DOH issues flu advisory amid outbreak in US By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 ‐ 12:00am
A quarantine official sprays chemical inside an aircraft that landed at the NAIA yesterday amid the US flu outbreak. RUDY SANTOS MANILA, Philippines ‐ As the United States battles with a flu epidemic, the Department of Health (DOH) has asked the public to observe precautionary measures to stop the spread of influenza. Health Secretary Enrique Ona yesterday said the Christmas season had brought in relatives from the United States. “I have instructed the Bureau of Quarantine to intensify fever screening at the points of entry. Though there are neither travel nor trade restrictions imposed concerning the US flu situation, we must be on our guard to detect influenza cases not only at our ports and airports but also from our health facilities,” Ona said. The DOH chief said the sick should stay and recover at home, noting that it takes only a few days and the symptoms subside.
“Protective measures should be observed consistently to stop viral spread like proper hand washing, cough etiquette and social distancing,” he said. “Influenza can be a very serious disease. It can lead to hospitalization and death,” said Ona. He said young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and those with certain health conditions such as heart, kidney, or lung disease, can easily be seriously ill and suffer from pneumonia complications. Reports said the flu virus is spreading in 47 American states. It is only in California, Mississippi and Hawaii, where the illness is not widespread. About 7.3 percent of deaths last week were reportedly caused by pneumonia and flu, surpassing the 7.2 percent threshold. Influenza is a viral illness that spreads from person to person through droplets made when one sneezes, coughs or talks. A person becomes sick two days after being infected. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/01/16/897524/doh‐issues‐flu‐advisory‐amid‐outbreak‐us
SC tackles cyber law petitions By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Opponents of the Cybercrime Prevention Act took turns yesterday trying to demolish the measure before a largely sympathetic Supreme Court (SC). In oral arguments on petitions for the repeal of the measure, senior magistrates of the high court agreed in several instances to constitutional questions raised by those opposed to the new law or Republic Act 10175. Two appointees of President Aquino – Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen – sounded off government’s stand as they grilled petitioners against the measure. Senior Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Diosdado Peralta called the chamber’s attention to what appeared to be loopholes in the law, specifically in its provisions on online libel and on higher penalties for cybercrimes. Carpio cited the lack of clear difference between cybercrimes and their equivalents under the Revised Penal Code. “There’s nothing in this law that requires computer to be online before the crime is committed. Everybody now uses computer to type a news report so practically all libel crimes now are cybercrimes because nobody uses a typewriter anymore,” Carpio explained.
He recalled that the SC “already had several decisions which conflict with Sec. 354 of Revised Penal Code provision on libel.” With this premise, he surmised that the online libel provision in Section 4 (c) of RA 10175 could be considered unconstitutional. He was responding to an argument of UP law professor Harry Roque Jr. that the online libel provision “should be struck down for overbreadth.” Peralta, for his part, said Section 7, which allows prosecution of cybercrime separately from its counterpart in the Revised Penal Code, was “clearly infirm.” “There is really something wrong here,” he stressed, in agreeing with Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who argued that such provision violates the constitutional ban on double jeopardy. De Castro, for her part, took issue with Section 19 of the law, which authorizes the Department of Justice to block or restrict access to computer data without a court warrant. “How do we start determining prima facie evidence? Does that mean law enforcement agents can now snoop around?” she asked during interpellation of lawyer Rodel Cruz. The senior magistrate also cited the lack of clear guarantee under Section 12 of RA 10175, which allows real‐time collection of traffic data, that the right to privacy of citizens will be protected. “Is there any way for the ordinary citizen to know they’re only collecting traffic data and not content data?” she asked. With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Dino Balabo, Mayen Jaymalin, Helen Flores, Neil Jerome Morales http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/01/16/897500/sc‐tackles‐cyber‐law‐petitions
MGB denies Philex motion on P1.03-B tailings spill fine By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has denied the petition of Philex Mining Corp. to use the P1.034-billion tailings spill fine for rehabilitation expenses. This was confirmed by MGB director Leo Jasareno yesterday. Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said Philex would have to pay the fine on or before Feb. 19. “We stood pat on our decision to deny Philex’s motion for reconsideration. This cannot be considered as force majeur. Force majeur or not, they have to pay the penalty,” Paje said. “They still have the option to appeal before the Office of the President, but on our part, our decision is final,” he said. In a statement, Philex said yesterday it would cooperate with the MGB on the payment of the fee.
“We will work closely with the MGB on this as we welcome the decision that the amount to be paid will be used for the rehabilitation of affected areas,” the company said. Philex said it has been transparent and upfront from the start. “We said we will never run away from our obligations under the law,” the company said. “We will show that responsible mining is possible in the country.” Philex had no longer contesting the payment of the amount imposed but filed a petition seeking to use the money to finance the rehabilitation of waterways that were affected by the tailings spill in its copper‐gold mine in Padcal, Benguet in August. In its response to the letter initially informing them of the fine, Philex contested its imposition, saying the incident was caused by the incessant rains that led to the leakage of the mine tailings on Aug. 1. The MGB said the incident was “not a fortuitous event” and the company “failed to maintain the structural integrity of TP No. 3 (tailing pond no. 3).” In its motion last Dec. 3, Philex petitioned that the fine imposed on them should be used for rehabilitation expenses. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/01/16/897544/mgb‐denies‐philex‐motion‐p1.03‐b‐tailings‐ spill‐fine
Right on target COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am 0
Traditionally, at the start of each new year, our Tuesday Club at EDSA Shangri-La at Ortigas Avenue invites Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. to render his annual report and forecast for the country’s economy. Through these past years he has done this, it was only yesterday I learned Tetangco is also a gun enthusiast like President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III. Tetangco packs The Legend, caliber .40 pistol. His fellow gun enthusiasts were teasing him yesterday to a shooting game. But Tetangco reminded them about the gun ban of the Commission on Elections already in effect. Actually, Tetangco told us he practices with members of the Central Bank security forces in Silang, Cavite where the BSP has an indoor firing range. Honed perhaps by his sharp shooting skills, Tetangco reported the BSP has been hitting their monetary and fiscal targets. This was to explain how “the domestic economy continues to draw strength from homegrown sources of resilience.” Despite the global financial turmoil affecting the United States and the European economies, the domestic economy grew 6.4 percent last year while inflation rate has been kept at single-digit. No wonder Tetangco, now on his eighth year as BSP governor, was named last week as “Central Banker of the Year for Asia-Pacific” by The Banker, a publication of the Financial Times Group. Tetangco cited the year 2012 marked the fourth consecutive year that the BSP has been able to keep inflation within the govern-ment’s target. “With a broadly benign inflation outlook, we hope to see the same in 2013,” Tetangco assured his audience of jaded journalists and public relations practitioners. Although optimistic about the economic future of the country, Tetangco confessed BSP’s “concern” over the greater amount of “hot money” comprising the capital inflows in the country rather than foreign direct investments (FDIs).
This is largely due to the government’s own fault. Of course Tetangco would be hesitant to admit this but the government’s notorious habit of changing rules in the middle of the game is largely the cause of this problem. Thankfully, some of these faults are not beyond repair but can still be corrected as in the case of foreign ownership rule involving one of the country’s largest telecommunications company. Rohit Chopra, portfolio manager at Lazard Asset Management LLC, is correct to call the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on the gravity of upholding the existing method of computing foreign ownership in Philippine firms. That is, the limit should be based on the “percentage of total shares outstanding as opposed to being segregated by share class.” Chopra, speaking about LLC shares at the Philippine Long Distance and
Telephone (PLDT) Co., stated: “The new proposal, we believe, is unfairly grouping our passive interests with those of possible foreign strategic investors.” Having invested about P1 billion in the country’s equities market since the early 1990s, the global financial advisory and investment firm has every right to question the new rules being adopted on foreign ownership limits in Philippine firms. And with over $146 billion in assets under its management, Lazard Asset must be taken seriously when it warns that such regulations could drive away foreign investors. The Supreme Court (SC) late last year granted part of the petition by Wilson P. Gamboa, a lawyer who, in 2007, asked the court to nullify the sale of a government share in Philippine Telecommunications Investments Corp. (PTIC) to First Pacific Co. Ltd., a Hong Kong‐based investment firm, headed by business leader Manuel V. Pangilinan, that partly owns PLDT. decision, and is saying that the “dispositive” portion in its ruling refers to the term “capital,” as defined in the Constitution, as the “shares of stock entitled to vote in the election of directors, and thus in the present case, only to common shares and not to the total outstanding capital stock (common and non‐ voting preferred shares).” June 28 This involved shares of 46 percent, representing 4.6 percent interest in PLDT. The SEC considered imposing a new rule on foreign ownership in a Still it is a welcome gesture that SEC chairman Teresita Herbosa has given word that her office might not go for the strict implementation of a 60‐percent local ownership in each class of shares. She also said the Commission would come up with rules that would lessen conflict and be acceptable to all, owing to the country’s need to attract more foreign investments. This would prevent the SEC from implementing an earlier proposal of imposing restriction on each class of shares, as intended by the controversial SC ruling on the capital of PLDT. With the latest statement on the controversial foreign ownership rule coming from the highest leadership of the SEC on this PLDT ownership issue, the business community in the Philippines can sleep soundly — for now. I hate clichés. But what an apt situation to coin the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Considering the Aquino administration has been trying its very best to attract more investments, it’s really about time the government put its money where its mouth is. It has to walk the talk. And most of all, the government must refrain from changing horses in midstream. But nothing’s over until it’s over until the fat lady sings. Now, that’s a lot of clichés! Therefore, the business community and all the stakeholders should not let their guard down in their campaign for the SEC to uphold the existing 60‐40 percent local‐foreign ownership restriction on cumulative shares per firm regardless of share type. Now the business community must do its best in putting across its message to the SEC where Herbosa herself has vowed to come up with a decision by March or April. Hopefully, Herbosa would come up
with a Solomonic solution, at best a win‐win situation, not only for all the stakeholders but for the greater welfare and interest of the country. This will certainly also make it easier for Aquino’s economic team who are not all gun shooting enthusiasts like the President and Tetangco, to meet their goals and hit their marks right on target. http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2013/01/16/897433/right‐target
Bad loans ratio eases to 2 pct in Oct. 2012 (philstar.com) | Updated January 15, 2013 - 11:30pm
MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The non-performing loans (NPL) ratio of Philippine universal and commercial banks (U/KBs) eased to 2 percent in October, the country's central bank said today. The central bank said in a statement that October's figures reflect the steady decline in the NPL ratio for the past few years and attributed to a decline in the amount of NPL and the continuing rise in the total loan portfolio (TLP). The improved NPL ratio in October came with the 1.43 percent expansion in TLP. The U/KBs' non-performing loans declined 1.17 percent on year to P69.12 billion ($1.70 billion) in October, while TLP increased to P3.46 trillion ($85.12 billion) during the same period. The loan exposure of banks remained adequately covered. The NPL coverage ratio stood at 138.73 percent in October.
Noy declares March 26 working holiday in Cebu By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has declared March 26 every year a “special working holiday” in Cebu province in commemoration of its historic liberation from Japanese occupation during World War II. He signed Republic Act 10359 last Jan. 9 that expands the holiday not just in Talisay City – as per Republic Act 7280 that was automatically repealed – but in the entire province of Cebu as well. The measure was passed by the House of Representatives in November 2012 and the Senate a month later. It was signed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.
Pampanga hospital upgrade Aquino also signed last Jan. 9 RA 10355 that doubles the bed capacity of the Jose Lingad Memorial General Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga from 250 to 500. The new law also aims to upgrade the medical facility’s services and professional health care, at the same time authorizing the increase of its medical personnel, in conformity with the commensurate increase in its bed capacity. The hospital’s existing workforce shall also be increased, with the Department of Health, the Department of Budget and Management and the Civil Service Commission determining the additional plantilla positions that have to be created. The bed capacity increase, according to the new law, should be carried out “for a period of not more than four years.” Lichauco citizenship A third law, RA 10356, was also signed by Aquino granting Philippine citizenship to Jessie Josephine Coe Lichauco, who will now enjoy all the rights, privileges, duties and obligations of a Filipino. Lichauco will be taking her oath of allegiance before the Bureau of Immigration, after which a certificate of naturalization will be issued to her. The House endorsed Lichauco’s citizenship in August last year, and the Senate, three months later. http://www.philstar.com/nation/2013/01/16/897287/noy-declares-march-26-working-holiday-cebu
5 quakes jolt Negros (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 15, 2013 - 12:00am
BACOLOD City , Philippines – Five quakes hit southern Negros Occidental Sunday night,the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said yesterday. A magnitude 3 quake occurred at 2:02 p.m., magnitude 5 at 9:08 p.m, magnitude 4.1 at 9:13 p.m. and magnitude 3.7 at 9:40 p.m in Silay City. A magnitude 3.5 quake also hit Hinobaan at 9:48 a.m. The epicenter of the magnitude 5 quake was located 51 kilometers southwest of Sipalay City. It was felt at Intensity 3 in Sipalay City and Intensity 2 in Iloilo City, Phivolcs said. – Danny Dangcalan, Helen Flores http://www.philstar.com/nation/2013/01/15/896918/5-quakes-jolt-negros
Japan OKs P8-M rice aid to ‘Pablo’ victims By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Japan has approved the delivery of emergency rice assistance worth P8 million ($200,000) for the victims of typhoon “Pablo.” The Japanese government has approved the project that will be implemented by the ASEAN Plus Three Rice Reserve (APTERR) to assist the typhoon victims, according to the Japanese embassy. APTERR is a regional cooperation started in 2004 to ensure food security during an emergency caused by temporary and large-scale calamities. Japan has funded $6.34 million in total since the start of APTERR’s pilot project. Its rice assistance is the first project after the ratification of APTERR agreement in July last year. http://www.philstar.com/nation/2013/01/16/897289/japan-oks-p8-m-rice-aid-pablo-victims
OFW remittances up 6% in Jan-Nov ’12 By Prinz P. Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Money sent home by Filipinos living and working overseas hit $19.416 billion in the first 11 months of 2012, up six percent from a year ago level, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday. The latest growth figure was higher than the central bank’s forecast of a five percent expansion. For November alone, cash remittances amounted to $1.918 billion, the second highest for the year after October’s $1.928 billion. Personal remittances such as hand-carried money transfers also grew 7.6 percent to $2.131 billion in November. So far, these transfers have grown by a faster 6.1 percent to $21.592 billion during the 11-month period. “Remittances continued to draw strength from increasing demand for skilled and professional Filipinos abroad along with innovations in remittance services offered by banks and financial institutions,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a statement.
A total of 329,947 job orders were processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration last year, official data showed. Most workers were deployed in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Taiwan and Hong Kong. “The government’s continued efforts to ensure that workers are adequately trained and properly certified are expected to sustain the deployment of skilled workers to various country destinations and consequently boost remittances,” Tetangco explained. The bulk of cash remittances came from the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Japan, UAE and Singapore. These countries account for 78 percent of total remittances during the 11-month period. Cash transfers from land-based workers expanded by 4.2 percent, while those from seafarers grew by a faster 12.5 percent, data showed. Actual amounts were not provided. Remittances form part of the country’s balance of payments (BOP), which Tetangco said reached $8.9 billion in surplus last year. A surplus indicates the country has enough resources to meet trade obligations and pay external debts. “A steady stream of overseas remittances and robust receipts from BPO (business process outsourcing) and other service exports continue to contribute to the country’s resilient external payments position,” Tetangco said. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897307/ofw-remittances-6-jan-nov-12
Phl posts $8.9-B BOP surplus in 2012 By Prinz P. Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
Tetangco MANILA, Philippines - The country’s balance of payments (BOP) ended in a surplus of $8.9 billion last year, surpassing official forecast, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said. “The country’s BOP position has been in surplus for a record eight years,” Tetangco said in a statement yesterday during a breakfast meeting in Mandaluyong. His statement came ahead of the official release of 2012 BOP data on Friday. The latest figure is down from $10.179 billion in surplus posted in 2011, but beat the revised $6.8-billion outlook last year. The BOP summarizes total inflow against total outflow of capital within a given period in a particular economy. A surplus indicates the country has enough resources to meet its trade obligations and pay external debts. The BOP consists of two segments, the current and capital accounts. Current accounts pertain to inflows in the form of export and tourism receipts, remittances from overseas Filipinos and earnings of business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.
Capital accounts, on the other hand, refer to portfolio inflows in the stock and bond markets as well as longterm foreign direct investments. The BSP chief said “structural” current account inflows accounted for the bulk of BOP surplus. This, in turn, has resulted into more demand for pesos, contributing to the currency’s recent appreciation against the dollar. A strong peso, which opened at 40.60 against the greenback yesterday, trims the value of dollar earnings and remittances. “A steady stream of overseas remittances and robust receipts from BPO and other service exports continue to contribute to the country’s resilient external payments position,” Tetangco explained. “If flows are structural in nature… we can accommodate some appreciation of the foreign exchange as a result of that,” he added. For this year, the central bank expects BOP surplus to narrow down to $3 billion, aided by continued capital flows as investors remain bullish of the economy’s prospects. “With continued market expectations of investment-grade status, we could continue to see more foreign capital coming into our financial markets this year,” Tetangco explained. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897309/phl-posts-8.9-b-bop-surplus-2012
Market takes breather as investors pocket gains By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The stock market’s bull run, which pushed the main index to repeated all-time highs, slowed down yesterday as investors took profits nearing the close of trading. While the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) vaulted to yet another record high at 6,140.72 in morning trades, profit taking in the afternoon however pulled back the PSEi, ending the day down 0.1 percent or 6.23 points at 6,087.67. “We corrected because the bulls are now taking a rest. We have run so far so investors are taking profits already,” Astro C. del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Finance Inc., said in a phone interview. He said that early in the trading day, the market was driven by continued liquidity and optimism in the growing domestic economy. The broader All Shares index likewise slightly fell 0.03 percent or 1.04 points to 3,836.10. The sub-indices closed mixed, with gainers led by property firms that rose 1.17 percent while financial companies led decliners, slipping 1.08 percent.
Market breadth was negative as losers outpaced advancers, 97 to 73, while 45 stocks did not change. The value of traded shares dropped to P9.07 billion from Monday’s P9.28 billion. “The market needs a pause,” Del Castillo said, adding that the main index will likely trade in a tight range for the rest of the week. He said the bellwether index might build a base at the 5,900 - 6,000 level before pursuing another run. Around Asia, stocks finished mixed after US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke said the central bank’s bond buying is providing crucial support for the US economy, suggesting it will continue despite divisions with the Fed. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897308/market-takes-breather-investors-pocket-gains
Business expectations survey HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
So whatâ€™s in store for business and the economy this year? Today, we are featuring the opinion of two leading business personalities â€“ Joey A. Concepcion, president, RFM Corp, and Felipe L. Gozon, chairman and CEO of GMA Network on this topic. The interview goes as follows: What are your expectations for Philippine business in 2013? JAC: This year will be another banner year for the Philippines. We are moving to the next level of hoping to be investment grade this year or maybe following year. With the casinos opening and more hotels coming up we should see if tourism will indeed pick up and start moving to the levels of Thailand. FLG: I agree with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the economic managers of the administration, the local and foreign chambers of commerce, other business organizations and most of my business friends that the Philippine economy will grow by six percent or more in 2013. Consequently, most of the businesses in the Philippines can expect substantial growth also, including the broadcast industry. The fact that 2013 is a mid-term election year helps a lot. What needs to be done to make the country a better place to invest in/do business in? JAC: We hope to see better road networks being built to ease traffic. A super highway towards Baguio and as far as Ilocos would be great to improve tourism and agri development and bring farm to market much closer and more cost efficient. Hopefully the start of building world-class airports as we see the bidding of Cebu and eventually Manila which is very important. FLG: Having said the above, I think there are still many areas that need to be improved to make the country a better place to do business in, such as: (a) Substantially reduce national and local government red tape and regulations, minimize graft and corruption, minimize smuggling, improve the efficiency and productivity of the labor force, improve the traffic situation in urban centers, and reduce the incidence of crimes against morals, persons and property. (b) Improve existing roads and establish new highways, expressways and bridges. (c) Improve the existing and establish new air terminals, runways, seaports, piers and wharves. (d) Minimize pollution and improve disaster preparedness, response, rescue and relief operations. (e) Liberalize the entry/investment of foreign capital in areas of business that do not affect national security and in residential, agricultural, industrial and commercial lands; etc. What are the opportunities/threats facing your particular business/industry?
JAC: Our business continues to grow in ice cream. Now, Selecta is close to 80 percent market share but what we would like to see is more Filipinos eating ice cream and this is why we will bring our freezer to more sari-sari stores since the power situation is much better. The rest of our brands in pasta, milk, beverage continues to grow as we see consumer spending improving. FLG: The threats are additional and/or unfair competition from other TV and radio stations, cable and direct-to home TV companies, emerging mobile media platforms, etc. The opportunities in our industry are the opportunities â€“ which are not yet clear at this time â€“ that modern and new technology, like digitization, will make available to both the broadcast companies and the public, the possible de-chaining of the sale of mega Manila programs from the regional programs outside mega Manila, etc. For comments, e-mail at email@example.com. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897344/business-expectations-survey
The Philippine Stock Market (Part II) CROSSROADS (Toward Philippine Economic and Social Progress) By Gerardo P. Sicat (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
There are various explanations for the current stock market boom in the country. Certainly, the fundamental reasons are on account of better macroeconomic conditions. The country’s fiscal, monetary and balance of payments positions have improved and these developments have been sustained over a prolonged period. However, some external factors accentuate further the positive influences that are attributable more to luck, like “grace falling from heaven.” The world economy is simply in bad shape so that we look great! “All stock markets are regulated.” In all countries with stock exchanges, the business is highly regulated. The purchase and sale of company stocks by investors in secondary markets (like stock markets) could be stained by inside information and by unscrupulous traders. For such reasons and more, regulation of stock trading is needed for the protection of the general public. Even in these days of electronic banking (where the investor merely inputs his trade order in a computer terminal at home or at a business location), brokers are needed where investor accounts are set up to begin with. Brokers facilitate day to day operations of the exchange because it is through them that orders to buy and to sell stocks are made. Those who trade in the market involve a wide set of institutions and investors. In an increasingly complex economy, the following institutions take part in the stock market: banks, insurance companies, trust institutions (including pension funds), company treasuries and other fund managers with huge investible resources. These are “non-stock broker” participants in the stock market. Self-regulation of the entities engaged in trading and those who make it work requires a code of conduct. In general, self-regulation hardly ever works. Governmental regulation is needed. Stock markets would even be more volatile and financial collapses would become more frequent phenomena without proper regulation. “A bit of history.” The Philippine stock exchange traces its origin to the Manila Stock Exchange (MSE) which was founded in 1927. In 1936, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was created under Commonwealth Act 83. The SEC was the government body tasked to protect the interest of the investing public within the context of stock market transactions and continues to this day as the regulatory overseer of the stock exchange. With the exception of the war years (1942-1945), the MSE operated as an exchange continuously until it was absorbed into the Philippine Stock Exchange along with – a rival exchange, the Makati Stock Exchange, which was set up in 1963. As Makati became transformed into the country’s financial center, the Makati Stock Exchange overtook the size of the older Manila Stock Exchange even as the latter continued to thrive. In 1992 under government pressure, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) was incorporated as the vehicle for the merger of the two stock exchanges. This was consummated in 1994 when the SEC gave PSE the license to engage in stock trading, cancelling thereby the licenses formerly granted to the two rival exchanges that had merged to become the PSE.
Major reforms were undertaken to make the domestic stock bourse move to the modern times. Many of these changes were goaded by the securities law that tried to strengthen the governance of the stock market as well as to place it in tune with the pace of global developments in stock market operations. The other aspect – which is in terms of improving the product mix of the stock market – is still a long way off in future development. The expansion in product offerings depends more on the level of development of the country’s progress and new opportunities that open up and how the PSE takes up the challenges. A major reform was the adoption of scripless trading in 1996. This came after the reorganization of the central depository for receipts of transactions. In 2001, Republic Act 8799 (Securities Regulation Act) imposed requirements for the expansion of the board of the PSE in order to increase the representation of non-stock broker interests. The appointment of five independent members of the PSE board made possible a broader representation of the interests of the investing public in the stock market. Further reforms and initiatives moved the domestic bourse toward more modern practices, accessing improved technology of trading, helping to make trading of securities shift to modern speed as well as electronically secure. Access to modern communications technology was the key to these changes. “Parallel histories of stock exchanges in East Asia and ASEAN.” The Philippine Stock Exchange, despite recent good notices, is still a small stock market compared to key East Asian stock markets including those in ASEAN. In its company are contemporary stock markets that are among the world’s biggest and most innovative – Hong Kong and Singapore. In fact, the Philippine market has been the most consistent in that it has operated continuously for many decades without interruption. It has a history longer than most of these other stock markets. The Manila Stock Exchange, established in 1927 is one decade older than the Malaysian stock exchange (1937), from which Singapore’s own bourse was born. Thailand’s was founded in 1961 and that of Indonesia in 1971. The other contemporary stock exchanges – including those of Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan – took off in their development as their economies established high growth levels. The stock markets of all these countries – despite the high volatility of their respective histories – have made many of their citizens much richer. All these countries had one common characteristic. Their respective prosperities were propelled by high inflows of foreign direct investments and almost all of them were outward looking in their economic policies once they began to embark on their journeys of progress. “The Philippine stock market in perspective.” The Philippine stock market – despite its recent boom and glory – is the smallest among these stock exchanges. The metrics for making this judgment are numbers that can be compared from these exchanges: (1) number of listed companies; (2) total market capitalization; (3) market capitalization per listed company; (4) market volume turnover per year; (5) number of products offered to investors; and so on. Thus, the challenges for the future of the Philippine market are many. The growth of the local stock market depends in part on the push for internal reforms within the PSE so that it is in proper tune with the demands of
the market place. Much also rests on what the national government does to assure that the economic growth path of the country is sustained. Disclosure: The CEO and president of the PSE, Hans Sicat, is my son. My views on the market are independent of his thinking. I would have written more on the topic but for the likelihood of potentially misunderstood indelicacy. If I were not an economist naturally drawn to the topic, I would still by personal interest follow stock market developments closely. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.ph/gpsicat/ http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897342/philippine-stock-market-part-ii
Peso hits new 5-yr high By Prinz P. Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The peso surged to its fourth record performance this year, closing yesterday at its best in nearly five years on the back of strong positive sentiment to the local economy and as the central bank reiterated its exchange rate policy. The local unit closed at 40.57 to a dollar, nine centavos stronger than its 40.66 close last Monday. During the trading, it nearly beat its benchmark performance of 40.56 hit last March 6, 2008. Trading was contained between 40.55 and 40.61 to a dollar yesterday. Total transactions reached $1.051 billion, almost double the $554.6 million recorded a day before. “The sentiment is for the peso to further appreciate. There is nothing new here. Basically, investors are still positive on the country on expectations of strong growth,” a local bank trader said in a phone interview. The peso, Asia’s second best performing currency against the greenback last year, weakened last Monday as investors pocket in gains in the latter part of afternoon trading. However, the trader said foreign inflows remained high.
Demand for peso increases when foreign inflows swamp the economy through the local financial markets. When demand rises, the currency strengthens. A strong peso trims the value of dollar earnings and remittances. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which were bombarded with calls to do more to temper peso’s strength, maintained yesterday its stance of merely seeing to it that sharp currency movements are avoided. “We recognize that the recent appreciation of the peso can be attributed to both structural and speculative flows,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a statement. “However, because going against fundamentally driven flows through restrictive policies would be imprudent, the BSP has focused on containing speculative flows,” he added. Speculative flows are characterized by inflows in the financial markets which can enter and exit freely any time. Structural flows, on the other hand, are those in the form of export and other businesses’ earnings and remittances. Tetangco said “market-based policies” were put in place last year to shun speculative flows, including a ban on foreign inflows on special deposit accounts and a cap on non-deliverable forwards banks may hold. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897310/peso-hits-new-5-yr-high
PEMC urged to proceed with spot mart in M’danao By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) has ordered the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) to finally push through with the creation of an interim electricity spot market in Mindanao. The move is aimed at addressing the critical power supply situation in the island. In a circular, the DOE said the proposed Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM) would serve as a “day-ahead” market wherein market participants submit their nominations a day before the actual delivery or curtailment of energy. The interim trading floor also aims to provide for a governance framework that would help ensure “free and fair competition” and public accountability in the electricity supply business. Furthermore, the IMEM would provide a settlement based on a uniform pricing framework settled at the market clearing price with which the total cost shall be allocated among participants. “All generation capacities, directly connected customers and distribution customers shall be part of a mandatory program that aims to address only the deficiency of supply in the grid,” the DOE said. The IMEM also aims to provide energy efficiency incentives to suppliers, which will contribute to the supply in the grid. Participants in the IMEM may include generation companies, distribution utilities, cooperatives and other customers. “[T]he PEMC is hereby directed to provide the DOE within two months from the issuance of this circular, the IMEM implementing rules and timelines…for the consideration and approval of the DOE,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said. The DOE said it sees the trading platform as a crucial solution in addressing the power supply crunch in Mindanao because it would provide a venue for participants to trade their excess supply. Mindanao needs some 200 megawatts in additional supply. The PEMC, which operates the wholesale electricity spot markets in Luzon and Visayas, will be heading the electricity trading platform in Mindanao. Established in 2003, the PEMC has been operating the spot market in Luzon since June 2006 and in the Visayas since December 2010. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897314/pemc-urged-proceed-spot-mart-mdanao
Coal Asia pumps IPO proceeds into Davao Oriental project By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Coal Asia Holdings Inc., a publicly-listed exploration company, said it has utilized the proceeds from its initial public offering (IPO) in October last year to jumpstart its mine projects. In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday, Coal Asia said it has spent P126.8 million for working capital and P75.594 million for its Davao Oriental project, particularly for coal mine exploration work. Coal Asia, through subsidiary Titan Mining and Energy Corp., has been embarking on exploration and mine development activities in the Mindanao area. It has earmarked the proceeds from its IPO for its Davao Oriental coal mine, which is targeted to be on stream by 2014, and the Zamboanga Sibugay mine by 2015. Coal Asia raised P800 million from the sale of shares to investors last year. The company said the IPO would enable them to meet the anticipated strong demand for coal. “More importantly, it will enable Coal Asia to supply enough coal for the expected explosion in demand by large-scale energy producers racing to establish their coal-fired energy-generating plants as well as for cement plants already in place in the region as they too prepare for the impending growth of Mindanao through the government’s plans to establish key economic zones in the country’s southernmost region,” it said. Aside from supplying coal for the power sector, Coal Asia is also eyeing to supply steam-grade coal to various manufacturing plants around the country that have converted their diesel-powered plants into coal-powered plants to mitigate costs. Furthermore, Coal Asia is considering exporting coal abroad to other countries in Asia such as India, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897323/coal-asia-pumps-ipo-proceeds-davao-oriental-project
Robinsons Land hikes capex budget to P13B By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC), the property development arm of the Gokongwei Group, has increased its programmed capital spending to P13 billion this year to take advantage of the sustained property boom. “The company has budgeted P13 billion in capital expenditures covering land and constructions for fiscal year 2013,” RLC said. Of the capital allotment, two-thirds will be spent for the development of malls, office buildings and hotels while the remaining 33 percent will be taken up by residential condominium and housing projects. RLC’s capital spending dropped to P9.5 billion in its fiscal year 2012 from P13.9 billion in 2011 but was higher than the P6.5 billion in 2010, representing about 71 percent, 108 percent and 60 percent of revenues in those years, respectively, the company said. “These will be funded through cash from operations and borrowing,” the property firm said. In its 2012 fiscal year that ended last September, RLC posted another profitable performance as its net income rose seven percent to P4.2 billion from the year-ago level. Gross revenues gained six percent to P13.52 billion from P12.81 billion, driven by double-digit growth in revenues from its shopping malls and hotels. Revenues contributed by the Commercial Centers Division jumped 12 percent to P6.43 billion from P5.76 billion a year ago. “Significant rental increment was contributed by the new malls opened in fiscal year 2012. Also, our flagship malls Robinsons Galleria and Robinsons Place Manila and almost all provincial malls posted decent growth in rental revenues,” RLC said. Revenues of the Hotels Division climbed 15 percent to P1.38 billion from P1.21 billion due to higher occupancy rate of Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, increased hotel revenues from Summit Circle and the additional four new Go Hotels that opened last year. The Office Buildings Division grew its lease income five percent to P1.4 billion “due mainly to new office space available for lease in Robinsons Cybergate Tower 3 and completion of Cybergate Plaza,” the company said. However, the Residential Division’s revenues fell five percent to P4.3 billion “due to lower project completion of various ongoing projects,” RLC said. The company has built 32 malls, 33 residential projects and eight office buildings to date.
Apart from its core property businesses, RLC is entering the gaming business. Late last year, the JG Summit Holdings unit sealed a deal with Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada to jointly develop a $2-billion hotel and casino complex in the 100-hectare Entertainment City along Roxas Blvd. Okadaâ€™s Tiger Resorts & Leisure Corp. is one of four groups that were granted a license by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to operate a casino on a reclaimed land along Manila Bay, which the government expects to turn into the worldâ€™s number two gaming destination, ahead of Singapore and Las Vegas and behind only Macau. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897322/robinsons-land-hikes-capex-budget-p13b
URC profit up 62% to P8.2 B By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Universal Robina Corp.(URC), the food manufacturing arm of Gokongwei-led conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc., said its earnings surged 62 percent to P8.2 billion in its fiscal year ending September on higher sales of its branded consumer food line. In a report to the Philippine Stock Exchange, URC said net sales went up six percent to P71.2 billion from the same period a year ago, driven by strong demand for its food and beverage brands. URC’s flagship branded consumer foods (BCF) remained the main engine of growth as domestic sales rose 16.2 percent to P34.35 billion in fiscal year 2012, “largely driven by the beverage division due to the stellar performance of its coffee business coupled with the recovery of its ready-to-drink beverage business.” However, slower growth from international operations and a decline in sales for the sugar division tempered the company’s overall top line performance, it added. URC said it remained the local market leader in salty snacks, candies, chocolates and ready-to-drink iced tea in the Philippines. For the fiscal year, operating income jumped 13.2 percent to P7.801 billion due to the BCF boost and lower cost of raw materials. Net sales of the international BCF business rose 6.3 percent to $471 million, carried by better performance of beverages and snacks in Vietnam and Indonesia. But URC recorded weaker sales in Thailand due to the prolonged effects of the flooding that tempered consumer spending. The commodity foods group of URC posted P7.575 billion in revenues, a sharp decline from P9.53 billion a year ago. “This was mainly due to a 39.9 percent decline in net sales of the sugar business as a result of lower volume and prices,” URC said. The flour business, for its part, grew 8.4 percent in fiscal year 2012. Lastly, net sales of the agro-industrial group of URC reached P7.37 billion, up 4.1 percent from the previous year. URC attributed the timid growth to the exit of some backyard raisers given lower pork prices early in fiscal year 2012. But the farm business increased its sales 5.7 percent due to better volumes as pork prices recovered late in the fiscal year, it added.
For the current fiscal year that started last October, the company behind market-leading brands like Jack n’ Jill, Hunt’s, C2, Blend 45, Uno Feeds and Cream All said it budgeted P5 billion for capital expenditures, slightly lower than the P5.1 billion a year ago.
Of the capital expenditures, P4.305 billion will be used for the installation of new lines to expand capacities in the snack foods and grocery products. It is also for the modification of existing beverage facilities in the Philippines, new beverage and bakery lines in Vietnam and expansion of salty snacks, chocolates, biscuits and wafer lines in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897319/urc-profit-62-p8.2-b
Banks NPL ratio drops to record low of 2% in Oct By Prinz P. Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 16, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Banks’ soured loans as a proportion of their total loan portfolio dropped to a record-low in October, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday. Bank’s non-performing loan (NPL) ratio stood at two percent for the first 10 months of 2012, improving from 2.54 percent in the same period last year. It was also an improvement from 2.05 percent posted as of September. NPLs are bank loans that remained unpaid 30 days after the due date. BSP is monitoring NPLs as they can put a pressure on banks’ balance sheets when accumulated, hence, affecting their capacity to lend. “The BSP notes that the improvement in the NPL ratio has been achieved through a combination of a decline in the amount of NPL and the continuing rise in the total loan portfolio,” the central bank said in a statement. Total credit granted reached P3.459 trillion as of October, 13.5 percent up from previous year’s P3.048 trillion. Of these loans, NPL amounted to P69.12 billion, down by more than a tenth year-on-year. “This is of particular significance given the current market environment where benchmark interest rates continue to remain low,” the central bank said. Last year, BSP’s key rates were slashed to their record low of 3.5 percent for overnight borrowing and 5.5 percent for overnight lending to support growth. With interest rates hitting the floor, authorities are hoping they could encourage more lending to boost consumption and investment. In the process, such activities are expected to contribute to economic growth. “The industry’s provisioning against potential credit losses remained adequate,” the BSP said. NPL coverage ratio – which measures banks’ capacity to absorb losses as a result of bad loans – improved to 138.73 percent from 119.07 percent during the same period, data showed. Including foreclosed assets, non-performing assets (NPA) ratio likewise went up to 69.63 percent from year ago’s 62.15 percent. “The BSP shall continue its efforts in crafting the appropriate regulatory framework to enhance the stability, transparency and efficiency of the banking system,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a separate statement. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/01/16/897316/banks-npl-ratio-drops-record-low-2-oct
BSP hopeful but wary of ‘hot’ money Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:19 Written by Lito U. Gagni | Special to the BusinessMirror
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. sees a better 2013, an improvement from the 2012 banner year, as the BSP readies “homegrown” stabilizing tools amid a strong banking sector, robust receipts from business-process outsourcing and “steady stream of overseas remittances.” But he issued a warning about challenges arising from the continued surge in speculative money also known as capital inflows or “hot money”, that push up the peso against the dollar, or leave abruptly, causing instability. Still, he said the present situation is counter-balanced by the continued market expectations of investment-grade status that would confer on the Philippines its renewed attraction as an investment destination. In a speech before the by-invitation-only Tuesday Club at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, Tetangco said the BSP is aware of disruptive economic activities such as capital inflows that could hurt the country should they “quickly reverse” and, for this reason, the monetary body will “continue to formulate appropriate and market-oriented policies” for the country’s economic health. His optimism was not just anchored on the fact that the Philippines is now free from International Monetary Fund indebtedness since 2006 but on the homegrown sources of resilience that allowed the BSP to control inflation at an average of 3.2 percent, which is within the low end of its inflation target. “With a broadly benign inflation outlook, we hope to see the same in 2013. At present, the BSP deems its policy stance of low-interest rates appropriate,” Tetangco told the mixed gathering of journalists, businessmen, bankers, ambassadors, investment bankers and politicians. The optimism that Tetangco exudes stems from the quality of banks’ loan portfolio even with a 15.8-percent surge in credit take-up. The non-performing loans ratio is at just 2 percent, while the capital adequacy ratio is at 16.85 percent, above the Basel standard of 8 percent. Later, in an interview, Tetangco told me there are empirical data on the needed BSP responses on a whole gamut of possible financial disruptions that he discussed fully in a 109-page treatise on “The Macroeconomic Perspective” of central banking that he wrote in 2010. That treatise, complete with statistical relationships between financial development and economic growth in the Philippines to various financial indicators, detailed the six-decade development of central banking in the country and examined fully other correlations, such as excess liquidity that hit the country in mid-1945, the floating exchangerate system, lifting of controls, raising of capital levels for banks and depletion of the country’s gross international reserves (GIR), among other things. The BSP’s GIR, which was just at $40 billion when Tetangco undertook the analyses of the various stages of central banking in the country, has now reached $84.2 billion as of end-2012—a significant development that he said contributes to positive sentiments on top of the US development that averted the fiscal cliff and the European price stability that both augur well for the Philippines. Thus, the BSP head said the country “heads into the new year with a sense of improved expectations that, unlike at the start of 2012, the country welcomes 2013 with a bit more optimism.”
“With the economy underpinned by solid foundations” on last year’s “improved economic performance, stable financial system and diminished external vulnerability,” Tetangco said the BSP looks “forward to weather what could prove to be a challenging year ahead,” referring to the expected hot-money inflows. But with the Philippines set to earn investment-grade status, Tetangco, a shooting aficionado, sees more foreign investment flowing even as the BSP continues to hit its inflation targets that last year was kept at the low end of the BSP target, giving it more elbow room for its monetary tools.
Peso to gain 4.3% in 2013, say best forex forecasters Category: Top News Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:17 Written by Bloomberg News
For the first time in three years, Asia will lead a rally in emerging-market currencies as rising global trade lifts the region’s exports, according to the most-accurate foreign-exchange (forex) forecasters. The Philippine peso will gain 4.3 percent to its highest since 1999, said Standard Chartered Plc. and Wells Fargo & Co., which tied for second-best forecasters. India’s rupee will climb 5 percent in 2013 after losing 17 percent over the past two years, according to Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. Ltd., the best forecaster based on data compiled by Bloomberg. The forecasts would put the peso and the rupee among the top three developing-nation currencies, Bloomberg data showed. Asia is poised to benefit as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that global trade will accelerate from the smallest increase in three years. The region, which contributed to 44 percent of the world’s economic growth last year, accounted for half of the top 10 currencies in 2010 as the world emerged from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. “The global economy is a bit brighter compared to six months ago, so that bodes well for the export cycle in Asia,” Emmanuel Ng, a strategist in Singapore at OCBC, Southeast Asia’s second-largest lender, said in a January 7 interview. “We are getting signs of life out of China. It will continue to exert influence on Asian currencies.” The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index rose to 118.63 on January 10, the highest since September 2011. Indonesia’s rupiah has gained 1.6 percent against the dollar this month, the third-most among emerging-market currencies. China’s yuan rallied to a 19-year high of 6.2124 per dollar on Monday, while South Korea’s won climbed last week to the strongest since 2011. The rupee will appreciate to 51.9 per dollar by year-end, from 54.50 also on Monday, according to OCBC. The median forecast of 26 strategists was for the rupee to increase 3.8 percent to 52.5. The Philippine peso will strengthen to 39 per dollar, from 40.68 also on Monday, extending its 7.6-percent rally over the past year, according to Standard Chartered and Wells Fargo. The three banks ranked the most accurate based on six quarterly predictions through December 2012 and one annual forecast made at the end of 2011. OCBC had an average margin of error of 2.86 percent, while Standard Chartered and Wells Fargo had a margin of 2.93 percent. International trade will rise 4.5 percent this year, after increasing 3.2 percent in 2012, the slowest since the 10percent contraction in 2009, IMF data showed. Exports accounted for about half of South Korea’s gross domestic product and 20 percent of the Philippines’s economy. Asia’s contribution to the global growth increased from 30 percent a decade ago, according to the IMF.
Rising exports will help Asia’s developing economies grow 7.2 percent this year, compared with an average of 5.6 percent for emerging markets and 1.5 percent in advanced nations, according to IMF estimates released on October 9. Asia’s 9.5-percent expansion in 2010 powered the global recovery as China overtook Japan as the world’s secondlargest economy. The Bloomberg-JPMorgan Asia Dollar Index rallied 5.2 percent that year, the most since 1998, compared with a 4.7-percent gain in a similar gauge for Latin American currencies. China’s export growth accelerated to 14 percent in December, the most since May, as retail sale increased in the US and economic confidence rose in the euro area, its biggest trading partner. Shipments from Taiwan climbed 9 percent, from a 0.9-percent gain in November, official data showed. “The gradual Chinese recovery, and lessening US and European risks could promote a more favorable market environment and capital flows into Asian countries,” Nick Bennenbroek, head of currency strategy at Wells Fargo in New York, said in a January 10 e-mail. Foreigners bought a net $1.6 billion of Indian stock this year, more than three times the same period of 2012, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opened supermarkets and other industries to overseas investments, official data also showed. The net flow to the Philippines’s stock market more than doubled to $430 million. In the bond market, the yield disadvantage of Asian securities is narrowing. The average local bond yield in Asia trailed that for emerging markets by 92 basis points, or 0.92 percentage point, on January 10, the least since November 2009, according to data compiled by JPMorgan Chase & Co. India’s rupee will outperform as inflation slows and its 18-percent depreciation since 2010 helps reduce imports and narrow the country’s record $22.3-billion current-account deficit, OCBC’s Ng said. Indian wholesale prices rose 7.18 percent in December, the smallest increase in three years, the Commerce Ministry said also on Monday. The Reserve Bank of India has kept its benchmark interest rate at 8 percent since April, the highest in the region after Pakistan and Vietnam, Bloomberg data also showed. Thomas Harr, Standard Chartered’s head of Asia local markets strategy in Singapore, said that he favors the Philippine peso because the country may win an investment-grade rating and attract foreign investors. Standard & Poor’s signaled on December 20 that it may lift the country’s “BB+” credit rating, which is one step below an investment grade, by raising its outlook to positive, citing improved governance and public finances. “The Philippines in my view is one of the most solid stories in Asia,” Harr said in a January 7 interview. “The most important thing is a government in the Philippines [that] seem to be committed to do the right thing: Stimulate investments, maintain a solid fiscal position and try to deal with corruption.” Policy-makers in Asia are taking measures to stem the currency rally. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas imposed limits on currency forward positions at banks on December 26 to curb peso appreciation that threatens exports and remittances from overseas Filipino workers, the biggest sources of foreign exchange for the Southeast Asian nation.
Profit-taking downs stocks but trade volume still high Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:15 Written by VG Cabuag / Reporter
The benchmark stock index, the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi), on Tuesday reached another intra-day historic high but investors succumbed to their urge to sell as they cashed in on their gains the past trading days. The PSEi ended the day lower by 6.23 points to 6,087.67 from the previous close, but the volume of trade remained high. The main index reached 6,140.72—another historic high for the index—and a low of 6,071.32 points, shortly before settling down at a slight decline. The broader all-shares index closed a point lower, while the financials, industrial and holding firms indices all declined. The services, mining and oil and property indices bucked the trend and closed slightly higher. Decliners edged out gainers 97 to 73, while 45 were unchanged. Analysts said investors decided to cash in on their gains; the market is ready for correction with no clear leads from both the Philippines and the markets overseas. According to a paper from the Metrobank research, the attention of most investors for the week was focused on the release of the corporate earnings in the United States for the fourth quarter. The market will move according to the financial performance of US big banks, such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, among others, the paper said. “The market is ripe for a correction. The local market is trading on stretched multiples and technical indicators are inching closer to overbought levels,” Metrobank said in its research note. The day’s most active was Ayala Corp. with its share price declining by P10 to P530 apiece, while Metropolitan Trust and Banking Corp. was also down by P0.6 to close at P107. Ayala Land Inc. closed higher at P27.40, as well as GT Capital Holdings Inc., which gained by P5 to P655. BDO Unibank Inc. closed lower at P76.80. Top gainers for the day were Synergy Grid and Development Phils. Inc., Zeus Holdings Inc., Rockwell Land Corp., Lorenzo Shipping Corp. and Phinma Corp., while top losers were Imperial Resources Inc. A, First Abacus Financial Holdings Corp., MRC Allied Industries Inc., Megaworld Corp. Warrants2 and both A and B shares of Manchester International Holdings Unlimited Corp.
PHL sets sale of premium rice to US, Europe Category: Top News Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:11 Written by Max V. de Leon / Reporter
The Philippines will start exporting premium rice to various destinations, including Europe and the United States, beginning this quarter, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said on Tuesday. “What we will export are the higher quality varieties of rice. We have black rice, red rice and organic fancy rice. We will test these [varieties] in different markets in Europe, the Middle East, the US and Singapore,” Alcala said in an interview over UNTV37 with anchor Daniel Razon. By exporting the more expensive premium rice, he added, the Philippines will be a net gainer even if the country imports the cheaper varieties of the grain to fulfill its multilateral trade commitments under the minimum access volume scheme. Alcala said that even if the country is set to achieve its rice self-sufficiency target after 2013, the government cannot stop private importers from shipping in rice because of the country’s international commitments. Assistant Secretary Dante Delima, director of the National Rice Program, said that they are ready, in coordination with private-sector partners, to start trial shipments of black rice from Quezon province to Hong Kong and Dubai this quarter. Already on standby for the trial shipments are some 15 metric tons of black rice, he added. Then, by September or October, Delima said, so-called heirloom rice from the Banaue Rice Terraces in Mountain Province will be shipped to the US. According to him, the Philippines actually started its rice-export program in 1969 but was halted in 1993. This was revived in 1998, although in small quantities only. In 2011 the country exported some 538 metric tons of rice and seeds combined. For 2012 Delima said the figures are not yet final but the results are definitely better. “This quarter, we will come up with a comprehensive plan for the export of premium rice and seeds. We want to continue increasing our [rice] export,” he added. Delima said that the Philippines can only export premium rice because “ordinary rice is very cheap in other countries so we cannot compete.” He added that the export program will not affect the rice self-sufficiency program.
Delima said that latest estimates put the country’s rice production at more than 18 million MT in 2012, which, he added, is already enough to feed 95 million Filipinos. “If we will only consider consumption, that 18 million MT is already enough. But our target after 2013 is also to cover the 30-day buffer so we will have ready rice in any eventuality,” he added. Max V. de Leon http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/news/top-news/7762-phl-sets-sale-of-premium-rice-to-us-europe
D.A. sets P17 billion for farmers’ cropinsurance protection Category: Top News Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:07 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter
The government has allocated P17.1 billion in crop-insurance protection for agrarian-reform beneficiaries (ARBs) for the next two cropping seasons. The “Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries-Agricultural Insurance Program [ARB-AIP]” will be jointly implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC). Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Jerry E. Pacturan, on behalf of Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, formally forged on Tuesday the partnership through a memorandum of agreement in simple ceremonies the DA’s Bureau of Soils and Water Management Convention Hall. The first of such collaboration between the two main rural development agencies of the government, the program aims to provide ARBs safety nets against crop pests and diseases, as well as the increasingly unpredictable weather patterns brought on by the intensifying climate change. According to the PCIC, over 224,000 ARBs or members of their households are expected to benefit from the program. The beneficiaries will receive premium subsidy and will be enrolled under the DA-PCIC’s crop insurance programs. The program will effectively cover about 330,000 hectares devoted to food production, particularly rice, corn and highvalue vegetables, and the raising of some 30,700 farm animals. Under the partnership agreement, the DAR, the lead implementing agency of the government’s agrarian-reform program, will identify the eligible beneficiaries. The program-beneficiaries must be participants of key DAR programs, like the Agrarian Reform Connectivity and Economic Support Service (Arcess), Agrarian Production Credit Program (APCP), Credit Assistance Program for Program Beneficiaries Development (CAP-PBD) and Microfinance Capacity Development in Agrarian Reform Areas. The DAR will identify the eligible beneficiaries. The PCIC estimated that of these targeted beneficiaries, 99,580 are rice farmers tilling 178,801 hectares; 37,772 corn farmers, 72,506 hectares; and 85,760 commercial crop farmers, 78,633 hectares. Three hectares is the maximum size of farms that ARBs can get under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The insurance protection is good for two cropping seasons. An estimated 924 farmers raise 30,742 animals.
Additionally, the beneficiaries will be provided protection against loss of life and limb under the DA-PCICâ€™s Accident and Dismemberment Security Scheme. Exactly 155,360 such policies will be supported under the program. Premium cost for this insurance line will be sourced from the interest income of the DAR-Government Premium Subsidy (DAR-GPS) Fund. The DAR will put up the premium subsidy worth P1 billion for the DAR-GPS for agrarian-reform beneficiaries. Of the amount, P533.78 million will be allocated for rice farmers, P385.82 million for corn farmers, P79.09 million for high-value crop farmers and P1.31 million for livestock. The premium cost for the individual farmerâ€™s life-and-limb coverage amounting to P5.43 million would come from interest income of the DAR-GPS Fund. For its part, the DA-PCIC will provide the insurance cover worth some P17.07 billion. Of the sum, some P4.94 billion will be reserved for rice, P2.0 billion for corn, P2.35 billion for commercial crops, P13 million for livestock and some P7.77 billion for the individual farmerâ€™s life and limb. In case the risks or perils come to pass, the DA-PCIC will pay out damage claims from these beneficiaries within 20 days, less than the 60-day reglamentary period. processes established by the DA-PCIC.
This is made possible by the ISO-certified systems and
Depending on the extent of damage and the cost of farm investment, the farmers may receive payments for damages worth P39,000 to P52,000 per hectare for inbred and hybrid rice, respectively; P28,000 and P40,000 for every hectare of open-pollinated and hybrid corn, respectively; and up to P50,000 for life and limb. These are various indemnity figures for commercial crops and animals as there are many types of crops and animals involved.
Farmers, industry players press bid for P70-B coco fund Category: Top News Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:03 Written by Max V. de Leon / Reporter
Coconut farmers and industry players are pushing for the immediate passage of a bill creating a committee that would handle the use and investment of the P70-billion proceeds from the sequestered shares in San Miguel Corp. (SMC) that form part of the so-called coco-levy fund. Jesus L. Arranza, president and CEO of the government-sequestered CIIF-Oil Mills Group (CIIF-OMG), said the proposal is now at the committee level of the both houses of Congress, with the final reports set to be presented to the plenary. Arranza said the creation of this trust committee was one of the major topics that were discussed at the First Coconut Summit held last week in Quezon City. â€œAll coconut farmers and industry groups agreed that the passage of this law should be fast-tracked. This trust committee will handle the existing coco funds and the proceeds from future privatization of [sequestered assets], and how the fund will be utilized,â€? Arranza said. He said the Supreme Court, in its recent decision, mandated that the coco fund would be used solely for the benefit of the coconut farmers and development of the coconut industry. At the summit, Arranza said the stakeholders also had a consensus that the principal amount, which is estimated at about P70 billion to date, should be used to buy government securities, with the annual interest projected at about P3.5 billion to be used for the development of the coconut farmers and industry. Projects to be funded, he said, should include replanting of coconut, livestock dispersal, inter-cropping, insurance coverage, scholarship for beneficiaries, and research and development. In the SCâ€™s decision in January 2012, the High Tribunal ordered the money from the SMC shares to be put on escrow until it has ruled on the ownership of the fund. Then in its resolution last September, the SC said the money belongs to the government. Arranza said since the SC has decided on the ownership of the fund, its earlier order to put the money on escrow has been effectively nullified. With this, Arranza said the government could now allocate part of the fund to assist the coconut farmers who were affected by Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao, and also to revive critical coconut industries like the oleo chemicals.
Manufacturing output up 6.3% in Nov. 2012 Category: Top News Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:01 Written by lecruz
The country’s manufacturing industry posted a 6.3-percent increase in the value of production in November 2012, driven by a 137.9-percent increment in the footwear and wearing-apparel sector. Results of the Monthly Integrated Survey of Selected Industries (MISSI) also showed that four other major sectors registered more than 10-percent growth in their value of production in November. These are leather products (27.9 percent), wood and wood products (26.4 percent), transport equipment (26.2 percent) and food manufacturing (12.4 percent). The 6.3-percent industry-wide increase in November, however, was considerably lower than the 16.1 percent recorded in October 2012. This was mainly due to a big dip in the performance of basic metals, which grew by only 2.2 percent in November from 29.4 percent in October. The results also showed that 13 manufacturing sectors posted increments in their value of production in November, with seven sectors recording negative growth, led by tobacco products, which went down by 33.6 percent. In terms of volume of production, the manufacturing industry grew by 9.6 percent in November, with footwear and wearing apparel also leading the way with an increase of 144.2 percent. “Average capacity utilization in November 2012 for total manufacturing stood at 83.3 percent. Eleven of the 20 major sectors registered capacity utilization rates of 80 percent or more, namely: petroleum products (87.9 percent), basic metals [87.7 percent], food manufacturing [87.1 percent], non-metallic mineral products [84.3 percent], machinery except electrical [84.0 percent], electrical machinery [83.4 percent], rubber and plastic products [82.5 percent], chemical products [82.2 percent], paper and paper products [81.7 percent], miscellaneous manufactures [81.1 percent] and wood and wood products [80.4 percent],” the National Statistics Office noted. “The proportion of establishments that operated at full capacity [90 percent to 100 percent] was 19.4 percent in November 2012. About 57.2 percent of the establishments operated at 70-percent to 89-percent capacity, while 23.4 percent of the establishments operated below 70-percent capacity,” the statistics office said. The Value of Net Sales Index, meanwhile, showed a 9.2-percent growth in November, with 15 major sectors led by footwear and wearing apparel, recording increments. The Volume of Net Sales Index, meanwhile, continued a two-digit growth rate, registering at 12.6 percent in November 2012. Max V. de Leon
Local, foreign groups seek businessreform laws Category: Top News Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 21:00 Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter
Local and foreign businessmen have asked leaders of Congress to act on a number of business and economic reforms that are already in the legislative mill. The measures that the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) and various Philippine business groups want to be passed include amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (Amla), direct remittance of local government share in national wealth taxes, enhancing the curriculum of basic education (K to 12) and amendments to the Insurance Code. Local and foreign businessmen are also keen on amendments to several laws on professions to allow foreign reciprocity, Rural Bank Act amendments, the sustainable forest management bill, universal health-care coverage and the whistle-blowers protection bill. They noted that these measures have already gotten the nod of the House of Representatives but have yet to pass the Senate. Local and foreign businessmen also noted that the House of Representatives has yet to pass the design council bill and freedom of information bill that have been approved in the Senate. Both chambers, they said, have yet to approve the antitrust bill. The JFC said enacting these measures would enhance Philippine competitiveness and support economic growth. The group noted that the 14th Congress enacted 22 business and economic reform measures. Philippine business groups that joined in this appeal are the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Association of Multinational Regional Headquarters, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.
Ombudsman files graft charges against 3 DENR execs Category: Nation Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 20:15 Written by Zaff Solmerin / Correspondent
OMBUDSMAN Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered on Tuesday the filing of graft charges against three officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in connection with the disapproval of the survey plans of some lot owners to give way to the foreshore lease application of another company in 2007. In a 15-page Review Resolution, Morales ordered the indictment of DENR Regional Executive Director Regidor de Leon, Regional Technical Director for Lands Leonardo Aggabao Jr. and Engineer III Fernando Clerigo for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, or the Antigraft and Corrupt Practices Act. The case stemmed from the complaint filed by Jaime Lazaro, Salvador Osita and Monico Waje, owners of several lots covered by survey plans in Barangay Bolitoc, Santa Cruz, Zambales. In their complaint, the three claimed that respondents conspired in canceling their approved survey plans to give way to the application of DMCI Holdings Inc. (DMCI). Lazaro, Osita and Waje alleged that their application was canceled without the benefit of hearing or investigation or both, “in gross violation of the elementary rule of due process” and that the cancellation was irregular as it was made before the scheduled ground survey. The complainants stressed that the lots covered by the plans have been classified as alienable and disposable, as they are agricultural in nature as evidenced by the certification issued by Juanito David, officer in charge of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Masinloc, Zambales; Aggabao and Juan Fernandez Jr., chief of the Surveys Division. They added that the lots covered by the plans have not been “eaten” by the South China Sea, contrary to the findings of the DENR’s Regional Office. In the resolution, Morales held “that conspiracy among respondents de Leon, Aggabao and Clerigo indicating unity of the purpose in accomplishing a criminal design to favor DMCI’s foreshore lease application is gathered from their [acts].” Morales said “respondents’ manifest partiality and bad faith became very obvious when they arbitrarily canceled private complainants’ approved survey plans before the scheduled ground verification survey using as bases the January 11, 2008, Memorandum-Investigation Report of respondents’ Special Investigator Rowena Magat and Land Management Inspector Joel Dedicatoria and Forest Ranger Dionito Pascual and [the] January 8, 2008, order of respondent de Leon.” “This is a clear case of putting the cart ahead of the horse,” the resolution said.
“While there is possibility that there might be legal grounds to cancel the same, still, it offers no excuse for the respondents to make legal short cuts and ignore the cardinal requirements of due process[.]” Morales cited Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, which provides that: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law nor shall any person be denied of equal protection of the laws.” Aside from their indictment, Morales also found de Leon, Aggabao and Clerigo guilty of Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service as she penalized them with one-year suspension without pay. “The image of the public office is mirrored in the conduct, official and, otherwise, of the personnel who work therein. It cannot be gainsaid that respondents’ conduct clearly violated the norm of public accountability and diminished the faith of the people in the [DENR],” the resolution added. The criminal and administrative charges filed against Fernandez, Land Management Office officer in charge Marife Castillo, David, Magat, Dedicatoria and Pascual were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.
DENR seeks Asean elephant experts’ help for ailing ‘Mali’ Category: Nation Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 20:11 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter
THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB) is eyeing the help of its counterparts from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member-countries on how it can best address the situation of “Mali,” the ailing elephant at the Manila Zoo. “We already wrote letters to our counterparts in Asean, including Thailand, asking for expert opinion on what to do with Mali. We are hoping to get a response soon,” DENR-PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim told the BusinessMirror. While an elephant is not a Philippine animal, Lim said being an endangered wildlife and one of the species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, the DENR-PAWB has mandate and jurisdiction, and is authorized by law to take action, to rescue and save Mali from the zoo. Lim said transferring Mali to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, however, is not advisable at this point. “We need to know whether it is safe to transport the elephant. Right now, Filipino veterinarians do not have the expertise on elephant care, so we need to ask our counterparts for recommendation,” she said. Lim was reacting to calls made by members of an animal-welfare group that revealed Mali’s deteriorating health condition at the Manila Zoo since June last year. Mali has been diagnosed with a potentially fatal foot disease that needs immediate veterinary attention. Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) Asia have been calling for Mali’s transfer after discovering that the female elephant, which has been one of the animal attractions at the Manila Zoo for more than 35 years, has a foot disease. On Tuesday the group members held a creative protest to dramatize their cause in front of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Elliptical Road in Quezon City. Armed with a printed version of an on-line petition that the group launched, the protesters demanded Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s immediate action on Mali’s case. The online petition had a total of 60,177 signatories from all over the world, including the Philippines. Peta’s Rochelle Regodon said Mali was in serious condition and could die if not given immediate veterinary medical care. “She could die in there [Manila Zoo]. Locking her up in a cage for over 35 years is the worst kind of animal cruelty,” she told the BusinessMirror in an interview.
A world-renowned veterinarian, Henry Richardson, has determined as early as June last year that Mali is suffering from potentially fatal foot problems. Aside from Peta, other animal-welfare groups have also issued calls for Mali’s immediate transfer. These include Earth Island Institute, Humane Society International and World Society for the Protection of Animals. Peta members said that in her current environment and condition, Mali is denied everything that is natural and important to her. “In a sanctuary, she would have hectares [of land] in which to roam, rivers and ponds to bathe in, and the crucial company of other elephants,” Regodon said. “The international outcry for an end to Mali’s loneliness and suffering grows louder with each passing day, but the Manila Zoo has turned a deaf ear. Now it is time for Secretary Alcala to take action,” she said.
FAO: PHL rice production may rise 6 percent Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 20:05 Written by Bloomberg News
RICE production in the Philippines, the world’s fourth-biggest importer, may rise 6 percent year-on-year due to increased planting, the United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Tuesday. Aggregate rice production, including the main season and ongoing secondary season, may total 18 million metric tons, up from 16.998 million tons in 2012, the Rome-based FAO wrote in a country report on its web site. That is equivalent to 11.8 million tons of milled rice. The main-crop harvest, which finished in mid-December, rose 11 percent from a year earlier to a record 10.1 million tons, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics’s estimate cited in the report. “The increase mainly reflects an expansion in the planted area and higher yields following favorable weather as a result of the La Niña phenomenon during the main season,” the FAO said, referring to the weather pattern caused by cooling equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Corn production may total 7.42 million tons, up from 6.97 million tons a year earlier, the FAO said. Typhoon Pablo (international code name Bopha), which brought heavy rain and wind to the northern Mindanao and Davao regions in early December, will likely have a minimal impact on national grain production, the FAO said. The storm damaged about 28,000 hectares of rice and 35,000 hectares of corn in those regions. Philippine grain import requirements in the 2012 to 2013 marketing year that began on June 1 may total 4.2 million tons, 21 percent less than a year earlier, as domestic production expands, the FAO said. The country is expected to import 3.2 million tons of wheat. Bloomberg
DA seeks additional P1.6-B budget for ‘Pablo’ rehab plan Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 20:04 Written by PNA
THE Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday proposed an additional budget of P1.6 billion for the rehabilitation of agricultural areas damaged by Typhoon Pablo (international code name Bopha). The budget increase was proposed after the DA’s meeting with the Quick Response Team, the group tasked to assess Pablo’s damage and formulate rehabilitation plans. The department and its attached agencies currently have P235 million. If the additional budget is approved, the DA plans to allocate P112 million for rice; P91 million for corn; about P32 million for high-value crops; P134 million for livestock; and about P726 million for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems through the National Irrigation Authority. For their part, the Fiber Industry Development Authority will set aside P30 million for abaca; the Philippine Coconut Authority, P337 million for coconut; the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, P29 million for fishery interventions; the Bureau of Plant Industry, P1 million; and the Agricultural Training Institute, P322,500. The typhoon’s damage to agriculture in the Davao region reached more than P30 million. Compostela Valley province was the worst-hit, with the damage pegged at P13 billion, followed by the provinces of Davao Oriental (P10 billion) and Davao del Norte (P6 billion). Davao del Sur province and Davao City only suffered minimal losses. Pablo also ravaged 18,000 hectares of rice lands, with damage estimated at over P916 million; 16,000 hectares of corn farms (P362 million); over 109 hectares of coconut trees (P7 billion); about 14,000 hectares of cavendish banana plantations (P9.17 billion); over 23,000 hectares of cardaba banana farms (P8 billion); and 7,000 hectares of rubber plantations (P330 million). Damage to livestock and poultry was valued at over P326 million; fisheries, more than P53 million; and irrigation facilities serving more than 13 million hectares of rice farms, over P828 million. Since January 8, the government has turned over P155 million worth of palay (unhusked rice) and corn seeds, fruit trees, planting materials for coconut and farm tools and equipment to different farmers’ groups in the affected areas. A total of 15,900 bags of certified palay seeds—sourced from Regions 8 (Eastern Visayas), 10 (Northern Mindanao), 11 (Davao), 12 (Soccsksargen) and 13 (Caraga)—and a percentage of 16,520 bags of open-pollinated variety corn seeds have also been delivered to those areas. PNA
Government still awaiting decision on banana exports to United States Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 20:03 Written by PNA
THE Philippines is still waiting for Washington’s verdict on whether to admit the country’s cavendish bananas into the United States, the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Plant Industry said recently. According to the DA, the US government said it would decide on the matter after its presidential election, which was held in November 2012. The Philippines currently exports cavendish bananas to China, Russia, South Korea, New Zealand, Japan and the Middle East. Stricter health measures imposed by China on Philippine exports prompted the local banana industry to push for the entry of its bananas to the US mainland. The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association earlier requested a P7-billion aid for banana plantations in northern Mindanao that were devastated by Typhoon Pablo (international code name Bopha) in December. Bananas are the Philippines’s second-largest export commodity, next to coconuts.
Tarlac governor to receive award on ICT use to promote good government Category: Regions Published on Monday, 14 January 2013 19:19 Written by Joey Pavia / Correspondent
CLARK FREEPORT—Gov. Victor “Vic” Yap is set to receive this month an award for the Tarlac provincial government’s use of information and communication technology (ICT) to push for good government. Cyber City Teleservices President George Sorio is expected to hand over to Yap the first Jesse Robredo Awards for Excellence in ICT for Good Governance award at the provincial capitol. Cyber City is the pioneer business-process outsourcing (BPO) firm at Clark. Tarlac won one of the two major awards, the government-to-business (G2B) category. The Cebu City government got the government-to-customer (G2C) category. G2B covered the use of ICT to facilitate business transactions with LGUs while G2C referred to the use of ICT to ease the public’s transactions with local government units (LGUs), Sorio said. Tarlac and the local government of Cebu City have won the “eGov Awards” as it was called before the accident that claimed the life of Interior Sec. Jesse Robredo. The awards aim to boost efficiency and transparency in LGUs through the use of modern information technology. The award was initiated earlier last year under a memorandum of agreement between Robredo and the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines and the Cyber City. “The objective of the awards is to encourage the effective and efficient utilization of information and communications technology in the delivery of services and performance of the duties and responsibilities by the LGU,” said Sorio.
PEMC to use interim design to curb power shortage in Mindanao Category: Regions Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 19:23 Written by Lenie Lectura / Reporter
TO address the power shortage in Mindanao, the Department of Energy (DOE) has tasked the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) to develop and implement an interim electricity market design for Mindanao. PEMC is a non-stock, non-profit corporation established in 2003, has been operating the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market in Luzon since 2006 and in the Visayas since December 2000. Under Department Circular No. 2013-01-0001, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said PEMC will develop a market design specific to Mindanao which has been experiencing rotating brownouts due to some generation capacity deficiencies. This design shall be referred to as the “Interim Mindanao Electricity Market [IMEM].” This road map shall contain the solutions to the electric power concerns in Mindanao. Basically, the IMEM covers the following:
A day-ahead market wherein market participants submit their nominations a day before the actual delivery or curtailment of energy.
All generation capacities, directly connected customers and distribution customers shall be part of a mandatory program that aims to address only the deficiency of supply in the grid.
Provides for energy-efficiency incentives meant to contribute to the supply in the grid.
Provides real-time imbalance correction through the use of a merit order table provided by the IMEM operator.
Provides a merit order table having the same principles of the merit order table used in the Luzon and the Visayas grids.
A settlement based on a uniform pricing framework settled at the market clearing price with which the total cost shall be allocated among the IMEM participants.
Provides for a governance framework to ensure free and fair competition and public accountability.
Project NOAH scientists map out towns damaged by ‘Pablo’ in Compostela Valley Category: Regions Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 19:24 Written by Manuel T. Cayon / Mindanao Bureau Chief
DAVAO CITY – Filipino scientists working on a project to evaluate climate hazards would start mapping out the Compostela Valley towns of New Bataan and Monkayo, using a precision light-detection mapping gadget attached to a single-engine airplane. Seventeen Filipino engineers, geologists and climate scientists from the University of the Philippines and other government agencies were scheduled to start their aerial-borne light-detection and ranging (Lidar) mapping project of the two towns, to generate light-coded images of the topography of the area, and identify actual and potential hazard areas. Dr. Elsie Solidum, assistant regional director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), said the team was part of the entire unit of the Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment for Mitigation (Dream)-Lidar project that would map out the major river tributaries in the country. The Dream Lidar was launched on Nov. 22 last year, with demonstration on how the light-resonating gadget would generate fine details of the topography of the locality, identifying rivers and waterways, faultlines, forest resources and the terrain of the area in color-coded images. The project was supposed to start mapping in Luzon, then down to the Visayas and Mindanao, starting with the areas around Clark in Pampanga, where the Lidar gadget was launched. But with super Typhoon Pablo creating what scientists described as “phenomenal” and “unprecedented” distortion of the terrain, project scientists decided to forego with the schedule to study the changes on the main river in New Bataan and Monkayo, which flattened and dispersed the water channel. “What was once a single river [flowing from the Andap mountains to the rest of New Bataan] with deep channel is now spread of small streams with big boulders in the previous river way,” she said. For scientists, she said, “these are events or situations that usually dictate them to immediately conduct a study. It’s like the phenomenal eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.” The Lidar gadget is an instrument that photo-scan the terrain of a place, generating color grids that indicate slopes, mountains, valleys, rivers and forests, she said. “The resulting topography map would allow us to pinpoint water sources and channels, and pinpoint potential hazards of water flow, possible mud flow and landslides,” she said.
While the regular mapping would use the bigger scale ratio of 1:50,000 meters, such as the geohazard map of the Mines and GeoSciences Bureau, and the Google Earth at 1:5,000, the Lidar-generated map would be finer detailed at 1:20 centimeters. “With the mapping gadget attached to an airplane, the mapping would better present an area than the usual groundbased mapping,” she said. The team would spend 10 days mapping the two towns, and was likely to resume their work plan of starting in Luzon down to Mindanao. The P1.8-billion Lidar project estimated 500 “flying days” to finish mapping the major river tributaries in the country. Solidum said the resulting map would still be subject to validation from another ground-based study. She said the Lidar map would have other crucial and more important uses including forest inventory (determining forest cover), environmental monitoring, infrastructure mapping and faultline mapping. “These would be a lot important to policy-makers, disaster risk-reduction teams, local governments, students and scientists,” she said. The Dream Lidar project is a component activity under the Project National Operational Assessment of Hazards of the DOST.
Taxation project seen to improve Pampanga property-tax income Category: Regions Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 19:26 Written by Joey Pavia / Correspondent
SANTA RITA, Pampanga—This fourth-class town recognized for its effective streamlining of business permits hosted on Tuesday the launch of the Integrated Taxation Management System (iTAX) pushed by the provincial government. Mayor Yolanda Pineda led municipal officials in welcoming Gov. Lilia Pineda, who funded the iTAX project designed to improve the collection of real-property tax (RPT). The governor said “they are honored” and vowed to support the project aided by a German software technology. Her town was earlier cited by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for being the second most effective in streamlining businesses among Central Luzon municipalities. The governor said the iTAX will allow the “effective and transparent” collection of the RPT. Last year, the Pineda government launched the tax-mapping scheme for the same intention. Romeo Dizon, provincial assessor, said the software made in Germany, to be distributed in the 18 towns of Pampanga, “is free.” He added the iTAX was earlier successfully launched in La Union province. Dizon said the province is “80 percent” depended on the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). The iTAX, he added, will allow the first-class province “not to depend much in IRA but on local tax collections.” Last year Pineda also launched iTAX in Minalin town. Ryan Concepcion, IT consultant of Pampanga, said iTAX had drastically improved the RPT tax collection in several provinces. Concepcion said that when La Union started to use the iTAX in 2007, it recorded some P69 million in collection, or an increase of about P6 million. He added that the North Luzon province had collected some P295 million RPT in 2011. The governor said despite its “progress and several investments,” Pampanga had collected P24 million in annual RPT collection for the past 10 years. She said the iTAX will improve the RPT collection and “may generate” at least P1 billion when “properly and fully launched.” The towns of San Luis and Macabebe will be the next targets of the iTAX project. Board Members Jun Dimson and Fritzie David-Dizon, former Santa Rita Mayor Arthur Salalilia and Guagua Councilor Tonton Torres attended the launch at the municipal hall.
Local business leaders urged to push PHL-EU free-trade agreement Category: Economy Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 20:09 Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter
The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) urged local business leaders to encourage the Philippine government to move forward in starting negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a free-trade agreement (FTA). With the impending economic integration of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the ECCP noted that an FTA between the EU and the Philippines has become more important. ECCP Executive Vice President Henry Schumacher, in a statement, said that based on current trends, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and even Vietnam could sign an FTA with Europe by 2015. “The Philippines will be left behind if no FTA with Europe is signed by 2015, a critical phase in the region as it is the start of the Asean economic integration. We have to make sure that Philippine business both local and European will enjoy the same benefits some of its neighbors would be getting,” Schumacher said. Singapore has already concluded its talks with EU last month while Thailand’s parliament is set to receive and review the draft Thailand-EU FTA next month. Indonesia, another country in the region with robust economic growth, is also preparing the grounds for FTA negotiations. For the proposed Philippines-EU FTA, Schumacher said developments have been relatively slow in coming even if the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which serves as the precursor to a full-fledge trade deal has been signed already middle of last year. The Department of Trade and Investment has conducted stakeholder dialogues with local industry sectors for years and the local business community led by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry has undertaken a study on the benefits of an FTA and has come to the conclusion that the Philippines should push for an agreement. “The Philippine government is aware of the importance of the FTA and that it will be supported by the local business community in the negotiations,” Schumacher said. Currently, Schumacher noted that some Philippine export sectors are encountering difficulties in competing in the European market and the situation could worsen once other Asean countries conclude talks and sign agreements.
Education and the economy Category: Opinion Published on Tuesday, 15 January 2013 19:48 Written by The BusinessMirror Editorial
TO make the economy grow in a sustained way, invest in human capital beginning with basic education. That’s the long view on the close connection between the economy and education offered by National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Deputy Director General Emmanuel F. Esguerra, and it makes eminent good sense. Developing the skills of the country’s youth population will address the prevailing mismatch between jobs and skills, according to the Neda official. This, in turn, will allow the national government to attain its goal of inclusive growth. The official figures as of October last year bear out this view. A total of 48 percent of Filipinos who are willing to work fall within the 15- to 34-year-old age group. Forty-six percent of those who are actually employed belong to that segment of the population. Inclusive growth, according to the Philippine Development Plan for 2011-2016, involves rapid and sustained socioeconomic development that contributes to employment generation and poverty reduction. This will be achieved through massive investments in infrastructure and human capital, and putting in place policies and programs that support good government. The lack of workers with appropriate skills to fill jobs required by industries should be addressed not only by putting up more vocational and technical schools, but also by strengthening basic education. This is where the newly adopted K to 12 Basic Education Program comes into play. For the Neda, this enhanced basic-education program is envisioned “to produce holistically developed learners with 21st-century skills who are prepared for higher education, middle-level skills development and immediate employment or entrepreneurship.” Esguerra is correct in pointing out that “the most important skill is being good at learning, and that is what investment in quality basic education is for.” This view is shared by Dr. Jose Ramon G. Albert, secretary-general of the National Statistical Coordination Board, who believes that “the quality of learning in higher education has its roots in basic education. After all, how can
college students absorb what they are taught in college if they did not learn enough in basic education?” He is absolutely right. There’s enough official statistics to suggest that something is wrong with the educational system as a whole if many graduates cannot find work. College graduates now comprise at least 18 percent of the total unemployed, the thirdhighest share in terms of educational attainment from 2006 to 2011. The unemployed college graduates include those who earned degrees in medical courses, trade, craft and industrial programs, engineering and architectural programs. On the other hand, a recent survey by the Bureau of Labor Employment Statistics shows that the professionals most in demand for the period January 2009 to June 2010 were 1) accountants and auditors; 2) electronics and communications engineers; and 3) systems analysts and designers. All this suggests that a continuing review of the entire educational system is in order—and long-overdue reforms, such as the K to 12 program in so far as basic education is concerned, as well as closer coordination between the government departments concerned with the economy, on the one hand, and the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, on the other—if the goal is to make the labor force and local industries highly competitive even amid uncertainties in the global economy.
P13-M Fund For CL Nutrition January 15, 2013, 5:50pm
PAMPANGA, Philippines --- A total of P13 million has been earmarked for various nutrition programs in Central Luzon (CL) this year, the National Nutrition Council in Region 3 (NNC3) here disclosed Tuesday. The government agency said that the primary targets of the program are infants and children. “PGN (Promote Good Nutrition – under the Accelerated Hunger-Mitigation Program) aims to improve the nutrition knowledge, attitudes and practices of families to increase demand for adequate, nutritious and safe food,” said the NCC3. The program also seeks to increase the number of infants, zero to six months, who are exclusively breastfed, reduce the number of infants receiving food and drink other than breast milk, increase the number of infants six to 12 months old who are given calories and nutrient-dense complementary foods, and increase the number of families with improved diets in terms of quality and quantity and involved in food production activities. (Mark Anthony N. Manuel)
Revisit Sale of Public Lands By Senator Manny B. Villar January 15, 2013, 6:07pm The spate of news about public lands being sold has compelled me to reiterate my call to step on the brakes before we lose all our public lands, especially in Mega Manila, many areas of which are already congested. Privatization, including the sale of public lands, provide an alternative means for the government to generate revenues when traditional sources like taxes fall short of its expenditure requirements. In my view, sale of public lands should be a last resort, just as it is a last resort for families or businesses that find themselves unable to generate income from employment or business activities. That was also true for the Philippine government in the past, when revenue collections by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Bureau of Customs, and other revenue-generating agencies fell short of their assigned targets, resulting in huge fiscal deficits. The government’s fiscal situation today, as I wrote in previous columns, is much better than a few years back. It’s no longer in dire straits. Hence, I see no need to utilize a last resort to raise funds. When the management of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), for instance, recently raised a howl over a plan by the National Housing Authority (NHA) to sell two areas — one covering 8,402 square meters and the other 7,932 square meters — out of the 58,599 square meters occupied by the NKTI, one of the country’s busiest medical facilities. According to NKTI officials, the planned sale of the property for commercial development put in jeopardy the institute’s own plan to expand its facilities. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) recently announced that it had breached the R1-trillion mark in collections as of December 17, 2012, with cumulative collections from January to November, 2012, amounting to P969.34 billion. BIR Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto Henares said that the agency is working hard to raise the needed P208-billion collection in the final two months of the year to meet the P1.066-trillion target for 2012. The Department of Finance (DOF) said the fiscal deficit for the period January-to-November reached only P127.3 billion, or just 45.6 percent of the full-year program of P279.106 billion. Netting out interest payments, the DOF said the national government continued to operate at a primary surplus for January to November amounting to P155.037 billion. The improved revenue collections supported higher spending for infrastructure and public services, According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), national government disbursements from January to November, 2012, increased by 14.1 percent to P1.54 trillion, compared with P1.35 trillion for the same period in 2011. Secretary Florencio B. Abad reported that disbursements, net of interest payments, during the 11-month period reached P1.25 trillion, up by 14.5 percent year-on-year. Considering the developments on the fiscal side, the government has no need to scrounge for cash to meet its obligations. So why is there a seemingly mad rush to sell public lands again? I would like to reiterate my theory that when raw land is sold, the buyer will fill it with buildings and other profit-making facilities. The result is congestion, the disappearance of green spaces, and, to make matters worse, the government is compelled to build roads and other infrastructure, at its own expense, to serve the new market created by the developer. In the end, I think the government would end up as the loser in such deals. So, let’s slow down on disposing of public lands and revisit previous sales to find out if the government really benefited from them. The problem is that we only look at the proceeds of the sale. The fat check clouds our eyes and prevents us from seeing the consequences, such as the impact on future government spending. We should also look at the joint ventures, which often extend beyond the term of the administration that signed it, and from where the income would come only after completion. Is the government getting its share? (For comments/feedback email to: email@example.com. Readers may view previous columns at www.senatorvillar.com)
The Philippines-Japan's Strategic Partnership January 15, 2013, 5:57pm
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida visited the Philippines on January 9-10, 2013, in his first four-country foreign trip that included Singapore, Brunei, and Australia since his appointment by Japan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He first visited the Philippines in 2008, as Japan’s then-Minister for Science and Technology Policy. He paid a courtesy call on the Republic of the Philippines H.E. President Benigno S. Aquino III, and met with Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert F. del Rosario. His meeting with President Aquino took up trade, investments, tourism, development assistance, people-to-people exchange maritime security, and the Mindanao peace process. Japan was the country’s top trade partner in 2012, with total trade and investment exceeding $13 billion. It was also the third-biggest source of tourists after South Korea and United States of America, with 375,248 Japanese tourist arrivals in January-November, 2012. The visit resulted in agreements to advance cooperation in trade, investments, and official development assistance. Minister Kishida said his country will extend yen loans for two Philippine projects: Extension of Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2 and construction of a new airport in Bohol. He affirmed Japan’s commitment to Philippine development efforts through stronger defense, economic and humanitarian ties, and deeper cooperation on the economy, maritime, peace in Mindanao, and response to natural disasters. He said Japan will accept more Filipino nurses and caregivers and will take steps to improve the employment scheme for foreign health workers. He welcomed the signing of the Framework Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and confirmed Japan’s readiness to provide as much support towards achieving peace. We congratulate Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on his new appointment in the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We wish him the best and success in all endeavors. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY! http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/389753/the-philippinesjapans-strategic-partnership#.UPYQQR3BOo4
GDP Growth By Fred M. Lobo January 15, 2013, 5:16pm
The government forecasts a 7 percent economic growth this year. Grow tall, PH. Higher growth will be good for us all. *** Trade and Industry Sec. Gregory Domingo says the 7% growth forecast will be made possible by new foreign investments, big-ticket infrastructure projects, increased exports, and improved consumer spending. It’s desirable and doable. He-he! *** He projects that this year’s GDP is likely to surpass last year’s record, which is expected to settle at 6 percent after adjustments. We’ll soar higher, says St. Gregory D. *** Domingo adds that over $6 billion in recorded foreign direct investments (FDI) flowed into the domestic economy in 2012. Yes to more FDIs aka Friendly Developmental Investments. *** He explains that DTI’s FDI figure is based on an inter-agency study on the financial statements of foreign investors filed with the Board of Investments (BOI), the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Translation: Boy, we got pizza and isn’t sick. ***
Likewise, the countryâ€™s export earnings in November, 2012, posted a 5.5 percent growth to $3.55 billion from last yearâ€™s $3.36 billion, likely raising total figure favorably. Export growth is saving us from economic lupus. *** The National Statistics Office (NSO) attributes the growth to increased shipments of commodities such as electronic products, metal components, woodcrafts and furniture, cathodes, copper and ignition wiring set. Expanding product line is our lifeline. *** Deutsche Banks (DB) Asia rates and currency research head Sameer Goel says the bank expects the peso to appreciate to R38 against the US dollar by the end of this year and to R36.50 at the end of 2014, due to the relatively high interest rate and the large current account surplus of the Philippines. The peso to gain further strength. *** The total net commitment from official development assistance (ODA) has increased by $318.3 million to $8.83 billion as of the third quarter of 2012, and will likely grow further due to newly-signed loans/projects, NEDA says. More funds and more fun coming. Hooray! http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/389719/gdp-growth#.UPYRVx3BOo4
As I See It
Sugar being smuggled through Cebu port By Neal H. Cruz Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:32 pm | Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
It seems that anything and everything is being smuggled into the Philippines: rice, pork, vegetables, cars, fireworks, drugs, humans, etc. Very soon, it will be cigarettes, again, and alcoholic drinks because of the new, much higher sin taxes. What is surprising is that while the Philippines used to be one of the world’s biggest exporters of sugar—copra which used to be our biggest export product—sugar is now being smuggled into, not out of, the Philippines. And the Bureau of Customs (BoC) has its hands full trying to stop the smuggling into the Philippines not only of sugar but also of other products. The latest case of sugar smuggling was in Mandaue City. Ironically, some customs personnel seem to have a hand in it—which is not unusual. An internal investigation is now being conducted by the BoC. Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon wants to get to the bottom of the controversy because he believes that several customs personnel, including Maj. Camilo Cascolan Jr., director of the Enforcement and Security Service (ESS) of the Cebu Customs District, are being unjustly accused of illegal activities in order to shield some people. It was the diligence of ESS personnel that triggered the so-called “hot pursuit” that eventually led to the confiscation by government of the contraband sugar that has an estimated value of P7 million. Cascolan confirmed that ESS personnel were “guarding” the warehouse where the bulk of the smuggled sugar was found. They had been there for one week—because it was the ESS that started the series of actions against the smuggled sugar—before Biazon’s Nov. 28 photo-op showing him “confiscating” the sugar shipment. Cascolan said he did not want the smuggled sugar brought out of the Customs-bonded warehouse where his men discovered the rest of the smuggled sugar because he wanted the whole warehouse padlocked and taken over by the BoC as this may unearth the people behind the smuggling attempt. The shipment of seven container vans were brought into the country by two companies registered with the Mactan Economic Processing Zone Authority (MEPZA). Four of the vans were consigned to Muramoto Audio Visuals (Philippines) Inc., and the other three to Mobilia Products Inc., reportedly a major exporter of high-quality furniture. Cascolan noted that encouraged by the “tuwid na daan” campaign of President Aquino, his men resisted attempts by two personnel of the X-ray inspection facility in the Cebu Customs Zone to let the shipments go. The ESS team even requested that proper investigation be conducted after discovering that the release papers for four container vans that had exited the main gate of the Cebu port did not have the coupons proving they passed through X-ray inspection. Cascolan said there is a strong lobby by other Customs officials for Commissioner Biazon to stop the investigation and to paint him and his men as the “bad boys” protecting the warehouse full of smuggled sugar.
Cascolan’s investigation showed that the smuggled sugar was part of a larger shipment that also included four container vans full of sugar that were “stopped” by ESS personnel James Aguilar and Danilo Dalucapas in front of the ESS building just outside the Cebu international port on the late evening of Nov. 22, seven days before Biazon led the “seizure” of the contraband from the Mandaue City warehouse. Records indicate that the four container vans were just the second and last batch unloaded from M/V Titan on the evening of Nov. 22. Five other container vans brought in by Muramoto and Mobilia had earlier been allowed to leave the Customs zone unmolested by Customs personnel. An inspection of the papers of three of the five container vans showed they too did not have the coupons that would prove they underwent X-ray inspection. The ESS team’s suspicion that the container vans contained contraband was aroused when they noticed sugar granules spilling out of the vans’ padlocked doors. The suspicion of the ESS team was reinforced when personnel of the Cebu Customs X-ray facility repeatedly urged it to release the shipment despite the absence of proof that the vans had been X-rayed. When the ESS team inspected the four container vans consigned to Muramoto, their suspicion was confirmed that the three vans and the five others contained contraband sugar. This discovery led to a “hot pursuit” to track the contraband outside the Cebu customs zone. The ESS team found three of the five container vans consigned to Mobilia in the warehouse of Greenhills Products Inc. in Mandaue City. The three were already open, either totally emptied of their cargoes or still being unloaded of their contents—smuggled sugar. ESS team members Aguilar and Dalucapas, who intercepted the contraband, recommended that a Warrant of Seizure and Detention (WSD) be issued against the Greenhills Products Inc. Warehouse Door 2 in Mandaue City, as well as on all 500 bags of sugar and two prime mover trailers loaded with two more container vans consigned to Mobilia Products, which were found inside. They also recommended that an investigation by an independent body be conducted to identify the people involved, determine their culpabilities under the law and, if warranted, file the appropriate administrative and/or criminal cases against them.
New species of flying frog discovered in Vietnam Agence France-Presse 6:36 pm | Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
This handout picture taken by Jodi Rowley in 2009 and released by Australian Museum on Jan. 15, 2013, shows Helen’s Flying Frog, a new species of flying frog in Nui Ong Nature Reserve, Binh Thuan Province. An Australian researcher who discovered a new species of flying frog near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and named it after her mother said on January 15 it was a rare find so close to such a big city. AFP PHOTO / AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM/JODI ROWLEY
SYDNEY—An Australian researcher who discovered a new species of flying frog near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and named it after her mother said Tuesday it was a rare find so close to such a big city. Helen’s Flying Frog was first discovered by Jodi Rowley, an amphibian expert from Sydney’s Australian Museum, in 2009 during a field trip to the forests fringing the city previously known as Saigon. Rowley initially thought the tree-dwelling flying frog, so named for the huge webbed feet that allow it to glide or parachute across the forest canopy, was a familiar species when she saw it sitting on a log beside a path. It was not until a later trip, when she saw a specimen of the original type of frog in another part of Vietnam, that she realized her creature was something quite different. “The new species has a bright white belly and white whites of the eyes, whereas the species that I thought it was—its closest relative—has a lemon yellow belly and yellow whites of the eyes,” Rowley told AFP. “There’s also differences in the color of the webbing, color of the thighs, and we did look at body type as well so it does seem to be bigger than the other species.” Molecular analysis confirmed Rowley’s suspicions and she had the honor of naming the new species rhacophorus helenae or Helen’s Flying Frog after her mother, who had recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
She said the “big, impressive” species, which is 10 centimeters (four inches) long was a surprising find in the low-lying evergreen forest surrounded by rice paddies on the fringes of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s most populous city. “What’s rare about this discovery in particular is the fact that I found the lone individual less than 90 kilometers from the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, one of the biggest cities in Southeast Asia,” said Rowley. Researchers are now working to establish whether Helen’s frog is endangered. Specimens have only been seen in the lowland forests of southern Binh Thuan and Dong Nai provinces and Rowley said there were real fears for its survival. “We are worried particularly because it is a lowland forest and it’s the same kind of forest (as where) the Javan rhinoceros went extinct in 2011 as well. Habitat loss is a huge issue,” she said. Rowley’s discovery, made with researchers from Ho Chi Minh city’s University of Science, was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Herpetology. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/341007/new-species-of-flying-frog-discovered-in-vietnam
Cold front, ‘Amihan’ in Luzon, Visayas to bring rain in parts of PH By Frances Mangosing INQUIRER.net 10:11 am | Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
Source: Project Noah | 9:01 am, January 15, 2012
MANILA, Philippiinnes — The tail-end of a cold front in Eastern Visayas and the northeast monsoon (Amihan) affecting Eastern Luzon will bring cloudy skies and rains in parts of the Philippines, the state weather bureau said Tuesday. Samar and Leyte provinces, Central Visayas and Mindanao will have cloudy skies with occasional light to moderate rainshowers or thunderstorms, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said. Bicol region, Cagayan Valley and the provinces of Aurora, Quezon and Palawan will experience cloudy skies with occasional light rains while Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy with brief rainshowers or thunderstorms. Monday’s coldest temperature in Metro Manila due to the prevailing northeast monsoon was recorded at 23.3 degrees Celsius at 5 a.m, while the hottest temperature was recorded at 3:50p.m. at 28.7 degrees Celsius. Temperatures for Tuesday in Metro Manila will be between 23 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius while Baguio City will be between 13 degrees Celsius to 23 degrees Celsius, Pagasa said. Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail over Luzon and its coastal waters will be moderate to rough. Elswhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the northeast with slight to moderate seas. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/340783/cold-front-amihan-in-luzon-visayas-to-bring-rain-in-parts-of-ph
Beyond Posted on January 11, 2013 04:48:40 PM By Joan Christine Allon IDEA
Disasters: Why do we never seem to learn? IN DECEMBER, Typhoon "Pablo" tore its way through Mindanao, leaving in its wake starvation and scarcity for more than 6.2 million survivors. BW file photo
Since it made landfall on December 4, "Pablo" has wrought a staggering P16 billion in damages to infrastructure, agriculture and private property. "Pablo", however, is no exception. Over the years, a string of typhoons has racked up similar figures. "Ondoy", and "Pedring" in 2009, "Sendong" in 2011, and now "Pablo" in 2012 are not just simple flukes of nature. The past three years have brought to fore extreme weather disturbances associated with the reality of climate change. Escalating environmental degradation has led to rising temperatures and sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and erratic weather patterns for most parts of the world. Climate change seems to have bared its fierce fangs at the Philippines. It is said the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events in the country have heightened more than four-fold since 1990. As the country’s most destructive type of calamity, about 20 typhoons frequent the country every year, four of which are sure to make landfall, mostly passing through the Visayas and increasingly, going south to Mindanao. There is growing concern over the socioeconomic impacts of these extreme shifts in temperature and weather patterns, especially for populations located in coastal and agricultural regions. The Philippines, an archipelagic country located in the Pacific, has extensive coastal areas and still relies greatly on agriculture particularly for employment. Agriculture, forestry and fishery covers 11.24% of gross domestic product (GDP), as of the third quarter of 2012, and employs about 33% of the total workforce. The above figures engender vulnerability as the country is also one of the most disaster‐prone countries in the world, accounting for around 25% of all natural disasters reported annually. With an annual average of already twelve disasters, the year 2011 recorded 33 disasters or almost three times the 30-year-average. The dependence of agriculture on weather, the continued economic utilization of forest and mineral areas, and the high concentration of human activity in coastal areas exacerbate the damage of cyclones accompanied by torrential rains, flooding and landslides. The escalation in the scale of destruction is apparent in the country’s recent history. In 2009, Tropical Storm "Ondoy" and Typhoon "Pedring" alone dealt P206 billion (2.7% of GDP) worth of damages, including no less than 1.1 million metric tons of rice lost. In 2011, Tropical Storm "Sendong" tore through Southern Mindanao, killed more than 1,200 persons, damaged more than 13,000 houses, and displaced as many as 400,000 people. In 2012, Typhoon "Pablo" raged through Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental. The succeeding floods caused by the torrential rains, damaged an estimated P16 billion in agriculture and P7 billion in infrastructures. Included in the devastation was 14,175 hectares of banana crops, a third of the country's production, or about P15 million, from the thought-to-be sheltered Compostela Valley alone. Farmers were reportedly reduced to begging amidst the overwhelming loss.
The economic activities of man remain the prime driver of climate change. Along with man’s efforts towards economic advancement are occasions of pollution, resource depletion and environmental destruction. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, deforestation in the Philippines comes up to an average of 54,745 hectares or about 0.83 percent in forest cover per year. Logging, illegal or not, and slash-and-burn farming amplify the effects of heavy rains already worsened by climate change. On a global scale, model-averaged predictions of increased flood frequency range from 4% to 28% with just a 10% loss in natural forest cover. The trees no longer absorb floodwater, thus, shifting the stream to cities and homes. The rainforest canopy no longer stops torrential rains and the roots no longer hold the soil together, exposing the land to erosions and devastating landslides. In our recent experience with Typhoon "Pablo", 80% of the remaining 31 illegal logging “hotspots” can be found in the provinces hardest hit by the typhoon: Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental. In summary, deaths due to calamities in the country averaged 1,063 per year --one of the highest death tolls for weather-related disasters according to Global Climate Risk Index-- and the others that were either displaced or suffered losses average 3.75 million per year. Direct economic losses are estimated at 2 percent or about P180 billion of GDP per annum of which P8.4 billion is in agriculture. The exposure of the Philippines to such catastrophic hazards, however, is only getting worse. It is estimated that 17.17 million persons and P951 billion worth of production and properties remain exposed to these kinds of tragedies. Apparently, the marriage of economic progress and environmental sustainability, as preached in environmental economics, isn’t so simple. A popular Marxian quote forebodes of capitalism twisting the rope of its own hanging. The prophecy may have some shred of truth to it: perhaps not through popular designs of political or social uprising, but realized through a revolution led by Mother Nature herself.
The Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis (IDEA), Inc. is a non-stock, nonpartisan institution dedicated to high-quality economic research, instruction, and communication. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization. For questions and inquiries, please contact Remrick Patagan via firstname.lastname@example.org or telefax no. +632 920-6872.
Finance Posted on January 15, 2013 08:49:10 PM
Soured loan ratio dips further THE SHARE of bad loans in the total portfolio of universal and commercial banks dropped even further last October, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed. Non-performing loans (NPL) -- obligations unpaid at least 30 days after due date -- stood at 2% of banks’ total portfolio last October. It dipped significantly from the 2.54% posted the year before and the 2.05% a month prior. The improvement was due to the dip in bad loans and the hike in total portfolios of universal and commercial banks. NPLs amounted to P69.12 billion last October, falling by a tenth from P77.38 billion last year. The total portfolio, meanwhile, climbed by 13.52% to P3.46 trillion from P3.048 trillion. Excluding interbank loans -- borrowings made by banks among themselves -- the NPL ratio settled at 2.1% last October, below the 2.69% recorded in 2011 and 2.15% last September. Universal and commercial banks likewise trimmed their restructured loans -- debts negotiated to lengthen or postpone the scheduled installment payments. Restructured loans totaled P34.27 billion last October, 16.12% lower than the P40.85 billion recorded a year ago. Non-performing assets (NPA), comprised of foreclosed properties and bad loans, also fell by 8.39% to P176.69 billion from P192.88 billion. NPAs accounted for 2.55% of the gross assets held by banks last October, dipping from the 3.03% the year before and the 2.56% the month previous. “The BSP likewise welcomes that banks continue to take an active position in the area of setting up loan loss reserves,” the central bank said in a statement released yesterday. Universal and commercial banks held loan loss reserves of P95.89 billion last October, equivalent to 138.73% of nonperforming loans. The coverage ratio is an improvement from the 119.07% recorded in 2011 and the 136% posted last September. NPA reserves also amounted to P123.03 billion, equivalent to 69.63% of banks’ bad assets. “From a policy perspective, the BSP continues to monitor the asset quality of banks’ loan portfolio,” the central bank said. “For this reason, credit standards remain a high policy priority. The soundness of banks’ loan portfolio is a key element in maintaining financial stability,” it added. -- Diane Claire J. Jiao
Palace told to answer plea vs RH By Manila Standard Today | Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:01am | 461 views The Supreme Court ordered Malacanang on Tuesday to respond within 10 days to claims that the Reproductive Health law signed by President Aquino last month was unconstitutional because it could split families and destroy marriage as an institution, which are protected by the Constitution. The new law, or Republic Act 10354, also contains 11 provisions that allow couples to choose to suppress life, which violates the Constitution, according to James and Lovely Ann Imbong, who sought a restraining order to stop its implementation. The Imbong couple cited Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution, which says: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn …” Despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, which accepts only natural family planning methods, Congress passed the Reproductive Health bill last December 19 and Aquino signed it into law two days later. The Imbong couple filed their case on January 2, but various groups and foundations followed with their own petitions, seeking to stop the law’s implementation. The court will deliberate and decide the issue after it received the government’s comments. Petitioners said the government should not implement the law because it runs counter to its constitutional duty “to strengthen (family’s) solidarity and actively promote its total development,” to protect “inviolable marriage” and the “right of spouses to build a family in accordance with their religious beliefs.” From Mindanao, the Serve Life CDO, a medical services company, and Rosevale Foundation, a school in Cagayan de Oro City, also asked the Supreme Court to to stop implementation of the new law. The petitioners said the new law was violative of the Constitution. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/01/16/palace‐told‐to‐answer‐plea‐vs‐rh/
Another Cabinet man quits; Palace unfazed By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:01am Another Cabinet official resigned effective yesterday but Malacañang said that was no big deal. Trade Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio’s resignation took effect yesterday, following the footsteps of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Benito Ramos and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. president Eduardo Banzon. There was nothing unusual in the series of resignations of high-profile officials of the Aquino administration this month. However, because of the appointments ban in light of the May elections, deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said President Benigno Aquino III might opt to assign an officer-in-charge to replace the three officials. Ramos, whose resignation will take effect on Feb. 1, said he was quitting to take care of his ailing wife. Banzon, who cited personal reasons, will be replaced by Health Secretary Enrique Ona as OIC. “I think these resignations are just coincidental,” Valte said. “I suppose you know there are times when people need to move on and need to change different career paths,” she added. Last month, the President also accepted the resignations of chief presidential legal counsel Eduardo de Mesa and Bureau of Corrections head Gaudencio Pangilinan. Since Mr. Aquino took office in 2010, there have been a number of high-ranking Cabinet and government officials who have resigned from his administration, including National Economic Development Authority head Cayetano Paderanga, Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus, Customs chief Angelito Alvarez, Private-Public Partnership Office executive director Philamer Torio, Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board head Nelson Laluces, BuCor head Ernesto Diokno, and Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/01/16/another‐cabinet‐man‐quits‐palace‐unfazed/
52-M voters sign up for May polls By Joel E. Zurbano | Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:01am | 309 views A total of 52.8 million voters registered for this yearâ€™s mid-term polls, including those who joined the listup overseas. The number rose by 2.03 million from 50.85 million in the 2010 polls. The Commission on Elections-Precincts and Voting Center Division analyst Elisa Canete said 51,898,906 voters registered in the country, while 988,384 signed up as overseas absentee voters. The Foreign Affairs department said 398,554 were new registrants. The new figures surpassed the total number of registrants in 2004, which chalked up 364,187 OAV, followed by 2007 with 143,236 and 2010 with 235,950. The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 allows qualified Filipino citizens residing abroad to vote for president, vice president, senators and party-list representatives. In the breakdown per region, Region 4 or the Southern Tagalog area posted the highest number with 8,757,625 registered voters followed by Metro Manila with 5,995,865 and Region 3 (Central Luzon) with 5,822,678. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao posted 1,288,562 registered voters, down by more than 500,000 compared to the old list of 1.7 million. The Comelec actually recorded 1,567,409 new voters during the July 9 to 18, 2012 registration period in ARMM but the commission discovered double and multiple registrants and subjected them to Automated Fingerprint Identification System process. ARMM is composed of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The new figures also surpassed the total number of registrants in 2004, where it only listed 364,187 OAV; followed by 2007 with only 143,236; and in 2010 with 235,950. The elections on May 13 will elect 12 candidates for senators, the highest elective positions available. The total number of elective government positions at stake total 18,053, including 59 partylist representatives, 233 congressmen, 80 governors and 143 mayors. A regional governor, a vice governor and 24 assemblymen will be elected in the ARMM.
The Comelec and the National Police earlier identified a total of 889 election “hot spots” or election watchlist areas in 15 provinces, majority of which were found in the Ilocos Region, 88 in the Eastern Visayas, and 83 in the ARMM. The provinces considered as high-risk areas were Abra, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan. The PNP identified the “hot spots” or potential flash points based on election violence during and outside the election period, political rivalry, the presence of private armed groups and other threat groups and the proliferation of firearms. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/01/16/52‐m‐voters‐sign‐up‐for‐may‐polls/
DOST to host govt websites By Marlon C. Magtira | Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:00am To curb the growing number of hacking attacks, Malacanang on Monday said that it is studying the possibility of directing the Department of Science and Technology to host all websites run by the government. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said migrating” or moving all government websites to the government host will ensure their safety from hackers. Government domain which is managed by the DOST, is less prone to hacking, he said. “Those (websites) that are hosted by DOST are secure, for instance (the) PCDSPO (Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office) and the OP (Office of the President), are run by the government and as much as the hackers have attempted to attack the OP (website), it has never been defaced,” Lacierda said in the report. “Some government websites are hosted by private entities and there has been a suggestion to move or migrate their hosting to government so that’s being studied right now,” he said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/01/16/dost‐to‐host‐govt‐websites/
Biking in the metro By Rio N. Araja | Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:00am THOSE who want to use bikes from Makati City’s Magallanes Drive to Ayala Avenue may apply for membership in the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s bike sharing program. Chairman Francis Tolentino said the agency’s new program will allow people to take a bike from any of the stations on Magallanes Drive, Arnaiz Avenue and Ayala Avenue and return them at in another station. Members will only be allowed a maximum of two hours to use the agency’s bikes, but bike afficionados can bring their own bikes and deposit them in the stations which are manned from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. To apply for membership, Tolentino said an applicant must fill out a form, submit a certificate of employment, a barangay clearance and a 1×1 identification picture. A special ID membership card will be issued once his or her application is approved. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/01/16/biking‐in‐the‐metro/
Agriculture, DAR sign P17-b crop insurance deal By Othel V. Campos | Posted on Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:01am The government signed Tuesday an inter-agency agreement that will provide as much as P17.1 billion worth of crop insurance protection to agrarian reform beneficiaries over the next two cropping seasons. Philippine Crop Insurance Corp., an agency attached to the Agriculture Department, and the Agrarian Reform Department under the agreement will implement a protection plan contained in the “Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries-Agricultural Insurance Program.” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Jerry Pacturan signed the cooperation agreement. The insurance protection plan is the first collaboration between two of the country’s main rural development agencies and the biggest issued by PCIC. The program aims to provide agrarian reform farmer-beneficiaries a safety net against crop pests and diseases and unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change in two cropping seasons this year. Under the program, over 224,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries, or members of their households farming some 330,000 hectares of land and raising some 30,700 animals, will receive premium subsidy. The Agrarian Reform Department will identify the eligible beneficiaries. The beneficiaries include 99,580 rice farmers tilling 178,801 hectares; 37,772 corn growers in 72,506 hectares; and 85,760 commercial crop farmers in 78,633 hectares. Each beneficiary will receive protection cover of up to three hectares and three types of insurance coverage. The insurance protection is good for two cropping seasons. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/01/16/agriculture‐dar‐sign‐p17‐b‐crop‐insurance‐deal/
Fast food linked to child asthma Published on 16 January 2013 Written by AFP PARIS: Children who frequently eat fast food are far likelier to have severe asthma compared to counterparts who tuck into fruit, a large international study published on Monday said. Researchers asked nearly half a million teenagers aged 13 to 14 and children aged six and seven about their eating habits and whether in the previous year they had experienced wheezing, eczema, or an itchy, blocked nose when they did not have cold or flu. The questionnaires—completed by a parent or guardian for the younger children—were distributed in scores of countries. It marks the latest phase in a long-running collaborative program, the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, or Isaac, which was launched in 1991. The investigators filtered out factors that could skew results, such as maternal smoking during pregnancy, sedentary lifestyle and body-mass index, to focus purely on diet. They found that fast food was the only food type that could be clearly linked to asthma severity. Three or more weekly servings of fast food were associated with a 39-percent increase in the risk of severe asthma among teens and a 27-percent increase among younger children. It also added to the risk of eczema and severe rhinitis. In contrast, eating three or more weekly portions of fruit led to a reduction in symptom severity of between 11 and 14 percent, respectively. The study, which appears in the British Medical Association journal Thorax, noted that to prove an association is not to prove a cause—but argued that a further inquiry was clearly needed. “If the associations [are] causal, then the findings have major public health significance, owing to the rising consumption of fast foods globally,” the authors said. Previous research has found that the saturated and “trans” fatty acids trigger an inflammatory response from the immune system, the paper noted. http://www.manilatimes.net/~manilati/index.php/news/top‐stories/39474‐fast‐food‐linked‐to‐child‐ asthma
Comelec asked to extend liquor ban Published on 16 January 2013 Written by Johanna M. Sampan The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) requested the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday to extend the liquor ban from two days to 45 days come the election period on May 13. In the request letter signed by the MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, it stated that the two-day liquor ban is inadequate in addressing the evils and problems related to the taking of intoxicating drinks given that the election period covers from January 13 until June 12, 2013. The petition also stated that the “unfettered consumption of alcoholic beverages” during the election season “does not aid the intelligent discussion of election issues by the citizens”. Tolentino said that not having a prolonged liquor ban does not augur well in areas with heated political rivalries. The petition cited the gun ban as an example stating that it lasts for the rest of the election period and it applies to licensed gun owners who are a small percentage to the alcohol imbibing citizens when access to alcohol is not limited. Given the deleterious and far-reaching effects of alcohol, it stands to reason that the liquor ban should be in effect for a longer period, just as the gun ban, it added. However, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said that while the commission en banc is still set to discuss the petition filed by the MMDA, he believes that the proposal has a small chance of being approved. “Maybe 45 days is just too long [for a liquor ban],” Brillantes said in the Comelec headquarters. Comelec Commissioner Armando Velasco also affirmed Brillantes’ decision and opined that it should be no longer than three days. “In our informal discussion, masyado mahaba ang 45 days. On my part, maybe three days siguro. When it comes to liquors, there is a case of hangover, even after 24 hours . . . Remember that our concentration is for the purposes of voting,” Velasco said in a separate interview. Both poll officials also noted that the proposal could also receive strong opposition from businessmen and liquor drink manufacturers. “This will surely be opposed by the liquor makers and sellers . . . and these are big companies,” Brillantes said. “We also have to consider the commercial value of the liquor ban . . . there will certainly be businesses that will be affected,” Velasco expressed. The Omnibus Election Code states that it is prohibited for “any person to sell, furnish, offer, buy, serve or take intoxicating liquor . . . on the day before the election or on Election Day.” Comelec Resolution 9582 provides that the liquor ban shall be in effect on May 12 and 13, 2013. http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/news/regions/39461‐comelec‐asked‐to‐extend‐liquor‐ban
P14-M alternative fuel plan BURNED taxpayer money Published on 16 January 2013 Written by John Constantine G. Cordon THE Commission on Audit raised its hackles over a P14-million energy efficiency project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), after state auditors found that it was not completed.
The commission bared in the 2011 report that the P14.24-million program of the agency, which included the purchase of 33 vehicles, were not accomplished. In 2010, DOST embarked on an alternative fuel study, in which the agency is expected to come up with reports on the performance of alternative fuel and biofuel with different blends and a nationwide promotion and awareness of alternative fuel use for transport. The Roll-out Extension Program on Alternative Fuel for Transport received a funding of P14.15 million and P88,000 where DOST-central Visayas was made as the lead agency. Part of the program was the purchase of 33 motor vehicles for distribution to various DOST regional offices including the National Capital Region. The 33 motor vehicles were transferred to the 16 regional offices of DOST, where these were used in the conduct of on-road testing to find out the performance of alternative fuel in relation to fuel consumption, effects of alternative fuel in the fuel line and emission level. Ethanol blend and auto liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) were used as alternative fuels. Test vehicles first ran on commercial fuel for data on performance and maintenance conditions to be gathered. Then, they ran on alternative energy. In a questionnaire sent to regional auditors whose province received the vehicles, 11 regional offices stated that the test vehicles assigned to them used only the ethanol blend E10, the regular fuel sold in gas stations. Auto LPG was not used because LPG converter kit was not installed on the test vehicles and there was no gas refueling stations in their area. In Region X, they were not convinced to use the auto LPG alternative fuel, citing health hazard to the driver and passengers. Three regional offices were said to have installed auto LPG converter kit in 2012, which is one year beyond the project duration of May 31, 2011. The auditing body said that problems encountered in the installation of the auto-LPG kit to the test vehicles was not reported by the concerned regional offices to DOST. Auditors said that it can be gleaned from the results of the survey that the project failed to find out the performance of the alternative fuel because the on-road testing was not fully completed. The DOST-Central Visayas and the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, the monitoring agency, failed to come up with validated report. “The project’s objectives were not accomplished. The amount expended totaling P14.24 million, specifically for the
procurement of 33 motor vehicles was a waste of government funds,” the report said. DOST replied that E10 was only used during the test run, while the installation of LPG converter will be done in June 2012 to May 2013. The use of alternative fuel was supposed to done in 2012 during the project’s extension period. In places where there are no gas refilling stations, test vehicles shall continue using the blended gasoline (E10) and if available, test higher blends, the department said. By way of rejoinder, auditors said that the project was not implemented in accordance with the approved project proposal. To extend the project is deemed unnecessary, considering the objective of the project was to support government for energy self-sufficiency level by 60 percent in 2010, the commission said. “Extension will only mean additional costs to the government and the results that can be derived may have no use because the project was already overtaken by events,” the Commission noted. http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/news/regions/39458‐p14‐m‐alternative‐fuel‐plan‐burned‐taxpayer‐ money
Posted on January 15, 2013 09:40:43 PM
Banana industry seeks help from strong peso DAVAO CITY -- The continued appreciation of the peso is threatening further the country’s banana industry even as it reels from the huge damage from typhoon Pablo on its plantations in the Davao Region last month. Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), noted that while the industry appreciates the immediate response of the government to help the industry recover from the typhoon the soonest time possible, it is still submitting a set of proposals to cushion the impact of a strong peso. The government, he said, could implement a moratorium or extension in the payment of governmentrelated fees, specifically on: * wharfage dues, plant quarantine fees and even an income tax holiday for 2013; * duty-free importation of farm inputs, machineries and equipment; * payments of business and real property taxes; * interests on bank loans especially for member companies who have existing loans with the Land Bank and subsequently a moratorium on the payment of loan amortizations for the next nine months; and, * interests and penalties on agricultural and commercial loans,” he said. “These are just proposals. Whatever assistance the government can afford to extend to us in facilitating the mobilization of our resources for the fast and smooth rehabilitation of our farms would be a welcome development,” he said in a statement sent to media. INDUSTRY LOSSES PBGEA, which is based here, has earlier reported that the industry suffered about P8 billion in losses with about 11,000 hectares of banana farms destroyed when the typhoon hit the region. The industry, engaged mainly in the export fresh bananas, covers roughly 70,000 hectares of plantations in the Davao Region and in south-central Mindanao provinces. Last weekend, a statement from the Department of Agriculture noted the national government has started the rehabilitation of small banana farms devastated by typhoon Pablo. Agriculture department’s regional office announced over the weekend a P33-million rehab fund would set aside P5,750 per hectare for damaged banana farms specifically for clearing operations and for the distribution an initial four bags of fertilizers per hectare for affected farms. The regional office of the Agrarian Reform department, on the other hand, has also assured the farmers they would be able to obtain production loan through their respective cooperatives. Another intervention from Department of Agrarian Reform, which is still being evaluated, is a proposed five-
year moratorium on the payments of their lands acquired through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in the past years. Many banana farms in the region are now run by agrarian reform cooperatives after big plantations were distributed to farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The Agriculture and Agrarian Reform departments are not the only agencies helping farm workers displaced by Pablo since early last month, regional Agriculture officials said in a statement. The Department of Labor and Employment has also worked together with the International Labor Organization for the implementation of an emergency employment scheme for farm those affected in both Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. The Land Bank of the Philippines, meanwhile, has also set up a loan window for banana farms where farmers can borrow P430,000 per hectare at 10-year maturity and at 6% interest rate annually. To cushion the impact of the loan on the farmers, the bank will impose a two-year moratorium on the payment of the said loans. Mr. Antig pointed out that most small growers are either suppliers or neighbors of big exporters’ plantations. PBGEA, whose members are the big banana plantations, have also asked the government to “prioritize the monetization of VAT (value-added tax) claims and tax credit certificates,” schemes that are refundable from the government. Mr. Antig said the monetization of these schemes will allow the member-companies to use internally generated funds and not depend on loans for their rehabilitation program. Thus credit fund from the government for this purpose could be diverted better to small banana farmers, he said. -- Carmelito Q. Francisco
Poverty up but hunger down so CCT works, says Palace Written by Mario J. Mallari Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00
The effectiveness of President Aquino’s costly and at the same time controversial conditional cash transfer (CCT) program was again in the limelight after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed a marked increased in self‐rated poverty, prompting the Palace to counter that the CCT is working since the hunger incidence in the same survey was shown to have been reduced. Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte, during a press briefing, said the Palace will look into the latest SWS survey showing that self‐rated poverty went up to 54 percent during last quarter of 2012 from 47 percent during the previous quarter. “We are going to look into those numbers actually because in the same survey, it cites that hunger incidence also went down. So, it is safe to assume that our experts will be looking at the numbers also just to see what is there –what the numbers reveal,” said Valte. Valte also maintained that the Aquino administration’s anti‐poverty CCT program remains effective despite the survey numbers. “Yes,” replied Valte when asked if the CCT program remains effective, adding “we have been going around. We make it a point to talk to the beneficiaries in provinces that are not part of (Metro) Manila or in some other cities and the feedback is almost usually the same – that it (CCT) is a big help.” She, however, admitted that there were reports saying some beneficiaries are using the grant in vices which is the reason of the continuing cleansing of the list of beneficiaries of CCT. “These reports we would like to hear of them so that we could remove them (benficiaries) from the list because the cleansing of the list is ongoing and is a continuing effort,” said Valte. There were apprehensions that the CCT fund could be used by the administration in boosting the candidacy of its bets in the upcoming May midterm elections. Valte said there are many indicators by which to measure the success of the implementation of the CCT program. “One is the attendance of children in public schools. I remember there was one public school in Dumaguete that we had gone to, and the question I asked the principal was about attendance (of students),” she said. Valte also noted that before the families of the children were made part of the CCT program, around 85 percent were able to go to school, and when they became beneficiaries of the program, about 95 percent of the children are now attending classes.
“So that’s just one of the many indicators by which you can see and measure the success of the program. But the best (way), to me, is to talk to the families themselves,” she said. Meanwhile, the Aquino administration yesterday expressed elation over the reported success of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) in enhancing the services extended by Phil‐Job Net in providing at least 100,000 job vacancies at any given time. Valte said that the administration is looking forward to the continuing development of the Phil‐Job Net website to be able to give assistance to the job seekers. “We are pleased to share the report of Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to the President regarding Phil‐Job Net (www.phil‐job.net), the official job portal of the Philippine Government,” Valte said. “For the first time in its history, the number of vacancies on the website has outpaced the number of applicants. As of today, there have been more than 264,000 vacancies posted by employers compared to a little over 117,000 applicants. The number of vacancies is also at an all‐time high compared to only an average of 40,000 a month as of July 2010,” Valte said. http://www.tribune.net.ph/index.php/headlines/item/9240‐poverty‐up‐but‐hunger‐down‐so‐cct‐works‐ says‐palace
Nat’l gov’t released P30-B equity to BSP, says DBM exec Written by Ed Velasco Wednesday, 16 January 2013 00:00
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) yesterday responded to statements of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (DBM) calling on the national government to take part in the losses and not just on the gains of the central bank. Budget Undersecretary Laura Pascua said only P10 billion of the P40 billion equity needed from the national government by the central bank remains unreleased because a large portion of the amount was already dispensed. “We had a press release last Dec. 27, 2012 releasing P20 billion to BSP. This means that P30 billion of the P40 billion equity needed from the government by BSP has been released,” Pascua said in a text message. The BSP said there are several ways how the central bank can avoid heavy losses. Deputy gov. Diwa Guinigundo said one effective way is for the national government to share in both gains and losses as well as through automatic recapitalization. However, Pascua, the most senior DBM undersecretary, didn’t reply if the equity it gave to BSP is already recapitalization like what the central bank wants to happen. The BSP said the automatic recapitalization can happen if the charter of the central bank is amended. Recapitalization happens when BSP’s net worth reaches a certain level considered to be precarious and the national government remits additional capital to BSP. Huge losses from market participation prompted the BSP to seek amendments to its 19‐year‐old charter. Aside from the recapitalization, the amendments to its charter will also pave the way for other changes needed for the BSP to perform its function better. http://www.tribune.net.ph/index.php/business/item/9221‐nat%E2%80%99l‐gov%E2%80%99t‐released‐ p30‐b‐equity‐to‐bsp‐says‐dbm‐exec
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