The €293bn civil service scheme ABP has lowered its contribution by 3.8 percentage points to 21.6%, mainly following cost-cutting measures for its pension fund.It said the main reasons for its decision were the reduction of the yearly pension accrual from 2.05% to 1.95% for 2014 and the increase of the official retirement age from 65 to 67.Half a percentage point of the premium reduction came as the result of ending a temporary recovery levy, leaving the excess contribution for recovery at 3 percentage points for 2014.ABP said it based its decision on its funding of 106.2% on 1 November. However, it stressed that the financial position at year-end would be “crucial”.If its coverage ratio is less than the minimum required level of 104.2%, a second rights cut – effective as of 1 April 2014 – will be unavoidable, it warned.However, if the scheme’s funding is sufficiently solid at year-end, the board may decide to undo last April’s rights discount of 0.5%, ABP said.If the coverage ratio is unexpectedly high on 31 December, the board may even look into the possibility of removing the remaining recovery levy or indexation, it said.Opposition politicians have been suspicious of the motives behind the sudden and significant premium reduction at ABP.Barry Madlener of the Freedom Party (PVV) said he suspected the government might have played a role in the decision.“Other pension funds don’t seem to be keen to follow ABP’s example,” he said.Paul Ulenbelt, spokesman for the Socialist Party (SP), echoed the sentiment.“It is very odd that, soon after a 0.5% rights discount, the contribution is decreased by 3.8 percentage points,” he said.“It seems the Cabinet is granting the civil servants a salary rise, without paying them from the national budget.”On its website, the AbvaKabo, the largest public sector union, claimed it achieved a net salary increase of 2% for civil servants as compensation for the reduced pensions accrual.
“Maskisin-o sa ila welcome basta makapatindog lang sang maayo kag konkreto nga bridge thatwill serve the best interest sangIloilo kag Guimaras,” said Gumarin. Poestated that of the six provinces of Region 6, “Guimaras has the mostdisadvantages due to its small size as well as lack of reliable connectivity tothe main island of Panay.” The project involves the construction of a 32.47-km, four-lane, two sea-crossing bridges, including connecting roads and interchanges. The project will cost P189.53 billion, to be funded by China through Official Development Assistance. FILEPHOTO It had been previously reported that aChinese firm would be building the Panay-Guimaras bridge and that Filipinotycoon Ramon Ang was also interested. “These are the building blocks of ourpeople’s dreams and aspirations…to ease congestion and spread growth throughoutthe country,” said Socioeconomic Planning secretary Ernesto Pernia. Following the Iloilo Strait motorboattragedy in August last year, Sen. Grace Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 75 pressing forthe building of the Panay-Guimaras-Negrosbridge. The implementing agency is theDepartment of Public Works and Highways. ILOILO City – Expect safer, faster andmore convenient transportation linkage between Panay, Guimaras and Negrosislands through a connected land passageway – specifically three bridges. Calls for the building of a bridgelinking Panay/Iloilo City and Guimaras became louder in August last yearfollowing the capsizing of three motorboats at the Iloilo Strait where 31people died. The project involves the constructionof a 32.47-km, four-lane, two sea-crossing bridges, including connecting roadsand interchanges. He did not say, however, when the constructionwould commence. Once realized, the proposed bridgeconnecting Panay and Guimaras would be another travel option when crossing theIloilo Strait to go to any point in the nearby island province from IloiloCity. It could curb if not totally eliminate fatal sea mishaps. Bridgesconnecting Panay, Guimaras and Negros were conceptualized during theadministration of then President Corazon Aquino but none of the administrationsthat succeeded hers managed to concretize the plan for lack of funds. He expressed concern that the seriesof recent strong earthquakes in Mindanao that destroyed public infrastructurescould change the President’s mind about building bridges. Traveling to Guimaras would be muchsafer via bridges, said Guimarin. At present, the island province is accessibleonly via motorboats. Thislack of connectivity, she stressed, not only hinders the economy of Guimarasbut also endangers the lives of people “since boat trips are at the mercy ofthe weather.” CCC Highway Consultants Co., Ltd. ofthe People’s Republic of China was the company that conducted the feasibilitystudy for the proposed bridges last year. Yesterday NEDA announced that itsInvestment Coordination Committee approved the proposed bridges connecting thethree islands. Theseare seen to improve the highway trunk networks thus allowing the efficient flowof people, goods and services between the three islands, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Early this year, Gov. Samuel Gumarinsaid he would be writing President Rodrigo Duterte to seek assurance that thebridge project would push through. The project will cost P189.53 billion,to be funded by China through Official Development Assistance. Based on the project profile, theIloilo/Panay-Guimaras Bridge will start in Leganes, Iloilo and end inBuenavista, Guimaras. It would be between four to seven kilometers long. On the other hand, the Guimaras-NegrosBridge will start in San Lorenzo, Guimaras and end in Pulupandan, NegrosOccidental. It would be between five to 12 kilometers long./PN