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International tourist arrivals hit 5.45 million in 2023

MANILA, Philippines — Only around 4.6 percent of the projected household beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps will avail themselves of the electricity lifeline rate this month.

There were only 191,399 4Ps beneficiaries who registered for the program as of Dec. 15, 2023, Luningning Baltazar, director of the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau of the Department of Energy (DOE), said in a television interview, citing data from the Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Based on the list from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, we have 4.2 million 4Ps members. If we assume that every 4Ps member has electric service under their name or using electric service in their household, we expect 4.2 million to register,” Baltazar said.

Full implementation of the lifeline rate program, which gives discounts in the electricity bills of qualified poor households, started on Jan. 1.

“If they were able to register, the discount is automatic as long as their consumption is within the threshold,“ Baltazar said. “When they receive the bill this January, as long as their cons umption is lower than the threshold, the discount will be automatically reflected in their electricity bill.”

Only 4Ps and non-4Ps members who consume no more than 100 kilowatt-hours a month and have registered with their respective distribution utilities can avail themselves of the subsidy.

The subsidy is provided under Republ ic Act (RA) 11552 or An Act Extending and Enhancing the Implementation of the Lifeline Rate, amending Section 73 of RA 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

“We still encourage them to register,” Bal tazar said.

She cited several possible reasons why many 4Ps beneficiaries did not avail themselves of the program : unregistered 4Ps beneficiaries have no individual meters, find the threshold small, or are not aware of the lifeline program.

The DOE reminded distribution utilities to continue accepting and processing applications for the electricity subsidy.

Disseminating information on the benefits of the program should also be continued, the department said.

MANILA, Philippines — Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chairman Karlo Nograles has asked the country’s 1.9 million government workers to continue to innovate and improve the delivery of services to the public.

“In the face of evolving needs of our kababayans (compatriots), it is crucial that we continue to adapt and innovate. The year ahead beckons us to explore new avenues, embrace emerging technology and foster a culture of continuous improvement,” Nograles said in a New Year’s message posted on the CSC’s Facebook account yesterday.

Nograles had earlier called on civil servants to support the government’s efforts toward digital transformation in the bureaucracy.

“These changes should empower and not intimidate our civil servants. In this digital age, state workers must embrace continuous learning and upskilling to remain relevant and effective,” he said during a conference last November attended by more than 400 human resource management practitioners in national government agencies.

“We should view digital transformation as a catalyst for personal and professional growth, enabling the government workforce to deliver better public services to the citizens we serve,” Nograles added.

The CSC recently launched its Civil Service Eligibility Verification System, an online search platform that enables government agencies’ human resource officers and the general public to access civil service eligibility information.

The system allows access to the database of people who have passed the Career Service Examination-Pen and Paper Test, Computerized Examination and Computer Assisted Test.

The system also includes lists of people who were granted eligibility under special laws and CSC issuances.

The CSC, through its Civil Service Institute, is offering more than 70 online training courses on leadership and human resource management.

The courses cover various topics on leadership and human resource functions such as the Leadership and Management Certification Program, Public Service Values Program, CSI Leadership Series, Competency-based HR Program, Learning and Development Programs as well as Strategic Human Resources and Organizational Development Series.

“Let us seize these opportunities to enhance the efficiency of public service delivery. The start of 2024 should not be merely a chronological marker,” Nograles said.

“The new year is a canvass upon which we create a more responsive, inclusive and citizen-centric civil service,” he added.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Former president Rodrigo Duterte spoke out against the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB)’s preventive suspension of two Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) shows, saying it was a violation of his “right to free expression.”

The MTRCB imposed a 14-day suspension last Dec. 18 on Duterte’s “Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa” talk show, hosted by pastor Apollo Quiboloy, which tackles politics, economics and other matters.

The same two-week suspension was meted out to SMNI talk show “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” hosted by Lorraine Badoy and Jeffrey Celis.

Duterte stressed that the MTRCB’s action is a gross violation of his constitutional right to free expression.

“Second, of course, is the outfit I’m using as a platform for violation for press freedom. In my view, the suppression of your right to exercise this freedom cannot be subject to preliminary or permanent status. That shouldn’t be allowed. The right to free expression is absolute to me. That is how I understood it,” Duterte said.

The MTRCB said it issued the suspensions after a “thorough review and investigation” of violations on the programs’ aired content, based on “complaints received by the board.”

These include apparent death threats made on “Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa” and unverified reporting on “Laban Kasama ang Bayan.”

MANILA, Philippines — The country exceeded its targeted number of visitor arrivals last year, with more than five million tourists and over P480 billion in tourism receipts in 2023, according to the Department of Tourism.

DOT’s monitoring data showed that there were 5.45 million foreign tourists from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, surpassing the targeted 4.8 million visitors for the year.

Of the figure, 91.80 percent or at least five million were foreigners, while 8.20 percent or 447,082 were overseas Filipinos.

South Korea maintained its position as a top source of international visitors, contributing 26.41 percent or 1.42 million.

It is followed by the US with 903,299 tourists or 16.57 percent; Japan, 5.61 percent; Australia, 4.89 percent, and China, 4.84 percent.

In a significant recovery, the Philippines’ international tourism receipts reached an estimated P482.54 billion for the same period, or a surge of 124.87 percent from last year’s P214.58 billion.

The recovery rate, the DOT said, stands at around 66 percent of the pre-pandemic level recorded in 2019.

The DOT is targeting a baseline of 7.7 million international visitor arrivals this year.?Meanwhile, on New Year’s Eve alone, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) recorded close to 50,000 arrivals in the country.

BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco yesterday said records showed there were 49,892 passengers who arrived on Dec. 31. Of the figure, 34 percent were foreigners.

Tansingco said this indicates that the country is regaining its appeal as a popular holiday destination.

For the month of December, the BI processed 1.6 million arrivals, which surpassed its initial projection of 1.5 million. — Evelyn Macairan

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