Government increasing service fees in 2013 By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) Updated October 21, 2012 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - People will soon have to pay more for birth certificates, permits, clearances, and similar documents as government agencies are to increase their service fees next year, two congressmen said yesterday. Representatives Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna and Raymond Palatino of Kabataan said the increase will take effect in January. They said additional collections from the increase are already included in the Houseapproved P2-trillion 2013 national budget. The government is expecting an additional P1.6 billion, from P67.9 billion to P69.5 billion, from the collection of service fees and other charges, the two said. Earlier this month, President Aquino signed Administrative Order 31, which allows state agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations, to increase existing fees and impose new charges if needed. Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone supported the planned fee adjustment. “I think that the current rates are obsolete already. I believe adjustments can be justified if frontline services can be improved. I call on those who are providing basic services to our people to shape up to justify the proposed increase,” he said. Based on budget documents submitted to the House, Casiño and Palatino said among the state agencies that would raise their fees are the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), National Statistics Office (NSO), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Land Registration Authority, Professional Regulation Commission, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Department of Trade and Industry, and National Telecommunications Commission. They said the DFA would be mandated to increase by 10 percent its income from visa services (from the current P420 million to P462 million in 2013) and authentication services (from P430 million to P473 million). Income from clearances from the NBI would go up by 4.2 percent, from P545 million this year to P568 million next year. The NSO, on the other hand, is expected to earn an additional P90 million (from P543 million to P633 million) from fees for birth certificates, marriage licenses and other
documents. Casiño said people seeking documents from state agencies are mostly applicants for jobs in the country or abroad. The fee increase would be an additional burden to them, he said. He said agencies should improve their efficiency. Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda has justified the planned adjustment, saying it would be “reasonable” and would lead to “improved public service.”
US to help PH bring fish back By DJ Yap Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:18 am | Sunday, October 21st, 2012 Share
Fisherman carries large size of Tuna Fish as they transfer from Tuna Port to Public Market in General Santos City. ANDREW TADALAN/ FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The government hopes to replenish fish populations in key marine areas around the country through a program called “Ecofish,” a joint project with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Short for Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries, the Ecofish project was launched on Wednesday by the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and USAID to improve the management of Philippine coastal and marine resources. The objective is to make the fisheries sector sustainable through the effective management of eight important biodiversity areas. These areas are the Calamianes Group of Islands in Palawan, Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan, Ticao Pass-Lagonoy Gulf-San Bernardino Strait in Bicol and Samar, Danajon Double Barrier Reef in Bohol and Leyte, southern Negros Occidental, Surigao, Sulu archipelago, and the Verde Island Passage between Batangas and Mindoro. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Ecofish was designed to contribute to priority goals laid out in the Philippine Development Plan, particularly the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources. At the launch of the five-year Ecofish project, Alcala, who was joined by BFAR Director Asis Perez and USAID’s Environment Chief Rolf Anderson, said the government was paying more attention now to the fisheries sector.
He noted that the 2013 budget for fisheries was raised to P4.6 billion to enable the BFAR to rebound and improve its performance, following stagnant production in past years. Alcala said part of the fund will be used to align methods and systems necessary to “bring the sector back into shape.” As part of efforts to replenish fish populations, Alcala earlier announced a closed season for harvesting sardines, herring and mackerel in the Visayas Sea from Nov. 15, 2012 to Feb. 15, 2013. “When there are more sardines in the ocean, tuna species tend to stay longer in our territorial seas, which eventually result in bigger harvest,” he explained.
2013 Budget For BFAR Quadrupled As Fishery Sector Gains Importance By MELODY M. AGUIBA October 20, 2012, 5:08pm The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will have a four-fold budget increase of P4.6 billion for 2013 as against P1.2 billion in 2012 in line with government’s thrust to boost fishery production that generates at least $500- million export earnings yearly. A record that must be breaking historical figures, BFAR’s budget under the General Appropriations Act for 2013 will finally raise the importance of fishery in the country in harmony with its archipelagic nature. “There is an additional budget for production support, by 50 percent from P800 million to P2 billion. There is also an increased budget for coastal resource management as included in ecosystems-based management. We will also put up more (fish) sanctuaries,” said BFAR Director Asis G. Perez at the launching of its Ecofish Project last week. Government is putting in more money for fisheries as even in his hometown in Quezon, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso J. Alcala has seen how revival of mangroves has restored livelihood for rural people. “Mangrove propagules should be reproduced. We have a flourishing mangrove right at the back of my own house in Quezon, and it’s producing so much alimango (blue swimming crabs) for fisherfolks to earn from,” said Alcala in the same launching. BFAR will also focus on promoting fish health and eradicating diseases. It will abide by sustainable fishery aims of the Food and Agriculture Organization that prohibits under FAO Law 167 fishing from Nov. 15, 2012 to Feb. 13, 2013 in the Visayan Sea. This should cause improved reproduction of sardines and tuna. The Ecofish Project or Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries, financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is a five-year technical assistance to protect eight marine key diversity areas (MKBA). The MKBAs are Calamianes Group of Islands in Palawan, Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan, Ticao Pass-Lagonoy-San Bernardino Strait in Bicol and Samar Region, Danajon Double Barrier Reef in Bohol and Leyte, Southern Negros Occidental, Surigao provinces, the Sulu Archipelago, and the Verde Island Passage in Batangas and Mindoro area. “Ecofish will conserve biological diversity and restore profitability of fisheries using ecosystems-based approaches to create broader social and economic-environmental impacts,” said USAID Chief Rolf Anderson.
While a notable decline of three percent decline in fishery production has been noted by government over the last eight quarters, the Philippines remains to be a big fishery producer, ranking eight in total production globally. â€œBut two-thirds of the 12 major fishing bays are overfished. There is also indication that catch rates of reef fisheries is among the lowest in the world partly due to the use of dynamite and cyanide fishing,â€? said BFAR in a statement. The fishing ban in Visayan Sea follows the ban in Zamboanga area which had been covered by a ban last year. It will ensure better management in these spawning grounds. Major species of sardines like fibriated sardines (tunsoy), Indian sardines (tamban), and round herring (tulis) in the Zamboanga and Visayas seas come from the same stock, BFAR said.
Onion growers urge Customs to stop entry of smuggled onions By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) Updated October 21, 2012 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Onion growers have asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to stop the entry of smuggled onions from India and China into ports in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao to protect the local industry. In a press briefing on Tuesday night, local onion growers group Sibuyas ng Pilipinas Ating Alagaan Inc. (SiPAG) said these smuggled onions are brought to major trading centers in Manila like Divisoria and even to large supermarkets. Excess red onions from India and white onions from China sell 50 percent lower than local produce. The wholesale price of local red onion is currently placed at P65 to P75 per kilo. The retail price usually has a price mark up of P10 per kilo. SiPAG spokesman Seth Bentain said the smuggled onions arrive weekly in the abovementioned ports in 10 to 15 40-foot containers. The onions are brought to Manila in smaller cargo trucks and passed off as produce from Visayas and Mindanao. “But Visayas and Mindanao do not have a large volume of onion production,” said Bentain. SiPAG said the entry of onions is a clear occurrence of smuggling because the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has not issued import permits for white and red onions in almost a year now. Bentain said that this month, the local market is expected to be swamped by excess produce from India as it harvests this month. From the time of harvest, it takes three weeks for Indian onions to arrive in the Philippines, while it takes Chinese onions seven days. Onion growers said that the smuggling of onions through “backdoor” channels are discouraging farmers to cultivate the crop and is causing excess inventory in warehouses. The influx of smuggled onions into the local market has resulted in an excess inventory of one million bags at 25 kilograms per bag in storage. In a letter to Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon dated Oct. 8, SiPAG president Francisco Collado warned the proliferation of smuggled onions is hurting the local industry.
“Onion production this year is endangered. If this illegal activity continues, our local industry will die and many farmers will suffer,” he said. “We appeal to your bureau to immediately stop this illegal activity.” Onion growers fear that smugglers could take over the local supply by pushing farmers out of production. They may then impose an artificial shortage and control prices. “Growing onions has now become a gamble for us,” said SiPAG founder Benito Domingo. SiPAG is an organization composed of onion growers in Pangasinan, Ilocos Region, Mindoro, Tarlac, Iloilo, General Santos and Nueva Ecija. The local onion sector, valued at P5 billion, directly employs 32,454 growers with 350,000 dependents on a five member per family basis. The annual consumption is 104,000 metric tons at 1.1 kilo per capita. Around 18,000 hectares of land in the country are used for onion production.
House conducts executive session on illegal entry of rice in Subic • •
Written by Charlie V. Manalo Sunday, 21 October 2012 00:00
Two House committees met in a joint executive session to finalize its report on its inquiry on the reported illegal entry to the Subic Bay Freeport of 420,000 bags of rice allegedly smuggled from India, which customs agents seized recently.
The committees on food security and on agriculture and food have invited the officials of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and of the National Food Authority (NFA) as resource persons to shed light on the issue.
The two committees had conducted three previous meetings on House Resolution 2625 filed by Butil Rep. Agapito Guanlao, and is in the process of preparing a committee report on the matter.
Guanlao filed House Resolution 2625 urging the committees on food security and on agriculture and food to conduct a joint investigation, in aid of legislation on the alleged spurious entry of 420,000 50-kilogram sacks of rice worth about P450 million.
According to Guanlao, the BoC seized a huge volume of Indian white rice shipment unloaded and abandoned in two warehouses at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Freeport allegedly consigned to an Indian company.
Guanlao said the consignee of the shipment failed to produce the required importation documents and import permits from the NFA and allegedly, the shipment’s import permit to Jakarta had lapsed due to delayed transshipment from India, forcing the vessel to seek for ports that allow transshipments, in this case, the Subic Bay Freeport.
“This attempt at large-scale rice smuggling is a looming threat to rice farmers whose produce are eventually forced to compete with cheap smuggled rice in the local market and that renders the rice production industry unviable,” Guanlao said.
Guanlao said that unabated rice smuggling derails government efforts to attain selfsufficiency in rice.
â€œThis large scale rice smuggling at the Subic Freeport could not have even been attempted at all without connivance from port authorities or personnel. It is therefore incumbent upon the BoC and the NFA to shed light on this attempted large-scale rice smuggling,â€? Guanlao said.
Government fee hike to be implemented in several key agencies, DBM data reveal • •
Written by Charlie V. Manalo Sunday, 21 October 2012 00:00
Following President Aquino’s issuance of Administrative Order (AO) 31, which authorizes all government offices and attached agencies to adjust rates for various government fees and charges, several government agencies are expected to increase document and service fees, data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reveal.
According to the 2013 Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF), the budget agency is expecting a P1.5 billion or two percent increase in government nontax collections for fees and charges next year, from the current P67.9 billion to P69.5 billion in 2013.
“DBM data reveals that the government indeed intends to collect more from fees and charges next year, in consonant with AO 31,” Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino said. Palatino had earlier criticized Aquino for ordering government agencies to adjust and increase fees, calling the move “insensitive to the plight of the poor.”
AO 31, which was signed by Aquino on Oct. 1, directs and authorizes all “heads of departments, bureaus, commissions, agencies, offices and instrumentalities of the national government, including government-owned and/or controlled corporations, to rationalize the rates of their fees and charges, increase their existing rates and impose new fees and charges.”
Based on the 2013 BESF, DBM expects several government agencies to increase nontax revenue collections, including fees and charges for several government services and documents.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, for example, is expected to increase by 10 percent its income from visa services (from the current P420 million to P462 million in 2013) and authentication services (from the current P430 million to P473 million).
Collection from clearance fees from the National Bureau of Investigation are also set to increase by 4.2 percent, from the current P545 million to P568 million next year. One of the agencies which DBM expects to earn more income next year is the National
Statistics Office (NSO). According to the 2013 BESF, government income from NSO fees, permits and license incomes is set to increase by 16.6 percent, from the current P543 million to P633 million.
“Such projections clearly indicate that the government expects increased income next year. And in the light of AO 31, we know that this will be done by increasing government fees and charges,” Palatino said.
The youth solon explained that such increases would have “far-reaching effects,” especially for Filipinos applying for jobs both in the country and abroad. “At present, Filipinos already find it expensive to secure essential government documents. What more if government agencies increase charges?,” Palatino said.
Palatino also hit presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who, at a press briefing last Thursday, defended AO 31, explaining that increases in government fees and charges as a result of the new order will be “reasonable” and will lead to “improved public service.” Palatino maintained his position on the issue, saying that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that vital government services remain affordable.
“If the government wants to improve services, it must not pass the burden to the already toiling public. An increase is still an increase — and AO 31 is simply not acceptable in a country where poverty remains to be a major problem,” the youth solon said.
Palatino also slammed Lacierda’s snide remarks, calling Palatino and critics of the administration as “populist” and even telling the youth solon to “read first” before criticizing.
“The president’s spokesman has again reacted in a childish manner. Of course, we study issuances before we criticize,” Palatino said.
“Remaining firm on our stance against anti-people policies is not populist. Let me remind Lacierda what it means to be populist — it is to flip-flop on issues, depending on public opinion. Just as what P-Noy and his cohorts have done on many issues, such as the recent cybercrime law,” Palatino said.
“If P-Noy has any concern at all for the Filipino people, he should recall AO 31 and stop passing the burden of maintaining efficiency in government to the public,” the youth solon said.
“Instead of increasing fees, why not improve efficiency by ensuring that people’s taxes are put into good use?,” Palatino said, citing the Commission on Audit’s recent report that the government has lost some P101 billion to corruption, inefficiencies and irregular expenses in 2010. “There are many ways to make government transactions more efficient without passing the cost to the public,” Palatino said.