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Love in the time of apps: Filipinos grapple with old, new dating quirks By Faye Pablo & Natasha Pangilinan

Special to the BusinessMirror

Part One

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F it’s not online, it’s not real,” an adage goes. What about love? Or even engaging in a relationship with amorous affection? For Claire de los Reyes (not her real name), new technology in communication provided her a platform to enter into such a relationship. When her female friends asked her over dinner how she met her beau, Claire pointed on a mobilephone’s screen.

A man and woman pass by a row of red heart-shaped balloons at a mall in Pasay City. Young Filipino couples today grapple with the reality of technology and rising costs in their dating stage. ALYSA SALEN

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They neither met at work nor a cousin’s wedding. Claire’s beau, Dave, isn’t also a friend of a friend. He was on Tinder. And so was she. Claire and Dave are classified as millennials: Filipinos born during the heady days of industry’s love affair with mobile. When touchscreens entered the fray, all things were “swipeable”—even partners. Claire and Dave are also members of a generation that has added a new synonym for sexual interaction: hook up. The latter could get as fast as getting a ride on Uber or Grab. In the dating game, the more popular one is Tinder, an application that allows an individual to be matched with another stranger within the proximity. Continued on A2

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Monday, February 12, 2018 Vol. 13 No. 124

DOF partial to taxing miners based on output By Rea Cu

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@ReaCuBM

he Department of Finance (DOF) and the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) will begin exploring the feasibility of increasing the excise tax on mining on a per-commodity basis next month, according to finance officials.

Dominguez: “Increasing taxes on a per-commodity basis makes sense.”

Aside from taxing mineral resources on a per-commodity basis, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the next MICC meeting

Business judgments in PPPs Alberto C. Agra

PPP AlbertoLead C. Agra

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hen a government agency (GA) and a private sector proponent (PSP) enter into a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement for a particular project, both, separately and, depending on the modality and terms of the contract, collectively, make business judgments.

See “DOF,” A12

Continued on A11

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resident Duterte’s tough stance against abuse of Filipino workers in Kuwait should boost what the Senate Labor Committee head described last Sunday as a perceptible shift from a purely laborexport policy to a “labor-protection policy”that covers a wide range of measures for strict enforcement by Manilabased regulatory bodies and Philippine diplomatic posts worldwide. Sen. Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Employment, however, said he is not inclined to “secondguess” Duterte’s options in addressing the problem. In separate interviews, several other senators weighed in on the Kuwait overseas Filipino workers issue, mostly supportive of the ban but suggesting multi-track measures to ensure the least disruption to the OFWs’ families and the Philippine economy, both reliant on remittances. “I don’t want to second-guess the President, but I think he is not also into promoting labor-export policy,”Villanueva said in reply to a text query from the BusinessMirror.   The senator recalled that the Philippines “shied away from labor export for a long time and has adopted a policy of labor protection for those who opted to work abroad.”   This, as the head of a private think

A Pentagon budget like none before: $700 billion

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VILLANUEVA: “I introduced in the Senate a bill mandating the deployment of Social Welfare Attachés and opening of International Welfare Services Welfare Offices to ensure on-site interventions on OFWs vulnerabilities.”

@butchfBM

tank and OFW solidarity group said any tweak in labor export and protection policies would have to be sustained this time around, noting how the government had dropped the ball in 1989, when a similar rash of abuses prompted a temporary deployment ban. Manila moved to forge a bilateral labor agreement with Kuwait, but it lifted the deployment ban nonetheless even though no such agreement was ever forged. The success of any bilateral labor protection “always lies with the strong commitment of both parties to implement the contents of that agreement,” said former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople, in an e-mail interview with the B usiness M irror. She now heads the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, which bears the name of her father, the late senator and foreign affairs secretary, who, as labor secretary in the 1970s, was deemed the architect of the laborexport policy that shored up the economy through decades of crisis. Continued on A2

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NEW LABOR-PROTECTION TACT NEEDED FOR OFWS DEPLOYED IN MIDDLE EAST By Butch Fernandez

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sugar boost A cleaning person sweeps the areas around a sugar stand at a supermarket in Las Piñas City. Sugar, the Bureau of Internal Revenue said, has boosted the excise-tax collection from sugar-sweetened beverages by 15 percent in January alone, according to BIR chief Caesar R. Dulay. But the agency has to scale up its performance as the Department of Finance pushes forward with more tax-reform proposals at the legislature this year. NONIE REYEs

PHL to expand farm exports to Turkey, Hungary By Elijah Felice E. Rosales @alyasjah

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s the country continues to expand bilateral relations with its nontraditional partners, officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) embarked on a mission

last week to broaden economic ties with Turkey and Hungary. Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the trade delegation pushed for the expansion of Philippine farm exports to Hungary, including banana, mango and their processed products, as well as carrageenan,

canned tuna, marine produc ts, electronics, automotive parts and aerospace parts. “They have a strong interest in mango, banana, coconut and carrageenan,” he said in a text message to reporters. See “PHL,” A2

ASHINGTON—It’s the biggest budget the Pentagon has ever seen: $700 billion. That’s far more in defense spending than America’s two nearest competitors, China and Russia, and will mean the military can foot the bill for thousands more troops, more training, more ships and a lot else. And, next year, it would rise to $716 billion. Together, the two-year deal provides what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says is needed to pull the military out of a slump in combat readiness at a time of renewed focus on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan and the threat of war on the Korean peninsula. The budget bill that President Donald J. Trump signed last Friday includes huge spending increases for the military: The Pentagon will get $94 billion more this budget year than last—a 15.5-percent jump. It’s the biggest year-over-year windfall since the budget soared by 26.6 percent, from $345 billion in 2002 to $437 billion the year after, when the nation was fighting in Afghanistan, invading Iraq and expanding national defense after the 9/11 attacks. The extra money is not targeted at countering a new enemy or a singular threat like al-Qaeda extremists or the former Soviet Union. Instead the infusion is being sold as a fix for a broader set of problems, including a deficit of training, a need for more hi-tech missile defenses and the start of a complete recapitalization of the nuclear-weapons arsenal. Every secretary of defense since 2011, when the Congress passed a law setting firm limits on military and domestic spending, has complained that spending caps set by the Budget Control Act were squeezing the military so hard that the number of ready-to-fight combat units was dwindling. Aging equipment was stacking up, troops were not getting enough training and the uncertain budget outlook was clouding America’s future. AP

n japan 0.4719 n UK 71.3214 n HK 6.5598 n CHINA 8.1195 n singapore 38.5215 n australia 39.8932 n EU 62.8257 n SAUDI arabia 13.6808

Source: BSP (9 February 2018 )


A2 Monday, February 12, 2018

BMReports BusinessMirror

www.businessmirror.com.ph

Love in the time of apps: Filipinos grapple with old, new dating quirks Continued from A1

Conversations are exchanged and, later, on social-media accounts and mobile numbers. A consensus is reached to bring the online conversation to the next level: offline meet up. Another popular dating application is Filipino Cupid, which is mostly used by Filipino women to meet foreign partners.

Reasons

New labor-protection tact needed for ofws deployed in Middle East Continued from A1

Ople said: “Today, no less than President Duterte has set the tone for bilateral talks to commence. We all need to support him. Any sign of wavering or disunity on our side due to shortsighted political or business interests would only weaken our position and may lead to even greater abuse of our workers.” Ople reminded everyone that other Gulf nations “are watching our moves,” and also have “a strategic interest to see this impasse resolved.” Millions of Arab families have relied on Filipino domestic and skilled workers for years, she added, stressing that, “We can use the President’s strong position on domestic workers’ rights to revisit existing agreements or push aggressively for new ones.” Villanueva said the list of programs implemented by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), including tightening of agency licensing and accreditation, aggressive development of bilateral agreements with host countries on protection of OFWs, “and our bias for skilled workers than deployment of prone-to-abuse household workers are proof of the shift to protection than exportation of labor.” Villanueva explained that the tweaking is more on the implementation side, adding “that has been my call on the DOLE, OWWA and POEA.”   “Additionally, on the side of legislation, I introduced in the Senate a bill mandating the deployment of social welfare attachés [SWA] and opening of International Welfare Services Welfare Offices [IWSWOs] in foreign service posts with high concentration of overseas Filipinos and with cases of abuses. The bill intends to ensure on-site interventions on OFWs vulnerabilities,” he added. For its part, the Ople Center is putting forward these

NORTHEAST MONSOON AFFECTING NORTHERN LUZON as of 5:00 am - February 11, 2018

proposals, according to Ople: 1. Tougher and stricter but not slower vetting of foreign employers and foreign recruitment agencies seeking to hire domestic workers from the Philippines. There’s need to “make it clear that the new policy would have greater emphasis on quality of the employer and not quantity of job orders.” 2. Get rid of corrupt airport and immigration personnel, as well as labor officials involved in corruption. “The message that our workers are not for sale should resonate, as well, throughout the overseas employment program ecosystem.” 3. Allow only professional and principled recruitment agencies the right to deploy domestic workers. “Enough of the resurrection of canceled licenses. We must hold ourselves to the same ethical conduct as we would foreign recruitment agencies and employers.”

Labor, economic affairs inquiry

A joint inquiry by the Labor Committee and Economic Affairs Committee is seen likely. This, as concerned senators over the weekend took divergent positions on whether Duterte’s decision to ban deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait in the wake of widespread abuse of OFWs should signal a major tweak in the government’s labor export policy. Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, backed an immediate OFW deployment ban in countries known to have dismal track record in protecting Filipino overseas workers. “Everyday, I personally receive cries for help from our families here in the Philippines for their relatives who are being abused abroad. Unfortunately, 100 percent of the reports of abuse and maltreatment of our OFWs emanate from the Middle East, especially from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,” he said in a text message to B usiness M irror.

The senator added these two countries “have very weak policies on the protection of migrant workers, leaving all foreign nationality to defend themselves against abusive employers.” Gatchalian said: “The protection of our OFWs is the primordial concern of our government. We should no longer allow OFWs in counties where we don’t have strong bilateral agreements to protect our migrant workers. More so, we should no longer send OFWs to counties where mechanisms and laws for the protection of migrant workers are nonexistent.”

‘Build, Build, Build’          

Sen. Cynthia A. Villar, Social Justice Committee chairman, however, proposed a two-track option: a total ban on countries that routinely abuse OFWs, and for the government to adopt a system to match jobseekers with the requirements of the Duterte administration’s job-generating “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program. Villar last Sunday  noted that domestic workers account for 80 percent of problematic cases, or those of distressed OFWs. She said many women have trained as welders in Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, noting “they are good and easily found jobs abroad.” In similar fashion, Villar said, jobseekers who have such marketable skills should be helped to find good jobs either in the Philippines or in countries where labor-hosting arrangements are good and humane. Ople weighed in on this need to get away from stereotyping genders only for particular jobs, like women OFWs as maids. “Finally, our women workers deserve a fighting chance to be considered for a broader variety of jobs. The older they get, the more limited their access to decent work becomes. A lot of soul-searching needs to happen and this goes beyond the traditional stakeholders in overseas employment into the households where every migrant worker is solely relied upon for financial support,” Ople said. “There are now many vacancies in the construction sector because of Build, Build, Build, so why should they still opt to work abroad or be worried about finding jobs here? We just need to point out to them the job opportunities available here,” Villar said. Villar added: “They just need to be trained or retrained so they could avail themselves of job opportunities in construction and tourism...where there is increasing demand under the Duterte administration’s economic blueprint.” In a separate statement, Villar said the OFW deployment ban to Kuwait issued by President Duterte “signals the need for us to reexamine the social costs of labor migration, especially for domestic workers.” Villar suggested that the government “needs to strengthen our own domestic job market and increase the labor participation of women, especially those in rural areas.” “As a woman and as a legislator, I support the President’s decision. The dignity and rights of our domestic workers should always be upheld,” the senator said, adding, “I believe that the entire overseas employment program needs to be reviewed because it is more than 40 years old. Much has happened in the global work force since its inception.”

CLAIRE told the BusinessMirror she chose to use Tinder initially to meet new people from different walks of life and people who have different interests. Essentially, they are strangers and, she said, the excitement comes with the opportunity to get to know one. It’s like opening a wrapped gift and you wish there’s something really neat or precious inside, she said. Some who use Tinder said they did so because their lives revolve around work and have no time to meet with other people outside work. So instead, they just swipe right hoping they meet Mister Right. Some also said they use a dating application for hook ups, to kill time and quash boredom. Claire said before meeting Dave, she wasn’t in Tinder for something serious. She said she kept her use of Tinder secret since some people look down on dating-app users like her. A study by data and analytics group YouGov revealed that 41 percent of Filipino millennials are embarrassed to admit they met their partners through a dating application. In contrast, the study revealed 58 percent of Filipino millennials surveyed said they don’t mind if they met their partners through a dating application. “It’s not that it is embarrassing at all, it’s just that I avoid hearing negative opinions from people around me about my use of a dating application,” Chai Cruz (note her real name) said. The 25-year-old Cruz, a marketing assistant of a company in Makati City, said she has been using a dating application for two months. The adage “if it’s not online it’s not real” doesn’t apply to Jane de la Cruz (not her real name). After days of conversing online with Carlo, her current beau, Jane said she began to regard him as a friend. Upon realizing they share the same interest, the couple decided to meet. “He was also a fan of hiking. We decided to have our first meeting on a mountain-climbing experience,” Jane said. The 23-year-old accountant said they went to Mount Batulao. She had been using a dating application for six months. But not all can say the dating application worked. For 26-year-old Sheryl Acuña (not her real name), sexual predators also abound in online matching platforms. “I have tried using Tinder for fun but all I got was malicious messages and people asking to have sex,” Sheryl, a banker, used

PHL. . .

Continued from A1

Lopez headed the delegation that went to Turkey and Hungary last week to secure the two countries’ commitment to improve trade relations with the Philippines. Manila is determined to establish more active ties with Ankara and Budapest as part of the Duterte administration’s self-styled independent foreign policy, which aims to better the country’s relations with its nontraditional partners. According to Lopez, Hungary offered itself to be the gateway of the country to the European Union, while the Philippines returned the favor by vowing to become its gateway to the Asean. “We talked to business chambers to invite them to invest, making the Philippines as their production hub in Asean,” he said. The two countries also committed to carry on with their trade talks in September, when it will conduct its inaugural Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation (JCETC). Lopez expects this is just the beginning of improved relations between Manila and Budapest, saying the latter has a “strong leadership” under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Aside from the expansion of exports, Hungary also vowed to continue aiding the Philippines in times of disaster. Lopez noted it was Hungary who was among the first to send tents and water purifier and filtration system for the victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan). The trade mission was able to secure Turkey’s commitment to expand Manila and Ankara’s economic relations. This was after the delegation convened the first JCETC between the Philippines and Turkey. Under the JCETC, various trade opportunities were discussed by Lopez and Turkish National Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); manufacture

to be on Tinder for a month.

Old times

FOR Rosa Luna (not her real name), today’s dating was far, far different during her time. The 42-year-old married woman said new technology has pushed wide the differences between the methods. Love letters, flowers and walk in the parks are the most important thing when dating during the late-1980s, she said. Also, men are required to get permission from the woman’s parents if they could go out and date. And usually, it’s only during the day, not in the evenings, Rosa added. Flowers and chocolates are add-ons, she said. Usually, a man gives a bouquet of roses, which will push their budget back today at a minimum of P500. Buying preserved flowers would cost a minimum P4,000. But while flowers and chocolates stood the test of time, love letters or Valentine’s Card went out of style. Surely, flowers don’t smell sweeter and chocolates tastier online, Rosa said. However, at one click of a mouse or a swipe of a screen, messages of love remain appreciated, she added. In the US, to note, Valentine’s Day is the third-biggest holiday or season for the $22-billion American chocolate candy industry. In the recent report US Food Market Outlook 2018, market research firm Packaged Facts estimates that holiday/seasonal chocolates account for 24 percent of all sales in the US chocolate candy market.

Dating

PUBLIC relations firm M2O Communications Inc. has said Valentine’s Day “is easily distinguishable by a steep increase of prices in the flower market, with red roses normally experiencing a fivefold hike in its regular price.” “This fact doesn’t come as a surprise as a previous survey conducted by GE Money shows that among eight Asian countries surveyed, Filipinos celebrate V-Day the most,” the company said in its blog. “These studies only imply that the day of the hearts is no longer exclusive for couples and lovers alone,” it added. “Throughout the years, it has also become a special occasion for business and entrepreneurs who wish to take the most out of the high-spending season.” For Liezl Marcial (not her real name), it was affordable during her time. “We used to go to cinemas after class, that was 1992 and it wasn’t that expensive,” the 42-year-old said. Your P1,000 can actually take you on a cinema date with simple dinner for two, she said. “But today it would only take you to a movie date,” she added. According to Liezl, during her time, it was her date who went to her house. “And I have to get home before 6 [p.m.].” Today, she said, dating couples just meet in malls and men will just accompany the woman to the bus station. To be continued

of textiles and garments; pharmaceuticals; agricultural processing for mango, coconut and banana; in hospitality services; infrastructure; and air services. “The Philippines is committed to pursue several growth opportunities by strengthening partnerships with emerging economic partners like Turkey,” Lopez said in a statement. Trade cooperation on customs, energy, science and technology, education, standardization, film and creatives, defense and contracting and consultancy services will also be explored by the two countries. The Turkish government offered to buy more products from the Philippines and vowed to explore the opportunity to invest in the country, especially in textiles and pharmaceuticals. Ankara also informed the trade mission that it is ready to provide zero-interest financial assistance to any program crucial to Manila’s development and security. As a predominantly Muslim country, Turkey vowed to help the Philippine government rebuild Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, through financing MSMEs in the Islamic town. Moreover, DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo Jr. entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on investment promotions with Arda Ermut, president of the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey. The MOU allows the two trade departments to exchange best practices on promoting their country’s respective investment opportunities. “Engaging with Turkey is in line with the thrust of President Duterte’s administration to engage with nontraditional trading partners to reinvigorate ties and increase trade between both countries,” Lopez said. Under Duterte, the Philippines is veering away from its traditional partners that are mostly critical of the government’s war on drugs, including the United States.


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Floirendo hits House probe on Dapecol banana plantation By Manuel T. Cayon @awimailbox Mindanao Chief Bureau

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AVAO CITY—The camp of Rep. Antonio R. Floirendo Jr. of the Second District of Davao del Norte reacted to the recent Congressional probe on the family banana-plantation operation inside the Davao Prison and Penal Farm, saying the probe has turned personal because of his archenemy, the House speaker. Floirendo said the inquiry failed to produce “documentary evidence and a single testimony to impugn the deal which, in the first place, was started when the government offered its penal farms for development.” “The recent February 7 hearing of the House of Representatives on the joint-venture agreement [JVA] between the Davao Prison and Penal Farm [DPPF, formerly called Dapecol] and the Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. [Tadeco] facetiously turned into a witch hunt,” he added. Admitting he was irked, he said the inquiry, “the fifth time it was done to scrutinize the shared accord, failed to come up with even a single testimony.” He added: “It was lamentable that, in the failure to pin down alleged anomalies in the joint-venture agreement, House Speaker Pantaleon [D.] Alvarez has injected unrelated and false issues in the hearing.” “For hitting a blank wall, Mr. Alvarez resorted to manufactured charges, accusing my family of poll manipulation, preventing people from entering Dapecol, a public land, and pursuing

claims that Dapecol lands were not properly surveyed,” he said. As far back as last year, the two congressmen were at loggerheads, their quarrel hogging the spotlight that eventually dragged their respective mistresses into the fray. President Duterte has kept his distance, although the two were his staunch allies and supporters. Floirendo was one of the biggest contributors to Duterte’s Presidential campaign kitty, while Alvarez was known to muster Congressional support to administration programs and policies. Alvarez said Floirendo’s family owned Tadeco and has allegedly used “poll manipulation, preventing people from entering Dapecol, a public land.” On the contrary, Floirendo said, “It is public knowledge that people go in and out of Barangay A. O. Floirendo in my district every single day. No one is getting limited access to public areas, and this is true during election periods.” “Movement of personnel, however, is limited in certain areas for biosecurity reasons and in compliance with the guidelines set by the phytosanitary agencies of foreign trade partners. The restrictions, moreover, have nothing to do with the JVA but are part of the production agreements that Tadeco, as plantation operator, has signed with exporters, which are bound by quarantine, safety and security standards set by their respective countries,” Floirendo added.

Editor: Vittorio V. Vitug • Monday, February 12, 2018 A3

Green groups voice opposition to Cha-cha

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By Jonathan L. Mayuga

@jonlmayuga

nvironmental groups last Sunday joined the growing number of oppositors to the proposal to rewrite the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

The groups, which include Nilad, Wild for Wetlands Network, Earth Island Institute-Philippines, Save Freedom Island Movement and the Save Laguna Lake Movement, said the proposed Charter change (Cha-cha) is not only anti-poor but also anti-environment. At a news conference held at the Arroceros Forest Park in Manila, leaders of these groups said the proposed amendments to the Constitution will only worsen environment plunder. Nilad, a group named after a mangrove species, was particularly alarmed that, based on the Resolution of Both Houses 8 (RBH8), the proposed provisions under Article XII will have an adverse impact on the environment. According to the group, Section 2 grants Congress the power to allow foreigners or 100-percent foreign-owned corporations the power to solely exploit our natural resources. This means that foreign companies will be allowed to do mining,

they said.    Foreigners can also own agricultural lands under Section 7 of RHB8. On the other hand, under Section 3, the State or Regional Legislature can grant and allow private corporations the power to lease more than 1,000 hectares up to 100 years. Kevin Paul Aguayon, spokesman of Nilad, said even the PDP Laban version will allow the sale or lease of reclaimed coastal areas or forest lands to transnational corporations. “ T hese proposals are antipoor and anti-environment. We know what large foreign companies do to the environment. They destroy the environment for profits,” he said. According to the groups, the proposal also deleted parts of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that “alienable lands of the public domain shall be limited to agricultural lands.” PDP Laban also deleted provisions in the present Constitution saying that “private corporations

or associations may not hold such alienable lands of the public domain except by lease, for a period not exceeding 25 years, renewable for not more than 25 years, and not to exceed 1,000 hectares in area.” “Allowing foreigners to own land will not only worsen landlessness in the country. It will also displace poor Filipinos from their farming communities and ancestral domains,” he said. “Allowing foreigners to exploit our natural resources will unleash more development-aggression projects in the rural areas, which could exacerbate the deteriorating condition of the environment. It will pave the way for the unbridled exploitation of ancestral domains and even protected habitats by profit-hungry corporations and their powerful backers in the bureaucracy,” Aguayon added. He said the proposed Cha-cha amendments “boost the business prospects of mining, log ging and other sectors of the extractive industry at the expense of the poor.” “If President Duterte is really against environmental destruction, he will not support the proposed amendments to the Constitution because these will destroy the environment and lead to biodiversity loss,” he added. Moreover, Aguayon said land reclamations will endanger the lives of millions of people in coastal areas, noting the adverse effect of

land reclamation. “There are currently 102 landreclamation projects in the pipeline. These will lead to massive destruction of coastal areas and, in the process, leave our coastal communities defenseless against sea-level rise or storm surge, “ he said. Nilad added the proposal to broaden the category of “alienable lands” could be intended to allow the selling of reclaimed lands that could lead to a “reclamation surge or boom” by enticing politicians and policy-makers to hasten the process of approving reclamation projects across the country. There is a pending government blueprint, which features more than 100 reclamation projects all over the country. About one-third of these reclamation proposals are focused on Manila Bay. “Reclamation is extremely harmful to the environment,” Aguayon stressed. “If President Duterte is against environmental destruction, he can start by ordering the ban on land reclamation,” he added. Land reclamation, according to Nilad, destroys wetlands and leads to severely damaged marine environment, which is irreversible. “It will affect our biodiversity. It will affect the livelihood of thousands of coastal residents and fisherfolk and promote a development model that favors big business instead of enhancing sustainability and climate change-readiness of communities,” he said. 


Economy

A4 Monday, February 12, 2018 • Editors: Vittorio V. Vitug and Max V. de Leon

BusinessMirror

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Govt readies repatriation of OFWs in Kuwait

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By Samuel P. Medenilla

@sam_medenilla

enior labor officials will meet on Monday to finalize the details of the repatriation of at least 2,000 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Kuwait as ordered by President Duterte.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it has yet to select the flights for the said OFWs, who have availed themselves of the amnesty program of

the Kuwaiti government. Local airline companies Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have already announced that they are willing to help the government bring

home the stranded OFWs in Kuwait. “The details and amount to be set [for the flights] will be determined in the meeting with senior officials tomorrow,” DOLE Information and Publication Service Director Rolly M. Francia said in a text message. The Department of Foreign Affairs said at least 800 OFWs from Kuwait are already scheduled to be repatriated within the week. In a radio interview, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III clarified the repatriation will be voluntarily for OFWs in Kuwait. “If they are abused or not paid correctly, they could go home. They would just have to go to the Polo [Philippine Overseas Labor Office] or [Philippine] Embassy, and we will in-

clude them in the group going home,” Bello said. Francia said Bello will also iron out on Monday the details of the deployment ban for Kuwait. Bello earlier said they are considering exempting vacationing OFWs from the deployment ban. Currently, the DOLE has existing deployment restriction after it suspended the overseas employment certificate processing for OFWs bound for Kuwait, which has been in effect since January 19. The deployment restriction was in response to the seven incidents of “suspicious” death of seven OFWs in Kuwait in previous months. Bello noted he was supposed to lift the deployment restriction last week, but he decided to reconsider

after Duterte issued a strongly worded statement against the latest reported incident of abuse of an OFW in Kuwait. Last Friday the President ordered government agencies to impose a deployment ban for Kuwait and to repatriate stranded OFWs in the Middle Eastern country within 72 hours. This, he said, will send a “strong message” to the Kuwaiti government to ensure the welfare of OFWs in their jurisdiction following the brutal death of Joanna Dimapilis. The remains of Dimapilis, a Filipino household service worker, were recently found in a freezer after allegedly being murdered by her employer. Duterte said he will soon be trav-

eling to Kuwait for the possibility of finally signing the pending labor bilateral agreement for the protection of OFWs there. Migrante International Spokesman Arman Hernando blamed the high incidents of abused OFWs in Kuwait to the government’s defective “labor export policy,” which he said focuses on the earnings of Filipino abroad instead of their welfare. “President Duterte should be the one ensuring that the Kuwaiti government and employers respect the rights of our migrants,” Hernando said. The migrant leader also expressed concern about the capability of the government in extending aid to the repatriates from Kuwait.

Malacañang asked to set aside P100M for Benham Rise research Experts’ advice on

e-cigarettes pushed

By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz @joveemarie

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FILE PHOTO

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he House of Representatives has recently adopted a resolution urging the Palace to allocate P100 million for additional scientific research and feasibility studies and marine exploration for mineral deposits and other resources in Benham Rise. Voting unanimously, members of the lower chamber approved House Resolution (HR) 1636, pushing for the establishment of a trust fund with a seed amount of P100 million, which shall be managed by the National Coast Watch Council for additional scientific research, feasibility studies, marine exploration of the region and acquisition of new equipment to improve the government’s research capabilities and further enhance the development strategies of the country. HR 1636 said the scientific surveys and marine explorations showed that the Philippine Rise is rich in marine resources and massive mineral and gas deposits, which can help the country achieve energy sufficiency. The resolution, citing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), said the Philippines shall exercise sovereign rights over its exclusive economic zone, the body of water extending up to 200 nautical miles from the archipelagic baselines, and the continental shelf, seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the other edge of the continental margin. It added when the continental shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles, a coastal State is required under Article 76 of the Unclos to make submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which will set out the coordinates of the outer limits of the shelf accompanied by technical and scientific data to support the claim. The CLCS assesses the data submitted and makes recommendations.

The outer limits of the continental shelf established by a coastal State based on these recommendations are final and binding. Also, the resolution added that the Benham Rise, now called Philippine Rise as directed by the President under Executive Order 25 series of 2017, is a 13 million-hectare undersea region that lies approximately 160 nautical miles east of Luzon and off the provinces of Isabela and Aurora. The Philippine Rise is a massive formation of basalt, a common volcanic rock , and is described as a thickened portion of the oceanic crust of the Philippine Sea plate. Scientific data on seismic, magnetic and other geological features of Philippine Rise indicate that the region is an extension of the country’s continental shelf. On April 9, 2009, the Philippines lodged its claim with the CLCS that the Philippine Rise is part of the country’s extended continental shelf. In April 2012, the CLCS officially recognized and approved the Philippines’s claim over the Philippine Rise,

giving the country sovereign rights over the territory. The resolution said award of the Philippine Rise to the Philippines by the CLCS increased the areas of seabed subject to the country’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction, prompting the amendment of the country’s existing submarine maps, which will likewise be used as the reference point by potential investors.

Probe

Meanwhile, members of the Makabayan bloc have already filed a resolution urging the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the so-called “marine research and study” conducted by China in the Philippine Rise. Members of the bloc include Partylist Reps. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis, Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna, Emmi de Jesus and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, Antonio Tinio and France Casto of Act Teachers and Sarah Jane Elago of Kabataan. The resolution said, despite the Chinese government’s adverse view on Philippine

Rise, the Department of Foreign Affairs granted China a permit to conduct maritime research in the eastern seaboard of the Philippines starting January 24. It said the UP National Institute for Geological Sciences and UP Marine Science Institute have been collaborating with counterpart institutions from Korea and Japan since 2016 to begin initial exploration of the seabed in Benham Rise. It added other marine geologists and biologists have also produced academic papers and analysis for policy considerations and have also been analyzing samples and observations gathered from research cruises and have made interesting findings and potential discoveries. “The Philippines, in fact, already has a deep-sea research vessel, known as BRP Gregorio Velasquez, that can conduct its own study,” the resolution read. “Contrary to the claims of the current administration, the Philippines does not have to rely on China to study the Philippine Rise.” However, it said any joint exploration with China must protect the interest of the Filipino people and should contribute to the country’s economic development.

Pathologists want to help govt dispel Dengvaxia scare

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he Philippine Society of Pathologists (PSP), cognizant of the current events related to the dengue vaccine, is prepared and willing to help dispel the fear and hysteria created by some sectors of the society. PSP President Bernadette R. Espiritu issued the statement following reports that the credentials of the forensic consultant of the Public Attorney’s Office who erred in his autopsy findings on children vaccinated with Dengvaxia is a sham. Being a charter member of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the PSP is the recognized professional medical association (PMA) that is duly mandated to train and certify physicians in the field of pathology as a medical specialty. Espiritu said that, at present, the PSP recognizes only two Filipino physicians who have successfully hurdled the stringent trainings and are qualified in the medical subspecialty of forensic pathology. “For the record, the Philippine Society of Pathologists does not discount the capabilities of other physicians conducting

autopsies without being trained, qualified and certified as Diplomate or Fellow in Anatomic or in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology. It must be emphasized, however, that the medical profession as a field of science, adheres to certain standards and best practices, which are validated and ensured by medical societies of the PMA in their respective fields of medical specialization,” Espiritu said in a statement sent to BusinessMirror. She added that any misstep in the process is prone to yield incorrect or misleading diagnosis, which is a mortal mistake, especially in diagnosis of a patient, much less in determining the true cause of death. “ T hose chi ldren who received Dengvaxia vaccination numbering about 800,000 or more, including their families and friends, are now engulfed by the unimaginable scare that death is almost an inevitable consequence that is to come upon the vaccine-recipients, who never had dengue before, as generated by the much-publicized autopsy findings from the supposed forensic experts,” Espiritu said.

She also said that, to these helpless Filipino countrymen, their lives have practically come to a halt until they find certain solution or assurance that their Dengvaxia vaccinated children will not suffer the same fate as those who were autopsied by those who claim to be a forensics expert. “This is not a battle of who is the best specialty group, and this should be a concerted effort for all Filipino medical professionals all across the different medical specialties under the Philippine Medical Association. Ever mindful of its duty to help advance the medical welfare of the Filipinos, the Philippine Society of Pathologists is committed to support the PMA and the Department of Health in their efforts to reach out to the Dengvaxia vaccine-recipient children and their families, and to help alleviate their current condition from the Dengvaxia scare,” Espiritu added. In a separate statement of the Doctors for Truth, it said that perceptions that Dr. Erwin Erfe, who linked the deaths of 14 children to Dengvaxia, is a bogus forensic expert are even bolstered by reports that

he has questionable credentials. A fact check made on Erfe’s credentials showed several intriguing results. Erfe got his credentials from the organizations and “companies” created by a certain Dr. Robert Louis O’ Block. In August 2017, O’Block figured in an apparent murdersuicide, killing his girlfriend and himself. It said that a multitude of forensic experts in the country are now asking how credible the works of Erfe are given such information on the persons from whom he earned his titles in forensics. “Hindi po kayang matutunan ang autopsy sa pag-attend ng lecture at pag-attend ng workshop maski na mag-attend ka ng workshop ng isang taon. When we lecture on autopsies, we usually stress on the traumatic finding on traumatic deaths from gun-shot wounds, but we rarely deal with medical deaths,” according to Dr. Maria Cecilia Lim. Lim is an expert forensic pathologist and one of the doctors who did the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital study on the deaths allegedly linked with the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. Charles R. Pepito

hilippine vapers say that the latest Public Health England (PHE) report validated their position that ecigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, and that it should form part of the country’s tobacco control program. The new e-cigarette evidence review, undertaken by leading independent tobacco experts, provides evidence that vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking, and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits. It also recommended that e-cigarettes be made available in hospitals in the United Kingdom for those who wish to quit smoking. “Listen to the experts. It is time for the Department of Health to look into this report so that they can recommend e-cigarettes and heated-tobacco products to smokers who want to quit,” said Tom Pinlac, president of the The Vapers Philippines. Pinlac added it is an outrage that smokers are denied the proper information about e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. “Educate smokers about vaping and heated-tobacco products instead of resorting to fearmongering,” he said. “More than 17 million Filipino smokers can benefit from vaping e-cigs or other heated-tobacco products because they are significantly less harmful than smoking” said Edward Gatchalian, president of Philippine E-Liquid Manufacturers Association. “It is said that 87,000 deaths every year are attributed to smoking-related diseases. Smokers should switch to vaping or tobacco-heated products if they want kick the habit of smoking. This is a very clear message embodied in the PHE report”, Gatchalian added. The PHE evidence review also tackled for the first time heated-tobacco products as possibly considerably less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and more harmful than e-cigarettes.” The study stated that “heated-tobacco products use reduced urges to smoke.” Heat-not-burn tobacco products, also known as heatedtobacco products, heats tobacco instead of burning it to release flavor and nicotine without combustion. The PHE recommended that e-cigarettes, alongside nicotine replacement therapies, are made available for sale in hospital shops to smokers who want to quit. The PHE review also stated that many thousands of smokers incorrectly believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking; around 40 percent of smokers have not even tried an e-cigarette, and there is much public misunderstanding about nicotine (less than 10 percent of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine). Professor John Newton, director for Health Improvement at PHE said: “Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 percent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders. Yet, over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know.” It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety. Professor Ann McNeill, lead author and professor of Tobacco Addiction at King’s College London, said: “It’s of great concern that smokers still have such a poor understanding about what causes the harm from smoking. When people smoke tobacco cigarettes, they inhale a lethal mix of 7,000 smoke constituents, 70 of which are known to cause cancer.” People smoke for the nicotine but, contrary to what the vast majority believe, nicotine causes little if any of the harm. The toxic smoke is the culprit and is the overwhelming cause of all the tobacco-related disease and death. There are now a greater variety of alternative ways of getting nicotine than ever before, including nicotine gum, nasal spray, lozenges and e-cigarettes. Professor Linda Bauld, author and professor of Health Policy, University of Stirling, and chairman in Behavioural Research for Cancer Prevention, Cancer Research UK, said: “Concern has been expressed that e-cigarette use will lead young people into smoking. But, in the United Kingdom, research clearly shows that regular use of ecigarettes among young people who have never smoked remains negligible, less than 1 percent, and youth smoking continues to decline at an encouraging rate. We need to keep closely monitoring these trends but, so far, the data suggest that e-cigarettes are not acting as a route into regular smoking among young people.”


Agriculture/Commodities Editor: Jennifer A. Ng

BusinessMirror

Monday, February 12, 2018 A5

PhilFida needs ₧5.63B to triple abaca output Value of agri exports up 6% in 2017—PSA

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Abaca tuxy (From the web site of PhilFida)

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By Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas

@jearcalas

rograms and interventions aimed at tripling the country’s abaca output to 221,238 metric tons (MT) in the next four years would require a budget of P5.633 billion, according to the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFida). In the Philippine Abaca Roadmap (PAR) 2018-2022, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror, the government said it intends to expand abaca plantations to 239,666 hectares from the current 180,302 hectares. Under the road map, the PhilFida would expand abaca plantations by 39,364 hectares this year; 10,000 hectares in 2019; and 9,000 hectares in 2020. The PhilFida is targeting to rehabilitate some 50,000 hectares of abaca plantation in four years: 30,000 hectares in 2018; 10,000 hectares in 2019; and 9,000 hectares in 2020. The attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA) would expand plantations in the Bicol Region and Eastern Visayas—the top abaca-producing regions in the Philippines. The PhilFida would rehabilitate 89,558 hectares of abaca growing-areas in the Bicol region and 19,214 hectares in Eastern Visayas. “Extensive abaca expansion and rehabilitation efforts will be undertaken from 2018 to 2019 to meet the

targeted 239,666 hectares of total abaca areas by 2022. Bulk of the expansion and rehabilitation activities will be conducted in Regions 5 and 8 and in the regions of Mindanao,” the PAR 2018-2022 read. The road map indicated that the rehabilitation and expansion of abaca plantations would hike output to 76,385 MT this year; 79,576 MT in 2019; 117,519 MT in 2020; 176,715 MT in 2021; and 216,761 MT in 2022. The annual abaca output of t he Phi l ippines is peg ged at 72,734.71 MT. “In terms of targets, a total of 69,364 hectares in 2018 and 44,167 hectares in 2019 will be planted to reach an estimated total abaca fiber demand of 160,444 MT in 2020 with an increase of 12 percent annually. Corporations and farmers have committed to plant abaca in more areas depending on the availability of planting materials,” the PAR read. “By 2022, with the targeted farm expansion and rehabilitation of 146,248 hectares, an estimated fi-

ber production of 216,761 MT will be attained,” it added. To reach its targeted output, the PhilFida would need at least 69.36 million of planting materials this year; 30.92 million next year and 30.92 million in 2020. “[The main problems] of the PhilFida are its dependence on tissue culture planting materials, low seedbank seedling production and disease-infected planting materials. Currently, the PhilFida can only produce a maximum of 500,000 planting materials versus a requirement of 146.28 million,” the PAR read. “It would take the industry about 292 years to acquire said requirement.” To address this problem, the PhilFida would shift to abaca seedderived planting materials from tissue culture production. “Use abaca seed-derived planting materials in response to the needs of the clients. In order to cover the 146.26-million planting material requirement, a total of 4.17 tons of seeds are needed [based] on an assumption of 35,000 seeds per kilogram,” the blueprint read. The attached agency of the DA plans to establish more nurseries per region and encourage local nursery operators and local government units to go into the production of abaca seedlings. The PhilFida would also eradicate abaca diseases like bunchy-top, brat mosaic and mosaic and replant the crop in disease-free areas. The agency said funds would be needed to improve abaca trade performance, for its fiber processing and utilizing program, and for research and development.

eceipts from the country’s shipments of agrobased products grew by 6 percent to $4.225 billion, from $3.987 billion recorded in 2016, according to the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Preliminary data released by the PSA showed that revenues from agrobased products accounted for 6.72 percent of the value of the country’s total exports last year. PSA data showed that the bulk, or 43.12 percent, of revenues from agro-based products last year came from coconut products. The total value of coconut products exported in 2017 reached $1.822 billion, 26.8 percent higher than 2016 record of $1.436 billion. Coconut oil remained as the top farm export of the Philippines, accounting for 35.59 percent of the total receipts from agro-based shipments last year. Revenues from coconut oil exports last year expanded by 30.6 percent to $1.504 billion, from the 2016 re-

cord of $1.151 billion. Revenues from the country’s exports of fruits and vegetables declined by 14.1 percent to $1.357 billion, from the previous year’s $1.58 billion. Ear nings f rom outbound shipments of banana, the countr y’s top fruit export, declined by 9.3 percent to $662.27 million, from $730.6364 million recorded in 2016. Receipts from shipments of canned pineapple and pineapple juice also declined by 24.9 percent and 69.6 percent, respectively. R e v e nu e s f rom p i ne a p pl e juice exports in 2017 amounted to on ly $25. 258 m i l l ion, lower than the previous year’s $83.068 million. Total canned pineapple exports last year was v a lued at $27 7. 326 m i l l ion , from $369.102 million recorded in 2016. However, the country’s earnings from shipments of pineapple concentrates in 2017 jumped to $83.144 million, from just $19.706 million in 2016.

Export receipts from mango shipments also expanded by more than half, or by 64.5 percent, to $21.911 million from $13.319 million during the period. Preliminary data from the PSA also showed that the country’s revenue from mineral products expanded by 69.3 percent to $3.978 billion in 2017, from $2.349 billion recorded in 2016. Mineral exports accounted for 6.32 percent of the country’s total outbound shipments last year, PSA data showed. Earnings from copper metal accounted for the bulk, or 68.1 percent, of export receipts from mineral products last year. The value of copper metal exports jumped to $1.269 billion, from just $125.189 million in 2016. PSA data showed that revenue from gold exports posted the highest increment last year. Total gold exports last year was valued at $533.897 million, significantly higher than the $2.955 million recorded in 2016. Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas

PhilRice reveals top 5 most popular rice varieties

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ice varieties (such as NSIC Rc 216, Rc 160 and Rc 300) bred by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and Rc 222 and Rc 238 produced by the International Rice Research Institute were the top five most preferred rice varieties of Filipino farmers in irrigated lowland fields nationwide, both for dry and wet seasons. “These pool of inbred rice varieties were previously tested for biotic and abiotic stresses to ensure that these can adapt to the current conditions of the climate and the environment, which the breeders and the rice farmers have been dealing with,” said Thelma Padolina, PhilRice senior plant breeder, in a statement. These selected popular rice varieties were the results of farmers’ participatory trials under the project titled, “Accelerating the development and adoption of nextgeneration (Next-Gen) rice

varieties for major ecosystems in the Philippines.” Aside from the Next-Gen data, the other bases for the identified top varieties are the: National Cooperative Test results, production data based on the seed system workshop, farmers’ preferences based on the report of the regional seed coordinators, and value chain analysis survey. Rc 216, also known as Tubigan 17, when transplanted, has a maximum yield of 9.7 tons per hectare (t/ha) with a maturity of 112 days after sowing (DAS). It is moderately resistant to brown planthoppers (BPH) and green leafhoppers (GLH). Rc 160 has a maximum yield of 8.2 t/ha if direct-wetseeded and matures in 107 DAS. It has intermediate reaction to blast, bacterial leaf blight (BLB) and GLH, and is resistant to stem borer. This variety is also known for its good eating quality because of its low

amylose content. Transplanting Rc 300, or Tubigan 24, could yield as high as 10.4 t/ha and matures in 115 DAS. It is moderately resistant to both BPH and GLH and has intermediate reaction to BLB. Rc 222, known as Tubigan 18, that has a maximum yield of 10 t/ha matures in 114 DAS. It is moderately resistant to BPH, GLH and stem borers. Rc 238, or Tubigan 21, could attain a maximum yield of 10.6 t/ha and matures in 110 DAS. It has intermediate reaction to BLB and blast, and is moderately resistant to stem borers and GLH. “Performance of these inbred rice varieties is evaluated based on their stability across seasons and locations. While we have these at hand, breeding institutions will still continue to breed new varieties to help farmers adapt to their changing farm conditions,” Padolina noted.

Cofco builds Dubai soft commodities hub targeting global reach

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ofco International Ltd., the trading arm of China’s largest food company, is building a soft commodities hub in Dubai as the new location gives it better access to more sugar producing and consuming regions. Marcelo de Andrade, head of that business, has relocated to Dubai from Brazil to establish the trading hub, he said in an interview at the Dubai Sugar Conference this week. About 10 employees will trade sugar, coffee and cotton and Cofco’s Dubai office will soon move to the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, where gold to diamond traders are located. Cofco has recently reshuffled its soft commodities business, bringing cotton and coffee under the leadership of de Andrade at the end of last year. The sugar unit he has historically been in charge of had its best year ever in 2017, he said, declining to comment or provide figures on profitability. “We are trying to implement the same concept we have in sugar to other businesses,” de Andrade said, commenting on coffee and cotton. “We need to work more efficiently, be more focused, improve our origination.” The trading hub will give Cofco easier access to sugar producers, such as India and Thailand,

as well as to deficit areas in the Middle East and Asia. It will also allow for easier dealings with the head office in Geneva and China, where the parent company is located. Cofco already had small operations in Dubai, with an office in the Jebel Ali Free Zone. The coffee team, which recently saw the departure of its head Joseph Reiner, is well-positioned in producing countries and growing, de Andrade said. The company plans to trade 5 million bags this year, up from 4 million bags last year, he said. A bag of coffee weighs 60 kilograms (132 pounds). “We are well positioned at origin,” he said. “We just need to trade more volumes to lower costs.” Coffee is becoming more important in China, traditionally a tea-drinking nation, he said. While estimates vary a lot, the United States Department of Agriculture forecasts Chinese consumption more than doubled in the past five years and will reach a record 4.1 million bags this season. “China is changing, coffee is growing in China,” de Andrade said. “If you look at the young population in China, they don’t drink tea anymore. They drink coffee.” Bloomberg News

Photographer: Carla Gottgens/Bloomberg


The World BusinessMirror

A6 Monday, February 12, 2018 • Editor: Lyn Resurreccion

www.businessmirror.com.ph

Israel strikes Syria, downs Iranian drone

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ERUSALEM—In its most serious engagement in neighboring Syria since fighting there began in 2011, Israel shot down an infiltrating Iranian drone last Saturday and struck Iranian targets deep in Syria before one of its own jets was downed. The sudden escalation offers what could be a harbinger of what lies ahead as the Syrian fighting winds down and an emboldened Iran establishes a military presence that Israel vows it will never accept. Israel has issued several stern warnings of late about the increased Iranian involvement along its border in Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli Cabinet just held a meeting near the Syrian border to highlight the new threats, which it attributes to Iran’s growing confidence given the success of the government of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, thanks to their support. Israel called the drone infiltration a “severe and irregular violation of Israeli sovereignty” and warned that Iran would be held accountable for its meddling, raising the specter of a larger confrontation in an area that has remained largely stable since a monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006. “This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said in a special statement. “Whoever is responsible for this incident is the one who will pay the price.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman convened the

This is a serious Iranian attack on Israeli territory. Iran is dragging the region into an adventure in which it doesn’t know how it will end.”—Manelis top brass at military headquarters in Tel Aviv for long hours of emergency consultations throughout the Jewish Sabbath to discuss their next steps. Netanyahu said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and vowed to strike back hard. “Iran seeks to use Syrian territory to attack Israel for its professed goal of destroying Israel,” he said. “Israel holds Iran and its Syrian host responsible for today’s aggression. We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect our sovereignty and our security.” Israel also appealed to the United Nations Security Council to denounce Iran’s aggression and

UK reviews Oxfam ties after sex-abuse scandal in Haiti

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ONDON—The British government is reviewing its relationship with Oxfam amid a deepening sexualmisconduct scandal involving some of the charity’s employees working in Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. The UK’s Department for International Development sharply criticized the charity for its lack of transparency as questions swirled about how much detail Oxfam provided when it first reported the allegations. The agency, which gave £31.7 million ($43.8 million) to Oxfam last year, demanded that Oxfam’s senior officials meet with it to explain their actions. “If wrongdoing, abuse, fraud or criminal activity occur, we need to know about it immediately, in full,” the agency said. “The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer.” The Times of London reported last Friday that misconduct allegations against seven former Oxfam staff in Haiti included the use of prostitutes—some of whom may have been under 18—and downloading pornography. It said Oxfam’s investigation into the charges was hampered by a “determination to keep it out of the public eye.” Oxfam says it investigated the allegations in 2011. The charity confirmed it had dismissed four people and allowed

three others to resign in the case after an investigation uncovered offenses, including sexual misconduct, bullying, intimidation and failure to protect staff. The charity said it had reported the results of its investigation to Britain’s charity regulator and to major donors, including the Department for International Development. The charity commission demanded further information from Oxfam last Saturday, saying it had “made no mention of any potential sexual crimes involving minors,” when it first reported the investigation in 2011. “Our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details that have been reported been disclosed to us,” the commission said. Oxfam said last Friday the behavior in Haiti was “totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff.” Last Saturday Oxfam was forced to deny further reports that it gave positive references to those it dismissed. “Oxfam has not and would not provide a positive reference for any of those that were dismissed or resigned as a result of the case,” the charity said. Oxfam added some former workers may have falsified references or asked individual staff members to provide references, but said it couldn’t prevent such actions. AP

Technicians inspect an Israeli air force F-16 jet at the Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel, on November 25, 2013. The Israeli military says it has shot down an Iranian drone that infiltrated the country and has struck Iranian targets in Syria that launched it. AP/Ariel Schalit

“put an immediate end to Iranian provocations.” Israel would not confirm whether its aircraft was actually shot down by enemy fire, which would mark the first such instance for Israel since 1982 during the first Lebanon war. Israel fears Iran could use Syrian territory to stage attacks or create a land corridor from Iran to Lebanon that could allow it to transfer weapons more easily to Hezbollah— Lebanon’s Iranian-backed political party and militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction. Though Israel has largely stayed out of the Syrian conflict, it has struck weapons convoys destined for Hezbollah—which is fighting alongside Syrian forces— almost 100 times since 2012. But Israel has refrained from striking Iranian sites directly. Syria has also repeatedly said it will respond to Israeli air strikes but has

rarely returned fire. Both of those trends came to an abrupt end last Saturday as a rapid escalation played out in the early-morning hours. At dawn, Israel said it shot down an Iranian unmanned aircraft that penetrated its airspace and then destroyed the Iranian site in central Syria that it said launched it. Upon their return, Israel’s jets came under heavy Syrian anti-aircraft fire and the pilots of one of the F-16s had to eject and the plane crashed in northern Israel. One pilot was seriously wounded and the other one lightly. In subsequent attacks, the Israeli military said it struck four additional Iranian positions and eight Syrian sites, causing significant damage. The Israeli jets again faced a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft missiles but returned home safely, as large explosions were reported in Syria and warning sirens blared in

northern Israel. Israel says the strikes destroyed the main command and control bunker of the Syrian military and marked its most devastating assault against Syria in decades. Iran denied Israel’s shooting down of a drone, with Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasem calling the account “ridiculous,” while the joint operations room for the Syrian military and its allies insisted the drone had not violated Israeli airspace and was on a regular mission gathering intelligence on Islamic State militants. Regardless, Hezbollah said last Saturday’s developments signaled a “new strategic phase” in engaging Israel, which has been mostly off the guerrilla group’s radar as it has been knee-deep in the fighting in Syria. Former Syrian lawmaker and

political commenter Sharif Shehade said the anti-aircraft fire marked a political decision in Syria to respond to Israeli strikes, and that tensions would continue to rise unless Washington and Moscow intervened to calm the situation. “It is a decisive decision to confront the Israeli air force and its careless behavior,” he told The Associated Press in Damascus, “I think what happened today is a lesson for Israel.” However, a former Israeli Air Force pilot, retired Lt. Col. Reuven Ben-Shalom, said the fierce Israeli response actually sent “very clear messages” to the other side, showing Iran how deep Israel’s knowledge was of its activity in Syria. “The fact that a drone like this is identified, tracked and intercepted so smoothly by the Israeli air force demonstrates our capabilities, demonstrates our resolve not to allow the breach of Israeli sovereignty,” he said. “I think it’s good that our enemies learn and understand these capabilities.” Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said last Saturday’s incident marked the most “blatant and severe violation of Israeli sovereignty” yet. He said that while Israel had no interest in further escalation it was prepared to “extract a heavy price” for such aggression. Conricus said Iran was “playing with fire” by directly sending the drone into Israel on a military mission. Russia, which backs Assad and maintains a large military presence in the country, called for restraint and appeared to criticize Israel’s actions. “It is absolutely unacceptable to create threats to the lives and security of Russian servicemen who are in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government to assist in the fight against terrorists,” Russia’s foreign ministry said. AP

Trump: Democrats playing politics with memo

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A SHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump last Saturday accused the Democrats of playing politics with classified information, asserting that their memo countering GOP allegations about the conduct of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Russia probe was a trap meant to “blame the White House for lack of transparency.” Citing national security concerns, the White House notified the House Intelligence Committee last Friday that the president was “unable” to declassify the Democratic memo. White House counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to the committee that the memo contains “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages” and asked the committee to revise it with the help of the Justice Department.

He said Trump was still “inclined” to release the memo in the interest of transparency if revisions are made. Trump weighed in with a tweet last Saturday. “The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods [and more], would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency,” he tweeted. The meaning of the “[and more]” was not immediately clear. Trump urged the Democrats to “re-do and send back in proper form!” The president’s rejection of the Democratic memo was in contrast to his enthusiastic embrace of releasing the Republican document, which accuses the FBI and Justice Department of abusing their surveillance powers in obtaining a secret warrant

to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Even before reading the GOP document, Trump pledged to make it public and was overheard telling one congressman after the State of the Union address that he would “100 percent” put it out. It was published in full a week ago over the objections of the Justice Department. The Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, criticized Trump for treating the two documents differently, saying the president is now seeking revisions by the same committee that produced the original Republican memo. Still, Schiff said, Democrats “look forward to conferring with the agencies to determine how we can properly inform the American people about the misleading attack on law

enforcement by the GOP.” He responded to Trump’s tweet last Saturday with one of his own, writing “Mr. President, what you call ‘political’ are actually called facts, and your concern for sources and methods would be more convincing if you hadn’t decided to release the GOP memo [“100%”] before reading it and over the objections of the FBI.” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the move is “part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the president.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has read the classified information both memos are based on. She tweeted that Trump’s blocking the memo is “hypocrisy at its worst.” AP

19 killed, dozens hurt in HK double-decker bus crash

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ONG KONG—A doubledecker bus lost control and crashed in a Hong Kong suburb last Saturday evening, killing 19 people and injuring dozens more, authorities in the southern Chinese city said. Local media reports said the bus tipped over and quoted passengers

as saying it was full and traveling very fast. Police said they are investigating and arrested the driver on dangerous driving charges. The crash left 15 men and four women dead and sent more than 60 others to a hospital. Photos and videos published by local media or posted on social me-

dia showed the bus lying on its side while emergency workers treat injured passengers. TV channels broadcast footage of rescuers cutting open the roof of the bus, operated by the Kowloon Motor Bus Co., and bodies of passengers laid out on the ground, covered in white sheets.

Multiple passengers interviewed by the TVB and Cable TV news channels said the bus was speeding. The passengers were not identified by name. The South China Morning Post newspaper said it was the Asian financial center’s deadliest traffic accident since a 2003 bus crash that killed 21 people. AP

Modest steps follow Trump’s big promises to reduce prescription drug costs

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A SHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump makes big promises to reduce prescription drug costs, but his administration is gravitating to relatively modest steps, such as letting Medicare patients share in manufacturer rebates.

Those ideas would represent tangible changes, and they have a realistic chance of being enacted. But it’s not like calling for Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Skeptics say the overall approach is underwhelming, and Trump risks being seen as an ally

of the powerful pharmaceutical industry, not its disrupter. The White House Council of Economic Advisers has released a 30page strategy for reducing drug costs, and it calls current policies “neither wise nor just.” The plan, outlined before Trump releases his new budget

proposal on Monday, focuses mainly on Medicare and Medicaid changes, along with ideas for speeding drug approvals and fostering competition. “Despite promises to drastically lower prices, the mix of proposed changes does not appear likely to do so, even though there are some

constructive proposals,” said John Rother, CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, an advocacy group whose members include consumer organizations, medical societies, hospitals and insurers. Polls show the high cost of drugs is a top concern of Americans,

regardless of political leanings. In his State of the Union speech, Trump seemed to foreshadow major change, saying “fixing the injustice of high drug prices” is a top priority this year. “And prices will come down substantially,” Trump added. “Watch.” AP


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As Britain stumbles over Brexit, support grows for second vote

Trump officials to eye big cuts to fuel-economy rule

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Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, speaks to reporters in London, on June 24, 2016. Opponents of Brexit have picked up support from an unexpected quarter when Farage, the leading proponent of Brexit, recently suggested that there might be a second referendum. Adam Ferguson/The New York Times

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FORESTFACH, Wales—In a 2016 referendum, Stephanie Holtom voted to leave the European Union, worried about immigration and convinced that other countries were telling the British government what to do. But outside a supermarket recently in a large, suburban strip mall not far from the Welsh City of Swansea, Holtom conceded she might have been wrong. “I agreed to come out of Europe, but I am beginning to have second thoughts. I think it’s a mess and I’m sick to death of it,” said Holtom, who is retired, as she collected her shopping cart. She added that, if there were a second referendum, “people would vote to stay.” Since a majority of Britons voted narrowly to leave the bloc more than 18 months ago, most politicians have treated a withdrawal, known as Brexit, as inviolable. Even amid signs of a slowing economy, few saw signs of a shift in public opinion. Until now. London may be almost 200 miles away, but people here in Wales have noticed that Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to negotiate Britain’s departure from the bloc and to control her bitterly divided Cabinet. “I think Theresa May is absolutely hopeless,” Holtom said. As the political stalemate drags on, and with business leaders issuing ever more urgent alarms about the threats to the economy, growing public doubts are beginning to register in some opinion polls. And opponents of Brexit are quietly cultivating what they see as that rising sentiment in their campaign to soften, if not reverse, the whole process. They even picked up support from an unexpected quarter when Nigel Farage, the former UK Independence Party leader and the leading proponent of Brexit, recently suggested there might be a second referendum. Prominent “leavers,” as supporters of Brexit are known, dismiss that possibility, but it may not be as far-fetched as they would have people believe. Some time later this year Parliament is likely to face a fateful vote on the actual terms of any agreement May can reach with the European Union on Britain’s withdrawal. A defeat in Parliament would prompt a political crisis, very likely topple May and possibly prompt a general election. Potentially, that could open the way to a rethink, to new Brexit options or to a second referendum. That is what people like the local Swansea lawmaker Geraint Davies, from the opposition Labour Party, are banking on. He believes the tide is turning against Brexit in Wales, where a majority opted to quit, although Wales is a big recipient of European development aid, and has several industries that might lose from Brexit. “What I am sensing is that people who voted Brexit in good faith are now saying, ‘Hold on, that’s not what I voted for, and I want a final say,’” Davies said, listing promises made during the 2016 referendum, including

one—later ruled misleading by the country’s statistics authority—that quitting would free up £350 million a week, or about $486 million, for health spending. “You should have the right to look again, and say: ‘You ordered a steak and you ended up with a bit of chewed up bacon. Do you want to accept that?’” Davies added, arguing that Britain faces higher inflation and slower growth, and that, far from getting money back, it has offered around £39 billion, or about $54 billion, in divorce payments to the European Union. Davies and others have also pounced on recent reports that areas in Wales and central and northern England that voted most strongly for Brexit are set to suffer the greatest economic harm from the rupture. Experts say they have detected a subtle shift, in Wales and elsewhere. Though few people admit to changing their views, there is growing support for a vote on the terms of any Brexit deal, according to Roger Awan-Scully, a professor of political science in the Wales Governance Center at Cardiff University. “There is some change on whether there should be another referendum on the issue,” he said. “We have seen a move towards the idea of the public having a greater say.” Hard-line supporters (and opponents) of Brexit remain steadfast in their views, but many of the less committed have yet to fully focus on what it will mean and have been turned off by the stream of complex, sometimes contradictory, reports emerging from the tortuous negotiations. “It’s a bit like the O.J. Simpson trial: It keeps going on and on and people tune out of it,” Awan-Scully added. And with signs that public opinion is volatile and could be shifting, the political ice is starting to crack. When Tony Blair, a former prime minister, called last month for another plebiscite, Brexit supporters derided him as a pillar of a failed, elitist, pro-European establishment. But it was hard to say the same when Farage suggested there should be another vote. Though Farage appeared later to retreat on the idea, Arron Banks, a big financial supporter of one of the Leave campaigns, endorsed it as well. For hard-line leave supporters, a referendum is a chance to once and for all kill off the argument to stay and precipitate a clean break with the bloc. Pro-Europeans, by contrast, would like a plebiscite on the specific terms of any deal negotiated by May’s government, with the option to remain in the bloc if voters prefer. Several things would have to happen to make that a reality, including a change of government policy and, almost certainly, of prime minister. Some say it is too late to rethink the withdrawal, given that Britain has invoked its two-year exit clause. Others say that to date the shift in British public opinion, if any, is simply not big enough, and that Brexit support remains strong outside the big cities and in many working-class communities. New York Times News Service

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resident Donald J. Trump’s administration is looking at ways to reduce future fuel-economy standards for automobiles in a move to appease carmakers, who have asked to ease targets put in place under President Barack Obama.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking at a range of options to lower future targets, including one that would permit an average fleetwide fuel-economy standard of 35.7 miles per gallon by 2026, down from the 46.6 miles per gallon under rules charted by the Obama administration, according to a draft NHTSA analysis obtained by Bloomberg News. Under that scenario, the agency projects an estimated 10 percent of new cars and light trucks sold in 2030 would need to be hybrid or plug-in electric to comply with the standards. That compares to 61 percent under the Obama-era proposal, according to the document. The draft analysis, dated January 22, outlines several alternatives to NHTSA fuel economy standards for upcoming model years that were charted during the Obama administration. Other scenarios offer less

It is unwise for the federal government to set the clock of automotive technology back a decade.” —Young aggressive cuts to future standards. The document doesn’t specify a preferred scenario. The draft also indicates NHTSA may propose standards for as early as the 2021 model year and as far in the future as model year 2026, giving automakers additional time to achieve reductions in fuel consumption.

The documents provide a glimpse into negotiations now going on between NHTSA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California regulators over the fate of one of the Obama administration’s signature environmental policies. At the end of March, NHTSA plans to begin the process of putting rules in place that will set new fueleconomy rules for 2022 to 2025. The proposal could set the Trump administration on a collision course with California regulators, who have vowed to defend their own efficiency standards. Automakers are hoping to maintain consistent standards nationwide, which would require federal regulators and state officials to agree on any changes to the rules. Failing to strike a deal could lead to a messy court battle and leave industry rules under a cloud of uncertainty.

California responds

In a statement on Saturday, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board (ARB) said the state has received no proposals or analyses from the Trump administration about possible changes to federal standards and won’t make a specific comment until it does. However, California remains convinced that greater fuel economy and more electric cars—not fewer—are needed to protect the public health, address climate change,

and save consumers money at the pump, according to Stanley Young, the ARB spokesman. “It’s clear that in order to stay competitive globally, the US auto industry needs to keep pace with the rest of the world. That’s where California is moving,” Young said. “It is unwise for the federal government to set the clock of automotive technology back a decade.” Requests for comment left with NHTSA and Transportation Department spokeswomen weren’t returned late on Friday. NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards were first enacted in the aftermath of the 1973 Arab oil embargo. In 2009 they were linked with tailpipe greenhouse-gas emissions standards set by the EPA and the ARB under a deal brokered by the Obama administration. Automakers in 2011 again agreed to a trio of coordinated rules overseen by the EPA, NHTSA and the ARB that get more stringent each year, and extended them until 2025 when they arrive at a fleet average of more than 50 miles per gallon. That’s equivalent to about 36 miles per gallon in realworld driving. Automakers have aggressively lobbied Trump to take a new look at the standards that they say need adjustments in light of surging lighttruck sales, low gasoline prices and tepid demand for plug-in vehicles. Bloomberg News

Invitation to S. Korea may undercut the US

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EOUL, South Korea—North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong Un, extended an extremely rare invitation to a foreign head of state on Saturday, using the diplomatic opening created by the Olympics in South Korea to ask its leader, President Moon Jae-in, to visit the North for a summit meeting. Kim’s unusual invitation, which was received by Moon with both caution and optimism, was the latest sign of warming relations between the two rival governments after an exceptionally tense period over the North’s nuclear weapons program. But the overture by the North also risked driving a wedge between South Korea and the United States, its main military ally, which has been campaigning for “maximum sanctions and pressure” against North Korea. Vice President Mike Pence, who was visiting South Korea for the Olympics, has used increasingly hostile language against the North in recent days, calling it the most tyrannical regime on the planet and steadfastly avoiding interactions with North Korean delegates at the games. K im sent the invitation to the South through a particularly close and trusted envoy: his only sister, Kim Yo Jong. She is one of the reclusive leader’s closest advisers and met with Moon at the presidential Blue House in the capital, Seoul, last Saturday in the highest-level contact between the two Koreas in years. The Trump administration is wary of engagement with the North, which has been subjected to increasingly tough international sanctions, unless it shows clear signs of giving up its nuclear weapons program. Pence—who sat just feet away from Kim Yo Jong at the Olympic opening ceremony, with neither apparently speaking to the other—has also been critical of the North’s participation in the games, seeing it as an attempt to create a division between the United States and the South.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (left) shakes hands with Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North Korea’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs, as Kim Yo Jong (right), sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, stand during a meeting at the presidential house in Seoul, South Korea, on February 10. Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap via AP

South Korea’s president, Moon, welcomed the possibility of a meeting with the North Korean leader, saying the two Koreas should “work together to create the environment to make it happen,” a spokesman said. But Moon has also said that he would be willing to meet Kim only if he received assurances that the North would help resolve the crisis over its nuclear weapons program. “The South and North shared an understanding that they should continue the positive mood for peace and reconciliation created by the Pyeongchang Olympics and should promote inter-Korean dialogue, exchanges and cooperation,” Moon’s office said in a statement. If Moon accepts Kim’s offer to come to the North, it would be the third summit meeting between the two Koreas. But it would be Kim’s first meeting with a foreign head of state. Kim Jong Il, Kim’s father, had met with two South Korean presidents in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, before his death in 2011: with President Kim Dae-jung in 2000, and with President Roh Moo-hyun in 2007. Both of those South Korean presidents faced growing domes-

tic criticism after their trips to Pyongyang had resulted in large shipments of aid and investment but failed to end the North’s nuclear weapons program. Moon also urged North Korea to talk to the United States, his office said. In the past, he has said that there was a limit to how much the Koreas’ ties could improve without a resolution of the nuclear weapons issue. In a news conference last month, he said he was not interested in “talks for talks’ sake.” North Korea’s leader, Kim, once dismissed as an inexperienced figurehead, has quickly built a reputation as a ruthless dictator at home and a wily strategist in handling North Korea’s external enemies. Since he took power six years ago, he has not only executed scores of senior party officials and military generals but also rattled the region by accelerating nuclear and missile tests. He has gotten closer to completing nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States than his father and grandfather, who had ruled before him, had ever hoped for, and did do with a heavy cost: increasingly biting sanctions. Now, Kim, 34, has switched tactics to a charm offensive aimed at

persuading South Korea to break ranks with Washington, analysts said. Moon’s government is clearly more optimistic than the Trump administration about the potential for the Koreas’ cooperation at the Olympics to create the groundwork for more substantial discussions. At a reception last Friday, Moon pointed to the joint Korean women’s ice hockey team—an Olympic first—as a starting point. “The female ice hockey players from the two Koreas are now holding a small snowball in their hands,” he said. “Now, if we put our hearts and minds together, it will continue to grow larger and larger and turn into a snowman of peace.” Moon joined Kim Yo Jong and other North Korean supporters last Saturday in cheering for the team against Switzerland. North and South Korea marched under one flag at the Olympics’ opening ceremony. Some South Koreans hope it is a symbol of a peaceful unification. Others fear it is an omen of larger political ambitions of the North. Pence, by contrast, avoided speaking with North Korean officials last Friday, and he and his wife did not stand, as most spectators did, when the athletes from both Koreas marched together under a flag representing a unified Korea. A senior administration official traveling with Pence told reporters that the vice president recognized the Olympics would prompt interKorean talks. But Pence is confident, according to the official, that South Korea remains united with Japan and the United States on the need to impose tougher economic sanctions on North Korea. Moon would like to bring both North Korea and the United States to the negotiating table. China has suggested that talks could start if the United States suspended its regular joint military exercises with South Korea, and if North Korea reciprocated by shelving nuclear and missile tests. New York Times News Service


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Climate change is hurting children the most

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n the United States the 21 young people who are plaintiffs in the case Juliana v. United States will soon make their case against the government for failing to take action against climate change. Similar lawsuits have been filed in countries, including Portugal, India and Pakistan.

In the 2017 Bonn climatechange conference, a 12-yearold Fijian boy whose village had completely been devastated by cyclone linked to climate change, addressed negotiators and urged them to find solutions to the changing climate. Sadly, these children are outliers and millions of their peers in other parts of the world—including children from sub-Saharan African countries—will never have the chance to tell the world how climate change harms them. All too often children are the unseen victims of climate change. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund in 2017, around 175,000 children were no t at t e n d i n g p r i m a r y a n d preprimar y school as a result of the food shortage in 10 counties and a further 1.2 million children in Kenya were in need of education assistance. The report further states that more than 100,000 children aged less than 5 years need treatment for severe acute malnutrition. In Malawi and Mozambique

100K The number of children aged less than 5 years who need treatment for severe acute malnutrition in 10 countries, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in 2017

and Madagascar, with little or no food to feed the families and income to pay for the girls school fees, parents have been forced to marry off young girls as young as 13 years to ease of the pressure from the family. In Bangladesh rising sea levels and flooding linked to climate change is reported to be destroying children’s futures with tens of millions of children and their families at risk of losing their homes, land and livelihoods. Despite being directly affected by

Meals provide an added incentive for parents to send their children to school. FAO/IPS

climate change, children’s plight is not addressed by the major stakeholders in the climate-change negotiations, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), World B a n k , A f r ic a n D e ve lo pme nt Bank, Africa Climate Change Fund and country government climate mitigation plans. Further, even though they were invited to attend and organize events at the UNFCCC meetings, established institutions, organizations and leaders see them as observers rather than collaborators. As a matter of fact, many of the climate-change adaptation and resilience programs in Africa and the global world rarely dedicate sections to think through about the plight of children. An in-depth look at recently launched initiatives by United Nations Development Programme, African Development Bank Group, World Meteorological Organization, the government of Uganda, the government

of Malawi—an initiative to be funded by The World Bank and African Development Bank, the government of Kenya, the government of Sierra Leone—reveals that many of these plans and initiatives fail to include and highlight the unique challenges climate change imposes on children. Further, they do not have any detailed mitigation strategies to reduce the impact climate change has on these vulnerable group. And when mentioned, children are lumped together with women. If we condemn our children to a life of poverty because they never got an education, or because they were married early due to climate change, where will our future scientists, doctors, educators, lawyers and accountants come from? Clearly the world needs to do more: Governments and all stakeholders advocating for climate change need to put children first. First and foremost, climate policies documents must clearly state

how they will mitigate the impact of climate change on children. At the same time, national governments and policy formulators need to come up with well thought out climate-change strategies, adaptation and resilience programs to help reduce the impact climate change has on children. Second, to help address school dropouts, child marriages and other impacts of climate change, schools in developing countries or other countries heavily impacted by climate change should introduce school-feeding programs. The UN World Food program must be applauded for their efforts to ensure children stay at school t hrough t heir schoolfeed ing prog rams. However, it is time for the UNFCCC, World Bank and all other climate stakeholders and African countries to invest in school-feeding programs as part of strategies to help children mitigate the impact of climate change.Indeed, policy-makers and

Former world’s garbage dump, China bans waste products

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A ASTR ICHT, Netherlands—China, once the final resting place for half the world’s trash, has just banned the import of certain plastic, paper and textile waste. Western countries are scrambling to shift “the problem” elsewhere—but there could be another way. They could invest more in the circular economy, which would also help them achieve the 2030 Agenda. But what exactly is the circular economy? Sustainable development refers to a process of economic growth and development, whereby the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own. It is widely acknowledged that the present volumes and forms of economic activities pose a serious threat to sustainability. Persistent deterioration of natural resources, greater contamination of air, water and soil, diminishing biodiversity, emergence of new types of pathogens, climate change and heightened fragility of human health (even when longevity is increased) are being noted. Though the solutions to address such challenges are far from obvious, it is accepted that production and consumption patterns geared uniquely to maximize economic growth are very unlikely to be sustainable. Till recently, economic policies for growth were aligned with the “linear economy model,” wherein “waste” was accepted as a negative element generated by production and consumption patterns geared to ma ximize economic growth. Here, the focus was uniquely on how to hand le t he waste once produced , i n t he most economica l manner. Worldwide, the perspective is moving away from the linear

economy model and toward a “circular economy” enlarging the focus to cover the entire sequence of production and consumption activities that generates the waste required to be disposed. Under the circular economy model, the objective is to explore production and consumption patterns that minimize waste production without sacrificing firm profit or economic growth of countries. Moreover, waste is not destined to be simply disposed, but also recycled to serve as raw materials for new production or energy. In ot her words, t he circu lar economy a ims to be regenerative by desig n, w it h minimum production of waste t hat cannot be rec yc led and ma x ima l usage of products over time, a long w it h optima l reuse, op tima l ref urbishment, remanu f ac t u r i ng a nd re c yc l i ng of products and mater ia ls. Improved solid-waste management (SWM) to transition toward a circular economy is also essential to the global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed upon by the 193 memberstates of the United Nations.

Links between improved SWM and the SDGs Goal 1: No Poverty. Employment generation in the waste collection, transportation, segregation and recycling industries; Goal 2: Zero Hunger. Reduced food waste, composting of biodegradable waste for growing food; Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. Less disease caused by open dumping and burning; Goal 4: Quality Education. Teaching to respect and preserve environment and observe hygiene; Goal 5: Gender Equality. Improve lot of women in all aspects of waste management;

development organizations agree and have documented evidence that when properly implemented, school-feeding programs serve as incentives for children to attend and stay at school. And because they are not hungry, children can focus on their studies resulting in better performance. Furthermore, school-feeding program would help remove a heavy burden on parents who cite the inability to feed their children as one of the reasons they marry off the girls. Third, we must ensure that schools—the place where many children spend their time—have access to sustainable clean water supplies. The impacts associated with lack of clean water, especially to children are dire; hence providing schools with water should be made a priority. A systemic review of over 40 peer-reviewed studies showed that access to water in schools helped increase girl-child school attendance and positively impacted children’s health. Wo r l d l e a d e r s — i n c lu d i n g French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel—continue to demonstrate leadership in the fight against climate change a nd st a k e holde rs, i nc lud i ng UNFCCC, African Development Bank and The World Bank should consider rolling out a special initiative that addresses the plight of children. Children are the stewards of the future and we must protect them against the harsh consequences of a changing climate. IPS

Greenpeace’s ‘Rainbow Warrior’ visits PHL for ‘climate justice’

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Scavenger birds pick a dump in Dhaka. UN/Kibae Park

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation. Safe SWM includes treatment of human waste, as well and protects water from contamination; Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. Bioenergy from biodegradable waste Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Waste management is one of the world’s largest industries, and conditions of work in this industry in developing countries must be improved; Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Innovation in terms of collection infrastructure, collection and recycling platforms and in recycling is required; Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. The poor usually bear the maximum burden of negative externalities generated by poor waste management as they are vulnerable. Furthermore, those working in the garbage industry and/or living near as they are more likely to be among the poorest. Their conditions of life must be improved; Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. Nudging strategies are necessary to bring about changes in behavioral routines for success of SWM targets; Goal 13: C lim ate A c t ion . Reduced met hane and carbon d iox ide generation;

Goal 14: Life Below Water. Less plastic in the oceans and in the bodies of sea-life; Goal 15: Life on Land. Less rubbish on the streets and in the bodies of stray dogs, pigs and cows in developing countries and better environment for all living organisms; Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Governance for safe waste management and safe working conditions for those working in the waste industr y; and Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals. A variety of consortia will be initiated between actors in the formal and informal economies. For developing and emerging market countries, transitioning to a circular economy is extremely daunting for at least four reasons. First, they have the enormous challenge of building capabilities in municipalities to ensure safe and efficient systems of collection and treatment of household and industrial waste. Second, public spaces are often considered to be the responsibility of the state, making indiscriminate littering the behavioral norm. But, this culture obviously cannot be sustained and, therefore, behavioral change has to be nudged.

Indeed, no government in the world can keep public spaces clean without the full cooperation of its citizens. Third, since January 1, China, the world’s largest importer of waste, has decreed that it will no longer be the garbage dump of Western countries. Its ban on imports of 24 types of waste—notably household waste plastics, unsorted waste paper and waste texti les—is c au si ng pi le -ups i n Wester n countries, which are now turning to other major waste acceptors like Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Malaysia. Finally, they have to grapple with severe resource constraints, capabi lit y gaps and heav y poverty burdens. Given such challenges, how can developing and emerging market countries aim to catch up with high-income countries in terms of industrial, scientific, technological and innovative capabilities, under, and still attempt to transition to a circular economy? The answer is far from evident, but this multiheaded hydra, regrowing a new head whenever one is chopped off, has to be tackled, in order to not miss out on key dimensions of sustainable development. IPS

he Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace’s most iconic ship, will visit the Philippines on a 20-day journey for “climate justice.” It will arrive in Manila on February 14 and will sail on the coasts of Guimaras and Tacloban until March 5. “We know that those least responsible for climate change are suffering the worst consequences, so the Rainbow Warrior will be in the Philippines to visit areas that have experienced the brunt of climate impacts, as well as communities that are embracing solutions to the climate crisis,” said D esiree Llanos Dee, Climate Justice campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines. “The ship tour will ser ve as a global platform to help build suppor t and solidarity with people most affected by the actions taken by greedy corporations that are historically largely responsible for carbon emissions and yet continue to line their pockets at the expense of people and the environment,” Llanos Dee added. Dubbed as “Balangaw: The Climate Justice Ship Tour,” the Rainbow Warrior’s visit will have open days  on February 17 and 18 in Manila, and March 3 and 4  in Tacloban, for the public to be able to go inside the world’s first purposebuilt environmental campaigning ship. The event is free to all visitors, but interested parties must preregister on the organization’s Eventbrite page:  https:// rainbowwarrior-openboat.eventbrite.com. The Rainbow Warrior’s visit will highlight the power of people’s rights to safe and ecologically sourced food, rights to resilient and thriving oceans. In Guimaras the ship will feature the renewable energy and the capability to move away from coal. It will visit Tacloban, the area most ravaged by S uper t yphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan). Th e R a i n b ow Wa rri o r, t h e f i r s t ship designed and built specifically for Greenpeace, is one of the most environmentally friendly ships ever made. It will sail in the Philippines under the helm of  Hettie Geenen, one of the few women captains in the high seas today. 


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Wetlands are key to human survival

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By Jonathan L. Mayuga @jonlmayuga

he Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reached out to communities near the Tullahan River north of Manila last weekend as its way of marking the celebration of the World Wetlands Day (WWD).

The activity, according to Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, aimed to raise awareness to the value of preserving wetlands and their importance to ecosystems. Through the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), the DENR targeted two Quezon City barangays—Santa Lucia and San Bartolome—in conducting an educational outreach activity to highlight the theme “Wetlands for Sustainable Urban Future—Making Urban Cities Livable.” “We at the DENR are reaching out to the two barangays near the Tullahan River because of its relevance to their livelihood. As one of the most polluted waterways in Metro Manila, the river deserves no less than to have reduced pollution for the benefit of the residents within the area,” Cimatu said.

Wetlands and WWD

The World Wetlands Day is celebrated every February 2, marking the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1971. The convention was named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the international treaty was adopted. The Ramsar Convention was established to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. WWD was first celebrated in 1997 and has grown remarkably since then. In 2016 WWD was celebrated in at least 59 countries, including the Philippines. Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim of the DENR-BMB said the DENR has adopted the Ramsar definition of wetlands—which are areas of marsh, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salty, including areas of marine water, which depth at low tide does not exceed 6 meters.

Ecosystem services

Underscoring the importance of wetlands, Lim said they “provide ecosystem services which are essential to everyday living.” The ecosystem services, range from the most basic and common necessity of humans and other species—food and potable water. Wetlands provide raw materials for medicine, handicrafts and fuel. Li ke forests, wet lands are carbon sinks that help in sequestering or absorbing carbon dioxide—an essential aspect in climate-change mitigation. “Inland wetlands act as natural sponges. They absorb rainfall, create wide surface pools and ease flooding in river basins. The same storage capacity safeguards

against drought and in the face of rising sea levels,” Lim told the BusinessMirror in a phone interview lastMonday. Meanwhile, coastal wetlands reduce the impact of typhoons and tsunamis. Coastal wetlands can be in the form of salt marshes and mangroves that act as buffers. Their roots bind the shoreline and help resist erosion. Wetlands also provide opportunities for recreational activities, which, in turn, help the local community through tourism, Lim added.

National Wetland Policy

The DENR-BMB is stepping up the effort to put in place a National Wetlands Policy in the form of a department administrative order (DAO). It is crafting the National Action Plan for Wetlands. Lim said the action plan would boost existing policies, including laws that are meant for environmental protection and conservation in general. A technical working group in the DENR took off from a 2013 draft, but was not pursued because of the change in leadership from the Aquino administration to the Duterte administration at the national level and at the DENR.  

DEnse mangroves grow in the Bakhawan Eco Park that is being run by the Kalibo Save the Mangroves Association Inc. in New Buswang, Kalibo, Aklan. The eco park is a popular tourist destination in Kalibo. Lyn Resurreccion

implemented by the DENR’s River Basin Control Office. On top of these, the DENR also has an ongoing program for creeks or rivers, called Adopt a Creek/River Environment Management Bureau’s Pasig R iver Rehabilitation since 1996. The DENR also implements the community-based Mangrove Rehabilitation Project and the Manila Bay Project to implement the Operational Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (2000-2015).

Laws protecting wetlands

While there’s no specific law that promotes the protection and conservation of wetlands in the Philippines, there are policies and environmental laws in place that cover wetlands. For the International Policy Framework, the DENR-BMB chief said the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, or the Ramsar Convention, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which were ratified by the Philippine Senate on November 8, 1994, and October 8, 1993, respectively, are in place. On the other hand, water and wetlands-related laws and policies include Republic Act (RA) 8371, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Right Act of 1997; RA 8550, or the Fisheries Code of the Philippines; RA 7686, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (Nipas); RA 9072, or the National Caves Resources Management and Protection Act; RA 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991; and RA 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004. Other policies include Presidential Decree 1067, or the Water Code of the Philippines; Executive Order (EO) 111 Establishing the Guidelines for Ecotourism Development in the Philippines; EO 578 Establishing the National Policy on Biological Diversity, particularly in the Sulu Sulawesi

Inland wetlands act as natural sponges. They absorb rainfall, create wide surface pools and ease flooding in river basins. The same storage capacity safeguards against drought and in the face of rising sea levels.”—Lim

Ramsar Convention commitment

Mangrove trees, with their exposed roots, in the Bakhawan Eco Park in New Buswang, Kalibo, Aklan. Lyn Resurreccion

Marine Ecosystem and the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor; EO 533 Adopting Integrated Coastal Management as a National Strategy to Ensure the Sustainable Development of the Country’s Natural Resources; DAO 2016-12 Adopting the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2015-2028) and RA 9729, or the Climate Change Act of 2009. According to Lim, existing laws and policies “protect our wetlands through the implementation of conser vation, sustainable use or conversion for development or economic purposes for water resources, water quality management, fisheries and aquatic resources, wildlife and their habitats, protected areas, land-use development and environmentalimpact assessment.”

Wetlands and biodiversity

According to Lim, wetlands are important to biodiversity conservation as they increase ecosystem productivity.

“Since each species have a role to play in an ecosystem, wetlands are very important. Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms. Having a diverse ecosystem means greater variety in food resources,” she said. More important, Lim added: “A healthy ecosystem can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters.”

Programs and projects

The DENR, being the lead agency managing the country’s environment and natural resources, implements various programs and projects in relation to wetlands. These include the Small Water Impoundment Project, which, Lim said, is a mechanical measure to effectively promote the maximum utilization and conservation of soil and water in upland areas. Meanwhile, the DENR, through the BMB, is implementing the Sustainable Coral Reef Ecosystem Management Program, while the streambank rehabilitation is being

As a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention, the Philippines is committed to supporting the goals and targets of the Ramsar Strategic Plan for 20162024, Lim said. “Another responsibility is to identify wetlands within the country that fits the criteria designated as a Ramsar Site,” she added. According to Lim, the Philippine government is pouring valuable resources for its Ramsar sites. “Through the DENR-BMB, in partnership with the local government unit [LGU], all Ramsar sites in the Philippines are well supported by means of funding and technical assistance. All of these are monitored by the Ramsar Convention through the submission of the Ramsar National Report every year,” she said. The Philippines has seven Ramsar sites with a surface area of 244,017 hectares. These are the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Tubbataha Reefs National Park, Naujan Lake National Park, Las Piñas-Parañaque Cr itica l Habitat and Ecotourism Area, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary and the Negros Occidental Wetlands Conservation Area.  

Real threats

As they are very important ecosystems, wetlands being potential sources of freshwater supply that are key to human survival, the DENR is bent on addressing the various threats—including improper waste management, pollution, wetland conversion and reclamation, overfishing and illegal fishing and overcrowding of fishery structures.

Other serious threats to wetlands are the proliferation of invasive alien species, poaching and illegal wildlife trade and climate change, Lim said. “In the implementation of the National Inland Wetland Conservation Program, partnerships with [LGUs], non-governmental organizations, people’s organizations and other stakeholders for the management and wise use of wetlands is the current strategy adopted by the DENR,” Lim added. The environment department also conducts lectures, forums and information dissemination in schools and communities within wetland areas and the distribution of informative and educational materials to the public, such as brochures, leaflets, fact sheets and booklets.

Wetlands management goals

In the short term, the DENR official said they aim to conduct an assessment of identified priority wetlands, process the proclamation of priority wetlands as critical habitats, key biodiversity area, Ramsar Site and protected area. In the long term, the goal of the DENR is to ensure that the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are met, particularly the goals pertaining to clean water and sanitation (SDG 6); climate action (SDG 13) and life below water (SDG 14). The DENR’s long-term goals for wetlands are consistent with the goals of the National Economic and Development Authority, particularly the Philippine Development Plan, which aims to triple real per capita incomes and eradicate hunger and poverty by 2040, if not sooner. Lim said the DENR is also looking at identifying an appropriate set of milestones to guide the successive medium-term development plans. “This goal shall be achieved through the wise use and conser v at ion of wet l a nd s si nce maintaining a healthy ecosystem will result in increased food production and possible poverty alleviation through sustainable livelihood provided by wetlands,” she noted.


A10 Monday, February 12, 2018 • Editor: Angel R. Calso

Opinion BusinessMirror

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editorial

The inflation TRAIN

I

t is difficult to have a sensible discussion about a national issue when immediate, cold, factual information is given a political spin. In the quest for truth, facts matter first and then an analysis is made, which may or may not include any political implications.

The analysis should also include any potential “backstory” of context, historical perspective and legitimate comparisons. The latest failure of the national discourse is the commentary that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) pulled the January 2018 inflation rate (4 percent) to the highest level in three years. The inflation rate is computed based on the price increases of a basket of goods and services measured against those same prices one year ago. So, the basket costs 4 percent more in January 2018 than in January 2017. The fact that this is the biggest monthly year-on-year increase since October 2014 is of little importance. Interestingly, the current inflation rate is lower than in September 2014. Price increases can be attributed to any variety of the following: increased production costs, stronger demand, lower supply and increased taxes. The number one consistent influence on Philippine inflation is the cost of oil products, which is determined primarily by global crude-oil prices. From January 2017 to this year, global crude-oil prices increased by 23 percent, and that must be factored into the inflation rate. However, the TRAIN spotters are frantic that inflation did not increase in neighboring countries in January by the same amount as here. Therefore, oil prices did not make a major contribution to the inflation. It must be the fault of the TRAIN. Data must be read in context, as an economy is a package, just like that handsome guy who has bad breath. On a per-person basis, the Philippines imports twice as much oil and oil products as Malaysia, one-third more than Thailand and six times as much as Indonesia. Our economy and the prices are much more sensitive to the global price of crude oil than in these other nations. But these facts tend to ruin the argument that “the TRAIN tax on oil products caused our inflation” and are ignored. However, increased TRAIN taxes did help push the inflation rate higher. The respective prices of alcoholic beverages and tobacco increased by 12.3 percent year-on-year in January. Yet, the component that includes housing, water, electricity and gas and other fuels was 3.7 percent higher. Interestingly, no one seems to be calling for a reduction of taxes on cigarettes and liquor, even if those items helped increase overall prices. Of course, the new tax structure added to the prices of some items, even critical ones. Yet, the TRAIN must be taken in total context. The current discussion of the effects is premature. It is like talking about what the marriage is going to be like in 20 years, when the “happy couple” just came back from their first date. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recognizes that fact, even if the expert commentators do not. That is why there were no changes to their benchmark interest rates until more data is in. It is possible that the new excise taxes may fuel an undesirable inflation rate. We will know in a few months, maybe by the end of March. If changes to the tax rates need to be made, then we hope the commentators will be as equally vocal as they are now to get the legislature to act competently and quickly.

Love and Lent Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II

RISING SUN

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his year the day of hearts and love coincides with the opening of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday. For Catholics, it is the beginning of a period of fasting and prayer. We all know that, on this particular day, we receive ashes on the forehead, which symbolize the dust from which God made us. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This is such sobering wisdom, especially for those of us who sometimes forget the lessons of humility. For those who sometimes feel that the world revolves around them and that it will fall apart without their intervention. The ashes, they say, are made from the burnt branches and leaves of the blessed palm, from the previous Palm Sunday celebrations. This is blessed with some Holy Water

and exposed to incense smoke. Aside from humility and penance, this day—and for some, the entire period of Lent—is spent imbibing the lessons and practice of sacrifice. The religious don’t go to the malls or restaurants or attend parties after receiving the ashes. I am not sure if modern Catholics still observe this. No matter what your practice is, it is important to remember that Lent is

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legally speaking

O

n January 23 Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson Sr., as chairman of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs and Justice and Human Rights, introduced Senate Bill 1662, known as “The Anti-Hazing Act of 2018”. After a thorough consideration of the facts gathered during the public hearings of the Aegis Juris Fraternity of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) following the brutal hazing of neophyte Horacio “Atio” Tomas Castillo III, which caused his death, the following amendments were proposed in order to strengthen Republic Act (RA) 8049 (“anti-hazing law”): 1. Redefining Hazing and expanding its coverage under Section 1 as follows: a. Hazing refers to any physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte or applicant as a form of an initiation rite or practice made as a prerequisite for admission or a requirement for continuing membership in a fraternity, sorority or organization including, but not limited to, paddling, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, exposure to the weather, forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug or other substance or any other brutal treatment or forced physical activity, which is likely to adversely affect the physical and psychological health of such recruit, member, neophyte or applicant. This shall also include any activity, intentionally made or otherwise, by one person alone or acting with others, that tends to hu-

miliate or embarrass, degrade, abuse or endanger, by requiring a recruit, member, neophyte or applicant to do menial, silly or foolish tasks. b. Broadening the scope of the prohibition on hazing to apply to organizations other than those that are school-based organizations. Examples of which are communitybased fraternities, sororities and organizations, the Philippine National Police Academy and other uniformed service and learning institutions. c. In regulating school-based initiation rites, the written application mandated by law should also include the exact manner by which initiation rites are to be conducted by the applicant, fraternity, sorority or organization. d. With respect to the school’s obligation to assign representatives to witness the initiation rites, an additional duty to have a record of the same to be submitted to the school

The religious don’t go to the malls or restaurants or attend parties after receiving the ashes. I am not sure if modern Catholics still observe this. No matter what your practice is, it is important to remember that Lent is a season of reflection and fasting, to prepare ourselves for Easter Sunday, or Christ’s Resurrection. a season of reflection and fasting, to prepare ourselves for Easter Sunday, or Christ’s Resurrection. It is largely seen as the time when we attain redemption. We have to exert some effort to make ourselves worthy of this. As we celebrate the beginning of Lent, on the same day we also think about love and express our emotions to the people who mean the world to us. Contrary to popular practice, Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers. We all could take the opportunity to say “I love you” to our loved ones, including our parents, friends and children. 

official concerned. e. Mandating fraternities, sororities and other organizations, as a condition for the grant of accreditation, recognition or registration, to submit the name of their respective faculty adviser who consents to his or her appointment. f. Creation of a presumption of knowledge and consent on the part of the faculty adviser with respect to the commission of any of the unlawful acts stated in the law. g. The broadening of prima facie evidence of participation in hazing activities by nonmembers of the fraternity, sorority or organization so long as he/she is present except when there was an attempt to prevent hazing or report the same to law-enforcement authority. h. Increasing the penalties for violation of the law to up to P3 million and reclusión perpetua (life imprisonment) on members of the fraternity, sorority or organization found to be guilty of hazing. i. Imposition of fines against the school should they fail to send representatives during the initiations rites. j. Imposition of penalty upon any person who shall intimidate, threaten, force or employ or administer any form of vexation against another person for purposes of recruitment. k. The imposition of the penalty of reclusión perpetua (life imprisonment) and P1-million fine against former officers, nonresident members or alumni of the fraternity, sorority or organization who, after the commission of the prohibited acts stated in the law, performed any act

Surveys reveal that it’s the teachers who receive the most number of tokens on Valentine’s Day. Many people also express their love by giving gifts to their pets! In Finland it is popular to spend the day with friends—to appreciate them and show them how much you love them! And, yet, the most important person to whom we must show love is oftentimes neglected: ourselves. So why not show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day? Whether you are single, married or in any kind of relationship, it is always a good idea to shower the self this time with attention, care and devotion. Better yet, why not tie up the celebration with Ash Wednesday and remind yourself that God’s grace and mercy are available to those who call on Him. Prayer and meditation are excellent ways to show love for self, because then we are exposed to the True Love from Above, and to the kind of love that really makes a difference in our lives.

to hide, conceal or otherwise obstruct the investigation conducted by the authorities. l. In relation to the previously mentioned amendment, the immediate conduct of disciplinary proceedings by the Supreme Court should they be members of the Philippine Bar. In case of other profession-based fraternities, sororities and organizations, they shall be subjected to disciplinary proceedings by their respective professional boards. 2. The amendment of Presidential Decree 1829 to increase the imprisonment penalty and also the imposable fine in case of obstruction of justice. 3. The amendment of RA 6981, otherwise known as the “Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act,” to increase the penalty of a witness admitted to the program who fails or refuses to testify without cause. At present, the penalties imposed by the law are limited to contempt or criminal prosecution. Considering that noncooperation of the witness admitted to the Witness Protection Program could result in the dismissal of the case, especially when the entire case of the prosecution depends on the witness’ proposed testimony, the penalty should be equivalent to the penalty imposable upon the principals of the crime charged to avoid instances of colluding with the other accused. 4. With respect to the Commission on Higher Education, the antiquated Ched Memorandum Order 4 series of 1995 should be modified and amended to impose stricter penalties, such as expulsion See “Kapunan,” A10


Opinion BusinessMirror

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Integrated thinking and reporting for SMEs

Business judgments in PPPs By Alberto Agra

PPP Lead

Paul Thompson

DEBIT CREDIT Conclusion

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he International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) summarizes compelling research findings in “How valuable is integrated reporting? Insights from best practice companies” and “realizing the benefits.” Let’s focus on what matters most to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which include improved risk management and decision-making, strengthened internal dialogue and improved stakeholder communication. An integrated reporting approach helps SMEs build a better understanding of the factors that determine its ability to create value over time. Using what’s called “integrated thinking,” SMEs can make better decisions that result in better outcomes. Integrated thinking is a connected view of the SME, including its use of and effect on all the capitals central to its business model and future strategies, that enhances strategy planning, execution and evaluation. Integrated thinking helps SMEs gain a deeper understanding of the mechanics of their business. This will help them assess the strengths of their business model, spot any deficiencies and address them quickly. These insights facilitate a forwardlooking stance and sound strategic decision-making. This may sound familiar to SMEs already using elements of an integrated reporting approach in substance if not in form or name. We live in an age in which information can quickly and easily be collated, summarized and communicated, and one in which society and stakeholders demand to know more of businesses, big or small. Businesses have a story to tell their stakeholders—from current and prospective equity investors, banks and other providers of financial capital through to employees, customers, creditors and other stakeholders—as to their purpose, prospects, profit, principles and planetary impact. Furthermore, SMEs are increasingly in the business of providing services. Compared with their “mom and pop store” predecessors, these SMEs have few, if any, tangible assets you can see, touch and hear. Instead, they might rent office space, equipment and fast Internet and pay salaries or consultancy fees to knowledgeable staff. As such, under conventional accounting rules, such as the IFRS for SMEs, their balance sheets, essentially a snapshot of financial capital, will fail to provide a complete picture as to its ability to create value. The other capitals, which manifest themselves as employee expertise, customer loyalty and intellectual property, are missing. While past financials can be important where they exist, they are only one aspect of an SME’s value creation story. The upshot is that

Kapunan. . .

continued from A11

among fraternity officers and members engaged in the practice of hazing neophyte or members and permanent ban on the fraternity itself. Moreover, Ched should also come up with guidelines and penalties to ensure participation of public and private higher-education institutions in furtherance of the mandate of the strengthened anti-hazing law. In his privileged speech, Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri (grade-school and high-school classmate of Atio’s father in Colegio San Agustin) recommended that appropriate action be taken by the UST, the Philippine National Police and the Supreme Court against all Aegis Juris Fraternity members, including disbarment, and possible abolishing of the fraternity. The epilogue of Zubiri in his privileged speech, in elegant language, is

Integrated thinking helps SMEs gain a deeper understanding of the mechanics of their business. This will help them assess the strengths of their business model, spot any deficiencies and address them quickly. These insights facilitate a forward-looking stance and sound strategic decision-making. This may sound familiar to SMEs already using elements of an integrated reporting approach in substance if not in form or name. many SME stakeholders are left with insufficient information to make an informed decision. This is where integrated reporting comes in. The external communications resulting from integrated reporting, most notably an integrated report, invariably include key financials. But that information is kept in context alongside, and connected to, significant “nonfinancial” measures and narrative information. By providing the full picture—not just “the numbers” but a succinct story as to how the SME creates and will continue to create value—integrated reporting helps fulfill the communication needs of financial capital and other stakeholders. In so doing, an integrated report can optimize reporting. NOTE: The Board of Accountancy sponsored a symposium, entitled “Integrated Thinking and Reporting for SMEs” on January 3, at the Philippine International Convention Center. The materials on this symposium are available for downloading at https://boa.com.ph. Paul Thompson is a European Federation of Accountants and Auditors director and a consultant dedicated to thought leadership and development of the global accountancy profession. From 2004 to 2016 Thompson worked for International Federation of Accountants latterly as director, Global Accountancy Profession Support, a role that extended to overseeing the Ifac Global Knowledge Gateway, research and innovation and activities in support of small- and medium-sized practices and professional accountants in business. He was a speaker during the Board of Accountancy sponsored SMP Summit in Makati in May 2017. 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 boa.secretariat.@gmail.com.

a reminder to all fraternity members: “Nonfraternity members simply dissociate themselves from the problems that plague the fraternity system. They do not care if the frat members become maimed or killed. While they feel the loss and the pain of the families who have been victims of frat violence, their sympathy is extended only to sighs of utter hopelessness. They blame the depraved sense of values of the fraternities yet mock the frat member of becoming too stupid to join a frat. But, when the issue dies down, the public loses all its bitterness. This happens till another person becomes a victim again. Horacio Tomas Castillo III sought to join a brotherhood in search for his purpose in life. Since there’s no more life to speak of, let his death serve the purpose of ensuring that the misery of hazing and the employment of appalling rituals will no longer be imposed in the name of brotherhood.”

Monday, February 12, 2018 A11

Continued from A1

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nder the business judgment rule, the directors and officers of the GA and PSP are clothed with the presumption that they acted or will act with bona fide regard for the interests of their respective organizations. They are entrusted to decide in furtherance of their respective mandates and are empowered to act for the interests of their respective constituencies. A good faith exercise of discretion wherein no law is violated and where stated procedures were followed; and for the GA, the contract will not be grossly or manifestly disadvantageous, and for the PSP, the contract is not unconscionable and oppressive as to amount to a wanton destruction

of the rights of the minority, should not be disturbed by the courts. For GAs entering into PPPs, business judgments or decisions on matters of policy and management can only be interfered by those who have control over them or by those vested with the power to approve them.

Surely, for government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government instrumentalities (GIs), absent any law, there is no such control relationship. Even agencies to which they are attached to or seek counsel from, or agencies which monitor, oversee or audit the GAs, should not make decisions for and on behalf of the GAs. In the case of PPPs, a GOCC or GI cannot be told not to enter into a PPP arrangement, cannot be compelled to choose a particular modality and cannot be forced to unbundle or bundle components of a project. All these are business decisions reserved for them. They are in the best position to steer their organizations toward the strategic direction they have set out to achieve. For example, to instruct a GOCC to pursue a build-operate-transfer scheme instead of a joint venture, when both options are legal, would be to stymie or substitute a business judgment. GOCCs and GIs must be

Lessons from quitters in Mount Pulag Siegfred Bueno Mison, Esq.

THE PATRIOT

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ome friends and I recently climbed Mount Pulag, the thirdhighest peak in the country. The hike required us to sleep for only one and a half hours on back-to-back days. The hike was conducted in silence, out of respect for the locals in the mountain. While enjoying nature in chilly weather, I was able to reflect on the principles of quitting and letting go by just looking at my colleagues’ experiences during the Pulag hike. Standing at 5 feet flat, my fellow lawyer in Philippine Airlines, Elaine, had a challenging time traversing the tough terrain. Mount Pulag was a combination of wet grasslands, moist clay, soggy soil and a few rocks in between. She lagged behind the group most of the times and practically gave up keeping in pace with us. But she eventually reached the peak. Her vinyasa yoga sessions coupled with her psychological fortitude helped her greatly. She was rewarded with an almost-perfect view of the celebrated sea of clouds of Mount Pulag. In contrast, Paeng taught me to value my limits and let go when necessary. As the youngest in the hiking group, she was not able to reach the peak due to utter physical exhaustion upon reaching Camp 2, the midpoint of the hike. When we got

reconnected in Camp 2, Paeng had the courage to let the group leave her behind. She knew her limitations, so she quit, physically. But mentally, she never gave up. Quit if she must, she found other ways to catch a glimpse of the sea of clouds. Together with our guide and another tired hiker, Paeng hiked toward the Tower Station, closer from Camp 2 but not as high as the peak. What we saw at the peak, Paeng saw, too. In life, when there are things we truly want, we should never give up. When things get difficult, we must take extra effort and spend more time to get what we long for. In 2 Chronicles 15:7, the Bible tells us, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” Elaine did just that, patiently and with dogged determination, even if she took an extra

Let’s ban porn By Ross Douthat

New York Times News Service

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n this weekend’s New York Times Magazine there is a long profile of a new kind of pedagogy unique to our particular stage of civilization. It’s called “porn literacy,” and it involves explaining to young people whose sexual comingof-age is being mediated by watching online gangbangs that actually hard-core pornography is not an appropriate guide to how the sexes should relate. For anyone who grew up with the ideals of post-sexual revolution liberalism, there is a striking pathos to these educators’ efforts. The sex-education programs in my mostly liberal schools featured a touching faith from the adults in charge that they were engaged in a great work of enlightenment, that with the right curricula they could roll back the forces of repression and make sexuality a place of egalitarian pleasure and safety for us all. Compared to those idealists, the people teaching porn literacy have accepted a sweeping pedagogical defeat. They take for granted that the most important sex education may take place on Pornhub, that the purpose of their work is essentially remedial and that there is no escape from the world that porn has made. Which at the moment there is not. But we are supposed to be in the midst of a

great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that serve misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, most young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut. This surrender was not inevitable. It was only a generation ago that the unlikely (or was it?) alliance of feminists and religious conservatives made the regulation of pornography a live political debate. But between the individualistic drift of society, the invention of the Internet, and the failure of the DworkinFalwell alliance’s predictions that porn would lead to rising rates of rape, the anti-porn case was marginalized—with religious conservatism’s surrender to Donald J. Trump’s playboy candidacy a seeming coup de grace. Except it doesn’t have to be. Trump’s grotesqueries have stirred up a feminist reaction that’s more moralistic and less gamely sex-positive than the Clinton-justifying variety, and there’s no necessary reason its moralistic gaze can’t extend to our porn addiction. And indeed, I think the part of the #MeToo movement that’s interested in discussing sexual unhappiness and not just sexual harassment clearly wants to talk about pornography, even if it doesn’t quite realize that yet. Consider the narratives that are

given the free hand, within the limits set by law. On the part of a PSP in a PPP, its obligations and commitments are spelled out in the contract. The authority of the GA is bounded by the terms of the PPP agreement. For example, the GA cannot be part of the day-to-day operations, procurement and hiring decisions of the PSP if such functions are exclusively the PSP’s. A PPP is not and should not become cut-and-paste, template-based, one-size-fits-all arrangement. PPPs call for innovation and outside-theusual thinking whereby business decisions must be afforded liberality and latitude. For as long as the choice is supported by law or regulation, or for as long as no law or rule is violated, GOCCs and GIs must be allowed to exercise their expertise and make commercial decisions without fear of interference. “Build, Build, Build” will be facilitated if GAs and PSPs trust other GAs and PSPs.

less than six months, I told him not to quit until he has spent at least two years in that job. My rationale is that it takes a learning curve of a year to understand his job functions to identify areas that he can change and another year of proposing changes, having them approved, and implement them. Despite such advice, Luis quit his job because he felt underutilized. I told him that initial feelings of discontent should not make him bail out immediately. But after a longer and deeper conversation, he said he was no longer challenged and was not having fun at work. Seeing him much happier now in a different industry, not as an employee but as an entrepreneur, I suppose quitting early was one of his best decisions. Luis may have quit his job a few years ago, but he was far from quitting during our Pulag hike. In our professional and personal lives, some say that if you quit on a process, you also quit on the result. But some quit to find other ways to achieve a similar result. The trademark of a great leader is the ability to know when to persist and when to let go. It has been repeatedly said that winners never quit, and quitters never win. I say quitters, who find other ways, always win. My fellow hikers in Mount Pulag, Elaine, Paeng, and Luis are a special kind of quitter-winners.

hour to complete the hike. But there is also wisdom behind quitting. When we don’t get what we long for despite earnest efforts, it might be a sign that we should let go. In Philippians 4:13, the Bible tells us, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” And all these things include having the courage to give up and find suitable alternatives. Unable to continue the hike, Paeng ingeniously found another way to get what she wanted. As my all-time favorite basketball player Michael Jordan once said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it or work around it.” Both Elaine and Paeng exhibited how companies should handle trying times—that is, never quit. All companies face adversities, but great companies with determined leaders persist and never give up. As the leader of Microwave Communications Inc., William McGowan was largely known for not quitting against AT&T, a telecommunications giant then. Due to his efforts, AT&T was forcibly divested by government, which eventually led to the opening of the long-distance telephone market in the United States. Known for working long hours, McGowan never quit on the job. In contrast, my 25-year-old nephew, Luis, a graduate of a prestigious university, quit a much-coveted job in a multinational company. Having worked for that company for

For questions and comments, please e-mail me at sbmison@gmail.com.

touchstones for this part of the discussion—the New Yorker bad-sex short story “Cat Person” and the controversial first-person account of being notraped by Aziz Ansari (jointly described by one Twitter jester as an “ethnography of the degree to which millennial sex is a joyless mimetic spamming of half-remembered porn tropes”), as well as more sociological accounts of the ubiquity of female sexual unhappiness and pain (especially from that porn standby, anal sex). In many of them, you see a kind of female revulsion, not against Harvey Weinstein-style apex predators, but against the very different sort of male personality that a pornographic education seems to produce: a breed at once entitled and resentful, angry and undermotivated, “woke” and caddish, shaped by unprecedented possibilities for sexual gratification and frustrated that real women are less available and more complicated than the version on their screen. Such men would exist without industrial-scale porn, but porn selects for them, as it selects for a romantic landscape like our own: ever-more-liberated and ever-less-erotic, trending Japanward in its gulf between the sexes, with marriage and children and sex itself in shared decline. So if you want better men by any standard, there is every reason to regard

ubiquitous pornography as an obstacle —and to suspect that between virtual reality and creepy forms of customization, its influence is only likely to get worse. But unlike many structural forces with which moralists of the left and right contend, porn is also just a product— something made and distributed and sold, and therefore subject to regulation and restriction if we so desire. The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the Internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere. That we cannot imagine such censorship is part of our larger inability to imagine any escape from the online world’s immersive power, even as we harbor growing doubts about its influence upon our psyches. But in this sense porn also presents an opportunity to reconsider the tendency to just drift along with technological immersion, a chance where the moral stakes are sharpened to prove we don’t have to accept enslavement to our screens. Feminists should take it. We should all take it. It is not only decency but eros itself that waits to be regained.


2nd Front Page BusinessMirror

A12 Monday, February 12, 2018

Group asks govt to ban ‘obsolete’ steelmaking furnace from China By Elijah Felice E. Rosales

T

@alyasjah

he Philippine Iron and Steel Institute (Pisi) called on Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez to crackdown on Chinese induction furnaces that are notorious for the production of low-quality steel products.

In a letter to Lopez, Pisi President Roberto M. Cola said the government should immediately act on the shipment of furnace facilities to the Philippines from China. Cola said these induction furnaces are banned by the Chinese government for the danger it poses to health and environment, on top of the substandard steel that it produces. “We write to raise our concern over the recent development in our domestic steel industry, whereby obsolete induction furnace facilities are being moved from China to the Philippines to produce construction-grade steel products,” Cola said. “The Chinese government had previously banned these facilities from producing construction-grade

steel in January 2017 because they produce substandard quality steel products and are one of the main sources of pollution in their host communities,” he added. The Asean Iron and Steel Council (AISC) issued a statement urging the region’s governments to prohibit the entry of these steelmaking machines. These are responsible for low-quality steel products that are unsafe to use for construction, the council said. Cola argued the main drawback of making use of these furnace facilities is its lack of a refining process to filter the harmful elements in the liquid steel. “This results to the inconsistent quality of constructiongrade steel products manufactured from these facilities,” he said.

“The questionable quality poses a major safety hazard given that most of these products are reinforcing steel bars used in construction of buildings and infrastructures. The operation of these induction furnaces is likewise harmful to both workers and surrounding communities,” Cola added. The Pisi chief also claimed these induction furnaces do not have a filter equipment intended to collect dust and gaseous emissions destructive to the environment. This results to the apparatus directly generating dust and harmful gases to the air during the scrap melting process. To ensure these furnace facilities will be restricted entry in the country, Cola told Lopez to adhere to the recommendations of the AISC. Taking a cue from the AISC, Cola said the government should “prohibit the import of induction furnaces from China for the purpose of reducing constructiongrade steel products.” On top of this, Cola also urged Lopez to ensure these steelmaking machines already in the country are only used for its permitted functions. Its allowable purposes are melting to produce various types of cast products in the foundry industry; produce ferroalloys with specific properties; and manufac-

The Chinese government had previously banned these facilities from producing construction-grade steel in January 2017 because they produce substandard quality steel products and are one of the main sources of pollution in their host communities.”–Cola

ture stainless and high-alloy steel. The AISC reported about 600 of these furnace facilities are still being used in China as of last June. These induction furnaces have a combined capacity of 120 million tons of steel, but its total output in 2016 was around 30 to 50 million tons. The Chinese government has been trying to restrict the use of these furnace facilities since 2002, but failed to do so due to its rampancy in different parts of China. Chinese authorities refer to the steel products from these induction furnaces as di tiao gang, or ground steel.

DOF. . .

Continued from A1

next month would also include discussions on possible amendments to Executive Order (EO) 79. “It [increasing excise taxes on a per-commodity basis] makes sense. You don’t use the same tax rate for nickel and for copper. The extractive costs and values [of minerals] are different,” Dominguez told reporters in an interview. EO 79, which was signed during the administration of former President Benigno S. Aquino III, institutionalized reforms in the country’s mining sector. DOF Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua confirmed that the next MICC meeting would be held in the first week of March. DOF Undersecretary Bayani H. Agabin earlier said the committee will also review proposals on revenue-sharing schemes, aside from the increase in the mining excisetax rate. “Looking not only on the tax component, they are looking at the royalties also. [In terms of a sharing scheme] I think that is what they are looking at, nothing is final,” Agabin said. Last year the technical working group (TWG) of the MICC has endorsed the lifting of the ban on open-pit mining in the country, provided that the laws and regulations governing the process will be “strictly enforced” by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), according to Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu. The MICC-TWG added that the

www.businessmirror.com.ph DENR, through the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), should be tasked to take a close look and act on the issues involving the expansion of 24 mining areas covered by mineral production sharing agreements. The MICC is cochaired by Cimatu and Dominguez. As for the review of the first batch of the 26 mines ordered either closed or suspended by former Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, the MICC expects the final report to be out by March. As proposed by Dominguez, the MICC agreed to conduct another review in 2019 and succeeding ones every two years, thereafter, in line with the MICC’s mandate under EO 79 to review all mining operations once every two years. Last April the DENR issued DENR Administrative Order 201710, imposing a ban on the open-pit method of extraction for copper, gold, silver and complex ores. The MGB, an agency attached to the DENR, as well as the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), had earlier thrown their support behind an output-based tax regime for miners. COMP said the proposed scheme should be benchmarked globally so that the Philippines will not lose mining investments to countries with a more competitive tax regime. Ronald Recidoro, executive director of COMP, told the BusinessMirror earlier that COMP’s proposal during the Aquino administration was, in fact, a commoditybased approach to mining taxation, which he described as “more accurate and more correct.”

Businessmirror february 12, 2018  
Businessmirror february 12, 2018  
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