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Thursday, March 8, 2018 Vol. 13 No. 148

Jobless rate seen easing further due to ‘BBB’ 5.3 percent By Cai U. Ordinario



he country’s unemployment rate could fall further as civil works on nine infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program would begin in the second half of 2018, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

Ned a Undersecretar y for Planning and Policy Rosemarie G. Edillon also told the BusinessMirror that BBB projects wou ld he lp t he go ve r n me nt

achieve its goal of creating 1 million jobs this year. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released on Wednesday the results of the January 2018

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Is migration the Philippine ‘Dutch disease’?

The estimated unemployment rate in January, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority

Labor Force Survey (LFS), which showed that the unemployment rate declined to 5.3 percent. The Neda said this is the lowest jobless rate recorded for all rounds of the January LFS in the past decade and is within the government’s target of 4.7 percent to 5.3 percent. See “Jobless rate,” A2

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Rene E. Ofreneo

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ome observers claim that migration is the “oil well” of the Philippines. The remittances of the 11 million or so overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), amounting to over $30 billion a year, help sustain the growth of the economy, even if our industry and agriculture are eroded and unemployment affects 3 million Filipinos. This is the reason some economists even call migration as the country’s “Dutch disease.” Continued on A12

PCC to know why rice BMReports prices are rising when shortage is ‘fake news’ One Charter under siege: Would amending Constitution enhance PHL economic devt? By Elijah Felice E. Rosales @alyasjah


griculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol has insisted the reports on rice shortage are nothing but “fake news.” But Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez admitted there has been an increase in the prices of rice the past weeks, at the time the

National Food Authority announced its stockpile is nearing depletion. These statements—showing prices increased under the context of a fake shortage—made the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) eager than ever to find out if anticompetitive practices are really rampant in the rice industry. See “PCC,” A2

Biodiversity team out to save Boracay’s Puka shells, flying foxes By Jonathan L. Mayuga @jonlmayuga


uried in the noise created by the plan to close Boracay is the specter of losing unique species—particularly the flying fox bats and Puka shells—due to the island’s overcrowding. But the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is aware of this threat, which is why it sent a seven-man team, headed by Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), to Boracay to assess the population of the Puka shell, flying fox bats and other species, whose population on the island have been

observed to be dwindling over the past several years. “Their mission is to conduct an assessment and make recommendations to the secretary. One of their missions is the Puka Shell Beach.  It is home to the Puka shell,” Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones, the designated spokesman of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, told the BusinessM irror. Lim is a veterinarian and expert in marine turtle conservation.  Other members are experts in their own fields; a wildlife expert, wetlands expert, two marine experts in science, and a Geographic Information System specialist. The team is also accompanied by an expert on Boracay. Continued on A12

PESO exchange rates n US 51.9260

By Lenie Lectura @llectura & Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz @joveemarie



HILE there are moves to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, some cautioned against doing so, citing some of these provisions contributed to several economic sectors’ development. For the energy sector, a lawmaker cited two provisions in the Constitution that contributed to the growth. One is Article II, Section 20 under State policies, where “The State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise and provides incentives to needed investments.” Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, energ y committee chair man, said the enactment of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001 transitioned the power industry out of a vertically integrated structure with the government at the center. “Instead, the Epira allowed the private sector to be at the forefront of developing the industry, albeit guided by the policies of the government,” Gatchalian said. “One offshoot of this provision in the Constitution is the enactment of

A casino stands on a reclaimed area in Parañaque City. Lawmakers believe amending the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution, especially on foreign ownership, would allow the entry of more investments in several businesses. NONIE REYES

the Renewable Energy [RE] Act, which jump-started the growth of variable renewable-energy industry in the country, led by the private sector but supported by incentives

from the government.” One incentive under the RE Act is the feed-in-tariff (FiT). The FiT is basically an incentive in the form of guaranteed power

rate given to RE producers for 20 years. The FiT rates are based on installation ceilings set by Department of Energy (DOE). The Continued on A2

n japan 0.4889 n UK 72.1304 n HK 6.6287 n CHINA 8.2292 n singapore 39.4574 n australia 40.5854 n EU 64.4038 n SAUDI arabia 13.8447

Source: BSP (7 March 2018 )

A2 Thursday, March 8, 2018

Con-com. . .

Continued from A12

“We want them to be guided on the land-use code. There, you will give classification of lands, taxation of idle lands, if the regions want to continue agrarian reform, it will already be there,” he said, adding that many of the guidelines have been set already. “It’s just to put it in one comprehensive code that would guide the regions since we are devolving the economic powers to the region, or we are proposing to do so,” he added. Con-com’s intention, Aguilar said, is to liberalize economic policies as much as possible, but noted that they still have to look into some areas that are restricted, such as land, media, educational institutions and profession.  The Con-com is also set to vote on the new provisions on political dynasties early next week in an en banc session.  Its members had a consensus to include in the proposed revised constitution a “self-executing provision” that will regulate political dynasties, that no relative of an incumbent official up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity shall be allowed to run simultaneously and to succeed the incumbent official for positions of governor, mayor, or district representative and other local officials, according to Julio Teehankee, chairman of the Subcommittee on Political Reforms and Leveling the Playing Field.  “What we are trying to avoid is monopoly of power and perpetuity, which will result in an unhealthy political system, because the very lifeblood of a working democracy is a circulation of candidates and winners in the election,” said Teehankee, former College of Liberal Arts dean at De La Salle University.  The Con-com has also agreed that the president and vice president will be elected as a team, according to University of Santo Tomas Political Science Professor Edmund Tayao, chairman of the Subcommittee on Creation and Structure of States and Subnational Governments.  On Tuesday the committee has also agreed that the country will still have a bicameral Congress. 

Jobless rate. . . Continued from A1

“There is already a boom in public construction. That is the reason for the 13.2-percent increase in jobs in the sector. But you’re right in saying that this is not yet [due to] the BBB,” Edillon said in an interview. “The government is still working out the job requirements... for the different combinations of the BBB projects,” she added. Former Labor Undersecretary and University of the Philippines economist Rene Ofreneo agreed with Edillon’s pronouncement that the BBB program could help create more jobs in the coming months. “It seems the government is moving faster now compared to previous years. Maybe [Budget Secretary Benjamin E.] Diokno released funds [for government infrastructure projects] faster,” Ofreneo told the BusinessMirror. He said, however, that risks, such as the ban on deployment to Kuwait and the possible closure of Boracay island, could

BMReports BusinessMirror

One Charter under siege: Would amending Constitution enhance PHL economic devt? Continued from A1

Energy Regulatory Commission is the agency that sets the FiT rates.

Sectoral growth

GATCHALIAN also cited Article XII Section 15 under National Economy and Patrimony, which states “the Congress shall create an agency to promote the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments for social justice and economic development.” “Electric cooperatives take part in the vital role of promoting social justice and economic development through their missionary electrification mandate,” Gatchalian explained. “In the same way, electric cooperatives contribute to the growth in the energy sector by providing electricity to far-flung areas, thereby improving the lives of their residents. Furthermore, this missionary electrification mandate has also increased overall energy demand for the entire nation.” State-owned National Power Corp. is mandated to perform the missionary electrification function through what is called the Small Power Utilities Group, or Spug. The Spug is responsible for providing power generation, and its associated power delivery systems in areas that are not connected to the main transmission system. For Eric Francia, president of AC Energy, the power arm of Ayala Corp., the 1987 Constitution’s support to the private sector underlines its importance in the growth threaten efforts of the government to create more jobs. Ofreneo also noted that the real challenge for the Philippines is to increase employment in heavy industries, which will provide jobs to more Filipinos. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia pushed for the passage of key measures such as the Ease of Doing Business bill and Package 2 of the government’s tax-reform program, which will lower the corporate income tax and rationalize fiscal incentives. Pernia also called for the crafting of a legal and regulatory framework that will allow part-time work, especially in lowpaying jobs. “This will especially benefit school dropouts so they can study or be trained further and get themselves into higher paying jobs in the future,” he said.

Employment situation

The January 2018 LFS showed the country’s jobless rate eased to 5.3 percent, from 6.6 percent a year ago. The latest LFS data indicated that 41.8 million Filipinos are employed.

of the energy sector. “Our constitution declares the indispensable role of private sector and the need to provide incentives for needed investments. These provide the foundation for important laws, such as BOT [buildoperate-transfer], [the] Epira and the RE Act, all of which enabled private-sector participation in the power sector,” Francia said. “We have therefore seen significant investments and benefitted from lower cost of power.”

Open economy

ONE of t he subcommittees of t he House Committee on Constitutional Amendments has proposed to delete the provision in the 1987 Constitution providing the “60-40” limit on foreign equity sharing. The subcommittee chaired by Rep. Vicente S.E. Veloso of Leyte said the new proposal effectively provides for an “open economy.” During one of its recent discussions, the committee said the areas that will be freed from restrictions include the exploitation, development and utilization of natural resources, ownership of alienable lands, franchise on public utilities and ownership of educational institutions, mass media and advertising, among others. Under the draft proposal, the matter of equity sharing, as well as the terms and conditions involving joint ventures and other undertakings involving the aforementioned areas shall be determined through legislations. PSA data also indicated that the underemployment rate went up to 18 percent in January 2018, from last year’s 16.3 percent. “These improvements in the labor market indicate that more Filipinos are encouraged to join and rejoin the labor force, and that more people are being employed. This signals that the economy is responding positively to the economic reforms and programs that the government has been laying down,” Pernia said. PSA data showed that the share of agriculture in total employment expanded to 26 percent in January 2018, from 25.5 percent in January 2017, while industry’s share also rose to 18.1 percent, from 17.4 percent last year. Edillon and Ofreneo agreed that the improvement in agriculture employment was due to the relatively good weather conditions experienced in the last quarter of 2017. Usually, Ofreneo said the Philippines is hit by destructive typhoons in the fourth quarter. But the absence of typhoons during the period may have allowed more farmers to hire additional workers for their annual December harvest.

Veloso’s subcommittee is one of four subcommittees consolidating all proposals to create the draft of a proposed Philippine Federal Constitution. For Gatchalian, ownership issues in the Constitution should also be addressed in any moves to amend the Charter. Insofar as the energy sector is concerned, he cited Article XII, Section 2. This constitutional provision has limited investments in the upstream oil industry and RE like solar, wind, g e ot he r m a l , h y d r o p o w e r, r u n - o f river hydro, ocean to Filipino citizens, corporations or associations, or coproduction, joint venture or production agreements with Filipino citizens cor porat ions, or associat ions w it h at least 60 percent of capital owned by Filipinos. Gatchalian also said that, the same article, but this time in Section 3, poses some difficulties for 100-percent foreignowned thermal-generation companies (i.e., coal) who need to find a partner who can provide the land or at least be willing to lease the land to them.

Public oath

WITH the moves to amend the Charter, the leadership of the House of Representatives vowed that all proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution will be presented to the public through massive information campaign. The Lower House leaders added all amendments will be debated and voted upon by three-fourths of all members of the Senate and House of Representatives. PSA data also showed the industry sector employed an additional 719,000 workers after expanding by 10.5 percentage points to 18.1 percent in January 2018, led by the increase in employment in construction and manufacturing. “More jobs are expected to be created during the country’s infrastructure buildup, which will not only ease traffic and promote regional development but also generate more quality jobs,” Pernia said. Services, meanwhile, was the only sector that saw a lower share in 2018 at 55.9 percent, from 57.1 percent in 2017. Ofreneo said this may be due to the possibility that the business-process outsourcing sector has already hit a plateau. He also cited as a factor the decline in tourism activities in Mindanao due to the Marawi City siege. However, Edillon said that, while the share of services was lower than last year, there was still an increase in the actual number of jobs created in the sector. “In terms of job generation, there was an increase of 3.8 percent over the previous year. There may have been some reallocation, hence the lower share. But absolute numbers increased,” she said.

‘Ineffective order’

Federation of Free Workers Vice President Julius Cainglet said the 1.3-percent hike in underemployment shows that Department Order (DO) 174 issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is “ineffective.” DO 174 imposed more stringent rules on contractualization. “We can also relate this to the contractualization of labor, which DO 174 has failed to address. Our workers may have work today, but there is no certainty of work tomorrow,” Cainglet told the BusinessMirror. Associated Labor Union-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said this also a cause for concern, since underemployment has been rising in the last three years. “If reports about regularization of workers in fast-food chains, malls, telecom companies among others are accurate; and granting that the DTI’s [Department of Trade and Industry] formula of regularizing workers with the service providers and manpower agencies instead of the principal employer have been applied, all these should not translate or add up to a mere 1.3 percent in the employment rate,” Cainglet said. Tanjusay said only a few contractual workers benefited from the government’s campaign against the controversial work scheme. “The DOLE reported regularization of 120,000 after DO 174 took effect in March last year. It’s a very small number,” Tanjusay said. With Samuel P. Medenilla

PCC. . .

Continued from A1

In an interview with the BusinessMirror, PCC Commissioner Johannes R. Bernabe said conducting a preliminary investigation on rice traders is an option should the issues paper on the industry point to possible violations of the competition law. However, he also said the more logical thing to do is to launch a market study first to be able to acquire firsthand information from the ground. “We can launch a preliminary investigation, or— if the issues paper is not sufficiently fleshed out insofar as anticompetition is concerned—we can commission a proper market study [that] focuses on the indicated anticompetitive situations,” the PCC official said. Under a preliminary investigation Bernabe explained that the regulator will be looking for possible violations already. As for a market study, he said, it can be compared to a field report wherein competition experts will conduct research and interviews to get a grip of the entire trading system and where anticompetitive practices might take place in that process. “[If ] market study, that is like a follow-through on the issues paper. That is a more in-depth look [where] we will be starting to talk to individual firms or entities [that] are in the sector, like the traders.” He pointed out that investigating the rice industry is more than ever crucial, with the recent reported shortage on the staple that caused prices to increase. Piñol called the shortage as nothing but fake news allegedly operated by several traders. But Lopez, citing the trade department’s price monitoring, said regular-milled rice was at P40 per kilogram in February, compared to P37 during the same month last year. Year-on-year, well-milled rice is priced at P42 per kilogram against P40, while premium rice is at P46 against P45. This reported shortage and sudden increase in the prices are just two of the many reasons Bernabe cited for the PCC to conduct an in-depth look into rice trading in the country. “For the PCC, our concern is [if ] there are sufficient information or basis to look into possible anticompetitive agreements—so that would be collusion and cartel-like behavior—in the industry,” he said. “That is something that, hopefully, the issues paper can bore some inputs on so that it can take us to an appropriate course of action, whether to conduct a full-blown market study preparatory to a preliminary investigation. Right now, we don’t know yet,” he added. In spite of what he called a “delicate situation,” Bernabe hopes the PCC will be able to get the necessary information to do a preliminary investigation on the rice industry. Either way, the PCC official vowed it will throw in all the needed work to uncover possible anticompetitive practices—may that be cartels or collusions—in the industry providing the staple of the population. “Well, we are always perceived to be stepping on the toes of some business entities [and] does not have to be in the rice sector,” he said. “Right now, in the rice sector, we are still off the radar. However, once we identify the anticompetitive practices, it becomes a real issue,” Bernabe said. Rice is just one of the nine sectors the PCC is currently investigating for behaviors that might be harming consumer welfare. Other sectors under probe by the regulator are meat and poultry, pharmaceutics, land transportation, air transportation, agricultural credit, digital commerce, retail and telecommunications.

Peso. . .

Continued from A12

largest source of foreign income for the Philippines after exports. Still, the benefits of a weaker currency are being eroded by rising living costs in their homeland, the three Filipino workers said. “Yes, the exchange rate is higher when you covert into pesos, but the money will also buy you less goods,” said de la Cruz, who was on her way back to Hong Kong from Manila after spending a week in her hometown of Laoag City in northern Philippines. “The weaker peso helps only to a certain extent.”

Inflation watch

Inflation accelerated to 3.9 percent in February under a new series using a 2012 base year, threatening to breach the central bank’s target band of 2 percent to 4 percent. Putting pressure on prices are increased levies, higher oil prices and a depreciating peso, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Central Bank Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. said the pick-up in inflation last month remains within target and most likely in 2018 as well, signaling that the monetary authority will likely keep policy rates unchanged this month. The peso has weakened 4 percent this year to 51.98 per dollar as of the close of trading in Manila on Wednesday. “The peso should weaken” with less support from the Central Bank, helping keep the value of remittances inflated, said Joey Cuyegkeng, an economist in Manila at ING Groep NV, who revised his year-end forecast for the currency to 52, from 51.30. “Dollar earners, including overseas Filipino worker families, benefit from the recent significant weakness of the peso.” Bloomberg News

The Nation BusinessMirror

There’s probable cause to impeach Sereno–Umali


he chairman of the House Committee on Justice  on Wednesday expressed confidence that there is probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno. Rep. Reynaldo Umali of the Second District of Oriental Mindoro, the panel chairman, issued the statement as his committee is set to vote today (Thursday) to determine the existence of probable cause to remove Sereno. “A simple reading of the evidence presented and the testimonies of the witnesses and her [Sereno] refusal to controvert these during our extensive hearings will lead us to establish probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Sereno,” Umali said. Committee members, he added, will determine probable cause based on each ground raised by complainant lawyer Larry Gadon. The impeachment complaint filed by Gadon contains four grounds, including  corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes. The complaint also alleged 27 acts constituting the offenses charged against the Chief Justice. Moreover, Umali said, his panel will also push through the approval of the committee report and the Articles of Impeachment next week. “As far as my committee is concerned, all procedures will be done to send our report to the plenary before our break [on  March 21],” Umali said. Last Tuesday the leadership of the House of Representatives said

UMALI: “As far as my committee is concerned, all procedures will be done to send our report to the plenary before our break [on March 21].”

it will wait first for the Supreme Court ruling on the removal petition against Sereno through quo warranto petition before the plenary voting on the Articles of Impeachment. House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas Sr. of the First District of Ilocos Norte said “there will be no plenary voting [before our Lenten break on  March 21], but we will approve it at committee level.” Also, Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez of the First District of Davao del Norte said the House may opt to await the SC ruling before the plenary decides whether to send the case to the Senate for trial. He added there is also nothing wrong if the justice committee is preparing the Articles of Impeachment even before the actual voting to speed up the process. Alvarez added he is leaving it to the hands of Fariñas to map out the proper course of action for the House. If the case reaches the Senate for trial, Alvarez said he would leave the task of prosecuting Sereno to other more qualified lawmakers. Instead, Alvarez added, he would rather stay on the sidelines and watch the proceedings. Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz

House Speaker to senators: Give divorce bill a chance


By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz @joveemarie

he leadership of the House of Representatives on Wednesday appealed to the Senate to give the lower chamber-initiated divorce bill a chance to become a law. Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez of the First District of Davao del Norte , principal author of the bill, urged the Senate to recognize the clamor of many Filipinos for the passage of marriage dissolution and divorce bill, and prioritize the approval of such legislation. “I hope so, because many people are waiting for the passage of that law, as we can see in the comments in social media,” said Alvarez, who was at the Senate for the confirmation hearing of the Commission on Appointments on his nomination as colonel in the reserve force of the Philippine Navy-Marines. Unlike in the House, where the marriage dissolution and divorce bill received bipartisan support, several senators have expressed opposition to the passage of the bill. Responding to an informal survey by the BusinessMirror, Sens. Franklin M. Drilon, Joel J. Villanueva, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Francis G. Escudero, Vicente C. Sotto III, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Cynthia

A. Villar, Panfilo M. Lacson Sr. and Gregorio Honasan II indicated strong opposition to the divorce bill, offering instead to review existing processes for civil annulment of marriages on the rocks. Senate leaders have yet to firm up a counterpart measure of the Housebacked divorce bill, while several senators thumbed it down. Instead, senators preferred a less costly option, such as relaxing rules on annulment. Moreover, Alvarez said that after the House approves the bill, they would immediately forward it to the Senate for its own action. “Once approved in the plenary, it would be forwarded to the Senate,”

he said. The House Committee on Population and Family Relations already approved a substitute bill consolidating various proposals for marriage dissolution and divorce. Earlier, Alvarez said the House would likely approve the marriage dissolution and divorce bill before Congress adjourns on March 23. Among others, the substitute bill recognizes as grounds for marriage dissolution or divorce the same grounds for legal separation under the Family Code. The bill also provides for summary judicial proceedings to expedite the resolution of petition for marriage dissolution/divorce without regard to technical rules. The petitioner has the option to be represented by lawyer or not. The following grounds may be subjected to summary judicial proceeding: de facto separation for at least five years, bigamous marriage, legal separation for at least two years, imprisonment for six years, gender reassignment surgery, and joint petition of the spouses for the dissolution of their marriage. However, the substitute bill also provides for a six-month coolingoff period, during which the court

I hope so [for the divorce bill to become a law] because many people are waiting for the passage of that law, as we can see in the comments in social media.”—Alvarez

shall exercise all efforts to reunite and reconcile the parties. Should reconciliation happen, the marriage dissolution/divorce proceedings, if pending, shall be terminated. If there is already a final decree of absolute divorce, it shall be set aside. The bill, meanwhile, penalizes spouses who are guilty of collusion with imprisonment of five years and a fine of P200,000. It said absolute divorce is judicially decreed after the fact of an irremediably broken marital union or a marriage vitiated from the start. The measure added the state shall assure that the proceedings for the grant of absolute divorce shall be affordable and inexpensive, particularly for indigent litigants or petitioners, and observe an efficient process.  The bill said the option of absolute divorce is a pro-woman legislation because, in most cases, since it is the wife who is entitled to a divorce as a liberation from an abusive relationship and to help her regain dignity and self-esteem. It said a divorce decree shall include provisions for the care and custody of children, protection of their legitimate, termination and liquidation of the conjugal partnership of gains or the absolute community, and alimony for the innocent spouse.  Even as absolute divorce is instituted, the measure said the state has the role of strengthening marriage and family life by undertaking relevant prenuptial and postmatrimonial programs and activities. 

PCC chief sees 33% decline in notifications for mergers and acquisitions this year

DOJ indicts ex-Top Gear PHL scribe for ‘cyber libel’

By Elijah Felice E. Rosales


he Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed criminal charges against the former editor in chief of motoring news web site Top Gear Philippines in connection with an online libel complaint filed by a man who was mistakenly tagged in a road-rage incident in Manila. The DOJ panel of prosecutors found probable cause to indict Vernon Sarne on charges of violation of the libel provision of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, filed by Nestor Punzalan after he was mistakenly identified in a report published by the web site as the gunman behind the shooting of cyclist Mark Vincent Geralde in Quiapo, Manila. Punzalan, in his complaint, accused Sarne of imputing him as the suspect who drove a red Hyundai Eon and shot Geralde dead on July 26, 2016. After checking the license plate of the Hyundai vehicle from the closed-circuit television footage of the incident, Sarne posted on the Facebook page of Top Gear the complainant’s Facebook account and his Hyundai Eon. “The above posts by the officials of Top Gear Philippines allegedly subjected complainant and his wife to public ridicule, trauma, shame, casting dishonor, discredit and contempt,” read the resolution approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Richard Anthony Fadullon and Acting Prosecutor General Jorge Catalan Jr. “He admitted having posted the subject photo and video of complainant’s vehicle and assumed full responsibility on the said act,” the resolution noted, adding that the alleged offense checked off all the elements for it to be considered as libel. The case was referred to the City Prosecutor of Manila on February 23. PNA

Editor: Vittorio V. Vitug • Thursday, March 8, 2018 A3



Hot items

Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña presents to the media a sizable quantity of “misdeclared” fireworks and cigarettes with a combined value of P8.89 million seized by the Bureau of Customs-Port of Manila. Nonnie Reyes

3 lower chamber committees endorse creation of PNRA for plenary approval


hr ee committees of the House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a priority measure restructuring the Philippine National Railway System (PNRS). In a joint hearing, House Committees on Government Enterprises, Legislative Franchise and Transportation endorsed for plenary approval a substitute bill creating of the Philippine National Railway Authority (PNRA). Under the bill, the PNRA shall regulate all aspects of the operations of railway corporations, while its board of directors shall set the necessary routes, fares and standards on safety and security. The bill also mandates the authority to establish three separate corporations—the Luzon Railway Corp., Visayas Railway Corp. and Mindanao Railway Corp.—to operate

railways in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao. The corporations shall exist for a term of 50 years, and renewable for another 50. The measure said the authorized capital stock of each corporation shall be P30 billion, while 20 percent, or P6 billion, shall be initially paid up and the balance shall be paid from a continuing annual appropriation of not less than P2 billion. However, the bill said railway operators are required to secure a franchise from Congress. It said operators with an existing franchise or concession agreement with any government agency are granted three years to secure a legislative franchise. The measure also contains penal provisions for acts harmful to the sustainability and safety of trains,

tracks, equipment and other assets, including the safety and security of the riding public. The committees also accepted an amendment, which prohibits the issuance of restraining orders and preliminary injunctions. “No court in the Philippines shall have the jurisdiction to issue any restraining order, preliminary injunction or preliminary mandatory injunction in any case, dispute or controversy involving any contract or project being implemented by the authority, to prohibit any person or persons, or entity or government official from proceeding with or continuing on the execution or implementation of such contract or project, or pursuing any lawful activity necessary for the execution, implementation or operation of such railway project or system,” the bill said. Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz

he country’s antitrust regulator is expecting notifications for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to go down by at least 33 percent this year with the adjusted thresholds for such transactions. Arsenio M. Balisacan, chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission, said the PCC is anticipating lesser notifications for M&A this year in light of the higher thresholds bound for regulation. He believes this will benefit the nascent agency, given its limited resources and logistics. “Assuming more or less the same profile of mergers and acquisitions this year, the commission expects a 33-percent reduction in the intake of notifications with the new thresholds. In turn, this will allow the commission to deploy resources toward the effective implementation of a holistic merger control policy,” Balisacan said at a news briefing on Wednesday. The PCC  on Monday  raised the thresholds for M&A to P5 billion for size of person and P2 billion for size of transaction from P1 billion. With the recalibration, the antitrust agency is now mandated to adjust the thresholds annually beginning March next year to reflect movements and developments in the country’s economy. Balisacan said the PCC’s decision to recalibrate the thresholds was an outcome of the regulator’s “careful study and measured deliberations after engaging in dialogue with members of the business community, receiving and reviewing numerous merger and acquisition transactions, as well as observing recent developments in the Philippine economy.” “Perhaps, it is worth emphasizing that the PCC has adjusted the thresholds in recognition that onerous rules

can stifle business activity and impede the entry of competition. Indeed, guided by the commission planning exercise in November of last year, the commission is working to establish frameworks, the threshold adjustment included, to ensure speedy and transparent processing of transactions that, from the onset, do not appear to pose any risk on healthy market competition,” Balisacan said. He added M&A with a size of transaction below P2 billion and size of parties less than P5 billion “are characteristically less likely to raise competition concerns.” Size of transaction is the value of the assets or revenues of the acquired entity, while the size of party, otherwise known as size of person, refers to the assets or revenues of the ultimate parent entity. In Policy Statement 18-01, the PCC claimed it assessed 46 proposed mergers and acquisitions last year. Of these, 15 proposed transactions had a size of transaction below P2 billion or a size of person less than P5 billion. With the adjusted thresholds and anticipated lesser notifications for M&A, the PCC chief believes the agency can now focus its attention on its other functions, such as market monitoring, policy advocacy, competition enforcement and the conduct of market studies. Balisacan, however, warned firms not to test the regulator’s patience by eluding its processes on mergers and acquisitions. He said the PCC can, and will, exercise its motu propio powers against those who will try to violate the antitrust law or evade the mandatory competition review. “We remain watchful of the developments and shifts in the market. The commission remains sharply aware of, and will continue to examine, other equally effective predictors of harm to market competition,” Balisacan said.


A4 Thursday, March 8, 2018 • Editors: Vittorio V. Vitug and Max V. de Leon


Increase in summer tourism activity worries DENR chief By Jonathan L. Mayuga



ith the onset of the summer season, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is urging local government units (LGUs) to plan ahead of the anticipated increase in tourism activities. The DENR believes that more tourists mean more garbage that could lead to a serious solid-waste management problem. In a news statement issued on Wednesday, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu urged LGUs to plan ahead and ensure proper waste disposal, particularly in tourist destinations. “Local government officials should amplify their measures in managing wastes, particularly in tourism sites, as we expect an increased volume of garbage with the arrival of tourists this summer season,” the DENR chief said. At the same time, Cimatu appealed to tourists to be responsible for their wastes and avoid littering, especially along the

shorelines and in the waters. “We do not want the same situation in Boracay Island to happen to other vacation sites. LGUs should be keen in monitoring waste issues in their areas of jurisdiction. Segregation activities should be strictly implemented. Tourists should also throw their garbage only in designated trash bins,” Cimatu said. Cimatu was tasked by President Duterte to address the environmental problems besetting Boracay Island. Aside from the water pollution because of discharge of untreated wastewater, Boracay is faced with a serious solid-waste management problem because of increased tourist arrivals that exceeded its hosting capacity.

Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, mandates the segregation of solid wastes, which includes the order that LGUs shall divert at least 25 percent of all solid-waste disposal facilities through use, recycling and composting activities and other resource-recovery activities. Under the law, wastes should be segregated as compostable, nonrecyclable, recyclable, residual waste and other classifications. Compostable wastes or biodegradable wastes are wastes that can be broken down to nonpoisonous substances through the natural action of microorganisms. These include food wastes and soiled paper and wood. Similarly, residual wastes are wastes that

are nonbiodegradable, noncompostable and nonrecyclable. The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) said residual wastes should be disposed of through a longterm disposal facility or sanitary landfill. Residual wastes, include, among others, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, worn-out rugs, cartons with plastic lining used for milk and juice containers, ceramics, candy wrappers or sachets and other soiled materials that cannot be composted and recycled. Meanwhile, recyclable wastes are waste materials that can still be converted for beneficial use. Some of these are newspapers, ferrous scrap metal, nonferrous scrap metal, corrugated cardboard, aluminum, glass, office paper and tin cans.

We do not want the same situation in Boracay Island to happen to other vacation sites. LGUs should be keen in monitoring waste issues in their areas of jurisdiction. Segregation activities should be strictly implemented. Tourists should also throw their garbage only in designated trash bins.”—Cimatu

Duterte admin urged to hasten sale of coconut-levy assets By Butch Fernandez @butchfBM


enate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto prodded the Duterte administration on Wednesday to fast-track disposition of multibillion-peso coco-levy assets through “a win-win solution” for coconut farmers. “My proposal is for the government to sell all coco-levy assets, under a process that is transparent and advantageous to the farmers,” Recto said, suggesting that “liquidating the assets will enlarge the trust fund.” The senator said that the government must “get out of the coconut business because its record in running for-profit corporations has been unblemished by success.” “It has no business bottling cooking oil. If we create a trust committee that will be allowed to pick investments, run corporations, disburse funds, then we will merely be copying what [former President Ferdinand] E. Marcos did with the CIIF,” Recto said, referring to the Marcos-era Coconut Industry Investment Fund. “I want bigger funds for coconut farmers,” Recto said, noting that the original proposal is limited to annual interest on top of a start-up development fund. “My proposal is to match trust income with guaranteed appropriated budgetary support to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in the amount of P10 billion.” Suggesting that “faster and transparent disposition of the coco-levy will ensure win-win solu-

OFWs to Bello: Lift total deployment ban to Kuwait By Recto Mercene @rectomercene


u ndr eds of Kuwa itbound overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are appealing to Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III to lift the total deployment of workers to the Middle Eastern country. “We are covered by a separate law on workers to Kuwait and are not part of the memorandum of understanding [MOU] the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is negotiating with Kuwait labor officials,” the OFW group said in a news statement issued on Wednesday. Bello has announced on radio earlier that Kuwait has “informally” accepted the new provisions for additional protection of Filipino household ser vice workers (HSW). He said the DOLE is just waiting for Kuwaiti labor officials to arrive this week to finalize the draft agreement, which Bello said he will sign in Kuwait this month. The formal signing of the MOU by Philippine and Kuwait labor officials may pave the way for the lifting of the ban of OFWs to Kuwait. Thousands of HSWs have lost their opportunities to work in Kuwait since the ban was implemented on January  22, even as their visas have expired, including their medical certificates, which are part of the requirements for the issuance of a work permit from the Kuwait Embassy. Hundreds of skilled OFWs who are affected by the total deployment ban to Kuwait are still appealing to the government to “save our jobs,” as the ban enters its sixth week with no relief in sight. Recruitment consultant and migration expert Emmanuel S. Geslani, for his part, urged Bello to reconsider his decision to continue the deployment ban to Kuwait, which includes skilled workers who appealed to him this week, to allow them to leave for their waiting jobs in Kuwait.  These skilled workers are oil and gas engineers, information-tech-

nology professionals, nurses, medical and laboratory technicians, store mangers, sales personnel, communication technicians, maintenance personnel electricians, plumbers and carpenters. They have been issued visas and are just awaiting for the issuance of their plane tickets from their employers. However since January 22, when the order was signed by Bello to stop the processing of overseas employment certificate for all new hires for both skilled and HSW, “the world has stopped for them for the past month with no solution in sight.” The skilled workers who were recruited and processed by licensed agencies deploying workers to Kuwait have already resigned from their jobs after being selected for the jobs in Kuwait.    If the impasse on the deployment ban continues for the next few months, recruitment agencies fear that the visas for the skilled workers will expire, including their medical results, which have a three-month validity period. “Once the visas expire and the principal does not extend them the foreign jobs, these jobs will definitely be lost and workers will be jobless,” Geslani said. Employers in Kuwait have also canceled the visas for other workers and have started to look at other countries to fill in the demand for their projects.  Bello said that he was waiting for the Kuwaiti government to sign the MOU that seeks to add more protection guarantees for HSWs. Skilled OFWs, however, said that they are covered by the Kuwait Labor Laws,    which are adequate unlike HSWs, who fall under a different category under Kuwait law.   In 2016 around 105,000 OFWs were deployed to Kuwait, with 57,061 as HSWs, while the skilled workers filled up the balance of 105,000  There are 270,000 OFWs in Kuwait, with almost 150,000 HSWs, and the rest are skilled workers, mostly in oil—production services.

tions for coco farmers,” Recto said no one is disputing the need to plow back the coco-levy collections to the people, noting that “the divergence is on how to do it.” Recto aired a wish to see a quicker disbursement schedule, which will disburse bigger amounts in a shorter time. “If the [coconut] industry is in ICU, it should get a massive infusion, not the perpetual drip-drip of funds. Why prolong the agony of farmers when we can have a shorter recovery period for an industry in distress?” The senator also voiced hopes of coconut farmers for “a simpler and more cohesive administration of the trust fund, by one body dominated by farmers, in which they will have the biggest say, instead of creating two layers of bureaucracy, which will lead to dissonance.” Recto, in a news statement, also endorsed the expansion of the PCA’s membership to nine, “six of whom will be farmers, and three from the government, including the secretaries of agriculture, finance and budget.” He, likewise, suggested that the PCA also be given expanded powers to: ratify and veto the disposition of coco-levy assets, only when such is disadvantageous to the government; serve as a trust committee; and draft the industry road map. “Why create two agencies, when one agency can do the job with a one-stop shop? The powers of the proposed trust committee can be included in the strengthened PCA,” the senator added.

NTC suspends Globe’s VAS over prepaid load theft complaint


Canned price hike

A shopper checks on the price of competing sardine brands at a Quezon City supermarket early this week. The Department of Trade Industry has confirmed the request of manufacturers to hike the prices of canned goods from P1 to P2, citing the increase in the price of tin plates and other raw materials. Nonoy Lacza

Filipino vapers laud US cancer society position on e-cigarettes


apers in the Philippines lauded the latest position statement of the American Cancer Society (ACS), declaring the organization’s cautious support for e-cigarettes as a tool to help individuals quit smoking combustible tobacco products.    “These individuals should be encouraged to switch to the least harmful form of tobacco product possible; switching to the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is preferable to continuing to smoke combustible products,” according to the ACS position statement. While cautioning that the health effects of long-term e-cigarette use are not known, the ACS noted that currently available evidence show that using current-generation ecigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. The ACS said that 98 percent of all tobacco-related deaths in the US are caused by cigarette smoking and acknowledged that the “US tobacco landscape has changed rapidly in recent years, with millions of [American] consumers now using ENDS [electronic nicotine delivery system], the most prominent of which are e-cigarettes.” “The ACS position statement is consistent with the Public Health

England and the Royal College of Physicians conclusions that e-cigarettes are at least 95-percent less harmful than conventional cigarettes and are a viable smoking-cessation tool,” said Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (Pecia). “We are hopeful that the Department of Health [DOH] will look objectively at the growing body of evidence and eventually support the use of e-cigarettes to help the millions of Filipinos quit smoking.” Dulay also appealed to legislators to craft an appropriate regulatory framework for e-cigarettes that is different from that of conventional cigarettes. “Doing so will encourage more Filipino smokers to switch to less-harmful nicotine products and quit cigarettes all together.” “While a cautious endorsement of e-cigarettes, the ACS position statement is aligned with the latest US Food and Drug Administration policy road map, consensus study report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and the conclusions of Cancer Research UK, all of which underscore the potential role of e-cigarettes in reducing smokingrelated harms,” said Tom Pinlac, president of The Vapers Philip-

pines. “We urge the DOH and local legislators to look at the evidence and take decisive steps to include e-cigarettes in national tobaccocontrol initiatives, a move that can help save millions of Filipino lives.” The Vapers Philippines and Pecia expressed, likewise, dismay over the opposition of the Philippine  Cancer  Society  (PCS) to a House resolution which urges the DOH to adopt harm reduction measures, particularly the use of e-cigarettes, as an alternative for smokers as part of the country’s National Tobacco Control Strategy.  In its position paper, the PCS stated it “opposes the adoption of use of e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarette smoking.” The PCS criticized the Public Health England review for not conducting a “conclusive study” to support its conclusion that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people in the United Kingdom. “The behavioral pattern of using e-cigarettes is similar to smoking cigarettes, and the harm it can potentially present to one’s health are already strong enough reasons to regulate or prohibit its use just like any kind of commercial product,” the PCS position paper stated.

he National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has suspended Globe Telecom’s value-added service (VAS) provider GotDeals Mobile Inc. in connection with a complaint of “disappearing” mobile-phone load credits. In the summons issued on February 28 by lawyer Ella Blanca Lopez, officer in charge of the NTC legal branch, both GotDeals and Globe have been summoned to appear in a hearing before the regulatory body on March 8 to determine possible violation of Memorandum Circular 04-07-2009, which governs Public Telecommunications Entities and VAS providers. VAS providers offer services outside the standard calls and SMS, such as ringtones, wallpapers and infotext, among others. “Upon receipt of this order, Globe Telecom Inc. is, likewise, hereby directed to immediately suspend the implementation of its content-provider agreement with GotDeals Mobile Inc., pending investigation of this complaint pursuant to NTC Memorandum Circular 04-07-2009,” Lopez wrote to the telecom giant and GotDeals. NTC’s suspension order was triggered by a complaint filed by Feann Hontinveros Mauricio, whose social-media post on “nakaw load” has caught the attention of netizens who have similarly experienced unauthorized deduction from their prepaid load credit. It has since been investigated by the NTC to pinpoint the source and cause of disappearing cellphone load. Prepaid subscribers complain that their load credits disappear due to their supposed “subscription” to certain services of the VAS provider even without their knowledge or authorization.   In last Monday’s public hearing in the Senate, there was an agreement to review Memorandum Circular 04-07-2009 in order to address such complaints and strengthen the protection of consumers against nakaw load.    

Agriculture/Commodities BusinessMirror

Editor: Jennifer A. Ng • Thursday, March 8, 2018


House wants to develop ‘malunggay’ industry


By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz @joveemarie

he House Committee on Agriculture and Food approved a substitute bill seeking to develop and strengthen the malunggay industry in the Philippines due to its benefits to public health.

The substitute bill seeks to promote the production, processing, marketing and distribution of Moringa oleifera, or malunggay. It also mandates the Department of Agriculture (DA) to formulate a five-year development framework for the implementation of plans, projects and programs for the production, marketing, processing and distribution of malunggay for food, medicinal and commercial needs. Deputy Speaker Linabelle Ruth R. Villarica of the Fourth District of Quezon City, one of the authors of the bill, said now is the time for the government to intervene and develop the moringa industry, given the many benefits of malunggay. “Studies have shown that 100 grams of moringa leaves contain nine times the protein of yogurt, 10 times the vitamin A of carrots, 15 times the potassium of bananas, 17 times the calcium of milk and 12 times the vitamin C

of oranges,” she said. “Malunggay is one of the world’s most useful crops and is a tropical tree with multifarious uses,” Villarica added. According to Villarica, the numerous uses of malunggay together with its easy propagation, have increased international interest in the crop. Currently, she said, cultivation of large scale is seen in India, Israel, Thailand, Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Pacific Islands. One of the principal authors of the bill, Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Second District of Pampanga said the measure will develop a “vibrant and viable” malunggay-based agro-industries that will support the agri-industrialization initiatives of the Duterte administration and address the nutritional deficiency problems common in the countryside and urban slums. “It can increase multifarious and varied on-farm, off-farm

and nonfarm enterprise incomes; generate millions of jobs; utilize vast tracts of idle agricultural lands and urban spaces; make the Philippines globally competitive; impact local and international market; and help attain food security and safety, poverty reduction and socioeconomic equity,” Arroyo said. The lawmaker is pushing for a budget of at least P100 million with an incremental increase of P10 million per year for the development of the malunggay industry, which shall be included in the General Appropriations Act. Deputy Speaker Sharon S. Garin of Aambis-OWA, another author of the bill, said it is time for malunggay to take the forefront because it is considered a “superfood.” “Internationally, malunggay is getting more accepted. It is endemic to the Philippines, so we won’t need any complicated technology.” Also, Party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar of Diwa, an author of the bill, said the measure seeks to establish a national program for the malunggay industry. Aglipay-Villar said that, while at present malunggay is an underutilized resource in the country, it is clear it would be to the benefit of the Filipino people if the plant and its industry were given more attention and support. “Not only because of the health benefits malunggay brings but the economic ones, as well. It is clear that as more and more uses of malunggay are discovered, the demand for it will increase,” she said.


After harvesting his pechay crops, a farmer in Santiago City, Isabela, puts them into a plastic bag to transport to the market. Organically grown vegetables in the area command better prices. LEONARDO PERANTE II

How does your garden grow?

Mary, Mary quite contrary How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells And pretty maids all in a row ­— Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes

Vanilla production in Uganda I surges as farmers battle thieves


ganda , t h e w o r l d ’s fou r t h-big gest va n i l l a exporter, is boosting output to benefit from prices for the flavoring that’s more valuable than silver and have forced growers to hire armed guards to deter thieves. The landlocked East African nation will produce about 100 metric tons this year, with potential to double that in future, according to Aust & Hachmann Canada Ltd., the world’s oldest vanilla company. While that’s far below the 1,600 tons top-grower Madagascar can produce, extra Ugandan output would diversify global supplies and see farmers of some of the world ’s potentially best beans reap as much as $600,000 per ton, company director David van der Walde said. “Vanilla is an important crop and the government is promoting its quality and boosting security in growing areas,” said Opolot Okasai, director of crop resources at Uganda’s Agriculture Ministry. The Uganda Export Promotion Board says annual vanilla shipments ranged from 0.65 tons to 75.4 tons in the half-decade to 2016, the last year for which data is available. Extra agr icultura l revenue would be a boon for Uganda, already Africa’s top coffee exporter, as it struggles to reach its 2020 target of middle-income status, which needs per-capita income of between $1,045 and $12,736. A delay in starting oil production in the country’s west is affecting the government’s economic targets, the planning authority said in February. Agriculture makes up about a quarter of Uganda’s $24.1-billion economy.

Cyclone spike

An extra source for the beans that flavor everything from lattes to ice creams would also ease buyers’


near-reliance on a single location. Last year’s cyclone in Madagascar, which contributes as much as 80 percent of the world’s supply, curbed production there and added to the price spike. Papua New Guinea is the second-biggest grower at 200 to 250 tons, while Indonesia produces about 150 tons, according to Aust & Hachmann’s November report. “When all the conditions are right, Ugandan vanilla can be outstanding,” said Van der Walde, whose company has historically been one of the biggest buyers of Ugandan vanilla. Prices spiked in the early 2000s, causing buyers to use more synthetic flavors. The market collapsed as a result, with vanilla trading at $30 to $80 per kilogram in 2004 to 2014, leading to farmers curbing production. Prices have soared since 2015, largely on new demand from major food companies responding to a consumer preference for natural ingredients. In Uganda some farmers responded by picking the beans too early, hurting yields and quality, according to Van der Walde.

“One of the great sadnesses for me is they haven’t taken advantage of the recent high prices,” he said. “That’s the jackpot and Uganda was totally unable to take advantage of it. It’s coming now, but it’s late.”

Bows and arrows

Ugandan vani l la is ma in ly grown in the central region and the western Kasese and Bundibugyo districts bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. Okasai said it’s gaining prominence as a “major export-revenue earner,” and the government is moving to destroy prematurely harvested crops and advise farmers. Security’s the main worry for Peter Lutalo, a farmer in Nkokonjeru, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of the capital, Kampala. He says other growers have hired guards equipped with guns, bows and arrows and machetes to protect their vanilla. “If you don’t watch over your farm at night, thieves will exploit t he l a x it y a nd h a r vest you r c ro p,” t he 3 4 -ye a r - old said. Bloomberg News

spent one weekend observing (aspiring and existing) farmers testing a soil’s suitability for planting cacao trees. Observing farmers using test tubes, litmus paper, sample soil and a soil-testing kit from the Bureau of Soils and Water Management reminded me of my high-school chemistry class and the fact that there’s a lot more involved in food production than picking up that bag of organic lettuce in the weekend market. Despite the advent of so-called soil-less farming, such as hydroponics, most of the crops that the farmers raised will come from one source: the soil. And that is why I decided to sit in Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines’s class on cacao farming. If I want to go deeper into sustainable farming, I have to go back to its foundation—fertile soil that can yield enough food for the present and future generations. Or, as what the instructor said at the start of the class, you need to have healthy soil if you want healthy plants. So I learned that one has to maintain the soil’s pH balance (neither too acidic nor too alkaline) and that soil needs nutrients like nitrogen and potassium; that you need lime to reduce the acidity and compost to lessen its alkaline level; that a fertile soil is well aerated (buhaghag) and has the capacity to absorb water; that insects are not necessarily bad for the farm and also that any farmer—or gardener— needs to understand the biodiversity in the farm to know how each and every plant, animal and insects interconnect and keep the ecosystem alive; that those eggshells my tita used to put in her cactus is not an affectation but a way to infuse more calcium in the soil. Others use crushed seashells and in some parts of Tagaytay even crushed bulalo bones as a calcium-enriched soil ensures that trees and plants will remain sturdy. I also started to understand why organic farming takes up so much time and energy, as one can’t just douse the soil with

Prime Sarmiento

prime commodities pesticides and fertilizer and be done with it. I also have much respect now for those who choose to veer away from conventional farming, as they understand how valuable soil is. By taking this to account, I can say that it’s just fair to pay a premium for organic vegetables. Never mind the debate on whether or not organic vegetables have more nutrients than those that were conventionally produced. The higher price that you pay is to keep the soil fertile. Soil is a nonrenewable resource. Once it’s destroyed, it’s gone for good. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said 12 million hectares of agricultural soils are lost globally through soil degradation every year. Increased crop production has reduced global hunger, but it came with a steep environmental cost—about 33 percent of the world’s soils are now moderately to highly degraded. This is the time for soil conservation, as while intensified farming might produce a lot of food, this is just good for a short period of time. A long-term solution is needed to achieve global food security. The FAO is promoting agroecology—a farming system that takes into account the farmers “deep, experiential knowledge of their local soils.” “Agroecolog y encompasses multiple dimensions of the food system, including ecolog ica l restoration, political and social stability and economic sustainability,” the FAO said. One of these agroecological strategies is the Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) in which annual and perennial crops are grown between contoured rows of leguminous species. The FAO said SALT has been extensively tested and implemented in Southeast Asia and has proven to be effective in reversing soil degradation, increase production and raise farmers’ incomes. Other agroecological strate-

gies include the use of cover crops like legumes to fix the soil’s nitrogen content; integrating livestock with crop production with crop by-products used as livestock feed, while animal manure is applied to fertilize farmlands; and intercropping to strengthen resistance to pests and diseases. nnn Today is International Women’s Day and I wish to celebrate it by paying homage to all women farmers—the ones who keep our soil productive and put food in our table. Women account for more than 40 percent of the agricultural labor force and yet several studies have shown that their contribution to food production is often ignored. In the Philippines the FAO said that from 1999 to 2003, most women farmers are involved in planting/transplanting, manual weeding, caring and harvesting of palay. Most women farmworkers were hired to plant and harvest corn and to apply fertilizer on sugarcane plants. “Women’s actual contribution to food production and rural economy remains undervalued, if not invisible. As a result, women have less access to productive resources than men do. Access to land, technology, extension services, capital and inf rastr ucture suppor t tend to favor rural men,” the FAO said in a 2003 report. More than a decade later, the agr iculture sector continues to favor the men over women. It’s usually male farmers who legally own the land and male farmworkers get higher wages than women. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, male farmworkers get P193.22 per day, while that of the females averaged P181.10 per day. But a study, led by National University of Singapore’s Assistant Dean Sonia Akter, and published in the Food Policy journal in 2017, offered hope that things can change for women farmers— in the Philippines at least. The study, which involved a field work in Infanta, Quezon, revealed that, while agricultural land is formally owned by men, both the men and women have joint decision-making power over land use and farm credit. It’s also the wife who manages t he household f inances and decides on the sale of crops and livestock.




Thursday, March 8, 2018

Tawi-Tawi: A beautiful pe N

By Roger Pe

O fear. That’s what can be said of my views on the southwestern Philippines, much more the Sulu island groups. I rarely believe the bad rep these islands get.

TAWI-TAWI’S Sacred Mountain, Bud Bongao

MAYOR Jimuel Que, perhaps the youngest mayor in the Philippines

These stories are like ancient tales retold and rewoven by people who have not even been there, not seen the real picture and heard only “horror stories” from third party sources. Not only have they failed miserably to update old data on Tawi-Tawi but continue to use these to support biases. What’s also annoying is the tone of articles about Tawi-Tawi that portray the islands as a lair of bandits and its people as pirates. Some of these articles are based on information that is unreliable or came from people who may have gone to Tawi-Tawi years ago but haven’t acknowledged that situations have changed. These articles scare the hell out of innocent travelers. Last year, around one million people visited Tawi-Tawi yet a few still ask if it is safe to travel there. The night I mulled over accepting an invitation to go to TawiTawi brought me to the eve of my first trip to New York City. My friends had bled my ears to death from unsolicited advice on how not get mugged in Manhattan—“Don’t stare at people;” “Never walk alone in Central Park,” etc., etc. All these “tips” turned out not to be true as with other pieces of advice I got before I went to several European cities after tasting a bit of life in the Big Apple.

The Adman cometh

I HAVE always been adventurous. I stretch my boundaries at some point. I guess my being an adman made me that way; that the only way to find the truth is being actually there in the marketplace to be able to write truthfully. I am referring to misconceptions about Sulu islands, the “hot spot” much maligned by bad press. Still, my views should not be considered Gospel truth. I forward the view that some can interpret information differently by seeing people and situations in a positive light. With that principle, I accepted the invitation to travel to the southwestern Philippines even if we were only four (two travel bloggers, a cameraman and myself). Usually, the regular entourage I travel with are composed of seven to ten people. I presumed the others had backed out or chose not to go. The lesser, the better (and quieter), I thought the day I waited for my flight. What’s probably on the mind of the no-go people is the negative connotation associated with TawiTawi. But I could tell them right now

that Tawi-Tawi is the safest province within the Basilan-Sulu-TawiTawi archipelago. Pirates do not exist there because there is a naval base stationed in Panglima Sugala. The Philippine Coast Guard regularly patrols the shores, too.

Smooth as silk

THE almost two-hour late afternoon flight to Zamboanga (where we would spend the night) was surprisingly smooth as silk, to use a foreign airline’s tagline. After a quick check-in at Garden Orchid Hotel, we were brought to the Alavar Restaurant for the obligatory “Curacha” dinner. The chi-chi members of Davao media were already comfortably seated when we got there. Their bandwidth frequency ran high as they dominated the dining chitchat airwaves. As in most media familiarity tours I’ve been to, no one introduced them to us, and us, to them, so we ended up gingerly, cautiously guessing who they were. We were then told that our wake-up call would be at 5 a.m., which meant we should sleep early and all power bank batteries must be fully charged to the last bar. Like all my first nights in a new place, I would not be able to sleep and, much to my abomination, I had asthma, aggravated by a room reeking with chest-piercing scent of cigarette smoke.

Day one

I WOKE up at 3 a.m., ready for our much-awaited flight to Tawi-Tawi. While counting sheep, I had mentally reviewed Sulu’s geography: which islets and island provinces we will be flying over. The thrill of hovering above them gave me goosebumps. I also loved the fact our plane will be within striking distance to Borneo (Sabah) when we get to Sitangkai and Sibutu, islands that have always mystified me. It was drizzling when we arrived in Zamboanga airport. I was expecting some turbulence across the Sulu Seas when the plane took off. But that did not happen. The only thing that disturbed me was when we were already descending to Bongao, Tawi-Tawi’s capital town. As we were approaching Sanga-Sanga airport, the plane abruptly maneuvered up and the pilot announced: “We apologize for the inconvenience but we will attempt to land for the second time because of poor visibility.” Another fifteen minutes of circling the island, we were able to land.

Hello, Tawi-Tawi

AMERICAN documentary and travel photographer Jacob Maentz describes the Sulu Sea in his website as “one of the most beautiful seascapes on earth.” I echo Maentz’s statement. Despite its reputation, the entire strings of islands look like an untouched tropical paradise with a huge tourism potential. From the air, every single islet is ringed with white sand: What a sight to behold! As soon as we had set foot in Tawi-Tawi, I had thought I would be seeing a different country but no, it was just like another Philippine town, except for beautiful mosques, Islamic influences on house structures and the sound of the ‘kulintang’ gently thumping our ears with a warm welcome. From the airport, we rolled through Bongao’s concrete roads and passed through the historic Ridjiki (“blessing”) boulevard, built near the big expanse of Sulu and Celebes seas. We saw children jumping and swimming into its turquoise blue waters. We saw young men and women chatting on the sea wall. Had we came late in the afternoon on that day, we would have seen a gloriously spectacular sunset. The seaport has served the local populace for hundreds of years, a docking place for motored ferry boats from the municipalities of Sitangkai, Sibutu, Simunul, SapaSapa, Tandubas, Languyan, South Ubian, Mapun, Turtle Island and other far-flung islands.

Oldest mosque

AS we went past Ridjiki, a black mountain standing in solitude beckoned on the horizon. It was a mini-version of Australia’s Uluru Ayers Rock towering 342 meters above sea level amidst the flat island of Bongao. We were heading to Simunul, an island town where one could see the country’s oldest mosque. Tour guide Tony Said brought us to a seaport where we would take our speedboat. Nearby is the White Mosque, located in Barangay Tubig Tanah. Sitting quietly on a manicured carpet of grass, the mosque gleams against a backdrop of coconut trees; adjacent to the house of Tawi-Tawi’s provincial governor. It was a quick ride to Simunul. The island has an attention-getting port entrance because of a big replica of a Koran on top of its archway. Crystal-clear blue waters, clean streets, symmetrical houses on stilts, the entire island was picture-perfect. We walked around the island and we saw Sheik Karim al Mak-

PANAMPANGAN, Philippines’ longest sandbar

SIMUNUL Island, site of the oldest mosque in the Philippines

dum Mosque, the oldest mosque in the country. Declared a national cultural treasure, it was visited by the late President Ferdinand Marcos in 1965. The newly renovated mosque still stands on its original site that was built in 1380. Inside, the four original giant pillars (made from Philippine Iron tree, ipil) are encased in gilded iron railings. We then moved to Poblacion Tampakan where we saw a monster of a crocodile measuring nineteen feet long and four feet wide on its tummy. Caught by Barangay Sukabulan fishermen, the beast has become an unusual attraction in Simunul.

Longest sandbar

IT was now time to visit the longest sandbar in the Philippines: Panampangan, a spectacular work of nature that measures three kilometers from end-to-end forming the shape of a crescent moon. The extraordinary sandbar is gifted with soft, silky, powdery white sand that could be ranked as one of the best in the world. Along the way are sea vehicles called Bintang boats.

“They come and go,” our tour guide said. “They are culturally Malay but have assimilated with the Badjao culture and daily life.” There were also inter-island Ferry boats that are loaded with passengers among who are men in military uniforms. Each time they went past us, they reminded me what our Zamboanga tour guide Errold Bayona said. “When you meet them along the way, raise your hand and wave back,” Bayona had advised. There was also a Muslim Wedding boat. One would know they are rushing to an island nearby for a wedding ceremony because of one thing: a malong (traditional Muslim tube skirt) flying in the wind, like a flag planted near the boat’s prow. There were also flocks of wild sea gulls a number of which routinely swoop down the water surface to catch flying fishes. More birds appeared on the horizon as our boat reached Panampangan. The hardly visited island is now getting visitors and more are trickling in. Wrong perceptions

STUNNING white beach on Mapun Island

aderLook earl in Sulu’s waterworld

sMirror | Thursday, March 8, 2018


basic needs are not addressed. “Many of our islands don’t have rivers to supply the water needs of our people,” he added. “Electrification is also a problem.” Still, he is thankful the Regional Board of Investments of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RBOI-ARMM) has approved an 8-megawatt capacity diesel power plant project in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. “For a region where residents miserably experience daily rotational brownouts due to power shortage, this is great news,” Que said. The whole of Sulu archipelago, including Tawi-Tawi, is the least penetrated market for power projects. Que also reiterated his mayorship would continue implementing an efficient waste disposable management in the town, make its seas and beaches trash-free and encourage people to be more environmentally conscious.

Economic zone

WHITE Mosque in Bongao

was sweating profusely. “No turning back now,” I said, in an effort to establish a personal record: book my first real mountain climb.

Sacred mountain

have unfairly hounded many stunningly beautiful places in TawiTawi for decades, but the truth is, it is safe and heavily guarded by Philippine Navy, Marines and five Badjao families that live in the island.

Highest view deck

ONE can call this mountain a masterpiece of nature. Bud (meaning “mountain”) has vertical limestone rocks and verdant moist forest. The mountain has six limestone pillars that form six of its peaks. They have viewing decks named after Bongao, Pajar, Sibutu (the summit), Simunul, Tambisan and Tinondakan. We climbed a 3,608-step cobblestone trail and reached the highest view deck on Tambisan Peak in less than hour. The magnificent view at the top unraveled the coast of Sabah accentuated by a solitary eagle soaring above the deep blue sea. The summit gave us an almost 360-degree view of the Celebes Sea. Before ascending, we were told not to bring plastic bottles. But we could bring bananas to feed schools of Macaques (monkeys) that populate the entire mountain. Barely a quarter of the total height, two of our companions returned to the foot of the mountain. Halfway through, I wanted to stop and just sit on one of the rest huts. My inner self said “No” even if my chest was tightening and knees were wobbling. My shirt was now all wet as I

ALONG the way, we would occasionally meet a family with a young boy or girl in tow. It was explained to us that it’s a Bongao tradition, a sign of respect to bring young ones to a royal Muslim burial site above the mountain. It is also a practice to request for the sick to get cured. A hike is also a sign of penitence, the mountain being a holy ground for Muslims. By this time, the forest monkeys have started to come down. I immediately saw one throwing his full body weight to branches of trees. Some would walk along the trail and glide through railings. I was able to capture one on video but as I got closer, he began to open his mouth wide open revealing his sharp fangs. Fearing he would jump at me and I would be off-balanced and—horrors—fall off the cliff, I backed off. Said, our tireless tour guide, told us there is an Imam (Muslim priest) on the site. One can leave a donation and the Imam will pray for you. Mountain trekkers can also make a wish by hurling pebbles towards the ravine. They say that if it hits the rock, his wish would come true. As it was almost five in the afternoon, we readied ourselves to come down. The race was on, who will reach the foot of the mountain first? I did, though my knees were hurting badly and my leg calves ached like hell.

Bud Bongao trail

THE Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) spent P56 million in developing the Bud Bongao Trail. The construction of an access road to Bongao Peak was the first eco-tourism park project developed by the regional government. It included construction of a tourist center where visitors can register and receive orientation before climbing. The fund also was used to build 750 steps made of concrete and railings for construction of resting sheds. Bongao Peak is one of the 12 key biodiversity sites in the country protected under the “New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Around 1,500 tourists visit the peak every week. To increase visitor arrival in the town, Bongao Mayor Jimuel S. Que said the local government would help sustain and maintain Bud Bongao and will also conduct activities that will further promote tourism in the municipality. Que said his governance would see further development of more community-based tourism that will also focus on local culture.

A feast of seafood

WE barely had time to freshen up when we arrived at the Que’s house for the dinner the mayor graciously hosted. The boyish-looking Que gave us a sumptuous feast of the freshest seafood we’ve ever tasted— huge crabs, succulent white clam soup, “Samaral,” broiled squid and, the winner of the night, Mantis Shrimp (alupihang dagat). The latter won because it tasted so good like lobster and oozed with roe from end to end. It was also a time to interview the mayor who gamely answered courteous and no-holds-barred questions. Que said he is hopeful about the positive buzz Tawi-Tawi is getting today. “We want to start slow, we don’t want to rush things,” he added. “We want to fix peace and order in the community first.” Speaking of peace and order, Que said Bongao is one of the most peaceful towns in Sulu. “We used to only have one battalion of soldiers; now we have three. And the local government units [LGUs] are cooperating. We want to maintain peace and order here. “Ayaw naming masira ’yon [We don’t want to ruin it],” he said.

Big potential

ARMM Tourism Secretary Ayesha Dilangalen sees the big potential of Tawi-Tawi as a tourist destination. Dilangalen said the establishment of a tourism council and the creation of an association of hoteliers and restaurants in the province have helped boost tourism in Tawi-Tawi. Bongao alone has 300 hotel and pension house rooms for tourists. Still, Dilangalen is hoping that more hoteliers will invest in the province. But in order for tourism to thrive, electricity, water and communication must flow unceasingly. Que laments that some of Bongao’s

TOURISM Secretary Wanda T. Teo shared her hopes for Tawi-Tawi during an interagency dialogue on the Zamboanga-Sandakan Air connectivity and Tawi-Tawi Freeport and Ecozone Project in Zamboanga City on February 26. Teo spoke as chairman of the Tourism Cluster of the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga). She said only Mindanao and Palawan are not connected by air and sea to the other three countries. She is optimistic that with the upcoming cruise tourism in Buliluyan, Bataraza, Palawan and Kudat, Malaysia, “we can now be truly connected with the BIMP-Eaga.” Teo also said the Philippines would be aggressively promoting Mindanao through the “Go South Philippines” campaign of the Department of Tourism (DOT). “We believe in the vast offerings of the island, including ARMM, specifically, Tawi-Tawi. With its beautiful beaches and its location as a natural gateway, there is vast potential for the island,” she said. “Thus, the proposal to develop the Tawi-Tawi Integrated Seaport and Economic Zone will prove to be a worthwhile [contribution to tourism].”

Go South

TEO said the DOT is tapping the younger generation of travelers to see the countryside with the campaign, zeroing in on the entire Mindanao island for the first quarter of 2018, beginning with Davao and to other Mindanao regions in the following months. “Go South” will be our new message and tone for Mindanao,” Teo said. The DOT is reviving this highly successful marketing campaign to give Mindanao a stronger and unified voice as a “single tourism destination”. Among its lofty objectives is to position Mindanao by spotlighting its world-renowned attractions, like the Unesco World Heritage sites of Mount Hamiguitan, Mount Apo and Mount Kitanglad. As part of our efforts to improve the tourism experience of our country’s Asean neighbors, Teo said the DOT has initiated “Muslim Friendly Tourism to cater to specific needs of our brethren of the Islamic faith.” Teo added there is much to see in Mindanao. “As we launch our “Go South” campaign, we will showcase the “Land of Promise” in a new light of fun, adventure and pleasant memories,” she said. “With the launch of these routes, we are taking the first step and we firmly believe that we, as a united front, will sustain what we have started.”


A8 Thursday, March 8, 2018 • Editor: Jun B. Vallecera


DBM eyes system to monitor govt projects


By Bernadette D. Nicolas


he Department of Budget and Management (DBM) announced on Wednesday that it will adopt the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-developed system for DBM monitoring of government projects to speed up implementation and reduce wastage.

Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said through this technology, dubbed as Project DIME or Digital Imaging for Monitoring and Evaluation, they will be able to track the speed of implementation and actual physical accomplishments of government projects in real time and do away with ghost projects. 

“Now, with this technology, we will know what is really happening with those projects and we gain a lot by doing away with ghost projects,” he said, noting that this is the “most cost-effective way” of monitoring government projects.   The technologies on data acquisition developed and acquired by the DOST that

will be used in the program include light detection and ranging (Lidar), open roads platform and geostore and geotagging. Satellites and drones will also be used in the program to cover areas that cannot be monitored through Lidar. The satellites can cover larger areas than Lidar and can capture imageries of changes on the surface of the Earth and will be best used to monitor physical infrastructure projects, such as roads, buildings and bridges. Drones have a smaller area coverage than Lidar.  The DBM has also identified priority programs to be monitored in coordination with different budget and management bureaus, giving emphasis on top spending agencies like the departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Education (DepEd), Health (DOH) and Transportation (DOTr) for its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.  Under the Build, Build, Build program, 75 flagship infrastructure projects will be rolled out. Public spending on infrastructure projects is seen reaching P8

DOF approves four climate-change projects T

he People’s Survival Fund (PSF) Board on Wednesday signed a financing agreement with local government units (LGUs) for the implementation of four projects in various areas nationwide amounting to P191.7 million. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, chairman of the PSF Board, signed four grant agreements to be implemented starting this year, namely: the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Response as an Adaptation Mechanism to Resiliency in Lanuza, Surigao del Sur; the Siargao Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolk in the Municipality of Del Carmen, Siargao Islands, Surigao del Norte; Building Resilience through Community-based Ecological Farming in San Francisco, Camotes Islands; and Promoting Resiliency and Climate-Informed Gerona in Gerona, Tarlac. The PSF funding, in the form of grant for the four projects, will have counterpart funding from the LGUs amounting to P41 million. The four projects are worth a combined P232.8 million. ​“ The PSF was set up to help improve the ability of our communities to cope with the conse-

quences of climate change. Although the fund may not be enough to meet all our needs, it is an initiative to help reduce disaster risks and improve the resilience of our communities,” Dominguez said. Broken down, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Response as an Adaptation Mechanism to Resiliency will take P39 million from the PSF funding; the Siargao Climate Field School for Farmers and Fisherfolk was allotted P80.7 million; Building Resilience through Community-based Ecological Farming was provided P33.8 million; and Promoting Resiliency and Climate-Informed Gerona was funded P38.1 million. National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon, the PSF Board’s alternate chairman, said there are nine additional projects for financing under the PSF pipeline with a requested amount of P979.7 million. These include Establishing Climate Smart Barangays in Los Baños, Laguna, with a requested funding of P24 million; the Carranglan three-in-one protection project in Carranglan,

Nueva Ecija, amounting to P82.3 million; the Libon Ecosystem Improvement Project in Libon, Albay, with P649.8 million; the Mount Magdiwata Watershed Adaptation Technologies and Ecosystem Resiliency Project in Agusan del Sur, amounting to P33 million; the Improving the Coastal Resources and its Management Systems as Mitigating Measures for Climate Change for Sustainable Communities in Hinatuan Passage Development Alliance Areas in Surigao del Norte, with P18.9 million; Saub Watershed Ecosystem Rehabilitation and Flood Risk Reduction for Increased Resilience to Climate Change and Natural Hazards in Sarangani, amounting to P119.5 million; Integrated Ecosystem and Forest Management in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, with P10 million; Adaptive Capacity Building of Agusan del Norte: Enhancing the Disaster Preparedness Dissemination System through Information and Communication Technology in Agusan del Norte, amounting to P14.9 million; and Establishment and Sustainable Management of River Ecosystem in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, with P27 million. Rea Cu

Insular Life appoints new chief agency distribution officer


nsular Life Executive Chairman Nina D. Aguas announced the appointment of Raoul Antonio E. Littaua as the company’s new senior executive vice president and chief agency distribution officer. Littaua brings with him close to 30 years of extensive experience in life-insurance operations, including benefits administration, underwriting, customer service, policy administration and training; agency management and marketing. He occupied various key positions, such as chief marketing officer and chief distribution officer of other life-insurance companies. He spearheaded and conceptualized various sales and marketing campaigns, and grew both the agency and bancassurance businesses

of his former companies, strengthening their market performance. Aside from the life-insurance industry, he was also formerly connected with retail and real-estate companies where he was instrumental for setting the directions for and growing their respective businesses. Littaua is also a strong advocate of renewable energy, having worked as technical consultant for foreign-assisted and special projects of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. He graduated with an AB Psychology degree from De La Salle University and attended the Executive Development Course of the Life Office Management Association/Life Insurance and Market Research Association. Littaua

Associations and tourism: Redux


am bringing back (hence the word, redux) but updating my January 4, 2017, column as my organization, the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), recently forged a collaboration with the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) to further boost MICE tourism in the Philippines. MICE stands for meetings, incentives, conferences and events. The PCAAE is the country’s “association of associations.” We signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Tourism’s marketing arm mandated to promote the country as a major MICE destination in Asia. Associations organize MICE, and this is why they have been contributing to the economy, and the trend is going to continue in the coming years, according to reports. With a high value-added component, MICE has spawned, among others, infrastructure and enterprise development. It has also created jobs, established small and medium enterprise linkages, and boosted the tax revenues of the government. Therefore, the role of associations in tourism cannot be discounted. According to the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) Statistic Report 2015, the world association market covers a wide range of meeting types and categories, such as medical meetings (the largest segment), scientific,

Association World Octavio Peralta academic, trade organizations, professional bodies and other social groupings. The ICCA association database now includes 20,000 regular meeting series, 220,000 meeting editions and 11,500 international associations. These numbers confirm the consistent growth in the association meetings market, as identified in ICCA’s 50-year report. In the Philippines, the TPB said the contribution of MICE to the national tourism industry is about 15 percent. In 2016 there were around 200 MICE events that the TPB booked, with the Philippines ranking sixth in the Asean with the most number of MICE events. The TPB realized early on the value of MICE in tourism promotion and foresaw this trend worldwide, particularly in relation with associations. It was logical for the TPB leadership to help in the founding of the PCAAE in November 2013. Since its inception, the PC A A E has helped advance the association

management profession and believes that, by further professionalizing association governance and management, associations and other membership organizations will have the confidence and skill set to undertake more MICE events locally, as well as attract international conferences to the country. The PCAAE counts among its members 240 associations, professional societies, chambers, foundations and other member-serving organizations (cooperatives, LGU associations, student councils, etc.), which has a reach of 5 million individual members that can potentially grow the MICE industry. The growth potential of MICE tourism in the country is enormous. What is needed now is for all tourism stakeholders (government, the business sector and associations) to join hands to pursue this opportunity. This is the very essence of the TPB-PCAAE partnership. Octavio “Bobby” Peralta is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) and CEO & Founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives. PCAAE enjoys the support of ADFIAP, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the Philippine International Convention Center. E-mail:

trillion to P9 trillion from 2017 to 2022. The acceleration of infrastructure and development of industries is expected to yield robust economic growth, create jobs and uplift the lives of Filipinos.   The DBM also selected the following programs and projects to be monitored through Project DIME: the DPWH’s construction/improvement of access roads leading to seaports and airports; the DOTr’s North-South Commuter Railway (PNR-North); Department of Social Welfare and Development’s conditional cash-transfer program; the DepEd’s basic education facilities; the Commission on Higher Education’s universal access to quality tertiary education; the Department of National Defense’s Armed Forces of the Philippines’s Modernization Program; the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s Local Governance Performance Management Program, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Agricultural Machinery, Equipment, Facilities and Infrastructures Program; the Department of Information and Communica-

tions Technology’s Free Wi-Fi Internet Access; and the DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’s National Fisheries Program. They will also continue monitoring the DOH’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program; the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s National Greening Program; and the National Irrigation Administration’s National/Communal Irrigation Systems, which they initially monitored as sample projects in 2017.  Other projects will be added to the monitoring list in the future, such as those being implemented in disasterprone areas.  Findings from the monitoring period in 2017 allowed the DBM to evaluate the status of projects and to come up with a recommendation to continue or discontinue the funding of a project and other actions for the project’s improvement.  “Project DIME will help ensure that every peso allocated to government programs and projects will be used efficiently and effectively,” Diokno said. 

Grant Thornton Global CEO: ‘Culture is business strategy’


n an era of disruption and uncertainty, corporate culture—and not technology—will make or break companies and organizations, said the head of one of the world’s biggest auditing firms. While many companies are starting to invest in artificial intelligence and highlevel technologies that can replace routine tasks, the main differentiator among companies will still be their people and “how you train people and develop the leadership that’s going to take people through the change,” said Peter Bodin, global CEO of Grant Thornton International (GTI), who was recently in Manila for the 30th anniversary of P&A Grant Thornton, its Philippine member-firm and currently one of the top 5 auditing firms in the country. Before assuming his role as global CEO of GTI on January 1, Bodin led Grant Thornton Sweden for 16 years, during which the Swedish firm’s revenues more than trebled. GTI is one of the five most prestigious accounting firms in the world with 50,000 people across over 130 countries. Seeing business models transform in the last five to 10 years, he said no one still knows exactly how digital transformation will disrupt businesses. Thus, the real game changer will be the kind of culture that organizations will build, amid such uncertainty. Those that are best in talent development, harnessing leadership and building the organizational culture that can adapt to the new world are going to be the winners in this game, he said. “How to create a company culture that doesn’t know the answers yet will develop and evolve during the journey,” he added. In his speech dur ing P& A Grant Thornton’s 30th anniversary celebration, attended by more than a thousand employees, alumni, clients and business partners, the global CEO lauded the local auditing firm for being a symbol of disruption “even before ‘disruption’ became a buzzword.” In 1988, at a trying time for the Philippines’s fledgling democracy and amid the dominance of a single player in the local auditing industry, Punongbayan & Araullo (P&A) was set up by public accountant

Benjamin R. Punongbayan and seasoned banker Jose Araullo. From starting with eight people, it has grown to more than 900 employees with 21 partners across its nationwide network. Bodin cited two things that make the corporate culture in the Philippine firm strong: its gender balance and the presence of millennials. “So much research and experience show that diverse and gender-balanced businesses deliver better results, are better able to handle the disruption that goes in every sector, and are more resilient,” he said in his speech. He also considers millennials—comprising about 80 percent of the P&A Grant Thornton work force—as a strong driver for growth, given their love for technology and being at the forefront of innovation. Bodin said he remains optimistic about the impact of automation on the way the auditing firm conducts business, which focuses on being trusted business advisors to a diverse clientele. “Automation allows much more information and analyses about our business and that of our clients that lead to strategic, in-depth discussions about the future, and more qualified work for our people, so the shift is a positive thing,” he added. He said GTI has massively developed new audit methodologies and modernized the whole network in the last five years to drive quality and efficiency. “Robots, AI, and a lot of buzzwords are out there and changing what we do. We’ve not only geared up on the audit side, but are also developing similar technology to bring over to other service lines,” Bodin revealed. P&A Grant Thornton Chairman and CEO Maria Victoria C. Españ​o echoes Bodin’s excitement over the ongoing shift and how accounting firms can suit up for more changes to come. “Our local economy has made bold leaps and the Philippine government, just like others in the world, is making meaningful investments in infrastructure and technology to support growth. This is why we celebrate our 30th anniversary with the theme ‘Unlimited’: we are unlimited in our ability to hurdle change and maintain optimism and confidence in businesses and in our nation,” she said.

Case clippings

By Justice S J Ranada Jr. EXPROPRIATION–Purpose of just compensation The purpose of just compensation is not to reward the owner for the property taken, but to compensate him for the loss thereof. Thus, the true measure of the property is the market value at the time of the taking, when the loss resulted. The state is not obliged to pay premium to the property owner for appropriating the latter’s property, but is only bound to make good the loss sustained by the landowner.   Republic v. Macabagdal GR 227215 10 Jan 2018 Perlas-Bernabe,J

The Regions BusinessMirror

D.O.L.E. concerned over sightings of child laborers in 2 Cebu cities By Charles R. Pepito Correspondent


ONCERNED over sightings of child laborers in Bogo City and Medellin town in Cebu, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE 7) in the region will have work places where children were seen, inspected. In a meeting with the Board of Trustees of the District Tripartite Council (DTC) in Bogo-Medellin Milling Corp. Inc. (Bomedco), DOLE 7 acting Regional Director Cyril L. Ticao asked assistance from the representatives of the council to help the department check and monitor the presence of child laborers. Cebu Provincial Field Office chief Maria Grace V. Diaz relayed an earlier unverified report of child laborers still present in the area. Ticao urged DTC-Bomedco to be vigilant and help promote the DOLE’s campaign on “Child Labor Prevention and Elimination.” “We want the different DTCs in the region—not only DTC-Bomedco—to be actively involved in our advocacy. We would be able to reach further heights and disseminate information to everybody that child labor is illegal if they are one with us. Parents or guardians of these children should be able to understand that what they’re actually doing is banned and against the law,” Ticao said.  After the revocation of the Negros Island Region, apart from DTCBomedco, the Central Azucarera de Bais, Universal Robina Sugar Milling Corp. and the Universal Robina Corp. Tolong Sugar Mill of Negros Oriental are now under the umbrella of the Regional Tripartite Industrial

Peace Council of Region 7. Ticao admitted that child labor usually happens in the sugar industry, and poverty is the main reason children do back-breaking work to help their parents earn a living.  “The DOLE has livelihood funds intended for the parents of child laborers. In this way, we would be able to help them explore other alternative means of livelihood, hoping to stop them from letting their children work,” he said.  Barangay Cayang in Bogo City and Barangays Caputatan Sur and Caputatan Norte in Medellin already received livelihood assistance from the DOLE for the parents of noted child laborers.   There is a need to strengthen and revitalize the campaign against child labor, particularly in Bogo and Medellin, given the reports received by the DOLE, he continued.  In June 2017 the DOLE’s Child Prevention and Elimination Program monitored said places, saying the DOLE would continue sustaining its linkage and network among barangays concerned where child laborers were usually spotted.  The DOLE would once again deploy personnel to do monitoring and verify reports received. “Eliminating child labor is a gigantic task, given the economic situation that most of our brothers and sisters are into. But, with the help and cooperation of our social partners, like the Industrial Peace Councils and District Tripartite Councils, and the local government units, we fervently hope we would be able to help achieve the country’s sustainable development goal of ending child labor,” Ticao said.

AEV proposes to expand regional airports in 35 years By Lorenz S. Marasigan




OOD news for public-school teachers. The Department of Education (DepEd) on Tuesday reported to the Committee on Basic Education and Culture of the House of Representatives that school-based personnel will be among the first to receive the performance-based bonus (PBB) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 this month. As of March 5, 2018, teachers in the Ilocos region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Davao and Socksksargen have already received their PBB, following the department’s receipt of certificate of compliance from the AO25 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in January. “Others will receive it within this week, or before March ends, we will make sure that we will complete all schools before we go to the Region, Division and Central offices,” DepEd Undersecretary for Planning and Field Operations Jesus Mateo informed the committee members. A representative from the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Organization, Position Classification and Compensation Bureau (OPCCB) confirmed Mateo’s report and added that, aside from the six regions, they are already processing the Special Allotment Release Order (Saro) for the National Capital Region (NCR) and Cagayan Valley, which are set to get the incentive within the week. DBM-OPCCB is also already evaluating the submission of Regions 8, 9, 10, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Caraga, and awaiting the submission of Regions 4B, 6, 7 and the now-defunct Negros Island Region (NIR). Mateo admitted the DepEd encountered challenges in the requirements for the grant of PBB, some of which include factors the depart-

ment addressed in compliance with the PBB requirements for FY 2017. The AO25 Memorandum Circular (MC) 2016-1 prescribes the criteria and conditions for the grant of PBB for FY 2016. Given are the following requirements: 1) Department Performance Accomplishment Report; 2) Good Governance Conditions; 3) Public Financial Management Reports; 4) Agency Procurement Compliance and Performance; and 5) Posting of Operations Manual or ISO Certification. A government agency must be able to comply with all conditions in order to qualify for the release of PBB. The department complied with the set criteria but had difficulty meeting the preconditions on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS), the budget utilization rate (BUR), and specific physical accomplishments, which nearly rendered the department ineligible. Through the joint efforts of various delivery units within all governance levels, the DepEd took significant steps and actions to overcome these impediments and, in the fourth quarter of 2017, submitted the necessary documents for approval by the DBM. Mateo said that, since a major part of the department’s delayed compliance was due to procurement issues, the DepEd is proposing to adopt a framework or ordering agreement to mitigate the delays and ensure improved compliance. The undersecretary further noted that, for the PBB, FY 2017, come summer of 2018, the department will conduct orientation on the submission for PBB. Based on Executive Order (EO) 80, series 2012, PBB is “a top-up incentive given to personnel of bureaus or delivery unit in accordance to their contribution to the accomplishment of their department’s overall targets and commitments.”


HE infrastructure arm of Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. (AEV) has submitted a P148billion unsolicited proposal to the transportation department for the expansion, operation and maintenance of four major Philippine regional airports over the next three and a half decades. Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. proposed to increase the capacity of the following airports in the Visayas and Mindanao: Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Laguindingan Airport and New Bohol International Airport in Panglao.  Sabin Aboitiz, the company’s president, said his group intends to modernize and expand the first three

airports immediately, as these hubs are already operating above capacity and require urgent rehabilitation. The New Bohol is eyed to open the island further to the international-tourism market as part of the national tourism strategy. This move will also decongest Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Aboitiz said. “Through this unsolicited propos-

al, we intend to support the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program as we develop sustainable airport facilities that reflect and support the tremendous economic and tourism potential of the Philippines’s regions and provinces,” he added. The aforesaid regions have been experiencing tremendous growth in the last few years. The airports have struggled to follow the pace of the development. The Iloilo and Bacolod airports have been operating for 10 years, while Laguindingan started operating in 2013, but has been operating above its capacity since its opening year. Aboitiz said the P148-billion multiphased project will “transform the facilities into world-class airports every Filipino deserves and can be proud of.”  The government earlier identified the modernization of the regional airports as a critical infrastructure project and launched a tender for a public-private partnership for five airports under the build-operatetransfer law in 2014, but this plan was canceled in 2017.

Aboitiz said the “pooling of resources” to develop, operate and maintain all four airports is required in order to “unlock synergies” that would benefit all stakeholders, including the government. “Not only will none of the airports require any form of subsidy. The combined potential of the four regional gateways results in overall gains for both the government and the local economy,” he said.  The company hopes to receive the award for the unsolicited proposal this year.  Unsolicited proposals, under law, are required to undergo a Swiss challenge, where other groups will be given the chance to submit proposals that will compete with the original proponent’s offer.  The original proponent will then have the chance to offer a counter proposal.  If an award materializes within the year, Aboitiz said his group could start working with the relevant government and community stakeholders to improve operations and passenger experience in 2019.

Davao farmers seek inclusion of grains, veggies in DA’s loan program

Teachers nationwide to get merit bonuses F By Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco

Editor: Efleda P. Campos • Thursday, March 8, 2018 A9

By Noel T. Provido Contributor

ARMERS in Davao region are asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to include palay, corn and vegetables in its loan program for small farmers. Under the Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA), only four commodities are covered for Davao region: cacao, mango, onion and garlic.   PLEA is a special credit program implemented through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC), an attached agency of the DA that synchronizes all credit policies and programs to support the agency’s priority programs.   “It [PLEA] is designed for marginal and small farmers and fishermen to have access to a fast, convenient and affordable credit. It has low interest rate of only 6 percent per annum or 0.5 percent per month,” ACPC program development management chief Noel Clarence Ducusin said.   In a meeting held on February 28 in Davao City, Ducusin said PLEA offers non-collateralized loans for agri-fishery production through cooperative banks, cooperatives, farmers and fishers organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as credit-delivery conduits in extending loans to marginal and small farmers and fishermen.   In the Davao region, one of the accredited conduit banks is the Mindanao Consolidated Cooperative Bank where interested farmers can


Taking advantage of the crystal-clear water of a river in Baluarte Village in Santiago City, Isabela, and to beat the summer heat, these local boys enjoy diving into the free-flowing cascades. LEONARDO PERANTE II

file their application for PLEA. Under PLEA, small farmers and fisherfolk can avail themselves of a P50,000 production loan. “Except for high-value crops such as cacao, farmers can borrow up to P150,000,” Ducusin said.    “Initially, we [ACPC] will not engage with rice [production], as there are already existing interventions, such as Sikat Saka of the Land Bank of the Philippines [LandBank],” he added.   Sikat Saka is a program that offers a direct-credit window from LandBank and integrated support to small-palay farmers to improve creditworthiness and viability of their crop production.

Roger Gualberto of the Vegetable Industry Council of Southern Mindanao (VICSMin) also asked DA officials to include vegetables in the loan program, as most of their members are small farmers.   “If we talk of marginal farmers, among them are the vegetable farmers tending only a small parcel of land to produce vegetables,” he said, adding that VICSMin already prepared a resolution for vegetables’ inclusion in PLEA.   DA Regional Director Ricardo Oñate Jr. said palay and vegetable farmers could submit a letter of appeal to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol for the inclusion of their crop under the PLEA.

“If palay production will eventually be included, we urge our farmers to use their borrowed amount to purchase equipment and mechanize their farm production,” Oñate said.   He said labor cost is one of the major expenses incurred in palay production. “For our farmer to be competitive, there is a need to invest on mechanization,” he said.   Davao del Sur and Davao Occidental farmers are also appealing for the inclusion of their provinces as a PLEA- covered area. While the provinces were not included in the top 10 provinces, they said numerous marginal farmers can be identified in their provinces. 

Agencies launch info drive Two 30-minute brownouts set to protect Davao’s rich wildlife in southern part of Davao City


AVAO CITY—The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR XI), other government and private organizations have embarked on a series of campaign activities on understanding and protecting the Davao Region’s wildlife. The activity is in line with the UN Wildlife Week held in March 3 to March 9. PEF director for research and conservation Jason Ibanez said the advocacy is an alternative activity for the youth to keep them away from the gadget-base lifestyle. “We have evidence that too much exposure to gadgets are stressful to children so we are trying

to offer an alternative as they may not know that they can also do it,” he said. He said the children forget to exercise their senses by interacting with nature. Ibanez said there are at least 370 species of birds found only in the Davao Region and out of this number, 116 are endemic in the Philippines. He said Davao City has a rich wildlife that even the smallest parrot in the world can only be found here named Parrakeet and the Guiabero Parrot particularly in the forest near Las Terrazas. Contrary to some people who think Davao City has few bird species,Ibanezfurther said the SilveryKingfisher can be seen at the PEF center in Malagos, Calinan. PNA


AVAO Light and Power Co. Inc. will conduct two 30-minute power interruptions on March 11, affecting customers connected to the Tugbok Substation. These service disruptions will be necessary to shut down Davao Light’s Tugbok Substation to facilitate the installation of major equipment.   To avoid longer duration of power interruptions, load from the affect-

ed substation will be transferred to nearby lines for 30 minutes any time between 12:01 to 1 a.m. Normalization or return of load back to its normal set up will be any time between 8 and 9 a.m., also for 30 minutes only. Specifically affected are customers from crossing Ulas (Mercury Drug) up to Buda. This includes the whole area of Catalunan Pequeno, Mintal, Tugbok, Los Amigos, Calinan, Lacson and Marilog.

A10 Thursday, March 8, 2018 • Editor: Angel R. Calso




Fighting terrorism


Y being vigilant, ordinary citizens can help the government in its fight against terrorism. This was the message conveyed to the faithful by the Catholic Church on Tuesday. In a statement released to the media, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said: “In our time now, we should always be vigilant because there are always groups who are out to make trouble. We pray that days of prayer and penance be respected by all.” Pabillo issued the statement following the arrest of spouses Abdul Nasser and Raisalam Lomondot, both from Lanao del Sur, who were nabbed along C. M. Recto Ave. in Divisoria, Manila, last Saturday while in possession of a grenade and handgun. Police officials said Lomondot is one of the leaders of the Maute Group who took part in the attack of a Civilian Active Auxiliary detachment in Barangay Mantanpoli Marantao, Lanao del Sur, at the height of the Marawi siege last year. He reportedly underwent training at a local Islamic State camp in Butig, Lanao del Sur. National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald M. dela Rosa said police operatives are looking for other suspects, although he did not disclose how many and who they are. He assured the public, however, that similar operations to go after members of the terror group, who have managed to slip into Metro Manila, are pretty much ongoing. “We lacked in our efforts when they managed to go out of Mindanao, but in fairness to our security forces in Mindanao, we cannot cordon off the whole island,” the PNP chief said, adding that the sheer size of the island allowed the escape of some of the Maute terror group members. We commend the PNP for the arrest of Nasser and Lomondot, who reportedly traveled to Manila by land while using a fictitious name. Chief Supt. Joel Napoleon Coronel, Manila Police District director, said that, although the spouses came to Manila under assumed names, they were able to track them down through their efforts and coordination with different intelligence agencies. Rev. Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Public Affairs Committee, said it is the job of authorities to ensure the safety of the public, and make sure that intelligence gathering is working properly. “Law enforcers should tighten security. They should be more visible in public,” he said. The Catholic priest also echoed Pabillo’s statement that the people should be vigilant and always be wary of their surroundings. Even ordinary salespeople can help. For example, those who work in stores that sell possible bomb-making materials should be aware of suspicious purchases. Many items commonly used in making bombs are openly sold in hardware stores, pharmacies, hobby shops and electronics stores. To recognize suspicious purchases, citizens need to know the items that have value in terrorist applications. All of us have a role to play in our fight against terrorism. What is needed now is for all stakeholders to join hands and show our solidarity against groups who are out to spread violence and terror in our country. Since 2005

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John Mangun


“The way to crush the bourgeoisie [the middle class] is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.”—Vladimir Lenin “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hit man.”—Ronald Reagan


E have been conditioned to believe that inflation is—as one person on social media described it—a natural result of a growing economy. That is right up there with “heavy traffic” as an inevitable result of economic growth. Have you noticed that poor countries with both inflation and low economic growth experience inflation?

The steady increase in prices paid for in currency is a relatively new phenomenon of the 20th century. There has always been inflation because of governments debasing currency, going back to ancient Rome. However, if you look back, the exchange value of goods to other goods has been incredibly stable. The inflation rate in England way back 500 years before 1900 was 0.50 percent, meaning prices doubled every 150 years. This data is based on written records of

transactions like “bills of sale” stating, “Received from Joseph Smith three milk cows in payment for 20 bushels of wheat.” During the past years, I have written numerous times that the “Economy Killers” of the Philippines were bad government finances and inflation. The administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo started taking care of the first. The government budget deficit as a percentage of GDP decreased, from 5 percent to the current

Lawyers must kiss and tell

T. Anthony C. Cabangon

Editor in Chief

Senior Editors

Inflation: So what?

Atty. Irwin C. Nidea Jr.

Tax law for business


magine a world with no lawyers. Some will be elated, considering how lawyers are maligned mercilessly by our society. But many will also cringe at the idea, since for them, lawyers are the bastion of justice and the protector of their rights. In order for lawyers to fulfill their role, they need to enjoy the trust and confidence of their clients. This trust is protected by what is called attorneyclient privilege. This privilege is held by the client and not by the lawyer. It is used by the client for his protection so he can freely communicate his secrets without fear of disclosure. In a bold move, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is challenging this legal tenet that traces its roots way back in the Roman era. Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) 122018 mandates that the Commissioner of Internal Revenue is empowered by Section 5 of the Tax Code to obtain on a regular basis from any person other than the person whose internal revenue-tax liability is subject to audit or investigation any information. According to the CIR, this provision

of the Tax Code should be taken as an additional exception to the attorneyclient privilege because of the following reasons: 1. The Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility (“Lawyer’s Code”) provides that a lawyer shall not reveal the confidence or secrets of his client except, among others, when required by law; 2. The Supreme Court has stressed that the privilege against disclosure of confidential communication or information does not extend to those made in contemplation of a crime or perpetration of fraud. In the same RMC, the CIR warned that a lawyer must submit all privilege information upon his request. Failure to do so is tantamount to one year to 10 years of imprisonment. I cannot blame the CIR for trying

3 percent. The Philippine government debt to GDP has been reduced to 42 percent, from 70 percent in 2004. However, if you track inflation to economic growth, the picture is not pretty. We do not always see an “inflation up; growth down” scenario. But what we do witness is inflation stopping or slowing an uptrend in growth and delaying an economic recovery. While it is hard to qualify and quantify its effect on the Philippine economy, inflation seems to hit the country more negatively than other countries, except in periods of extremely high inflation. From my observations, this is because the Philippines is basically cash-based consumer spending, businesses are usually conservative when it comes to borrowing and we have not learned how to profit from inflation by flipping assets. The inflation rates for January and February are high as the economy was hit with a perfect storm. The weaker peso combined with high global oil prices and then the additional hit with the new and higher excise taxes did more damage with the high inflation. Whether this will immediately show in lower economic growth remains to be seen and is difficult to forecast.

to find ways, to obtain information so that he can achieve his mandate. But will RMC 12-2018 fly, if questioned in the Supreme Court? As to the first reason laid down in the RMC, the Lawyer’s Code states that the privilege cannot be invoked if a law provides for an exception. What this contemplates is a categorical provision of law saying that the privilege must be waived. This is not present in Section 5 of the Tax Code. Although the Tax Code states that the CIR can obtain information from “any person,” there is no specific provision calling for an exception to the attorney-client privilege. A mere inference will not do. Thus, the exception must remain. As to the second ground, an important distinction must be made between a case where a client takes on the services of an attorney for illicit purposes, seeking advice about how to go around the law for the purpose of evading tax and a case where a client thinks he might have previously committed something illegal and consults his attorney about it. The first case clearly does not fall within the privilege because the same cannot be invoked for purposes illegal.  The second case falls within the exception because, whether the act for which the advice turns out to be illegal, the privilege cannot be waived if the disclosure leads to evidence, not yet in the hands of the BIR, which might lead to possible action against him. These

Nonetheless, the inflation tempest is not over. What can be done to mitigate the negative effects? The answer is not much. The government has an almost impossible situation trying to assist the poor to weather the storm. The amount of funding to offset the increased costs to the lowest economic groups is going to be difficult to distribute fairly and efficiently. But something must be done and done quickly. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas may raise interest rates but, in this case, that may be a waste of time. If the economy is “overheating”—too much money chasing too few goods —then a rate increase is viable. But the current inflation is not, in any way, the result of too quick/too high economic activity. In fact, a rate increase could even push inflation higher, as the cost of borrowing would be build into all consumer prices. For now, and for most of us, this may be a case of “Make sure tray tables are in their upright position and your seat belt is securely fastened.” E-mail me at Visit my web site at Follow me on Twitter @mangunonmarkets. PSE stockmarket information and technical analysis tools provided by the COL Financial Group Inc.

cases may be readily distinguished, because the privilege cannot be invoked or used as a shield for an illegal act, as in the first example; while the BIR may not have a case against the client in the second example and cannot use the attorney client relationship to build up a case against the latter [G.R. 105938,  September 20, 1996]. Thus, unless a lawyer is engaged for the purpose of committing or furthering tax evasion, the attorney-client privilege cannot be waived. According to the Supreme Court, the fiduciary duty of a lawyer is what makes the law profession a unique position of trust and confidence, which distinguishes it from any other calling. Imagine a world where lawyers are free to reveal your secrets to the BIR. It will be a world full of insecurities and it will be an environment that ultimately undermines the constitutionally guaranteed right to counsel. The author is a partner of Du-Baladad and Associates Law Offices (BDB Law), a member-firm of WTS Global. The article is for general information only and is not intended, nor should be construed as a substitute, for tax, legal or financial advice on any specific matter. Applicability of this article to any actual or particular tax or legal issue should be supported, therefore, by a professional study or advice. If you have any comments or questions concerning the article, you may e-mail the author at irwin.nidea@ or call 403-2001 local 330.



Strategies and innovations to improve health care for all

Lifted up and given Msgr. Sabino A. Vengco Jr.

Alálaong Bagá

Cecilio T. Arillo



YALA Corp. Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala is this year’s holder of the Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair for Public Service and Governance as a corporate champion of innovative health-care solutions. He was the first from the private sector to receive this distinction by the Ateneo Professional Schools and Metrobank Foundation.

In his lecture titled “Improving Healthcare for All: Strategies & Innovations at the Ayala Group” at the Ateneo Professional Schools auditorium in Makati City, Zobel said the private sector, with its access to capital-intensive markets, plays a crucial role in filling health-care gaps through pursuing cutting-edge approaches that address urgent social needs. He added the Ayala Group embraces reinvention and diversification with the roll out of pharmaceuticals and small community-based clinics that reach a wider segment of the population. In recent years, the country’s oldest conglomerate has expanded their health-care ventures under the brand names Generika pharmacies, MedGrocer online pharmacies and FamilyDOC primary-care clinics. “To us, the most powerful type of innovation is building businesses that address social needs and improve lives,” Zobel said. He also called for a collaborative approach between the public and private sector toward the common goal of improving health care for all. It comes as a surprise to many that Ayala’s first venture into health care can be traced back to as early as 1834, when Johann Andreas Zobel set up “La Drogueria y Botica de Zobel” in Intramuros. The drugstore survived for over a hundred years, but eventually closed during the Second World War. “It is important to note that our return to health care was not by chance. It was a result of a deliberate exercise in innovation, something which we have embedded into our thinking at the Ayala Group. Allow me to begin by briefly touching on our view on innovation in the Ayala Group, since it is the same mind-set that has shaped our approach to health care,” Zobel said. He shared three examples from across the Ayala Group to illustrate its approach to this kind of innovation, starting with its experience in Manila Water. “A few of you might still recall the terrible water situation we had in Metro Manila back in the 1990s. The water crisis was even more pronounced in low-income communities. Back then, people would queue in long lines twice a day to buy their water in pails, at P40 per cubic meter, or a total cost of up to P1,500 per month,” Zobel said. In response, Manila Water pioneered what it called the “Tubig Para sa Barangay program,” an innovative approach of working with low-income communities to ensure that they could have proper access to affordable water. The program introduced flexible financing options, socialized tariff schemes and, more important, engaged community members as partners in the program. “Today, participants in our program enjoy clean and potable water from their own homes with significant cost-savings, paying only P9.47 per cubic meter, which is an average of only P165 per month. More important, we have achieved 100-percent collection efficiency in the program’s communities, water-borne diseases in their areas have been reduced, and the overall sanitation conditions have greatly improved,” Zobel revealed. “Let me also share with you an example of this innovation mindset in our education business. A few years ago, we were looking at the educational sector and noted the massive dropout rates across all

The Metrobank Foundation Professional Chair for Public Service and Governance, a joint undertaking between the Metrobank Foundation and the Ateneo de Manila University, which started in 2010, seeks to give due recognition to distinguished leaders for their exceptional contributions and achievements in the public and private sectors. educational levels. I was astonished with the numbers: out of those who enter Grade 1, only 29 percent get to enter college, with only 21 percent eventually graduating. Among these graduates, only 9 percent are considered employable,” he noted. “To address these critical gaps,” he said, “our team brainstormed on various possible ideas, one of which was the concept behind Apec Schools. Apec Schools, which stands for ‘Affordable Private Education Centers,’ aimed to address the lack of access to quality, affordable education, particularly in the highschool level.” Apec’s learning modules focus on enhancing employability and cultivating life skills. The modules build industry-specific knowledge, but also focus on information technology proficiency, business communication skills and critical thinking, to name a few. Very important, it also provides its students with valuable soft skills and work habits, such as self-confidence, grit and persistence. Today, Apec has over 16,000 students across 23 sites in Mega Manila. As a final example, where 70 percent of Filipinos do not have a bank account, “let me share with you our experience with Mynt, our fintech joint venture with Globe and Ant Financial. Mynt now has the biggest mobile money base in the country, with more than 3 million registered customers, 12,000 partner outlets and facilities, and P1 billion in transaction value per week. And with Ant Financial now as our strategic partner, we see great potential in expanding these services to millions of Filipinos,” Zobel said. MBFI President Aniceto Sobrepeña, who also serves as the acting president of Manila Doctors Hospital, reaffirmed Zobel’s call for a more intensive public-private collaboration in health care, noting that both parties have the same goal—to make the Philippines a better and healthier place. “To improve the Philippine health situation, institutions, both public and private, can no longer work in silos. We must work hand in hand. This is why we are happy to name Mr. Zobel as this year’s Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chairholder,” Sobrepeña said. The Metrobank Foundation Professional Chair for Public Service and Governance, a joint undertaking between the Metrobank Foundation and the Ateneo de Manila University, which started in 2010, seeks to give due recognition to distinguished leaders for their exceptional contributions and achievements in the public and private sectors. The undertaking is rooted in the common vision of encouraging Filipinos to contribute to national development by providing a platform for sharing cuttingedge research and innovations. To reach the writer, e-mail cecilio.arillo 


he mystery of God’s salvific love in Jesus is dramatized when He was lifted up on the cross and given by the Father so that whoever believes in Him will not be condemned (John 3:14-21). For those who look up to Jesus on the cross with faith have, in fact, eternal life.

He must be lifted up The cross was a scandal, a stumbling block to many. A savior hanging on the gibbet of the cross. In anticipation of the Jews’ cry of repudiation: “Take Him away, take Him away! Crucify Him!” (John 19:15), the evangelist firmly locates Jesus on the cross, taking a cue from the Wisdom of Solomon (16:6-7) that spoke of “sign of salvation” in the brazen serpent in the wilderness. In a play of the word “lifted up,” we are told that “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” During the wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness, their

endless grumbling against Moses and against God led them to be stricken by fiery serpents (Numbers 21:6-9). Begging Moses to mediate for them with God, they were instructed to look upon the brazen serpent Moses was commanded to mount on a pole. They were healed by looking upon the ordered sign, that is, by believing in God’s power as manifested in the serpent. Now all those who look upon and believe in the crucified and lifted up Son of Man will be saved. The double significance of lifted up bespeaks the cruel lifting up of Jesus upon the cross by His enemies (John 8:28; 12:32), and His lifting up and exaltation by the Heavenly Father

Thursday, March 8, 2018 A11

at His cross and resurrection. The hanging on the cross was not the end of Jesus but the beginning of His ascent to glory to the Father. The evangelist clearly has in mind the description by Isaiah (53:13) of the suffering servant, “Behold my servant shall prosper: he shall be lifted up and glorified exceedingly.” The healing of the many was accomplished by the suffering of the servant.

He was given by the Father

The other word John uses to delve into the soteriological significance of Jesus on the cross is the verb “to give.” Again, its double significance alludes first to the handing over of Jesus by his enemies to Pilate (John 18:30.35.36; 19:11) and by Pilate to the soldiers to crucify Jesus. But its deeper meaning refers to God’s “giving” us His only Son not only at the incarnation but, likewise, at the sacrifice of the cross. Whatever Jesus’ enemies might have thought they were doing to and against Him, the evangelist is tracing what God is writing straight for our salvation through their crooked lines. With echoes of the faithfulness and sacrifice highlighted in the story of Abraham and his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2.16-18) and in

Of online trolls and Benham Rise Val A. Villanueva



nline trolls have been on overdrive to support government efforts to unseat Chief Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno from her office. The pattern is easy to discern: Throw as much mud as you can to vilify Sereno, and attack with vitriol and threaten physically those who support her. One may wonder where on Earth these trolls get their energy to burn the Net with their divisive and venomous rants in support of their idol, President Duterte. Why, even some of them, most prominently the so-called queen of fake news Mocha Uson, now holds sensitive positions in government. With an estimated 60 million Filipinos engaged in Facebook, this kind of operation requires enormous wherewithal. W hile I can believe that some of them genuinely support Duterte, going online 24/7 just to patrol the Net would need more than adulation for the president. On December 7 of last year, Bloomberg came up with a story penned by Lauren Etter, entitled “What happens when the government uses Facebook as a weapon?” Etter detailed how the Duterte administration evolved through the expert use of social media, particularly Facebook, to curb detractors of the administration. She exposed how the so-called die-hard Duterte supporters (DDS) have been abusing social media to manipulating public opinion in their favor by jointly and violently attacking people with anti-Duterte sentiment.

The question now is: Who is funding the troll farm? A report that circulated in social media pointed to Jo Soliman, a Duterte businessman-friend engaged primarily in agriculture. The entrepreneur, owner of the Pure Group of Cos., is also reportedly a close friend of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol. A source closely identified with Piñol but who declined to be identified flatly denied such report as “a lot of bull.” He admitted that Piñol, indeed, knows Soliman. He, however, claimed that Soliman “plays fair,” is “clean” and even does philanthropic work. But in May of this year, Soliman, with the help of Piñol, got an approval from President to affirm the Benham Rise as a protected food supply exclusive zone. Duterte also decided to build a large cold-storage facility on Benham Bank, the shallowest portion of the region. “This will serve as a research facility and advance command post center in the area to avoid rampant cases of illegal fishing,” Piñol was then quoted as saying. According to the agriculture Secretary, he was tasked by the President to find out whether it is feasible to put up

such a structure in Benham Rise. Piñol then sought an extra P5 billion in his department’s 2018 budget, which will be used for the expansion of the 13-million-hectare Benham Rise as a protected food-supply zone. He said the additional amount is on top of the P213-billion proposed allocation next year, bringing the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) total proposal to P218 billion. “The proposed P5-billion budget for Benham Rise was submitted a few months ago to the Department of Budget and Management [DBM] during the technical committee hearing on the DA’s budgetary requirements for 2018,” Piñol said. Soliman is reportedly about to bag a billion-peso deal for the Benham Rise development. In turn, he will build the edifices needed for the project. Again, the BusinessWise DA source denied the deal, and blamed the media for spreading black propaganda, tracing it to a certain Chinese individual with a two-letter surname. “He is funding this campaign,” the source alleged. “He benefits from the National Food Authority’s [NFA] rice import business. The recent fake NFA rice shortage is part of their play. There is no such budget for Benham Rise, only P500 million for research and not with the DA.” According to the source, the department’s approved budget is only P65 billion. Piñol proposed P213 billion, but the DBM did not approve it, and Malacañang submitted only P65 billion, which Congress approved under the 2018 General Appropriations Act. “The estimated take for corrupt rice importation is P50 per 100-kilo bag,” the source explained. “With 250,000 metric tons for importation, that’s about P2 billion in profit. These black ops are intended to

the figure of the suffering servant (Isaiah 53:12), the evangelist points to the depths of the Father’s love as the bottom-line and most sublime ground for the entire mystery of our salvation. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” What could account for the things mentioned by Jesus to Nicodemus: the gifts of rebirth, of the Spirit, of life in union with God, of eternal glory? Not any merit on our part, but alone God’s incredible love for us can explain such divine mercy. Alálaong bagá, we can rejoice (Laetare) at God’s faithful love for us even as we confess to our sinfulness. God did not give and send His Son into the world to condemn the world, “but that the world may be saved through Him.” On our part it is necessary that we believe in Jesus and with Him concretely stand for the light and the truth. Jesus is the light come into the world. Believers do not prefer darkness to light. Those who hate the light do not live the truth. The truth and the light are venues of our communion with God in Jesus Christ.

Join me in meditating on the Word of God every Sunday, from 5 to 6 a.m. on DWIZ 882, or by audio streaming on

destroy Piñol [among] the rice importers. You just don’t realize how afraid we are to be scolded by the President if any irregularities or anomalies happen in the DA. This is why we are very careful, especially the secretary, in making sure [there is] no overstepping of the rules, especially [those that concern] public bidding and budget use.” But Soliman, who is allegedly the financier of the troll farm, is the same businessman who was implicated in rice-hoarding activities during the Aquino administration. Then-Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel A. Roxas stumbled upon the then-new modus operandi among rice hoarders in which imported rice from Thailand was blended with broken rice intended for animal feed. The hoarders, were selling the mixed rice as premium Sinandomeng rice. The hoarded rice stocks were discovered in a warehouse in Malolos City, Bulacan province. “The broken rice residue intended for animal feeds came from Vietnam and was being mixed with the Blue Diamond rice imported from Thailand, and then repacked and being sold as ‘Golden Bee’ premium Sinandomeng rice,” Roxas then said in a statement. The inspection team was made up of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Bulacan local officials and representatives of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the NFA and the Bureau of Customs. Roxas identified the rice hoarder as Jo Soliman, the owner of Purefeeds Corp. The operations of the rice mill were suspended, and charges of violating Philippine trade laws were filed against Soliman. For comments and suggestions, e-mail me at

Trump should draw a real red line in Syria


F the war in Syria is this century’s Spanish Civil War, then the carnage now occurring in eastern Ghouta is a modern-day Guernica. Yet, this may be a situation, unlike in 1937, where the world is in a position to do something about it. According to human-rights groups, more than  12,000 civilians  have died in the area of 400,000 just east of Damascus since  fighting began in 2011. As the Syrian government has ramped up operations over the last two weeks, more than 500 people have been killed by air and artillery strikes. And, if reports from international aid workers are correct, Bashar al-Assad’s regime has added  chlorine gas  to its arsenal of barbaric weapons, alongside barrel

bombs and cluster munitions. If so, this is a violation of both the laws of war and human decency. Chlorine gas, while not as deadly as other chemical and nerve agents, attacks the respiratory system, causing permanent lung damage. Because chlorine has so many civilian uses, from cleaning bathrooms to purifying water, it is legal and thus very hard to monitor when it comes to war. The moral responsibility for eastern Ghouta clearly belongs to the Syrian government and its primary sponsors, Iran and Russia. But the West has hardly covered itself in glory with its efforts to stop the atrocities. First, it failed to get any serious

sanctions against Syria at the United Nations Security Council. And then, of course, was President Barack Obama’s infamous “red line” warning that the US would respond militarily if Assad used chemical weapons on his people. The dictator called Obama’s bluff, one of the worst humiliations for US foreign policy in the post-Cold War era. In the end, all the West got was a limited agreement that Assad would allow Russia to destroy its stocks of nerve agents, with chlorine exempted. According to US officials, Syria has clearly abrogated that agreement with Moscow’s connivance. But the West hasn’t been spineless. Last April, after a sarin-gas assault,

President Donald J. Trump authorized a large-scale cruise-missile attack on a Syrian air base. At the time, many scoffed that this was a token effort that did relatively little harm to Syria’s military. But there has been no verified use of sarin in Syria since the US struck back. It’s time for another red line, one that the US won’t back away from. Trump should tell Assad and his Russian backers that any more proved use of any chemical weapon, including chlorine, will be met with even greater retaliation than what happened in April. It certainly won’t end the fighting, in eastern Ghouta or across the country, but it may take away one of Assad’s most unconscionable methods of terrifying his citizens. Bloomberg View

2nd Front Page BusinessMirror

A12 Thursday, March 8, 2018

Con-com wants to devolve issuance of business permits


By Bernadette D. Nicolas


resident Duterte’s consultative committee (Con-com) is bent on recommending changes in the issuance of business permits and licenses as part of the shift to a federal system of government. Arthur N. Aguilar, chairman of the Con-com Subcommittee on Economic Reforms and Fiscal Administration, told the BusinessMirror that there is a growing consensus among subcommittee members that business permits and licenses should be issued at regional offices.   “The subcommittee’s growing consensus is that, as much as possible, all permits and licenses should be issued at the level of the regions.

As much as possible, but all of these are subject to federal standards,” sa id A g u i l a r, a ma nagement executive with political science and economics background. He noted that with the current setup, putting up a business in Davao would require entrepreneurs to go to Manila to get most of the permits. Aguilar said he is optimistic that businesses would welcome this important proposal. The committee is

set to decide on this in their third subcommittee meeting on March 15. Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, vice chairman of the subcommittee, said “ease of doing business is really one of the major desires of the business community.”  “I think that stems from the perception of the business community that there has to be an easier way of doing business. So, actually, if we are going to regionalize, we have to give that right to the regions that they can enter into contracts, permits, licenses and franchises, but, of course, this has to be within the limits of the Constitution

See “Con-com,” A2

The subcommittee’s growing consensus is that, as much as possible, all permits and licenses should be issued at the level of the regions.”—Aguilar


enjoy higher remittance, while I have more investment options given the extra cash generated by the favorable exchange rate,” said Lim, who has been working in Singapore for more than a decade. “It has definitely encouraged me to invest more back home, given the slight improvement and the positive outlook on the country’s economy.”

The peso is the worst performer among Asia’s major currencies this year, as the government’s aggressive infrastructure drive fuels imports and widens the current-account deficit. Remittances from Filipinos living overseas have been steadily rising for more than a decade to reach a record in 2017, and the nation’s Central Bank

expects them to rise by 3.6 percent to $29.1 billion this year.

Remittance dependent

In value terms, the Philippines was the world’s largest remittance recipient after India and China in 2016, according to the World Bank. The inflows are the See “Peso,” A2

Is migration the Philippine ‘Dutch disease’? As a backgrounder, the term Dutc h d isease refers to t he deindustrialization of a country when the discovery of a natural resource abundance makes the said country dependent on the exploitation and exportation of the said resource to the neglect of manufacturing. The term originated in Holland where such a pattern of deindustrialization and increased unemployment occurred following the discovery of North Sea oil in the late-1950s. Receipts from oil revenues went up, making it possible for Holland to sustain imports even if industrial production declined. In the case of the Philippines, it is argued by some observers that our highly successful labor migration lulls us not to do much in nurturing local industry and agriculture because remittances and jobs overseas keep the economy alive. Remittance inflows tend to spur the appreciation of the peso and weaken manufacturing at home. The problem with the foregoing analogy is it’s a historical approach to growth and development. The Dutch disease theory tends to ignore the root causes of the failure of the industrialization to take off

under the export-oriented industrial (EOI) strategy, which, in turn, is the primary reason the “temporary” labor migration program has not only become permanently temporary, but has also expanded by leaps and bounds. To put it bluntly, the phenomenal expansion of labor migration is mainly the consequence of the failure of the industrial program, not the other way around. Of course, it is indeed dangerous for the Philippines to become more and more dependent on overseas Filipino worker (OFW) remittances. In the first place, there are many dangers lurking in the present global political and economic order. One danger is the rising xenophobia or anti-migrant attitude in Europe and even in America. Anti-migrant political parties are winning the votes in Europe. The most worrisome is the Middle East, which hosts around a quarter of the OFW population. The Shia-Sunni conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia can explode into a shooting war between the two giants of the region. Right now, a proxy war between the two is taking place in Yemen. The market for oil is also bound to go down, as the

world keeps progressing in making vehicles and electricity less and less dependent on fossil fuel. In this context, it is crucial that the country is able to restrategize its industrial and agricultural development strategy. Given the Philippine experience in the last four decades under the failed EOI program, the country cannot afford to be given once again simplified development choices, such as going labor-intensive or capital-intensive, export-led or domestic-oriented production, FDI-friendly or Filipino-first and so on. What is needed is a pragmatic balancing of development priorities based on existing capacities and possibilities and a calibrated program of economic liberalization and protection on a case to case basis. As what Donald J. Trump and the populist politicians in Europe are showing, countries must be able to rely on their individual national strengths while cooperating with others in promoting fair globalization and fair trading arrangements. A critical element or component in development restrategizing is the mobilization of OFW savings for more productive undertakings at home. A lot has been written

Biodiversity team out to save Boracay’s Puka shells, flying foxes

itself,” Ubalde-Ordinario said. Aguilar recognized that there are some regions that will not have the capabilities to implement that immediately. “There are some regions that are yet to be developed, so there will be a transition period for the regions to acquire institutional capability to issue permits and licenses,” he said.  Aguilar added that they are also proposing to have a comprehensive land-use code, which will set out the federal policy on the use of land applicable to all regions. 

Where are the winners from peso plunge? Look abroad ne bright spot from the peso’s slump to an 11-year low against the dollar can be found among the nation’s more than 10 million overseas workers. The currency’s slide is spurring Filipinos to send more money home, fueling consumption and economic growth in the Southeast Asian nation. At 10 percent of GDP, remittances are also a key source of foreign income in the Philippines, helping to finance a widening current-account gap. Aileen Almazan, 37, who works as an information-technology professional in Singapore, says it’s an opportune time to lock in more pesos into her Philippine savings account so she has more money to spend when she visits Manila. Marlyn de la Cruz, 51, a domestic helper in Hong Kong, says the decline in the peso is helping defray her family’s household expenses, while Irene Lim, 36, a compliance analyst at a regional bank in the island state, is being goaded by the weaker peso to invest more back home in terms of property and mutual funds. “My Manila-based family gets to

about this by foreign and Filipino academics and UN researchers. Also, a growing number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Unlad Kabayan, Atikha and Ercop have some positive experiences in their savings mobilization schemes. The overall challenge is how to make the mobilization effective and massive. If 10 percent of the total OFW remittances of $30billion annual remittances can be capitalized, this would represent an amount much bigger than the actual capital brought into the country by FDI (different from what the FDI simply pledge). In this context, the proposal made by former Vice President and Foreign Secretary Teofisto Guingona Jr. for the issuance to OFW savers of OFW bonds that are dollar-denominated and which can be pooled by OFW groups in support of social and physical infrastructures needed by the country makes a lot of sense. Why should the government focus on the graft-ridden official development assistance-driven infrastructure development and why should the “Build, Build,

Continued from A1

Puka shells are bead-like objects that can be found on  beaches and common in Hawaii.   The Philippines—specifically Boracay—has a variety of Puka shell species that can be found in one specific beach, hence, the name Puka Shell Beach.   While Boracay is known for its white-sand beaches and pristine waters, the Puka Shell Beach is unique because of its finer grains of white sand.   “Puka shells and fragments of Puka shells make up substantially the sands in Puka Beach and responsible for insulating the sand.  That is why even when it is hot in other areas, the sand on Puka Beach is colder,” Lim said. Lim added initial assessment of the wetlands is frustrating. “Some wetlands are already gone,” she said.   On a positive note, she said some coral areas on Puka Beach show positive signs.   “There are new coral recruits, so there is hope.  There are also live Puka shells. The population of the bats is declining,” she said. Puka shells are being overharvested, so it must be stopped  “before it is too late,” Lim added.   On the flying foxes, she said the government needs to strengthen protection of caves where they dwell.  There are five caves on the island, three of them previously classified by the DENR-BMB as having unique features, including being home to bats. Flying foxes are also being hunted by locals for food. The team is coming up with a comprehensive report on their assessment and recommendations.

Impact on workers

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it is now crafting a contingency plan to address the possible impact of the planned closure of Boracay to workers. In a text message, Johnson G. Cañete, DOLE Region 6 director and Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB-6) chairman, disclosed that they have yet to receive any response from Malacañang on their appeal on the planned closure.  He said they will be meeting on Thursday with the employers and workers in Boracay to determine the aid they will need in case the top tourist destination in Western Visayas becomes temporarily off limits to tourists.   “The DOLE Aklan Field Office will be convening the Boracay Industry Tripartite Council tomorrow  [March 8]. One of the agenda is the impending threat of the Boracay closure and its effect to members of the council,” Cañete said.   DOLE Undersecretary Joel B. Maglunsod said they are ready to extend emergency employment and livelihood aid to the affected workers.  “They can really help in the cleaning of Boracay while they are without jobs during the closure,” Maglunsod said.  He said they will start the program as soon as the DOLE-Region 6 completes the profiling of the affected workers.   Last week it was reported the RTWPB-6 submitted a signed resolution urging President Duterte to reconsider the closure of Boracay Island, which may displace 17,000 to 19,000 workers.  With Samuel P. Medenilla

Continued from a1

Build ”-public-private partnership program for infrastructures be marketed mainly to the dozen or so elite business families and their FDI partners? The government and a number of NGOs also have various initiatives promoting entrepreneurship among OFWs, especially the returning or retiring migrants. There is a need to do more documentation of good and best practices and formulas for successful entrepreneurship for different categories of OFWs. There is also a need to reorganize the duty-free industry, which has become a giant machine sucking OFW savings in exchange for imported goods and appliances. Why not transform the duty-free shops into real “Kabuhayan” centers, where returning OFWs can purchase tools at reasonable prices to start small businesses, etc. Big commercial banks should also have special counseling centers for OFWs and their families on how to put their savings to maximum productive use. Skills and technology learned by OFWs are also not fully used. This is because the business and economic environment is not

conducive for the application at home of knowledge and know-how acquired overseas. For example, a number of skilled OFWs who have been exposed to the productive setups of small but technologicallyadvanced workshops in Taiwan and South Korea, such as watch production and electronics parts making under SME arrangement. As suggested by the Global Commission on International Migration, there is a need not only for more consultation with the migrants and their representatives on issues and policies directly affecting them but also for greater policy coherence in strengthening the national migration-development nexus. A good starting point is for economic planners to recognize formally and officially that migrant remittances are the main reason the economy has been growing. And from there, they should ask the question: how can the nation’s economic heroes and heroines play a leading role in making the home economy truly dynamic and sustainable? How can dependence on migration be reduced with the active participation of the migrants themselves?

Businessmirror march 08, 2018  
Businessmirror march 08, 2018