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As ‘sin tax’ looms, gov’t tends to tobacco farmers  By Niña P. Calleja  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:06 am | Saturday, December 15th, 2012  

HOPING to minimize the impact of the “sin tax” measure, the tobacco industry will have to resort to “import substitution” and step up local production of tobacco while cutting back on imports. Edgardo Zaragoza, head of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA), said the attached agency of the Department of Agriculture is scheduled to meet with manufacturers of cigarette and tobacco products on Wednesday next week to discuss measures on how to deal with the “sin tax bill” once it is signed into law by President Aquino. The senators approved on Monday the sin tax bill on the third and final reading after agreeing on a 60:40 burden-sharing ratio between tobacco and alcohol taxes. By next year, the new measure is expected to raise an additional P33.96 billion in taxes, on top of present collections from tobacco and alcohol products. “The sin tax law wouldn’t affect the industry perhaps until next year. But we have to see how the market will respond in the succeeding years,” Zaragoza told the Inquirer. He said the NTA is coordinating with cigarette manufacturers about the important qualities of imported tobacco products should they replace it with locally produced one. To keep the tobacco farmers employed, the industry must rely on export demand if the local consumption of cigarettes would decline in the next few years. According to the NTA, of the total production of tobacco in 2011, 52 percent of it was exported while the rest are consumed within the country. “Assuming we maintain or increase the level of exports, there’s a good chance the industry wouldn’t suffer losses (from the sin tax bill). We have to do import substitution,” he said. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala expressed confidence that the bill would not affect tobacco farmers in the country. “I’ll bet the number of tobacco farmers in the country would stay the same. If ever there would be a decline in local consumption, there’s always a big demand outside the country,” he said. “As long as the income is there, they (farmers) will continue planting,” Alcala added.

PH farm mechanization gaining ground but still behind neighbors Published on 15 December 2012   Written by JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ  

The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Friday said that Philippines is slowly increasing its farm mechanization level, but stressed that much more needs to done to modernize the country’s agriculture sector.

Rex Bingabing, executive director of DA-Philippine Center for Mechanization and Postharvest Development (PhilMech), said that based on results of their survey conducted from the early part of the year, the country’s farm mechanization level is now at 1 horsepower per hectare (hp/ha), higher than the initial 0.52hp/ha. “It could actually be higher than 1.20 hp/ha overall, and even higher for rice farms at 1.60hp/ha,” Bingabing said in a media briefing. He noted that the last official figure from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics was around 0.52hp/ha, but the data dates back to the 1990s. The PhilMech chief said that new survey covers the period of 2007 to 2012, and was based on the number of farm machineries sold and deployed during the same period. Despite the positive development, Bingabing said that the Philippines continued to lag behind its Southeast Asian neighbors. “If there is any consolation, we are slightly ahead of Myanmar in terms of farm mechanization. The Philippines has to do much catching up,” Bingabing said after attending the First International Conference on Agricultural Machinery and Rice Production held at Thailand in November. The conference was held to provide stakeholders idea on how rice production has progressed in the region. “It is only now and during the past few years that farm mechanization is being taken seriously by the government,” he said, noting that Secretary Proceso Alcala has taken massive effort to disperse various farm machineries up to 2016. In terms of farm mechanization in Asia, Japan remained the leader with 7hp/ha, followed by South Korea and China with 4.11hp/ha and 4.10 hp/ha, respectively. The Philippines, which aims to level with Vietnam at 1.56 hp/ha in farm mechanization, also continued to lag behind Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia—which all started efforts to mechanize their farms in the 1950s.Bingabing is confident that the country will meet its farm mechanization target of 1.5 hp/ha or even higher by 2016.

Flour millers seek tariff cover  By Julito G. Rada | Posted on Dec. 15, 2012 at 12:01am  

Local flour millers plan to ask the government to impose safeguard measures against wheat flour imports to ensure the viability of the industry. An industry source said local millers wanted to follow the lead of their Indonesian counterparts, who asked their government to impose safeguard duties on wheat imports. The source said imported flour, especially from Turkey, had been flooding the Philippine market, threatening the survival of local stakeholders. “The Indonesian flour industry’s action could prod other Asean countries, including the Philippines, to do the same action because they also face the same threat from heavily-subsidized Turkish flour imports,” the source said. The Indonesian government started an investigation on Aug. 24 after it was asked by the Indonesian Flour Mills Association to impose safeguard measures on imported flour. The Indonesian government then informed the World Trade Organization that a 200-day provisional safeguard measure of 20-percent ad valorem duty would be slapped on imported flour. A notice circulated by the delegation of Indonesia showed the trend of Indonesian import volume increased 9.7 percent during the period 2008 to 2011.


Landbank allots P2.1­B assistance loans to banana growers   By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Landbank of the Philippines is allotting at least P2.1 billion in assistance loans to commercial banana growers whose crops were damaged by typhoon “Pablo,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said. In an interview on the sidelines of the National Food Staples Convention of Food Staple Producers at the Manila Hotel, Alcala said the assistance loan to be provided by Landbank would have a moratorium of 18 months before requiring farmers to settle their payments. “It will take ten months to rehabilitate the banana industry so they should be given special assistance by the government,” said Alcala. He said the interest rate for the assistance loans would be placed at lower than six percent per annum. Agriculture damage caused by Pablo has reached P11.70 billion as of Tuesday. Banana losses have risen to P7.47 billion consisting of 160,982 metric tons (MT) of produce. Affected areas covered 26,743 hectares, of which 25,907 have no chance of recovery while 836 hectares may still recover. Damage to rice crops has reached P407.39 million, consisting of 16,588 MT of produce. Affected areas covered 27,566 hectares of which 26,186 have no chance of recovery while 1,380 hectares may still recover. Damage to corn was placed at P1.24 billion consisting of 76,787 MT. Affected areas covered 34,893 hectares of which 32,838 have no chance of recovery while 2,055 hectares may still recover. Alcala said most of the damaged corn crops were cultivated for the third cropping scheme promoted by the government to increase corn production this year. Farmers whose crops have been permanently damaged will be given replacement seeds. He said the damage to palay would not significantly impact on production goals this year because most farmers have already finished harvesting for the fourth quarter. The damage to rice fields, however, would delay dry season cropping, perhaps in the first quarter of 2013. The coconut sector, on the other hand, incurred P766.822 million in damage with over a million trees felled. The high-value crops sector lost P153.540 million, while the livestock and poultry sector incurred P415.669 million in losses. Damage to the fisheries sector reached P27.124 million. The typhoon also damaged farm infrastructure, with irrigation facilities sustaining the brunt at P1.175 billion, followed by fisheries at P33.695 million.

Farmers take over DAR chief’s office  By DJ Yap  Philippine Daily Inquirer   11:06 am | Saturday, December 15th, 2012  

DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes. MANILA, Philippines—Militant farmers on Friday barged into the office of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes in Quezon City to demand his resignation over his department’s slow-paced implementation of land distribution. Delos Reyes was not around to meet them. About 50 members of the farmers group Task Force Mapalad (TFM) entered the compound of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) at noon, proceeded to the fourth floor where Delos Reyes held office and barricaded his door with a chain and padlock. The protesters also taped on the wall a large poster that read, “The DAR is declared off-limits to Gil delos Reyes et al by orders of the bosses of [President Aquino],” an allusion to the President’s famous “Kayo ang boss ko (You are my boss)” address to Filipinos. ‘They could not stop us’ “They could not stop us,” TFM national deputy coordinator Lanie Factor said after the security guards allowed them to enter the building and occupy the lobby just outside Delos Reyes’ office. A police team was later deployed to the compound to secure the area. Contacted by phone, Delos Reyes, who was in Makati City for a meeting, said he was monitoring the situation and had asked his subordinates to “negotiate” with the farmers, most of whom came from Negros Occidental, and some from Batangas, Bukidnon and Davao Oriental. Factor said the farmers were not there to seek a dialogue with Delos Reyes, but to send a strong message to Mr. Aquino to fire the official. She said their stay in the office should “prevent Delos Reyes from returning to his office.” The group assailed what they called the Cabinet member’s failure to address the farmers’ demands to expedite the process of land distribution.

25-percent progress They said Delos Reyes distributed only 42,234 hectares of land from January to August, constituting only 25 percent of the 180,000 hectare target for 2012. But Delos Reyes said the criticism was unfair, noting that more landholdings have been distributed since August. He estimated distribution to reach between 140,000 and 160,000 hectares by the end of the year. The official admitted that the DAR was taking more time than previous administrations in processing land transfers for the farmer beneficiaries under the agrarian reform law. Requires time “It’s true that we are slow. But we are working right now to improve the system, and that requires time. We can’t reform the old system by being haphazard about it,” Delos Reyes said. He pointed out that previous governments were speedier because they were mostly distributing government-owned properties, whereas the incumbent DAR leadership was grappling with private landholdings. Delos Reyes said the DAR was also struggling with a number of problems that contributed to the delays, including the digitization of land records at the Land Registration Authority and lost or missing titles, among other issues. “I understand where the farmers are coming from, but we’re doing our best. We just need time,” he said. He admitted he was experiencing problems in “communicating to the general public how much we have been trying to correct deficiencies in the old system.” Leadership crisis But Factor said her group had had enough with Delos Reyes, and there was nothing he could do to convince them that he could be effective at his job. She said there was a crisis of leadership at the DAR under Delos Reyes, and that he did not appear to enjoy the confidence of the DAR employees. A separate protest rally was staged on Friday by members of the DAR Employees Association, which, like TFM, was seeking Delos Reyes’ resignation over reasons, including purported plans to shrink the DAR workforce, something which the official had denied.

Banana exports to US suspended   By Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

DAVAO CITY , Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) has suspended the export of Philippine Cavendish bananas to the United States after super typhoon “Pablo” devastated Compostela Valley last week and destroyed more than 14,000 hectares of banana plantations with losses estimated at P8 billion. Exports were suspended despite the approval by the US of the importation of at least 3,000 tons of bananas from the Philippines. Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) executive director Stephen Antig said their group is still verifying the report from the DA. “We will ask first about the suspension,” Antig said. Agriculture Secretray Proceso Alcala said the government would provide assistance for the rehabilitation of the country’s banana industry. The banana industry stakeholders have also asked the government to help in seeking from the Land Bank of the Philippines a moratorium on the payment of loans of the banana growers, given the tremendous losses incurred by the plantation operators. Close to 60,000 workers were affected by the destruction of the 14,000 hectares of banana farms in Compostela Valley.


Level of farm mechanization in Phl rising   By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The level of farm mechanization in the country has risen to one horsepower per hectare (h/ha) from 0.52 hp/ha in the ‘90s, making it possible for the country to catch up with neighboring Southeast Asian countries by 2016, according to the latest survey done by the Philippine Center for Mechanization and Postharvest Development (Philmech). In a briefing yesterday, Philmech executive director Rex Bingabing said that based on the initial results of the survey which was conducted this year, the current level farm of mechanization in the country is at least one hp/ha overall. For rice cultivation areas alone, the mechanization level is placed at 1.60 hp/ha. With continued investment in farm mechanization by the government and the private sector, the local farm mechanization level can rise to two hp/ha by next year. The new survey on the level of farm mechanization in the country covers the period 2007 to 2012 and is based on the number of farm machineries sold and deployed during the period. In 1995, the level of farm mechanization in the country was placed by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) at 0.52 hp/ha. The Philippines still lags behind other countries in Southeast Asia in terms of farm mechanization. Among the leaders in Asia are Japan with a mechanization level of seven hp/ha, South Korea at 4.11 hp/ha, China with 4.10 hp/ha, and Vietnam with 1.56 hp/ha. The country’s farm mechanization level is now currently at par with those of Pakistan and India which also has mechanization levels of 1.02 ph/ha Increased farm mechanization, or the use of machinery to ease drudgery and time spent on crop cultivation and maintenance, can significantly shorten land preparation time from one month to only two weeks and harvest time from a regular coverage of one hectare per day to four hectares per day.

The Agriculture department last year launched its mechanization program for rice farming as part of its efforts to make the country self-sufficient in rice supply by 2013. This year, the department has a budget of P2.6 billion for farm machinery subsidies. Last year, the department released P1 billion; for 2013, it has allocated a budget of P2.4 billion for farm mechanization. During the program’s six-year duration, the target is to purchase and distribute up to 7,000 postharvest units and 90,000 units of on-farm machineries. Under the farm modernization program, the DA can subsidize up to 95 percent of the acquisition costs of farm machineries by qualified farmer organizations and irrigators’ associations. The remaining 15 percent of the acquisition cost can be shouldered by the beneficiaries themselves, their respective local government units or other private entities. “It is only now and during the past few years that farm mechanization is being taken seriously by the government,” said Bingabing. He said the country’s newfound aggressiveness for pursuing food sufficiency is now recognized by other countries. “Vietnam now considers the Philippines as a potential competitor in rice production.”

Agri Plain Talk 

They Persevered And They Won By ZAC B. SARIAN  December 14, 2012, 4:02pm 

AMPALAYA AS EAST‐WEST MAJOR CROP — The ampalaya is a major focus of  breeding at the East‐West Seed Company... 

The great success that the East-West Seed is enjoying today is the result of dogged perseverance and the strong belief that a good and reliable seed could have more lasting impact on our farmers than the billions of aid money from well-meaning donor nations and NGOs. That could be very true because the impact of a good seed is directly felt not only by the small but also the big-time farmers. Countless farmers are continuing to benefit year after year from not just one seed but a series of improved seeds that the company’s researchers are churning out every year. While East-West is considered the leading vegetable seed company in the Philippines today, achieving success was far from easy. The early years, starting 1982 when it was established by Simon N. Groot of the Netherlands and Benito M. Domingo of the Philippines, were particularly rough years. Mr. Groot recalls during talks over lunch at the company’s 30th anniversary that it took them 10 years to reach the first $1-million mark in sales. After their first building was put up, they were already running out of money so that they had to buy second hand furniture for their offices. Up to this day, the P200-second hand table that Mr. Groot used in those difficult years is still kept at the East-West headquarters in San Rafael. After achieving the $1 million annual sale, however, the sailing had become more smooth. Sister companies have since been established in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India and China. Promoting the “pinakbet” type of vegetables was a smart tack that East-West took. That’s because in “pinakbet” many kinds of vegetables are cooked together in one dish. In the authentic

Ilocano pinakbet, as many as 15 or even more vegetables, including minor ones, are cooked together. These include ampalaya fruit and shoot, eggplant, tomato, stringbeans, patani, radish fruits, alokon, paayap, sweet pepper, finger pepper, malunggay fruits, kadios seeds, gabi tuber, patola, okra, katuray flowers and bataw. Cooked with “bagnet” or broiled “dalag”, and just enough tomato sauce and water, the concoction could make a superb one-dish meal. Mr. Groot said, they thought of promoting the pinakbet type vegetables because at that time, it was the favorite dish of former President Marcos. He has tried to promote the same dish in Indonesia but has not succeeded so far. The production of superior varieties is just one part of the cycle. What is equally important is the dissemination of the varieties and the production techniques that go with the seeds. The company has been successful along this line. It has put up demo farms in various places, has conducted workshops and seminars, conducted what it calls road shows and many more. One project that has become successful is the Tanim Sa Kinabukasan project or TSK whereby the technicians of the company collaborate with school officials to put up a vegetable garden showcase right on the school campus. Here, the students participate in putting up the garden, in sowing the seeds, transplanting them and then caring for them up to maturity. At the end of the cycle, a harvest festival is held. Parents of the children and other target groups are also invited to see the beautiful vegetables taken care of by the students and their mentors alike. So successful has the TSK program become that the Oh My Gulay project started by Sen. Edgardo Angara has been hitched to the TSK. Now, to cover more schools, the gardening-incharge in interested educational institutions are sent to the East-West for training. East-West Seed is not only focused on the production of seed varieties. It is also focused on other means of improving productivity. One example of late is the promotion of grafted ampalaya planting materials. This technique is increasing the productive life of the crop by an additional 10 harvests. Then it is promoting what is called permaculture farming, which we will delve into in another write up. At the 30th anniversary celebration of East-West last December 12, 30 outstanding vegetable farmers were honored for their exemplary achievements. Some of them have risen from poverty to become multi-millionaires because of the technologies they have adopted from East-West and other sources.

Cebu Farmers Getting P11-Million Equipment By PHOEBE JEN INDINO December 14, 2012, 10:36pm BOGO CITY, Cebu — Close to 2,200 farmer beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in this province will benefit from the R11 million worth of farming equipment which will be provided by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) next year. Lawyer Jonathan Sinco, DAR Assistant Regional Director for Operations in a recent forum here bared that DAR already approved the funding for Cebu under the Agrarian Reform Community Connectivity and Economic Support Services Program (ARCESS). ARCESS is an inter-sectoral partnership program between government, state universities, colleges, civil society organizations, and private sector organizations which aims to provide a range of services to ARB organizations including access to markets and competing capabilities. He said that about 2,149 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from 11 municipalities of Cebu that will benefit from the program through the farming equipment acquisition which is part of the DARs modernization program. “Even non-agrarian reform beneficiaries will also benefit from the project. In the list are 1,115 of them from five towns,” Sinco said. Earlier, DAR Secretary Virgilio De Los Reyes visited the town of Asturias which is set to receive hand tractors, power tillers and thresher through the lead farmer organization Pundok sa Mag-uuma (PUMAG). Asturias along with Toledo City and Pinamungahan town will receive a total of R4.3 million for their enhanced rice project while Bogo City and Medellin of the 4th District will receive four tractors for Enhanced Sugarcane and Vegetable Production worth R2.580 million. Moreover, the towns of Argao, Ronda, Sibonga, Moalboal will collectively receive R1.2 million and another R1.2 million both for Carcar City and Sibonga. Also, the municipality of Liloan is a recipient of the R2.2 million funding for a Milking Park Plant.‐farmers‐getting‐p11million‐equipment#.UMxd6qwXvHs


Visayas Newsbits 

MORE PAG-IBIG OFFICES TO OPEN December 14, 2012, 10:32pm 

CEBU CITY — To bring its services closer to thier clients, the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) or Pag-IBIG fund is expected to open more branches in the Visayas given its growing number of members. Victoria dela Pena, Pab-IBIG Fund Visayas group vice president bared that by next year five large offices will be opened in the Visayas area with Dumaguete City satellite branch now being a full pledge office. She added that the service offices in the cities of Talisay, Tagbilaran and Mandue will also be launched as a full pledge office while the branches in Carcar City and Toledo City are expected to follow. (Phoebe Jen Indino)‐pagibig‐offices‐to‐open#.UMxegKwXvHs                              

Amazing growth of microfinance   BUSINESS & LEISURE By Ray Butch Gamboa (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐  12:00am 

Microfinance may have taken its roots in the countryside, but it is now fully embraced as a powerful driver of the economy. The term actually takes on different meanings, depending on its application and the sector it benefits (private or public, etc.). At the helm of providing access to microfinance to as broad a sector as possible are the country’s rural banks. I certainly don’t count as an authority in banking or economics or anything related to these, but I am an ardent listener, interested to learn anything outside my sphere. So, when one of our resource persons patiently talked about the subject during an on-cam interview for our TV show Business & Leisure, I sat up and listened. What readily comes to mind when you talk of microfinance is what the rural banks started out to do, which is to provide small loans to micro and small entrepreneurs, mostly in the countryside. These are usually collateralized for the protection of the banks. USAID started a program called MABS (Micro Access to Banking Services) and later enlisted the country’s numerous rural banks to partner with the agency. USAID fully funded this program which was started 15 years ago in Mindanao. Through MABS, loans were given out to micro and small entrepreneurs who couldn’t come up with the necessary collaterals. Instead, what was focused on and closely monitored was the borrower’s cash flow. The program took hold in Mindanao where many small and struggling businessmen enlisted in MABS and successfully paid off their loans. USAID actually partnered with the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP), the umbrella organization of reliable and well-capitalized rural banks for the MABS program, where they further developed products for rural banks which would lessen the bank’s risks of lending to small entrepreneurs without collateral. It was actually the association, RBAP, which developed the approach of relying on the borrower’s cash flow in lieu of securing collateral. After 15 years, MABS has successfully served over a million micro borrowers, with loans amounting to over P40 billion given out to small entrepreneurs. It has changed lives in Mindanao, but MABS has spread to many other parts of the Philippines. It is especially effective in areas that have little or no access to banking services. After 15 years of successfully funding and closely monitoring the program, USAID has exited from the program, leaving RBAP with the technology and expertise to handle the microfinance program on its own. RBAP readily assumed the role that USAID gladly passed on to them, and they have incorporated it into their own program. Business & Leisure spoke with RBAP president Leandro Garcia who seemed very pleased with how the program has indeed changed thousands of lives in Mindanao and in other far flung areas in the country. The partnership that was forged between USAID and RBAP has in fact expanded well beyond their expectation. Since August 2010, some 197 banks have been certified by the RBAP and the Rural Bankers Research and Development Foundation, with the Bangko Sentral

issuing a notice of no objection. RBAP has so mastered the technology that they are inviting other rural banks who have not yet enrolled into the program to try it out – they can provide them the necessary technology and provide them too with the training and support to carry out the program successfully in their areas. After they exited from the MABS program, USAID went into another program, an offshoot of the old MABS. This time it involves Mobile Money Services (it is called SIM program, but I don’t know what the acronym stands for) which is an altogether new concept in the provinces. Garcia says the SIM program is slowly gaining grounds in the countryside, but it has not grown by leaps and bounds. It takes time, and a lot of resources, to educate our brothers in the hinterlands to embrace the new concept of using mobile money for deposit to pay their bills and other obligations, but the rural banks are again at the forefront of getting the idea assimilated in the provinces, but it’s not a walk in the park, as they came to realize. “I think the No. 1 lesson we learned, if we want to develop it, we’ll have to have other players in the loop…so everything can now be done through mobile,” says Leandro Garcia. They are also now into micro insurance—“more on the life term insurance of micro borrowers,” explains Garcia. Their target is to have at least a million micro beneficiaries. So far, they already have about 400,000 clients, but they clearly need more support to educate our brethren in the countryside. It is not easy to promote micro insurance; there are a lot of clients out there that need to be covered, but insurance is not among their priorities. These are the farmers and small entrepreneurs who feel that the money they will spend for insurance premiums are better spent on their actual business operations. They need to be educated on the far-reaching benefits of micro insurance which have been packaged into affordable, pliable schemes to accommodate or fit into the operations of these farmers and small entrepreneurs. Our rural banks have grown so much in number in recent years, and a few of them are so wellcapitalized that they could easily be counted in the scale of thrift banks. The capital infused into these rural banks come mainly from the owners of the banks themselves, unlike commercial banks that are allowed to get investors to come in, or get more capital infusion through foreign equity or even through the stock exchange. This is the edge of commercial and thrift banks over the rural banks, which is why they are pushing for the bill in the Senate that would allow them to accept foreign equity in rural banks. The House has apparently approved a 40 percent equity. It is up to the Senate to determine what equity will be passed. Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino. For comments: (email)

Gov’t workers warned against soliciting Christmas gifts   By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Government workers should not solicit or accept gifts in exchange for favors during the holiday season. Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairman Francisco Duque III issued this reminder, saying erring government employees may be dismissed from the service even on the first offense. He cited those accepting gifts from clients, suppliers and contractors. “Gifts may be construed as a bribe or reward in exchange for a favor or better treatment. Serving the public is our duty and we must give the best possible service without expecting anything in return,” Duque said. Duque said Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees prohibits civil servants from soliciting or accepting gifts, favors, loans or anything of monetary value in the course of their official duties. Under RA 6713, a gift is deemed proper or improper depending on its value, the relationship between the giver and the receiver and the intent. Something of monetary value is “one which is evidently or manifestly excessive by its very nature.” Only gifts from family members given without expectation of pecuniary benefit; those coming from persons with no regular, pending or expected transactions with the government office where the receiver belongs; those from private organizations given with humanitarian and altruistic intent; and those donated by one government entity to another are not prohibited.Duque also called on all government agencies to provide continuous, high-quality service amid Christmas parties and other yearend activities. “Christmas is the season of gift-giving and the best gift we can give to the Filipino public is the promise of excellent and honest public service not only this holiday season but onwards,” he said. The CSC chief said government offices may implement appropriate strategies, such as shifting schedules, to ensure that the public is consistently served within the prescribed government working hours. “Even if Christmas parties are scheduled during lunch break, the law says that there should be no interruption in service,” he said. Duque said RA 9485, also known as the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, provides that “heads of offices and agencies which render frontline services shall adopt appropriate working schedules to ensure that all clients who are within their premises prior to the end of official working hours are attended to and served even during lunch break and after regular working hours.”‐workers‐warned‐against‐soliciting‐ christmas‐gifts

‘Pablo’ aftermath: 900 still missing   By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The search and retrieval operations for victims of typhoon “Pablo” in New Bataan, Compostela Valley have shifted to search and retrieval, with government troops yesterday recovering 10 more decomposing bodies in the storm-ravaged town. “We are now shifting to retrieval mode. From this morning to this hour, we have retrieved 10 additional bodies,” Lt. Col. Antonino Florendo, commander of the 66th Infantry Battalion based in New Bataan, said at noon yesterday. The latest fatalities were recovered amid flood debris in several downstream areas away from the devastated Barangay Andap, Florendo said. He said the victims could have been swept away by rampaging floodwaters that struck highland communities before slamming into downstream villages, including the New Bataan village Tuesday last week. “We are now focusing on searching downstream where flood debris collected. The bodies that we retrieved there were almost beyond recognition,” Florendo said. The latest find has yet to reflect in the growing official death toll released yesterday by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which has reached 906 dead. The flashflood in New Bataan did not spare Florendo’s headquarters as well as the battalion’s forward command post manned by the elements of Charlie Company in Barangay Andap, leaving four soldiers dead and seven others missing. More than 20 soldiers from the Army battalion tapped for disaster duties were also injured, three of them still in critical condition.

Pablo’s huge number of fatalities came from the Davao region (Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental) with 848 reported deaths, while the rest came from Caraga region; Western Mindanao; Central, Eastern and Western Visayas regions and Southern Tagalog (Palawan). The death toll is expected to further increase as search and retrieval operations are still underway for the 932 missing, including 311 fishermen from General Santos City who failed to return and have not communicated with their families. The cost of damage to government and private infrastructure as well as to the agriculture and fishery sectors has already ballooned to more than P15 billion. The NDRRMC reported 19,212 families or about 79,885 dependents have remained in 63 evacuation centers in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces. More relief A Navy cargo ship sailed to Davao Oriental yesterday from its homeport in Sangley Point in Cavite with tons of donated food and non-food items for distribution to the thousands of evacuees who are now relying mainly on donations for survival. The military also delivered tons of food packs to the devastated town of Baganga, Davao Oriental. Lt. Col. Krishnamurti Mortela said they have already unloaded at least 75,801 packs of food supplies to at least 18 villages. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) released around P27 million for the cash grants of Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) family-beneficiaries in typhoon-hit areas in Mindanao. Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the agency disbursed cash subsidies to 4Ps beneficiaries from Cateel, Baganga and Boston in Davao Oriental, Monkayo and New Bataan. For Davao Oriental, the DSWD allocated P4,058,800 for the 1,901 families in Cateel; P8,460,700 to 3,876 families in Baganga; and P2,029,000 for 954 families in Boston. Soliman said the payouts were received from Maybank by beneficiaries in Cateel and Boston on Wednesday and Thursday, while family-beneficiaries in Baganga started receiving their money yesterday until today. The DSWD will also release P5,528,200 in cash grants for the 2,726 beneficiaries in New Bataan on Dec. 17 and P7,057,400 to 3,742 families in Monkayo on Dec. 18. Cantilan Bank will service the payouts in these two municipalities, DSWD said.

Local government units as far as Albay sent a team to provide 17,200 liters of drinking water to 11,000 residents in the devastated town of Boston in Davao Oriental. Foreign help also poured in as Canada announced yesterday it would provide an additional assistance of more than Cad$1.75 million (P70 million) to typhoon victims. The Canadian embassy in Manila said this is in addition to its initial contribution of P10 million (Cad$ 250,000) to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to support the Philippine Red Cross in helping approximately 50,000 people affected by the typhoon. “Canada is responding to the increasing needs of the people of the Philippines as they face the alarming devastation caused by the typhoon,” said Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino. “We are helping families survive by providing critical humanitarian assistance,” he said. Canada’s assistance, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will support the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for urgently needed food, safe drinking water, emergency shelter, and other assistance to approximately 480,000 affected people in the worst- hit areas. With the Cad$700,000 support, the IOM will provide emergency shelters and camp support, including coordination and management, for people displaced as a result of the typhoon. “The government of Canada will continue to monitor the situation to ensure humanitarian needs are met and provide further assistance if required,” the embassy said. In sympathy Several government agencies led by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) have cancelled their Christmas parties in sympathy with the typhoon victims. The DBM announced the cancellation of its annual department-wide Christmas celebration to support continuing relief efforts for communities affected by the typhoon. The budget department also urged other agencies as well as private companies to channel their Christmas party funds for the typhoon victims instead of splurging on festivities. “DBM officials and employees collectively decided that it would be best to forgo the Christmas party this year and, instead, direct all our extra funds – whether from the agency budget or from their own pockets – for the benefit of Pablo’s victims,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said.

The BIR, for its part, will raise funds among its employees to donate to typhoon victims, Deputy Commissioner Estela Sales said. Traditionally, the BIR holds a gift-giving activity for children as its Christmas celebration but Sales said this year, the bureau would focus efforts on raising funds for the typhoon victims. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it will tone down its Christmas festivities to help the typhoon victims in Mindanao. “We decided to tone down the celebrations and the press party. What we’ll do is to donate a part of the budget allocated for the party to the victims of Pablo. It will be in the form of money and goods,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said. Helen Flores, Sheila Crisostomo, Iris Gonzales, Pia Lee-Brago, Non Alquitran, Roel Pareño, Jose Rodel Clapano, Alexis Romero, Edith Regalado, Celso Amo‐aftermath‐900‐still‐missing                              

DepEd initiative to plant native tree species in campuses lauded  By DJ Yap  Philippine Daily Inquirer  6:50 pm | Saturday, December 15th, 2012  

 Environment Secretary Ramon Paje 

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Ramon Paje on Saturday lauded a project of the Department of Education to plant at least five native tree species on school campuses, saying it will boost the government’s urban greening program. In a statement, Paje said the tree-planting initiative would not only strengthen efforts to inculcate environmental awareness among the youth, but would also teach them the importance of preserving native trees. “The project will boost the propagation of native trees, especially those which are slowly disappearing, and which Filipinos use for food, medicine and other uses,” Paje said. “More importantly, the project will educate millions of students and other Filipinos on the richness of our biodiversity as a natural heritage, and they do not need to go to the mountains to see these trees,” he added. Education Secretary Armin Luistro instructed all teachers and students in 763 public schools in Metro Manila to take part in the National Greening Program of the Aquino administration by growing trees endemic to the Philippines. There are about 3,600 species of trees found in the country, the most famous of which is narra, touted as the national tree. Its wood is said to be one of the toughest in the world. Other Philippine native trees are guijo, kamagong, red and white lauan, tindalo, yakal, and molave. Paje said the DepEd project would complement the urban greening component of the government’s National Greening Program. Established in February 2011 under Executive Order No. 26, the National Greening Program seeks to plant some 1.5 billion trees covering about 1.5 million hectares by 2016. So far, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has planted 142.6 million seedlings spread out over 232,000 hectares of land nationwide. The program also generated more than 364,000 jobs, the department said.‐initiative‐to‐plant‐native‐tree‐species‐in‐campuses‐lauded  

Philippines goes down in global tax ranking    (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has slid down in global tax ranking as the nation remains in the list of countries where taxes are costly and difficult despite government reforms. Yahoo!News reported that the Philippines placed 143rd out of 185 economies in the “Paying Taxes” report released by the Doing Business Initiative of the World Bank and the International Finance Corp., as well as financial service firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The country ranked 135th out of 183 economies in the previous list. The country still has high tax cost and burden of compliance based on three indicators namely total tax rate, time needed to comply with major taxes and the number of tax payments. The report said the Philippines falls behind global averages in two out of three of the indicators in the report. Local companies pay a tax rate of 46.6 percent of their commercial profit, higher than the global average of 44.7 percent. Taxpayers also have to process payments 47 times a year, more than the global average of 27.2 payments. Figures also indicated a worsening in the Philippine tax system from last year’s report, which showed that firms only had to pay taxes equivalent to 46.5 percent of their profit, with 47 payments taking a total of 195 hours.‐goes‐down‐global‐tax‐ranking              

Subdued Christmas parties for gov’t agencies  By Jerome Aning, Jocelyn R. Uy  Philippine Daily Inquirer   10:55 pm | Friday, December 14th, 2012  

MANILA, Philippines–There’s bound to be less holiday cheer at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Tourism (DOT), as the two government offices have decided to tone down and scrap their yuletide parties, but the Christmas spirit apparently remains alive as employees of the two agencies donated part of their cash gift and celebration funds to victims displaced by Typhoon “Pablo” in Mindanao. Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said that the election body was pushing through with a more subdued Christmas party this year, with half of its budget for traditional merrymaking going instead to the families affected by the killer typhoon. “We lowered our budget for the Christmas party for our employees and canceled the party for the press,” Brillantes told reporters in an interview Friday. He added that the Comelec was also slashing P100 from the P1,000 cash gift allotted to each employee as added donation to the victims of the typhoon. “So that should be half a million (pesos),” Brillantes said. Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that donations will be in cash and in kind. In its Twitter account, the DOT announced that, like some government agencies, it was also canceling its Christmas party in the wake of the devastation wrought by the typhoon. “In light of the recent events and in solidarity with the rest of the nation, the DOT has decided to cancel its Christmas party,” the agency tweeted. “As we celebrate the Season, let us remember the values of charity and generosity by sharing our prayers and blessings with the victims of Pablo,” the DOT added. Malacañang had earlier announced that it was canceling its Christmas parties even as it appealed for “subdued celebrations” across the country. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have also canceled their traditional holiday celebrations. In toning down its Christmas party this year, Brillantes said the decision was not meant to copy Malacañang’s move. “We are inspired by what we see. It’s a waste to celebrate when there are people suffering,” he said. Meanwhile, the Canadian government yesterday said it was providing C$1.75 million (about P73 million) additional assistance to victims of typhoon Pablo.

The Canadian embassy in Manila said the amount was in addition to Ottawa’s initial contribution of P10 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to support the Philippine Red Cross in helping approximately 50,000 people affected by the typhoon. “Canada is responding to the increasing needs of the people of the Philippines as they face the alarming devastation caused by the typhoon. We are helping families survive by providing critical humanitarian assistance,” the Canadian embassy in Manila quoted Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino as saying. Canada’s assistance, through the Canadian International Development Agency, will support three organizations for urgently needed food, safe drinking water, emergency shelter, and other assistance to over 480,000 affected people in the worst-hit areas. These organizations are the United Nations World Food Program, which will receive $700,000 to provide access to emergency food assistance; the United Nations Children Fund, which will be granted $350,000 for emergency water, sanitation and hygiene assistance, and the International Organization for Migration, which will be given $700,000 to provide emergency shelters and camp support, including coordination and management, for people displaced as a result of the typhoon. Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Filipinos around the world have responded to the Manila government’s appeal for help to typhoon-affected victims. The United Filipino Organization in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, raised $730.88 during a fund drive conducted in markets and shopping centers, the Philippine consulate said, adding that the amount was sent to the Philippine Red Cross. In Guam, the Philippine consulate said the Cristeta Villacorta Alegria Foundation turned over a $2,000 donation to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Manila for its relief and rehabilitation drive. The Philippine Community Council (PCC) in New South Wales meanwhile handed over to the Mt. Apo Lions Club of Davao a $5,000 (about P212,000) donation that PCC director Angie Jenkins and volunteers of the Lions Club said will be used for relief goods for around 700 families or 3,000 individuals in Compostela Valley. In Pretoria, South Africa, drop-boxes have been set up for typhoon victims during a Christmas party hosted by the Philippine embassy for Filipino communities there and from neighboring Botswana and Lesotho.‐christmas‐parties‐for‐govt‐agencies‐2    

Subic Firm Producing Indoor Vegetables By JONAS REYES December 14, 2012, 6:36pm

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — A company inside this premier Freeport is producing Central Luzon’s only indoor-grown vegetables that are free from both fertilizers and pesticides. Subic Amino Hightech Corporation has been growing vegetables thru an indoor hydroponics system a few months ago inside a 6 meter by 15 meter room where temperature is maintained at 22 degress celsius, cooler than most offices inside the Freeport. The two hydroponic systems, with six levels each, provide the nutrients to rows of healthy Frillice Lettuce, Wasabe greens, and Arugula plants. “The program is a sustainable and renewable farming technology. Our produce are pesticidefree, grown in a controlled environment, and fresh because we harvest based on demand,” Atushi Kadoi, Subic Amino general manger explained. The project is run by the company which began growing the greens on its nutrient-rich water beds a few months ago. A combination of LED and fluorescent bulbs are used, instead of direct sunlight, for the plants’ photosynthesis. “Salad greens inside the Freeport come from Baguio or Tagaytay, meaning substantial travel time and the potential of mishandling. With hydroponics, we are assured that what we buy for our families or serve to our clients are grown in a safe and controlled environment,” Kadoi explained. Subic Amino Hightech Corporation used to recycle CD and DVD casing into plastic pellets that may be used for new plastic-based products. “Importation was a challenge in our plastics business, even if we are inside a Freeport zone. Since our company was in the business of renewables and environmentally-friendly technologies, we decided to put up the indoor hydroponics,” Kadoi said. They are banking on the growing community of health conscious and the environmentalists at heart in Olongapo City and Subic Bay to give them the push that is needed to take the business into a higher level.‐firm‐producing‐indoor‐vegetables#.UMxtgKwXvHs  

Gov’t plans ‘rice gardens’ in schools   By Rudy Fernandez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am  

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) are planning to establish “rice gardens” in selected elementary and high schools in Metro Manila. DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro introduced the project, tentatively called “Palayan sa Paaralan,” at a rice harvesting ceremony at the Rizal Park last Nov. 26, during which 39 students from various schools took part in harvesting rice at the park’s 300-square-meter rice garden. The ceremony was held as part of Rice Awareness Month. Luistro said the project will be initiated in 2013, which has been proclaimed by President Aquino as the National Year of Rice. Officials said 2013 has also been set as the target year for the country to attain self-sufficiency in this commodity which the Philippines has been perennially importing to meet the food needs of its burgeoning population. Rizal Park’s rice garden was set up in 2001 and is tended year-round by PhilRice. Officials sad the garden was conceived in response to the observation that “many Filipinos, especially city dwellers, grew old not knowing how rice is grown or, worse, (what) it looks like.”‐plans‐rice‐gardens‐schools                        

Bank loans up 15.8%   By Prinz Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Growth in loans extended by big banks bounced back in October from an 18-month low the previous month, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday. Outstanding loans granted by universal and commercial banks, excluding central bank placements, rose 15.8 percent to P3.079 trillion as of October. Including money with the BSP, loans grew 14.2 percent, the same level of expansion the previous month. “The recent rounds of monetary policy easing, alongside the favorable outlook for domestic demand, are expected to continue to support credit growth amid tepid global economic conditions,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a statement. Credit for production activities accounted for the bulk of total loans, growing 16.4 percent to P2.808 trillion during the first 10 months of the year. The latest expansion was faster than the13.9 percent growth recorded in the first three quarters. Under this category, credit to public administration and defense led the growth with an expansion rate of 49.3 percent. This was followed by loans to wholesale and retail trade (46.5 percent), financial intermediation (31.8 percent), real estate, renting and business services (28.6 percent), transportation, storage and communication (28.2 percent), manufacturing (14.6 percent) and electricity, gas and water (13.8 percent). Declines, on the other hand, were observed in lending to agriculture, hunting and forestry which dipped 46.4 percent, and mining and quarrying that dropped 39.4 percent, data showed.‐loans‐15.8   

Phil, Indian firms urged to forge partnerships   By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2012 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine firms and Indian companies are urged to form partnerships and explore opportunities for business to enhance trade relations between the two countries and achieve higher economic growth. Speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - India Business Seminar and Business-to-Business Meetings, Indian Chamber of Commerce vice president Roopen Roy said Philippine firms and Indian companies should look at business opportunities to increase trade between the two countries and achieve higher economic growth. “The aim is to explore newer avenues for business between India and the Philippines,” he said. India’s Ambassador to the Philippines Amit Dasgupta added it is in the interest of India to look at business opportunities in the Philippines and how Indian firms could work with Filipino firms to increase trade between the two countries. “On both minds, the perception is fixed. Neither side knows much about each other,” he said. He admitted that Indian firms do not know much about the available opportunities in the Philippines, as well as Philippine companies are not aware of what areas and how they could do business in India, thus trade between the two countries has been miniscule. He cited that trade between the two countries is currently valued at $1.4 billion, which is low relative to others in the ASEAN. The value of trade between India and the ASEAN, he said, is currently at $80 billion. “We need to take steps to correct this,” he said. He said that while an agreement between India and ASEAN covering trade in services and investment promotions is being discussed and seen to help enhance trade relations between India and the Philippines, partnerships between Indian and Filipino companies could change the lack of information on opportunities in both countries and lead to an increase in trade. Asian Development Bank executive director Ashok Lahiri acknowledged that partnerships between Filipino and Indian companies for business would not only help enhance trade between the two countries, but would also allow for higher economic growth and active participation in the Asian century or the dominant role the region can play in the global economy. As both countries face the challenge of finding jobs for the young, with a large part of the population above 20 years old, he said the two countries could work together to develop the industrial sector and create jobs. “Both India and the Philippines need to build the industrial sector to be able to walk on both legs and create jobs for the young in the future,” he said. He said the industrial sector of both countries has not been fully developed due to lack of infrastructure.‐indian‐firms‐urged‐forge‐partnerships

Lending Grows 15.8% In October By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN December 14, 2012, 5:51pm

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that in October, the commercial banks’ total outstanding loans rose 15.8 percent to a 10-month amount of P3.058 trillion. The end-October bank lending data showed faster growth compared to the 13.5 percent reported in September. With banks’ reverse repurchase placements or RRPs with the BSP, loans increased 14.2 percent to P3.286 trillion, the same pace of growth posted in September, said the BSP. In a statement, the central bank said the last months’ monetary policy easing and the favorable outlook for domestic demand will continue to prop bank lending activities. “The BSP will continue to monitor liquidity conditions to ensure that credit activity remains supportive of overall economic growth while remaining consistent with the BSP’s price stability objective,” it stated. In Thursday’s policy meeting, the Monetary Board’s eighth and last for this year, rates were kept at 3.5 percent for overnight borrowing and 5.5 percent for overnight lending. The BSP has cut rates by 100 basis points this year to achieve that balance of containing inflation and at the same time encouraging economic expansion. The BSP said risks to the inflation outlook is now “evenly balanced” around the baseline forecasts, with inflation expectations broadly aligned with the inflation target range. However, the central bank said it will “continue to monitor evolving price and output conditions to ensure that the monetary policy stance remains consistent with ensuring stable prices while supporting economic growth.” As for domestic liquidity, the BSP said M3 or money supply grew 8.6 percent in October, a higher growth rate compared to September’s 7.5 percent as net domestic assets also increased 13.3 percent year-on-year in October. This was due to the sustained increase in net domestic credits along with the slower rise in the net of other items account which includes, among other things, revaluation and capital and reserve accounts as well as placements of authorized counterparties in the special deposit account facility, said the BSP. Still, the central bank said the steady rise in M3 “indicates that liquidity in the financial system can amply fund the economy’s growth requirements amid ongoing strains in the global economy.” As of the end of October, liquidity and the low rates environment supported banks’ lending activities.

Based on BSP records, loans for production activities went up by 16.4 percent in October to P2.8 trillion, higher than September’s increase of 13.9 percent. Consumer loans, in the meantime, had a slower growth of 13.9 percent to P250 billion compared to 14.6 percent in the previous month because of a slowdown in automotive loans which reached P80 billion. Credit card loans amounted to P142.14 billion. Under the category of production loans, it was wholesale and retail trade which recorded the highest growth at 46.5 percent to P446.369 billion while real estate, renting, and business services grew 28.6 percent to P543.437 billion. Loans to financial intermediation, manufacturing, and transportation/storage/communication, on the other hand, rose by 31.8 percent, 14.6 percent and 28.2 percent respectively to P279.367 billion, P525.495 billion and P233.75 billion.‐grows‐158‐in‐october#.UMx‐2qwXvHs                                

GSIS Pays Members P930-M Dividends December 14, 2012, 5:48pm State-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) said that it will pay out P930 million in dividends to its members this year, higher by 14 percent from a year ago, after posting surplus earnings from its social insurance funds. The pay-out includes all active compulsory life insurance policyholders whose insurance coverage has been in force for at least a year as of December 31, 2011. Upon their entry in government service, employees are automatically covered by a life insurance. Those employed prior to August 1, 2003 are covered by the Life Endowment Policy or LEP while those who entered after July 31, 2003 are insured under the Enhanced Life Policy or ELP. Active members whose LEP matured after December 31, 2011, and were issued ELP will still receive cash dividends based on their LEP. LEP policyholders who converted to ELP after December 31, 2011 will also be entitled to cash dividends based on their LEP. GSIS members can expect the amount to be automatically credited to their GSIS eCards on or before December 25, 2012. Excluded from the cash pay-out are members whose policies lapsed, matured, or were terminated in 2011; who have defaulted in their salary and consolidated loans for at least 12 months or have unpaid premiums for at least 12 months as of December 31, 2011; and whose agencies were suspended as of December 31, 2011.‐pays‐members‐p930m‐dividends#.UMx_U6wXvHs        

2012 12 15 - QUEDANCOR Daily News Monitor  
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