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Don’t raise food prices, agriculture department warns traders Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 19:54 Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter THE Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday warned unscrupulous traders against jacking up the prices of food items used for the traditional Noche Buena. Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said that livestock and poultry raisers have assured him that there will be enough supply of meat products for the holidays. “I would like to appeal to [traders], especially those in areas hit by Typhoon Pablo [international code name Bopha] not to take advantage of this recent tragedy by unduly raising their prices,” Alcala said. Prices of certain food items such as meat products usually go up during the holidays. Meat dishes are usually served during festivities in the Philippines. But some speculators may take advantage of the situation and impose more price increases in view of the perceived shortage in food supply caused by the devastation Pablo wrought on crops. According to official data, the typhoon destroyed almost P12 billion worth of crops, farm products and farm infrastructure. The typhoon, which ravaged Mindanao, destroyed banana and corn plantations. The banana sector was the most badly hit among all farm subsectors in the region, with damages pegged at about P8 billion. Corn farmers also bore the brunt of the typhoon, with crop losses pegged at almost P2 billion.

Efforts to rebuild lives start as death toll rises By Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2012 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The time to rebuild has come, said an official of one of the worst hit areas of super typhoon “Pablo.” Compostela Valley provincial administrator Isabel Melendrez yesterday said efforts to rebuild lives and communities should start now even as death continues to haunt the region with the recovery of more bodies buried under mud and logs. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said that as of yesterday, the death toll from Pablo (international name Bopha) had jumped to 1,043 from 1,020 the other day. The NDRRMC said at least 844 remained missing including the 315 fishermen who sailed out to sea even before Pablo pummeled Mindanao last Dec. 4. Compostela Valley was hardest hit by the typhoon, which affected 139,653 families or 687,095 individuals in the province alone. “The focus of our operation now slowly shifts to how we will rebuild the lives of those who have been affected,” Melendrez said. She stressed that livelihood program is also aimed at addressing the issue on mendicancy among the victims who resorted to begging from motorists, particularly in the towns of New Bataan, Compostela, Monkayo and Montevista. But the official was quick to point out that relief assistance for the affected residents shall continue with the help of donors, both international and local institutions. She said the provincial government also embarked on a specific nutrition program involving feeding for children and lactating mothers. She said some 60,000 workers were left jobless after the storm wiped out the province’s 14,700 hectares of banana plantations. Melendrez said the first step that would be taken is the proper identification of the affected families by the barangay officials. “Properly identified villagers would be issued a family access card which could be used to access relief and medical assistance and proposed livelihood programs,” Melendrez said, adding the card would also prevent non-typhoon victims from abusing the assistance.

She said corresponding livelihood programs would also be made available to the victims depending on their locality. Infra damage hits P24 B Benito Ramos, NDRRMC executive director and Office of Civil Defense (OCD) administrator, said Pablo’s damage to private and government infrastructures has ballooned to P24.1 billion. “We are now shifting to retrieval operations. But we are not losing hope that we could still find survivors out there,” he said. As of yesterday, at least 6,608 families composed of 25,953 individuals remained in 63 evacuation centers in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. “A total of 701,224 families or 6,203,826 individuals from 2,910 barangays of 313 municipalities, 40 cities and 34 provinces were affected by Pablo,” Ramos said. ‘Pablo’ affects sugar production The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said yesterday that Pablo affected at least six to eight percent of sugarcane production in Bukidnon, which is equivalent to a loss of 30,000 tons of sugar. SRA administrator Regina Martin said the volume of production loss would not significantly affect sugar production for the current crop year. Martin said all of the more than 30 sugar mills in the country have already produced 30 percent of the target volume for the current crop year. The milling season for the current crop year began last September and would end in August next year. The SRA has set a sugar production target of 2.356 million metric tons for cropping year 2012-2013, up by five percent from the total raw sugar production volume of 2.243 million metric tons for 2011-2012 crop year. – With Jaime Laude, Czeriza Valencia

Banayo skips Senate hearing on rice smuggling By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former National Food Administration (NFA) chief Angelito Banayo yesterday skipped the Senate hearing on rice smuggling at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). Banayo cited health concerns as the reason why he could not attend the hearing presided over by Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture. Banayo said he underwent an invasive coronary procedure last Thursday at the Philippine Heart Center. He admitted that he was discharged last Dec. 15 but is still undergoing therapy. Pangilinan said the doctor has advised Banayo not to move around and he has no reason to doubt the ex-NFA executive’s claims since he also presented medical certificates to back up his claim. Pangilinan said the Senate will conduct another hearing or two in early January next year to determine further allegations hurled against a financier who was supposedly behind the smuggling of millions worth of rice at the SBMA.

Pangilinan said he wants to know the background of a certain Willy Sy, who was reportedly acting as financier of the cooperatives being used as dummies by unscrupulous rice traders. “That’s the allegation that came up, that there is a financier who was giving out envelopes containing P63 million, then P59 million, which did not actually come from the cooperatives,” Pangilinan said. “That’s what the traders claimed that they did not come up with any cash, and that it was a certain Mr. Willy Sy who financed the operations,” the senator added. Farmers’ coop execs lying As of press time, the Senate has not decided whether eight members of a farmers’ cooperative will be released from Senate custody for trying to evade the earlier Senate hearings. “It is clear in their testimonies that they evaded (the Senate hearings). They did not abide with the orders of the Senate. They went into hiding. I need to talk with my colleagues on what will be the next move now that they are here in the custody of the Senate,” Pangilinan said. The members of the cooperative were identified as Mary Joyce Lim of Loui London Traiding; Iñigo Espiritu of Nemic Fusion Rice and Trains Enterprises; Jason Colocado of Pure Country Trading; Denis Gonzales of St. Dominique Rice and Food Enterprises; Jenny Reyes and Eugene Guiang Pioquinto of West Point Rice and Cereals Enterprises; Michael Villanueva of Jaded Ranch Grains Trading; and Sandra Lim of Lexant International Trading. Sandra Lim, who is five-months pregnant, has been allowed to go home due to her condition. “The rest of the eight will have to be in the custody of OSAA (Office of Sergeant-AtArms) until we decide in the committee what to do with them,” Pangilinan said. The Senate also ordered rice traders Ricardo Gatuz Jr. of Formosa Multipurpose Cooperative, Ronaldo Valdez of Sitio Muzon Farmers, Zenaida Abanio of Sta. Cecilia, Felix Villena Sr. of Ugnayang Magsasaka sa Kaunalaran, and Elizabeth Faustino of Biklat to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for not telling the truth to the committee. The rice traders admitted during the hearing that they were asked to stay together in a rented house for three days at the height of the hearings.

Economy Posted on December 17, 2012 09:07:54 PM

Modern farming community built in North Cotabato KORONADAL -- The regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-12) has established a model community in Arakan, North Cotabato that will benefit from the implementation of various government agricultural projects in Central Mindanao. Dante S. Delima, Agriculture assistant secretary, said in a statement that the establishment of the Model Community Development Project aims at finding means through agriculture to eradicate poverty in rural communities. The beneficiary community is the remote village of Datu Ladayon in the town of Arakan. The model community would receive support from various agriculture projects in the region, DA-12 officials said. The High Value Crops Development Program, for instance, initially provided 10 units of rain shelter with complete accessories for the community’s women’s association and elementary school. DA-12’s Corn Program also provided 10 bags of open-pollinated variety of white corn seeds while the Livestock Program distributed 20 sheep composed of four rams and 16 ewes. ROAD CONSTRUCTION Mr. Delima also announced the construction of a farm-to-market road that would connect Datu Ladayon to the town proper. It will be funded by Mindanao Rural Development Project, an initiative supported by the World Bank. Imelda Fuentes, head teacher of Datu Ladayon Elementary School, said the road to be constructed would also serve the school children who live seven kilometers away from the school. Mr. Delima also committed to provide two sacks of rice per month for the students in the near term. He said the Agriculture office would also facilitate planting of root crops in the rain shelter of the school to augment the student’s daily provision.

Mr. Delima, representing the national office of the Department of Agriculture, and officials of DA-12 also committed to help re-design and enhance the temporary house for the pupils to give them a more comfortable and secured shelter. Marshal Dionog, barangay captain, has promised to take care of the project and make it a community model it is intended to be. The Province of North Cotabato lies on the eastern part of Region 12 and is strategically located in the central part of Mindanao. It is bounded on the north by the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon, on the east by Davao City and Davao del Norte, on the west by Maguindanao and on the southeast by Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur. North Cotabato, with an area of 656,590 hectares representing 45.06% of the whole regional area, stretches west from Mt. Apo, which separates it from Davao, to the Piapayungan Range on its boundary with Lanao. In the midst of these uplands is the basin of the Pulangi or Rio Grande de Mindanao, the second longest in the Philippines at 300 kilometers, which rises in Bukidnon and flows south to Maguindanao and Illana Bay. North Cotabato is considered as Mindanao’s food basket.It is a major producer of cereals, tropical fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, coconut, coffee, freshwater fish and livestock. It is also one of the country’s leading producers of raw and semi-processed rubber and industrial trees, with markets in many countries in Asia and Europe. -- Louie O. Pacardo

Coco oil exports jump 59% in Nov By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The volume of coconut oil exports in November rose 59 percent from the same period last year as orders from traditional markets continue to come in, to the United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP) said. UCAP executive director Yvonne Agustin said CNO exports reached 72,880 metric tons (MT) in November, up 59 percent from the outbound shipment of 45,734 MT in the same period last year. The export volume in November, however, fell from the prior month’s volume of 94,880 MT. UCAP attributed this to less orders from United States and Europe. However, CNO exports from January to November this year reached 773,284 MT, up three percent from 750,948 MT in the first 11 months of 2011. Prices of coconut oil are expected to increase in the wake of the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo, which caused damages in the coconut industry valued at P766.822 million as over a million trees felled. Agustin said the damage to coconut crops will affect copra production next year. “The expected increase in copra production, which is expected to peak at the end of the year, may be greatly affected and will continue until next year. Agustin said despite the damage, the industry would be able to supply the demand from international buyers because there is still amply supply. The Philippines aims to ship 925,000 metric tons of CNO this year. Sources from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) also said the country has enough buffer stock to fulfill its export commitments for coconut products this year. In 2011, the industry fell short of its coconut oil export target of 900,000 MT due to the tight supply of coconut in the local market. Coconut oil exports last year dropped 39 percent to 823,381 MT.

Use Coco Fund, Malacañang urged By HANNAH L. TORREGOZA December 17, 2012, 5:21pm MANILA, Philippines --- Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero urged Malacañang yesterday to use the P52-billion fund from the 24-percent block of shares of San Miguel Corp. to boost the country’s coconut industry. “There is high demand now for coco oil and coco water in the international market. The Philippines is in a very good position to be a major supplier,” Escudero said. “This will be good for our farmers, but we have to start now. And it all starts with a decision on how to use the funds,” the senator stressed. The P52-billion fund comes from a 24-percent block of shares in San Miguel Corp. that was part of about 47 percent of shares sequestered by the government on suspicions that these were acquired using coco levy funds, a tax imposed on coconut farmers since 1973 by the late President Ferdinand Marcos. “I hope Malacañang can decide on how to mobilize these funds at the soonest possible time. Now would be a good time to pump-prime the coconut sector considering the rising demand for coconut in the international market,” he projected. President Benigno S. Aquino III’s spokesperson, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, earlier said a Presidential Task Force on the Coco Levy is still finalizing recommendations on the custody and utilization of the fund. “The funds are there. But the government has not yet determined how these will be spent and, more importantly, how these can benefit the country’s coconut farmers,” Escudero said. “I hope Malacañang decides on this issue very soon because we might hit the point where we won’t be able to take advantage of the growth and where this growth might not trickle down to the farmers,” he said. Coconut farmers have said they prefer to receive cash from the coco levy funds, something that Malacañang had said they should not expect. Of the country’s 12 million hectares of farmlands, about three million hectares are devoted to coconut. Sixty-eight out of 79 provinces in the Philippines are considered coconut areas.

DA focuses on 4 technologies Published on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 00:00 The Department of Agriculture (DA) is beefing up the level of mechanization in the country’s farm sector by setting the commercialization of four key technologies. Philippine Center for Mechanization and Postharvest Development (PhilMech) Executive Director Rex L. Bingabing said the four key technologies are: mechanical cassava drying; pectin from mango peels; using Combined Far-Infrared and Convection Heating (FIRCH) to dry mango slices; and use of natural or bio-control treatment for pest control. PhilMech will set for commercialization next year cassavadrying technology. Bingabing said that PhilMech has developed two drying machines: a conveyor-belt type machine with a biomass furnace that could dry granulated cassava to a moisture content (MC) of 13 percent in 2.5 hours; and a modified flatbed drier with a mixer that could dry cassava to the same MC level in 12 hours. “The drying technology alone will have big impact on dried cassava production, since granulated cassava is traditionally dried under the sun over concrete pavement or roads, which takes 2 to 3 days in good weather,” Bingabing said. He added that if newly harvested and granulated cassava is not dried immediately, this could result in losses of up to 13 percent, while drying under the sun could expose cassava to elements that could cause fungi infection. Bingabing said that PhilMech has also modified existing rice moisture meters for use to determine the MC of granulated cassava. “The modified moisture meter will help cassava farmers achieve the optimum level of MC that buyers of granulated cassava want,” he said. Dried granulated cassava is usually bought by large food companies like San Miguel Corp. for use as feed ingredient. “We are working for a supplier with San Miguel, we will be putting up a unit in their plant and we will be evualting the performance of the machine with actual commercial run, and this just wouldn’t be just a trial run at the laboratory,” he said. The output of this is 1 ton per hour, according to Bingabing.

Cassava is one of the priority crops under the Department of Agriculture’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program to help the country achieve 100 percent food self- sufficiency. For the manufacture of pectin from mango peels, Bingabing said that PhilMech will establish a manufacturing prototype at the agency’s main office in Munoz, Nueva Ecija, that could be viewed and studied by prospective businessmen or investors. “The country imports 100 percent of its pectin needs, and by fully commercializing the technology developed by PhilMech and the Industrial Technology Development Institute of DOST (Department of Science and Technology), we could start establishing domestic firms that could gradually supply the pectin needs of the Philippine market,” he said. “If we can prove that this technology is really feasible then that can really have a big impact on our economy, because we spend so much just to purchase and import pectin,” he added. Last year the Philippines imported $52 million worth of pectin from the United States valued $52.39 million. “We think this product has a very good potential, because the value of pectin is very expensive from an apple so, we are looking for a private collaborator that is willing to set up a facility that can commercially produce pectin, commercial quantity,” said Bingabing. The cost of high grade pure pectin which is imported is around P27,000 per kilo, however, with Philmec’s experiment, it will only cost P6,000 per kilogram. “This is a potential addtional income for mango growers,” he said. Meanwhile, the third technology PhilMech will push for commercialization next year is the use of FIRCH to dry mango slices. At present, food processors use convection heating to dry mango slices, which requires 12 hours. On the other hand, the FIRCH technology only requires 8 hours of total drying time, which results to 17 percent savings in energy, and 32 percent reduction in overall costs. Sliced dried mangoes are one of the leading processed food exports of the Philippines, comprising 10 percent of the $35-million mango exports in 2010. Lastly, the fourth technology that PhilMech will set for commercialization next year arebiocontrol treatment for use in pest control in farming applications. Among the biocontrol treatments PhilMech researchers developed is the combined use of a biocontrol agent and hot water treatment to reduce stem-rot and anthracnose infection in mangoes. Mangoes can be sprayed with chemical fungicide before undergoing hot water treatment, but this could have consequences on people’s health.

Bingabing said that the biocontrol agent to control the stem-rot and anthracnose infection in mangoes can also be applied to other tropical fruits like papaya and banana. PhilMech researchers also discovered that the native plants Bituon, Bangbangsit, Anobrand, Hagonoy and Bayating have fungal and insecticidal extracts. Bingabing said that PhilMech’s research into the use of antagonistic fungi to control the dreaded banana crown rot will also be commercialized next year, citing that initial efforts to have that technology commercialized were hounded by patent issues. “We want to make sure that the technologies pioneered by PhilMech will be protected by Intellectual Property Rights,� he said. The PhilMech director added that in commercializing the biocontrol agents, the agency will market or sell the active ingredients which could be readily used by stakeholders.

Help us get interest-free loans, banana farmers ask DA Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 19:56 Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter SMALL banana growers have urged the Department of Agriculture (DA) to help them avail of loans that will be interest-free for two years. The Mindanao Banana Farmers and Exporters Association (MBFEA) said that it would take small banana growers two years to rehabilitate plantations that were ravaged by Typhoon Pablo (international code name Bopha). “We are appealing to the DA to help us gain financing access to banks. It will take us about two years to totally rehabilitate our farming areas. We will not have the means to repay the loan within that period,” MBFEA President Romeo Garcia said. According to Garcia, the association is keen on asking banks to allow small banana growers a seven-year term loan with a grace period of two years wherein farmers will not pay interest, principal and other surcharges. He said the first payment for the loan should start in the third year and that payments should be subjected to an interest rate of 3 percent per annum. Garcia also said that farmers want to get loans worth as much as P400,000 per hectare. The MBFEA estimated that the banana sector in Mindanao would need about P5.6 billion to restore damaged plantations. “Most of the farms are totally knocked down. It is not so much as how little we are going to produce in the next months or years, but how we can move forward without any assistance from the government,” Garcia said. He added that farmers hope that banks will relax their payment scheme as assistance to small farmers who were affected by the typhoon. Last week the DA announced that the Land Bank of the Philippines agreed to provide P2.1 billion in financial support to commercial banana growers. The banana sector was the most badly hit among all farm subsectors by the typhoon, with production losses pegged at P8 billion.

PCA calls for proper disposal of felled trees Published on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 00:00 Written by MADELAINE CABRERA Forbes said that the best strategy is to intersperse coconuts with bananas. He said the devastated banana plantations where growers reported over P8 billion losses used to be planted to coconut. The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is reminding farmers to properly dispose felled coconut trees to avoid infestation of rhinoceros bettle in their farms. The PCA said that it has allocated P50 million to more than 2,000 farmers in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental to help them cope with the devastation of their farms due to typhoon Pablo. PCA administrator Euclides G. Forbes said that beneficiaries of the coconut planting program will be paid at once at P20 per seedling transplanted before the typhoon. “Felled or heavily damaged trees will be processed into timber, Forbes said. The timber can be used to build shelters for those made homeless by the typhoon. He said he will send chainsaws to the affected areas to speed up clearing operations. Forbes continued stressing also the importance of the proper disposal of damaged trees to deprive pests, particularly rhinoceros beetle, of breeding places, and avoid any future incidence of infestation. Forbes cautioned, however, against the improvident cutting of coconuts and explained that standing trees, even when left devoid of leaves, may still recover when properly rehabilitated as demonstrated by experiences in previous typhoons. Aside from direct fertilizer application, he added that the PCA will also engage farmers to plant shortgestation intercrops to enhance soil fertility.Forbes said it is a good opportunity to repopulate the areas with coconuts noting that most of the devastated banana plantations used to be planted to coconut which may had been improvidently converted. “It is evident now that the best strategy is the inter-planting of bananas with tall variety coconuts,� he explained.Forbes concluded that the P50 million assistance is for initial response only as the PCA will embark on massive coconut planting in all the areas in Southern Mindanao. Every farmer participant will be given 110 open-pollinated seednuts and will get a P20 incentive per seedling transplanted on the field, plus intercrop seeds, fertilizers and other forms of assistance.

Land Bank corporate life extended Published on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 00:00 The Senate yesterday passed on third and final reading a bill seeking to extend the corporate life of the Land Bank of the Philippines for another 50 years. The bill was approved with 19 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention. “The Land Bank of the Philippines, which was created under Republic Act No. 3844, was granted corporate life of 50 years from its approval until Aug. 8, 2013,” Sen. Serge Osmeña, chair of the committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said in his sponsorship speech. He said Senate Bill No. 2944, otherwise known as the agricultural land reform code, seeks to extend the life of Land Bank for another 50 years after its life expires next year. Osmeña said the Land Bank currently ranks fourth among the top five commercial banks in the country in terms of deposits, assets, loans and capital. He said Landbank has been a major contributor in the national government’s fiscal consolidation efforts through its contribution of cash dividends in the amount of P17.843 billion, Return on Equity (ROE) at 14 percent and its Capital Adequacy Ratio is at 20 percent. “Land Bank has total deposits of P490 billion, assets amounting to P630 billion, loans of P247 billion and P73 billion in capital,” Osmeña said. The bill was approved on second reading without amendments last December 10.

Coconut oil exports soar 59% Published on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 00:00 Exports of coconut oil soared 59 percent in November according to the United Coconut Association of the Philippines (UCAP). UCAP Executive Director Yvonne V. Agustin said coconut oil exports reached 72,880 metric tons (MT) last month from the 45,734 MT shipped out in November 2011. “Demand was continuously high for seven straight months now,” Agustin said. Exports from January to November reached 773,284 metric tons in January to November 2012, or 3 percent higher than the 750,948 MT in the first 11 months of 2011.Key overseas markets for Philippine coconut oil include the United States and Europe. Meanwhile, prices of coconut oil are expected to rise since typhoon Pablo felled over a million trees. “This will certainly affect copra production in December this year, and will continue by next year,” Agustin said, noting that the affected provinces are considered as key copra producing areas in Mindanao. According to Agustin, the industry may lose around 45 million nuts or 8,623 metric tons of oil per year due to the damage Pablo brought. “The expected increase in copra production, which is expected to peak at the end of the year, may be greatly affected and will continue until next year.But despite the damage, Agustin assured that the industry would able to meet demand from international buyers. The executive also ascribed the higher shipments this year to the market’s shift away from palm kernel oil and towards CNO because of narrowing price differentials.Palm kernel oil is coconut oil’s premier competitor in the world market. Early this year, coconut oil was priced higher than palm kernel oil, but since March, the premium between both began to narrow.Last month, CNO was priced at an average of $845 per MT, while palm kernel oil was at $850 per MT. “Because of lower international prices, our earnings continued to slow down despite the six consecutive months of export growth,” Agustin noted.On the other hand, the official also said that the industry remains on-track towards meeting its target.The UCAP is targeting to ship out 925,000 MT of the commodity this year. Coconut oil exports in 2011 dropped nearly 39 percent annually to 823,381 MT, falling short of an industry target of 900,000 MT, as supply of copra tightened due to a prolonged dry spell in 2010.

Remittances post record $1.9B in October Published on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 00:00 Written by JIMMY CALAPATI Remittances from overseas Filipinos coursed through banks posted a monthly record-high last October. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said that October remittances hit $1.9 billion, beating September’s $1.838 billion. Inflows from Filipinos working abroad seem not to be affected by continuing crisis in Europe inasmuch as the bulk of workers are in the United States and Canada. October’s level also represents an increase of 8.5 percent from the year-ago figure of $1.77 billion. This brought cumulative cash transfers in January-October to $17.5 billion, higher by 5.8 percent than the level posted in the same period last year. Remittances of land-based workers, which grew by 3.7 percent to reach $13.5 billion in the first ten months of the year, accounted for 77 percent of total cash remittances. In addition, remittances of sea-based workers rose appreciably by 13.7 percent year-onyear to reach $4 billion during the ten-month period. More than three-fourths or 78.2 percent of the total cash remittances coursed through banks came from the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Japan, United Arab Emirates, and Singapore. BSP Governor Amando Tetangco said that remittances remained strong despite fragile economic conditions in advanced economies and renewed geopolitical tensions in some parts of the Middle East. “Remittance flows were supported by the steady deployment of skilled and professional Filipino manpower abroad, combined with commercial banks’ continued efforts to build up their network of remittance business partners worldwide,” Tetangco explained. Preliminary reports from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) indicated that 41.9 percent or 302,173 of the total approved job orders of 721,338 in January-November 2012 were processed during the period. Processed job orders were intended mainly for manpower demand for overseas Filipinos in the fields of service, production, and professional, technical and related job categories

in countries in the Middle East region, particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. The sustained demand for overseas Filipino manpower provides support for a continuing favorable outlook for remittances through end-2012. Meanwhile, personal remittances from overseas Filipinos registered an 8.2 percent yearon-year growth in October to reach $2.1 billion. On a cumulative basis, remittances totaled $19.5 billion for the first ten months of the year, higher by 5.9 percent than the level recorded in the comparable period in 2011. Personal remittances continued to expand on the back of the 13.8 percent growth in fund transfers by sea-based workers and land-based workers with short-term contracts, as well as the 3.6 percent expansion in remittances by land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with work contracts of one year or more. Personal remittances represent the sum of net compensation of employees; personal transfers or all current transfers in cash or in kind by OF workers with work contracts of one year or more as well as other household-to-household transfers between Filipinos who have migrated abroad and their families in the Philippines; and capital transfers between households which include transfers of fixed assets and financial assets that arise from the migration of individuals from one economy to another. The BSP sees remittances growing 5 percent this year or $21 billion, after hitting $20.12 billion last year.

Debates on sin tax continue to heat up By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The debates on the impact of the sin tax reform measure continue to heat up between those who are in favor and against the newly approved bill. According to anti-sin tax groups, which circulated newspaper advertisement titled “Kill Bill,” once the new legislation is signed into law and implemented, it would displace workers and kill the tobacco industry. However, the non-government Action for Economic Reforms (AER) debunked these allegations. In a statement, Miguel Ragos from AER cited a research data from the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics which showed that the largest labor displacement, a total of 827 displaced workers, in the industry occurred in 2011, a year after the merger of Phillip Morris and Fortune Tobacco “Employment statistics on tobacco industry show that tax increases and economic shocks in the past did not result to massive layoffs.” Nonetheless, he said that should there be displaced workers, the final version of the sin tax bill contained transitory provisions that provides for the financing of unemployment alleviation program. Meanwhile, Dr. Antonio Dans of the UP College of Medicine, said the final version of the bill would decrease smoking prevalence 27.06 percent in the first year from a stagnant 31 percent. “This is bigger than the revenue we will be earning from the tax. This is our biggest win,” said Dans. Furthermore, he said this would translate to an estimated 63,000 lives saved and help at least two million smokers break the habit. In a press conference yesterday, Ragos compared cigarette prices in the Philippines to prices in other countries. He noted even after a P30 tax increase, the price of the most sold brand will still be one of the lowest in the region. “How can smuggling intensify when our prices are still lower?” Ragos pointed out.

At the same time, he said the issue of smuggling remains a valid problem, which the sin tax reform measure also seeks to address. “The final version of the bill was designed to contain anti-smuggling measures such as export bonds, internal revenue stamps and unique identification markings,” Ragos said. Dans, meanwhile, showed that there were 600 excess deaths a year from cancer and 2,000 excess deaths a year from heart disease in tobacco-producing regions. Furthermore, Dans said that the measure would allocate funds for Universal Health Care that would cover those in the lowest percentile in terms of income. “Tobacco farmers are among the poorest in our country. The farmers will actually benefit from this measure,” he said. Congress has approved a sin tax measure that would yield P33.96 billion in incremental revenues in the first year of implementation. Only the signature of President Aquino is needed for it to become a law.

Higher pay for workers expected next year By Mayen Jamalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2012 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Workers can look forward to better wages and higher standard of living in the coming year. Ciriaco Lagunzad, executive director of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), said the government has started implementing programs that could provide high wages and raise the standard of living for all Filipinos nationwide, particularly workers. By next year, Lagunzad said they expect half of commercial establishments in every region to implement a productivity-based wage system. “Our target next year and I believe we can do is that between 30 to 50 percent of commercial establishments in each of the 17 regions to be adopting gain sharing or productivity-based wage system,” Lagunzad said in an interview. He noted that 85 percent of commercial establishments in Region IV are already adopting gain-sharing policy in compliance with the newly adopted two-tiered wage system. The NWPC chief cited the advisory for the specifically percentage-based performance of the industry in granting productivity-based bonus to workers. “Region IV pilot-tested the two-tiered wage system and it’s working,” he said. According to him, Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz initiated the adoption of the two-tiered wage system to provide better income for all workers. He denied published reports that Filipino workers are getting lower wages. The International Labor Organization (ILO) earlier reported a slowdown in wage growth despite the increasing productivity rate worldwide. As a result, the ILO said employers are benefitting more than the workers. But Lagunzad said the Philippines is an exemption to the global trend since Filipino workers are gaining from the increasing productivity due to the newly adopted two-tiered wage system. He said the additional income that the workers are receiving through productivity-based wage system has not been accounted for in the survey. “While the global trend in wage growth is declining, it does not mean Filipino workers are getting less. We are an exemption to the trend,” he said.

Although there has been a reduction in real wages and purchasing power, Lagunzad said the government has been working hard to restore real wages. “Annually there has been an effort to restore real wages, however, this is being balanced to the capacity of the economy to absorb the wage increase,” he explained. “The secret of a good wage system is in the setting of a correct balance,” he added while noting that the ILO has been assisting the NWPC in coming out with a wage system that would address workers’ needs. Lagunzad said the NWPC and the DOLE have been promoting productivity-based wage because minimum wage can be coercive. Through the productivity-based wage, he said workers are given the opportunity to negotiate and good performance gets rewarded.

73 farmers go on hunger strike to press for de los Reyes’s ouster Category: Nation Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 20:31 Written by Jonathan Mayuga / Reporter A TOTAL of 73 farmers belonging to Task Force Mapalad (TFM) who came from as far as Negros, Batangas, Davao Oriental and Bukidnon have joined a hunger strike at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) office in Quezon City. The protesters, who vowed not to take solid food starting on Monday, are demanding the ouster of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes and the completion of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program-Extension with Reforms (CARPer). In an interview, TFM Deputy National Coordinator Lanie Factor said that 43 of those who joined the hunger strike were among the farmers who have “occupied” the DAR building since Friday, while 30 others are camped outside the DAR’s premises. “They have been subjected to physical examination. They are determined to do this and call the attention of President Aquino. Since we launched our strikes, we have not heard any reaction from Malacañang. That’s why these farmers are leveling up our protest action,” Factor said. The “indefinite” fast was launched with the hope that it will lead President Aquino to finally deliver the “knockout punch to de los Reyes,” TFM-Negros President Alberto Jayme said. De los Reyes could not be reached for comment. The group is seeking for another audience with Mr. Aquino to report de los Reyes’s “poor performance.” They said the DAR chief is merely offering excuses for his dismal record on the land acquisition and distribution component of CARPer instead of actually working to achieve its target. Jayme cited, for instance, the failure of the DAR to issue notices of coverage (NOCs) on landholdings that are 25 hectares and below and provide the farmers the promised P1 billion in loan assistance to agrarian-reform beneficiaries (ARBs), with P300-million earmarked for Negros farmers. Jayme said that on Thursday, December 13, they picketed the main office of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) in Manila and found out that 41 cooperatives controlled by Negros landlords had been endorsed by the DAR as recipients of the P300 million in loans.

“This is completely unacceptable since these coops are managed by landlords and they would benefit from the loans that LBP President and Chief Executive Gilda E. Pico would extend to farmers,” Jayme said. Pico admitted that the P1 billion had been remitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the LBP on December 10 but the bank has not acted on the DAR’s endorsements yet. “This is a scam that the President should nip in the bud since the landlord-controlled coop members would receive assistance to the tune of P62,000 per hectare,” Jayme added. According to Jayme, none of the network of coops of TFM in Negros that applied for loans got the DAR’s endorsement. She said TFM has a network of 19 coops in different towns in Negros. Jayme also expressed dismay over the plan of the DAR to exclude 77,000 hectares of “untitled” private agricultural lands from CARP coverage. Being untitled, these private agricultural lands are considered public lands and thus fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). But the group said such is just another excuse by the DAR chief. The Joint DAR-DENR Memorandum Order covering the compulsory acquisition and distribution of land had been in existence since 1997 and it provides the processes for the takeover and disposition of the properties, with purported landowners limited to the 12-hectare retention limit, Jayme said. “If de los Reyes had been performing his job well, he should have seen that the memo was for the benefit of CARP,” Jayme noted. To illustrate his point, Jayme said the Manolo Fortich Estate in Bukidnon, considered as PAL, was eventually taken away from the landlords since the areas occupied by landowners Carlos Fortich (129.7062 hectares), Maria Teresa F. Sarraga (101.9025 hectares) and Pilar F. Moraza (95.6843 hectares) were found by the DENR on May 16, 2012, to be “untitled” private agricultural lands. “Neither did these landowners comply with the requirements of Republic Act 9176, forcing the DAR to take over the properties, issue notices of coverage and distribute the properties among landless farmers,” he added. “These are oblique means employed to avoid getting the flak for his 18 percent land acquisition and distribution accomplishment rate from January 2012 to October 31, 2012. Rather than take the rap, de los Reyes claims the LRA, LBP and DENR are not up to par in performing their work. This is pathetic,” Jayme said. He said the farmers want Mr. Aquino to complete CARPer by distributing the target 1.3 million hectares before it expires on June 30, 2014.

Senate votes 13-8 for RH bill on final reading By Maila Ager 8:38 pm | Monday, December 17th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Voting 13-8 with no abstention, the Senate on Monday passed the controversial Reproductive Health bill on third and final reading. The 13 senators who voted in favor of the bill were Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Franklin Drilon, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos Jr., Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Ralph Recto. The eight who voted against it were Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Senators Gringo Honasan, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Manuel “Manny” Villar, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV. Senators Serge Osmena III and Lito Lapid were absent during the voting. Arroyo said he voted yes “conditionally” as he threatened to change his vote if the amendments by the Senate will not be retained in the bicameral conference committee. He noted that the original versions of the Senate and the House of Representatives were “onerous’ and “so provocative” that one, he said, could not expect the Catholic Church to surrender its doctrinal and moral position on the life and death issue without putting up a fight. The bill without amendments, Arroyo said, was “vulnerable to constitutional challenge especially on religious grounds.” “The Court may strike down even the good provisions along with the bad,” he said. And to address those weaknesses, Arroyo said the Senate introduced “reasonable” amendments to make sure the measure was “less dogmatic, less provocative and more constitutionally accepted.”

“Many of these amendments were mislabelled as killer amendments. I can see none that are,” he said. Arroyo added, “I hope they will be respected in the bicameral conference committee rather than dismissed out of hand for I shall change my vote I cast today should that happen. I vote yes, conditionally.” Escudero said he voted for the bill because he wanted “each and every newborn Filipino to be given a fair and equal chance to uplift and improve their lives.” “Saying yes to the passing of the RH Bill does not make one corrupt or evil,” he said. Stressing that he did not condone pre-marital sex and abortion, Escudero said, “As a father, I will work hard to ensure that I teach them (his children) the right values in life and with the RH bill, to arm them with knowledge so they can ably decide for themselves.” In voting against the bill, Revilla recalled how he and his wife, Lani Marcado, lost a daughter in 1990 due to complications. He said his wife was using pills before she gave birth to Maria Alexandra, who just lived for 26 days because of heart problems. “Life is a gift, a blessing. Not a curse,” Revilla said. Enrile, who has been against the measure, said he was uncertain about the future of the country with the passage of the bill. “Maybe on the short term, this bill will really lessen poverty, or wipe poverty, reduce it to a certain level, I do not know,” he said. But he said his conscience and notion of what is the long-term interest of the country impelled him to cast a no vote on the bill. “I hope that my position will not be proven right. I hope to God those who proposed it will be proven right but as I said, the future is unpredictable, uncertain and only time will tell where lies the truth, and all that,” he said. Estrada said he voted against the bill even at the risk of earning the ire of his parents— former President Joseph Estrada and former Senator Loi Ejercito—who are pro-RH. Originally posted at 07:42 pm | Monday, December 17, 2012

Cordillera coffee eyes int'l market by 2016 By Artemio Dumlao ( | Updated December 17, 2012 - 11:29am BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Cordillera mountains’ coffee, considered one of the country’s best, eyes the international market in 2016. Hiked production goals toward regional self-sufficiency, national competitiveness and a significant share of at least 20 percent of the export market in 2016 are expected by the Department of Agriculture for the famous coffee. Cordillera had a total coffee production of around 5,627 metric tons (MT) of several varieties that included Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica, and Robusta in 2011, Joan Bacbac, regional coordinator of the High Value Crop Development Program (HVCDP) reported in a briefing here. Kalinga tops coffee production in 2011 with around 3,857 MT; Ifugao, with 1,053 MT; and Benguet with 486 MT. Meanwhile, Mt. Province, Abra and Apayao, produced 162, 54, and 13 MTs, respectively. Bacbac said the country has a large coffee market with an estimated annual consumption of 53,000 MT. The Philippines is lucky because it is one of the few countries where Arabica, Excelsa, Liberica and Robusta varieties are grown, and Cordillera is also among the few regions that produce such varieties. At present, the country yields on average 0.733 MT and dreams to produce 1.5 MT by 2016. To achieve the dream, said Bacbac, the Agriculture Department is working on the rehabilitation of the existing 6,980 hectares of coffee production area in Cordillera and the development of 425 hectares of new coffee plantation by 2016. With such, new jobs will be created and good agricultural practices will be promoted as government provides post harvest and irrigation development services, the DA said. Aside from mass propagation of quality planting materials, procurement and distribution of planting materials, establishment of technology demonstration projects, procurement of post-harvest facilities, and support to the certification of organic coffee and conduct of researchers, DA is also embarking on the establishment of a foundation scion grove, coffee nurseries and village level postharvest center.

Tenants leave coconut farms destroyed by typhoon ‘Pablo’ By Nico Alconaba Inquirer Mindanao 5:44 pm | Monday, December 17th, 2012 DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – The tenants are moving out, leaving behind the typhoon-devastated coconut plantations and their landlords. Wilma Sinangute, along with her four children, are now in an evacuation center in Mati City, some 110 kilometers away from their home in the village of Kinablangan in Baganga town. So are Evangeline Dayosa and her four children, who also had to travel from her village in Lambajon, also in Baganga. Dayosa and Sinangute seemed not likely to return to their hometown. The reason: They are tenants or caretakers of coconut plantations that have been ravaged by Typhoon ‘Pablo’. Replanting of coconut trees would mean at least eight years of waiting before harvest time — something that people like Dayosa and Sinangute cannot do. Vice Governor Jose Mayo Almario considered the exodus of people from either Cateel or Baganga “a natural tendency.” “There’s a strong possibility for tenants to leave typhoon-hit areas in Davao Oriental to seek work elsewhere since it will take years to rehabilitate these areas,” he said. Leofe Aradillos of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), said, indeed, most of the evacuees at the Matiao National High School in Mati City were “tenants.” “If they stay there (Baganga), they won’t have any means of living,” Aradillos said. “They were tilling lands that were not theirs,” she added. Even before the Matiao school started accommodating evacuees, people have been moving out of Baganga and Cateel towns – some by land, while some boarded the Navy ship as it returned to Mati City after delivering relief goods. The PSWDO has also recorded at least 119 people from Baganga and Cateel who have been staying with relatives and friends here. The PSWDO even “transported” 35 people who wanted to go to Davao City.

The PSWDO records show that in Baganga alone, a total of 19,833 families have been affected by typhoon Pablo and need to be fed. Although some residents have started to rebuild their homes – even meat, fish and vegetable vendors have returned to the public market at the town center – residents could not say for how long their savings can last. Sinangute expressed hope government would provide her a new home, this time in Mati City, as she was planning to find work for her children. “She’s already 16, she can work and go to school at the same time,” Sinangute said of her daughter.

Alleged dummies in rice smuggling case appear in Senate hearing By Matikas Santos 2:33 pm | Monday, December 17th, 2012

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Several rice traders allegedly being used as dummies by rice smugglers finally appeared before the Senate Monday after snubbing previous hearings on the matter. Dennis Gonzalez, Mary Joyce Lim, Michael Villanueva, Inigo Espiritu, Eugene Pioquinto, Jenny Reyes, and Sandra Lim, among others, apologized to the Committee on Agriculture and Food for their absence in previous hearings. The Bureau of Customs had previously seized P500 million worth of imported rice at the Subic Bay Port. The 420,000 sacks of rice did not have the appropriate documents, according to Customs Commissioner Rudolfo Biazon. When each of the traders was asked by committee chairman Francis Pangilinan what their reasons were for not attending the hearings, they each said they were afraid because it was the first time they were called before the Senate. They also said they feared they would be jailed because of the arrest warrants issued against them by the Senate. The Senate was investigating the alleged rice smuggling that occurred at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone exposed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in a privilege speech last July 25.

When further asked by the committee, they all pointed to a certain Willie Sy as their financial backer who promised to pay them in exchange for selling the alleged smuggled rice in the local market. They said they were offered P100,000 if they won the bidding for the rice and P5 per sack of rice sold in the local market. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was not satisfied with the answers of the rice traders saying they were lying, urged them to come clean and reveal the modus operandi of the mastermind of the rice smuggling. Enrile said that the Senate understands that these rice traders were just used by whoever was the mastermind behind the smuggling and that they have no intention of punishing them as long as they cooperate. When directly asked by Senator Jinggoy Estrada on whether they were dummy companies used by Willie Sy, some admitted yes while others said they were not. The Senate had also previously issued arrest warrants against Dexter Marfil of Masagana Import-Export Incorporated, Magdangal Diego Maralit Bayani III of St. Andrews Field Grains and Cereals Trading, and Protik Guha, chief executive officer of Indian company Amira Foods, the three alleged main players in the smuggling. All three are still being hunted by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Immigration because they are believed to have left the country.

Groups seek ‘inclusive growth’ for Aurora without ecozone Category: Economy Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 21:08 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter Critics of the controversial Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) on Monday called for a development model that promotes “inclusive growth” in the province of Aurora. The Task Force Anti-Apeco on Monday issued a statement backed by a group of social scientists from the Ateneo de Manila University, saying that the controversial economic zone does not promote the inclusive growth envisioned by President Aquino. Members of the Task Force Anti-Apeco and Pinagsamang Lakas Ng Mga Casiguranin (Piglasca) said Apeco promotes “exclusive growth” that leaves behind farmers, fishermen and indigenous people, who have been adversely affected by Apeco’s operations. Piglasca organized the march from Casiguran, Aurora, to Manila early this month. The protesters challenged the Apeco’s ambitions to fully establish a 12,923-hectare free port in Casiguran and, after an audience with Malacañang officials, got the nod from Mr.Aquino to conduct a review of Apeco. A review of Apeco’s viability is now being conducted by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda). Vicente Convicto, president of Piglasca, multi-sectoral organizer of the Casiguran marchers, said the protesters are not against development per se. However, he said Apeco’s development model excludes the poor. Farmers in the province have been calling for the immediate distribution of land to landless farmers, while fishermen have been complaining against the alleged fishing ban imposed against small fishermen in areas that fall within or covered by Apeco. Task Force Anti-Apeco and Piglasca, meanwhile, found a strong ally in a group of concerned social scientists from the Ateneo de Manila University who signed on Sunday a statement urging a substantive review and suspension of Apeco’s activities. The Apeco case is a clear transgression of the principles of inclusive growth and development, according to the Ateneo social scientists— whose fields of expertise span the disciplines of economics, political science, development studies, psychology and sociology.

In a signed statement, they said: “If we are to tread the ‘tuwid na daan’ and fully regain the citizens’ trust, let not Apeco be an example of major economic projects to achieve inclusive growth and development.” The protesters insist that there are clear grounds why Apeco’s promises of “development” have remained and will continue to remain questionable. “Against Apeco’s pledges to ‘progress’ and ‘job creation,”’ several international studies by social scientists have stressed how ecozones have consistently favored the more affluent strata of society, instead of the poor populations of the areas where they have been put up. The group cited a pattern described in 2011 by Indian economic geographer Swapna Banerjee-Guha as “enclave development,” which for instance, special economic zones in India have been found to have resulted in highly uneven development patterns that, in reality, worsen the poverty, inequalities and vulnerability experienced by the alreadymarginalized. “Almost always, the inhabitants of such ecozone lands are displaced and dispossessed of their long-held livelihood activities, and made to suffer the brunt of the ecological devastation that these megaprojects bring in their wake,” Convicto quoted the study as saying. The same studies amply document how the operation of ecozones— such as those of India, China and the Philippines’s own Bataan and Cavite export processing zones— have been stained by a sordid history of violent community displacements, a systematic disregard of basic labor rights, as well as the perpetration of other forms of human-rights violations. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, during a meeting with the Casiguran marchers on December 10, 2012, called for an “examination of conscience” over the development model being promoted by Apeco and other ecozones. Tagle voiced out fear that the development model being promoted by ecozones may eventually worsen the situation of the destitute. Instead, Tagle urged a greater appreciation of more inclusive forms of development that have not been seriously considered throughout the creation of the Aurora ecozone. Representatives of the Casiguran marchers and their supporters are scheduled to attend the preliminary consultations over Neda’s independent review of Aurora ecozone.

Senate approves magna carta of the poor on third reading Category: Economy Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 21:07 Written by Butch Fernandez / Reporter The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill, which seeks to protect the rights of the poor by ensuring them equal access to basic rights and government services. Senate Bill 3309, also known as the Magna Carta of the Poor, was introduced by Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada and Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Pia Cayetano, a news release from the Senate office said on Monday. “The Magna Carta of the poor is a significant piece of legislation which seeks to ensure that no Filipino would be denied his or her basic rights and basic government services, and that no Filipino should be denied the opportunity to improve his or her station in life through education and employment, merely on the basis of his or her social standing,” Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, chairman of the Committee on Social Justice and sponsor of the proposed measure, said Once passed into law, Pangilinan said, the state will ensure the protection of five basic rights of every Filipino, namely, the right to food, employment, quality education, shelter, and basic health services and medicines. “This measure seeks to ensure that pro-poor policies and programs will continue to be in place, even after this administration’s term is over,” Pangilinan said. “More important, resources will continue to be allocated for anti-poverty alleviation programs. Our people are our greatest resource and we believe that investing in our people, ensuring that they will become productive and progressive members of the society will ultimately lead to the realization of our shared goals for a progressive and prosperous nation,” he added. According to Pangilinan, 27 percent of Filipinos live in poverty without access to food and shelter, employment, education and health care.He said farmers and fishermen and are the most affected with 37 percent and 35 percent, respectively, living in poverty. Pangilinan said 32 percent of our farmers and fishermen cannot even fend for themselves. “As elected representatives of the people and as officials of the government, we find it unacceptable that large segments of our population continue to live without their basic needs. We have to ensure that the rights of these marginalized groups are upheld and protected,” Pangilinan said.

Workers dare ILO chief: Expose Aquino’s antilabor policies Category: Economy Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 21:05 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on Monday urged Guy Ryder, International Labor Organization (ILO) director general who concluded a two-day visit in the country on Sunday and Monday, to take up the cudgels for Filipino workers who, instead of getting a reasonable wage increases, were slapped with wage cuts under the Aquino administration. The group also complained against the rampant violation of workers’ rights in the country, citing the cases filed against three KMU officials a few months back. Elmer Labog, chairman of KMU, blamed the Aquino administration as being chiefly responsible for the lack of decent jobs in the country. Despite the government’s claims of economic growth, the Philippines lags behind many countries in terms of providing decent work, he added. “The sad state of workers’ rights in the country demand that the ILO director general, and the ILO as a whole, speak up and act against the government’s violations of these rights,” Labog said. “Workers’ rights to a living wage and job security and to unionize and strike have all been attacked by the Aquino administration. This government has implemented major policies that trampled on these rights,” he added. According to Labog, three of KMU’s national leaders have been slapped with trumpedup charges this year. “Instead of respecting workers’ basic rights, the government is attacking those who are fighting for workers’ rights,” he said. KMU lamented the Aquino administration refusal to implement a significant wage increase, its legalization of contractual employment through the Department of Labor and Employment’s Order 18-A Series of 2011, and refusal to junk the labor secretary’s power to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes. Worse, the government’s implementation of the two-tiered wage system this year has resulted to the imposition of a floor wage of P255, which is lower than P337, the highest wage level in the region, notably in the Southern Tagalog region, Labog said.

Meanwhile, he said leaders of KMU have been slapped with trumped up charges and face arrest under the Aquino administration. These include Roy Velez (KMU-National Capital Region chairman), Amelita Gamara (KMU-NCR deputy secretary-general) and Ronald Ian Evidente (KMU-Negros spokesman) who have all been charged of crimes in connection their alleged links with the communist-led New People’s Army. Meanwhile, Hermenegildo Mara-sigan, vice chairman of the Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan, KMU’s Southern Tagalog chapter, was charged in relation to an alleged scuffle that broke out in an anti-militarization protest in Laguna. “We dare the ILO chief to speak up and do something against the Aquino government’s grave violations of workers’ rights. It’s the government that’s chiefly responsible for the dearth of decent work in the country,” Labog said.

Caraga palm-oil planters refuse to talk with workers Category: Regions Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 19:13 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter THE Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on Monday chided owners of palm-oil plantations in the Caraga region who continue to refuse to hold talks with striking workers despite the havoc wrought by Typhoon “Pablo.” Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general, said at least three palm-oil plantations in the region have continuously rejected appeals by striking workers to hold talks for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Workers of the Agumill, Agusan Plantation Inc. (API) and Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation Inc. (FPPI) have been on strike since Nov. 27 because of the deadlock in CBA negotiations. According to KMU, despite the destruction wrought by typhoon “Pablo” on the workers’ homes, Chan Lok Lim, CEO of both Agumill and API, and Dennis Villareal, CEO of FPPI, have refused to sit down and talk with the workers. “While Filipinos and even foreigners are trying hard to help the people of Mindanao who are still suffering from Pablo’s wrath, some capitalists in Caraga continue to think solely of their profits,” Soluta said. According to Soluta, “this demonstrates nothing but the greed of big capitalists.” He said that for years, these companies earned huge profits from the labor of their workers. “Now that their workers badly need help, they refuse to even negotiate,” he said. According to Soluta, the continuing workers’ strikes in Caraga show that capitalists and the Aquino administration do not pretend to even show some concern for workers. Workers of Agumill and API called “insulting” the managements’ CBA offers, which include maintaining the wage increase that was agreed upon in the previous CBA and increasing wages by a mere P2.00 for 2012. FPPI workers are still waiting for the management’s improved offers after the Department of Labor ordered it to do so. “These capitalists are acting like it’s too much to show some compassion and consider their workers’ plight. Even if they too were badly affected by Pablo, they should at least resume negotiations with their workers,” Soluta said.

Region-10 Generates $117-M Coco Export December 17, 2012, 5:05pm CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (PIA) – Export of coconut commodities has earned $117.72 million for Region-10 during the third quarter of 2012. Records from the Region-10 office of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA-10) showed that the value of export sales during the period was higher by two percent from the $115.29 million earned in the same period in 2011.The volume of coconut commodities exported during the quarter, on the other hand, grew remarkably by 56 percent to 113,203 metric tons, totally recovering from a 27 percent reduction in the first quarter of the year. Though the total volume exported went up, the slight increase in the value of export sales was due to the decline in the global prices of coco-based products as a result of high soybean oil supply in the global market, said Engineer Cecilio Clarete, chief economic and development specialist of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Among the coco-based products, coconut chemicals and coconut oil were the top export commodities during the quarter earning $61.98 million and US$27.32 million, respectively.Other earners include copra meal pellets with $10.27 million, desiccated coconut with $4.97 million, coconut water with $4.71 million, and coconut shell charcoal with $3.79 million. In another development, the province of Bukidnon is still the biggest corn producer in Northern Mindanao or Region-10 – contributing 64 percent to the overall corn production in the region during the third quarter of 2012.Data gathered by the NEDA from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) in Region-10 showed that Bukidnon produced 286,465 metric tons of corn during the quarter, lifting the region’s production output by almost six percent to 448,855 metric tons. The province’s output was primarily due to the planting of white corn to some sugarcane areas, as well as, additional planting of yellow corn in hilly and mountainous areas of Malaybalay and Cabanglasan, Clarete said. Lanao del Norte only contributed 96,167 metric tons, followed by Misamis Oriental with 41,923 metric tons, while Misamis Occidental and Camiguin produced 24,046 and 254 metric tons, respectively. Clarete said the production in Lanao del Norte was affected by insufficient rainfall during the reproductive stage and large reduction in area harvested, which drastically reduced yellow corn production in the province. Overall, the region produced 150,320 metric tons of white corn, and 298,535 metric tons of yellow corn.

BSP clarifies rules on bank branching By Prinz P. Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has clarified rules governing the liberalization of bank branching issued six months ago. In May, the central bank issued Circular 759 which, among others, extended the expiration period of approved bank branch applications to three years from the original one year. The circular took effect June 17. This time, Circular 777 issued Dec. 13, said bank branch applications governed by the previous one-year expiration, but did not expire last June 17, have fresh three years to put them up. The latest issuance will take effect 15 days after publication in newspapers of general circulation. This is “to avoid having banks to come back for extensions,� BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said in a text message yesterday. The central bank has encouraged banks to set up more branches, especially in far-flung areas, as part of its financial inclusion campaign, which aims to reach out to more people in need of access to credit for their livelihood. As of June, there were a total of 9,207 bank offices operating in the country, BSP data showed. Additional 86 offices have been approved for opening from April to June, but they are yet to be established.

More OFW households saving money in fourth quarter–BSP Category: Banking & Finance Published on Monday, 17 December 2012 19:28 Written by Jun Vallecera / Reporter THE number of remittance recipients who saved a portion of the money sent to them rose to 39.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) quarterly survey showed. The latest figure is 2.7 percentage points higher than in the previous quarter, when only 36.8 percent of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) households saved money for the proverbial rainy day, and comes at a time when the peso value of those remittances diminished as the US dollar weakened. A typical $300 allotment sent each month by some 10 million OFWs that exchanged for P12,524 in September is now P12,279 at the current exchange rate. A monthly remittance of $1,000 that exchanged for P41,749 three months ago is now P40,930 at the current exchange rate. While savings from remittances increased, OFW households using it for investment fell to 3.1 percent from the 4.9 percent recorded in the third quarter. “The percentage that utilized part of their remittances to purchase consumer durables, houses and lots, and motor vehicles decreased, compared to the previous quarter’s results,” BSP Director Rosabel Guerrero said. Results of past BSP surveys on OFW households showed that the bulk of remittances were used for daily sustenance, with the latest figure at 95.6 percent. Money spent on children’s education was 68.8 percent; payment of medical bills, 65.5 percent; and debt payments, 44.1 percent. The BSP said the pattern of expense was the same, regardless whether the remittance recipient is in Metro Manila or outside it. The increase in OFW remittance recipients saving money was noted after recent reports said the peso would grow stronger within the next two months, with some predicting the local currency to be P38.50 per dollar. Views of a strong peso against the US dollar were supported by the latest BSP survey on consumer expectations, which indicated consumer bias for a stronger local currency. It also indicated that domestic interest rates would remain low in the coming months, prices

of commodities and services would continue to fall, and benign inflation would keep improving. This consumer-expectations poll also showed that consumer confidence was boosted by a greater number of previously pessimistic respondents from the low-income bracket who have adopted a more optimistic view of the immediate future. “The more favorable outlook on the economic condition of the country was driven by the sentiment of low-income groups, which recorded the biggest improvement in outlook across income groups in fourth quarter of 2012,� Guerrero said. She added that the survey marked the first time those in the low-income bracket expressed a more optimistic view of the economy than their middle-income and high-income counterparts.

Peso slightly up By Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:43 pm | Monday, December 17th, 2012

AFP FILE PHOTO/TED ALJIBE MANILA, Philippines—The peso rose minimally on Monday as expectations that the central bank would impose another set of measures to curb currency speculation partially offset the impact of a favorable economic outlook on demand for local securities. The local currency closed at 41.04 against the US dollar on the first trading day of the week, up by 5 centavos from 41.09:$1 on Friday. Intraday high hit 41.025:$1, while intraday low settled at 41.05:$1. Volume of trade amounted to $603.7 million from $729.25 million previously. Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas was earlier quoted as saying that the monetary authority was prepared to implement other “macro-prudential measures” or bank regulations to temper speculative activities and prevent an even steeper appreciation of the peso. Earlier this year, the BSP imposed a higher capital requirement for banks’ holdings of non-deliverable forwards (NDFs)—hedging instruments meant for exporters and importers but were believed to be used by some investors and banks for purposes of currency speculation. The BSP said it has been allowing the exchange rate to be generally market-determined, but it could intervene from time to time to avoid sharp and sudden rise (or fall) of the peso, which it said could happen if speculative activities became rampant. It said excessive volatility of the exchange rate would be bad for business and the economy.

Moreover, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said macro-prudential measures have been deemed more prudent than interest-rate cuts in addressing the issue of excessive foreign portfolio investments. The monetary board of the BSP, in its policy-setting meeting last Thursday, decided to keep interest rates steady. But Guinigundo said this did not mean the BSP has not been looking at the issue of capital flows. According to Guinigundo, the BSP considers the potential surge in foreign portfolio investments as an important issue that deserves regulatory focus.

2012 12 18 - QUEDANCOR Daily News Monitor  

News monitor for 2012 12 18

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