage during his 2010 campaign, he has still shown an evident lack of support for it.   As for the controversial anti-political dynasty bill, it has been stuck in Congress mainly because of the huge number of lawmakers who also have relatives and family members holding different government positions. This has caused them to clamor for less restrictions and limitations on the bill.  

New Visa Scheme for New Zealand and the Philippines Launched

  The Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) was launch last week, February 5, allowing Filipinos to work or study in New Zealand for up to a year. The same benefits will be given to those from New Zealand who would also like to experience the Philippines.   The WHS visa will allow Filipinos and New Zealanders with ages between 18 to 30 years to study for 3 months in the other country, or work there for a year, staying under each employer for a maximum of 3 months.   Only 200 WHS visas per year  will be released – 100 for Filipinos going to New Zealand, and another 100 for New Zealanders hoping to catch a glimpse of the Philippines. The agreement has been signed since October 2012. Although this is the 34th time that New Zealand has implemented such a scheme, it will be the Philippines’ first time to try this new approach in opening up new opportunities for Filipinos abroad.  

Poe Open to DNA Testing After May 2016 Polls

  Senator Grace Poe hopes to put conspiracy theories and rumors to rest by taking part in DNA testing, but not until after the May polls. She says that although the remains of three alleged relatives have been tested, all of the bodies were already in the advanced stages of decomposition, leaving the test results questionable.   Sen. Grace Poe   Poe is a foundling left in Jaro, Iloilo as a baby, with no link or clue at all as to who her biological parents are. Since then, several theories and rumors have surfaced, one of which links her and Senator Bongbong Marcos as brother and sister.   According to rumors, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos had extramarital relations with Grace Poe’s aunt, Rosemarie Sonora. Although both Poe and Marcos have been laughing the idea off, they both agree to be tested just to put those rumors to rest. Poe, however, wants to wait until after the elections before the testing is done.  

US and Philippines Eyes Joint Patrols in the South China Sea

  US Ambassador Philip Goldberg has expressed his intent to continue enjoying their rights under international law to fly through international space and to sail through international waters. In fact, two of their warships have sailed past the Spratly and Paracel islands, both of which are being claimed by China.   US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg   Goldberg also sees that joint patrols between the US and Philippine forces are possible. At the moment however, there is no clear plan yet as to how and when it is going to be done.   These small islands and shoals are part of the main thoroughfare used for world trade, and are being claimed by six Asian governments all in all. Of all these Asian nations, China has been the most aggressive. Seeing that the Philippines is ill-equipped to counter such aggression, the US has been vocal about their willingness to give support.

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