Thursday, 13 September 2012

Agriculture will be ex-Rep. Villar’s Senate ‘baby’

AGRICULTURE is the new advocacy of former Rep. Cynthia A. Villar and she pledged to work for the passage of remedial laws that would help propel the growth of the local agriculture industry.

“We need to put in place a good agriculture development program to the poor folk who comprise 70 percent of the agri sector,” she told a dinner-news conference with the staffers of the media outfits of the Antonio L. Cabangon Group of Companies (BusinessMirror, Philippines Graphic, Pilipino Mirror and DWIZ) at the BusinessMirror editorial offices in Makati City where she and her husband, Sen. Manny Villar, were the featured guests.

Mrs. Villar plans to run in the 2013 Senate elections to replace her husband who is now serving his last term as senator.

Toward the end of the news conference, Senator Villar said it was not true that his wife will run for the Senate to keep his bench warm. (Elective public officials are entitled to only three consecutive three-year terms or a total of nine years; they can run for another elective position after this but can return to their former elective positions after three years.)

The senator said Mrs. Villar established a good record in the House of Representatives, where she led the organization of woman legislators during her incumbency as representative of Las Piñas. Mrs. Villar, said the senator, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines and took further studies at New York University.

Mrs. Villar said that if she got elected to the Senate, she would also pursue enactment of laws that would expand livelihood programs to augment the income of poor families, as she had done during her three terms (nine years) in the House of Representatives.

“We intend to improve on those projects to serve more poor folk and help them earn a living through institutionalized livelihood programs,” Mrs. Villar said. She also said she plans to replicate in various areas of the country the livelihood programs of the Villar Foundation that she and her husband and their family founded to help the poor folk of Las Piñas. One of their projects won a United Nations award.

In response to questions, Senator Villar reported that majority of the senators were wary of granting “too much powers” to the Anti-Money Laundering Council as proposed in an amending law demanded by the Financial Action Task Force. 

The FATF is a Paris-based global finance watchdog seeking to expand the coverage of the existing Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla) in order to take the Philippines out of the list of borderline compliant countries.

He also said a closed-door meeting called by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile during a break in Wednesday’s session failed to reach a consensus on the last Amla amendment, seen to upgrade the status of the Philippines in the FATF as a fully compliant country, to avoid impeding foreign-currency remittances by overseas workers, as well as bank letters of credits to Philippine businesses.

“There is no consensus yet on the Amla amendment,” Villar said, adding that there were “many issues that have to be clarified first…. questions that have to be cleared.”

Villar noted that Congress already passed into law two previous Amla amendments that removed the Philippines from the FATF watch list of non-compliant countries.

He then admitted that the main stumbling block to its early passage in time for the FATF meeting in October were provisions granting extra powers to the Anti-Money Laundering Council. “’Yung ginawa kasi sa [amending] bill, the AMLC would be more powerful than the President. It covers everything.”

The amending bill, co-sponsored by Senators Sergio Osmena II and Teofisto Guingona III, cited the “urgency to put more teeth to the country’s anti-money laundering law, not only to make the Philippines compliant with international standards, but to protect the country’s financial integrity and economic development.” Villar, however, told the BusinessMirror forum that proposed amendments to expand the list of medicines covered by the cheaper medicines law will likely pass before the current Congress adjourns next year. 
In Photo: Sen. Manny Villar answers questions from editors and reporters of the BusinessMirror, the Philippines Graphic, Pilipino Mirror and DWIZ during a dinner-news conference at the BusinessMirror editorial offices in Makati City. Former Rep. Cynthia Villar also answered questions about her plans to run for the Senate and her current advocacies. Flanking them in the photo are Pilipino Mirror President and Publisher D. Edgard A. Cabangon (left), and BusinessMirror Publisher T. Anthony C. Cabangon. (Roy Domingo)

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