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Friday, December 30, 2022

Ambassador Romualdez Leads Rizal Day Commemoration


Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez leads the Embassy in paying tribute to Philippine national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal on the 126th anniversary of his martyrdom.


United Nations Celebrates 40 years of Law of the Sea Convention

Ambassador and Permanent Representative Antonio M. Lagdameo joins the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea at the General Assembly of the UN Headquarters in New York on 8 December 2022. (Photo Credit: New York PM)

– Ambassador and Permanent Representative (PR) Antonio M. Lagdameo of the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York joined the international community in commemorating the 40th anniversary of the adoption and opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at the General Assembly of the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 8 December 2022.

The UNCLOS is considered a historic achievement resulting from the efforts of the international community to achieve the shared goal of ensuring the peaceful and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources for present and future generations.

Ambassador Lagdameo highlighted the South China Sea Arbitration award in his statement. “As we commemorate the 40th year of the adoption of Convention, we celebrate the issuance of the arbitral award as a singular contribution to the strengthening of the Convention. Together, they are the anchors of our positions and actions on the South China Sea,” he said.

The President of the General Assembly, H.E. Mr. Csaba Kőrösi, who opened the event, said that the Convention had given the international community a “common language and guidance on how to define sovereign and navigational rights at sea; how to delineate maritime borders between neighbors; and how to regard and manage this vast common treasure and heritage of humankind.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, meanwhile, remarked, “The Convention’s 40th anniversary is an important reminder to continue using this critical instrument to tackle today’s challenges.”

 “As we gather today, the Convention is more relevant than ever. The ocean is in dire straits. Today, 35 per cent of the world’s fisheries are overexploited. Sea levels are rising. The ocean is acidifying and choked with pollution. Life-sustaining coral reefs are bleaching and dying. Epic floods threaten coastal cities around the world. Small island developing states and coastal  communities face massive challenges as they confront rising sea levels,” Secretary-General Guterres said.

Ambassador Lagdameo stressed that UNCLOS remained a bulwark of humanity amidst the global emergency facing the world’s oceans. He recalled the Philippines’ support to the unprecedented multilateral effort to craft the Convention and reminded the United Nations for whom diplomatic efforts ought to redound to – "Those whose lives are impacted daily and directly by common waters and by the UNCLOS: the fisherfolk, the seafarer, and the coastal citizen.”

“As an archipelagic state, a maritime nation with a seafaring tradition, the Philippines reaffirms that the Convention is the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out,” Ambassador Lagdameo said.

“Forty years since its adoption and almost thirty years since its entry into force, the Philippines reaffirms its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Beyond merely reflecting universally recognized principles, UNCLOS is an instrument of international law – a landmark document entrusted to us and future generations by its visionary framers,” Ambassador Lagdameo concluded.

The International Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, bodies created under the UNCLOS, also took part in the commemorative event.

UNCLOS was opened for signature at Montego Bay, Jamaica on 10 December 1982. It entered on 14 November 1994 and is presently binding for 167 States. The Philippines ratified UNCLOS on 8 May 1984, two years after signing the treaty at its adoption. 


Opinion: 'On My Watch' Turns 34 in 2023; Long Island Congressman-elect George Santos and Pres. Bongbong Marcos Compared By Manuel L. Caballero




Happy and Healthy New Year Friends! May the coming Year be more fruitful and productive to all.

Many of you are not aware that this column, "On My Watch" will be 34 years old in 2023.

It began appearing in the Filipino Reporter in 1989. The title was given by the late Libertito Pelayo, Editor-In-Chief and Publisher of the then leading Filipino newspaper in Northeast USA, the "Filipino Reporter." After Mr. Pelayo's death., the Reporter shut down. That was after 46 years of serving the Fil Am community.

The closure left a void in the Filipino American community life. But, as a colleague used to say, "such is life."

Aside from my Facebook, "On My Watch" can now be read in Lambert Parong's Web at


Bongbong Marcos-George Santos : Comparison

Bongbong Marcos, Jr. who, during the last election in the PH, falsely claimed he was a graduate of Oxford University in London when he was not, and who revised history by falsely claiming that his father's rule was  golden age for the PH when in actuality, his father left a bankrupt treasury whose reign was described by history observers as cruel, corrupt and extravagant, appears to have a counter-part in Long Island, NY politics. Marcos Jr. and Congressman-elect George Santos' (no relation to Roger Santos  of NJ) minds seem to run along parallel lines. Read the following story from the Associated Press and see why I'm comparing the two politicians.

NEW YORK (AP) — Long Island prosecutors have launched an investigation into U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos of New York, after revelations surfaced that the now-embattled Republican lied about his heritage, education and professional pedigree as he campaigned for office.

(Sounds familiar, isn't it?)

But despite intensifying doubt about his fitness to hold federal office, Santos has thus far shown no signs of stepping aside — even as he has publicly admitted to a long list of lies.

(The Pinoy Jr. has not admitted to his long list of lies).

“The numerous fabrications and inconsistencies associated with Congressman-Elect Santos are nothing short of stunning," said Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly, a Republican.

“The residents of Nassau County and other parts of the third district must have an honest and accountable representative in Congress,” she said. "No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it.”

(I say, if a crime was committed in the PH, it depends on who committed the crime).

Again folks, Happy New Year from my family to yours!


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Mayor Adams Delivers Public Safety Wins for New Yorkers Over First Year in Office

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and senior leaders of the Adams administration’s public safety team on Wednesday December 21st,  highlighted key public safety achievements made during Mayor Adams’ first year in office. While acknowledging that more work must be done to make all New Yorkers safe, Mayor Adams pointed to key indicators of progress, including double-digit decreases in shootings and homicides; a recent downtick in major crimes, both on the streets and in the subways; an increase in weapons found in jails; increasing fire safety training; and a reduction in pedestrian deaths; among other items.

“It’s been almost a year since I took office as mayor, and thanks to Deputy Mayor Banks, Police Commissioner Sewell, the multitude of commissioners in our administration focused on public safety, and all their teams, we are making our city safer every day,” said Mayor Adams. “Murders and shootings are down by double digits this year, and, more recently, major crimes are down both on the streets and in the subways. We’re also making great strides through all of our different public safety agencies. We knew these changes wouldn’t happen overnight, but, every day, we continue to dam the many rivers that feed the sea of violence in our city with investments in both intervention and prevention. We’ll continue to engage New Yorkers at every level on the issue of public safety and make sure 2023 is even safer.”

Gun Violence – During year one of the Adams administration, the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) strategies to address gun violence have had made a significant impact:

  • 6,985 guns have been seized citywide, and gun arrests citywide are at a 27-year high;
  • These seizures include 430 ghost guns, which marks a 73-percent increase compared with the same period in 2021 and is the highest number in city history; and
  • Year to date, shootings have declined by 17.5 percent, and shooting victims have decreased by 16.5 percent, which means 302 fewer people have been victims of gun violence this year as compared to last year and that lives have been saved, families kept intact, and neighborhoods made safer across all five boroughs.

Subway Safety – In February, Mayor Adams announced phase 1 of his Subway Safety Plan to reduce crime in the subway system. In addition to efforts address transit crime, the administration made comprehensive investments to provide shelter to more than 3,000 New Yorkers experiencing homelessness in New York City subways. In October, Mayor Adams and New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a surge of 1,200 additional overtime NYPD shifts in New York City subways to increase patrols on platforms and trains each day. The NYPD alone has completed more than 1 million subway station inspections in 2022, resulting in real progress in the transit system, including:

  • A 12.8-percent reduction in transit crime during the month of November;
  • Over 27,200 people removed from the system for breaking transit rules; and
  • Over 8,600 arrests in the subway system for breaking the law.

Neighborhood Safety Teams – The Neighborhood Safety Teams employ focused crime reduction strategies, precision policing, and enhanced supervision to effectively improve quality of life, increase trust, and reduce gun violence in New York City:

  • Assigned to 30 commands and four public safety areas, the teams made more than 2,000 arrests in 2022 — including 494 gun arrests — and seized 414 guns.

Corrections – The New York City Department of Correction (DOC) has made significant progress addressing staff shortages and investing in its workforce, upgrading jails infrastructure, and taking steps to reduce violence behind bars:

  • In January 2022, approximately 2,600 uniform staff were out sick. As of the end of November, DOC was averaging under 800 daily sick absences — an approximately 70-percent decrease.
  • DOC staff have recovered more than 5,000 weapons and over 1,300 items of drug contraband year to date, resulting in safer jails. More weapons were recovered during the first 10 months of 2022 than in the yearly totals for each year between 2018 and 2021.
  • DOC also launched a new tablet program for people in custody, providing them with access to a variety of free programming and services, including educational services, digital law library access, e-books, and the largest expansion of free phone accessibility in DOC history.
  • In Fiscal Year 2023 to date, DOC has seen a decrease in slashings and stabbings by 5 percent department-wide and a 60-percent reduction at the Robert N. Davoren Center, which houses young adults.

Fire Safety and Emergency Management – In 2022, the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) made a concentrated effort to educate New Yorkers about fire safety and enhance emergency preparedness:

  • FDNY trained more than 258,500 New Yorkers in fire safety education — including nearly 140,000 students — and held over 2,000 fire safety presentations.
  • The city’s “Keeping Homes Fire Safe” campaign reached over 60,000 New Yorkers with life-saving fire safety information.
  • FDNY distributed or installed more than 13,000 smoke alarms and trained more than 25,600 people in CPR training, including more than 7,000 high school students.
  • New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) signed up 1 million New Yorkers for emergency alerts from Notify NYC in 13 languages and doubled the number of grassroots emergency networks that completed NYCEM’s Strengthening Community program.

Traffic Safety – New York City is reducing traffic violence — bucking trends being experienced in the rest of the nation, which has seen pedestrian fatality rates reach a four-decade high:

  • In partnership with New York State, 24/7 speed camera operations began in August 2022 and are already having a dramatic effect — reducing speeding in camera zones by 25 percent.
  • In August, cameras recorded more than 755,000 speeding violations — a number that has continued to drop month after month, with approximately 661,000 violations in September, 586,000 in October, and 565,000 in November.
  • New York City is on pace to end this year with fewer traffic fatalities, stopping the rise in traffic fatalities that began in 2019. Pedestrian deaths are down 7.5 percent this year, with the current total the third lowest in the city’s recorded history. Overall traffic fatalities are also down 7.6 percent from 2021.

Mayor Adams provided a preview of plans to announce additional strategies for improving public safety in the weeks ahead, including in his upcoming State of the City address next year:

  • The NYPD will be expanding Neighborhood Safety Teams to additional neighborhoods, while some commands that have higher gun violence levels will receive additional teams to supplement their current deployment;
  • Holding citywide CompStat Community Forums that connect the NYPD with members of the communities they serve to review community-specific crime trends and quality of life concerns and collaboratively identify solutions to keep New York City communities safe;
  • Expanding Community Response Teams to the borough level to address quality-of-life conditions, such as ghost cars and illegal paper plates, illegal street racing, ATV and dirt bike use on city streets, and towing operations against illegal cannabis vendors; and
  • Working with Albany to increase accountability for repeat dangerous drivers and make it easier to take them off the roads.


Overseas Voter Registration for the 2025 National Elections Starts at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC

Mr. Alan D. Benasal (right) of Dover, Delaware is one of the first OAV registrants for the 2025 Philippine National Elections

– The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC has begun accepting applications to the Overseas Voters Registration in preparation for the 2025 Philippine National Elections. Mr. Alan D. Benasa of Dover, Delaware was the first OAV registrant for the 2025 Philippine National Elections in Washington DC.

Registration will be conducted at the Philippine Embassy and in other Philippine foreign service posts from December 9, 2022 until September 30, 2024. 

For more information on the Overseas Voters Registration, please click here 


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Opinion: "And He Shall Reign For Ever and Ever...Hallelujah"; Merry Christmas to the Robredos in the U.S. By Manuel L. Caballero

The Oratorio Society of NY choir and orchestra before the start of concert last night at Carnegie Hall, NYC. (Photo by Manuel Caballero)




It's the week before Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS to all readers of "On My Watch".

We also extend Christmas greetings to the Robredos who are spending the Holidays with relatives in NJ.

Our subject is about the 281-year-old oratorio, (extensive musical work intended for voice and orchestra) titled Messiah.

Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel. The text was compiled from the King James Bible and the Coverdale Psalter by Charles Jennens. It was first performed in Dublin in 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. (Wikipedia).

The 260-page Messiah has 3 parts. First part is the Nativity or the birth of Jesus. Second part is about the Crucifixion and Resurrection. The 3rd part is the relevance of the⁰ oratorio Messiah to Christianity.

Part of this oratorio is Hallelujah, a choir song that has been popular for over 200 years.

Last night, I watched Messiah at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City. The concert was organized by the Oratorio Society of New York. 

The performers were  world- class. There were around 150 choir singers, about 40 symphony musicians including the conductor and 4 soloists.

As in any Messiah concert, the most enjoyed was the choir singing  of Hallelujah. Some of you (I didn't) might be aware that the audience stands up once this piece is sung. (There is a story why. That during the first Messiah concert in London, King Charles, who was in the audience, stood up in awe when the choir sang Hallelujah. Out of respect for the King, the people in the audience reportedly stood up also. It became a practice since).

At the end of last night's concert, the performers were given standing ovation for 15 minutes.

The concert was an awesome introduction to Christmas.

Again, have a Merry Christmas, folks! Let's prepare for the birth of the King of Kings who, as the oratorio says, "shall reign for ever and ever." Hallelujah!


Mayor Adams, Commissioner Vasan Issue Health Guidance Ahead of Holidays

New York
– With cases of COVID-19, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) rising, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan on Monday December 20th, reminded New Yorkers to stay safe heading into the holidays by staying up to date with vaccinations, masking in indoor public settings when possible, testing regularly, and staying home if sick. The city also announced that flu and RSV testing, as well as Tamiflu prescriptions, are now available at 50 NYC Health + Hospitals' Test to Treat units. Finally, beginning this week, updated COVID-19 Pfizer vaccines will be available to children from six months to four years old at all of the city's 11 public hospitals. Data shows that this year, flu cases in New York City are already higher than they were during the peak of the last four flu seasons. Additionally, over the past month, the seven-day average of confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 increased, as did cases of RSV.

"When COVID-19 hit New York City almost three years ago, New Yorkers looked out for each other and followed the advice of our health experts," said Mayor Adams. "With the holiday season in full swing and cases of COVID-19, flu, and RSV rising, we are asking New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones once again. Mask up, get tested, get treated if you're eligible, and, if you haven't gotten your flu shot or your COVID-19 booster, we encourage you to roll up your sleeve. We are stepping up our efforts to get the tools to stay safe into as many New Yorkers' hands as possible, and, together, we will have a happy and healthy holiday season."

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan recently issued a issued a Health Advisory that urges New York City residents to use high-quality masks when indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. This is especially important for people who are – or are meeting – those who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, such as those age 65 and older and people who are immunocompromised.

In addition to wearing masks and getting vaccinated, officials urged New Yorkers to take other precautions, including getting tested before gatherings and if symptoms of illness present. To ensure resources are available throughout the city, New York City officials are providing:

  • At-home rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 available at over 250 walk-up distribution locations in every borough, including at city libraries, parks facilities, and cultural institutions, among other locations. New Yorkers can visit to find the at-home test distribution location most convenient to them. At-home tests are available for public school students and staff who have symptoms and are also being distributed ahead of the winter break.
  • COVID-19 testing with immediate access to Paxlovid anti-viral medication for eligible patients at 75 mobile Test to Treat units. Fifty mobile Test to Treat units now offer flu and RSV testing for symptomatic patients and prescriptions for Tamiflu for those found eligible. New Yorkers may present proof of a positive test – including at-home test results and test results from any external testing provider – at all mobile Test to Treat units to be evaluated for and immediately connected to Paxlovid. New Yorkers can visit to find the mobile Test to Treat unit most convenient to them; and
  • New Yorkers can call their doctor or 212-COVID19 to ask about treatment for COVID-19. Calling 212-COVID19 provides an immediate connection to a clinician who can refer patients to monoclonal antibody treatment or prescribe antiviral medications, like Paxlovid, and arrange to have it delivered to their home that same day for free.

Flu and RSV patients can also visit NYC Health + Hospitals' ExpressCare or call 631-EXP-CARE to talk to a provider who can provide high-quality urgent care and prescribe medications to the pharmacy of their choice.

As part of its winter planning, the city is monitoring case, hospitalization, and death data on COVID-19, flu, and RSV. This includes looking at emergency room admissions and available space in hospitals and intensive care units.

The city is paying particular attention to New Yorkers who are 65 years and older, who are at the highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses, as well as people with underlying medical conditions who are also at higher risk from these viruses. The city is taking the following steps to help keep New Yorkers at highest risk safe:

  • Making calls to people 65 years or older with positive tests to get Paxlovid,
  • Sending text messages to remind people to get their bivalent booster vaccine, and
  • Calling on all health care providers to reach out to their patients who are at increased risk for severe illness.

New Yorker who are sick are encouraged to stay home, avoid close contact with others, and talk to a provider about what testing, care, and treatment options are available to them. Calling a provider is recommended or 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319) to ask about treatment.

New Yorkers can find a nearby COVID-19 and flu vaccination provider by visiting NYC Vaccine Finder or by calling 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692) to schedule an appointment at certain sites, as well as to obtain other vaccination assistance.


Monday, December 12, 2022

Governor Hochul Announces Groundbreaking for Metro-North Penn Station Access Project to Bring Four New Stations to the Bronx

Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday December 9th, announced the groundbreaking for the Metro-North Penn Station Access project alongside leaders from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority during a ceremony in the Bronx this morning. With four new stations in the Bronx, this project will bring rail service within one mile of 500,000 residents and will be the largest expansion of Metro-North Railroad since it was founded in 1983. By offering rail service to and from Manhattan, Westchester and Connecticut, this will expand access to jobs, education and entertainment for East Bronx communities. Additionally, the project will greatly reduce travel times, provide reverse commuting opportunities and offer a critical second route into Manhattan for the first time ever through Metro-North.

"We are bringing modern, safe, and reliable public transportation to East Bronx communities and with it, more economic opportunity for New Yorkers," Governor Hochul said. "In partnership with Senator Schumer, Representatives Torres, Ocasio-Cortez, and Bowman, and Amtrak, Penn Station Access will not only drastically reduce commute times, but it will also help connect hundreds of thousands of residents and boost local economies. I'm thankful for MTA's partnership to get this project off the ground, and I look forward to seeing the completed project to help ensure all New Yorkers have access to the modern public transportation that they deserve."

The four new stations will be in Hunts Point, Parkchester/Van Nest, Morris Park, and Co-Op City and will be accessible to all in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The expansion will use Amtrak's Hell Gate Line to access Penn Station, optimizing existing infrastructure and minimizing the construction impact on surrounding communities. Metro-North trains stopping at the four new Bronx stations will serve as an extension of the New Haven Line from the New Rochelle Station, offering transit options in the East Bronx to Midtown Manhattan as well as points in Westchester, Connecticut and inversely.

The infrastructure improvements along the Hell Gate Line will also improve service reliability and on-time performance for Amtrak, who is contributing $500 million toward the project, thanks to the efforts of Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer. Amtrak has also agreed to pay the costs of delay if they fail to meet commitments to provide outages or workforce. The total cost of the project is projected at $3.18 billion, following a Capital Plan amendment announced in July to include additional funding for expansion of the New Rochelle Yard.

Project Benefits

  • Significantly cuts down travel time. East Bronx passengers traveling to Penn Station can save up to 50 minutes each way, and those traveling to Connecticut can save up to 75 minutes. As an example, from the proposed Co-Op City station to Penn Station it takes about 75 minutes to reach Penn Station, with completion of Penn Station Access, the travel time is expected to be only about 25 minutes. Current New Haven Line riders with destinations on the west side can save up to 40 minutes per day.
  • Increase in reverse commuting opportunities. Reverse commuters will be able to more easily travel from Penn Station to Hunts Point, Parkchester/Van Nest, Morris Park, Co-op City, Westchester and southern Connecticut.
  • Local economy benefits and improved sustainability. Improving access to the East Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut will benefit local educational campuses, medical institutions, and retail centers. By greatly reducing travel times, Penn Station Access will make public transit a viable, attractive travel alternative, encouraging drivers to switch to mass transit, reducing traffic congestion and emissions.
  • Improved regional connections. With the additional options, Bronx residents and also those coming from the greater New York City area, Westchester, Connecticut, and the Northeast region, will be able to more easily reach destinations throughout the Northeast with connections to NJ Transit, LIRR, PATH, Amtrak, and NYCT subways.

Project Details

In addition to four new ADA stations, the project will turn the existing 2-track railroad into a largely 4-track railroad, with over 19 miles of new and rehabilitated track work. This expansion to a 4-track railroad will provide service flexibility to support the increase in Metro-North and Amtrak trains expected to operate through the area and allow for workarounds in the event of a service disruption.

The additional service necessitates an expansion of Metro-North's New Rochelle Yard in Westchester, along with modernization of signal, power and communication infrastructure. This will consist of four new interlockings, five new substations, reconfiguration of the Pelham Bay interlocking and upgrade of two existing substations.

The project also includes rehabilitation work to repair and strengthen the following four bridges to carry additional train traffic: Bronx River Bridge, Eastchester Road Bridge, Bronxdale Avenue Bridge and Pelham Lane Bridge.

Project Timeline

In September 2021, the Federal Transit Administration issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, allowing the project to proceed. On December 29, 2021, the MTA awarded the Design-Build contract to the joint venture of HalmarInternational, LLC and RailWorks.

One of the first project elements to take place will be the construction of the Leggett interlocking, one of the four new interlockings. The Leggett interlocking will be located south of the proposed Hunts Point Station. Construction of actual passenger rail stations is expected to begin 2024. The anticipated completion date for the Penn Station Access Project is 2027.


Opinion: Words and Wisdom of Leni Robredo By Manuel L. Caballero

Atty. Leni Robredo. (Photo by Lambert Parong)




Filipinos have been admiring former VP Leni Gerona Robredo  because of what she does for Filipinos. In short, kind and useful actions that help, especially during the height of pandemic as well as during natural catastrophies.

Earlier last week, Filipinos in New York and New Jersey, as well as students in two New York leading universities, heard from the horse's mouth practical good governance doctrines and constructive political prescriptions, including the dysfunctional role of disinformation, fake news and trolls.

Likewise, for the first time, the unsuccessful candidate for president of the PH in the May elections spoke in direct language why she did not file an election protest despite perceptions of cheating by the winning BBM. 

She said her team of lawyers and ITs did not find evidence of cheating, although, she believed there were questionnable activities that took place.

Amb. Frank Wisner and Atty. Leni Robredo. (Photo by Lambert Parong)

On Dec. 5th, Atty. Robredo was  lone resource speaker at Asia Society in a 90-minute Q&A style of dialogue with a distinguished American, retired US Ambassador to the Philippines, India, Egypt and Zambia Frank Wisner.  It was a wide-ranging dialogue.

On the PH-US relations, the ex-VP was for the continuation of strong relationship between the PH and the US.

On the relationship with China, she was in favor of continuous trading with China, but, at the same time, China should abide by international law, especially on the PH sovereignty issue, which involves respecting the 2016 decision of the PAC in the Hague, which will tantamount to respecting PH sovereignty, particularly in the West PH Sea.

Asked  whether she would run again for president, she did not say no, but did not say yes either. She answered by saying she has eaten her words many times in the past on this subject. So, she would not give a categorical answer. It left her open to anything in the next PH presidential elections.

Atty. Leni Robredo. (Photo by Lambert Parong)

In the same interview, Atty. Robredo criticized the extra judicial killings during the Duterte presidency. 

She expressed optimism in the future for the Philippines.

The following evening on Dec. 6th, the former  Vice President led again in a Q & A with Filipino Americans from New York and New Jersey. She repeated some of her remarks the night before. But, she was more informal and open this time.  She spoke alternately in Tagalog and English for 2.5 hours. 

She asked her supporters not to center their attention only to her. She told them to convince more Filipinos to join the struggle for betterment of the native country.

"I will not fail you, people, who have put your hopes in me," she said. She added, "I am very much willing to lead the fight. Kaya magparami tayo."

She discussed extensively about her pet project, ANGAT BUHAY.

Ninotchka Rosca and Atty. Leni Robredo. (Photo by Lambert Parong)

She lectured on her principle of good governance adopted from Naga City when her husband was mayor.

She spoke of three requirements in a democracy:

1. Accountability of officials;

2. Transparency of official activities; and

3. People empowerment by organizing people's councils which will function as check and balance to the sitting officials.

Atty. Leni Robredo. (Photo by Lambert Parong)

Towards the end of her talk, she expressed optimism about the future of the Philippines. Also, she made it clear that the end goal of the fight that she is willing to lead is for the improvement of the whole country and not of only one group.


Friday, December 9, 2022

Health Department Issues a Commissioner’s Advisory As NYC Faces High Levels of COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV

COVID-19 and flu are increasing nationally and in New York City; nationally,
hospitalizations for flu reached the highest levels for this time of year in more than a decade.

The Advisory strongly recommends masking in public indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings, and other proven precautions such as vaccination, testing, hand hygiene, and staying home when sick

December 9, 2022 – As New York City enters the holiday season, COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses are seeing unusually high concurrent spikes. To slow the transmission of these viruses, the New York City Health Commissioner issued a Health Advisory that urges New York City residents to use high-quality masks when indoors and in crowded outdoor settings. This is especially important for people who are – or are meeting – those who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, RSV, or the flu, such as those age 65 and older and people who are immunocompromised.

“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely – even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “It starts with protecting yourself. Vaccination and boosters are critical but so are common sense precautions like masking when indoors or among crowds and staying home if you don’t feel well. Also, get tested before getting together, and get treated quickly if you test positive. We want everyone to have a happy and – most of all – healthy holiday.”

The Commissioner’s Advisory also urges people to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu, even if they have been vaccinated previously. Everyone ages six months or older should get their COVID-19 primary series if they haven’t already and receive the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster when eligible. An annual flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Many pharmacies and doctors’ offices offer both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and it is safe to get them at the same time.

The City will continue to make vaccination and masking resources available to New Yorkers. For example, between Oct. 29 and Nov. 25, around 70 community partners, along with Health Department staff, carried out the following activities:

  • Engaged 83,558 community members at 917 in-person street level outreach events.
  • Engaged 4,109 community members at 122 in-person community conversations.
  • Engaged 45,093 virtual community members* at 29 virtual community conversations.
  • Made 24,367 vaccine referrals, 6,181 testing referrals and 38,778 referrals to other health and social services.
  • Distributed 116,066 pieces of educational literature, 344,576 face masks and 80,526 Home Tests Kits.

This is part of the overall engagement effort since July 2021 to Nov. 25, 2022, including:

  • Engaged 1,664,561 community members at 30,544 in-person street level outreach events.
  • Made 1,011,454 vaccine referrals, 272,872 testing referrals and 546,377 referrals to other health and social services.
  • Distributed 5,402,745 pieces of educational literature, 3,602,719 KN95 face masks and 614,023 Home Tests Kits.

This does not include the extensive resources provided by partners such as Test-and-Trace and others.

The city also continues to launch vaccination pop-ups and other efforts to promote vaccine access and equity.

People who are at increased risk of severe illness from respiratory viruses, including people age 65 and older, infants, people with a weakened immune system, people with certain underlying medical conditions, people who are pregnant, and people who are not up to date on flu or COVID-19 vaccinations should consider additional precautions to avoid exposure to respiratory viruses, such as wearing a higher quality mask, such as KN95 and KF94 mask or N95 respirator, limiting attendance at large indoor gatherings, wearing a mask when gathering with others, and asking people to wear a mask and get a COVID-19 test prior to gathering.

As the holidays approach, New Yorkers can help protect their loved ones from COVID by getting tested before and after gatherings and wearing a mask around people who are at increased risk of severe respiratory illness. If you are sick, stay home, avoid close contact with others, and talk to your provider about what testing, care, and treatment is right for you. You can call your health care provider or 212-COVID19 (212-268-4319) to ask about treatment.

With respiratory illnesses on the rise, the Health Department is closely monitoring the COVID-19, influenza, RSV, hospital, and syndromic surveillance data. The Health Department has noted high levels of cases and hospitalizations for COVID, flu, and RSV. The combined impact of these respiratory illnesses puts individuals at risk and risks straining our healthcare system.

To find a nearby COVID-19 and flu vaccination provider, visit NYC Vaccine Finder or call 877-VAX-4NYC (877-829-4692) to schedule an appointment at certain sites, and for other vaccination assistance.


Mayor Adams Unveils "Get Stuff Built," Bold Three-Pronged Strategy to Tackle Affordable Housing Crisis, Sets "Moonshot" Goal of 500,000 new Homes

New York
– New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday December 8th, unveiled "Get Stuff Built," a comprehensive, three-pronged effort to address New York City's affordable housing crisis and underlying housing shortage by rapidly accelerating the pace of housing production, with a "moonshot" goal of meeting the need for 500,000 new homes over the next decade. Led by a new report titled "Get Stuff Built," Mayor Adams' plan focuses on building housing faster, everywhere, and together in partnership with New York State, the New York City Council, and New Yorkers in all five boroughs.

"If New York is to remain the city we love, we must have places for the people we love. We need more housing, and we need it as fast as we can build it," said Mayor Adams. "The system has been broken for so long that we have come to view it as our reality. Our city declared a housing emergency five decades ago, yet, we have failed to address it with the same urgency we would any other crisis. That ends now. We can, and we must, do better. We need to add hundreds of thousands of units to address the problem, and that is exactly what we are going to do. Today we are saying yes to more housing and yes to getting stuff built. We are going to build faster, we are going to build everywhere, and we are going to build together."

"Making our city stronger and bringing opportunity within reach of every New Yorker isn't something that's going to happen accidentally," said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. "We need bold action to address our chronic and acute housing crisis and we cannot leave any stone unturned – from reforming our own processes to building housing near new transit stations and to allowing a wider range of unit types in neighborhoods across the city. I'm looking forward to working with our partners to 'Get Stuff Built' and to build everywhere, faster, and together."

"New York City can and should be a leader in ensuring everyone has access to housing. Today's announcement is a proud moment that shows we are committed to making government work for our neighbors," said Chief Housing Officer Jessica Katz. "This means cleaning up our processes, updating the rules, and removing the unnecessary administrative burdens that are holding us back. 'Housing Our Neighbors' laid out a blueprint for tackling the city's homelessness crisis, and today you are seeing the results of that work. We have a long way to go, but we will 'Get Stuff Built' together and ensure all New Yorkers have a safe, stable, and affordable home."

"Get Stuff Built," a report produced by the Building and Land Use Approval Streamlining Task Force (BLAST) convened in June, includes 111 concrete actions the city will take to create more housing more quickly by cutting red tape, streamlining processes, and removing bureaucratic obstacles that are slowing housing production and economic recovery. These actions will increase the speed and lower the cost of development by accelerating project timelines by 50 percent, ensure environmental protection and meaningful public participation, and stimulate the creation of affordable housing across New York City.

Additionally, Mayor Adams formally kicked off the environmental review process to rezone the areas around two of the four new Metro-North train stations coming to the Bronx, with proposals to create thousands of new homes and family-sustaining jobs. Finally, Mayor Adams announced a series of policy priorities focused on stimulating housing creation, which his administration will pursue alongside partners in New York City, Albany, and Washington, D.C.

All of these initiatives fulfill commitments made in "Housing Our Neighbors," the Adams administration's blueprint for housing and homelessness; "Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent: A Blueprint for New York City's Economic Recovery," the administration's blueprint for a strong, equitable comeback; and the mayor's "City of Yes" plan, which includes proposed zoning changes that would allow for the creation of a significant amount of additional housing.

Cover of the "Get Stuff Built" report. Credit: New York City Mayor's Office

Build Faster

The "Get Stuff Built" report includes 111 specific actions that will improve efficiency and effectiveness of three governmental processes that have slowed housing production: City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR), land use approvals, and the city's building permitting process. These improvements will shorten the time needed for these processes by 50 percent, accelerating the creation of new housing and reducing costs. City actions will include:

  • Speed up the pre-certification process and make it more transparent: Historically, land use review applications can get stuck in review and revision loops at several points. The pre-certification process – which must be completed before the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) can begin – has no mandated timeline and can take two years or longer. Through a series of actions and measures, the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) will remove and eliminate certain requirements and actions that will allow applicants to complete the pre-certification process much more quickly. ULURP application materials will also become available to community boards and the public earlier in the pre-certification stage.
  • Exempt small housing projects from Environmental Assessment Statement: Most housing projects subject to land use approvals or public financing must conduct an environmental review that takes six to eight months to complete and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet, nearly all of these smaller projects are found to have no significant impacts on the environment. Exempting small housing projects from environmental review will decrease overall cost and help open new homes to New Yorkers more quickly.
  • Improve traffic analysis: Proposals to build housing beyond current zoning limits must generally go through the CEQR process. Revising the methodology for traffic analysis could significantly improve the environmental review process and shorten the overall time required on a project. The city will update the current guidelines in the CEQR Technical Manual to replace the existing methodology of predicting possible vehicle delays at every nearby intersection and, instead, use simple modern data tools and reach conclusions based on typical neighborhood congestion patterns and the size and type of the proposed project.
  • Streamline construction inspections of fire protection systems: Currently, the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) performs examinations, permitting, and inspections for construction-related activities of buildings, and the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) monitors operation, maintenance, and compliance for fire safety of buildings after completion of construction. The city will make near-term systems improvements to coordinate plan review between DOB and FDNY, and, in the long-term, will consider transferring FDNY's construction-specific permit responsibilities to DOB – while maintaining FDNY's authority in operation and maintenance of buildings for fire safety compliance – to remove the redundancy of separate inspections during the construction process without compromising the safety of building occupants.
  • Expand DOB NOW to create a centralized city "one-stop shop" construction portal: This portal will process construction-related transactions across all city agencies involved in construction approval, permitting, and sign-off. This new system will break down silos between city agencies, create a single point of contact for an applicant, and allow applicants to track their approvals in real-time.

City agencies have already completed implementation of several improvements outlined in "Build Faster," with approximately half of the identified improvements to be implemented over next 12 months. Most of the remaining recommendations will generally be implemented over the following 12-24 months. Several actions – namely those requiring ULURP review or major technology upgrades – may take up to 36 months to fully implement.

Conceptual rendering of a potential Morris Park Plaza, connecting the existing community to the Metro-North train station. Credit: New York City Department of City Planning

Build Everywhere

Taking the next steps in the "City of Yes" plan, and delivering on a core commitment in "Rebuild, Renew, Reinvent," to invest in business districts and emerging job hubs across all five boroughs, the Adams administration is advancing two major neighborhood planning efforts.

The first is aimed at leveraging four brand-new Metro-North train stations set to open in the East Bronx in 2027, for which scoping documents are now available. The City of Yes Bronx Metro-North Plan would bring a projected 10,000 jobs; major new public and private investments, including by large health care institutions already in Morris Park; and as many as 6,000 new homes – at least 1,500 of which will be permanently affordable. To support the environmental review process for this project, public information meetings are set for December 13 and 15, 2022, and a public scoping meeting will be held on January 9, 2023. The project is set to be certified and begin ULURP in summer 2023.

The second major planning effort is a neighborhood development initiative in Central Brooklyn known as the Atlantic Avenue Mixed-Use Plan. It promises to bring thousands of new homes, and permanently income-restricted homes, commercial and industrial jobs, infrastructure, and other improvements to Atlantic Avenue and its neighboring blocks in Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. A steering committee formed to help shape the plan held its first meeting on December 1, 2022. Six months of public engagement is expected to begin in January and run through June 2023, followed by the release of a report. Certification is expected in 2024.

Beyond these two neighborhood planning efforts, the administration has proposed Zoning for Housing Opportunity, a citywide zoning text amendment as part of Mayor Adams' "City of Yes" plan. Scoping for this proposal will begin at the end of 2023 and will stimulate the creation of tens of thousands of new homes in neighborhoods across the entire city. The text amendment would:

  • Expand opportunities for affordable and supportive homes for New Yorkers by increasing the floor area ratio for all types of affordable housing, similar to the allowance already afforded to affordable housing for seniors;
  • Broaden the acceptable variety of housing types and sizes, including studios, to accommodate a wider range of families and households where appropriate;
  • Ease conversions of underutilized commercial buildings into homes; and
  • Reduce or eliminate unnecessary parking requirements that add cost and reduce the number of homes being built.

Build Together

Recognizing that New York City can only meet the scale of the housing crisis in partnership with allies at the federal, state, city, and community level, Mayor Adams committed to working in partnership with Governor Kathy Hochul, legislative leaders and members of the State Legislature in Albany, the City Council, borough presidents, federal partners, and community leaders – including the faith-based community – to advance a shared regional agenda.

Priorities for the administration include:

  • Prohibiting exclusionary zoning practices and encouraging appropriate density near jobs and public transit;
  • Legalizing existing basement apartment units and allowing homeowners to create other accessory dwelling units;
  • Providing New York City the ability to allow additional residential density in high-density neighborhoods;
  • Allowing the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to finance and preserve more affordable housing, secure longer affordability, encourage affordable homeownership, and enable affordable housing to include critical resources like child care and senior centers;
  • Facilitating the conversion of obsolete office buildings into housing;
  • Creating a tax benefit that enables multifamily rental development while requiring affordable housing;
  • Establishing an incentive to preserve housing quality and ensure healthy, safe living conditions for tenants; and
  • Streamlining approval processes and environmental review as outlined in the "Get Stuff Built" plan.

Mayor Adams will also continue to work with federal partners to secure financial support and regulatory changes. This includes working towards an increase in the value of tax credits and tax-exempt bonds and reducing the "50-Percent Test" to stretch federal housing dollars further.