The Manila Times - Senate ratifies Visiting Forces pact with Australia

25 July 2012

By Jefferson Antiporda | The Manila Times

The-Manila-Times-NetTHE Senate on Tuesday approved three pending measures and several local bills on third and final reading.

Among the bills passed were Senate Resolution No. 788 ratifying the Visiting Forces Agreement (Sovfa) between the governments of the Philippines and Australia; SB 2746 or the proposed Meat Labeling Act and SB 3199 or the creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD).

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that the ratification of the Sovfa will not only pave the way for the country to improve its defense mechanisms, but will also solidify the decades-old relationship with Australia, especially in the fields of trade and industry.

A salient point in the agreement calls for Australia to cooperate with the Philippine government to prevent any abuse or misuse of the privileges granted in favor of Australia’s Visiting Forces.

Sen. Joker Arroyo said that although the agreement is not a defense pact, its symbolism cannot be lost on China.

Are we trying to say that other than the United States (US), we also have other allies like Australia?” Arroyo asked.

Meanwhile, SB 2746, introduced by Sen. Manuel Villar, aims to impose stiffer penalties on traders selling double-dead meat.

Once signed into law by the President, the measure could eliminate the sale of “botcha” by requiring all meat and meat products to bear a label indicating its place of origin.

“We have to make sure that all meat sold in our markets are fit for human consumption. That means meat that was passed and appropriately branded by meat inspectors as safe and wholesome and in which no changes due to disease, decomposition, or contamination have been found,” Villar said.

Violators will be slapped a fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000 and/or imprisonment of six months to two years.

The Senate also on Tuesday approved the creation of the Department of Housing in a bid to lessen the housing backlog in the country.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing and Resettlement, said that the bill shall address the increasing demand for urban poor housing, regulate urban growth and prevent deterioration of the environment.

Under the measure, the powers and functions of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) will be transferred to the DHUD.

The HLURB shall also be converted into the Adjudication Commission for Housing, Land Use and Urban Development.

Apart from the three Senate Bills the chamber also approved 17 House bills calling for the creation of 70 additional Regional Trial Courts (RTCs) and nine Municipal Trial Courts (MTCs) nationwide and 84 local bills for the conversion and creation of several high schools and state colleges.