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Aquino sets up P1b fund for farmers By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on Nov. 12, 2012 at 12:01am | 220 views 

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the release of a P1-billion fund to help farmers across the country put up post-harvest facilities and buy farm equipment and to finance agricultural projects. The fund will be used to implement the Agrarian Production Credit Program through a five year memorandum of agreement between Land Bank of the Philippines and the Agriculture and Agrarian Reform Departments. Of the total amount that will be placed with Land Bank, P300 million would be allocated exclusively to Negros Occidental, Budget chief Florencio Abad said Sunday. “The implementation of the ACPC complements President Aquino’s commitment to fully implement land reform across the country by 2016,” Abad said. “The ACPC will help ensure the sustainable and effective production of crops nationwide in addition to boosting the income of farmer-beneficiaries. Prior to this, agrarian reform beneficiaries have received meager credit assistance, resulting in limited crop production and slower economic growth among beneficiary households.” Agrarian Reform will identify the agrarian reform beneficiaries, while the Agriculture Department will provide basic support and services such as marketing assistance and technology packages. “We expect this fund release to have a considerable impact on the ability of farmer-beneficiaries to improve their livelihood through their very own plots of land,” Abad said. Earlier, Malacañang said Agrarian Reform remained on track in completing its land acquisition and distribution targets amid proposals from lawmakers to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which will expire in June 2014, for another five years. “As far as the Department of Agrarian Reform is concerned, they will finish issuing notices of coverage for landholdings that are 10 hectares and above by December 2012, so we still have two months,” deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said. “As for landholdings below 10 hectares, DAR’s target is to finish issuing notices of coverage by July 1, 2013.” Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. have filed House Bill 6614 seeking a five-year extension of the agrarian reform program.

The lawmakers claim that out of its target of 180,000 hectares of land, Agrarian Reform has only been able to process some 32,000 hectares. But Valte says the department is on track. “As far as the DAR is concerned, we are on target,” she said. “Even if we have reached the June 2014 deadline, as long as the notices of coverage have been issued the process will continue.”



Coco levy claimants’ summit up By Christine F. Herrera | Posted on Nov. 12, 2012 at 12:01am | 134 views 

The 3.5 million coconut farmers belonging to the farmers’ groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan on Sunday announced they will hold a nationwide “Coco Levy Funds Claimants’ Summit” to claim P57.6 billion in cash that they say the government owes them. The farmers will hold the summit in Lucena City on Tuesday to discuss how they will claim their money. “Tuesday’s summit will signal the start of a nationwide campaign to reclaim the coco levy funds,” KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said. :This will be followed by provincial, municipal and up to barrio-level assemblies that includes screening, verification and enlistment of small coconut farmer-claimants.” Marbella says the coconut farmers decided to launch a nationwide campaign to reclaim the money after rejecting the announcement of National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Joel Rocamora that P11.15 billion in levy funds will be given to the coconut industry and not to the coconut farmers. He says the small coconut farmers who are stilling holding their receipts and certificates of stock in coco oil mills have been invited to the summit. “This is open to all small coconut farmers,” Marbella said. He lashed out at Rocamora for hiring 81 consultants of whom not one had faced them to discuss their concerns. He said Rocamora’s decision was being questioned by the Commission on Audit. The KMP and Koprahan are also pushing for the immediate cash distribution of the coconut levy funds to small coconut farmers and the enactment of House Bill 3443, or the proposed Coconut Levy Funds Administration and Management Act filed by Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano. HB 3443 defines the “exclusivity of use of the coco levy funds” to ensure that it is used in the best interest of the small coconut farmers. However, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala says he does not favor the distribution of money to individual coconut farmers from the nearly P70-billion fund representing a 24-percent stake in San Miguel Corp. hat was turned over to the government last month. Marbella, a small coconut farmer from Bicol who still holds his father’s certificates of stock in various oil mills, said “coconut farmers have all the right to claim their money from the Aquino government.” “Again, we are not incidental beneficiaries of the coco levy funds. Coconut farmers were robbed by the Marcos-Cojuangco clique and it is only just and legitimate to return the cash to us,” Marbella said.

“Is Alcala mouthing the official position of the Aquino government? In fact, the President’s deafening silence on the coco levy funds issue since he assumed office continues to bolster our fear that our money will be stolen again. “The government and the so-called coconut industry did not even contribute a single cent to the coco levy funds. Not a single cent. “The money was forcibly collected from coconut farmers alone. We are the legitimate owners of the billions of money that the Aquino government now holds. The Aquino government doesn’t have the right to use our money.” In April this year, Marbella said, Rocamora, also former Akbayan president, drew up a P11.15billion, five-year “road map” to revitalize the coconut industry and that the first year of the program could be funded with loans. “The plan is to borrow off the coco levy,” Rocamora had said. “Aquino’s coco levy task force stinks of political opportunism and its so-called coco industry road map polluted with corruption-ridden programs,” Marbella said. “In Quezon province alone, 204,000 coconut farmer-families dependent on 388,664 hectares of coco lands will benefit from the immediate distribution of the coco levy funds.”‐levy‐claimants‐summit‐up/  


Coco farmers divided over use of levy fund Philippine Daily Inquirer   4:08 am | Monday, November 12th, 2012  

LUCENA CITY—Peasant groups are divided on what to do with the recovered coconut levy fund. Militant peasant groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Kaisahang Pambansa ng mga Magsasaka sa Koprahan (Koprahan) on Sunday assailed Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for his opposition to a cash distribution of the fund to the coconut farmers, while two other groups supported the proposal to use the fund to revive the dying coconut industry. “We are not incidental beneficiaries of the coco levy fund. Coconut farmers were robbed in cash by the Marcos-Cojuangco clique, and it is only just and legitimate to return the cash to us,” said KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella in a phone interview Sunday. “We are the legitimate owners of the billions of pesos the Aquino government now holds. The Aquino government doesn’t have the right to use our money,” he said. But another group of coconut farmers welcomed Alcala’s declaration that he was not in favor of giving the money directly to the farmers but of putting it in a trust fund, the interest from which the rehabilitation and development of the ailing coconut industry would come. Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungan Panlipunan (Katarungan), agreed with Alcala. “The coco levy should remain intact as a perpetual trust fund for the coconut industry until a law is passed and policies are set on how best (it could be used to) benefit the coconut farmers,” he said. Maribel Luzara, president of Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon, also supported Alcala. “His declaration is a welcome announcement. He should convince President Aquino to speed up the creation of a perpetual trust fund,” Luzara said in a separate phone interview. Alcala on Friday said he did not favor the “individual distribution” of money from the nearly P70-billion coco levy fund representing a 24-percent block of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) shares recovered by the government. Instead, the assets should be used to rehabilitate and modernize the industry so the benefits would trickle down to the poorest coconut farmer, he said. Coconut farmers from Quezon are believed to be the biggest contributors to the coco levy fund, a tax exacted from them between 1973 and 1982 during the regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was to be used purportedly to develop the coconut industry. Instead it went to buy SMC shares that allowed Marcos crony Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco to take control of the conglomerate. “The coconut farmers who contacted us want their money back,” Marbella said.

He said KMP and Koprahan will hold a Coco Levy Funds Claimants’ Summit in Lucena City on Nov. 13 to kick off their nationwide campaign to get the coco levy fund back. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

Facilities for Mindanao farmers built by Japanese NGO completed Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Sunday, 11 November 2012 19:05

POST-HARVEST facilities worth P17 million built by a Japanese nongovernment organization (NGO) were turned over last Nov. 7, 2012, by Japan Embassy’s Minister Shinsuke Shimizu to the town of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. Funded through the Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects, a small-grant funding program of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA), the facilities were under the Japanese government’s “Construction of Small-Scale Agriculture Facilities for Climate Change Adaptation” project. The project amounted to US$399,263 with the turnover ceremony attended by Helen T. Latog, Municipal Mayor; and First Secretary Kei Fukunaga and First Secretary Takayuki Nakagawa of the Japanese Embassy. On Nov. 8, 2012, another turnover ceremony of the project was held in the other project site, Balabagan, Lanao Del Sur, attended by Fukunaga and Quirino Sampiano, vice-Mayor of the Municipality.In both ceremonies, Kiyoko Takahashi, Program Officer, and Kosuke Nagino, Project Coordinator, from Oxfam Japan witnessed the ceremonies. In the municipality of Balabagan, six post-harvest facilities for cassava have been constructed, each equipped with a set of storehouse and cassava dryer. One cassava grating machine has also been purchased and shared by farmers. In the municipality of Esperanza, three post-harvest facilities for rice and corn with a set of storehouse and dryer have been constructed as well as an irrigation canal stretching about one kilometer. Through the project, the farmers in the municipality of Esperanza can increase their crop production, and in both municipalities, the loss after the harvest can decrease. Thanks to these, the market access of the agricultural products and the farmers’ income are expected to improve. As a soft component of the project, various trainings will be also conducted for the farmers so that they can properly manage and sustain the facilities all by themselves. The Grant Assistance for Japanese NGO Projects started in the Philippines in 2002. Since then, the Japanese Government has disbursed approximately P188 million for a total of 29 projects in the Philippines. Japan believes that this project will strengthen not only friendship between the peoples of Japan and the Philippines but also the existing strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines.‐commodities/2499‐facilities‐for‐ mindanao‐farmers‐built‐by‐japanese‐ngo‐completed

Loan Demand Increasing, Says BSP By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN  November 11, 2012, 7:57pm 

Banking loan demand is increasing for both enterprises and households especially housing loans, a quarterly survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed. Based on the latest Senior Bank Loan Officers’ Survey, the BSP noted that demand for business loans is growing as borrowers continue to take advantage of lower interest rates and improving economic outlook. Businessmen have been taking out more loans for financing and working capital requirements. The same goes for household loans which are increasing as fast as business loans with the rising housing consumption. Bank loans are still one of the main sources of funds especially with the manageable payment terms, said the BSP. “The overall positive net change in demand for both business and household loans was consistent with data showing robust bank lending growth during the quarter,” the report said. The banks surveyed also expect demand for credit from both businesses, with the exception of micro enterprises, and households to continue to increase in the last quarter of the year. “Banks foresee an increase in loan demand from businesses owing largely to expectations of increased accounts receivable financing and working capital needs of borrowers in the next quarter. Similarly, the likely overall increase in households’ demand for credit was due largely to the increase in household consumption, lower income prospects, lower interest rates, and lack of other sources of funds.” According to the survey, which included 28 banks for the third quarter, banks’ overall credit standards remained unchanged although there was some slight easing when it came to household loans. The credit standards employed for loans to enterprises showed overall unchanged lending processes which meant that the number of banks that indicated a tightening of their credit standards equal to the number of banks that indicated an easing. The same unchanged standards goes for collateral requirements along with steady maturities of loans provided to enterprises, said the BSP. There was also a narrowing of loan margins and increased credit line sizes across all firm sizes. The BSP added that the survey results point to the “stable asset portfolio of banks as well as banks’ generally steady outlook on the economy and on certain industries, unchanged financial system regulations, and banks’ unchanged tolerance for risk.” Enterprises include top corporations and the large middle-market enterprises and borrowing standards for these borrowers are still the same. However, the central bank noted that the credit standards for micro and small and medium enterprises seemed to have tightened slightly on the back of the “uncertain economic prospects” of these borrowers. As for household loans, while the credit standards on credit card loans remained unchanged and steady, there was a slight easing of credit standards for housing and personal/salary loans. The credit standards for auto loans, in the meantime, continued to show a net tightening for the

second consecutive quarter, explained the BSP, which “reflected stricter standards in terms of collateral requirements.” The BSP conducted its first bank loan survey in 2009 to improve its understanding of banks’ lending behavior. “This is an important indicator of the strength of credit activity in the country, a key determinant of domestic economic growth,” said the BSP.‐demand‐increasing‐says‐bsp#.UKBqXWcTgok                                

Mindanao Newsbits November 11, 2012, 5:54pm 

AGRI SEMINARS DAVAO CITY (PNA) – The Region-11 office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-11) here will conduct a series of seminars for small and medium banana farmers in the Region before the

year ends. Melanie Provido, DA regional chief of the high-value crop division, said the government has set aside P1.7 million for the seminars that will run for a month. She said DA is eyeing at least a thousand banana farmers to attend to the seminar, which is one of the government’s thrusts in addressing the industry's problem especially on infestation.‐seminars#.UKBs0GcTgok                                  

AO 31 Meant To Improve Gov’t Services By CARLOS DAVE B. GARCIA, MB Research  November 11, 2012, 5:09pm 


MANILA, Philippines --- “We are not aware of those kinds of laws. It surprises us because there’s no such thing like that before. But now, different kinds of increases are booming out,” reacted 63-year-old Manny (not his real name), on the newly signed Administrative Order No. 31 (AO 31), which authorizes increases in government fees and charges. Similarly, Eloisa Lat, a 24-year-old bakery owner in Manila, is not aware of the new administrative order signed by the President last October 1. She hoped, though, that it will not greatly affect her small business. “I think it depends on how big your business is. The fees and charges may not be the same,” said Eloisa. The senior seaman, who works as an electrician in a chemical tanker, wanted the new law to be repealed, since it will only be a burden to ordinary citizens, like him, who apply for government permits when the need arises. “What can we do? We just want to board the ship and be a seaman, but [with this order,] if we can’t comply with the requirements, how can we board?” Manny said, noting that overseas workers need to apply for numerous government permits just to comply with their job’s requirements. “Business owners, like me, are paying a lot on the fees and charges, including other expenses. We might not be able to afford them anymore if they are raised,” said Eloisa. Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, in an interview with MB Research, concurred with Manny’s statements and asked the President to “immediately review the Administrative Order and halt its implementation to clear first if this will be the best way for government agencies to raise revenues, since the poor will greatly be affected [with this new order].” But Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma assured the public that before a fee hike can be implemented, it will be studied carefully to find out if the prices are reasonable and acceptable. In another interview, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Jaime Ledda supported Coloma’s assertion, saying that “there’s a need for these types of orders to remind the government that if there are any plans to increase fees, there is a procedure to be followed.” The DFA is one of the government agencies that will be allowed to make adjustments on its fees once AO 31 has been finalized and once the implementing rules and regulations have been finalized. Ledda said various factors can prompt a government agency to raise fees. “The prime objective there is towards the improvement of government services,” said Ledda, adding that such an increase is important in introducing new technologies, acquiring new equipment, expanding operations, introducing new services, or improving current services.

Coloma guaranteed the public that government agencies will be balanced in recovering the costs of services rendered and the socio-economic impact of their imposition to determine the rates of new fees and charges. “While cost of living rises, cost of wages and cost of salaries also keep up with the adjustment [and] the entire economy is adjusting to new price levels… We are not thinking of imposing burden or unjust payment; what we’re after is the right price,” added Coloma. The Department of Finance (DOF), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) will be overseeing the implementation of the AO 31. “These departments (DOF, DBM and NEDA) will be seeing things from a different perspective, so they can see whether the proposal for a price or fee increase is acceptable,” Ledda said. Coloma said a set of implementing rules and regulations (IRR) will be crafted to make sure that “the process of determining the fees will be based on reasonability and affordability; otherwise, it will be limiting the possibility that it will gain public acceptance.” Without the IRR being presented, state agencies and government-owned and controlled companies (GOCCs) have yet to implement any increase on their rates and to impose new fees. Palatino, however, maintained that the government agencies and bureaus don’t need to raise their fees since this order will just do more harm than good to the public. “Their argument concerning the improvement of government services with this new order is wrong, since it is already the mandate of the government to improve immediately [their services]. It is not based on the increasing fees,” Palatino said, mentioning that increasing fees should not be equivalent to efficiently improving the services. Palatino clarified that the increase is unnecessary, since the government still has a lot of fund— the e-governance fund—for the digitization that will reduce the cost. He also revealed that every agency also receives a budget from the national government. “With the digitization [fund], it should be more affordable and the transaction has reduced cost… [Under this law,] we are depriving poor people of chances to access government documents because of high cost,” added Palatino. On the issue of bypassing NEDA, Coloma defended that no agency is bypassed because NEDA is still part of the administrative order. “If government operations are not effective, there must be something wrong with the plan. Agencies are given budgets now to put into operation their objectives and their plans,” said Ledda. He advised the government agencies to find out if the changes they are about to make will match what the public need.

“You have to find out if [the changes] match what the public need because there are lots of good ideas out there, services and best practices to be learned,” added Ledda. Coloma, on the other hand, advised the public to first give the government agencies a chance and refrain from making negative conclusions. “This will be a very transparent process. We are going to inform the people, won’t hide anything and [we] won’t surprise them. They will have every opportunity to suggest changes or improvements. The principle here is the fees and rates might increase but it will have to find its own equilibrium and it will have to be adjusted in such a way that is not detrimental to the society,” said Coloma. As for Manny, he said “perhaps, we’ll just wait for the right moment that everything will be back to normal, not actually too low, but not as well super expensive; the amount that is just right for us.” Eloisa, on the other hand, appealed to the Chief Executive to make sure of that the primary purpose of his new administrative order will be achieved. “If the increase in charges and fees will be put to good use, even if it’s going to be costly, why not?” said Eloisa. “Let’s all remember that 90 percent of our countrymen belong to class D and E whose income is minimum wage. We cannot give them prices that will result in harm and disadvantage. It should be affordable; otherwise, it’s like we deprive them of [government] services, and that is not our goal here,” said Coloma.‐31‐meant‐to‐improve‐gov‐t‐services#.UKBww2cTgok          

CBCP Urges Careful Check Of DAR List Of Luisita Beneficiaries November 11, 2012, 9:29pm 

MANILA, Philippines --- The list of Hacienda Luisita beneficiaries should be thoroughly screened, said an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA), issued the statement amid allegations from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) that some people in the initial Department of Agragrian Reform list of 5,365 farm workers who will receive parcels of agricultural land from Hacienda Luisita were dubious claimants. “The list should be thoroughly screened to make sure that those who will benefit from it are the rightful ones,” Gariguez said in an interview. “If the organizations in charge of the screening believe that a certain person in the list is not qualified then they should present evidence to prove it,” he said. He said although the church is willing to help in the verification of the list they would rather leave the matter to the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and United Luisita Workers’ Union (Ulwu). (Leslie Ann G. Aquino)‐urges‐careful‐check‐of‐dar‐list‐of‐luisita‐ beneficiaries#.UKBw92cTgok                 

Scrap hike in gov’t fees, Noy urged By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 12, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The party-list group Kabataan urged President Aquino yesterday to recall his order authorizing government agencies to increase fees for passports, clearances and other documents starting Jan. 1, 2013. “At present, Filipinos already find government service and document fees expensive and way beyond their means. Increasing the rates is just plain insensitive to the plight of the poor,” Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino said.

He said the hike would particularly affect job applicants, who are required to obtain passports, birth certificates, marriage license, police and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearances, and other documents. “A job applicant now needs at least P600 to acquire basic government documents, excluding transportation and food expenses. Overseas Filipino workers spend P15,000 to P30,000 for documentation processes alone,” Palatino said. He added the digitization of government documents and processes should result in reduction and not in increase of fees, following the principle of efficiency. In anticipation of the eventual approval by Congress of the proposed P2-trillion national budget for 2013, Aquino issued last October Administrative Order No. 31 authorizing agencies to increase their service fees in January. The revenue basis for his budget proposal includes an increase of P1.6 billion in such fees, from the current P67.9 billion to P69.5 billion next year. Based on budget documents submitted to Congress, among the state agencies that would raise their fees are the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), National Statistics Office (NSO), NBI, Land Registration Authority, Professional Regulation Commission, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Department of Trade and Industry, and National Telecommunications Commission.The DFA is 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). The NBI is tasked to raise P23 million more from clearances, 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. Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda has justified the planned increase, saying it would be “reasonable” and would result to “improved public service.”‐hike‐gov%E2%80%99t‐fees‐noy‐urged

Palace hopeful on sin tax bill but hands off on RH By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 12, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang yesterday expressed confidence that the sin tax reform bill that would give the government a projected P40 billion in revenues will be passed by the Senate, but kept a hands-off policy with regard to the pending Reproductive Health (RH) bill in the House of Representatives. “For the sin taxes, we are very hopeful that it will continue to move forward. For the Responsible Parenthood, as we have said, we cannot impose our own timetable on members of Congress and it will be up to them really,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

It was a sudden turnaround insofar as the controversial RH bill is concerned, particularly because Malacañang, including President Aquino himself, had been pushing for the approval of the measure since he assumed office in June 2010. The Catholic Church is opposing the RH bill, with several bishops warning that they will use the pulpit to call on Filipinos, majority of whom are Catholics, not to vote for those who endorse what they call as pro-abortion bill. “We don’t know what will happen. We are also just waiting on the resumption of the debates in Congress on the Responsible Parenthood bill,” Valte said. Valte, however, begged off from answering questions about prioritization. “I don’t really know if the prioritization question is relevant in this case. Two different houses are tackling the two separate issues,” she said, noting the sin tax bill is in Senate, and RH bill in the House. In early August, Aquino flexed the executive department’s muscle on the RH bill by inviting his House allies to a luncheon in Malacañang, with 185 of the 285 or so members of the House attending. The next day the House voted to end plenary debates on the RH bill and paved the way for the period on amendments. Meeting with reporters in Laos recently, where he attended the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting, Aquino said achieving a P40-billion take in revenues for the so-called sin taxes would be good, although stretching it to P60 billion would logically be better. Aquino told Manila-based reporters that he was glad to have the maximum amount generated, but that realities on the ground will have to be considered. “P60 billion would be good because the amount could be used by the health department, but the P40 billion, I think, is a good number and we have recognized that. That’s why there’s a debate from the two opposing camps to achieve a happy compromise,” he said. “At P40 billion, we are happy; at P60 billion, we will be happier. But P40 billion is already, I think, sufficient to meet the objectives both in terms of gaining more resources and managing the deficit,” Aquino said. The thrust and focus of his administration is to address all the necessary health issues. “Most of the funds that will be generated are earmarked for supporting our health program,” he said. Aquino did not say, however, whether he would have wanted his Liberal Party ally, Sen. Ralph Recto, to stay on as chairman of the ways and means committee, but said he disagreed with the lawmaker’s projected revenues of P20 billion or so.

Recto resigned as chairman of the Senate ways and means committee and withdrew his committee report after being heavily criticized for his lower target revenues for the sin tax bill. Sen. Franklin Drilon, who took over the committee, introduced a new proposal on the sin tax bill, which was readily accepted by some quarters. Apart from the goal to increase taxes, Drilon said the government can exercise its police power in relation to tobacco in a bid to stop smoking, a vice that afflicts about 17 million Filipinos. Under the new proposal, the low classification tobacco products will be imposed an additional P14 per pack while those under high classification category will be imposed P22.80 in the first year of implementation. This means a stick of cigarette usually costing P1.20 to P1.25 will be priced at around P2.25. For alcohol, there will be additional P30 tax plus 35 percent ad valorem, depending on the classification and proof. Drilon’s proposal of the sin tax bill seeks to raise tax revenues from tobacco and alcohol of P40 billion to P45 billion, much higher than the version of Recto that only seeks P15 billion to P20 billion. After a two-tier rate for the first year, there will be uniform rates for all tobacco products starting the following year. Drilon said about five million poor beneficiaries are being targeted under the government’s universal health care program through PhilHealth once the sin tax reform measure is passed by Congress. Drilon said the generated revenues from the sin tax measure will be used in the PhilHealth program for new beneficiaries, which is under the “unprogrammed funds” for 2013. Unprogrammed funds in the national budget are identified projects which can only be implemented if there are available funds, said Drilon, also current chairman of the Senate finance committee that tackles the national budget. Drilon said the taxes will have a standby authority for the new PhilHealth beneficiaries. “Once the funds are there, there will be authority to spend (for PhilHealth),” he said. Drilon said he is ready to ask his colleagues to vote for the measure by Nov. 19. “Let’s put it to a vote so that we can move forward,” he said. Budget deliberations will start on Nov. 20 or 21, after the tax reform measure is approved, the senator added.

Drilon said he sees no problem during the bicameral conference on the measure since the Senate adopted provisions of the House version. Drilon expressed confidence that this measure will not be as controversial as the bill creating Nueva Camarines, which pushes the division of Camarines Sur. “What I can say is that President Aquino can sign this into law by December,” he said. After the tax measure is passed into law, Drilon hopes to pass the law that would mandate the placement of picture-based warnings on cigarette packs by January. – With Christina Mendez‐hopeful‐sin‐tax‐bill‐hands‐rh                 

180,190 vacancies await jobseekers By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 12, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Up to 180,190 vacancies await jobseekers nationwide, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said yesterday that the 180,190 job vacancies posted on PhilJobnet, the government’s official job and skills matching and job search facility, was a record high. Citing data from the DOLE’s Bureau of Local Employment (BLE), Baldoz said a majority of the jobs posted in the PhilJobNet portal are for local employment.

“Of course there are also available overseas employment opportunities posted in the job portal, but our figure shows the continuing surge of opportunities in the local labor market,” she said, adding that the portal only recorded 102,902 vacancies in January. She added that while the number of jobs rose, BLE only recorded 171,617 job applicants from January to October. However, Baldoz said the number of workers advertising their skills for hire in the job portal has also been increasing. Phil-JobNet is similar to the yellow pages or bulletin board where skilled persons and ownaccount workers advertise their skills and services. The data provided by the BLE, which hosts the online job facility, showed that in October, the “hot jobs” included call center agents, with 22,144 vacancies; technical support staff (7,144); production/factory workers (6,599); product specialists (6,423); service crew (6,048); cashiers (5,379); merchandisers (4,453); sales clerks (4,282); customer service assistants (3,697); sales executives (2,342); security guards (2,243); customs representatives (2,000); utility workers (1,804); marketing specialists (1,580); janitors (1,469); laborers (1,425); promo salespersons (1,307); promo staff (1,302); maintenance crew (1,212); masons (1,095); software instructors (1,070); office clerks (1,040); stock clerks (1,026); warehouse clerks (1,020); production technicians (1,000); collectors (964); and drivers, government (909). On the other hand, the top skills for hire registered during the month were service crew (3,558), cashiers (3,327), production machine operators (2,741), production/factory workers (2,718), sales clerks (2,657), salesladies (1,662), data encoders (1,316), welders (1,149), office clerks (1,064), staff nurses (840), merchandisers (717), baggers (610), call center agents (567), pipe fitters (510), secretaries (489), checkers (482), and customer service assistants (451). Baldoz attributed the upsurge in the number of vacancies posted in the Phil-JobNet facility to the continuing campaign of the DOLE and its regional offices and the country’s Public Employment Service Offices for employers to post their job vacancies in the online job portal. She also called on the youth to study aviation to enable the country to fill the growing need for commercial airline pilots here and abroad. “Locally, a commercial airline first officer receives an average monthly salary of P175,000 while a captain’s monthly salary is estimated at around P275,000, not including the benefits airline companies provide,” she said. She added that those with a degree in aviation have better employment prospects, since major airlines are increasingly hiring pilots with university degrees, preferably in airline-related courses.‐vacancies‐await‐jobseekers                                  

Drilon cites safety nets in sin tax bill By Cathy C. Yamsuan  Philippine Daily Inquirer   1:00 am | Monday, November 12th, 2012  

Senator Franklin Drilon The controversial sin tax bill has enough safety nets to ensure that tobacco farmers will not be disadvantaged by higher taxes to be imposed on cigarettes and alcoholic products, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Sunday. Drilon, acting chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, gave this assurance as he appealed to colleagues to pass the measure by the end of the week so the chamber could begin discussions on the proposed 2013 budget. He noted in a radio interview that the substitute sin tax measure he proposed in place of the committee report presented by Sen. Ralph Recto last month had allotted P6 billion for tobacco farmers. This would be on top of the P4 billion in safety net features the farmers currently receive “under the old (sin tax) law,” he said. “After the passage of the measure, the (benefits for tobacco farmers) would be P10 billion (in the Senate version),” Drilon added. Last week, Recto warned of the possibility that tobacco farmers would bear the brunt of higher sin taxes since the industry’s profitability would be drastically affected. Recto wanted to increase taxes on tobacco and alcohol products by only between P15 billion and P19 billion so as not to unnecessarily burden either industry. Malacañang, however, initially wanted additional taxes of P60 billion but later reduced the amount to P40 billion. Drilon said his substitute bill, which would raise an additional P40 billion to P45 billion, adhered closely to the version already passed by the House of Representatives. Gradual increases

In the radio interview, Drilon said “gradual increases” in taxes on tobacco products would make a pack of low-priced cigarettes cost P14 more and a higher-end brand, P28 more once the sin tax bill was signed into law. On the average, this would mean a stick of cigarette that currently sells for P1.00 to P1.25 would sell for P2.25, he said. In two to three years, the Senate bill aims to impose a unitary tax rate of P32 per pack for lowand high-end cigarettes. “If the tax on a high-end cigarette brand is too high, the tendency would be to simply switch to the lower-priced brand. So we don’t achieve the health objective of making smokers stop the habit,” Drilon said. Deaths, costs Some 87,600 Filipinos die every year from diseases caused by smoking, according to advocates of higher sin tax rates. The cost of treating smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer, stroke and heart attack amounts to P188.8 billion every year, higher than the P103.8 billion in annual gross revenue from cigarette sales, according to Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Drilon gave a different estimate of the cost of smoking. Citing a computation made by doctors in Philippine General Hospital, he placed at P155 billion the “total cost to society” of tobacco use through premature deaths and preempted individual productivity. Drilon said a uniform rate would make tax administration easier. He wanted his version of the sin tax bill approved by Nov. 19 so that the Senate could begin debates on the P2-trillion budget for 2013 before legislators get distracted by the midterm elections in May. Discourage smoking Drilon said the Senate sin tax version sought to discourage smoking, especially among teenagers. He pointed out that lower-priced tobacco products accounted for 60 percent of the industry’s total production. Supporters of higher sin taxes maintained that collections would be used to fund the PhilHealth premium of 5.2 million families who belonged to the second-lowest quintile of the population. Members of the lowest quintile have been enrolled in the government’s PhilHealth program, according to Drilon. A paying member shells out P2,400 in monthly premium for inclusion in the health care program.

Additional sin tax revenues would also fund repairs in the government’s regional and provincial hospitals that cater to mostly poor patients. Other points Drilon raised other points to douse anxiety from higher tobacco taxes. According to him, local cigarette manufacturers buy only 15 percent of their production requirements from Filipino farmers as 85 percent of their requirements are imported and are not directly affected by the sin tax bill. “Unless these manufacturers buy more from local farmers, the sin tax bill has no effect on them,” he said. Local Virginia tobacco also costs only P74 a kilo while imported tobacco sells for P134 a kilo, according to Drilon. Filipino farmers also export tobacco leaf. Since not all their output is for local consumption, they cannot claim that they would be drastically affected by higher sin taxes, he said. “For those reasons, I can say local farmers would not be negatively affected by increasing taxes on tobacco,” Drilon said. “The issue just needs to be explained clearly.” Growers’ threat A group of local tobacco growers has warned six reelectionist senators not to vote for the sin tax bill or its members will campaign against them in the 2013 senatorial elections. In an e-mailed statement, the PhilTobacco Growers Association named specifically Senators Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino Pimentel III and Alan Peter Cayetano. Saturnino Distor, president of PhilTobacco Growers Association, said tobacco farmers, workers, their families and “allies in related industries would join forces to ensure that incumbent senators seeking fresh terms in the 2013 elections would get zero votes” in tobacco-producing regions if they ignored the sector’s demand for “moderate and reasonable excise tax increases on cigarettes.” Still, Distor said his group planned to hold dialogues with the reelectionist senators whom he warned “stand to lose around 4.5 million votes from the major tobacco-producing provinces of Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Abra, Cagayan, Isabela and Mindoro.” He noted that other provinces also were producing tobacco, such as Mountain Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Capiz, Iloilo, Leyte, Cebu, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Davao, Zamboanga del Sur, Maguindanao, Cotabato and Sarangani.‐cites‐safety‐nets‐in‐sin‐tax‐bill                                    

Palace confident of sin tax bill approval By TJ Burgonio  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:58 am | Monday, November 12th, 2012   Share  

As the bill goes into debate in the Senate, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad expressed confidence that both chambers of Congress would reconcile their versions and pass the bill before the end of the year. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO Malacañang is confident that the Senate will approve by Nov. 19 the sin tax bill that would generate a minimum P40 billion in revenue and that Congress will pass a reconciled version before the end of the year. With most senators agreeing in principle with the version and a broad sector of the public supporting it, the passage of the key administration measure would be a cinch, without President Aquino marshaling his allies to approve it, Cabinet officials said on Sunday. “They have agreed on the minimum P40 billion. Nobody raised an issue against it,” Secretary Manuel Mamba of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office said by phone, recalling the Oct. 17 caucus between Cabinet officials and senators in the Senate. “I presume the agreement stands.” In that caucus, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares told the senators that the measure should generate from P40 billion to P60 billion to have an impact on the population. A version reported out by Sen. Ralph Recto fell short of the administration’s target. Recto later quit as chair of the ways and means committee after coming under fire from Cabinet officials. Public pressure “The President has a very clear stand on this. P40 billion is OK, but P60 billion is better,” Mamba said when asked whether there was a need for the President to marshal his allies to approve the bill. “If they want to go against that bill, they will go against public pressure. That’s public sentiment,” he added. The Senate is racing against time to pass the measure, with Sen. Franklin Drilon last week reminding his colleagues that they have until Nov. 19 to approve it.

Most of the senators have asked for more time to study the measure before interpellating Drilon, acting chair of the ways and means committee. If his version is approved, Drilon said P46 billion in additional revenue would be generated from the sin taxes. If this is added to the P48 billion in sin taxes collected in 2011, total collection for the first year would be P94 billion. Reconciled bills As the bill goes into debate in the Senate, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad expressed confidence that both chambers of Congress would reconcile their versions and pass the bill before the end of the year. “If you were to base it on the strength of argumentation, especially from the superior positive public health and revenue contribution of the measure, broad support from the general public and majority support from both chambers of Congress, we are confident that a sin tax reform law can pass before the year-end,” Abad said in a text message. But the challenge would come from industry players and lawmakers “who represent their constituencies where their businesses are located or which depend on the industry for livelihood and employment, like the tobacco-growing provinces,” he added. Real issue Abad said the real issue was determining the degree by which the measure could be made into a substantial reform measure, both as public health intervention, as well as a revenue reform measure. This point of contention could prolong debates and negotiations but “it seems the stakeholders are open to listen and arrive at some acceptable compromise,” he said. Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang outlined the urgency of approving the measure: “It’s very important that a sin tax bill in the Abaya-Drilon mold be passed at the soonest possible time in order for us to expand health care service for the poor.” Joseph E.A. Abaya is the former chair of the House ways and means committee. He is now the energy secretary. “We are doing what we can to make this happen,” Carandang said. To better reconcile their versions on the bicameral conference committee, Mamba proposed that the House lawmakers tweak their own measure to match Drilon’s substitute. “The House version pegs the revenues from tobacco at P26 billion. The revenue from liquor is low. To make it P40 billion to P45 billion, they should adjust the taxes on fermented spirits and distilled liquor,” he said.

The House bill seeks P33 billion in additional annual revenue.‐confident‐of‐sin‐tax‐bill‐approval                               

Davao del Sur farmers increase yield, profit • •

Written by Tribune

Monday, 12 November 2012 00:00

Nilo Eridiano heads a 25-member farmers’ group that grosses P220,850 from a three-month harvest of potatoes from a one-hectare communal farm in Sitio Salway, Tampakan, South Cotabato.

From their most recent harvest, the Sitio Salway Farmers Association (SISAFA), produced 209 sacks of

potatoes, sold 100 sacks of their produce and reserved the balance 109 sacks as tubers for the next planting season.

Eridiano said that before communal farming was introduced on their place, he and the other farmers planted cabbage in their backyards.

With an average P2,000 capital each, they earn gross income of P5,000 after 90 days, hardly enough to meet their daily needs.

That was before they decided to work as a community, partnered with a mining company, formed a farmers association and opted for communal farming.

“I tried backyard farming before, just like my neighbors, but we lacked capital and so we produced so little and earned a pittance,” Eridiano said.

“I knew potatoes were more in demand but I did not have enough capital,” he said. In 2010, Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), government contractor for the proposed Tampakan mining project in South Cotabato, approached the community with an offer of training and funds.

The farmers of Sitio Salway agreed to have Eridiano to represent them. Eridiano and with three other farmers from their community went into a series of training in organizing, cooperative management and farming techniques.

SMI also provided an initial fund of P76,000 and 3,000 potato tubers to bankroll their newly-formed farmers’ group. “With the initial fund, we got a five-year lease on a one-hectare lot for P15,000 and with the potato tubers also from the company we started our communal farm,” Eridiano said.

Eridiano said that from the initial fund from the mining company, their members were able to loan a maximum of P3,000 each which they used to start their own backyard farms.

“From the initial 3,000 tubers the company gave, our organization earned a net income of P40,000 which we used to buy a carabao (water buffalo) for our communal farm,” Eridiano said.

Other than the funding they received from the mining company, the training component is also a key to their success, he added.

“Since the start, we were advised that training is a must and so we continued studying farming techniques”, Eridiano said.

Today, they continue to receive trainings from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Office of the Municipal Agriculturist (OMAG) of the local government of Tampakan, according to Eridiano. One of the most important trainings they received, Eridiano said, is that on crop rotation.‐davao‐del‐sur‐farmers‐increase‐yield‐profit                       

Halt in minting one-cent coins won’t result to savings — BSP • •

Written by Tribune

Monday, 12 November 2012 00:00

There will be no savings to be generated if ever the Security Plant Complex of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) ceases from minting the three lowest denominated coins, a ranking official of the central bank clarified. Assistant governor and SPC chief Manuel Torres said once minting of three lowest denominated coins is stopped, the funds intended for printing will be allocated to other “costs” as well as printing other denominations. “I think it is not exactly appropriate to say we can save by not minting since there will be other ‘costs’ to take its place such as ease of doing financial transactions and also since we will have to replace them with other denominations,” Torres explained to The Daily Tribune. He admitted that the biggest savings will come from purchasing metals abroad used in minting coins valued at one, five and 10 centavos. Ed Velasco‐halt‐in‐minting‐one‐cent‐coins‐ won%E2%80%99t‐result‐to‐savings‐%E2%80%94‐bsp                   

Public has 30 days to review list — DAR By Rio N. Araja | Posted on Nov. 12, 2012 at 12:01am | 746 views

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said on Sunday the public has 30 days to review and question the list of beneficiaries of the 4,915 hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, a sugar land estate owned by the family of President Aquino that will be distributed to farmers.

DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes invited the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) to file exclusion petition and present evidence against anybody in the list. “Anyone is allowed to question the list. We are open to such move,” De los Reyes told reporters. The Supreme Court ordered last year the break up and distribution of the hacienda to the farmers. DAR has announced a self-imposed deadline of six months to produce a preliminary master list. DAR released last October 31 a list of 5,365 farmers from 10 barangays of the hacienda and another list of 1,221 farmers as beneficiaries. The list included Constancio Lundang, Rector Lundang, Antonio Claridad, Pedro Claridad and Rodrigo Claridad, who the KMP said were horse breeders in the hacienda and not sugar cane farmers. De los Reyes said the preliminary master list was drawn after their database confirmed that the 5,365 potential beneficiaries had presented adequate documents as workers. “Petitions for inclusion or exclusion must be filed under oath and should be supported by evidence as per existing rules to minimize spurious or nuisance filings that would unnecessarily delay land distribution,” de los Reyes said. Last week, De los Reyes said DAR planned to distribute the land before the end of May 2013 and those in the list have presented documentary evidence that included Social Security System membership, marriage and birth certificates. He said 1,221 applicants have been placed in the provisional list because of deficiencies in their documentary evidence. “Our personnel … went out of their way to check the authenticity of the farmers’ supporting papers. We check documents with the SSS and the Securities and Exchange Commission,” de los Reyes said. A total of 8,641 had applied and claimed to be farm workers and beneficiaries. After verification, DAR produces a preliminary master list of 5,365 names.‐has‐30‐days‐to‐review‐list‐dar/

Water power By Manila Standard Today | Posted on Nov. 12, 2012 at 12:01am | 53 views

The Department of Agriculture and National Irrigation Administration has signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Energy and the Philippine National Oil Corp., on mini-hydropowerplants on irrigation canals in Region III tto generate four megawatts of electricity to benefit around 500,000 households. The signing was led by (from right) Agriculture Undersecretary Emerson Palad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, NIA chief Antonio Nangel, Energy Secretary Carlos Jereca, PNOC chief executive officer Roger Buendia and PNOC-RC director Maria Sta. Rita.â€?content/uploads/2012/11/2012_nov_12_people3.jpgÂ

Sugarcane issues By Manila Standard Today | Posted on Nov. 12, 2012 at 12:01am | 16 views

Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin (second from right), administrator of the Sugar Regulatory Administration and the invited guest speaker at the recent economic briefing held by BDO Unibank Inc. in Bacolod City, highlighted the importance of the private sector in the realization of the programs planned for the sugarcane industry. Shown with her (from left) are Glenn Birch Ong, BDO senior assistant vice president; BDO president Nestor Tan; and BDO chief market strategist Jonathan Ravelas.‐issues/    

Aquino sets up P1b fund for farmers By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on Nov. 12, 2012 at 12:01am | 147 views

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the release of a P1-billion fund to help farmers across the country put up post-harvest facilities and buy farm equipment and to finance agricultural projects. The fund will be used to implement the Agrarian Production Credit Program through a five year memorandum of agreement between Land Bank of the Philippines and the Agriculture and Agrarian Reform Departments. Of the total amount that will be placed with Land Bank, P300 million would be allocated exclusively to Negros Occidental, Budget chief Florencio Abad said Sunday. “The implementation of the ACPC complements President Aquino’s commitment to fully implement land reform across the country by 2016,” Abad said. “The ACPC will help ensure the sustainable and effective production of crops nationwide in addition to boosting the income of farmer-beneficiaries. Prior to this, agrarian reform beneficiaries have received meager credit assistance, resulting in limited crop production and slower economic growth among beneficiary households.” Agrarian Reform will identify the agrarian reform beneficiaries, while the Agriculture Department will provide basic support and services such as marketing assistance and technology packages.

“We expect this fund release to have a considerable impact on the ability of farmer-beneficiaries to improve their livelihood through their very own plots of land,” Abad said. Earlier, Malacañang said Agrarian Reform remained on track in completing its land acquisition and distribution targets amid proposals from lawmakers to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which will expire in June 2014, for another five years. “As far as the Department of Agrarian Reform is concerned, they will finish issuing notices of coverage for landholdings that are 10 hectares and above by December 2012, so we still have two months,” deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said. “As for landholdings below 10 hectares, DAR’s target is to finish issuing notices of coverage by July 1, 2013.” Cagayan Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. have filed House Bill 6614 seeking a five-year extension of the agrarian reform program. The lawmakers claim that out of its target of 180,000 hectares of land, Agrarian Reform has only been able to process some 32,000 hectares. But Valte says the department is on track. “As far as the DAR is concerned, we are on target,” she said. “Even if we have reached the June 2014 deadline, as long as the notices of coverage have been issued the process will continue.”‐sets‐up‐p1b‐fund‐for‐farmers/

Masbate folk celebrate city’s gains By Manila Standard Today | Posted on Nov. 11, 2012 at 12:01am | 231 views  

Lapay Bantigue festival. Masbate lasses parade in colorful costumes during the celebration of Masbate City’s 12th anniversary celebration. MASBATE City, the capital city of Masbate Province in the Bicol Region, has just wrapped up its twomonth celebration of its cityhood with beauty and talent searches, dance competitions, and sports festivals, showcasing Masbateños unity at the city’s 12th anniversary celebration. Just one of the 21 municipalities of Masbate Province in the 90s, Masbate was converted into a component city on August 16, 2000 under Republic Act 8807. It was officially proclaimed by the Commission on Elections as a component city on September 30, 2000 after Masbateños voted in favor of cityhood in a plebiscite held later that year. The city entered its 12th year with more reasons to celebrate. For one, the city saw its efforts to protect its marine ecosystem bear fruits with the coastal city successfully eliminating illegal fishing and has been recognized 100 percent dynamite-free in all its fishing areas. Its Bugsayon and Buntod Marine Sanctuaries have also been recently ranked by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as first and second most climate change resistant coral reefs in the whole of Central Philippines, respectively. A variety of marine life forms inhabit the sanctuaries including green sea turtles, hard and soft corals and target species like coral breams, parrotfish, surgeonfish, snappers and goat fish, among others. Protected and maintained by the local government, the two coral reefs have shown excellent chances to withstand both man-made and natural disturbances. “Natural traits of Bugsayon and Buntod make them highly resilient to the impacts of the prevailing climate change phenomenon as these bring down temperature stress to allow faster recovery of the coral cover

and fish biomass. It also helps that local fishermen police their ranks to help protect the marine sanctuaries. Groups are also assigned to supervise tourists and make sure they follow regulations on maintaining cleanliness as well as the ban on collecting live corals,” explained Tito Velsa, head of the City Coastal Resources Management Office. Another testament to how the city has high regard for its marine ecosystems is having its own Coastal Resource Management Interpretative Center, the first of its kind in the Philippines. The city is also active in reforestation activities as well. Trade of copra, cattle and other livestock, as well as aquamarine resources in Luzon and Visayas have also remained brisk and continued to serve as main sources of revenues for the communities. Meanwhile, the city’s pride and a major highlight of the cityhood anniversary celebrations, the Lapay Bantigue Dance Festival, founded only three years ago, won the Championship in the Gayon Bikol 2012 Festival of Festivals held last February in Iriga City, Albay. The Masbate City contingent also bagged the Best in Moving Choreography special award. The city has previously acknowledged the Lapay Bantigue Festival, its protected marine sanctuaries, as well as its Rodeo Festival, as the top reasons why more tourists have been flocking to the coastal community. Aside from the Lapay Bantigue Festival, other highlights of the 12th Masbate cityhood celebrations include the 1st Beach Volleyball Tournament and 1st Mayor’s Cup Street Volleyball Tournament, Interschool Basketball Tournament and Cheer Dance Competition, Civil Service Night Fun Run, Launching of Adopt-a-Park project, Talent contests, Women’s Wellness Day, Cosmetologie 2012, Handuman Display, Search for Ms. Masbate Colleges, Medical and Dental Mission, Rakrakan sa Magallanes Coliseum, and the Civic parade.‐folk‐celebrate‐citys‐gains/              

Gov’t may tap BSP funds THE GOVERNMENT is looking to tap Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) funds for a debt buyback program after raising less than the targeted amount from last week’s global peso note (GPN) offering.

With the bond issuance having generated $750 million and the government planning to repurchase up to $1.5 billion worth of expensive euro- and dollar-denominated debts, a Treasury source said strong investor interest in the buyback could mean "we would coordinate with the central bank and buy $750 million from them." Asked for comment, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. yesterday said the central bank was "prepared to sell any amount of foreign exchange needed to cover the requirements of the National Government." Also yesterday, National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said the government could have raised "up to $1 billion from the GPNs at 3.9%, but we want to take advantage of government’s huge [cash] reserves for the ongoing tender offer." Officials have said that the GPN proceeds would be used to finance the buyback -- part of the government’s liability management program -- that will end on Nov. 16. The Treasury source also said the government’s plan to sell $500-million worth of dollar bonds in the domestic market could end up benefiting state-owned Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. An investors’ briefing will be held today, the source said, adding that the offering will not be a "replacement" for the $750 million left in the government’s commercial borrowings program for the year.‐may‐tap‐BSP‐ funds&id=61266              

Treasury bill rates may rise

TREASURY bill (T-bill) rates are expected to rise by 4-10 basis points across all tenors at the auction today, with investors preferring longer-tenored debt papers after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) cut its inflation forecast for 2012 to 2014. TENDERS are expected to be twice the P7.5 billion in T-bills on offer today.

Bond traders interviewed by phone last Friday said the rates of the 91-day, 182-day and one- year T-bills may rise by four to 10 basis points from the rates they got at the previous auction. At the Oct. 29 auction, the the three-month papers were quoted at 0.463%, their lowest rate on record; the six-month papers, 0.70% and the one-year securities, 0.95%. At the secondary market last Friday, the 91-day papers fetched 0.40%; the 182-day securities, 0.675%; and the one-year T-bills, 0.8443%. “We see rates increasing across all tenors given the relatively low rates they fetched at the previous auction,” a trader said. Another trader said “the BSP’s downward revision of inflation forecasts may push up the rates at the auction.” The central bank has cut its inflation forecast for this year, next year and in 2014 to 3.3%, 3.9% and 3.1%, respectively, from initial estimates of 3.4%, 4.1% and 3.3%. “With inflation expected to be lower this year until 2014, investors might opt to invest in longer-tenored securities where they can get higher returns,” the trader added. Both traders, however, still expect demand for the T-bills to remain strong amid high market liquidity. -Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio‐bill‐rates‐may‐ rise&id=61269             

Yield Tracker : Gov’t debts rally as inflation slows LOWER-than-expected inflation in October and another rate cut caused government papers to rally in the secondary market last week.

Yields on government securities fell by an average 30.68 basis points (bps) from month ago levels, data from the Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corp. showed. Rafael S. Algarra, Jr., Security Bank Corp. executive vice-president said: “Monthly yields were down due to lower-than-expected October inflation rate and the overnight rate cut.” A bond trader agreed, saying: “Yields were down on the back the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP’s) lower inflation forecast.” “Investors tend to lengthen their duration when inflation outlook is downward,” he added. Inflation eased at 3.1% in October, hitting the lower end of the BSP’s 2.9-3.8% estimate for the month. The central bank has trimmed its inflation forecast for this year, next year and 2014 to 3.3%, 3.9% and 3.1% -- from initial estimates of 3.4%, 4.1% and 3.3%, respectively. The three-year Treasury bond (T-bond) saw the biggest rally, with its yield down by a hefty 70.43 bps to 3.1247%. The five-year T-bond followed, dropping 65.82 bps to 4.0001%. Debt papers at the longer end of the curve also fell, led by 10-year bonds whose yield went down by 14.15 bps to 4.6035%. The 20- and 25-year bonds likewise dropped, fetching 5.6599% and 5.8381%, respectively, down by 9.01 bps and 12.90 bps. Treasury bills (T-bills) fell, led by the 364-day papers which fetched 0.8443%, lower by 48.57 bps. The benchmark 91-day T-bill went down by 44.50 bps to 0.4000%, while the 182-day T-bill fell 37.50 bps to 0.6750%. “Short-term debts also fell steeply as capital flows are going to emerging markets, following the QE (quantitative easing) 3 by the US Federal Reserve,” the bond trader said. The Fed announced in September it would purchase $40 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities a month and keep the federal funds rate at near zero until mid-2015. Week on week, yields went down by an average 8.33 bps. “Continue to expect interest rates to move sideways in the week ahead. BSP said its next move would be data-dependent,” said Jonathan L. Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank, Inc. “In the short term, expect the curve to move sideways with an upward bias on possible profit-taking,” the bond trader said, “For the medium term, expect a further flattening of the curve on the back of the country’s good fundamentals.” Mr. Algarra, for his part, said: “Yields are already range-bound, especially nearing the end of the year, since the good fundamentals were already factored in. I do not expect another rate cut this year, as the Monetary Board is considering other measures to manage strong capital inflows--such as higher reserve requirement for banks.” --Carmina Angelica C. Valeroso‐Tracker‐:‐Gov%E2%80%99t‐ debts‐rally‐as‐inflation‐slows&id=61267

Peso seen range-bound this week THE PESO is expected to be range-bound this week with its uptrend against the dollar likely capped by demand for greenbacks by companies seeking to pay mid-month obligations.

The local unit gained 13 centavos to close at P41.05 per dollar last Friday against its P41.18-per-dollar finish on Oct. 31, the last trading day of the previous week. “The peso’s movement next week will largely depend on corporates’ demand for dollars for their mid-month requirements,” a trader said in a phone interview last Friday. Companies usually purchase dollars during the middle of and towards the end of the month to settle their offshore obligations. “Oil companies will likely purchase dollars to pay for imports,” the trader said. In a separate phone interview, another trader said “dealers could also take advantage of the peso’s strong appreciation against the dollar to purchase dollars.” “This could push the peso lower against the dollar,” he pointed out. Both traders noted that news from the US and Europe would still dictate the peso’s movement against the greenback. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics is scheduled to release inflation data for October on Nov. 15. The peso is seen trading within the P40.90- to P41.40-per-dollar band this week. -- Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio‐seen‐range‐bound‐this‐ week&id=61270               

Bill to breeze through bicam THE PRIORITY measure seeking to hike excise taxes on tobacco and liquor products will breeze through a bicameral committee, a lawmaker said yesterday, noting that the Senate almost copied the House version as regards tobacco products.

"The portion of the sin tax bill on cigarettes, we (Senate and House) have almost the same versions ... there’s very little difference," Senator Franklin M. Drilon, acting Senate ways and means committee chairman, said in a radio interview yesterday. "I can say that before the year ends, President Noynoy (Benigno S. C. Aquino III) will sign the sin tax bill," he said in Filipino, when asked for the expected date of Congress’ ratification of the "sin" tax measure. For his part, Davao Rep. Isidro T. Ungab said in a text message: "I hope they (Senate) can finish it (sin tax bill) this month so we can have the bicameral conference committee by December, and [the bill will be] ready for signing by the President by end of this year." Senate Bill (SB) No. 3299 is expected to raise about P45 billion in additional revenues. It proposes a single tax rate of P32.00 for all cigarettes by 2016. The Senate version also proposes a 5% increase every year beginning January 2014 for tax rates of tobacco and alcohol products, while House Bill (HB) No. 5727, approved in June, proposes an 8% increase every two years from 2015 to 2025. The House version is expected to generate P30 billion in incremental revenues. Both versions propose the same excise tax rates for tobacco products and cigarettes packed by machine. For cigars, the Senate version proposes a combination of specific and ad valorem rates. The tax per cigar is P150 plus 10% of the net retail price per cigar under the Senate version. HB 5727, on the other hand, proposes only a tax of P150 for per cigar. Under SB 3299, rates for cigarettes packed by hand will go up to P12.00 per pack on Jan. 1, 2013, P22.00 on Jan. 1, 2014, and P28.00 on Jan. 1, 2015. Meanwhile, under HB 5727, the rates will be P7.56 per pack on Jan. 1, 2013 and P12.00 on Jan. 1, 2014.Both versions propose the same rates for wines. For distilled spirits, HB 5727 proposes three tiers with specific rates while SB 3299 wants a combination of specific and ad valorem rates. For fermented liquor, both versions propose the same number of tiers, but the House version set the net retail price at P50.60 and below and P50.60 and above, while the Senate version is at P22.00 and below and P22 and above. Mr. Drilon, also the finance committee chair, has said he wants approval of SB 3299 on Nov. 19. This will allow him to sponsor the committee report on the 2013 budget on Nov. 20. The government is touting the measure as a health bill, which, at the same time, will improve the country’s credit profile. -- Kathryn Mae P. Tubadeza‐to‐breeze‐through‐ bicam&id=61246

Gov’t told to support more hydro projects A HYDROPOWER generation advocate is asking the Department of Energy (DoE) to push further cleaner energy development on the island.

Because of hydropower, generation cost on the island is about a third cheaper compared with the mixed generation cost in the Visayas and Luzon grids, said Cerael C. Donggay, Greenergy Development Corp. president, said. The effective rate of consumer electricity in Mindanao is about P7.50 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) compared with up to P11/kWh in the two other island regions. This. Mr. Donggay said, is what prompted Mindanao power consumers, industries, private utilities and electric cooperatives, together with the chambers of commerce on the island to block the sale of the Agus Plant Complex (plants 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 & 7) and the Pulangi 4 hydropower plant, which collectively supply more than half of Mindanao’s peak demand currently tracked at about 1,300 megawatts (MW). Aside from Greenergy, the Aboitiz Power subsidiary Hedcor, Inc. is also building small-capacity hydropower projects all over the Davao Region and Northern Mindanao. The bulk of new power generation facilities being constructed on the island, however, are coal-fired power plants located in Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, and Central Mindanao. With the hopes of establishing an independent and cost-effective power generation, Mr. Donggay said Greenergy conducted feasibility studies on the proposed 132-MW Bulanog-Batang hydropower project in 2005 and the Pulangi 5 project, that will produce over 200 MW of electricity. The moves were done on the basis of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) law passed in 2001. However, seven years since the Bulanog-Batang and four years after the Pulangi 5 projects were initiated, the DoE has announced that the service contracts would be based on the guidelines of the Renewable Energy Law, or Republic Act (RA) 9153, that took effect in 2009, Mr. Donggay said. Under RA 9153, the two projects, including the Agus 3 hydropower project in Lanao, should be subjected to public bidding. This effectively delays the implementation of the Bulanog-Batang and Pulangi 5 projects. "Nowhere does the EPIRA law state that potential hydro sites shall be subjected to public bidding," he said. "We are not blocking the putting up of medium-term plants as we also acknowledge [their] necessity, but we want the government to also promote renewable energy," he added. The usual criticism is that hydropower plants are unavailable during the dry season. But there are ways to develop these plants to produce enough energy even during dry spell, for example by way of reforestation efforts which is a requirement in maintaining hydropower plant operation, he said. -Rochie Lou‐told‐to‐support‐ more‐hydro‐projects&id=61244    

Connector road proposal reaches NEDA board

THE ELEVATED road link proposal of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) has advanced to the National Economic and Development Authority Board after hurdling the state agency’s Cabinet Committee, an official of the listed company said last week.

"We already got the approval of the NEDA-CabCom (Cabinet Committee)," Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. Chief Executive Officer Ramoncito S. Fernandez said in a telephone interview. NEDA officials were not available for confirmation while Public-Private Partnership Center Executive Director Cossette V. Canilao only said: "It (MPIC proposal) has yet to be approved by the NEDA Board." Mr. Fernandez said the NEDA had noted that issues over the common alignment with the elevated toll road proposal of San Miguel Corp. and the Citra Group of Indonesia should still be resolved. MPIC and the Citra Group began negotiations last month on the common segments of their competing elevated road projects that will connect North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) to South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), he said. MPIC had proposed a "connector road," which is a P22.95 billion, 13.4-kilometer, and four-lane elevated expressway over Philippine National Railway lines spanning Caloocan to Makati. San Miguel and the Citra Group plan to build a P25.4-billion, 14-kilometer, six-lane elevated tollway parallel to the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, with exits at Gil Puyat Avenue, Quirino Avenue, Plaza Dilao, Aurora Boulevard, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon Boulevard, Sgt. Rivera, and Balintawak. The project is dubbed "Skyway 3," since it is supposed to be a continuation of the existing Skyway project. MPIC’s project, being an unsolicited proposal, still has to undergo a Swiss challenge even after being approved by the NEDA board, while San Miguel-Citra’s project only needs the approval of the Toll Regulatory Board and the Palace. While the two projects have different alignments, there is a five-kilometer common segment, which runs from Sta. Mesa in Manila to Gil Puyat in Makati. Last May, the connector road of MPIC and the Skyway 3 of San Miguel-Citra were both allowed to proceed by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III. Both projects will start construction early next year and are expected to be finished by late 2015. MPIC is the local unit of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., which partly owns the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT). Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a minority stake in BusinessWorld. -- Cliff Harvey C. Venzon‐road‐proposal‐reaches‐ NEDA‐board&id=61241  

PhilHealth coverage set for children STATE HEALTH insurance coverage for children ages six and below is set to be offered next semester in line with the universal health care program, a senior official said. CHILDREN AT PLAY: potential state health insurance beneficiaries -- Jonathan L. Cellona

"We are seriously studying a program to insure children from ages zero to six," Alexander A. Padilla, executive vice-president and chief operating officer at the Philippine Health Insurance, Corp. (PhilHealth), told BusinessWorldlast Friday. "This is something that the President [Benigno S. C. Aquino III] really wants," he added. "So, things are being finalized and we are looking at launching the program sometime in the first half of next year." Program details are still being streamlined, the official said, and noted that "the children will be enrolled on all insured ailments." The program forms part of the government’s plan for "Kalusugan Pangkalahatan" or universal health care. "The program is part of the government’s goal of health care for all," Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona said in a separate interview. "First, having indigents insured then children and then all. That’s the goal" Mr. Padilla added: "The main reason for the program is the majority of Filipino children are not beneficiaries of any PhilHealth member." Funding for the scheme will still be finalized, Mr. Padilla said, adding that the money will come from internal funds of the insurer and not the national budget. "It’s going under final actuarial study, but what’s sure is that PhilHealth funds will be used to fund the program," he said, assuring that the state insurer has sufficient funds. A circular streamlining health care provider accreditation was, meanwhile, released by the PhilHealth yesterday. "PhilHealth shall streamline the process of engaging the IHCPs (Institutional Health Care Providers) through… adopting automatic accreditation of IHCPs licensed or certified by the Department of Health (DoH), or any other certifying body recognized by PhilHealth," according to Circular No. 054-2012 published in a newspaper.Mr. Padilla explained by phone yesterday that the circular "makes it easier" for health care providers to seek reimbursement from PhilHealth. "Before there was a separate accreditation from the DoH and PhilHealth. So, they could not or it was hard for them to reimburse until they were accredited by us," he said. According to the circular, PhilHealth "continuously undertakes corporate-wide reforms that focus on organizational strengthening, expanding membership, enhancing benefits and establishing effective partnership with health care providers." "All these endeavors are geared towards ensuring financial risk protection for all Filipinos," it read.‐coverage‐set‐for‐ children&id=61259

Angara to gov’t: Invest in ‘green technology’ Published : Monday, November 12, 2012 00:00 Article Views : 26 Written by : Mamer Bañez

BALER, Aurora -- Senator Edgardo J. Angara called on the government to invest in so-called “green technology” through the use of renewable energy (RE) resources to spare Filipino consumers from high electricity rates and perennial power rate hikes. This after the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) recently announced that it will increase itselectricity rates this month due to an increase in generation cost last month. Last month’selectricity rates were also higher than the previous month’s. Angara said, “In investing on the Philippines’ vast RE potential, the country could save millions in foreign reserves which could translate to lower electricity rates for ordinary Filipino consumers. In these hard times, savings generated by Filipino families from power costs could be spent on other basic needs such as food and education.” To sustain growth and manage the environmental impacts, it is imperative that we put in place an enabling environment to promote clean development. The future is in clean renewable energy, which is predicted to be one of the biggest industries in the next five years, Angara added. According to the study, worldwide government-led research and development rose by 120 percent, with wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy as the most popular fields. A record US$211 billion was channeled into renewable energy projects, a full third higher than the investments in 2009.

In Asia, there was a recorded increase of 31 percent in government investment totaling to US$4 billion. Meanwhile, Thailand led the ASEAN region in terms of “green” spending.‐angara‐to‐govt‐invest‐in‐green‐ technology                                         

2012 11 12 - QUEDANCOR Daily News Monitor  

News monitor for 2012 11 12

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