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Monday, April 16, 2018 Vol. 13 No. 184

Duterte again opts to avoid inking contractualization EO


By Samuel P. Medenilla


or still unknown reasons, President Duterte opted to cancel anew at the last minute his meeting with labor organizations, thus, further delaying the issuance of an executive order (EO) that workers hope will finally curb the practice of contractualization in the country.

MATULA: “The President is a lawyer and he knows very well that security of tenure is a guaranteed constitutional right.

As the labor sector threatens to stage massive protests leading to May 1, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) confirmed last Sunday that the meeting has been reset to a still-unspecified Continued on A2



Fishing moratorium: Is PHL doing it right?

putes among stakeholders of the organization, among others. In 2015 the Aquino administration issued Executive Order (EO) 192, which transferred the jurisdiction of the HMO industry from the Department of Health (DOH) to the IC. The commission now supervises the establishment, operations and financial activities of the industry players. Funa said an HMO law will enable the IC to address issues, such as the level of capitalization that will be required from HMOs, how to settle disputes between the company and its members if any, and how to eliminate overlapping policies governing HMOs. The IC had also approved the acquisition by Fullerton Health Philippines Pte. Ltd., (Fullerton Health) of two See “Health insurance,” A16

PESO exchange rates n US 52.0170

34 percent

By Jonathan L. Mayuga @jonlmayuga


Part One 

n July 2015 a netizen uploaded a video of thousands of sardines—specifically herring, or more popularly called tamban—in the Philippines, caught in nets of municipal fishermen in the Province of Leyte.   Residents hailed the catch as a “miracle,” a gift from heaven, as such magnanimous ocean bounty rarely happens. In March 2016, in Dipolog

The recorded poverty incidence in the country’s fishery sector in 2015, next to agriculture at 34.3 percent City, Zamboanga del Norte, residents joined the frenzy of catching fish using improvised nets from the shores, as tens of thousands of tamban started to show up near the pier for Continued on A16

DOT: Boracay sells itself By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

FUNA: “It seems that the IC never collected any data on health insurance, so we have no ready data on health insurance.”


he Insurance Commission (IC) is now conducting a comprehensive study of the health-insurance industry as part of preparations for the enactment of a law that will regulate the operations of health-maintenance organizations (HMOs) in the country. “We are now doing our own study on health insurance. It seems that the IC never collected any data on health insurance, so we have no ready data on health insurance. Our study is still ongoing,” Insurance Commissioner Dennis B. Funa told the BusinessM irror. He said the comprehensive study on health insurance will enable the IC to fully comprehend how health insurance works in the country, as well as which sectors are still not covered by some form of health-care service. The result would be a comprehensive database for the agency that will serve as basis for future reforms on health insurance. Funa earlier said he is pushing for a new law to further regulate HMOs operating in the country, with the proposal including regulations on capitalization and how to settle dis-

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military strikes vs. Syria Damascus skies erupt with surface-to-air-missile fire as the United States launches an attack on Syria, targeting different parts of the capital early on April 14. The city has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as the US, Britain and France launched air strikes in Syria in retaliation for its government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against the civilians. Related stories on A7 and A8. AP/Hassan Ammar

DOE wants total electrification by 2019, but co-ops fear getting wiped out by big players By Lenie Lectura



he Department of Energy (DOE) is now aiming to complete the electrification of the entire country by next year—or three years ahead of the original target—by easing the entry of privatesector players into the far-flung areas’ power markets.

2.4 million The number of households still not connected to the power grid, or 16 percent of the total Continued on A2

@akosistellaBM Special to the BusinessMirror

HE Department of Tourism (DOT) sought to downplay the six-month closure of Boracay Island starting on April 26, adding that it will be able to sell itself to tourists once reopened. In a news conference last Saturday, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo expressed confidence that it wouldn’t be too difficult for her agency to promote Boracay because of its lingering popularity. “Boracay is Boracay. It doesn’t have to be promoted because it’s well known. It’s been proclaimed ‘the best island in the world’ for two consecutive years by Condé Nast [Traveler].” She underscored that this was what she informed Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III during the Cabinet meeting on April 4, when the closure of Boracay was discussed. “This is for you, Secretary [Teo]. Will you be able to promote the island [after] you close it?” she quoted Dominguez. Teo described the Cabinet meeting as an “ugly battle, as there were some Cabinet secretaries who didn’t want to close Boracay, but wanted a partial closure only.” Sources earlier told the BusinessMirror that among those who had raised concerns on the total closure of the island were Dominguez, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez and Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr. (See, “Boracay Island to be closed for six months starting April 26,” in the BusinessMirror online, April 4, 2018.) She noted it was when she remarked about the continuing popularity of Boracay that President Duterte cited the possibility of the Continued on A16

n japan 0.4847 n UK 74.0202 n HK 6.6266 n CHINA 8.2669 n singapore 39.6380 n australia 40.3340 n EU 64.1318 n SAUDI arabia 13.8712

Source: BSP (13 April 2018 )

BMReports BusinessMirror

A2 Monday, April 16, 2018

DOE wants total electrification by 2019, but co-ops fear getting wiped out by big players Continued from A1

Duterte again opts to avoid inking contractualization EO Continued from A1

date. “We were informed by the OP [Office of the President] through the BLR [Bureau of Labor Relations], that the meeting will not push through tomorrow [April 16],”Labor Undersecretary Joel B. Maglunsod said in a phone interview. “They did not disclose the reason [for the postponement].” Labor groups have been anticipating Duterte will finally sign the EO in their presence during the dialogue. The draft EO they prepared has been in Malacañang for several months now. It is expected to further minimize incidents of contractualization. The signing of the EO has been canceled several times already.

Sign of pressure Renato Magtubo, spokesman of labor coalition Nagkaisa, said that while they already got information of the possible rescheduling as early as Saturday, they were only able to confirm it last Sunday through the DOLE.  But Magtubo noted that they were already expecting the postponement after the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and employers’ group expressed their opposition to the labor sector’s version of the EO.  There is another version of the EO that was endorsed by the DOLE, the DTI and employers’ group. The two versions are almost

EASTERLIES AFFECTING THE COUNTRY as of 4:00 am - April 15, 2018

identical, except for the definition of the right to security of tenure (SOT ). In their version of the EO, labor groups defined the SOT as the direct hiring relationship between the principal employer and the employee. The DTI and employers opposed this definition of the SOT, since if applied, contracting and subcontracting of labor will be prohibited if they violate the worker’s SOT. This, in effect, will make contractualization prohibited in general.  “The EO version of the workers and [that of the] DTI and employers are in contention, that is why the President is having a hard time deciding [on which EO to sign]. But if they want to address the problem on contractualization, they should not consider the version from employers since they are the cause of the said problem,” Magtubo said. 

Lack of govt support In a statement, Nagkaisa blamed Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III for the new setback in the EO signing after he submitted to Malacañang the version endorsed by the DTI and business groups. “We also suspect that the labor secretary will submit to this farcical wisdom of the DTI by not exclusively endorsing the labor draft before the OP,” Nagkaisa Chairman Michael Mendoza said in a statement. Bello earlier expressed his reservations on the SOT provision of the EO version of labor groups. 

Mendoza reiterated their position that they will not attend any future meetings with Duterte if the DOLE will not guarantee it is their EO that will be signed. Militant labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno National Chairman Elmer Labog, on the other hand, pinned the liability on the delay to Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea. “With a ‘short stopper’ in place in Malacañang, the Executive secretary for the big corporate interests, contractualization is here to stay,” Labog said. 

Harmonized version The Federation of Free Workers, a member of Nagkaisa, appealed to Duterte to shun the version from the business groups and sign the labor-endorsed EO. “The President should make a policy that direct hiring of employee with the principal employer shall be the general norm and contracting out of jobs shall only be an exception,” FFW President Sonny Matula said. “The President is a lawyer and he knows very well that security of tenure is a guaranteed constitutional right.” Maglunsod said they will be meeting with labor groups on Monday to discuss again how to harmonize the two EO versions.  Magtubo, however, said their version of the EO is already nonnegotiable. “If there will be another deadlock in the negotiations, they could expect massive protests from us before and during Labor Day.... We will continue to ask Duterte to fulfill his promise [of ending widespread contractualization].”

Ecop answers At the 16th Labor Executive Updates organized by the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) titled “Should Contract Work Be Abolished?,” business groups were one in saying that abolishing contract work would mean dire consequences, not only to employers and their businesses, but also to the national economy, the country’s competitiveness and to Filipino workers who search for decent and quality jobs. Ecop President Donald Dee lamented that laws and other gov-

ernment policies should be flexible enough, or else potential investors will look for another country. “Ecop is doing all it can to help improve human resources and labor practices in the country and invested so much to help change the mindset. We are an organization that will protect workers and we will work with our workers’ welfare in mind because they are our assets.” Lawyer Ranulfo Payos, Ecop vice president, said contractualization has been a long-standing issue, and suggests that all employers should meet and, perhaps, come up with a common stand on the matter. Lawyer Rene Soriano, Ecop honorary president, on the other hand, said that the issue has sparked much debate the past year so the group hopes to finally find the answer to the question of whether contract work should be abolished through this forum. “Ecop is vehemently against this deplorable labor practice. That is why we applaud the current administration for making a successful termination of endo in fulfilment of the President’s campaign promise. We also fully support the government’s various labor issuances that spelled doom for endo. George Barcelon, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the service-contracting industry is very crucial to the development of any country, particularly for the exporters and the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The 2016 List of Establishments of the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that of the total 915,726 business establishments in the country, 99.57 percent belong to the MSME sector, which also helped provide 4,879,179 jobs that same year. MSMEs accounted for almost 63.3 percent of the total jobs for all types of businesses and contributed 25 percent of the country’s total exports revenue. Barcelon fears that abolishing service contracting would make the Philippines lose its global competitiveness. “We’ve been talking about globalization for the past decade. It’s not just about the Asean economic community anymore. It’s about being competitive globally,” he added.

“We need to fast-track it. We need to accomplish it earlier, at the earliest 2019,” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said in an interview. Cusi committed to implement the directive of President Duterte to remove the barriers to rural electrification. The President, in a meeting with Cusi and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Agnes VST Devanadera, focused on the missionary electrification in the unserved areas of the country. The Chief Executive made it clear that he wanted to remove the barriers that are blocking the entry of the private sector to provide better options and more choices for communities. According to Cusi, Duterte said: “This has to stop!”  He was referring to the hurdles standing in the way of the total electrification of the entire country.  The President instructed the DOE and the ERC to initiate bold executive actions to allow the entry of the private sector so that the Filipino consumers can have access to adequate and affordable electricity that will redound to more economic and social benefits. This means private investors must assist ailing electric cooperatives (ECs) that are regarded as nonperforming or ineffective and, thus, are barriers to total electrification. “The wisdom of the President is using emerging technologies targeting far-flung barangays which have had no power. The DOE is fully committed in pursuing his directive,” Cusi said. The DOE, according to Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella, will craft a master plan to help achieve its goal. The blueprint will include an inventory of unserved and served areas, timeline, among others. “We should have an inventory. The ECs and DUs must submit first a report on the compliance of serving the areas assigned to them. That’s part of the master plan. Also, the master plan should include a business plan not only for ECs but for DUs, as well,” Fuentebella said in an interview. He added that the report of the ECs and DUs must be submitted to the National Electrification Administration (NEA)  within 45 days  from the directive issued on March 22. NEA, in turn, has 15 days to countercheck and finalize a report before turning it over to the DOE.

Resistance The DOE intends to pursue this, amid strong opposition from ECs. The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (Philreca) and the Philippine Federation of Electric Cooperatives (Philfeco) said the proposed entry of private investors into the rural-electrification program is based on a wrong premise—that there are nonperforming ECs which are considered barriers to total electrification. They stressed that ECs are not ineffective. Citing official data, the groups said only 8 percent of the total 121 ECs in the country are ailing or underperforming, but definitely not nonperforming.  “And these are, likewise, not caused by our perceived operational inefficiency, but due to events and situations beyond our control, like natural calamities, political strife, insurgency and more often than not topographic challenges,” Philreca President Presley de Jesus said. Notwithstanding these difficulties, de Jesus stressed that most ECs have delivered on their mandate to help the government promote sustainable rural development through electricity. Therefore, they cannot be expected to peacefully yield their jobs anytime soon to the private sector.  “We in the electric cooperative industry stand firm in our dogged resolve to fulfill the mission of providing quality service to the country’s rural communities and meet the original objective of total electrification. Because we can, we will stay the course and finish it,” de Jesus said.  While they welcome competition, the EC leaders feared that a state policy on the entry of deep-pocketed private firms in rural electrification lays the groundwork for their cooperatives to give up the ghost, so to speak, affecting the welfare of their stakeholders.  Reynaldo Lazo, president of the Philippine Association of Board of Directors of Rural Electric Cooperatives (Pabrec), thus, called on the government to protect the ECs against private companies that have vested interest in potentially auspicious communities. “I am okay with the pronouncement of the DOE, knowing it will benefit the member-consumers in areas that are not yet electrified. Encouraging private [sector] participation is fine, as long as it does not interfere and encroach on the operations of the ECs,” Lazo stated. “Because the way we see it, it’s the start [for private investors] just to be in, and then later on they are going to be wielding their power and influence at the expense of our co-ops. We hope this will not happen but that’s how we see it.” National Center of Electric Cooperatives Consumers Inc. (NCECCO) Chairman Akmad Mamalinta shared the same perspective,

adding that future investors must ensure that their participation is purely based on the intent to give the public better options and not fueled by their greed. “I believe the regulations are in place before any project can be undertaken. There must be some terms of reference [before they can proceed], which should be the case. They can’t do it just like that,” Mamalinta noted. “They [private investors] have to work closely with our state regulators to make sure that the other aspects and component of [their] operations will be done in the context of government efforts to provide better electricity services at lower cost to the consumers,” the NCECCO chief added.

Review A lawmaker is calling for a thorough review of the country’s national-electrification program, with the aim of assessing existing strategies in closing the gap in the number of households across the country that have yet to be energized. “We want to check on the status of electrification of the country to assess and possibly revise the national electrification strategy,” said Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who filed Senate Resolution 695. At present, the government is employing three methods in pursuing the total electrification agenda. The first is through grid extension by ECs, which is carried out by the NEA. The second is by missionary electrification in offgrid areas, which is being implemented by the National Power Corp. The last method is through the entry of qualified third parties in remote and unviable areas. The said methods are being subsidized, either through government appropriations or pass-on charges to consumers through the universal charge for missionary electrification.  From 2016 to 2018 the government allocated P5.45 billion for sitio (village) electrification and P3.97 billion for the supply of electricity in missionary areas. In addition, around P73 billion has been remitted from the universal charge for missionary electrification collection, as of December 2017.  Despite all efforts, however, Gatchalian said a total of 2,399,108 of unserved households are still not connected to the power grid, equivalent to 16 percent of households in the entire country. The majority of this number is found in Mindanao (1,345,116 households), while Luzon and the Visayas share the remaining half (529,952 and 524,040 households, respectively). “It is necessary to review the national electrification project of the government by identifying which communities are economically viable for grid extension, how much government appropriations are necessary to complete the extension, and in how long the construction can be accomplished,” he said. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, also urged the NEA to take advantage of latest technologies, such as the micro-grid systems, to reach far-flung areas that have no access to power grid and still remain unserved. “It is likewise important to know which communities are best for off-grid electrification, what technologies are suitable for them, and how fast the entry of qualifies third parties in the remote and unviable areas can be facilitated,” he added. Gatchalian also said some private distribution utilities have already expressed interest in building micro-grid systems in areas or sitios left unserved or underserved by the ECs. “Micro-grid systems are now available here in the Philippines and we can take advantage of this to fill in the gap under the sitio electrification program. But if there’s an opportunity for the private sector to come in, then, let’s embrace it,” he said.

Supportive Power firms are interested to help the government’s electrification program. “We should help ailing ECs. That way, they can improve service,” Aboitiz Power Corp. President Antonio Moraza said in a text message. SMC Power, Semirara Mining and Power Corp. and AC Energy, likewise, indicated they are supportive and will extend their assistance in any way they can to help achieve the government’s electrification program as soon as possible. For 2018 the NEA aims to complete at least 1,817 sitios with a budget allocation of P1.817 billion. This is based on the company’s approved budget under the 2017 General Appropriations Act and the 2018 National Expenditure Program.   Under Phase 2 of the Sitio Electrification Program, a total of 19,740 sitios nationwide have been energized. In Luzon 6,541 (33 percent) areas now have electricity; 4,664 (24 percent) in the Visayas; and 8,535 (43 percent) in Mindanao. While the DOE and the ECs have yet to settle their differences, authorities are keen on making their goal happen. “We will always look at the legal option of the government,” Fuentebella said. “The end-goal here is to remove all barriers so that we can achieve total electrification.”

The Nation BusinessMirror

Editor: Vittorio V. Vitug • Monday, April 16, 2018 A3

Gordon confident of majority support on Dengvaxia report


By Butch Fernandez


he Senate’s chief prober last Sunday said he could muster enough signatures to affirm his “chairman’s report,” recommending charges be filed against ex-President Benigno S. Aquino III and other Aquino Cabinet officials based on findings “pointing to their liability” in the deadly Dengvaxia vaccine mess.

Sen. Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee’s Dengvaxia inquiry, said among those likely to face liabilities, apart from Aquino, are former Health Secretary Janette L. Garin and ex-Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad. “All the testimonies pointing to their liability were made under oath during the Senate committee hearings,” Gordon said. “So cases can be filed against them based on the testimonies,” he added. In a radio interview over the weekend, Gordon clarified he approved the release of the chairman’s report, and not a draft

report as earlier reported, even as other senators had yet to sign the report at that time “because many are asking what happened to it.” At the same time, Gordon debunked speculations attributed to the Aquino camp that he timed the release of the Dengvaxia report in order to draw away attention from controversies plaguing the Duterte administration, such as the Boracay closure. “They are the ones covering up,” Gordon countered, adding “it is natural for them to say that because it is ex-President Aquino on the dock.”

In a separate interview, Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV poohpoohed Gordon’s claim he can easily have the chairman’s committee report adopted by the senators. Spea k i ng pa r t ly i n Fi l ipi no, Trillanes threatened to “tear apart” key conclusions and recommendations in the committee report. “ T hos e w ho at te nde d t he Blue Ribbon hearings can recall that the hearings were hogged by Senator Gordon, but experts cannot categorically testify that Dengvaxia killed the children,” Trillanes said. Moreover, he noted, reports

that of the 800,000 children injected, “14 died, 12 of different causes and two died [of dengue] even after injection [with Dengvaxia],” the senator added. “Where is the proof that kids died because of Dengvaxia? If you don’t have scientific findings that is nothing,” Trillanes stated. He said if Gordon’s source “is merely [Public Attorneys’ Office Chief] Percida [Rueda] Acosta, then they deserve each other.” Trilanes is certain the Gordon committee report “will not stand scrutiny of senators” even assuming he can get the majority to sign.

Law experts hail SC ruling on ‘ministerial’ approval of government contracts By Joel R. San Juan @jrsanjuan1573


egal experts have welcomed the Supreme Court (SC) ruling that exonerates ranking government officials and heads of local government units of criminal, civil and administrative liabilities for the “ministerial” approval of contracts. Former law deans Pacifico Agabin and Tranquil Salvador III sided with the 15-man High Tribunal, which held that mere approval of contracts that have been found irregular or deficient does not automatically make government officials liable.

“I agree with that decision of the Supreme Court,” said Agabin, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law. The doctrine, he added, which grants the presumption of regularity on the approval of projects by heads of agencies or local executives, was already set by the High Court in previous rulings, and that the latest decision on the case of former Nueva Ecija Gov. Tomas Joson III is just a reiteration. Salvador, former dean of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and president of Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Quezon City chapter, agreed with Agabin’s opinion.

He believed that the decision was “a sound and reasonable ruling.” “This has been well established by jurisprudence, and was only reiterated in the Joson ruling,” Salvador said. “If the sole participation of the head of the local government unit is just to sign the contract and nothing more, then he should not be held liable,” Salvador said. It can be recalled that in its decision on the Joson case released to the media recently, the High Court held that the signatures of local government executives, as well as heads of agencies, in pro-

curement contracts that are found to be anomalous or irregular is not sufficient to establish their criminal and administrative liabilities. “Mere signature [of the head of office or local government unit] in the award of the contract and the contract itself without anything more cannot be considered as a presumption of liability,” the decision penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam read. “Liability depends upon the wrong committed and not solely by reason of being the head of a government agency,” the Court stated. The SC made this ruling as it

cleared Joson, who was found liable by the Commission on Audit (COA) over the P155.03-million construction of Nueva Ecija Friendship Hotel, now named Sierra Madre Suites. The COA issued in 2007 notices of allowances on three contracts signed and approved by Joson with A.V.T. Construction for the said project and found him liable, along with members of the Bids and Awards Committee, the BAC technical working group, the provincial accountant and the provincial engineer. Joson had filed a petition for exclusion from liability, arguing that “the determination of whether

a prospective bidder is eligible or not is the exclusive responsibility of the BAC and if there is indeed a liability, the members of the BAC should be held liable since they are the persons directly responsible for the transaction.” But COA, in its 2015 decision, denied the petition as it ruled that Joson was liable for the disallowed amount since “he failed to exercise due diligence in the performance of his duty.” The commission also ruled that “being a signatory in the contracts, Joson is presumed to have prior knowledge that the bidding process was tainted with ineligibility.”


A4 Monday, April 16, 2018 • Editors: Vittorio V. Vitug and Max V. de Leon

DENR crafting new policies for sustainable ecotourism By Jonathan L. Mayuga @jonlmayuga


he Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said over the weekend that the department’s regional offices are now identifying tourism areas, notably beaches, to develop policies that will ensure sustainable ecotourism. “The secretary [Roy A. Cimatu] has ordered the [DENR’s] regional offices to conduct an assessment of tourist destinations to determine the carrying capacity and put in place measures that will protect forest and coastal resources from unbridled development and destructive human activities,” designated DENR Spokesman Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones told the BusinessMirror. He added the “carrying capacity” of the tourist area will be established to identify critical habitats, limit development projects, as well as determine the appropriate tourism activity and the maximum number of tourists to be allowed. This is what the DENR is currently working on in the pollutionchallenged Boracay Island, the country’s top tourist destination in Malay, Aklan, Leones said. The campaigns in other tourist areas, such as Panglao in Bohol, El Nido in Palawan and Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro are ongoing to prevent a repeat of what happened in Boracay.   The island paradise will soon be closed to tourism activities for six months starting on April 26. “In Boracay after rehabilitation, tourism activities will be limited according to the island’s carrying capacity. This includes construction, use of water, garbage production,” Leones stated.

Evictions in Puerto Galera

The DENR Southwestern Tagalog region or Mimaropa region, meanwhile, has issued notices to vacate to 14 establishments in Puerto Galera for violating the 25+5 easement rule. These establishments are found in Sabang and White Beach, two popular beaches in Puerto Galera.   DENR Mimaropa Assistant Regional Director and Task Force Galera Chairman Dr. Vicente Tuddao Jr. was in Puerto Galera last Friday to personally serve the notices to Tina’s Sunset Cottages, Restaurant & Dive Center, Ocean Dream Lodge, Paradise Dive Zone Resort Corp., Pink & Black Lodging House, Montani Beach Resort, Sabang Inn, Sabang Divers, Mangosteen Restaurant, Dive Dojo, Mermaid Resort Charletan Inc., Modem Development Co. Inc., Capt. Gregg, Eddie’s Place Bar & Restaurant, Marginor Dine & Snack and I Dive at Casa Mia. Except for Marginor Diner & Snack and I Dive at Casa Mia, which are all in Barangay San Isidro.  The rest are in Barangay Sabang. The establishments were given 30 days to comply. “We hope they will be responsible enough to remove the structures they have built on easement zones within that period. The sooner we can start the rehabilitation of Sabang and White Beach, the better,” Tuddao said. Apart from clearing up the 3-meter easement zone, Task Force Galera also inspected establishments for compliance with environmental regulations, such as securing discharge permit, environmental compliance certificate, permit to operate, hazardous waste registration, compliance to solid-waste segregation and having a pollution control officer.   The absence of proper wastewater-disposal facility, aggravated by overcrowding of structures along the beaches, is seen as a major source of coliform contamination of Sabang and White Beach, according to a news statement from the DENR Mimaropa region.   Water quality tests in five sampling stations in Puerto Galera from 2009 to 2017 show high fecal coliform levels.   DENR Mimaropa Regional Direc-

tor Natividad Bernardino said notices of violations shall also be served in the coming days to establishments found violating environmental rules. “Who would want to visit Puerto Galera in the future if its beaches have become too dirty and hazardous to swim in?” Bernardino said. She underscored the rehabilitation of Puerto Galera not only for tourism but also for scientific research. In 1977 Puerto Galera was declared Man and Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), an international recognition that it is a model of sustainable development which provides “living observatories.”   In 2014, however, the Unesco almost stripped Puerto Galera of this recognition after it concluded that the town did not meet the criteria. It was only in July 2017 that the status was affirmed after the local government submitted an Integrated Management Plan.  

El Nido eviction


ADB study compels PHL to hike labor productivity


By Cai U. Ordinario


he country’s economic growth could slow if it fails to raise labor productivity in the coming years, according to a study published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). In the study, titled “Why Has the Philippines’GrowthPerformanceImproved? From Disappointment to Promising Success,” ADB advisor and Senior Economics Officer at the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department Jesus Felipe and Gemma Estrada said the potential growth of the country last year of 6.3 percent was exceeded by actual growth at 6.7 percent.  Potential growth, the authors said, is the growth rate that keeps the unemployment rate constant. It is largely based on labor productivity.  “Given that actual growth is already abouthalfapercentagepointabovepotential growth, that the economy is expected to continue registering high growth, and that the accumulated gap [actual growth minus potential growth] is approaching zero, authorities should take measures to increasetheeconomy’spotentialgrowth,” Felipe and Estrada said.  “This will allow actual growth to continue increasing without subjecting the economy to inflationary pressures,” they added.  The authors found that the country’s potential growth rate has been increasing due to the rise in labor productivity growth. This is mainly due to manufacturing productivity growth.  However, with actual GDP growth exceeding potential growth in 2017, the authors urged the government to focus on increasing potential growth further. This will also allow the country to post higher actual GDP growth in the coming years.  “To raise potential growth, authorities ought to focus on increasing labor productivity growth. Supporting a more vibrant manufacturing sector will help boost productivity growth,” Felipe and Estrada said. 

Meanwhile, Bernardino welcomed the issues raised by several members of the Provincial Board of Palawan in connection with the crackdown in El Nido, Palawan. She said the DENR Mimaropa region is ready to answer the issues raised by Palawan Board Members David Francis, Ponce de Leon and Winston Arzaga on the cleanup of Bacuit Bay, where several structures are facing demolition. The campaign, Bernardino added, is part of the Duterte administration’s thrust and the DENR is merely “observing what is in the law in pursuing a cleanup of El Nido and other beach destinations in the region.”   Some of those who received eviction notice in El Nido should be able to show proof that their stay in forestlands has legal basis.   She said that as part of the campaign, even public structures, such as the El Nido National High School, was issued a notice to vacate.   “Of course we are aware that the school provides a public good, that is why we will recommend that it secure a presidential proclamation to declare the area it occupies a civil reservation,” Bernardino said.   “…We have to serve it a notice to vacate because it is built on timberland without any tenurial instrument,” she added.   The official also agreed that the map used by the DENR as basis to issue the notices is “old, classifying Corong-Corong as forest land,” Part One but Task Force El Nido Chairman Manuel Escasura said, “the Land gig economy is an environClassification Map of 1941 for ment in which temporary poCorong-Corong remains valid  besitions are common and orgacause there have been no congresnizations contract with independent sional legislation that reclassifies workers for short-term engagements. the area. We have no choice but to The trend toward a gig economy has follow the existing map.” begun. A study by Intuit predicted that   The DENR, likewise, does not by 2020, 40 percent of American workdiscount the possibility that some ers would be independent contractors. of the agency’s personnel may have There are a number of forces behind the been involved in illegal titling of El rise in short-term jobs. For one thing, in Nido’s timberland, which also conthis digital age, the work force is increastributed to the congestion of strucingly mobile and work can increasingly tures in the area. be done from anywhere, so that job and   On that account, Bernardino location are decoupled. That means that said there will be a thorough infreelancers can select among temporary vestigation to identify DENR perjobs and projects around the world, sonnel accountable, but will also while employers can select the best go after those who had caused enindividuals for specific projects from vironmental degradation. a larger pool than that available in any   “We will hold everyone accountgiven area. able for the destruction of such a Digitization has also contributed dibeautiful place that is El Nido,” he rectly to a decrease in jobs as software said. replaces some types of work and means   Following President Duterte and that others take much less time. Other Cimatu’s priority thrusts to rehainfluences include financial pressures bilitate the country’s prime beach on businesses leading to further staff destinations, DENR Mimaropa has reductions and the entrance of the milcreated three task forces tasked to lennial generation into the work force. lead in the cleanup of Bacuit Bay in The current reality is that people tend El Nido, Sabang and White Beach to change jobs several times throughout in Puerto Galera and Coron Bay. their work ing lives; the gig economy can   “We hope that other public ofbe seen as an evolution of that trend. ficials in Palawan can support us in In a gig economy, businesses save this endeavor,” Bernardino said, exresources in terms of benefits, office pressing gratitude to Palawan Gov. space and training. They also have Jose Alvarez, who had earlier vowed the ability to contract with experts to support for the DENR’s efforts for specific projects who might be in El Nido. 

This also means increasing labor productivity in the services and agriculture sectors. The authors found that labor productivity in services is declining, while the rise in labor productivity in agriculture has been very slow.  The authors said their study showed gaps between actual and potential GDP growth between 1957 and 2017. The authors added actual growth was higher than potential growth in

40 out of the 61 years, with an average gap of 1.1 percentage points. In the 21 years when actual growth is lower than potential growth, the average gap is 2.1 percentage points, with the largest gap being observed in 1984 at 8.3 percentage points. In years when actual growth is higher than potential growth, the authors said the latter is significantly higher than in periods when actual growth is lower than potential growth.  “While actual growth has improved, the evidence shows that this has had little impact on reducing unemployment. Estimates show that higher actual growth does not necessarily lead to a lower unemployment rate,” the authors said. “However, the evidence indicates that faster growth is associated with a higher total underemployment rate. Understanding such dynamics requires a careful review of the country’s labor market,” they added. 

In March Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia emphasized the need to raise labor productivity to boost the country’s employment data. He said there is a need to help move the labor force in the agriculture sector out of low-productivity jobs. This can be facilitated by shifting rice farmers to high-value crops, promoting crop diversification, accelerating development of local infrastructure (e.g. farm-to-market roads, etc.) and training farmers in technological advancements. “These improvements in the labor market indicate that more Filipinos are encouraged to join and rejoin the labor force, and that more people are being employed. This signals that the economy is responding positively to the economic reforms and programs that the government has been laying down,” Pernia said. 

Summer harvest

Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea (center) graces the Hardin ng Lunas Harvest Festival at the Philippine Army Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, last Thursday. Assisting the Palace official is Tarlac Heritage Foundation Cofounder Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay (left) and Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista. The project aims to teach interested parties on proper organic gardening techniques and develop idle camp lands for the benefit of military personnel and their dependents. NONIE REYES

The gig economy and you


creative philippines By Henry Schumacher too high-priced to maintain on staff. From the perspective of the freelancer, a gig economy can improve work-life balance over what is possible in most jobs. Ideally, the model is powered by independent workers selecting jobs that they're interested in, rather than one in which people are forced into a position where, unable to attain employment, they pick up whatever temporary gigs they can land. As more workers turn to the gig economy, it’s important to know what fields will help you land the highest freelance pay. Here are the seven highest-paying gig economy jobs of 2018, according to 1. Artificial intelligence/deep learning Freelancers in the AI/deep-learning field are experts in machine learning, according to the report. They develop algorithms using tools and programming languages, such as Tensorflow, Python, R, Java, Matlab, Perl and C++. 2. Robotics Robotics freelancers design the me-

chanical elements of robots. They also may create 3D models and animations using computer-aided design (CAD). These freelancers often have a background in mechanical engineering, and are proficient in software such as SolidWorks Professional, Photoview 360, Simplify 3D and eDrawings, according to the report. 3. Ethical hacking Ethical hackers, also known as penetration testers or white-hat hackers, work to hack a client's system to find their security vulnerabilities. These freelancers are familiar with common attack vectors, mitigation techniques and Web application vulnerabilities, and they also know how to fix these vulnerabilities. The best freelancers in this area are certified information systems security professionals or certified ethical hackers, the report noted. 4. Virtual reality Augmented reality (AR) and VR are becoming more of a business reality, used for employee training and other purposes in the enterprise. Freelancers seeking gig jobs in this area must have expertise in developing AR algorithms, and are usually fluent in C#, C and C++. Many also have a background in 3D modeling and 3D scanning, the report said. 5. ReactJS developers React—an open-source JavaScript library used by front-end software developers—allows developers to more easily build user interfaces and make changes with large data

sets. Many web sites rely on React, including Airbnb, American Express and Yahoo, the report said, and React freelancers develop Web applications that can change data with no need to reload the page. Developers in this area are fluent in JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS. 6. Final Cut Pro editors Final Cut Pro X is Apple's professional-grade video-editing software, used often by companies to create movies, advertisements and music videos. Freelancers skilled in Final Cut Pro can cut video clips, use transitions, integrate background music and edit scenes, the report said. 7. Instagram marketing An estimated 70 percent of US businesses have advertised their products on Instagram, according to the report, and the photo-sharing platform generates a higher average order value than its competitors Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Freelance Instagram marketers promote a client's business on Instagram, including creating content, carrying the voice of the brand, using relevant and popular hashtags, and engaging users to grow a following. These marketers also analyze metrics to measure growth and performance. In the second part of my column, we will look at the large and fast-growing gig economy in the Philippines.

Comments are more than welcome —contact me at Schumacher@eitsc. com.

Agriculture/Commodities BusinessMirror

PSA: Palay output in first quarter seen hitting 4.6 million metric tons

Farmers dry palay on a Pampanga highway. Nonie Reyes

By Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas



espite the projected reduction in palay harvest area and yield, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said paddyrice output in the January-to-March period would reach about 4.6 million metric tons (MMT).

In its report published over the weekend, titled “Updates on January-March 2018 Palay and Corn Estimates,” the PSA revised downward its forecast for unmilled

rice production to 4.59 MMT, from the 4.67-MMT projected output in January. “The probable decrease in palay production may be attributed to

the reduction of harvest area in Zamboanga Sibugay, Davao Norte a nd Nor t h Cot abato due to ef fects of Ty phoon Vint a in t he l ater pa r t of 2017,” t he report read. “[Also] the foreseen decrease in yield may be due to the effects of Typhoon Urduja in Capiz; occurrence of heavy rains in Isabela, Mindoro Oriental, Leyte and Sultan Kudarat; and rice-bug infestation in Tarlac, Iloilo and South Cotabato,” it added. The PSA estimated that total palay harvest area in the first quarter would slightly decline to 1.189 million hectares, from 1.192 million hectares recorded during the January-to-March period in 2017. Yield per hectare could also

fall to 3.86 MT from 3.92 MT. The PSA’s latest palay output forecast for the first quarter is still 3.9 percent higher than the 4.42-MMT recorded production in the same period last year. T he repor t noted t hat, as of March 1, about 559,150 hectares, or 47 percent, of the updated standing crop for the Januaryto-March period have been harvested. “Of the updated standing palay crop, 21.3 percent were at vegetative stages, 42.5 percent at reproductive stage and 36.1 percent at maturing stage,” it added. The PSA said around 821,840 hectares, or 90.3 percent, of the farmers’s planting intentions for t he second qu a r ter have materialized. Meanwhile, the PSA also revised downward its corn-output forecast in the first quarter to 2.46 MMT, from the 2.49 MMT it projected in January. However, its latest projection is still 4.1 percent higher than the previous year’s output of 2.37 MMT. “The probable decrement in corn output  may be attributed to: contraction in harvest area and yield brought about the effects of Typhoon Vinta in Zamboanga Sur and Zamboanga Norte in the later part of 2017,” it said. “And decrease in yield due to infestation of planthopper in Ifugao and rats in South Cotabato and Sarangani; and effects of continuous rains in Isabela and Negros Oriental,” it added. The report noted total cornharvest area in the first quarter may decline by 0.1 percent, from the 720,960-hectare level, while yield per hectare may decrease from 3.45 MT to 3.42 MT. 

Editor: Jennifer A. Ng • Monday, April 16, 2018


‘Shockingly weak’ cattle market means cheap burgers in summer


hen this seemingly never-ending winter finally gives way to warmer weather, here’s one more thing to look forward to: Beef is likely to be cheaper for summer grilling. Cattle futures have been sliding as market watchers expect a landslide of meat in the coming months. Severe drought is parching the United States plains, and ranchers have had no choice but to send their animals to yards where they’re fattened up for market with grains. That speeds up the growing process, and means the animals will go to market earlier than usual. “It’s a shockingly weak market,” said Dennis Smith, a senior account executive at Archer Financial Services Inc. in Chicago. Traders can expect “a bulge in production that’s going to happen in the second and third quarter,” he said. E x t re me a nd e x ce pt ion a l drought has spread across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, according to the US Drought Monitor in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s been that way for around six months, and doesn’t show signs of improving. Amid the dr yness, farmers placed 1.82 million cattle in feedlots in February, up 7.3 percent from the prior year, according to a US Department of Agriculture report released on March 23. Placements in previous months were also higher, including a notable 14-percent jump last November. Cattle futures for June delivery on the Chicago Mercantile

Exchange have dropped almost 9 percent this year and reached a one-year low of 97.075 cents a pound on April 4.

Fund bets

Hedge funds are signaling there’s little hope for a rebound. In the week ended April 9, speculators cut their cattle netlong position by 26 percent to 27,255 futures and options, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data released last Friday. That’s the lowest since October 2016. The figure measures the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline. The move came as total short holdings jumped to the highest in almost five years. Retail-beef prices tend to lag behind the futures market. In the second quarter, cattle prices will probably be about 20 percent lower than last year, while retail beef will be down about 9 percent, according to Manchester, New Hampshire-based Steiner Consulting Group, an economic and commodity-trading adviser. Still, lower prices may not last long if they entice more buying. Global demand for beef is still strong, the US economy is humming along, and consumer satisfaction is high, said Altin Kalo, an analyst at Steiner Consulting. “All that points to how confident the consumer feels and how willing people are to part with their dollars and spend money on a premium protein, like beef,” Kalo said. Bloomberg News

Feeling your oats: Coffee getting pretty with new milk alternative


here’s a new plant milk in town, and it’s started such a craze that coffee shops across the country are struggling to keep up with demand. It’s called oat milk, and baristas love its light, hearty flavor that lets the java beans take center stage. As more consumers choose plant alternatives to dairy, it’s gotten so popular that, just in the last month, some coffee shops were left without oat milk for days, even weeks. To meet demand, producer Oatly Inc. is working with its manufacturing partners to increase output by 50 percent by this summer, said Mike Messersmith, general manager for United States operations, which are based in New York. Oat milk “tastes the best of all the milk alternatives,” said 22-year Micah Lindsey, who works as a barista at an Intelligentsia coffee shop in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. It has a “really creamy texture” that mimics real dairy and works well for latte art, she said.

Plant-based beverages have been stealing market share from dairy for years, and the trend isn’t showing signs of slowing. In 2018 US retail sales of traditional milk are projected to drop 1.2 percent, while alternatives like oat and almond are expected to climb 3 percent, according to researcher Euromonitor. The switch has taken a toll on companies like Dean Foods Co., the largest United States dairy producer, which in February unveiled a $150-million plan for cost cutting amid sluggish sales.

Supply shortage

Dollop Coffee Co., a Chicago chain, began carrying Oatly oat milk in October 2017. Demand is especially growing among customers who are switching from soy milk, said Spokesman Nate Furstenau. In March the shops ran out of oat milk for about two weeks, and the company’s heard from its distributor that shortages could continue over the next month.


Oatly arrived to the American market in September 2016 through Chicago-based company Intelligentsia, which has 11 US coffee houses. It’s now offered at more than 1,000 coffee shops nationwide and is moving onto retail shelves, Messersmith said. About 13 percent of Intelligen-

tsia drinks are now made with oat milk, for which customers pay a 50-cent premium over dairy milk, according to James McLaughlin, the company’s CEO.

Swedish milk

Malmo, Sweden-based Oatly started making its product two

decades ago based on research from the nation’s Lund University. To make the beverage, the company mixes oats with water, then adds a proprietary enzyme to break down starch and sweeten the pot. After that, loose shells from the oats are removed from the liquid base. There are no sugars or thickeners added. The dairy industry is lobbying regulators to enforce labeling laws that would stop plant-based beverages from using the word “milk” in branding. The National Milk Producers Federation point out that, in Sweden, it’s called an oat “drink.” “The very same packages sold in the US with terms, such as oat milk or almond milk, are not able to use dairy terms when sold overseas,” said Chris Galen, spokesman for the group. In the meantime, business is booming for plant-based beverage makers like Pacific Foods of Oregon, which is also looking to expand its production of oat milk, according to brand manager Kimberly Nieves.

While the company has offered an oat product for 20 years, demand has really taken off recently amid the coffee-shop craze. “We have seen a surge in demand for our oat products beyond what we were able to supply,” Nieves said.

Takeover speculation

As consumers drive big changes in the world of agriculture and food, traditional companies have been buying up natural food start-ups. Campbell Soup Co. last year bought Pacific Foods for $700 million. Oatly could become a takeover target, said Kenneth Shea, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, citing possible buyers, such as PepsiCo Inc., which makes Quaker oats products. PepsiCo didn’t respond to requests for comment on a possible deal. When asked about the possibility of a takeover, Messersmith said the company still needs to ramp up its production. “We are at a very early stage,” he said. Bloomberg News


A6 Monday, April 16, 2018 • Editor: Jun B. Vallecera


‘What the economy requires, the banks can adequately provide’


By Bianca Cuaresma @BcuaresmaBM

he local banking system is strong enough to meet the funding requirements of the growing economy, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said.

At the recent Philippine Economic Briefing held at the Clark Freeport Zone, BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. cited the banking system’s capability to provide for the funding needs of the country, particularly at this time of rapid growth due to strong consumer spending and

broad infrastructure reform. “The Philippine banking system is now on very sound footing. It has become a very stable and reliable anchor for the economy. This is a product of deep and meaningful financial sector reforms we have boldly implemented since the 1997

Perspectives What we can’t have is a failure to innovate


any may remember the Captain’s speech in Cool Hand Luke with the famous line “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Well, today with rapid technological change, one cannot afford a “failure to innovate.” Financial institutions contend with innovations that evolve practically overnight. To remain competitive, financial institutions cannot afford a similar failure. Innovation, not only in business but also in compliance, is essential. Institutions must embrace new technologies and find ways to become more agile or risk disruption to their business. Yet, the compliance mandate has never been more broad, challenging compliance leaders who seek to meet their strategic compliance objectives, further reduce compliance cost and ensure effective management of regulatory change. Unsurprisingly, compliance leaders increasingly recognize that leveraging new technology capabilities to automate their compliance activities can help them meet these objectives, while simultaneously setting the stage for greater efficiency and cost savings. As financial Institutions expand their use of intelligent automation—from operational tasks to compliance activities1 —financial crimes compliance programs are ripe with opportunities to automate, and integrate these capabilities into their programs to more efficiently and effectively manage regulatory compliance risks. In planning for 2018, now is the perfect time for financial crimes officers to assess how and to what degree, they can integrate intelligent automation to support their compliance efforts and goals, including into their know-your-customer (KYC) activities, transaction monitoring and screening, and compliance testing, among others.

Levels of intelligent automation

Innovation today means considering new approaches, supported by technology, to help alleviate compliance problems and costs. Many terms, such as “intelligent automation,” have been floated to describe the increasing role that technology plays in organizations, ranging from robotics to machine learning to cognitive, or artificial intelligence (AI). For our purposes, we use the term intelligent automation

to span the spectrum of innovation that can be brought to bear on financial crimes programs today. The characteristics of each of these levels along the automation continuum is reflected below: “Robotics Process Automation” is the entry point to automation and is directed toward having software programmed to perform highly repeatable rote tasks between existing disparate systems and applications. Robots (virtual workers or “bots”) can be used to drive higher consistency and accuracy and allow for humans to focus on higher-value tasks, thereby dedicating more of their time on areas of potentially higher risk. “Machine learning” refers to software algorithms that are not explicitly programmed, that can predict outcomes or draw inferences based on input data. The algorithms can learn automatically from experience as new outcomes are made available and can greatly enhance the effectiveness of bots when analysis tasks are required in a process. Machine learning is one of the main components that drive predictive capabilities and is a core foundation for cognitive systems. “Cognitive” represents a self-learning platform that mimics the attributes of human reasoning and decision-making while interpreting massive amounts of data, beyond what is humanly possible. Cognitive systems utilize deep learning techniques on both structured and unstructured data which can extract meaning from documents using natural language processing and uncover hidden patterns in large complex datasets. The article “What we can’t have is a failure to innovate” by Terese Pesce, KPMG International, was taken from KPMG’s publication entitled Intelligent automation in financial crimes: Forging an innovative compliance strategy for the future. © 2018 R.G. Manabat & Co., a Philippine partnership and a member-firm of the KPMG network of independent member -firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved. Printed in the Philippines For more information on KPMG in the Philippines, you may visit

Case clippings

By Justice S J Ranada Jr.

LAND REGISTRATION–period for reissuance of decree There is nothing in the law that limits the period within which the court may order or issue a decree in a land registration proceeding. The fact that ownership of a lot was confirmed by judicial declaration several decades ago, does not give room for the application of the statute of limitations or laches, nor bar on application for the reissuance of the corresponding decree Republic v. Yup 09 Feb. 2018

GR 231116 Velasco, J

Asian financial crisis,” Espenilla said. The BSP chief was one of the top economic managers in the country to speak at the briefing. Espenilla, in his report, highlighted the key performance indicators as the double-digit growth in assets funded by sustained growth in deposits, the continued expansion in lending, improvements in the banks’ asset quality, sustained profitable operations and more than adequate bank capital in recent years. “The Philippine banking system is in a position of strength that enables it to meet the funding requirements of the growing economy while maintaining strong, healthy buffers against risks,” the BSP chief assured. At the same time, Espenilla said the BSP is keen on pursuing initiatives to deepen the local debt market. “This will go a long way in funding in-

frastructure and other big-ticket investments,” he said. Steps toward achiev ing President Duterte’s ambitious infrastructure reform is one of the overarching themes of the briefing that focused on buildi ng publ ic st r uc t u res outside Metro Manila and on to other areas of the country. The governor also took the opportunity to assure markets of their readiness to respond swiftly should inflation expectations get out of hand this year and next. “We see these inf lation drivers as transitory. However, we are closely monitoring the situation. Amid the pickup in inflation, we stand ready to act, if needed, to firmly anchor inf lation expectations so that inf lation targets will continue to be met in 2018 to 2019,” Espenilla said.

Interest groups seek greater transparency on GSIS fund deployment decisions


special interest group advancing the welfare of government employees from around the country is appalled that state-owned Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has allegedly chosen to be opaque on its investment activities and has played the deaf ear on their repeated requests for greater clarity on the matter. This was learned from the Confederation of Government Employees Organizations Inc. (Cogeo) and the National Association of Lawyers for Justice and Peace (NALJP) represented in this case by Jesus I. Santos, himself a lawyer. According to Santos, the two organizations have since asked the GSIS to account for the $800 million worth of pension funds deployed in overseas markets ostensibly for the benefit and welfare of millions of GSIS members but that their pleadings allegedly have been largely ignored. He also said he has written the thenofficer in charge of the Office of the President and General Manager at the fund a letter for the group to be informed on the financial standing of GSIS funds and assets, copies of the board resolution, investments and expenses of then-GSIS President and General Manager Robert Vergara, as well as explain why the provident funds of the late former GSIS trustee Alejandro Roces and that of his own were denied them.

Santos has deplored the continued GSIS refusal to release the provident fund benefits earned when both were GSIS trustees under Vergara. “We worked as trustees at the GSIS and earned the benefits that continues to be denied us at present,” he complained. He would also dwell on the matter of the sale of the 18-story Philcomcen building along Ortigas Avenue, that the GSIS sold under bidding conditions to the Gotianuns of Filinvest for some P772 million as part of the pension fund’s asset disposal program. Then-GSIS OIC President and General Manager Nora Malubay-Saludares would subsequently tell Santos in a letter that the investment decision of the GSIS board of trustees and management he has sought are subject to so-called disclosure guidelines under Board Resolution 241 on November 24, 2011, that vested those decisions a level of secrecy categorized as Highly Classified Information that may not be shared so openly with anyone. Such commercially sensitive transactions, Saludares claimed, have very limited disclosure range. Still, Santos lament that the GSIS, given the nature and origin of its funds, owe their members and special interest groups as the Cogeo and NALJP, greater transparency on their investment decisions.

Delinquent employers hit with sanctions


he Social Security System (SSS) has reported collecting more than P200,000 from delinquent employers in just a month after pursuing the so-called Run After Contribution Evaders (RACE) campaign in Lipa, Batangas. SSS President and CEO Emmanuel F. Dooc said the SSS is happy with the P219,508.09 collected from the RACE campaign and hoped that employer compliance will increase in the coming months. “We would like to thank the employers who immediately responded to our warning. They registered their business and employees with SSS and paid their delinquencies, as well. We hope this will be the start of our good partnership in providing social-security protection to our members,” Dooc added. Six out of 11 employers have already responded to so-called show-cause orders (SCOs) posted by the RACE team during an operation last month. The SSS said Johan Marlo Food Enterprise and Redberry Trading have already settled their total delinquency amounting to over P158,000, while Diandra Denise Boutique opted for an installment scheme and paid only P19,707. Charles and Patty Food Products, Maritonee’s Snack House and Swiss Sushi Food Corner already registered with the SSS and settled in full their principal delinquency and accumulated penalty amounting to almost P26,500. “We encourage our employers to continue their good practices by faithfully complying with their statutory obligations under the law in order for us to provide the social security benefits that our workers deserve,” he added. Five other delinquent employers namely; TV Llanes Lotto Outlet, Buenviaje Ana Virginia Marie Rodriguez, Four Coolitz Enterprises, Chriki Colleczione Corp. and Elisse Fashion Corp. still failed to coordinate with SSS Lipa branch and settle their obligations despite the issuance of SCOs in March. Dooc said legal action will be taken against these employers since they failed to reply within the non-extendible period of 15 days. “Formal demand letters were already delivered to the employers who failed to reply with the show-cause order. However, our members need not worry because SSS will constantly monitor these employers until they comply with their obligations,” he added. Under the Social Security Act of 1997, employers proven guilty are penalized by a maximum jail term of 12 years and required to settle their delinquencies and accumulated penalties. Last month the SSS conducted the first regional RACE campaign against more than 50 stores at a shopping mall in Lipa City in Batangas. Dooc said more than 60 percent of the 54 stores mapped by SSS were noncompliant with Republic Act 8282 or the Social Security Act of 1997. He said of the 36 noncompliant establishments, 11 were intermittently paying, six were nonpaying and 19 were non-registrants. Dooc called on all employees to be vigilant and regularly check their SSS accounts to ensure their employers remit their contributions to SSS. He urged them to report immediately to SSS any irregularity in contributions. Rea Cu

HSBC Manila launches digital banking for corporate clients


SBC Philippines recently received approval from the Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas (BSP) to release an app called HSBCnet Mobile, allowing authorized users to access their corporate bank accounts and cash management services using their smart phones. The HSBCnet Mobile app is already available for free download from the App Store and Google Play Store and will support Touch ID and Face ID, specifically on Apple iPhones. Using fingerprint and facial recognition rather than a password is more intuitive and easier to set up, while simultaneously ensuring digital banking is at its most secure. Wick Veloso, HSBC president and CEO for Philippines, comments: “It is a significant milestone for HSBC Philippines to introduce biometrics for our corporate

banking clients using our digital banking platform, HSBCnet. These developments clearly help us meet our client’s needs in this fast-paced digital world.” The HSBCnet mobile app is a major step toward allowing chief financial officers, treasurers and their teams to work more flexibly and securely, while staying connected to their core functions and responsibilities. “We continue to leverage on technology and innovation to provide clients with digital products and services that are simple, convenient and secure. The HSBCnet mobile app allows our clients to access their accounts globally by utilizing the latest technology in the area of security and biometrics. The new, intuitive user interface allows senior business executives to view account balances, recent transactions and approve payments from anywhere and at any time.” Veloso added. By developing digital solutions, HSBC aims

to continuously deliver the most secure and convenient banking services to its clients, as part of its long-term investment strategy. HSBC’s global network and international connectivity allows the bank to serve the full range of banking customers—from individual savers to large multinationals—in the Philippines and beyond. “HSBC invested $2.3 billion between 2015 and 2017 as part of its ongoing digital transformation. With almost 143 years of operating in the Philippines, introducing the HSBCnet mobile app is the latest step we have taken to provide our corporate clients with a seamless, secure and digital banking experience in this digital age.” Veloso said. Apart from the Philippines, the HSBCnet Mobile app is available in 41 countries across Europe, Americas, Middle East and Asia Pacific.

BOK keeps benchmark interest rate steady


he Bank of Korea (BOR) has kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged last Thursday, with investors’ focus quickly turned to Governor Lee Ju-yeol’s views of the economy and rising trade tensions. The policy meeting was Lee’s first since being reappointed last month. All 16 economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected no change to the key rate, now at 1.5 percent. Most analysts saw a rate increase in the second half of the year.

Analysts cite inflation still far below the central bank’s 2-percent target, as well as uncertainties posed by US-China trade tensions as among reasons for the BOK rate freeze. While noting that the direction for rates is higher, Lee has said repeatedly that monetary policy will remain accommodative and that financial conditions wouldn’t be tight even after one or two rate increases. The central bank typically announces its rate decision at about 10

a.m. in Seoul, and shortly after released a policy statement that included brief assessments of the economy and inflation. In its January forecast, the BOK said it expected the economy to grow 3 percent this year and inflation to register 1.7 percent. With the latest inflation reading at only 1.3 percent, and a stronger won-curbing import-price gains, the central bank could lower its inflation forecast, according to NH Investment & Securities Co. Bloomberg News

The World BusinessMirror

Editor: Lyn Resurreccion • Monday, April 16, 2018 A7

‘Mission accomplished!’ What is the mission in Syria?


ASHINGTON—On the morning after, President Donald J. Trump declared success. The surgical strike against chemical-weapons facilities in Syria had been executed perfectly, he said last Saturday. “Mission Accomplished!” he wrote on Twitter. That’s a phrase presidents and politicians have studiously avoided since President George W. Bush’s ill-fated aircraft-carrier visit prematurely declaring success in the Iraq War. But, aside from the curious choice of words, it raised the essential question regarding Syria going beyond the one-time strike: What exactly is the mission? For most of Trump’s presidency, it has been to defeat the Islamic State (IS) and then get out. But what Trump outlined in his televised speech to the nation last Friday night was something more complicated. He promised a sustained campaign to stop Syria’s government from again using chemical weapons on its own people, while also emphasizing the limits of the United States’s ability or willingness to do more to stop the broader bloodletting that has devastated that country for seven years. Trump finds himself in a position not all that different from that of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, and with no easier answers. The strike brought home Trump’s competing impulses when it comes to Syria—on the one hand, his manful chest-thumping intended to demonstrate that he is the toughest one on the international block, and on the other, his deep conviction that US involvement in the Middle East since the attacks of September 11, 2001, has been a waste of blood and treasure. He did little to reconcile those impulses with his retaliatory strike to punish the government of President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack a week ago that killed dozens of people. But then again, he reflected the contradictions of a US public that is tired of trying to solve other people’s

problems in the Middle East, yet recoils at the haunting images of dead children choked by gas.

Conditional praise

Veterans of Washington policymaking in the Middle East offered conditional praise for Trump’s restrained approach to the strike, if not necessarily his more bellicose rhetoric. In hitting three sites associated with Assad’s chemical-weapons capabilities, limiting it to a single night and conducting it in conjunction with Britain and France, they said it sent a message while avoiding a deeper involvement and minimizing the risk of provoking Syria’s patrons, Russia and Iran, into retaliating themselves. “However, I don’t think the strike clarifies US policy,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who oversaw the Iraq War as Bush’s deputy national security adviser. “In theory, there is not necessarily an inconsistency between a targeted, multilateral strike against chemicalweapons sites and the withdrawal of troops that have been fighting ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria]. But the strike does really call into question the wisdom of pulling back American forces now in highlighting the question of what our objective really is in Syria.”

A waste that accomplished little

Others argued that the strike was a waste that accomplished little and, in the process, exceeded the president’s authority as commander in chief, since he did not obtain authorization from Congress first. Critics said if Trump was truly moved by humanitarian concern over the victims of last weekend’s attack, he should reverse his policy of barring virtually any new Syrian refugees from the United States. “The ongoing bloodshed and war

IN this image provided by the US Navy, the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land-attack missile on April 14 as part of the military response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on April 7. The United States, France and Britain launched military strikes in Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad for an apparent chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again. Lt. J.G. Matthew Daniels/U.S. Navy via AP

crimes in Syria are a stark reminder that Syrian civilians need our support now more than ever,” Noah Gottschalk of Oxfam America said in a statement. “Yet the Trump administration still lacks a coherent strategy to actually bring an end to the conflict and, instead, has sought to slash humanitarian aid and slam the door on Syrian refugees.”

Did little to weaken Assad

BY most accounts, the strike essentially left in place the status quo on the ground. It did little if anything to weaken Assad beyond any chemical-weapons stores it destroyed, leaving him to continue waging war on his own people through conventional means. It did nothing to exact the “big price” Trump promised to impose on Russia and Iran for enabling Assad’s chemical attacks. Indeed, Trump has shown little interest in trying to steer Syria to a resolution of its civil war, eschewing the sort of Geneva diplomacy that absorbed Obama’s last secretary of state, John F. Kerry, to little apparent effect. Trump sees Syria in two boxes— the fight against the IS, in which he

I don’t think the strike clarifies US policy.” — O’Sullivan has declared near victory, and the multisided civil war that he wants no part of, saying as he did just days ago, “Let the other people take care of it now.” But that is an artificial bifurcation in a country torn by violence on all sides. The civil war affects the ability of the IS to operate and vice versa. Trump may have opted for the more cautious approach urged by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis instead of a more crippling attack that may have been favored by his new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, but he did not settle the larger question. Asked last Friday before the missiles began flying to explain the US’s strategy in Syria, Heather Nauert, the State Department spokesman, demurred. “I’m not going to get ahead of the president,” she said. Even when the president spoke later that night, he was somewhat vague in describing his own strategy. While he said he was

“prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” he did not explain what he meant or how far he was willing to go beyond saying he would also use economic and diplomatic tools.

Unaware of history

Colin H. Kahl, who was the national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, said Trump “wisely avoided hitting regime targets where there was a significant risk of killing Russians,” but for that very reason did little real harm to Assad. “Indeed, the relatively cautious nature of the strike signaled that we were deterred from taking larger action, potentially undercutting the credible US threat of doing more down the line if the regime continues to use chemical weapons,” he said. Fundamentally, these factors are not that different than they were during Obama’s presidency, but

Trump often seems unaware of history, even recent history. His use of the phrase “mission accomplished” last Saturday, for example, invited unwelcome comparisons to Bush’s experience. Bush appeared on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 after US troops toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq and declared the end of major combat operations. Behind him was a large banner declaring “Mission Accomplished,” which White House aides later said was meant as a congratulations to the carrier crew returning home but became a metaphor for miscalculation as a virulent insurgency consumed Iraq. “Um ... I would have recommended ending this tweet with not those two words,” Ari Fleischer, who was Bush’s White House press secretary at the time, wrote on Twitter last Saturday. When Bush made his appearance in spring 2003, he said, the words seemed fitting. “By the Fall,” he added, “the shot of Bush with the banner became a symbol of what went wrong.”

Calibrating language with actions

Philip H. Gordon, who was Obama’s White House coordinator of Middle East policy, said one of the challenges for Trump was calibrating his language with his actions. In effect, Gordon said, the president seemed to be trying to find a reasoned middle ground in Syria that belies his own tough talk. “You can make a case that we are trying to thread a needle that’s tough to thread, but the needle is to do enough to deter the regime from using chemical weapons but not so much that sucks us into the Syrian civil war and gets us into conflict with Iran and Russia,” he said. Rather than pay attention to Trump’s words, Gordon said the strategy was better articulated by Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and Mattis, who described the strike as an effort to stop Assad from using chemical weapons but noted that it was not intended to achieve broader goals. “What May and Mattis said could be considered a legitimate strategy,” Gordon said. “The risk is, with this president and this administration, is he going to be disciplined enough and restrained enough to thread that needle? Those are not his fortes.” New York Times News Service

Certain of chemical weapons attack, allies struck Syria before UN inspectors’ report


ASHINGTON—The United States, Britain and France opted to strike Syria for its apparent use of chemical weapons without waiting for a report from United Nations inspectors because they were convinced that the Assad government had used chlorine and sarin nerve gas against a rebel-held Damascus suburb, American officials said last Saturday. The allies also acted because of concerns that Russian and Syrian

forces may already have tried to clean up important evidence in Douma, where more than 40 people died in last weekend’s attack, the officials said. The three countries launched their missiles even as the fact-finding team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was in the Syrian capital and had been expected to head on Saturday to Douma. Russia and Syria have denied that chemical weapons were used at all and

said their own investigators had been to the area and found no trace of them. Those assertions have been denounced as lies by Western officials. The West’s assessments of what happened on April 7 in Douma rely mainly on open-source information. That includes witness testimony, as well as video and photos shot by aid workers, victims of the attacks and unspecified additional intelligence about barrel bombs and chlorine

canisters found in the aftermath. Barrel bombs are large containers packed with fuel, explosives and scraps of metal, and British Prime Minister Theresa May said reports indicated the Syrian government had used one to deliver the chemicals. The White House said doctors and aid organizations on the ground in Douma reported “the strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin.”

A senior administration official told reporters last Saturday that, while there was more publicly available evidence pointing to the use of chlorine, the US has “significant information that also points to sarin use.” The official did not elaborate on what that information entailed. Chlorine use has been a recurring footnote in the course of Syria’s civil war, but rarely has it generated the same outrage as reports of sarin use. Chlorine has legitimate industrial

and other civilian uses, so it is not banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention. The treaty does, however, prohibit the use of chlorine as a weapon. One senior US official familiar with the decision to act last Friday said the US, British and French intelligence services were unanimous in their assessments of the attack and were “eager” to move when they did because of concerns about contamination of the site. AP

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Defiant Syrians say West hasn’t shaken their resolve’


AMASCUS, Syria—Hundreds of Syrians poured into the streets of Damascus last Saturday, dancing and chanting in defiance of what they called the West’s “failure” to shake their nation’s resolve with air strikes that jolted the capital only hours earlier. The demonstrations in support of President Bashar al-Assad were carried live on state TV, which also reported that Syrian air defenses had intercepted most of the missiles fired by the United States, Britain and France to punish Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons. The broadcaster also urged people not to believe media reports that exaggerated the results of the air strikes. “We are not scared of America’s missiles. We humiliated their missiles,” said Mahmoud Ibrahim, who waved a Syrian flag as he hung out of his car window. As car horns blared, the crowd moved toward nearby Damascus University where pro-government fighters danced and waved their automatic rifles over their heads. Many denounced US President Donald J. Trump and also waved flags of Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia, as they cheered Assad. The display of national fervor later mixed with celebrations over the news that the Syrian army declared the eastern suburbs of Damascus “fully liberated” after the last group of rebels left the town of Douma. Its recapture marks the biggest victory for Assad’s forces since the capture of the eastern half of the city of Aleppo in 2016. The fall of Douma came after a punishing government offensive and a surrender deal struck with

rebel groups. It also followed the purported use of chemical weapons there on April 7, which activists say killed over 40 people in the town and led to Saturday’s air strikes by the West. “Trump failed in his aggression,” said 51-year-old civil servant Mohammed Hammad. “Trump’s failure came with the victory of our army in Douma, which marks the biggest victory for the Syrian Arab Army.” The bombardment began at 4 a.m., with loud explosions thundering in Damascus and the sky turning orange as fires raged in the distance. Associated Press reporters saw smoke rising above eastern Damascus and spotted fiery streaks of surface-to-air missiles. The call to morning prayers at dawn mixed with the whoosh of missiles. Shortly after the one-hour attack ended, vehicles with loudspeakers blared nationalist songs. “Good souls will not be humiliated,” Syria’s presidential account tweeted after the air strikes began. Later, a video showing Assad walking into his office carrying a briefcase was posted on the same account. “Good morning, steadfastness,” the caption read. As the sun rose, hundreds had gathered in Damascus’s landmark Omayyad Square, celebrating what they said was the army’s success in foiling the US-led military action.

Syrian government supporters wave Syrian, Iranian and Russian flags as they chant slogans against US President Donald J. Trump during demonstrations, following a wave of United States, British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians, in Damascus, Syria, on April 14. Hundreds of Syrians are demonstrating in a landmark square in the Syrian capital, waving victory signs and honking their car horns in a show of defiance. AP/Hassan Ammar

The widely broadcast celebrations and the hastily organized police deployment in Douma appeared to be the government’s response to the air strikes. The limited air strikes came at a time when the Assad government was feeling empowered after having secured the region near the capital following other military victories backed by Russia and Iran in seven years of civil war. Trump announced the air strikes last Friday night to attack Syria’s chemical-weapons program. He said Washington is prepared to keep pressure on Assad until he ends a “criminal pattern of killing his own people” with the internationally banned weapons. Last Saturday Trump tweeted “Mission Accomplished,” and the

UN rejects Russian resolution on Syria


NITED NATIONS—The United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of “aggression” by the United States, United Kingdom and France against Syria last Saturday, a vote reflecting support for the allied air strikes on Syrian chemical sites. But the vote at the end of an emergency meeting called by Russia also demonstrated again the paralysis of the UN’s most powerful body in dealing with Syria’s seven-year conflict. Russia’s demand for condemnation and an immediate halt to “aggression” and “any further use of force” by the three Western allies got support from only two other countries on the 15-member Security Council—China and Bolivia. By contrast, eight countries voted against the Russian draft—the US, UK, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Kuwait, Poland and Ivory Coast. Four countries abstained—Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea and Peru. At the meeting, the fifth in a week on chemical weapons in Syria, Russia and its supporters again clashed with the US and its allies over a suspected poisongas attack on April 7 in the Damascus suburb of Douma. The United States, UK and France said they launched air strikes against Syrian chemical sites after obtaining evidence that a chemical weapon was used by President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Russia and its ally Syria called the attack fabricated and said no evidence of chemical-weapons use exists in Douma. US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council that “there is clear information demonstrating Assad’s culpability.” And she said President Donald J. Trump told her last Saturday morning that if the Syrian regime uses poisonous gas again, “the United States is locked and loaded” to strike again. “When our president draws a red line, our president enforces the red line,” Haley stressed. “The United States of

Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari (left) shakes hands with Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia after a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria on April 14 at United Nations headquarters in New York City. AP/Mary Altaffer America will not allow the Assad regime to continue using chemical weapons.” France’s UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said the result of the vote sends “a clear message” that Security Council members recognized the need for the air strikes, and “their proportional and targeted nature.” “And what’s most important is no one contests that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated and must be deterred,” he added. “That is essential.” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the meeting confirmed that the US and its allies “continue to put international politics and diplomacy in the realm of myth-making—myths invented in London, Paris and Washington.” “We put facts contrary to your myths,” he said. “If we continue on this path, we will soon reach the diplomacy of the absurd.” Russia and Syria also clashed with the three Western allies over the legality of the air strikes and responsibility for the Security Council’s paralysis. Britain’s UN Ambas-

sador Karen Pierce blamed Russia for repeatedly vetoing resolutions on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and said the UK took military action “to save lives,” on the legal basis of “humanitarian intervention.” Britain believes “that is wholly within the principles and practices of the United Nations,” she said. Russia’s Nebenzia called it “a very sad day for the world, for the...for its Charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated, and for the Security Council, which has shirked its responsibilities.” “I would like to believe that we will not see a day that is worse than today,” he said. Looking ahead, Delattre said France, Britain and the US will soon be presenting the Security Council with a new draft resolution aimed at achieving a lasting solution to the Syrian conflict that addresses political, chemical and humanitarian issues. A draft resolution circulated by the three countries and obtained late last Saturday by The Associated Press would condemn all use of chemical weapons, especially the April 7 attack in Douma. It seeks answers from Syria on gaps in its chemical-weapons declaration to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And it would establish a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks, call for a cease-fire in Syria, unimpeded access for all humanitarian aid and an urgent resumption of negotiations on a political settlement. Nebenzia responded, saying the environment is “not very conducive for any rapprochement” and “the political and dangerous military situation we are in now” must be sorted out first. “Once again, we demand an immediate stop to aggression and refrain from the illegal use of force in the future,” he said. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who briefed the council before the vote, stressed again “the need to avoid the situation from spiraling out of control” and for a political solution. AP

Pentagon said the strikes hit the “heart” of Syria’s chemical program. The US had fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad’s use of sarin gas against civilians. Syria has repeatedly denied using banned weapons. Inspectors from the international chemical-weapons watchdog group were in Damascus and had been expected to head to Douma last Saturday. The limited strikes were deplored by the Syrian opposition, which saw the West as lacking an

international strategy for dealing with the civil war. Nasr al-Hariri, a senior opposition leader, said the international community must take responsibility for any retaliation by the Syrian government against civilians in opposition areas. He called for a strategy that leads to a political solution to “save it from the brutality of the Syrian regime.” Mohammad Alloush, spokesman for the Army of Islam rebel group that was expelled from Douma, tweeted that the air strikes were a “farce.”

We are not scared of America’s missiles. We humiliated their missiles.”—Ibrahim

A Syrian military statement said 110 missiles were fired last Saturday by the US, Britain and France, and that it shot down most of them. Russia’s military said Syrian air-defense units downed 71 of the missiles. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said no missiles were stopped. He added that Syria’s air defenses were ineffective, and that many of the more than 40 surfaceto-air missiles fired by the Syrians were launched after the allied attack was over. He said the US knew of no civilians killed by allied missiles. The Syrian military said three civilians were wounded in one of the strikes in Homs. A “number of missiles” targeted a scientific research center in Barzeh, near Damascus, and destroyed a building housing an education center and labs and caused other damage, the military said. An Associated Press reporter who went to the Center for Scientific Research on the northeastern edge of Damascus found the threestory building almost completely destroyed and still smoking hours after it was hit. An official there said the facility was used by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and helped develop cancer drugs. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a chemical weapons-storage facility west of Homs also was targeted, and was believed to be the main site of Syrian sarin-production equipment. A chemical-weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post, west of Homs, also were targeted, he said. Russia and Iran called the use of force a “military crime” and “act of aggression.” The UN Security Council met to debate the strikes, but rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of the “aggression” by the three Western allies. AP

European leaders back Syria air strikes; China against


any European leaders and the prime minister of Canada voiced support and understanding for the United States-led air strikes against Syria, but warned against allowing the seven-year conflict to escalate. Venezuela and China, however, condemned the air strikes as violating international law. Here are some reactions:


China: “As always, we oppose the use of force in international relations and call for respect for other countries’ sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Any unilateral military action bypassing the Security Council runs contrary to the purpose and principles of the UN [United Nations] charter and violates the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and will further complicate the Syrian issue.”—China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hua Chunying. Japan: “The use of chemical weapons is extremely inhumane, and we cannot absolutely tolerate that. Japan supports the determination of the US, the UK [United Kingdom] and France not to allow the use and proliferation of chemical weapons.”—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Australia: “By continuing to employ chemical weapons against innocent Syrian civilians, the Assad regime has violated international law and abandoned its own commitments to the international community. These strikes are not seeking to escalate the conflict in Syria, but these violations of international law and norms cannot be allowed to continue.”—Australian Defense Minister Marisa Payne.


Bulgaria: “It has always been Bulgaria’s position that no cause justifies the killing of innocent people, including children; that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime and the strike on Syrian targets was a response to a war crime.”—Bulgarian government statement. (Bulgaria currently holds the rotating European Union [EU] presidency.) European Council: “Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia & Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost. The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice.”—Tweet by European Council President Donald Tusk North Atlantic Treaty Organization: “Before the attack took place last night, Nato allies exhausted all other possible ways to address this issue to the UN Security Council but...were blocked by Russia...I am not saying that the attacks last night solved all problems but compared to the alternative to do nothing, this was the right thing

to do.”—Nato Chief Jens Stoltenberg. Germany: “We support the fact that our US, UK and French allies took on responsibility in this way as permanent members of the UN Security Council. The military strike was necessary and appropriate in order to preserve the effectiveness of the international ban on the use of chemical weapons and to warn the Syrian regime against further violations.”—German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Spain: “What has occurred in Syria in recent days goes far beyond the constant violation of cease-fires. The response to these atrocities is legitimate and proportionate.”—Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Turkey: “The people who have been martyred by chemicals is a certain number, but the people martyred by conventional weapons is much, much more.”—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, adding that more must be done to hold the Syrian regime accountable for the hundreds of thousands it has killed using conventional weapons. Greece: “Greece unreservedly condemns the use of chemical weapons and supports efforts to eliminate them... at the same time, the international community should aim for a political and sustainable solution in Syria that will end the war...[and] allow the return of millions of refugees.”— Greece’s Foreign Ministry. Italy: “This was a limited and targeted action to strike the capacity of building or diffusing chemical arms. It cannot and should not be the start of an escalation.”—Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni. EU Commission: “The international community has the responsibility to identify and hold accountable those responsible of any attack with chemical weapons. This was not the first time that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against civilians but it must be the last.”—European Union Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

North and South America

Canada: “Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response, and we condemn in strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”—Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Venezuela: Venezuela’s government said it “energetically condemns” the attack on Syria, calling it a unilateral action that violates Syria’s sovereignty and “the most basic norms of international law.” Mexico: “Mexico reiterates its broadest condemnation of the use of chemical weapons.”—Mexican government statement, as it condemned the use of chemical weapons but did not explicitly approve or disapprove of the military strikes against Syria. AP

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‘Nafta deal could come in weeks’


he North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) could be renegotiated in the next few weeks, US Vice President Mike Pence and Canada’s Prime Minister said last Saturday in Peru, avoiding new political opposition that could emerge during Congressional and Mexican elections later this year.

President Enrique Peña Nieto. “We are very close to the kind of breakthrough on issues of immigration, drug interjection” that will be of benefit to both sides, Pence said. The Trump administration has stuck to five to six of its most controversial demands for changes to Nafta and needs to show flexibility in order to reach a final deal, according to the top representative for Mexico’s private sector. The US has yet to present a proposal for automotive content rules that would be viable for the industry, said Moises Kalach, the trade head for the national business chamber known by its Spanish abbreviation, CCE. Work on a revamped Nafta has the three nations ready to close nine to 10 chapters focused on modernization, including telecommunications, energy and the environment, which would leave chapters with the most contentious issues as those to resolve, he said. “There are five or six demands that are unacceptable for Mexico and unacceptable for the Mexican private sector,” Kalach said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Washington last Friday. “Those demands like the sunset clause, that has the sudden death to it, seasonality to limit exports on fresh products, trade remedies—those are things that the Mexican private sector is not willing to accept and those demands are still on the table. That’s what’s really holding up this negotiation.” Negotiators last week were trying

Pope didn’t ‘overrule’ Bible

Japan protesters call for ‘liar’ Abe to resign over scandal

US Vice President Mike Pence (left) arrives with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the group photo at Americas Summit in Lima, Peru, on April 14. AP/Martin Mejia

I’ll leave this summit very hopeful that we are very close to a renegotiated Nafta.”—Pence to make progress on the most contentious issues, including dispute resolution, access to US procurement deals, a proposal to require more auto manufacturing in North America, seasonal barriers to agriculture trade and a clause that would terminate Nafta after five years unless the nations agree to continue it. Meanwhile, Canada’s minister responsible for industry, Navdeep Bains, met with carmakers last Friday and said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about progress made on the crucial auto issue. The US push to announce a framework deal last week looks to have fallen short after Trump canceled his trip to Peru to participate in a regional summit.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo last Monday said he sees an 80-percent chance of an initial agreement by the first week of May. On the talks for cars, one of the most contentious issues, “we haven’t seen a proposal that’s achievable up to now,” Kalach said. “That has to change in order for this to happen.” The US has at least twice softened demands for changes to the auto sector. US negotiators are now proposing that as much as 75 percent of car parts be sourced from the three countries to quality for tariff exemptions under Nafta, down from an initial proposal of as much as 85 percent, according to three people


familiar with the talks, who asked not to be named as the negotiations are private. The current Nafta level is 62.5 percent. Bains met with Canadian automakers and auto-part makers to discuss several issues including ongoing Nafta talks. “We’re making progress,” the minister said. He cited one-time US interests, such as a border-adjustment tax and a US-specific auto content requirement, that are no longer on the table as positive signs. He and the auto sector representatives discussed the future of the industry, including the role artificial intelligence will play and how the country can attract auto jobs of the future, he said, warning that any sharp changes in Nafta’s rules could hurt the sector. “Any change add costs, any new rules could potentially add costs and that could undermine the ability to compete, that could raise the cost for vehicles,” Bains said. Bloomberg News

Lockheed Martin’s stealthy new missile put to test Syria in strike



ens of thousands of people joined a demonstration outside Japan’s parliament last Saturday, in a sign of growing public anger over cronyism scandals engulfing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Organizers say about 50,000 people attended this weekend’s rally in Tokyo—the biggest in nearly three years. Protesters, many young, held up signs calling Abe a “liar” and seeking his resignation. The prime minister has been forced in parliament to deny his involvement in two controversies over land deals to close associates. An alleged cover-up over the activity of Japanese troops during the Iraq war is also casting a cloud over his government. A spokesman for Abe’s

Top China envoy makes rare Japan visit as Asian powers mend ties


“I’ll leave this summit very hopeful that we are very close to a renegotiated Nafta,” and “there is a real possibility that we could arrive at an agreement within the next several weeks,” Pence told reporters at the Summit of the Americas in Lima. After the meeting with Pence, Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau said the “positive momentum” included the thorny issue of US demands around automobile production. “We would like to see a renegotiated deal land sooner rather than later,” he added. “There is a desire and a recognition by all three Nafta partners that the time lines imposed upon us by both the upcoming, the imminent Mexican elections and the upcoming American midterms, means that we have a certain amount of pressure to try and move forward successfully in the coming weeks,” Trudeau said. The comments restore some more optimism on Nafta after US President Donald J. Trump earlier last week canceled a trip to Peru where Nafta could have been discussed further, and said he could let trade talks go on indefinitely because it would deter companies from investing there. Pence later tweeted that it was “great to speak” with Trudeau. “We discussed progress toward reaching an agreement on Nafta as soon as possible and that a deal must ensure FAIR and RECIPROCAL trade.” Pence also said funding of a wall on the US-Mexico border didn’t come up during a meeting with Mexican

ATICAN CITY—Pope Francis may be pushing the envelope on interpreting Catholic doctrine, but he hasn’t asserted that his words overrule the Bible. False reports that have been trending online claim Francis made the assertion in response to criticism that his teachings “contradict Bible teaching.” Many of the sites posting the story deal in fake news. The article on the Yournewswire site also makes another false claim that the pope has developed a “habit” of hiding the crucifix he wears around his neck in public. The article includes one photo of Francis with the cross tucked inside his sash at a 2014 luncheon with Jewish leaders. But it’s clearly visible in other photos from the same event. Earlier this year, the pope denounced fake news as “evil” but he hasn’t helped himself by agreeing to occasional interviews with a 94-yearold atheist journalist, Eugenio Scalfari, who freely admits he doesn’t take notes or record his interviews, reconstructs conversations from memory and might make mistakes. Scalfari quoted Francis during a Holy Week interview as denying the existence of hell. The Vatican said Scalfari’s account wasn’t a reliable transcript of what the pope actually said. Some conservative and traditionalist Catholics have accused Francis of sowing confusion, if not heresy, with his mercy-over-morals priorities and his cautious opening to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Francis’s defenders say he is merely applying church teaching to the pastoral needs of Catholics today. AP

office didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. The scandals have pushed Abe’s approval ratings toward all-time lows, raising questions about his ability to win the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership election in September. Victory would put him on track to become Japan’s longestserving prime minister. “The large number of people gathering is due to growing anger,” said Takeshi Suwahara, one of the leaders of last Saturday’s protest. “A strong sense of crisis is spreading—people now sincerely feel they have to speak out for what is right.” While the protests are significant in a country where people tend to be reluctant to attend public demonstra-

tions, they are still dwarfed by rallies in the summer of 2015 over Abe’s push to expand the powers of Japan’s military. Organizers of those gatherings said around 350,000 people attended. Helped by a divided opposition and a lack of strong challengers in his own party, Abe has so far been able to shake off several scandals and a slump in support stemming from the passing of controversial laws. His mentor, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, says it will be tough for Abe to win a third term as ruling party chief. “He’s losing public trust,” Koizumi told reporters last Saturday at an event north of Tokyo. “Anything he says is taken as making excuses.” Bloomberg News

he joint United States, French and United Kingdom missile barrage on Syria this week included the battlefield debut of a stealthy new Lockheed Martin Corp. air-launched cruise missile produced as part of a $4.6 billion defense program. Nineteen missiles fired outside Syrian airspace by two B-1B bombers targeted the Barzah Research and Development Center in the greater Damascus area. Those Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs) joined 57 Raytheon Co. Tomahawks that Pentagon officials also said targeted the site. Produced at a Lockheed plant in Troy, Alabama, the JASSM has a low radar cross-section that makes it difficult to detect and is designed to penetrate as far as 200 miles (322 km) into an adversary’s territory. The extended version fired late last Friday night US time can fly more than 500 miles. Tracking a preplanned route from launch to target using Global Positioning Satellites and an internal navigation system, the missile is designed to strike with a 1,000-pound penetrating warhead. W h i l e Pe nt a g o n o f f i c i a l s didn’t specifically single out the JASSMs performance in their briefing last Saturday, the “ before” and “after” photos of the chemical-weapons facility provided by the Pentagon suggested they were effective. Bloomberg News

hina’S foreign minister is making a rare visit to Tokyo, in a sign of improving cooperation between Asia’s two largest economies as they face policy whiplash from the US over trade and security. Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip last Sunday to meet Japanese counterpart Taro Kono will be the first of its kind in more than eight years. Japan is keen to confer with its neighbor ahead of a summit between the two Koreas and a potential meeting between US President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un. China’s bid to repair relations comes as the US threatens trade sanctions and a renewed emphasis on Taiwan ties. Long-fraught ties between Tokyo and Beijing deteriorated to a 40-year low after the Japanese government’s 2012 purchase of disputed islets near Taiwan sparked Chinese demonstrations, damaged trade and even raised fears of a military clash. Since taking office at the height of the dispute, Abe has sought rapprochement with his country’s largest trading partner. He finally managed to turn the tide last year with a qualified pledge of cooperation on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature “Belt and Road” trade and infrastructure initiative. “For the Abe administration, China is essential to effectively pressuring North Korea,” said Madoka Fukuda, a professor of global politics at Hosei University in Tokyo. China is motivated by a lack of transparency in US policy-making, as well as tougher American security and trade stances, she added. Abe is set to meet Trump in Florida next week, where he plans to press the president to maintain a hard line on North Korea and seek to persuade him to take a more multilateral approach to trade.

Tensions linger

Despite the diplomatic push, tensions over territory and Japan’s militarist history remain. Coast guard and military ships from both countries continue to tail one another around the uninhabited Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyus to China. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces activated a new amphibious unit to help defend remote islands just a week ago. A poll published last December found a marked fall in the percentage of respondents in Japan and China who saw ties between the two countries negatively. Still, few see the relationship as good. On the agenda for Sunday’s talks will be preparations for a May trip to Japan by Premier Li Keqiang. Abe has expressed hopes the exchanges will presage a return to regular reciprocal visits between leaders of the two countries. A high-level Japan-China economic dialogue will resume on Monday, amid concerns in both countries about the potential for a trade war sparked by the US. The Chinese are seeking Japanese cooperation on US steel and aluminum tariffs implemented last month, Kyodo News reported last Saturday, citing people close to the talks. Trump threw fresh confusion into trade negotiations last Thursday by instructing advisers to review the possibility of returning to the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. The TPP, which Trump withdrew from soon after taking office last year, includes 11 Pacific Rim nations, but not China. Successful visits by Wang and Li would provide positive publicity at a crucial time for Abe, whose chances of winning a ruling party leadership election last September have been damaged by a series of allegations of cronyism and government coverups. Recent polls show public support for his cabinet has fallen below disapproval. Bloomberg News

The Regions BusinessMirror

Clark City to be developed as PHL’s next big metro hub By Rea Cu



INANCE Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the ​ development of the New Clark City in Pampanga seeks to create the country’s next big metropolis and decongest Metro Manila’s highly populated urban centers.

D u r i ng t he second leg of the  Philippine Economic Briefing 2018 in Clark, Pampanga, last Friday, the finance chief said the New Clark City is envisioned to be a hub of agro-industrial activities, home to cutting-edge technology and logistics companies, and host to well-equipped backup government centers and world-class

sports facilities. “It captures what the ‘Build Build Build’ [BBB] program aspires to ac hieve: A coherent national logistics circuit that will support our country’s rapid and inclusive development,” Dominguez said. He added alongside the development of New Clark City is the

construction of railways going to Subic and Manila, and the expansion of the Clark International Airport (CIA). The CIA would be getting a new terminal building to accommodate a projected 8 million passengers per year to help relieve the congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. The expansion project for the Clark airport broke ground last December. “This, truly, is where the future begins. We envision this as the hub of agro-industrial activities, as well as the home for cutting-edge technology companies. Clark, in the near future, will be the growth driver for Luzon,” he added. The Duterte administration is undertaking at least three flagship infrastructure projects under its BBB program as the linchpin of its strategy to ​develop major alternative growth areas in Central and Northern Luzon.

Dominguez said the three projects already approved by the National Economic and Development Authority Board, are the P4.37-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, which will provide water to 8,700 hectares of agricultural land, benefitting 4,350 farmers and serving 21 barangays in the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga; the P211.43-billion Philippine National Railways North 2 Project, which will connect Malolos in Bulacan, Clark Airport and Clark Green City; and the P12.55-billion Clark International Airport New Terminal Building, which will increase the airport’s capacity to help pave the way to the accelerated growth of Central Luzon and nearby areas. “Clark will soon be the showcase of the Duterte administration’s economic strategy. We expect this area to be the growth driver for Central and Northern Luzon,” Dominguez said.

Police crack down on 26 GenSan barangays with drug-selling kids


ENERAL SANTOS CITY—Police authorities have implemented clearing operations at 26 barangays following reports that four children being used by local drug syndicates to sell illegal drugs were killed in a separate incidents in a week. Police record showed that Children-In-Conf lict with the Law (CICL) have increased their numbers, from 3,000 in 2017 to 4,000 this 2018 and reported that many of the recruited minors were using and selling methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, also known as the poor man’s cocaine. However, Arabeque Batilong, the City Social Welfare and Development Officer, said their office is still validating and evaluating the exact figure of how many were really minor children because, based on their actual records, they only have more or less 40 cases of CICL. Most of the reports of minors in the police blotter showed, upon verification, that they were really adults. “This reported 3,000 in number that increased to 4,000 CICL was just an estimated figure of the police. We believe many of those classified as children were really adults,” Batilong said. Gerry N. Adlaw

SECOND CROP A farmer shows palay seedlings ready for the second crop planting in Pangasinan, a province in the Ilocos



35,000 jam SM City Baliwag’s Castaway Music Fest By Catherine Joy L. Maglalang Correspondent


ALIWAG, Bulacan—At least 35,000 attendees from all over the province of Bulacan and nearby places participated in this year’s Castaway Music Festival at the SM Mall here. It was more than the 25,000 people who partied the previous year. Now on its second leg, the festival enthralled music lovers with the most sought-after live performances of the country’s leading rock bands and music icons.

SM City Baliwag was filled with performances from Brisom, followed by the appearance of homegrown band 1999 Filipino Pop Rock Band Orange and Lemons, who performed their hit single “Hanggang kailan” and “Yakap sa Dilim.” Bands like Urbandub and Ebe Dancel gave renditions and moving interpretations of popular “original Pilipino music” or OPM. In addition to the lineup, the festival also highlighted the 24 years of Rivermaya in the music industry. The 1994 Filipino Alternative Rock band, led by its

frontman Mike Elgar, took back its audience to the 1990s as they sang “Ulan.” Most of the songs performed reflected the band’s evolution from young upstarts to confident hitmakers. “Tatsulok,” “Liwanag sa Dilim,” “Elesi,” “Kisapmata” and “Hinahanap Hanap Kita” were among the songs played, giving the audience a trip across the very best of what Rivermaya is about. Along with big names in the music industry, Cast Away showcased an unrivalled sound system and mesmerizing light show, as well as the grandest fireworks.

“This music festival is one way of thanking our shoppers. We hope that this event creates moments of connection with our customers while we foster patronization in our own music,” SM Baliwag Mall Manager Andrew Cristobal said. Cast Away is one of the many exciting summer activities in SM Bulacan Malls. Apart from the music festival, SM Center Pulilan and SM City Marilao will hold the biggest dance competitions in Bulacan through the Illumination dance parties on April 27 and May 19.

Editor: Dennis D. Estopace • Monday, April 16, 2018 A11

Celebrities favor Boracay closure, call for sustainable measures to rehab island By Jun N. Aguirre & Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco Correspondents


OR AC AY ISLAND—Both foreign and local celebrities all over the world have expressed support for the planned closure of Boracay Island for six months, saying it is necessary to prolong the life of the island. Rachel Grant, a British-Filipina best known for being a James Bond girl, said in an online interview that, for many, this is a big concern and might seem like a huge step back. “When I first heard about the closure of Boracay, I was surprised and thought of all those who would lose their jobs and businesses. But let’s look at this as possibly a huge step forward, “ she said. Grant is best known for her role as a James Bond girl in the 2002 movie Die Another Day, with British actor Pierce Brosnan and United States actress Halle Berry. She also appeared as Maria Ronson in the film Until Death with Belgian martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme. “What future will these businesses and workers have if the island becomes so polluted and unsafe for inhabitants and visitors? What about our responsibilities with caring for our natural resources, natural environment, rare marine life, endangered species and reefs? We have some of the world’s finest, and it is our duty to keep it that way,” she said. “A healthy and beautiful environment on Boracay will lead to a stronger economy. A rehab period is very much worth the sacrifice and, if planned carefully and properly, will provide many new jobs to residents. A closure is also an opportunity to address the situation of the Ati community on Boracay—the original inhabitants who have been marginalized, moved from their ancestral homes and reduced to a community of 200,” Grant added. Rockwell Ryan Ripperger, vocalist of the Stephen Speaks band, said in a separate interview the beaches in the United States. Ripperger, who popularized the songs “Passenger Seat” and “Out of My League,” hails from Oklahoma, USA. “I dont really know enough to know all the details. But what I’ve heard is true, that the sewage is getting into the water, absolutely. It is better to lose the place for a few months than to lose it forever. So many beaches in the US that used to be beautiful have become overpopulated and completely trashed, and now they are junk. No one goes there anymore. My first inclination is that this is the best move they can make so the preservation of Boracay in the long term,” Ripperger said. Local celebrity Gabby Concepcion said he also favors the sixmonth closure of Boracay during a news conference in Kalibo, Aklan, on April 12. “But I hope the national government will also put emphasis on the preservation of our coral reefs. Coral reefs in Boracay are the major food source of tourists there, as coral reefs serve as a shelter of marine life, such as fish, which is a major factor in their reproduction.

Without coral reefs, there will be no fish,” he said. Concepcion, as endorser came to visit the opening of the fourth McDonald store in Kalibo, Aklan. Two of these branches are in Boracay. Meanwhile, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) said workers who will be affected by the closure of Boracay need not worry. The Tesda in Region 6 is all set to help workers and residents who will be affected by the rehabilitation of Boracay Island in Aklan starting April 26. Tesda Director General Guiling A. Mamondiong ordered officials and employees of the agency’s provincial office  to create a contingency plan that will assist the 73,522 affected residents, including 17,326 registered employees and 11,000 unregistered workers of Boracay Island. Joel M. Villagracia, Tesda provincial director of Aklan, said they will offer free skills training to the affected workers and residents. For the first program, Tesda will offer skills training under the Training for Work Scholarship Program, such as agri-business, information technology-business process management, semiconductors and electronics, he added. Under the Special Training for Employment Program, the agency will offer manicure, pedicure,  sewing, massage therapy and breadmaking. “We will do an inventory of the available qualifications for the affected people so that we will know the number of available slots. For the month of April until June, we hope to train some 2,000 applicants,” Villagracia said. Tesda officials are inviting interested applicants to enlist for the program at the Boracay Holiday (in Boracay Island), Malay mainland and at the Tesda office in Kalibo. After they have enlisted, Tesda will profile the list of applicants so that they will determine the type of program for them and avail themselves of the National Certification. Under the Action Plan Save Boracay, the first round of  training will start on April 26 and will end on June 30. On April 14 the agency started its information campaign for its free skills-training program. For the second round of training, the agency said the enrollment will start on  June 15. Its classes will begin on July 1 and will wrap up on September 30. Villagracia said the students will be given an allowance and tool kits. President Duterte ordered the closure of the tourist island for six months to give way to the major cleanup after it was found to have violated water, waste-management and land-use regulations. Villagracia said government agencies that coordinated with Tesda for the implementation of the action plan were the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Trade and Industry, Philippine National Police, local government units of Malay, techn ic a l-voc at iona l i nst it ut ions and Association TVET Schools in Aklan. 

Damaged St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi to be demolished


AINT Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi City, damaged by the war between government forces and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-inspired groups last year, will soon be demolished, Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Peña confirmed in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of t he

Philippines news web site last Saturday. “We will rebuild the cathedral, but only after they have rebuilt their city and their Masjids,” said the Catholic prelate, who was recently at ground zero for the second time since the conflict was declared over in October last year.

“For the meantime, we focus our energies on rebuilding communities,” de la Peña added. The scheduled demolition of the 84-year-old cathedral and the residence will be decided by the bishop. De la Peña said his visit only lasted for about 20 minutes, noting the military did not allow them to stay

longer for security reasons. The bishops who joined the Catholic prelate included Severo Caermare of Dipolog, Angelito Lampon of Jolo, Julius Tonel of Ipil, Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian, archbishops Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz and Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, and Fr. Jose Roel Casas,

administrator of Isabela prelature. The church will be among the structures to be demolished by the government, since they are no longer structurally sound. The leveling of damaged structures and clearing of debris is set to begin this June—a process that may take up to 10 months.

Church-based organizations, such as Duyog Marawi, and the Aid to the Church in Need Philippines have launched their respective campaigns to help rebuild the war-torn city. The Marawi siege, which erupted on May 23 last year, had claimed over 1,000 lives, and displaced about half a million people. PNA

Green Monday BusinessMirror

A12 Monday, April 16, 2018 • Editor: Lyn Resurreccion

IFPRI: PHL could supplement 57%-60% of its energy needs with renewables by 2040


he Philippines could supplement 57 percent to 60 percent of its energy needs with renewables by 2040, by adopting a strategy to increase renewable-power generation through carbon taxes or subsidies for renewable energy, a new study from researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said. “ T he Phi lippines’s cur rent energ y-supply mix must be diversified to minimize import dependenc y on fossi l f uels and meet the countr y’s energ y needs,” said A lam Hossain Mondal, a researcher at IFPRI and lead author of the study. “Without diversification, fossil fuel dependency will grow sharply, by an average rate of 7 percent per year, and CO 2 [carbondioxide] emissions could amount from 43 million tons in 2014 to 144 million tons by 2040,”Mondal said in a news release sent to the BusinessMirror. Coauthored by IFPRI’s Mondal, Mark Rosegrant, Claudia Ringler, Angga Pradesha and Rowena Valmonte-Santos, the research assesses the feasibility of four alternative-energy development strategies for diversifying the Philippines’s energy-supply mix and meeting its future electricity demands, between 2014 to 2040. The study was recently published in the journal, Energy. The study shows that by ta xing carbon and subsidizing investments in

renewable energy, the country could successfully divert from fossil-fuel dependence, meet its energy demands and reduce CO 2 emissions by up to 50 percent, IFPRI said. It also found that the long-term cost of pursuing these alternatives is not higher than maintaining current high levels of dependency on fossil fuels. These findings have significant implications for the government, and its agenda to reform the country’s carbon-dependent model with renewable alternatives and commitment to the Paris Climate Change accord. In a scenario relying on incentives from carbon taxes, a tax of $10 per ton of carbon emitted would be imposed in 2020, and increased by $10 increments each decade. As a result, coal-based energy would shrink from 2,243  terawatt hours (TWh) (under the current trajectory) to 1,553 TWh by 2040. The country’s overall capacity to generate power would also increase, which could support

Wind turbines at the wind farm in Bangui, Ilocos Norte, in northern Philippines

development goals. In another alternative, the renewables-subsidy scenar io, the government would incentivize investments in renewable energ y and provide subsidies

Nonoy Lacza

ranging from 3 cents to 6x cents per kilowatt hour. This model adds over a 1,000 T W h to the renewable-power sector during 2014 to 2040 and forces a 35-percent drop in coal-

The Philippines’s current energysupply mix must be diversified to minimize import dependency on fossil fuels and meet the country’s energy needs.”—Mondal

How global emissions have changed since 1850


ASHINGTON, D.C.— W hic h count r ies h ave e m it te d t he most greenhouse gases? T he quick answer is, “It depends.” A more definitive response is tougher than you may expect. Ma ny factors infor m the answer. W hat t ime f ra me a re you consider ing? Do you wa nt to cou nt c u mu l at ive em issions of a cou nt r y over a long pe r iod of t ime, or on ly look at c u r rent a nnu a l em issions? A nd do you i nc lude em i s sions and remova ls f rom t h ings l i ke l a nd use c ha nge and forestr y? Or perhaps you wa nt to k now whet her a nd when a cou nt r y ’s em issions have pea ked?

Top emitters remain dominant—with a few notable changes

T he world now pu mps 4 0 times more greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere than we did back in 1850. W hile emissions have increased dramatically over this time, those responsible for the largest shares of emissions haven’t changed as much as one might expect. Seven countries have consistently been among the top emitters on an annual basis and have dr iven emissions growth since 1850—namely the United States, the United K ingdom, Ger many, France

and Russia, and more recently India and China. In comparison, if you rank countr ies f rom t he l argest emitters to smallest, threequar ters of the 50 lowestemitting countries in 2014 are the same countries as in 1850. A few countr ies stand out for the significant changes in rank they have ex per ienced. Most of t he big gest jumps are obser ved in oil and gas produc ing cou nt r ies—a lmost a l l the countr ies w ith the largest increase in rank have petroleum products as main ex por t. At the same time, the breakup of the Soviet Union contributed to major declines in Lithuania, Tajikistan, Latvia, Moldova and Georgia. Perhaps the most important ta keaway is how consistent the top 10 emitters have been over the years. Si x countr ies or blocs that were top emitters in 1850 remain so over 160 years later—the European Union, China, Germany, India, Russia and the United States.

1990-2014: Emissions continue to rise

Despite g row i ng i nter n ational concern over climate change, global emissions have continued to rise steadily. The world ’s total emissions have increased by 31 percent— i n c lu d i n g e m i s s i o n s f r o m

l a nd u se, l a nd-u se c h a nge and forestry—between 1990 and 2014. Growth has been driven by major economies, such as China, which surpassed the United States as the world ’s largest emitter in 2005, although the US remains the largest emitter in cumulative terms. W hile many of the largest emitters in 1990 had fallen back a bit by 2014, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Pakistan and Nigeria jumped ahead by at least 10 places over those 25 years, landing them among t he top 20 l a rgest a n nu a l emitters in 2014.

Countries’ GHG emissions per capita tells a different story

Developing countries have seen sig nif ica nt em issions growth in recent years, but in per capita terms, the picture is much different. For instance, while India’s overall emissions are climbing upward, their per capita emissions have stayed well below the other top emitters; the United States’s per capita emissions are currently more than seven times that of India. However, per capita emissions of other emerging economies like Indonesia, China and Iran are creeping upward and have exceeded those of some developed countries, as well as the average per capita emissions of the European Union.

49 countries have peaked emissions; list keeps growing

The World Resources Institute ana lysis finds that 49 countr ies were able to pea k their emissions by 2010 and four more a re e x pected to pea k by 2020. According to countries’ climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, seven of the current top 10 emitters (China, the United States, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Ger many and Mexico) have pea ked or have commitments to pea k their emissions by 2030. Some major emitting countries like the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Spain and Canada have been able to sustain their economic growth and at the same time peak or even decrease their level of emissions. The fact that a quarter of a l l countr ies’ emissions have peaked their emissions is encouraging. Pea k i ng i s ju st t he f i rst ste p tow a rd m a k i ng dee p, r apid e m i s sion re duc t ion s necessar y to achieve an emissions trajector y consi stent w it h long- ter m low c a rbon f ut u re. Countr ies must ma ke a nd a c h ie v e com m it me nt s t o p e a k t he i r e m i s s ion s a s s o on a s p o s s i bl e , s e t t he i r pea k s at lower emissions l e v e l s a nd com m it t o a s i g n i f ic a nt r at e of e m i s s ion s d e c l i ne a f t e r p e a k i n g. IPS

based power usage. Electricity generation would grow tenfold, to 131 TWh in 2040 from newer technologies incorporated in this model, IFPRI added. Energ y scarcit y has developmental impacts on economic grow th. Cur rent cha l lenges in t he elect r ic it y sector in t he Philippines include high prices, u nder i nvest me nt i n ge ner ation, reduced self-sufficienc y a nd e x pec ted h igh le ve l s of greenhouse-gas emissions. Accord ing to Mond a l, “ d ive r s i f y i n g t he Ph i l ip pi ne s’s energ y suppl ies cou ld, t here fore, help to increase capac it y

a nd a l lev i ate ma ny of t he de velopment a l c ha l lenges posed by energ y inst abi l it y.” Diversif y ing the energ y mode l poses ot her benef it s, such as economic stimu lation and job creation. Reductions in coal-based power generation, which occurs in all four alternative scenarios, also means reductions in greenhousegas emissions. The energy generated by coal-based power plants would decrease from about 32 percent in 2014 to 20 percent, and 17 percent by 2040 in the carbontax and renewables-subsidy scenarios, respectively. Developing energy generation based on new, renewable sources would bear some costs, but researchers emphasized those costs are outweighed by the benefits of diversification and reduced greenhouse gases. The carbon-tax model would lead to marginal increases in electricity prices and subsidizing renewables would require an investment of $15.6 billion. “Each of the alternative policy options we examined has implications for energy costs, energy requirements and the environment,” Mondal suggested. “All these considerations must be weighed carefully to create a plan for investing in the Philippine power sector for long-term sustainability.” The IFPRI, which seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty, was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries.

Is desalination an answer to water crisis?


AMPA, Florida—On the recent World Water Day, universal access to clean water continues to be a privilege, when it should be a right. Experts predict that by 2030 the global water demand will exceed supply by 40 percent. Despite the fact that our oceans and seas make up more than 97 percent of the earth’s water resources and half the world’s population lives no further than 40 miles from the water, we’re experiencing one water crisis after another. Adding to that frustration is the fact that solutions exist today, which could ameliorate our water issues. From the water shor tage in Cape Town, South Africa—where the current supply is less than 90 days—to the welldocumented issues in Flint, Michigan— where an outdated water delivery system delivered lead-tainted water to the city’s population—it is clear that steps must be taken to ensure an ongoing supply of clean water not only to drink, but to maintain the fabric of our society. We rely on clean water to produce food, electricity, cars, clothing and myriad other things that are difficult to live without. In fact, even if you exclude irrigation, less than 5 percent of purified water is used for consumption; most of the supply is used for washing, flushing and manufacturing. For centuries, people prayed for rain and collected it but that alone is no longer an option. There simply isn’t enough. What’s more, rain is unpredictable; it may or may not come. But with a limitless supply of water in the ocean, there is a viable option: desalination. Back in the 1700s ocean-going ships had their own desalination plants in order for them to have a continuous fresh water supply while at sea. In the early days, seawater was boiled and then condensed. The condensate had little to no salt and the remaining brine was then disposed. In the 1960s technical advances in

reverse osmosis made this form of water purification more widely available. Today, more than 18,000 desalination plants operate in over 150 countries, and the process requires 80 percent less energy than it did 20 years ago. According to the International Water Association, the energy required to produce a year’s worth of fresh water from sea water for one household is less than that consumed by the family’s refrigerator. We must also look at delivery systems. As was evidenced in Flint, much of our underground piping systems are in disrepair and can produce contamination from lead and other toxins. Disinfectants are used to control biological growth, but they can pose an increased risk of cancer and create bad tasting water. While conventional wisdom would say we need to fix the crumbling infrastructure, there is another option: point-of-use (POU) purification. Since typically only 5 percent of the water in a distribution system is actually used for drinking water, it is far more efficient to use POU filtration to purify that water at the point it is being consumed. Additionally, POU filtration is much more environment-friendly than delivering purified water—from the plastics used in 5-gallon jugs to the greenhouse gasses emitted by the deliver y trucks. POU eliminates those issues and purifies only what is needed, when it is needed. Finally, we must still stress conservation and using existing water supplies more thoughtfully and efficiently. However, conservation and reuse alone will not avoid water crises around the world. Desalination and POU systems must supplement conservation. With the technology available to us today, there shouldn’t ever be a water shor tage, par ticularly when private industry can work in partnership with local, state and federal governments to help supply clean drinking water. IPS

Biodiversity Monday BusinessMirror

Asean Champions of Biodiversity Media Category 2014

Monday, April 16, 2018 A13

Editor: Lyn Resurreccion •

Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park

The heart of a biodiversity haven O By Jonathan L. Mayuga


n Sibuyan Island in Romblon province sits Mount GuitingGuiting, one of the focal points of Sibuyan’s declaration as a biodiversity haven. It is often referred to as the Galapagos Island because of its rich biodiversity.

But for Sibuyanons, they prefer to call it by its name—GuitingGuiting, which means “ jagged” or “saw-tooth”—apparently because it has rough, protruding sharp points. The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador are known for a vast number of endemic species. Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835. His observation of its rich biodiversity inspired his theory of evolution. Sibuyan, one of the seven islands of Romblon, is in the Sout hwester n Lu zon, or t he Mimaropa Region.

Protected area

Mount Guiting-Guiting is at the heart of the Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park, a 15,265-hectare protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 746, which then-President Fidel J. Ramos signed on February 20, 1996. It is one of several Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in the Philippines. The second-largest island in Romblon, Sibuyan has a land area of approximately 45,600 hectares. More than half of the island is covered with forest.  

Dense forest

Preliminary reports include that the forest density in Sibuyan is 1,551 trees per hectare, making it the densest forest ever recorded in the Philippines. According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Mimaropa Office, although most of the forested area in Sibuyan consists of lowland forest, the island has a full range of gradient forest in the Philippines consisting of mangrove, lowland, montane, mossy forests, heathland and grassland. Mount Guiting-Guiting’s highest elevation is over 2,000 meters above sea level (ASL). This is twice that of the nearby Mount Nailog mountain range’s highest peak estimated at 789 ASL.

Metamorphic rocks

According to the DENR-Mimaropa, in the Romblon area basement metamor phic rocks are distributed extensively. Intr usive ultramafic rocks and quartz diorite displace these basement metamor phic rocks in some places. Much of the Mount GuitingGuiting’s geology is formed by intrusive Sibuyan ultramafics. The vegetation associated with ultramafic rocks—often called serpentine or ultra basic rocks— have been described as distinctive from many parts of the world. It is often sparse or stunted and contains species which are rare, or endemic, or both.  “The explanations for this have centered on the chemistry of the soil, since it usually contains potentially toxic concentrations of magnesium and nickel, and are deficient in phosphorous, potassium and calcium,” said the web site that describes the protected area’s unique features.


Mou n t G u it i n g - G u it i n g i s blessed with freshwater resources, flowing from several rivers that dissect the steep topography of the island. The rivers draining the largest watersheds are Nailog-DulanganCataja-Patoo and the Pawala rivers in Magdiwang; the Wala-TooGuinalan-Cambulayan-Lumbang River in Cajidiocan; and Cantingas River in San Fernando. The headwaters of Cantingas River lie in Cajidiocan but drain across San Fernando, where it serves three water intakes that supply the irrigated farmlands, and the mini-hydroelectric power plant of Romblon Electric Cooperative (Romelco). Its major impact areas cover the vicinities of the town proper of San Fernando and Barangay Taclobo. The impact area of Olango and Punong rivers are Barangay España, also in San Fernando. In Cajidiocan the impact areas of three major rivers include the barangays of Danao (Agbalit River), Lumbang Weste and Este (Lumbang River) and Marigondon (Marigondon R iver). The river system affecting the town proper is Cambajao River.  

Flora and fauna

Within Mount Guiting-Guiting Natura l Park thr ive approximately 700 vascular plant species, including 54 species that are endemic to the island. T hese include the Sibuyan pitcher plant, bil-is, tibañgan and a wild palm, tree fern, lipstick plant, ant plant and Guiting-guiting begonia. Of the 700 plant species on the island, 180 species can only be found in the Philippines. Mount Guiting-Guiting’s endemic plant species are found mostly in primary forest with an elevation of 100 meters or higher. An example is Sararanga philippinensis, a palm-like plant that grows gregariously and form distinct clumps of peat swamp forest along riverine/riparian forest at low altitudes. The Heterospathe sibuyanensis, a flowering plant in the palm family; and Ardisia sibuyanensis, coralberry or marlberry floweriong plant, are also found in the primary forest at medium altitudes. The Nepenthes merrillii, or pitcher plant, is found in the primary forest between 100 meters and higher elevations. Meanwhile, a total of 130 species of birds have been recorded on Sibuyan, of which 102 are either known or presumed to be breeding residents. These are cinnamon bitternlapay, celestial monarch, striated grassbird, rufous-lored kingfisher, pygmy swiftlet and Philippine hawk-eagle. The island is also home to nine native nonflying terrestrial mammal species, four of which are endemic rodents, namely, greater Sibuyan forest mouse, lesser Sibuyan forest mouse, Sibuyan striped shrew-rat and Sibuyan giant moss mouse.

From Mount Guiting-Guiting, freshwater flows down to a river and the plains of Barangay España, San Fernando town, Romblon. Rodne Galicha, Climate Reality Project/Bayay Sibuyanon Inc.

area’s tourist attractions.Being an island paradise like many areas in the Mimaropa region, Sibuyan boasts of beautiful beaches and pristine waters. It also has breathtaking landscapes and views from mountain peaks. Because of its challenging landscape and high mountain peak, Mount Guiting-Guiting is also a favorite among mountain climbers, as it is comparable to the challenge offered by Mount Halcon on Mindoro Island, the DENR-Mimaropa Region added.

Pitcher plant on Mount GuitingGuiting Wikimedia Commons

Out of the nine fruit bat species found on the island, one species—Sibuyan pygmy fruit bat—is endemic to the island. Meanwhile, the island’s waters are visited by large marine mammals like the dugongs, dolphins and whales. The wart snake, which is endemic to Luzon, Mindoro Island and Negros, has been recorded on Sibuyan Island. T here are nine recorded spec ies of l i z a rd s a nd gec koes, t wo of which are classified as endemic and rare. T he Romblon nar row-disked gecko and Q u ad r a s’ f ly i ng l i z a rd h ave been sighted dur ing prev ious biodiversit y assessments.

Forest-based livelihood

Besides farming and fishing, Sibuyanons are known for charcoal-making, rattan harvesting for handicraft production and other forest-based livelihood activities. Some are also known to harvest nito, a vine, which is woven into plates for local and export markets. Many are also into gathering resin from almaciga trees, which is used to start fire for cooking, the DENR-Mimaropa profile added. Resin is also traded as a raw material in the manufacture of varnish. A small group of people on the island is also into artisanal and small-scale gold mining.


Sibuyan Island is fast-becoming a tourist destination in Luzon because of its beauty. Several waterfalls are among the protected

Threatened by road project

However, Mount Guiting-Guiting’s rich biodiversity is seriously threatened like other protected areas in the Philippines. Unregulated harvesting of forest products, poaching and illegal wildlife trade are threatening the so-called Galapagos Island of the Philippines. Forest clearing for agriculture and mining is considered a serious threat to its endemic plant and animal wildlife. Lately, however, Mount Guiting-Guiting stakeholders expressed alarm to the latest threat to the island’s rich biodiversity: a P95-million road project that will pass right through its dense forest. The project is funded under the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA).   Rising to the occasion, conservation advocates have launched an online petition appealing to President Duterte to stop the pro je c t , e x pre s s i n g conce r n about the project’s potentia l environmental impact on the island’s fragile ecosystem. The project, the petitioners said, is expected to cause the massive destruction of trees and will disturb forest ecosystems along its path. T he petitioners—Bayay Sibuyanon Inc., a local conservation group based on the island; The Climate Reality Project and concerned citizens of Sibuyan— “ in behalf of Sibuyan Island ’s f lora and fauna and the generations to come” called on the DENR, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), and the local government units of Sibuyan

Development is good, but being an environmental advocate and official of the DENR, I will always side with conservation and protection, especially for projects within a protected area.”—Leones

Island to stop the road project. Expressing grave concerns on the inclusion of the construction of the Magdiwang-San Fernando National Road Cross Country Road leading to the Magdiwang Port in the 2018 GAA, the petitioners said the implementation of the project would be contrary to the general provisions of the budget law, specifically its Section 26c. The section says: “ The planning and construction of all infrastructure projects to be implemented within the National Integrated Protected Area System [Nipas] are done in a way that eliminates and minimizes the risk of biodiversity loss while the specifications threon are in accordance w ith those determined by DPWH, in coordination with DENR. Major infrastructure projects may only be taken in said areas if intended to enhance biodiversity.” “Proponents of this project may argue on the trade and economic benefits of the Cross Country Road; however, it must be considered seriously that it will traverse Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park, which is a protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 746, signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos in 1996, pursuant to Republic Act 7586 [Nipas Act],” the petition reads. The petitioners argued that Mount Guiting-Guiting Natural Park has thick forests, which serve as a carbon sink and protection against landslides and floods. “Its watersheds provide f lowing waters, which is the source of the people’s renewable energy through a mini-hydro power plant. With this, the small island of Sibuyan has been contributing to climate-change mitigation and adaptation and disaster-risk reduction,” the petition said. In a telephone interview on April 9, Rodne Galicha, country manager of Climate Reality Project Philippines and leader of Bayay Sibuyanon Inc., said that as a resident of Sibuyan Island and as a climate and conservation advocate: “Development projects in ecologically sensitive areas must be carefully consulted and studied. In this case, who will speak on behalf of Mount Guiting-Guiting’s flora and fauna, of the trees and the rivers?” He added: “This is a call to all local government officials of Sibuyan to be steadfast in their commitment to conserve, protect and rehabilitate our natural park. We, instead, strongly demand to fund and prioritize infrastructure projects which are really needed by the people.” The petitioners are expected to bring up the matter to the attention of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

Galicha said the proponent of the project, SunWest Construction, has no detailed engineering plan nor has properly conducted coord ination w ith concer ned DENR officials of Romblon. He added that even before the purported bidding last month, several staff houses were already built and backhoes have been mobilized in the area. “As to the road project, we don’t know how many trees will be cut down, but it will pass through the protected area,” he said. He estimated, based on the budget, that the road project will be at least a 7-kilometer road that will cause a serious environmental impact. In separate telephone interviews, DENR officials have expressed concern over the impact of the road project, especially on its implementation within a biodiversity-rich area like Sibuyan Island. Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim, chief of the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), had called on the DPWH to exercise prudence in implementing any development project in a KBA like the Mount Guiting-Guiting National Park. “All projects should contribute to the protection and conservation of the area’s rich biodiversity. The DPWH should look into the cautionary principles of the provision of the GAA in implementing any project,” Lim said in a telephone interview on April 10. Lim, a biodiversity and protected area conservation expert, added the DENR is not against development per se. However, she said that within a protected area, projects should promote conservation and protection, rather than add threat to the already threatened plant and animal species that are driven to the brink of extinction. For his part, DENR Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones, the designated spokesman of Cimatu, said once an area is declared protected, proponents of a development project are bound to abide by various environmental laws like Nipas and the Wildlife Act. “Development is good, but being an environmental advocate and official of the DENR, I will always side with conservation and protection, especially for projects within a protected area,” he said.    Mount Guiting-Guiting and the entire protected area have given pride to Sibuyanons. Their livelihood is dependent on the bounty of its rich terrestrial a nd c o a s t a l e c o s y s t e m s . To some Sibuyanons, Mount Guiting-Guiting is not only a sacred mountain but the heart, a biodiversity haven, their home called Sibuyan Island.

A14 Monday, April 16, 2018 • Editor: Angel R. Calso

Opinion BusinessMirror


Is the system broken?


N one of his past campaigns for public office, former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was asked what was the most pressing concern for reform in the Philippine government. His answer was that the Philippines lacked a professional bureaucracy. Enrile cited both the agencies tasked with delivering day-to-day services to the people, as well as various “authorities” classified as governmentowned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs). As an example, he gave the civil-service bureaucracy of the United Kingdom, which consistently functioned at a high level of efficiency and effectiveness regardless of the political leaders who ran the government. This was not a particular indictment of those in the bureaucracy but of a system that had failed. Companies understand that you must have competent people in all positions of responsibility regardless of rank. However, if a department suddenly falls apart because the head retires or if one or two of the rank-and-file employees leave, then it is the system that is broken. In 1987 the International Organization for Standardization established the ISO 9000 family of quality-management systems standards designed to help organizations ensure that a company could function at a high level of effectiveness, even as the members of the organization changed over time. That is not to say that a detailed operations handbook can compensate for incompetent employees. But a broken system can never be expected to reach its proper potential no matter how good the people are within the system. For example, does being an elementary-school classmate of a Philippine president—who happens to need a job—qualify someone to sit on the board of a GOCC? And that is not an imaginary scenario. All you need to do is to examine the résumés of some past appointees. Regardless of your views about the validity of the removal from office of former SC Chief Justice Renato Corona or the current Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno, the Philippine Judiciary is a near-disaster. For the past two decades, our judicial branch has constantly been criticized by global analysts as being a significant factor that has limited the economic development of the nation. Since 1990 more than 60 individuals have been members of the Supreme Court and have, therefore, been part of exercising “administrative supervision over all courts and personnel thereof.” Yet it is difficult to show how the Philippine judicial system has significantly improved in the past 28 years. Have the “wrong” people been consistently appointed to the Court, or is there something wrong with the system? The latest survey measuring the public’s satisfaction with President Duterte’s performance shows that 70 percent of the people are “Satisfied,” 17 percent “Undecided” and 14 percent “Dissatisfied.” The highest levels of dissatisfaction, at 13 percent and 17 percent, respectively, come from the “D” and “E” economic groups. By age, the 18-to-24 year-olds show 20percent dissatisfaction. Interestingly, the next age group of 25-34 shows the highest satisfaction at 80 percent. Likewise, those who are college graduates also hold an 80-percent satisfaction. That would seem to indicate that those who are more educated, at the age of developing their careers and probably more “connected” to current events see in Duterte what they want in a president. Only Fidel V. Ramos, of all the presidents, since held a higher overall net satisfaction rating at this point in their administrations. Duterte’s public personality is sometimes difficult to take, and his actions and policies are subject to great debate. However, as the people believe that the systems that run our government are broken, they think Duterte is the leader needed to fix them.

Safety on FB Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II



HILE more than 2 billion people actively use the Facebook platform each month, its founder Mark Zuckerberg recently spent time at the Senate and House trying to clarify the issues related to Facebook’s privacy and data-protection policies. This comes on the heels of the scandal with Cambridge Analytica, wherein data of some 87 million Facebook users was obtained by the said analytics firm whose work included helping US President Donald J. Trump get elected in the recent polls. Issues like this are nothing new to Facebook or Zuckerberg—understandably so since the social-media platform has been the biggest player in the industry for many years now. Its role in the spread of fake/phony news and propaganda, as well as in

political manipulations, is probably the biggest challenge facing the social-media giant these days. In the Philippines alone, local regulations are almost nonexistent as far as social-media use is concerned. This has led to controversies and

‘The killing fields’

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WAS told that I had to visit two sites while in Phnom Penh—the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes and the Killing Fields of Choeung EK. Tragically, these two sites are the most popular tourist attractions in the city (with excellent audio tours available). In 1975 the Tuol Svay Precy High School was taken over by Pol Pot’s security forces and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21(S-21). It soon became the largest center of detention and torture in Cambodia. Between 1975 and 1978, more than 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp of Choeung EK (referred to as the Killing Fields). They were often bludgeoned to death to avoid wasting precious bullets. The remains of 898 people, many of whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves. More than 8,000 skulls, arranged by sex and age, are visible behind the clear glass panels of the Memorial Stupa, which was erected in 1988. In 1969 the United States launched “Operation Menu,” the secret bombing of suspected communist based camps in Cambodia. The ferocity of the bombing campaign helped the communist Khmer Rouge in their recruitment drive as

more and more peasants were losing family members to the aerial assaults. Savage fighting engulfed the countryside, bringing misery to millions of Cambodians. Many fled rural areas for the relative safety of Phnom Penh and provincial capitals. The Khmer Rouge ideology (under its leader, Paris-educated Pol Pot) was influenced by four interrelated principles: (1) total independence and self-reliance; (2) preservation of the dictatorship of the proletariat; (3) total and immediate economic revolution; and (4) complete transformation of Khmer social values. In his address on September 27, 1977, Pol Pot stated: Cambodia’s economy was under the blanket of US imperialism…a semicolonial country…Cambodia was a victim of foreign aggression in economic, culture, social, and political and military fields… imperialism did no armed aggression against us, but it launched economic, cultural, social and military aggression by taking control of everything.

confusion, for example, in the political and social arena. This reminds me of a recent incident that happened to someone I know. She received a private message on Messenger from an account that was familiar to her, although she wondered why they weren’t connected on Messenger because she was sure that they were Facebook friends. She did not give it much thought because the name and the profile picture were both familiar, and she reasoned that, perhaps, sometime in the past, one of them Unfriended the other. They started talking about harmless topics in the beginning, but pretty soon the conversation started to take a strange twist—it became more suggestive and provocative. The message sender wanted her to call a guy and was ready to give her a number—which was very strange, so she decided to stop replying. As soon as she did, the account name was changed and the profile photo

deleted. The fake friend also apparently blocked her. When she did message the real owner of the name and picture, she confirmed that it was not her who was sending the messages. There is a need to be extra careful on Facebook, and on all social-media platforms for that matter. Your account does not necessarily have to be hacked for criminals to be able to use it in malicious ways. They could easily just download your profile picture and copy your name, and then start talking to anyone on your friends list. Your unsuspecting friends will think that it’s you and could reveal information or do things they should not be giving/doing. This is just one of the specific dangers that could happen to anyone online. It is so easy now to steal one’s identity and commit crimes on socialmedia channels. The online space has never been safe, but I think it has become more unsafe now. Extra vigilance is necessary.

After taking power, the Khmer Rouge set out to immediately revamp Cambodian society. Their first step was to rusticate the cities so that the urbanites, suspect for their “regressive” class background, could be reformed through hard labor. These reformed subjects could then contribute to the new agrarian economy focused primarily on massive increases in rice production. Thousands of people died during the evacuations. The Khmer Rouge aimed to transform Cambodia into a rural, classless society in which there are no rich, no poor and no exploitation. To accomplish this, they abolished money, free markets, normal schooling, private properties, foreign clothing styles, religious practices and traditional Khmer culture. A national bank was destroyed. Public schools, hospitals, pagodas, mosques, churches, universities and government buildings were shut down or turned into prisons, stables, reeducation camps and granaries. There was no public or private transportation, no private properties and no nonrevolutionrelated entertainment. The Khmer Rouge claimed that only pure people were qualified to build the revolution. Soon after seizing power, they arrested and killed thousands of soldiers, military officers and civil servants from the Khmer Republic led by then-Marshal Lon Nol, whom they did not regard as “pure.” Over the next three years (1975 to 1978) they executed hundreds of thousands of intellectuals, city residents and minority people like the Cham, Vietnamese and Chinese. Many of

their own soldiers and party members were accused of being traitors. The Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia for three years, eight months and 20 days, a period etched into the consciousness of the Khmer people. The Vietnamese ousted the Khmer Rouge on January 7, 1979, but Cambodia’s civil war rumbled on for another two decades before drawing to a close in 1999. Finally, more than 20 years after the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime, serious discussions began about a trial to bring those responsible for the deaths of about 2 million Cambodians to justice. These trials commenced in 2006 and continue to this day. Despite the deaths and sufferings inflicted during these three years by the Khmer Rouge, the Cambodian people appear to be a happy and proud people. One can see evidence of the Nation’s glorious past. The country’s symbol, the Angkor, is everywhere on the flag, the national beer, cigarettes, hotels and guest houses—anything and everything. It is a symbol of nationhood and fierce pride. A tumultuous history, an incredible heritage of architecture (they built the awesome Angkor Wat visited by over 6 million people a year), a fascinating mosaic of people, faiths, sculpture, dance and art, all coalesce to form Cambodia’s rich national character. Many of us who clamor for radical change want to purge all evil, corruption and inequality in society. To level off and start at ground zero. May the Killing Fields of Cambodia be a lesson in history for all of us.


The solution to CPD woes

Knowing the why in what we do


Filbert Tsai

Siegfred Bueno Mison, Esq.



ROFESSIONAL accountants understand the importance of continuous learning. However, to be compliant with the requirements of the law that learning needs to be expensive is something that we simply could not embrace. There’s a lot of clamor around the various professions to trash out the law due to absurd amounts that needs to be spent just to maintain their professional license. If they are complaining, why shouldn’t we accountants complain when we have the highest level of required Continuing Professional Development (CPD) units over a threeyear rolling period?

RECENTLY took a trip to the United States to attend a Global Privacy Conference organized by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). More than 3,500 information technology, legal and security professionals from all over the world gathered to share and listen to different speakers on how privacy laws have impacted business, both in the private and public sector.


To paint the picture of cost, the average cost of an eight-hour CPD course in the country is roughly P1,500. That would roughly amount to around P22,500 over a three-year period. However, that’s not the whole picture yet. The incremental costs of attending a CPD course would mean a day off work, self-sponsored travel expense, plus loads of travel time wasted to attend training courses in the Metro. Taking into account all these other costs would work out a loss of roughly P100,000 just to comply with the requirements. The million-peso question is this —shouldn’t we trash this law just yet? My response is no. The high cost of compliance, inaccessible course locations and poor course selection is the real issue that we need to address as a profession. This is changing though. We’ve seen several companies, institutions and even review centers sprouting everywhere like mushrooms and applying to be a CPD provider since 2017. We know that the opportunity is there, but the same problem still applies. Looking at the current marketplace, there are already some companies starting to offer online format CPD courses. This is a great improvement that we’re seeing here in the country that professionals have begun to think about using technology to address the issues mentioned above. Over the past six months, our team has been working diligently to address this pressing issue. We have been curating and discussing with professional speakers both within and outside our profession to create a curated catalogue of courses. We’ve done a great deal of research, as well in understanding what international certification bodies expect when it comes to electronic format of delivering online courses. Continuing professional education institutions around the world that are offering online strictly ensure that students are actively participating throughout the length of the webinar through assessments

To paint the picture of cost, the average cost of an eigth-hour CPD course in the country is roughly P1,500. That would roughly amount to around P22,500 over a three-year period. However, that’s not the whole picture yet. The incremental costs of attending a CPD course would mean a day off work, self-sponsored travel expense, plus loads of travel time wasted to attend training courses in the Metro. or polling questions inserted every so often. Further, the length of each course should be at most 90 minutes and scheduled into several parts for online learning to be effective. And, finally, the CPD providers need to make sure that systems of checks and controls are in place when issuing certificates. After all the efforts we’ve have completed several online CPD modules taking into account the inputs from consultations with senior stakeholders and educators. We have built a membership based e-CPD site, which offers extensive course selections from industry experts, from accounting to branding to taxation. All this at a fair fee for our members. Learning online should be more than just about getting the certificate. It’s about real learning from topics that you are interested in while making sure that you get the benefit of a community similar to attending CPD courses—that’s why we have planned activities and live CPD courses for our platform members for them to look forward to. Filbert Tsai is the chief strategy officer of, a membership-based e-learning platform for professionals that provides quality continuing professional education courses. He is also the chief strategist at UpSmart Strategy Consulting Inc., a corporate troubleshooting firm focusing on helping struggling companies get back to its normal operations. This column accepts contributions from accountants, especially articles that are of interest to the accountancy profession, in particular, and to the business community, in general. These can be e-mailed to


For business people, these changes will require a shift in the current ways companies handle the personal information of customers and employees. With these privacy laws, companies will have to work on increasing awareness among their employees of the value and importance of personal data. Once entrusted to controllers and processors, personal information are to be used, stored, and shared if necessary, only for a limited purpose. Information awareness is key when it comes to understanding the things we need to do and the goals we need to meet. Performance is enhanced when we understand not only the “what” and the “how,” but more important, the “why” in the things we have to do. Fighting soldiers need to know why they are seizing a hill in relation to the overall mission of the unit. Law abiding citizens of any country ought to know the purpose of the laws they are supposed to follow. Responsible employees in any company need to know why they have to accomplish certain tasks. We

cannot remain ignorant and simply accept goals, targets and missions in life without knowing the rationale behind them. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” In those civil rights days in the US, people who discriminated based on color because they were told to do so are being “conscientiously stupid.” We have to be more aware of the rationale and purpose behind our actions. Similarly, whenever we process information we read in the Bible, we should also be more aware how and why they abide by His Word. We simply cannot blindly follow whatever our religious elders tell us. Both in our personal and professional lives, we function better if we know the reasons why we do what we do in life. Allow me to share a story of a person who decided to dig deeper in faith because of his desire to be more aware of the reasons for his actions. His thorough study of the Bible has


ADELEINE ALBRIGHT, the former secretary of state, was born into a totalitarian age. She was only a toddler when she and her parents, who were of Jewish descent but later converted to Catholicism, fled Czechoslovakia after Hitler’s invasion in 1939. They returned following the war, but fled again in the wake of the communist coup in 1948. Her father, the diplomat Josef Korbel, sought asylum for the family in the United States, writing in a letter to a US official that if they returned home he’d be arrested “for my faithful adherence to the ideals of democracy.” America took them in as refugees. Korbel became an eminent foreign policy scholar, and in 1997 President Bill Clinton made Albright the country’s chief diplomat, the first woman to hold that position. At the time, the Cold War was over and the great ideological battles of the 20th century appeared settled. Liberal democracy was ascendant, and Albright’s adopted country was its most powerful champion. The arc of her life seemed to coincide with a global evolution from widespread

tyranny toward expanding freedom. So, it is sad and jarring that Albright, now 80, has just published a book with the stark title Fascism: A Warning. The book is not just a warning about President Donald J. Trump; Albright is concerned with the eclipse of liberal democracy all over the world and told me in a recent interview that she had planned to write on the subject before Trump’s election. But the president looms over her project. “If we think of fascism as a wound from the past that had almost healed, putting Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab,” she writes. The mere fact of this book would be astonishing, if Trump hadn’t

changed the way he handles and accepts Biblical information as he does his ministry work in California. Ariel Torralba used to work for a distribution company for various retail industries, did some multilevel marketing, and performed consulting jobs for several Philippine and multinational companies whose products include Cadbury, Mentos and Johnnie Walker. Born and raised in a religious family in Naga City, Ariel had a good foundation in Catholic doctrines and earned a degree in a prominent Catholic school in Manila. When he recently migrated to California, Ariel had ample time to study the Bible. He gradually realized the need to truly understand the rationale behind each and every doctrine he learned from his parents, siblings, teachers, and the community in general. In a span of two years, Ariel earned a masters’ degree in Christian Philosophy and Apologetics. He now reads and uses five different bibles, depending on his particular need. Armed with greater knowledge, he now understands the why in the things he has been doing all his life as a believer. He now has the ability to validate whatever information he absorbed while growing up. His faith discipline, Apologetics, has taught him not to accept concepts just because they were written in the Bible. Ariel understands that His Word, while filled with powerful yet complicated messages, has absolute truths that even the most knowledgeable man cannot comprehend.  In the Bible, 1 Timothy 6:20-21 tells us to guard what has been entrusted to our care. It specifically says, “Turn away from godless chat-

ter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.” In my short conversation with Ariel, the most fundamental principle of his faith is that there is a God. And that all of us are saved through faith and not by works. Nonetheless, every person still has to consent in a way that he truly and deeply accepts and practices His Word. I am elated to see my cousin Ariel Torralba in this light. In the commercial world of data privacy, the overarching principle is consent. Any and all personal information must be freely given with the express and specific consent of the concerned individual. During that Global Privacy Conference, several speakers discussed issues and suggested different strategies to comply with all kinds of privacy laws. Complicated as they are, these privacy laws can be made simple through a series of seminars and conferences, just like how the IAPP did it in Washington, D.C. Ignorance or refusal to know more about privacy laws will result to severe financial and reputation damage when a data breach occurs. Data privacy is not as simple; but attending these conferences is one of many ways for compliance officers to equip themselves with sufficient knowledge about it. I recently read in one post that we are one decision away from living a different life. And our actions must be deliberately done with an informed decision. It is up to us to make ourselves educated and knowledgeable by reading, asking and studying. Whether it is required by law or by Scripture, we all have to consciously exert efforts to know the why in what we do.

Grilling Zuckerberg doesn’t fix Facebook


S so often  in the past, Mark Zuckerberg found himself apologizing this week. Testifying before Congress, he offered hours of penitence and self-reflection. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m committed to getting it right.” And just what would getting it right entail? In questioning Zuckerberg, the assembled members of Congress voiced a long series of abstract anxieties—about data collection and fair competition, privacy and polarization, hate speech and fake news, about the whole maddening frenzy of online life. What all these concerns have in common is that they result from a simple trade-off at the heart of the digital economy: exchanging data for services. Facebook Inc. has capitalized on this bargain more than most. It has developed sophisticated tools to engage users, track them, collect their most intimate data, and show them highly targeted advertising. It’s a great success. The problem is that Facebook has never been entirely

forthcoming about the arrangement. Its users don’t clearly understand  the trade-offs they’re making. Yet, questionable advertisers and outright scammers understand all too well: As one marketer talking about Facebook to Bloomberg Businessweek put it, “They go out and find the morons for me.” In 2016 journalists found that the network’s tools could be used to block certain ethnic groups from seeing housing ads, in what would very likely be a violation of federal law. As of November, the company still hadn’t quite gotten a handle on the problem. It’s now facing a lawsuit. All that is bad enough. But the data-for-services arrangement has other pernicious side effects. Those vaunted tools of engagement, for example, can also encourage filter bubbles and fake news. That powerful advertising engine may be worsening polarization. Facebook’s peerless data trove is attractive to all manner of actors—good and bad—and can be hugely damaging in the

Madeleine Albright is worried. We should be, too. By Michelle Goldberg | New York Times News Service

Monday, April 16, 2018 A15

pulverized our capacity for astonishment. Albright has long been an optimistic exponent of American exceptionalism, a consummate establishment figure not given to alarmist diatribes. It should be shocking that she feels the need to warn us not just about fascism abroad, but also at home. In January Freedom House, an international democracy watchdog, reported that 71 countries suffered declines in political rights and civil liberties last year, while only 35 saw improvements. Rather than standing against this trend, America under Trump has become part of it. As Freedom House concluded, “A major development of 2017 was the retreat of the United States as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy.” Albright is not accusing Trump of being a full-blown fascist. He has yet to resort to extrajudicial violence —except, of course, for encouraging his acolytes to beat up protesters at rallies—and his efforts to undermine the rule of law have had only mixed success, in part due to his own fecklessness.

But Trump is, Albright told me, “the most undemocratic president” in America’s modern history. He empowers authoritarianism globally and is in turn empowered by the international growth of right-wing populism. As she writes in her book: “The herd mentality is powerful in international affairs. Leaders around the globe observe, learn from, and mimic one another.” The historian Roger Griffin once described the core vision of fascism as “the national community rising Phoenix-like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it.” (His italics.) Albright’s definition is broader than most academic taxonomies; she tends to use “fascism” as a synonym for authoritarianism. Her book includes Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, but also Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, who was succeeded after his death by his son Kim Jong Un. Except for Mussolini, she has met all these men. “What they do have in common,” she said, “is this assumption,

wrong hands. What the congressional committees seemed to be searching for was a way to separate the benefits of this trade-off from its drawbacks. That won’t be easy; it may not even be possible. But in trying to grapple with these problems, Washington should keep two principles in mind. One is that the digital economy would benefit from more price transparency. If Facebook users had the option of paying a fee in return for a guarantee of privacy, say, they could better gauge how much their data was worth and make more informed choices about what they’re willing to divulge. Although this would surely make Facebook’s advertising less effective, it might forestall worse consequences down the road. As one congressman put it, “If you don’t fix this, we’re going to fix it for you.” Zuckerberg’s evident willingness to consider the idea suggests he gets the message. A second challenge is how to ensure that companies collect data responsibly without killing their business models.

One possibility—aired briefly in Tuesday’s hearing—is to treat online service providers as “information fiduciaries,” with legal duties to protect sensitive information much the way a doctor or lawyer must. With proper incentives in place, this could prevent companies from using data in unexpected or harmful ways, while also encouraging security, improving transparency, mitigating shady advertising practices and offering consumers a powerful recourse when their trust has been violated. It could also help ensure that companies don’t facilitate discrimination against protected groups and expose them to liability if they do. None of these reforms would necessarily “get it right.” But as Congress considers its options, the goal should be making the data-for-services bargain fairer and more transparent. Facebook’s goal should be avoiding more apology tours. And the public should remember that, even on the Internet, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Bloomberg View

or decision, that they embody the spirit of the nation and that they have the answers and that their instincts are good, that they are smarter than everybody else and can do things by themselves.” Trump conflates himself and the state in just this way. Many of the details in Albright’s pocket histories of various dictators are similarly familiar. Before reading it, I hadn’t realized that Mussolini had promised to “drenare la palude,” or “drain the swamp,” and that his crowds jeered and booed clusters of reporters at his rallies. (Nor did I know that Mussolini, like Trump, thought it unsanitary to shake hands.) Of Chávez, Albright writes, his “communications strategy was to light rhetorical fireworks and toss them in all directions.” He gloried in dominating the media, “boasting about his accomplishments and deriding—in the crudest terms— real and suspected foes.” (Many of his followers, incidentally, wore red baseball caps.) The book’s echoes of the present are intentional. “One of my editors said, ‘Make the reader work for it,’”

Albright said. “So you can kind of see the various steps.” I asked Albright how she avoids despair, seeing the authoritarianism that marked her childhood now sweep the globe in her old age. “It’s something that I really do think I learned from my parents,” she said. “You have to make a way of dealing with the problems that are out there in order to avoid despair, and not just be an observer of it. And realize that we all have a role.” Her role right now is to speak out, with whatever authority her history and career confer. Albright is well known for her collection of brooches, which she uses like shiny emojis to send subtle diplomatic messages and make wry jokes. (The Smithsonian once did an exhibition of them.) In 1999 she found out that Russia had bugged a conference room near her State Department office, at her next meeting with Russian diplomats, she wore an insect pin. When I spoke to her, she was wearing a silver brooch of a winged figure. I asked her what it was. “It is Mercury,” she said. “The messenger.”

2nd Front Page BusinessMirror

Full-blown trade war bad for PHL–econ managers U

By Rea Cu


nless it turns into a full-blown trade war, the ongoing economic tussle between China and the United States is not likely to hurt the Philippines, according to President Duterte’s economic managers.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III pointed out that since the Philippines is investing more to develop its domestic market, even the country’s exporters would be insulated from the impact of the US-China trade war. “Well, first of all, we are growing our market locally, so we are very robust. We don’t rely on exports or imports as much as other economies, so we are sort of insulated,”

Dominguez said on the sidelines of the Second Philippine Economic Briefing 2018 in Clark, Pampanga, last Friday. He, however, quickly added: “But still I’m not downplaying [it]; if there is a full-blown trade war, everybody is going to be affected.” Dominguez stressed that a trade war will be a concern for all countries, as it affects all economies across the globe. “We are investing

DOMINGUEZ: “We are investing domestically, but as I said, that is not enough. Any trade war will affect all countries in the world.”

domestically, but as I said, that is not enough. Any trade war will affect all countries in the world.” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said if the trade skirmish does not go beyond the higher steel tariffs imposed by Washing ton, the impact would not be a direct hit for the Philippines. “We are not exporting aluminum or steel, so the impact would be indirect.” But if it develops into a trade war,

“especially if it’s a full-blown trade war between two superpowers, it’s going to diminish the global economic growth, meaning, our export markets will be less inclined to import our products. It will hurt their importing capacity,” Pernia added. But he said it is more likely that US President Donald J. Trump will come to his senses. He added that most US officials are more for free trade, with a trade war most likely hitting American industries and consumers in the end. “Republicans are for free trade, so they’re telling him that it’s not a good policy and its going to hurt the American industries and consumers if there’s a trade war. And I think China, being the manufacturing machine of the world, will have more clout in trade.”

Execution is biggest hurdle for ‘BBB’ plan

Fishing moratorium: Is PHL doing it right? Continued from A1

several nights. Again, it was hailed as another blessing from the sea.    Agriculture officials believe these events were a result of an effective management intervention —the declaration of fishing ban or moratorium imposed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to allow certain commercially viable fish to breed and thrive in numbers, thus, replenishing the country’s fish stock.   Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, during a brief speech at the awarding of the Philippine Agricultural Journalists Inc.— San Miguel Corp. Binhi Awards on March 22, in Makati City, said more fishing moratorium will be declared in strategic areas in the country to ensure sustainable fishery production, particularly for tamban, as he underscored the effectiveness of the measure that resulted in the phenomenon called “sardine run.” Scientists, however, have a different explanation, distinguishing sardine run from sardine beaching, while assailing the lack of comprehensive study and management plan that will ensure the survival of sardines, particularly the lowly tamban, which is ironically not even among the major species on the radar of the concerned government agencies.

Fishery situation


xecution “will be the decisive element” in the success of the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program, economic experts said at a recent forum organized by Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) “The impetus for a massive infrastructure buildup is the country’s poor state of infrastructure, as evidenced by our poor performance in several global rankings,” said Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADRi. “The Philippines is one of the lowest in terms of logistics performance, and the most problematic factor for doing business in the country is inadequate infrastructure supply.” Economist Dr. Alvin Ang presented his special study, “Financing Inclusive Infrastructure,” where he identified serious challenges that the government must overcome to deliver on the President’s infrastructure agenda. The study points out that the issue on BBB implementation is not about which of the public-private partnership mode or official development assistant is better. It is “ultimately an issue of whether the Philippines can address the myriad of execution issues.” “The Metro Rail Transit [Line] 7 is a prime example of this, as the contract was awarded and signed in 2008 and yet construction only took off eight years later in 2016,” Ang said. In particular, Ang cited perennial problems beyond the approval and bidding stages, from the securing of right-of-way, procurement, budget bottlenecks and other issues of a “poor knowledge management nature.” “This is not so much different with the issues related to doing business in the country, which appears as the perennial reason foreign investors are not coming in.  We need to improve governance at different levels whether business or infrastructure-related. It will be critical that the first half of 2018 will reflect a much-improved infrastructure spending and faster implementation of programs, as people expect movement and not just press releases.  This same source of political capital might be eroded sooner when people’s expectations are not met,” Ang said.

convenient and safe jeepney A Philippine-made prototype electronic jeepney (e-jeepney) was launched recently in response to the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program. The event was spearheaded by Board Member Aileen Lizada of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board; Founder and Chairman Elmer B. Francisco of Elmer Francisco Industries-Francisco Passenger Jeepney; and President Ronald Allan Aquino of i-Pay MyEG Philippines Inc. The move aims to boost the market for both electronic-powered and Euro 4-compliant diesel-powered (Isuzu) jeepneys. The e-jeepney features free Wi-fi, closed-circuit television cameras, automated fare collection, air-conditioning for some units and speed limiter for the convenience and safety of the riding public. NONIE REYES

DOT: Boracay sells itself

Miss Universe pageant being held there to help market the island to tourists. “So I’ve been toying with the idea,” Teo said, adding that the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) had wanted to hold the pageant in the Philippines last year, except that Duterte thumbed down the idea because it was going to clash with the Asean 50th anniversary meetings last November. “If we don’t get it this year, because I know [MUO] is eyeing China, maybe next year,” she said. But she emphasized that the Boracay stint will likely just be for the swimsuit competition; “the main event will still be in Manila.” Underscoring the continuing foreign interest in Boracay, the DOT chief noted that she had been asked to speak at a conference in Buenos Aires to talk about “how the Philippine government implemented the Boracay closure and how the different agencies, communities and stakeholders got involved.” The said conference, the 18th World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit to be held on April 18 and 19, will have a session on “Putting communities at the center of tourism development,” where Teo is a panelist. “I was supposed to talk about Coron and the sustainability of the island…but I was surprised they wanted me to talk about Boracay,” she said. The DOT also reported

“minimal cancellations” on trips to the Philippines, and underscored that there were more tourists—originally slated to go to Boracay during the closure period—opting to rebook their trips to other destinations in the Philippines like Cebu and Bohol. Tourism industry leaders earlier said about 700,000 bookings for Boracay are expected to be canceled because of its closure. They still had no figures how many opted to rebook to other destinations, or were delisting the Philippines altogether from their travel plans. Teo said 130 guests from Portugal originally to stay in Shangri-La’s Boracay Resort & Spa from May 20 to 24, are transferring to ShangriLa’s Mactan Resort & Spa. “Cebu Pacific direct flights with 300 Koreans transferred from Boracay to Cebu and Henann Resort Bohol; Hana Tours with 522 persons transferred to Henann Resort Bohol; and Rajah Tours said ‘no problem’; their clients who were booked in Boracay will rebook in six months [when the island reopens],” she narrated. “What we’re saying is just because we closed Boracay, it’s not true the [foreign] tourists will no longer come. Some of them are going to Cebu, Palawan and Coron,” she emphasized. Tourism Spokesman and Assistant Secretary Frederick M. Alegre said based on reports from the agency’s office in Japan, the cancel-

Continued from a1

lations have been very minimal. The report from the DOT’s Osaka and Tokyo offices, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, indicated: over 200 persons (pax) booked on Philippine Airlines (PAL) from Tokyo “has decided not to push through with chartered flight to Boracay.” The tourists were booked through ST World, H.I.S. and JTB. The report added that over 100 pax booked on PAL in Osaka were going to Boracay during the ”Golden Week period. [They] changed to [another] destination,” the DOT said. A major holiday in Japan, Golden Week is from April 29 to May 5. The DOT also said: PAL Nagoya, around 50 pax canceled their trip to Boracay; and PAL Fukuoka, less than 10 pax —“No flight transfer on the same day. In Kyushu area Boracay is not so popular destination yet.” Other cancellations were: Cebu Pacific (CEB) Osaka, 10 pax; CEB Nagoya, 10 pax; and CEB Narita; two pax, “flight to Manila does not connect to Boracay.” The report added that Japan travel agencies, such as “JTB, Meitsu, and KNT stopped selling Boracay before the announcement [of the closure].” During the news conference, the DOT issued partial guidelines for the closure of Boracay, as well as accreditation guidelines for media who may want to visit the island during the closure period.

While the Philippines is one of the top fish producers in the world, poverty incidence in the fishery sector in 2015 was placed at 34 percent, next to agriculture or farming sector, which was at 34.3 percent. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Fisheries Situation Report from January to December 2017, the total volume of fisheries production declined by 1.04 percent compared to the previous year’s level. The drop in production was high at 6.89 percent in the commercial fishery subsector, with the municipal fisheries experiencing a slight 1.05-percent decline. Aquaculture production, on the other hand, slightly increased by 1.68 percent, the report said. Of the major species, round scad or galunggong, and tiger prawn showed production shortfall of


A16 Monday, April 16, 2018

11.89 percent and 6.29 percent, respectively. On the other hand, more milkfish, tilapia, seaweed, skipjack and yellowfin tuna were produced.

Supply and demand

The price of any commodity in a free-market economy is supposed to be dictated by the law of supply and demand. The price of fish, for example, goes sky-high during the lean season or months when fishing is impossible. On the other hand, the price of fish goes down in times of abundance.   While abundance means lower food price, for the fishermen, it is bad news, as fish dealers would often buy their produce at an even lower price. Unlike big fishing companies, small fishermen have no cold storage, hence, have no choice but to sell their catch to dealers who act as middlemen. These traders dictate the price of fish in the market.

‘New galunggong’

Because of its affordability, fresh tamban, which costs around P80 to P100 per kilo during peak season, and P120 to P140 per kilo during offseason in the market, is now considered as the “new galunggong.” In fishing communities, such as in the coastal areas of Zamboanga Peninsula, tamban costs as low as P10 to P20 per kilo because of the sheer volume of production. A pelagic fish, tamban can be found anywhere in the country. Tamban, which feeds on plankton, plays a very important role in the food cycle.   Tamban is also an ecosystem indicator in the ocean. More tamban means more food both for larger fish and humans alike. To be continued 

Health insurance. . .

licensed HMOs in the country recently—Asalus Corp. and Avega Managed Care Inc.—in a bid to further enhance the managed health-care services in the Philippines. In a statement issued by Fullerton Health Cofounder and Group CEO Dr. Michael Tan Kim Song, he explained that the Philippines offers growth potential to the company, and will enable it to provide more services and benefits to more patients. Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said around 92 percent of the Philippine population is already covered by public health insurance through Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), and their goal is to cover all Filipinos. “Certainly, almost all Filipinos have PhilHealth insurance. Our coverage is about 92 percent of our population as of end-2017,” Duque told the BusinessMirror. The health-care system in the Philippines is serviced by both private and public medical systems, with the public health insurance provided by PhilHealth, while HMOs and life insurance companies offer private health insurance, among others. Based on the 2016 annual report of PhilHealth, the agency was able to cover 91 percent of the population for the year, which translated to around 93.4 million Filipinos enrolled in its National Health Insurance Program.

Continued from A1

The PhilHealth also reported that the agency paid P101.7 billion for the social health insurance benefits of its members, which expanded by 2.7 percent compared to the P99 billion it recorded for 2015. The growth of its benefit payouts was attributed to the continuous enhancement of the agency’s benefits. It also reported that by the end of 2016, PhilHealth had accredited 100 percent of the hospitals licensed by the Department of Health. Of the 1,895 institutional health-care providers, 1,137 are private establishments, while government facilities comprised 758 of the total. Last year Duque pointed out that he wanted to achieve universal healthcare for all Filipinos by 2030. During the State of the Nation Adress of President Duterte in 2016, he had promised to provide health-insurance coverage to all Filipinos under his term. But Maxicare President and CEO Christian S. Argos said PhilHealth coverage is not enough, as it does not cover outpatient health care. “PhilHealth coverage is not enough if you choose to get confined in most hospitals. PhilHealth also doesn’t cover outpatient care. HMOs and medical insurance [providers] supplement PhilHealth to cover a bigger share and more medical care,” Argos told the BusinessMirror via SMS.

Businessmirror april 16, 2018  
Businessmirror april 16, 2018