Aquino signs law setting official 'Filipino time'

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Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Will a new law scheduled to take effect on June 1 finally put an end to the Filipino habit of tardiness?

To encourage punctuality and stamp out the habit among many Filipinos of following their own so-called "Filipino time," President Benigno Aquino III has signed Republic Act No. 10535 requiring all government offices and the broadcast media to follow "Philippine Standard Time" (PST).

While the law requires obedience from the entire government bureaucracy-national and local-it also seeks to encourage punctuality among those notorious for being late.

The law requires the public school system and the government-local and national-"to conduct a continuing information campaign about the value of time and the need to respect the time of others, in order that the people may realise the imperative of synchronising the official time."

Official timekeeper

The law designates the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) as the official timekeeper.

"All government offices, agencies, instrumentalities (and) bureaus shall now coordinate with Pagasa once a month to synchronise official timepieces and devices," said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

The law empowers Pagasa to acquire "equipment necessary for the automatic dissemination of time with the global positioning system."

PST is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+8).

All agencies of government, including the local government units, are mandated to follow the PST starting June 1, or upon publication of the law.

Time discrepancies

The public can check the official time at http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph.

Pagasa, however, has put a notice on its website: "Internet is one of the main modes by which Pagasa disseminates the Philippine Standard Time (PST). Obviously, there may be discrepancies with the PST displayed here as compared to the Pagasa clock.

"The major causes of the discrepancy are Internet transmission delay and the computer workload of the computer you are using. If you need a more precise clock synchronisation, we would suggest that you call (+632) 9291237."

The law authorises Congress to provide funds for the "installation, operation and maintenance of synchronised time devices to be displayed in key public places."

The law was designed to also compel the media-particularly TV and radio stations across the archipelago-to synchronise their time devices.

Penalties prescribed

"The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shall require the participation of all government and private television and radio stations in order to ensure the synchronisation of timekeeping devices," the law says.

The NTC can enforce obedience, including penalising "owners of private television and radio stations who shall fail to calibrate and synchronise their time devices with the PST during their broadcast."

The penalty ranges from 30,000 to 50,000 pesos (US$720 to $1,200) for the first offence, and in case of a second offence, revocation and cancellation of their franchises to operate.

However, no penalty will be enforced on individual Filipinos who fail-or refuse-to observe the PST.

Time zones

The adoption of the PST placing the entire country under a single time for any given day is nothing new.

Presidential Decree No. 1149 has assigned Pagasa as the official agency to handle the dissemination of the PST.

RA 10535, however, requires both public and private institutions to adhere to Pagasa's timekeeping system, enjoining compulsory obedience through the imposition of fines for erring broadcast entities.

While the country is observing a single time zone, other countries have as many as 11.

In 2010, Russia cut the number of its time zones from 11 to nine to lessen confusion.

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