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Agri dept distributes machineries to farmers, fishermen in Region 12 Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 18:47 Written by PNA

COTABATO CITY—In a bid to achieve food self-sufficiency in Region 12 (South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces, and General Santos City, or Soccsksargen), Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala led the distribution of various agricultural machineries to farmers and fisherfolk in the region over the weekend. He and other agriculture officials distributed the equipment during their visit to Cotabato City, where they joined some 2,500 Department of Agriculture-Region 12 (DA-12) officials, farmers and fishermen in the “Ulat sa Bayan” and Farmers’ Hearts Day. The department held these events to recognize and appreciate the farmers’ contributions to the government’s efforts in attaining food self-sufficiency. Alcala and DA-12 Regional Director Amalia Jayag Datukan distributed 40 hand tractors, 20 floating tillers, 35 shallow-tube well engines and seven mini-4-WD tractors from the Agri-Pinoy Palayan program to farmer-beneficiaries. They also distributed three cassava granulator-cum-shredders, two moisture meters, two disc harrows, two disc plows, one 90-horsepower 4-WD tractor, two village-type corn-on-cobs dryers, eight hermetic cocoons and two shredders from the Agri-Pinoy Maisan program. The agriculture chief distributed 13 power sprayers, 1,700 tins of onion seedlings, 35 plastic water drums, 1,800 meters of HDPE pipes, 14 knapsack sprayers and one hand tractor with complete accessories from the Agri-Pinoy High Value Crops Development Program to government officials from Sarangani’s Malungon town, as well as a 35-hp 4-WD tractor to officials from South Cotabato’s Tupi town. He also handed three 1.5-ton capacity shredders and three bag closers from the Organic Agriculture program to local government units in North Cotabato’s Kidapawan City, General Santos City and Sultan Kudarat’s Columbio town. Three

chillers and two chest-type freezers were also turned over to various village food terminals. “With the DA mechanization program, it is not far-fetched that the country will attain sufficiency not only [in] rice, but [in] other food [staples],” Alcala said. He noted Region 12’s contributions to the Food Staples Self-Sufficiency Program, saying that it attained a rice-sufficiency level of 128 percent last year. The region has contributed about 31.89 percent of the country’s rice selfsufficiency level. Alcala challenged Jayag-Datukan and farmers in the region to exceed that figure. “Your budget for this year is P1.2 billion, compared to more than P700 million in 2012, so there’s no reason [why] you cannot surpass last year’s feat,” he told them. PNA‐commodities/9498‐agri‐dept‐distributes‐ machineries‐to‐farmers‐fishermen‐in‐region‐12                          

Economy Posted on February 19, 2013 09:38:49 PM  By Dianne Claire J. Jiao, Senior Reporter   

P599.5M released for irrigation projects  THE DEPARTMENT of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P599.5  million for various irrigation projects across the country.    "Effective irrigation systems are critical in helping our farmers increase their       crop production and, ultimately, establishing the country’s self‐sufficiency in  food staples," Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said in a statement    yesterday.      "This will eliminate the need to import rice, all while giving local farmers  better economic leverage and opportunities for industry growth," he continued.    The DBM released the funds to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), sourced from the 2012  national budget. The money will be used to implement new irrigation projects as well as rehabilitate and  restore existing ones.    The NIA will also extend the coverage of communal irrigation systems and establish groundwater pump  irrigation systems in all regions in the country.    Meanwhile, the agency’s request for P1.2 billion for the repair of irrigation facilities after typhoon Pablo  (international name: Bopha) is still being evaluated by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and  Management Council (NDRRMC).    The DBM will process the request once the NDRRMC recommends it, Mr. Abad said.    Typhoon Pablo hit the Philippines in the first week of December, with Southern Mindanao bearing the  brunt of the calamity. It wrecked plantations in the region, with bananas, coconut, corn, rice high‐value  crops, livestock and fisheries seeing significant production losses. Agricultural damage totaled P29.122  billion, covering 50,096 hectares, including 44,937 hectares with no chance of recovery.    "The administration is determined to boost the productivity of agricultural land in the country, especially  since agri‐industries are now at the forefront of our growth agenda," Mr. Abad said.    "Part of this is the work of rehabilitating irrigation structures damaged by recent calamities, as well as 

ensuring that farming communities are adequately prepared for destructive weather patterns," he  explained.    NIA earlier said that it has completed irrigating 150,000 hectares of agricultural lands as of December  2012, 78.95% of its three‐year target of 190,000 hectares.    "We are targeting to complete the remaining 40,000 hectares by June this year," NIA Administrator  Antonio S. Nangel said in a telephone interview.    Mr. Nangel said the Food Staple Sufficiency Program (FSSP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) says  that an additional 190,000 hectares of land have to be irrigated from 2011 to 2013 in order to help  farmers produce enough volume of rice to attain self‐sufficiency by 2013.    Mr. Nangel also said once the 190,000 hectare target has been attained, they will start constructing  irrigation facilities that will service another 110,000 hectares of agricultural lands.    He said the total serviced area (total area that have access to irrigation services) as of end of December  2012 is 1.73 million hectares, 10.19% higher than the 1.57 million hectares recorded in 2011.    Total potential service area is 3.13 million hectares, data from NIA shows. "For this year, we want to  bring the total number of serviced area to 1.88 million hectares," Mr. Nangel said. This is 8.67% higher  than actual irrigated lands as of last December.‐released‐for‐irrigation‐ projects&id=66099                     

Economy Posted on February 19, 2013 09:20:03 PM 

P10­B budget sought to help farmers vs  rice smuggling   

RICE INDUSTRY players are asking the government to allot P10 billion from the  Conditional Cash Transfer Fund to help farmers cope with the effects of rice  smuggling.  A resolution signed by various rice industry stakeholders yesterday read:  "We call on President [Benigno S. C. ] Aquino to order the Department of Social Welfare and  Development (DSWD) to include farmers in the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program (CCT)."    It added that the move will serve as a subsidy which will allow farmers to sell palay at P14 per kilo from  P17.50, making locally produced rice competitive with smuggled rice price.    According to the National Budget 2013, the approved budget for DSWD’s CCT program is P44.26 billion.    Abono Party‐list Chairman Rosendo O. So said in the statement that they are suggesting that farmers be  given P5,000 for every half hectare of land they till. However he said, that a maximum of P20,000 will be  given to farmers tilling two hectares of land and above.    "Doing so will ensure that market competition would kill smuggling operations as a discounted cavan  rice (50 kilograms of rice) of P1,150 will be able to compete with smuggled rice being sold at P1,200 per  cavan," the resolution stated.    Moreover, the resolution said that the President should "crack the whip" on rice smugglers and the  Bureau of Customs which, it stated, "failed miserably to prevent the illegal entry of grains into the  country." "We are facing a looming rice crisis not because of shortage of produce but because of  oversupply," Mr. So said. He added that traders will not be able to buy rice from farmers since their  warehouses are still full.    Mr. So explained that due to rice smuggling, consumers are unconsciously buying smuggled rice and so  locally produced rice are left stored in traders’ warehouses. ‐‐ Raymond Jun R. Portillo‐B‐budget‐sought‐to‐help‐ farmers‐vs‐rice‐smuggling&id=66093 

Rice farmers ask govt for share in CCT because of rampant rice smuggling Category: Nation Published on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 19:26 Written by Jonathan Mayuga / Reporter AGRICULTURE stakeholders on Tuesday called on President Aquino to allocate about 25 percent of the Conditional Cash-Transfer (CCT) Program budget to subsidize farmers who are bearing the brunt of the unabated rice smuggling in the country. In a manifesto, the stakeholders said expanding the CCT to include rice farmers would result in a natural death for rice smugglers and rice cartels. “We call on President Aquino to order the Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD], to include farmers in the government’s Conditional Cash-Transfer Program, or CCT. Allocating a fourth of the CCT budget, or about P10 billion, to farmers would allow them to sell palay at a price of P14 per kilo from P17.50, which is the expected price dip due to the flooding of the market of smuggled rice. Doing so will ensure that market competition would kill smuggling operations as a discounted cavan price of P1,150 will be able to compete with smuggled rice being sold at P1,200 per cavan,” the manifesto said. Abono Party-list Group Chairman Rosendo So said the CCT for farmers can range from a minimum of P5,000 for farmers tilling half a hectare of land to a maximum of P20,000 for those tilling 2 hectares. “Regardless of their land size, they will be only given subsidies for 2 hectares. Using part of the CCT for this purpose is a good idea, as it would benefit small rice growers directly and immediately,” So said, adding that 1 hectare usually produces around 70 sacks of rice. Since the Bureau of Customs (BOC) has been remiss in its duty to curb the rampant entry of smuggled grains in the country, So said the government should be pro-active in helping farmers and other allied sectors. The influx of cheap smuggled rice would surely kill the livelihood of millions of Filipinos who depend on the P1-trillion rice industry for income, So said. “If this plan will be adopted by the government and the DSWD, the price of rice will hit the P23per-kilo mark, defeating the efforts of rice smugglers to undercut the market and ensuring a stable and affordable price of rice for all,” he added. The initiative was backed by Silvestre Bonto, national president of the Confederation of Irrigators Association; and Perfecto Tomas and Elvira Tomas of the Pangasinan-based Cherries Cons Cooperative and Caflorescan Multipurpose Cooperative.

Alliance of Grain Industry Stakeholders of the Philippines Vice Chairman for Luzon Jojo Soliman also called on the government to grant police power to the National Food Authority (NFA) to allow the agency to seize and confiscate smuggled rice. “The stakeholders are requesting the Office of the President to give police powers to the Department of Agriculture, through the NFA, to be able to monitor all incoming rice shipments,” Soliman said. So said the government should consider increasing the volume of paddy rice that the NFA is buying this year to assist the farmers who were affected by the rice glut. For his part, Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations President Herculano Co also called on Congress to pass a law that would classify rice smuggling as a form of economic sabotage. Co said higher penalties should serve as deterrent to rice smugglers and rice cartels. Co also called for a shake-up in the leadership of the Bureau of Customs for failing to curb the entry of smuggled grains into the country. “The BOC should be held accountable for failing to do [its] mandate,” Co said. The price of palay has already dropped from P18 per kilo last year to about P15.50 per kilo. Rice bran price, on the other hand, also shot up to P14 per kilo from P10. Earlier, the farmers and agriculture stakeholders have warned of a looming rice crisis as they called for a shake-up in the leadership of the BOC for failing to curb the entry of smuggled grains into the country. “Heads should roll for the failure of the Bureau of Customs to address the problem of rampant smuggling in the Visayas and Mindanao. Smuggled rice have flooded the market, reaching Nueva Ecija, Baguio, Pangasinan, La Union and even Isabela,” So said. So appealed to the President to step in immediately and crack the whip on BOC officials, especially those manning the ports in the Visayas and Mindanao, where grains from China and Vietnam are illegally entering the country. “We are facing a looming rice crisis not because of shortage of produce but because of oversupply. Smuggled rice has been flooding our markets, and millers cannot buy from local farmers because their warehouses are still filled to the rafters,” he said. So said that if the government is helpless in addressing the problem of rice smuggling, it should increase the volume of paddy rice that the NFA is buying this year to assist the farmers who were affected by the rice glut. The NFA allotted only P10.9 billion for the procurement of 615,985 metric tons of palay from farmers this year.

“That’s a mere 3 percent of the total harvest. If the government is really serious in helping farmers, they must increase the volume to 30 percent, or at least P105 billion worth of palay,” So said. The total rice harvest for this year is projected at 20.4 million MT, which would translate into P351 billion worth of grain. “With smuggled rice flooding the market, it is only incumbent upon the government to act immediately. If the prices of rice continue to plunge, local rice production will certainly collapse,” he added. The smuggled grains are usually misdeclared as waste metal, wooden panels, tiles or used clothes.‐rice‐farmers‐ask‐govt‐for‐share‐in‐cct‐ because‐of‐rampant‐rice‐smuggling                              

Mindanao Newsbits 

COCO INDUSTRY February 19, 2013, 4:23pm  DAVAO CITY (PNA) – The Kerala state of India has agreed to help the Philippine government in developing its coconut coir industry. In a recent technology mission to India led by a Philippine delegation of key government agencies, Kerala state officials agreed on supplying coir machinery and equipment, provide technical training, technology transfer, information exchange, and help the local coco coir industry with marketing and investments. “This is a big push for our coco coir industry, it will help the industry with new technology to produce high quality coir products for the global export market,” said Trade and Industry Undersecretary Merly Cruz, who spearheaded the technology mission to India‐industry#.USRGXvJFyjs                             

Contraband rice gluts market, crisis looms Published on 20 February 2013 Hits: 197 Written by Jing Villamente Reporter

“We are facing a looming rice crisis not because of shortage of produce but because of oversupply. Smuggled rice has been flooding our markets and millers cannot buy from local farmers because their warehouses are still filled to the rafters.” This was how chairman Rosendo So of Abono party-list, described the looming rice crisis particularly affecting farmer’s income because of the influx and impact of smuggled rice At a press conference held in Quezon City, So warned that with two weeks to go before the March harvest, farmers and agriculture stakeholders will junk candidates who will not have a clear stand on ending rice smuggling in the country. “If the government continues to turn a blind eye to our plight, who else can we turn to? We expect the senatorial candidates to make efforts to curb rice smuggling part of their platform,” So explained. The initiative was backed by Silvestre Bonto, president of the Confederation of Irrigators Association; and Perfecto Tomas and Elvira Tomas of the Pangasinan-based Cherries Cons Cooperative and Caflorescan MultiPurpose Cooperative. Alliance of Grain Industry Stakeholders of the Philippines vice chairman Luzon Jojo Soliman also called on the government to grant police powers to the National Food Authority (NFA) to allow the agency to seize and confiscate smuggled rice. “The stakeholders are requesting the Office of the President to give police powers to the Department of Agriculture through the NFA to be able to monitor all incoming rice shipments,” Soliman said. For his part, Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations president Herculano Co also called on the House of Representatives to pass a law that would classify rice smuggling as a form of economic sabotage. Co said that higher penalties should serve as deterrent to rice smugglers and rice cartels. Co also called for “shake-up” in the leadership of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for failing to curb the entry of smuggled grains into the country. “The BoC should be held accountable for failing to do their mandate,” Co said.

The price of palay has already dropped from P18 a kilo last year to about P15.50 a kilo. Rice bran price, meanwhile, shot up to P14 a kilo from P10. So said that the government should consider increasing the volume of paddy rice that the Food agency is buying this year to assist the farmers affected by the rice glut. “We will make this elections a show of force for farmers, millers, retailers and other affected agriculture sectors. We will decide who to vote for based on their position on rice smuggling,” So added. So along with other industry stakeholders urged President Benigno Aquino 3rd to allocate less than a fourth of the budget of the government’s conditional cash transfer program to subsidize farmers who are bearing the brunt of the unabated rice smuggling in the country. In a manifesto, the stakeholders said that expanding the program to include grain tillers would result in a natural death for rice smugglers and rice cartels. “We call on President Aquino to order the Department of Social Welfare and Development [DSWD] to include farmers in the government’s conditional cash transfer program. Allocating a fourth of the program’s budget, or about P10 billion to farmers would allow them to sell palay at a discounted price of P14 per kilo from P17.50. Doing so will ensure that market competition would kill smuggling operations as a discounted cavan price of P1,150 will be able to compete with smuggled rice being sold at P1,200 per cavan,” reads the manifesto. So said that the program for farmers can range from a minimum of P5,000 for farmers tilling half a hectare of land to a maximum of P20,000 for those tilling two hectares. “Regardless of their land size, they will be only given subsidies for two hectares. Using part of the CCT for this purpose is a good idea as it would benefit small rice growers directly and immediately,” So said, adding that a hectare usually produces about 70 sacks of rice. The influx of cheap smuggled rice would likely kill the livelihood of millions of Filipinos who depend on the P1 trillion rice industry for income, So said. “If this plan will be adopted by the government and the DSWD, the price of rice will hit the P23 per kilo mark, defeating the efforts of rice smugglers to undercut the market and ensuring a stable and affordable price of rice for all,” he added. So appealed to the President to step in immediately and crack the whip on Customs officials, especially those manning the ports in Visayas and Mindanao where grains from China and Vietnam are illegally entering the country. So said that if the government is helpless in addressing the problem of rice smuggling, it should increase the volume of paddy rice that the Food administration is buying this year to assist the farmers who were affected by the rice glut.

The Food authority allotted only P10.9 billion for the procurement of 615,985 metric tons (MT) of palay from farmers this year. “That’s a mere 3 percent of the total harvest. If the government is really serious in helping farmers, they must increase the volume to 30 percent, or at least P105 billion worth of palay,” So stressed. The rice harvested for this year is projected at 20.4 million MT, which would translate into P351 billion worth of grain.‐contraband‐rice‐gluts‐market‐crisis‐looms                                    

Customs says rice smugglers use Cagayan de Oro Published on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 23:00

Lim said syndicates abuse the tariff-free importation privileges of farmers’ cooperatives to bring in foreign-grown rice bought at subsidized prices, to the detriment of both local farmers and the government.

0 Comments Customs agents have seized P26 million worth of Indian white rice that was illegally imported by a Tarlac-based farmers’ cooperative and unloaded in Cagayan de Oro City, the Bureau of Customs said yesterday. The shipment of 17,500 bags of Indian white rice, which was loaded in some 35 container vans, was confiscated because it was not supported by valid import permits from the National Food Authority, the bureau said. The shipments collectively weighed 875 metric tons. Customs Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim identified the consignee as the Jefmin Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative with address in Barangay Datung Matas, Concepcion Tarlac. “The pattern that has emerged is that (a) Luzon-based farmers’ cooperative, which has no permit from the NFA, prefers Cagayan de Oro as unloading point for their illegal importation. It begs the question “why?” Lim said. Lim said the BOC is investigating the matter, even as he ordered an expanded probe into the identities of the people financing this scam and their protectors, if there are any, inside and outside the agency. Lim said he believes there are syndicates that abuse and misuse the tariff-free importation privileges of farmers’ cooperatives to bring in foreign-grown rice bought at subsidized prices, to the detriment of both local farmers and the government. According to official documents, 20 of the seized container vans arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal on November 22 last year, while the remaining 15 containers arrived a week after. Cagayan de Oro port district collector Lourdes Mangaoang said her office declared the shipments “overstaying and abandoned” after the consignee failed to secure their release within the maximum period allowed by law.

Last February 12, The BOC was also seized illegally imported rice in the collection district of Cagayan de Oro City. It involved a 5,000-bag shipment from Vietnam consigned to another Luzon-based farmers’ cooperative. “Our string of successful operations against illegal rice importations should serve as a stern warning to importers that the CDO collection district is now off-limits to smugglers,” Mangaoang said.‐news‐flash/24615‐customs‐says‐rice‐smugglers‐use‐ cagayan‐de‐oro                                  

Customs execs impound 17,500 bags of  smuggled Indian rice in Cagayan de Oro  By Tina G. Santos  Philippine Daily Inquirer   8:33 pm | Tuesday, February 19th, 2013         

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday impounded 17,500 bags of Indian white rice at the port of Cagayan de Oro. Lourdes Mangaoang, Cagayan de Oro district collector, said the shipment was consigned to Tarlac-based farmers’ cooperative Jefmin Farmers and is not covered by import documents. Danilo Lim, assistant customs commissioner, said in a statement that he believed that syndicates are using loopholes in government policy and rules that allow farmers’ cooperatives to import rice. The seized shipment, which was kept in 35 container vans and has a collective weight of 875 metric tons, can fetch a minimum of P26 million in the retail market. Last Feb. 12, customs officials also seized 5,000 bags of rice worth P9 million at the Mindanao Container Terminal in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, that the agency said were smuggled in from Vietnam. The BOC has uncovered a modus operandi that allows the use of farmers’ cooperatives as dummies to bankroll rice-smuggling operations. Smugglers apparently take advantage of the tariff-free importation privileges of farmers’ cooperatives to bring in foreign-grown rice bought at subsidized prices to the detriment of both local farmers and the government. The BOC had removed 14 companies and cooperatives from its list of accredited rice importers as part of the bureau’s antismuggling campaign. Among these are Conquistar Marketing, Dream the Dream Marketing, Happy Morning Enterprises, Kakampi Multi-Purpose Cooperative, KapatiranTakusa Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Malipampang Concerned Citizens Multi-Purpose Cooperative and Pinambaran Farmers Producers Cooperative.‐execs‐impound‐17500‐bags‐of‐smuggled‐indian‐rice‐in‐ cagayan‐de‐oro

Cropping Program February 19, 2013, 4:28pm DAVAO CITY – Small banana growers in the Davao provinces who are under the Federation of Cooperatives in Mindanao (Fedco) will venture into the annual cropping program scheme and intercropping to help them recover from losses due to the devastation brought by typhoon “Pablo.” This was disclosed by Rene Dalayon, chairman of the Board of Fedco, during a regular press briefing here on Monday. Accorrding to Dalayon, a total of 15,000 hectares of banana plantations mostly owned by small growers were severely affected by typhoon “Pablo” last December. Fedco officers estimate that damaged bananas in the region can reach about 45 million boxes. “Some companies are now rehabilitating because they have enough finances, but small banana growers experience otherwise,” Dalayon said. Funding is among the problems that small banana growers face nowadays in implementing the rehabilitation of their farms. (Alexander D. Lopez)‐program#.USRF0fJFyjs                    

Agriculture Production February 19, 2013, 4:25pm COTABATO CITY (PNA) – In a bid to attain food sufficiency in Region-12, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala led the distribution of various agricultural machineries to beneficiary farmers and fisherfolk over the weekend. Alcala and other agriculture officials were here to join some 2,500 DA-12 officials, farmers, and fisherfolk in the “Ulat sa Bayan” and Farmers’ Hearts Day. The program was launched by the DA to recognize and appreciate the farmers’ contribution to the government’s efforts to attain the Food Staples Self-Sufficiency Program. Some 40 hand-tractors, 20 units of floating tillers, 35 units shallow tube well engines, and seven units of mini-4-wheel drive tractors from the Agri-Pinoy Palayan program were distributed by Alcala and DA-12 Director Amalia Jayag-Datukan to farmer beneficiaries from North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Saranggani, Sultan Kudarat, General Santos City, and Cotabato City. Under the Agri-Pinoy Maisan Program, Alcala and Datukan distributed three units of cassava granulator cum shredders, two sets of moisture meters, two units of disc harrows, two disc plows, one unit of 90-horsepower 4-WD tractor, two units village type corn-on-cobs dryers, eight units of hermetic cocoons, and two shredders.‐production#.USRF_PJFyjs                  

Returning OFWs urged to pursue  agribusiness  By Tina G. Santos  Philippine Daily Inquirer   7:46 am | Wednesday, February 20th, 2013  

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz on Tuesday urged overseas Filipino workers, who left behind their agricultural lands when they decided to pursue “greener pastures” abroad, to come back home after finishing their contracts and pursue agriculture and related enterprises as an alternative source of income. “Returning OFWs, OFWs who had been displaced, or OFWs who had become victims of abuse should not be afraid to come home to the Philippines, particularly if they have idle farmlands. Their lands are a source of income security,” said Baldoz in a statement. “You should not be worried. You can develop your farms through organic farming, or start your own agribusiness and expand it with the assistance of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs through loan from the P2-billion national reintegration loan fund,” Baldoz said. Baldoz issued the challenge after Philippine Labor Attaché to Hong Kong Manuel Roldan reported about the recent visit of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. According to Roldan, Alcala met with the Filipino community in Hong Kong and attended a seminar on organic farming and chicken-and-rabbit-raising conducted by one Dr. Rey Itchon of the Spread Organic in the Philippines for Hong Kong OFWs.

The seminar, attended by 100 OFWs, is part of the regular agricultural livelihood training conducted every Sunday at the Filipino Workers Resource Center. In his report, Roldan said Alcala committed to support efforts in building the capacities of Hong Kong OFWs to engage in agricultural enterprises after they have shown interest and enthusiasm in tilling and developing their lands using the knowledge and skills they acquired from the seminar. “Secretary Alcala is also looking at the possibility of introducing the same seminar in other OFW destinations,” Roldan said. Baldoz expressed interest in this development, saying that OFWs who come home to the Philippines with skills and knowledge acquired from the seminar and who wish to engage in agriculture and related ventures can avail a financial grant from the NRCO. “Those who want to come back and cultivate that land they left behind will never have to lose sleep on how they can support the needs of their families again. Aside from the financial assistance, they will also receive business counseling, technical and marketing assistance, and skills training to ensure the success of their business. We will even provide them with other support, such as productivity improvement, after they have started their business,” Baldoz said. “We all know how hard it is to work far from your loved ones and we are very much aware of the social costs of migration. The government, through the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, does not stop in thinking of ways on how we can provide decent jobs and livelihood for every Filipino so that working abroad will just be an option,” Baldoz added.‐ofws‐urged‐to‐pursue‐agribusiness                    

India to help local coco coir industry Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 18:45 Written by PNA DAVAO CITY—The Indian state of Kerala has agreed to help the Philippines in developing its coconut coir industry, it was learned on Monday. In a recent technology mission to India led by a delegation of key Philippine government agencies, Kerala officials agreed to supply coir-making machines and equipment; provide technical training and technology transfer; exchange information; and help the local coco coir industry with marketing and investments. “This [India’s help] is a big push for our coco coir industry. It will help the industry…produce high-quality coir products for the global export market,” said Undersecretary Merly Cruz of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which spearheaded the mission. During its visit to Kerala, the mission team—composed of representatives from the DTI, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), the Departments of Agriculture and of Science and Technology, and the private sector—toured coir factories in the city of Aleppey, considered the nerve center of the state’s coir industry. Coir is a natural fiber extracted from coconut husk and used in products such as floor mats, doormats, brushes and mattresses. During the tour, the team observed how the factories produced coir products like multicolored tufted mats, carpets and matting using tufting machines. Export markets for Indian coir include China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Europe and the US, according to the team’s report. Impressed by the efficiency of the machines used in the factories, the PCA came out with a shopping list of coir-making machines that can be bought from India. Among these are mobile decorticators, a geotextile tensile strength-testing machine and a tufting machine. The team also toured the factories of the state-owned Kerala State Coir Corp. and Foam Mattings India Ltd., as well as those of private firms D.C. Mills Ltd. and Travancore Cocotuft Pvt. Ltd. Coir-machinery manufacturers Godwell Engineering and Monarck Engineers also met with the team to explain how their machines work in producing high-quality coco coir products. PNA‐commodities/9496‐india‐to‐help‐local‐coco‐coir‐ industry

Senator alarmed over invasive plant, animal species in PHL Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 18:48 Written by Mia M. Gonzalez / Reporter SEN. Francis Escudero on Tuesday sounded the alarm over a “looming environmental crisis” in the country due to the proliferation of invasive plant and animal species, and called for a “cooperative approach” from government agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to stamp out the menace. His call came as the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) was urged to act on the reported invasion of Chinese snake or soft-shelled turtles at Laguna de Bay that threaten the multimillion-peso milkfish and tilapia industries, as well as the livelihood of small-scale fishermen, in the area. Some organizations, namely, the militant group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party-list and Save the Laguna Lake Movement, have expressed dismay over the government’s seeming lack of a concrete plan to address the problem. “This is an ecological disaster waiting to happen. The entry of alien invasive species can wreak havoc on our ecosystem in a blink of an eye. We need a cooperative approach [in] dealing with this looming environmental crisis,” said Escudero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. He urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and environmental groups to intervene in the entry of alien plant and animal species to the Philippines, as these threaten the delicate ecological balance in the country. The lawmaker cited the urgency of the intervention and a proactive response from NGOs following the DENR’s own assessment that invasive species “threaten not only the survival of local wildlife species, but also pose human health risks.” The department earlier reported the adverse impact of the Chinese turtles on aquaculture and biodiversity in the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan, as they feed on milkfish and tilapia fingerlings in fishponds.

Puzzled IN a joint statement, Pamalakaya Chairman Fernando Hicap and Vice Chairman Salvador France said they are urging the LLDA and the DENR to act on the problem to prevent the turtles from multiplying in the bay. “We are just puzzled why officials of the LLDA and the DENR continue to play deaf on complaints against the proliferation of predator turtles across the 94,000-hectare Laguna de Bay. They never report the presence of this predatory creature in Laguna Lake to the general public,” they said. Earlier, DENR officials in Central Luzon allowed the turtles to be caught and consumed, since the creatures are considered a delicacy in East Asian countries. They permitted three individuals in Pampanga to collect a combined 36,820 head of live turtles, or about 30,700 kilos of turtle meat, this year. In 2012 about 349,170 head of live turtles, or 236,250 kilos of turtle meat, were harvested. Last week Theresa Mundita Lim of the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau said eating the turtles caught in Laguna de Bay is all right. But Hicap, a nominee of Anakpawis, expressed disgust over the idea of catching and eating the turtles, saying fishermen are not that desperate to do so. “We are not desperate to catch and eat Chinese snake turtles. What we want is [the] government’s concrete action [on ending] the invasion of predators like the Chinese snake turtles,” he said. With Jonathan L. Mayuga‐commodities/9499‐senator‐alarmed‐over‐ invasive‐plant‐animal‐species‐in‐phl    

Sahel region learning to reap benefits of shade Category: Agri-Commodities Published on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 18:46 Written by Joe Hitchon / Inter Press Service WASHINGTON, D.C.—In Africa’s Sahel region, agroforestry techniques using traditional plantings known as “fertilizer trees” to increase soil fertility, as well as harvesting and grazing regulations, are offering new solutions to both food and human security. Such approaches were nearly lost in recent decades following devastating droughts in the Sahel. Now they are making a belated but welcome comeback. According to a 2012 US Geological Survey, “regeneration agroforestry” in the Sahel stands at over 5 million hectares of agricultural fields newly covered by trees—and growing. “Agroforestry is the future of agriculture in the drylands and sub-humid regions,” Chris Reij, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think tank, told IPS. “In southern Niger, for instance, farmers have improved millions of hectares of land through regenerating and multiplying valuable trees whose roots already lay beneath their land.” The effect for local communities over the past 20 years has been immediate and staggering— “more than 500,000 additional tons of food per year,” Reij said. Collectively known as “evergreen agriculture,” these techniques have not only been changing landscapes and breathing new life into soils long depleted of their nutrients and productivity, but also affecting political and social realities. The ideas behind evergreen agriculture began during the 1980s, in the midst of a severe and prolonged period of drought in the Sahel. This period was disastrous for the region’s inhabitants as crop production plummeted and vast numbers of livestock had to be killed off. The region’s trees also began to disappear, since local communities were forced to offset their lost assets through practices that slowly destroyed the forests—the only profitable resource left in the Sahel. These communities resorted to cutting and selling wood to buy food and survive, with multiple effects of this deforestation felt in the intervening decades. For eons, farmers in the Sahel grew trees on their farmlands because they acted as a natural fertilizer. Not only did they improve fertility by adding nitrogen to the soil; they also offered a critical shading effect, which improves moisture conditions in both the local atmosphere and the soil. Buffering crops of maize sorghum and millet below them, the trees used by farmers in the Sahel are unique and known as Faidherbia albida. According to the World Agroforestry Centerm

(WAC), the tree exhibits the unusual characteristics of becoming dormant and leafless in the wet season—when crops are growing—but leafing out thereafter, when farmers can harvest the trees’ leaves and pods for fodder for their livestock. When scientists began looking more closely at this phenomenon, they discovered a virtual underground ecosystem in these areas, with root systems and perennials from various species of valuable indigenous trees, which farmers can now cultivate. These trees grow naturally each year, and with the grazing of livestock managed to give the trees time to grow, the landscape is being transformed, with the implications of this growth possibly extending beyond food security.

Regenerating security AFRICA’S “drylands,” the vast swath of the Sahara Desert stretching across North Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, have risen in the past year to the top of the global agenda. The insurgency in Mali and the ensuing French military intervention have received the most attention recently, following kidnappings in Algeria and wars in Mauritania and Niger. “If you look at the dimensions of where terrorism and political insecurity are most acute, throughout the entire globe, it is a map of the drylands of Africa and West Asia,” Dennis Garrity, United Nations Drylands ambassador and director general of the WAC in Nairobi, said at a recent event in Washington, D.C. “The situation emphasizes how fragile the underlying development pathways are under conditions of extremely low literacy, health and other human development indicators in the drylands,” he added. While the Sahel suffers from both an accelerated degradation of land and low rates of female literacy, these two indicators aren’t generally conflated. Yet according to Garrity, a connection can be found in factors such as high population growth rates. According to the WAC, the population in the Sahel doubles every 20 years, a rate that is reflected in the rapidly declining size of farm plots on which rural communities depend for food. Meanwhile, the availability of new farmland is rapidly dropping, and studies regularly report a steady decline in soil fertility. Above all looms the long-term prospect of the region’s vulnerability to climate change, making these agroforestry initiatives all the more urgent. Garrity and other experts warn climate change will play out in terms of more extreme droughts—higher temperatures and low and uncertain rainfall—that will significantly affect crop yields.

“It is not a military or security problem,” Garrity said. “There is a pressing confluence of food insecurity, economic insecurity and a big lag in human development indicators that emphasizes that this is a multidimensional problem.”


Oil Spill May Hurt Fisherfolk By Liezle Basa Inigo February 19, 2013, 5:41pm BOLINAO, Pangasinan — Search and retrieval (SAR) operations for 14 missing Burmese crew members of Panamanian-flagged cargo ship which sank in waters off this town last Sunday entered its third day amid reports of an oil leak late Monday. The aerial surveillance conducted by the Philippine Coast Goard (PCG) reported an oil spill in the spot where the “M/V Arita Bauxite” sank and local fishermen already expressed fear it is likely to adversely affect their livelihood. Pangasinan 1st District Rep. Jesus “Boying” Celeste called yesterday on national agencies concerned to look into the oil spill which may spawn destruction on marine life and spoil the livelihood of fisherfolk. The PCG reported the oil leak occurred due to the ingress of water into the vessel as it sank in Cape Bolinao. (With a report from Raymund F. Antonio)‐spill‐may‐hurt‐fisherfolk#.USRAsvJFyjs                        

Singaporean clinches P13­b Ecija dam  By Ferdie G. Domingo | Posted on Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:01am | 658 views 

Cabanatuan City — An energy company based in Singapore has been given the green light by the National Irrigation Administration to build the P13.6-billion Balintingon Reservoir which has a rated capacity to irrigate 63,000 hectares of agricultural lands in southern Nueva Ecija and portions of Central Luzon. The NIA board has approved the application of Kaltimex Energy (Singapore), Ltd. to construct the Balintingon Reservoir Multipurpose Project subject to certain conditions, said Administrator Antonio Nangel. A technical working group has been created to oversee the operations of KES with deputy administrator Robert Suguitan as chairman and its members composed of representatives from the engineering, operations and legal departments of NIA. Lawyer Genever Dionio, chief of the NIAs legal department, said the approval of the KESs application was on condition that it should submit documents showing its legal, technical and financial capability to carry out the project. Dionio said the KES is required to submit the documents within this month or early next month. The feasibility study for the BRMPP was submitted to the NIA by Sunwest Water and Electric Company (Suweco) last October for its evaluation. However, Suweco president Jose Silvestre Natividad informed Nangel that his firm has assigned all its rights, title and interest to the feasibility as well as its investment and operation of the power plant to KES, its partner in the preparation of the feasibility study. A copy of the seven-page executive summary of Suwecos feasibility study for the project stated that the hydro-electric power project is proposed to be built at the catchment area of the Penaranda-Sumacbao-Chico river systems.‐clinches‐p13‐b‐ecija‐dam/          

DOF, Neda OK new financing framework for govt projects Category: Economy Published on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 20:14 Written by Paul Anthony A. Isla with a report from PNA THE National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Department of Finance (DOF) have approved a new financing framework for national government projects. The framework directs the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of the Neda to adopt new standards in appraising project proposals of agencies, adding more stringency to the project approval process, a news release said. Also, the new framework entails the proponent agencies to justify projects on technical and economic merits, and on financial viability without regard to a particular financing source. The ICC Secretariat will conduct financial evaluations of revenue-generating proposals based on DOF-provided benchmarks. The framework, the statement added, also stipulates that the Neda Board will refer ICC/Nedaapproved national government projects to the DOF for financing, and that the Department of Budget and Management will allocate funds for the conduct of feasibility/pre-investment studies for projects that will eventually require ICC approval. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima hailed the new framework, saying it will lead to a more efficient, transparent, coordinated, and ultimately better project evaluation and implementation process. “This move is a necessary step in terms of improving the prudent management of national government financial resources,” he said. Neda Director General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the new framework would allow for enhanced project delivery. “With the adoption of the new financing framework, agencies can look forward to more efficient project planning, review and rollout. The framework will lead to more accurately targeted projects that fit in better with our overall economic plan,” Balisacan said. The ICC is one of seven inter-agency committees of the Neda Board, and is tasked with evaluating the fiscal, monetary and balance-of-payments implications of major national projects. The ICC’s powers and functions reside in its Cabinet Committee, which is co-chaired by the secretary of finance. The ICC is supported by an inter-agency Technical Board, with Neda as ICC Secretariat. Paul Anthony A. Isla with a report from PNA‐dof‐neda‐ok‐new‐financing‐framework‐ for‐govt‐projects

Electric Bills To Go Up Next Month By Myrna M. Velasco February 19, 2013, 7:36pm MANILA, Philippines --- Filipino consumers nationwide will be subjected to a rate hike of P0.1938 per kilowatt hour (kWh) to be reflected as universal charge (UC) in their electric bills starting next month due to the stranded contract costs (SCC) recovery of liability-stricken Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation. For the typical residential customers with 200-kilowatt hour monthly consumption, the added charge on their bills will be P38.76 a month, according to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The approved rate is lower by roughly P0.17 per kWh compared to the P0.3666 per kWh applied for by PSALM in 2011. However, this still poses a considerable burden to Filipino consumers in the remainder of PSALM’s corporate life or until 2026. The rate hike is separate from the P0.03 per kWh being recouped by PSALM for its stranded debts. Based on its filing with the ERC, PSALM calculated its accrued stranded contract costs at P74.298 billion from 2007 to 2010. But the ERC, in its ruling, limited its cost recovery at just P53.581 billion, which meant that more than P20 billion was disallowed from being passed on to consumers.. Together with the stranded debts, the UC recoveries petitioned for by PSALM totaled P140 billion. The ERC said it will issue a separate decision on PSALM’s application on UC for stranded debts, or those which should have represented costs not fully recovered from its proceeds of power assets privatization. UCs are non-bypassable charges which are allowed for recovery under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). The law, however, was clear that only prudently-incurred costs must be passed on as UC charges in the consumers’ electric bills. The ERC forthrightly stated that “all electricity consumers are liable to pay this charge to their respective distribution utilities or to the grid operator for the directly-connected customers, which in turn, shall remit it to PSALM as administrator of the UC fund.” “After a judicious review, the ERC approved only the amount of P53.581 billion for recovery from the UC,” the Commission said. It added that “the ERC rejected PSALM’s calculation of NPC’s (National Power Corporation) stranded contract costs insofar as it failed to take into account the additional revenues to be realized by PSALM from the eligible contracts of NPC with the independent power producers (IPPs) under PSALM’s pending applications for adjustments in generation rates.”

The UC for stranded contract cost shall refer to “the excess of the contracted cost of electricity under the eligible contracts of NPC with IPPs over the actual selling price of the contracted energy output of such contracts in the market.” Beyond these cost recoveries, PSALM is still allowed to file for true-up adjustments.‐bills‐to‐go‐up‐next‐month#.USRDVvJFyjs                                        

BOP surplus hit $2.03 B in Jan.    ( | Updated February 19, 2013 ‐ 10:00pm   4  1 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The Philippines posted a balance of payments (BOP) surplus of $2.043 billion in January, more than double the previous year's $864 million, the central bank said today. January's BOP surplus represents about 70 percent of the official $3 billion surplus forecast for the year. Central Bank Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said dollar purchases to temper the peso's strength as well as investment income abroad expanded the country's BOP surplus. "When the 2013 projections were made in late 2012, the expectation was that, among others, the country will have a larger trade deficit, as imports will recover, in line with a recovery in the export market," Tetangco said. He said this year's BOP outlook will be reviewed on back higher- than-expected inflows that widened the BOP surplus. The central bank usually reviews forecasts on April and November.

Gov't Must Shoulder Health Care Of Trees And Forest By Senator Manny B. Villar February 19, 2013, 4:39pm The pre-bid conference conducted by the Department of Health late last month for the privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) attracted nine prospective bidders, including big names in the infrastructure and health care industries. I’m not surprised because from a business perspective, the 25-year concession for the operation of the POC, the only hospital of its kind in the country, is a lucrative deal. And I’m also not surprised by the mounting protests against the POC privatization under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program because the POC is the only public hospital where the poor can seek treatment for accidents or diseases involving bones, to be simple about it. I also understand the participation of POC employees in the protests, because privatization almost always results in displacement of labor. Just to clarify, I’m not against modernizing the POC. Quite the contrary, I believe it is necessary and even urgent. The project, estimated to cost P5.6 billion, includes the construction of a 700bed super-specialty tertiary orthopedic hospital with state-of-the-art infrastructure, medical and diagnostics equipment within the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) complex on East Avenue in Quezon City. The current POC site on Banawe St., also in Quezon City, will be converted into a factory that will produce artificial limbs and prosthesis. There’s no question that the entry of private business could make the POC and other government hospitals being considered for privatization under the PPP, like the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila and the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City, more efficient. On the other hand, there is always the danger of raising the cost of health care as a result of privatization. Profit, of course, is always the main goal of business. The private sector is encouraged to go into health care for profit. Private hospitals, which are often more efficient than public hospitals, offer the people a wider choice for their needs and they also serve to augment the services provided by government-owned facilities. Nevertheless, health care is a social cost that the government must shoulder, regardless of the existence of private health care providers. The government must continue to operate hospitals and health centers, even at a loss. In the next ten years I expect health care costs to continue to increase, and will be a big problem unless our economy grows dramatically. Healthcare is a long-term problem so we have to accept that it’s already here. Under the national budget for 2013, the Department of Health (DOH) and its attached agencies will receive R54.6 billion, reflecting a 25-percent increase over its budget for 2012. According to Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, in a report published online by, the amount represents 1.89 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the third quarter of 2011, short

of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of 5 percent of GDP for public health. I visited the web site of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and found that total GDP for 2012 amounted to about P6.315 trillion. That means the health budget for 2013 is just 0.86 percent of GDP for 2012. We have a long way to go. Statistics from the WHO’s web site show that the total health expenditure (the sum of public and private health expenditures) of the Philippines in 2010 was at 3.6 percent of GDP, higher than Indonesia’s 2.6 percent, but significantly lower than Cambodia’s 5.6 percent and Vietnam’s 6.8 percent. During the same year, public health expenditures in Thailand amounted to 3.9 percent of GDP, while Malaysia spent 4.4 percent and Singapore 4.0 percent. In my view, we have to find more creative ways of funding health care than outright privatization. The enactment of the sin tax law is an example of a creative way because it increases revenues for health care but does not impose additional burden for the people, especially the poor majority whose circumstances make them dependent on governmentsubsidized services. Privatization is a short cut, but it has costly consequences. The drive must be on improving services and lowering costs, if possible to almost zero, rather than a solution that increases the price. Only the government can do this, and the government cannot and should not throw away this responsibility. This is an inherent mandate of governance. (For comments/feedback email to: Readers may view previous columns at‐must‐shoulder‐health‐care#.USRFQPJFyjs


Peso slightly down after news of BSP  tightening special deposit account facility  By Michelle V. Remo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   1:29 am | Tuesday, February 19th, 2013  

MANILA, Philippines—The peso moved sideways on the first trading day of the week following reports that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas may further rationalize its special deposit account facility. “Rationalizing” is taken to mean making the SDA facility much more of a liquidity management tool by the BSP and less of an investment outlet. As such, the BSP is seen hinting at being poised to accommodate less investment in SDAs. The local currency closed at 40.62 against the US dollar, down by 1.8 centavos from Friday’s finish of 40.602:$1. Intraday high hit 40.615:$1, while intraday low settled at 40.645:$1. Volume of trade reached a mere $475 million from $734.7 million previously. For many fund owners, SDAs are one of the attractive fixed-income investment outlets given that SDA interest rates are higher than those on bank deposits and short-term government securities. The BSP recently cut the interest rates on SDAs to a uniform rate of 3 percent. Previously, the rates were set at varying premiums above the central bank’s overnight borrowing rate of 3 percent. BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said Friday that the central bank would like to further rationalize the SDA facility, a move that he said would align monetary policy in the country with international best practices. The BSP’s intention to be less accommodating to SDA placements seen by the market as discouraging foreign portfolio inflows, according to traders.‐slightly‐down‐after‐news‐of‐bsp‐tightening‐special‐deposit‐ account‐facility

‘Palace sitting on bills’ By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:02am | 296 views

The House of Representatives on Tuesday said that Malacañang had been slow in acting on legislative measures, which it said had reached 304, prompting an immediate denial from a Palace official. In a statement, the House said its record showed that President Benigno Aquino III has yet to sign 79 bills of national and 225 of local concerns which remain under review of the Office of the President. In practice, the president signs a measure to make it a law, or allow it to lapse into law, as provided in the Constitution. A Congress-approved measure may lapse into law if the president fails to sign it 30 days after date of receipt. In very rare cases, the president may also veto a proposed measure. Presidential spokeswoman Abigal Valte said Palace records showed that there were only 29 pending bills, and not 304 as reported by the House. “Of the total, eight bills are of national application while 21 are of local application,” Valte said. The eight bills of national application include amendments to the Intellectual Property Code; the Human Rights Compensation Act; creation of Commission on Elections precincts for persons with disabilities and senior citizens; Mandatory Biometrics Registration; and the PNP, BFP and BJMP Height Quality Act. “For those of national application, the President has three options: sign it within 30 days, let it lapse into law after thirty days, or veto the measure.

Constitutionally, the President has 30 days to review these measures,” Valte said. The Congress adjourned on Feb.7 to allow lawmakers time to campaign for the coming May mid-term elections. Meanwhile, House leaders said that even during the break, standing and special committees have been authorized by the plenary to conduct public hearings or inquiries, when necessary.With Maricel V. Cruz‐sitting‐on‐bills/                                 

Govt task force for M’danao dev’t up By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:01am | 859 views

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the creation of a Task Force on Bangsamoro Development to push forward rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Mindanao. The task force will be created by Administrative Order 37, and it will ensure that development programs are implemented in Bangsamoro, a new autonomous region that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao once a final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been signed. “The task force is mandated to develop and implement programs that will respond to the health, education and livelihood needs of MILF priority beneficiaries and poverty-stricken communities throughout Mindanao,” Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said. “The peaceful resolution of the conflict in Mindanao goes beyond the signing of the framework agreement. This administration wants to ensure that peace and progress go hand in hand.” Ochoa said the MILF’s members and their families would be the initial beneficiaries, but other residents in the envisioned Bangsamoro region would also benefit from the development and livelihood projects to be launched by the government. Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras will serve as chairman of the task force, and it will have for members the heads of the Social Welfare, Labor, Health, Education, Agriculture, Interior and Budget Departments and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

The other members will include the Presidential Management Staff, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, Presidential Communications Operations Office, Office of the Presidential Spokesman, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. Last week, Mr. Aquino and MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim jointly launched the Sajahatra Bangsamoro, a socio-economic program for Mindanao. Mr. Aquino made history by being the first President to visit and be welcomed in an MILF camp to launch the Sajahatra, which literally means blessings, prosperity and peace. Murad said big-ticket investments would soon be launched in the ARMM once a final peace deal had been signed with the government. According to presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles, the government does not want the MILF to wait until 2016 to feel the impact of the peace agreement that is being finalized by both sides and is expected to be signed next month. She said the peace panels of both the government and the MILF were working double time to meet their mutually agreed target of signing a comprehensive peace agreement by next month.‐task‐force‐for‐mdanao‐devt‐up/           

Rice traders, farmers howl as smuggled rice overflow By Christine F. Herrera | Posted on Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:01am | 473 views

Farmers and party-list groups warned Tuesday that the country was drowning in smuggled rice and threatened to boycott the administration’s senatorial candidates in the May elections if President Benigno Aquino III rejected their demand to use P10 billion of its P44.5 billion budget for doles to the poor to buy palay or unhusked rice from farmers. In a news conference, Abono party-list chairman Rosendo So, Butil Rep. Agapito Guanlao, rice millers and traders led by Jojo Soliman and Herculano Co and former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco said the warehouses nationwide were filled with palay that were bought since October last year but could not be sold since the markets were flooded with smuggled rice. In three weeks, So said, the farmers are expected to harvest 18 million metric tons of palay while the previous stocks from the previous harvest are rotting in warehouses. Guanlao said as of July 2012, the farmers have already lost P200 billion or P10,000 per hectare because they sold the palay at a farm gate price of only P14 per kilo instead of P17.50 a kilo. So said the National Food Authority bought only P10 billion worth or less than 5 percent of the country’s total production of 20.3 million metric tons from the farmers. Soliman, vice chairman for Luzon of the Alliance of Grain Industry Stakeholders of the Philippines, said the local traders have procured 30 percent that could not

be sold because the smuggled rice was selling for much less, at P1,200 per bag compared to the local cost of P1,450 a bag. “We are asking President Aquino to intervene and order the CCT (conditional cash transfer) funds slashed by P10 billion and allocate this to buy palay from the local farmers in three weeks,” Guanlao said. “This is a looming crisis that needs emergency and executive action,” Cojuangco said. “The crisis is not because we have a shortage of rice, the crisis is oversupply due to rampant smuggling.” Guanlao blamed the Bureau of Customs for allowing the entry of smuggled rice. Co, president of the Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations, called on Congress to pass a law that would classify rice smuggling as a form of economic sabotage. “We are not only swimming in rice, we are now drowning in rice. If this will not be sold and the farmers would continue to bear the brunt of depressed farm gate prices, they would be wallowing in debt and might not be able to plant rice for the next cropping and we are in big trouble,” Co warned. He said he could not understand how warehouses in Cebu were filled with palay when Cebu is not even considered a rice-producing province. Soliman urged the President to grant police powers to the NFA to allow the agency to seize and confiscate smuggled rice. Since Customs had been remiss in its duty to curb the rampant entry of smuggled grains, So said the government should help farmers and other allied sectors. The influx of cheap smuggled rice would surely kill the livelihood of millions of Filipinos who depend on the P1-trillion rice industry for income, he said.

With a P10 billion subsidy, farmers would become recipients of the government doles. On Tuesday, Customs said its agents in Cagayan de Oro seized 35 container vans loaded with 17,500 bags of smuggled rice from India worth P26 million. Officials said the shipment, weighing 875 metric tons, did not have valid import permits from the NFA. This is the second rice seizure made by Cagayan de Oro port this month. The first was on Feb. 12 involving a 5,000-bag shipment from Vietnam consigned to a Luzon-based farmers cooperative. Customs deputy commissioner for intelligence Danilo Lim said he believed syndicates were abusing the tariff-free importation privileges of farmers cooperatives to bring in smuggled rice to the detriment of local farmers and the government. With Othel V. Campos and Joel E. Zurbano‐traders‐farmers‐howl‐as‐smuggled‐rice‐overflow/                     

10-year bonds sold By Julito G. Rada | Posted on Feb. 20, 2013 at 12:00am | 119 views

The reissue of the 10-year Treasury bonds worth P25 billion on Tuesday was almost four times oversubscribed as investors continued to look for higher yields. Total tenders reached P97.486 billion for the T-bonds that will mature on Dec. 6, 2022. It was originally issued on Dec. 6, 2012. The coupon on the Treasury bonds averaged 3.41 percent, down 59 basis points from the 4 set in the previous issue of the same tenor in December. “There is still a preference to go to the long term in search for higher yields. If the SDAs are 3 [percent], you would want something higher than 3,” National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said at the sidelines of the auction at the Bureau of Treasury. She said the source of liquidity came from onshore and “hopefully there were some movements from the SDA [special deposit accounts facility].‐year‐bonds‐sold/                 

Posted on February 19, 2013 08:43:48 PM

10-year bond rate slides at auction THE 10-year Treasury bond rate plunged at the auction yesterday as investors seeking higher yields swamped the debt sale.

The reissued bonds, with remaining life of nine years and nine months, fetched 3.41%, substantially less than their 4% coupon rate at the Dec. 4 auction. Tenders for the debt papers reached P97.486 billion, nearly four times the government’s P25-billion offer. The government sold as planned. “There is preference for long-term papers as investors are in search for yields. The BSP’s (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) special deposit account (SDA) rate has been cut to 3% so investors want to invest in an instrument where they will earn more than 3%,” National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon told reporters after the auction yesterday. “There is a lot of onshore liquidity, so investors are probably placing their money in government securities, causing the rates to go down,” she added. Sought for comment, a bond trader, in a phone interview, agreed with Ms. de Leon saying, “The rate was unexpectedly well below market’s expectation of 3.675% to 3.75%. This may be due to the high liquidity in the market.” “Those investors whose SDA deposits have matured probably no longer reinvested their funds in the facility and went to government bonds and the stock market where they could get higher returns,” he further said. The central bank slashed SDA rates to 3% across the seven-day, 14-day and one-month tenors after its first monetary policy meeting last month, saying

this was in line with other central banks’ practice to pay a lower interest rate on funds deposited with them compared to the policy rate. The SDA used to provide a slight premium over the BSP’s reverse repurchase rate, presently at a record low of 3.5%. The effect of the SDA rate cut has been stark in the bond market, where yields at the long end of the curve have fallen. Twenty- and 25-year bonds, for instance, are paying less than 5%. The trader also pointed out that the country’s strong fundamentals and a manageable inflation outlook also buoyed demand for the 10-year debt papers. The economy grew by 6.6% last year. It is projected to grow by 6-7% this year. Inflation settled at 3% in January, within the central bank’s 2.5-3.4% forecast for the month, but slightly accelerating from December’s 2.9%. The government has forecast a 3.1% inflation for 2013, at the low end of its 3-5% target range the year. For 2014, the central bank’s inflation forecast was raised to 3.2% from 2.9%. -- Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio‐year‐bond‐rate‐slides‐at‐ auction&id=66091                

Posted on February 19, 2013 08:40:20 PM

Government mulls inflation-linked bonds THE BUREAU of the Treasury is studying innovative debt instruments to further lower the government’s borrowing cost. One of these, said National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon yesterday, is inflation-indexed bonds. These bonds provide returns higher than the inflation rate, thus giving investors an assurance of pocketing gains that beat the inflation rate. “We are studying the issuance of inflation-linked bonds. Given the benign inflation outlook, the government will pay a low interest with this type of bonds,” Ms. de Leon said. Proceeds of this issuance, she said, will be used to finance projects under the government’s public-private partnership program. Ms. de Leon said the government is studying if it should issue inflation-indexed global peso notes, which will allow foreign investors to buy the papers, or inflation-indexed peso securities, which will limit investors to those onshore. Asked if the bonds will be issued this year, she said: “It depends. We are still studying these. We have to look at different structures to match our requirements.” -- A. R. R. Gregorio‐mulls‐inflation‐linked‐ bonds&id=66090  

Posted on February 19, 2013 09:42:52 PM By Dianne Claire J. Jiao, Senior Reporter

Gov’t to review ‘negative’ list THE GOVERNMENT will revisit the Foreign Investment Negative List (FINL) to open up the economy even more, but it reiterated that it will not consider lifting limits stated in the Constitution.   The Finance and Trade departments, along with the National Economic and Development Authority, will lead the review of the FINL, which identifies investment areas which are reserved for Filipino nationals. Consultations with key stakeholders -- government agencies, legislators, business groups and other industry leaders -- will follow. "The review of the FINL is an ongoing process. Once we finish consultations with stakeholders, we will present results to [President Benigno S. C. Aquino III]," Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said in a statement yesterday. However, he stressed, only limits set by Executive Orders or legislation will be examined. "We will not be reviewing lifting economic restrictions in the Constitution. That is currently off the table," he said. In the latest FINL released last October, the following investment activities cannot have any foreign equity, based on various laws: retail trade enterprises, cooperatives, private security agencies, small-scale miners, and cockpits. The use of marine resources; manufacture, repair, stockpiling and distribution of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; and the manufacture of firecrackers are also limited to Filipino nationals. Moreover, no foreigner can enter the following professions: engineering, medicine, accountancy, architecture, criminology, chemistry, customs brokerage, environmental planning, forestry, geology, interior design, landscape architecture, law, librarianship, marine deck officers and engine officers, master plumbing, sugar technology, social work, teaching, agriculture, fisheries, guidance counseling, real estate service, respiratory therapy and psychology. The FINL allows for varying amounts of foreign equity, though, in other areas such as investment houses, lending and financing companies, recruitment offices, rice and corn production and deep sea commercial fishing, among others. The next version of the list will be released in 2014. "Limiting the items on the FINL will allow the Philippines to be more connected to the global economy, which will result in more business and employment for Filipinos," Mr. Purisima said. With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) set to integrate in 2015, the Philippines must enhance the competitiveness of key professions and industries, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan added.

Meanwhile, the foreign ownership limits in the FINL reflecting those stated in the 1987 Constitution include areas such as the exploration and development of natural resources, land ownership, public utilities, educational institutions, mass media and advertising. Last August, the President ordered economic managers to review the merits and implications of revising the Constitution and relaxing foreign ownership limits. The study was dropped, though, with the government wary of the "politically contentious process." Charter change has been proposed as early as the 1990s, but these efforts never prospered over fears that public officials would use it as an opportunity to extend their terms of office.‐to‐review‐ %E2%80%98negative%E2%80%99‐list&id=66100                                  

Posted on February 19, 2013 09:35:31 PM By Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio, Reporter

Fitch team arrives to assess economy A TEAM from international debt rater Fitch Ratings arrived in the country early this week in a visit that would assess the country’s socioeconomic developments.

"Fitch Ratings is in the country and I will meet with them this afternoon (Tuesday afternoon)," National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said in a briefing after the auction yesterday. "I will present the results of the government’s sustained liability management program, including our accomplishments in lengthening our maturities and reducing the government’s borrowing costs, among others," Ms. de Leon further said. The government, through the Bureau of the Treasury has issued long-tenored retail Treasury bonds last year as part of its plan to lengthen the government’s maturity profile. It was also successful in borrowing more from the domestic market last year, thus surpassing its 75:25 programmed borrowing plan, in favor of the domestic sources. As of end-2012, the government’s borrowing mix was 84:16, in favor of domestic creditors, which translated to a lower borrowing cost for the country. This year, Ms. de Leon said, the government targets an 80:20 mix. "We will also mention about the strong bid for the RoPs (Republic of the Philippines’ debt papers)," she further said.Fitch Ratings’ visit is part of its annual evaluation and due diligence to assess the developments that have emerged in the country. The team led by Andrew Colquhoun, Fitch Ratings senior director for sovereigns and Philip McNicholas, Fitch Ratings director, will be in the country for the week. They are set to meet with government and private sector officials. After the team’s visit, they are expected to come up with a report in the coming weeks about the country’s progress.The country is currently rated one notch below investment grade by three major credit rating agencies. It has a Ba1 rating with Moody’s Investors Service and a BB+ with Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s. Economic managers have said they expect a credit rating upgrade within the year given the country’s strong microeconomic fundamentals. With an investment grade rating, the country is seen to attract more foreign direct investors, gain access to a larger source of funding and reduce its borrowing costs.‐team‐arrives‐to‐assess‐ economy&id=66098 

Meeting 2% deficit target a must—DBM • •

Written by Ed Velasco

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:00

The national government must meet the two percent deficit-to-gross domestic product-ratio this year as there is a timetable to meet zero-deficit by 2016, according to Budget and Management Undersecretary Laura Pascua, the deputy overall in-charge of the Aquino government’s economic team.

Pascua said it was agreed with the Department Budget Coordinating Council that the deficit must be brought to zero level to avert any credit downgrading from any international rating agencies led by Fitch, Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s.

“Deficit target is two percent of GDP, down from 2.6 percent target last year. We are definitely meeting it given improving revenue collections and lesser interest payment. Sin taxes will contribute more than P30 billion additional revenues,” Pascua told The Daily Tribune in an exclusive interview.

According to the undersecretary, meeting zero-deficit is a must because the Philippines is among the very few countries that still has deficit.

The stigma of still having the bad record prompted the DBCC members, the National Economic and Development Authority, Departments of Finance and Budget and Management and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, to work hard on shrugging off the deficit three years from now.

She also debunked claims from critics that the deficit can only be brought down to as low as two percent this year because of the P31 billion to P40 billion incremental revenues from the newly passed sin tax reform law.

“Even without the sin tax (revenues) we can meet deficit target since the revenue collection effort is improving and we are monitoring expenditures.

“The sin tax law will help finance additional health services for universal health like PhilHealth insurance for the informal sector; additional health facilities like housing and livelihood assistance for tobacco farmers,” she said. This year’s target budget deficit is P241 billion, which is a bit lower than last year at over P260 billion. National Treasurer Lea de Leon said the target deficit of P241 billion for this year will be be met given that at least 60 percent of government financing needs will be done locally as it is cheaper to source funds in the local market than in the global arena where interest rates are higher.A source at the finance market said local funding is very much needed nowadays as BSP’s loses from foreign exchange risks is now alltime high because of the pesos’ uncontrollable appreciation.‐meeting‐2‐deficit‐target‐a‐must%E2%80%94dbm.html                                 

Oil prices up again; Piston sets strike Published : Wednesday, February 20, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 43 Written by : Alvin Murcia and Joel dela Torre

THE big three oil companies increased their fuel prices by more than a peso per liter yesterday. This is the third time in just a month that fuel prices increased. Major oil players Pilipinas Shell, Petron Corp. and Chevron Philippines (formerly Caltex) hiked their respective prices of regular gasoline by P1.15 per liter, premium gasoline (including unleaded) by P.95 per liter, while diesel P0.65 per liter and kerosene by P0.70 per liter at 6 a.m. yesterday. The increase, the oil companies again pointed out, reflects the continued uptrend in the prices of refined petroleum products on the world market. Meanwhile, other oil firms have yet to announce movements in their prices. Last week, local oil firms raised the prices of their petroleum products including that of premium gasoline, diesel and kerosene by P1.20 per liter and regular gasoline by P1.10 per liter. Then, last Februrary 5, they implemented another price hike of P1.05 per liter on their petroleum products including premium gasoline. They raised the price of regular gasoline by P0.75 per liter and both diesel and kerosene by P0.45 per liter. Tuesday’s adjustment was actually the fourth sweeping hike in prices of petroleum products this year. Last January 29, oil firms jacked up prices of regular gasoline by P0.95 per liter, premium by P0.90 per liter, kerosene by P0.45 per liter and diesel by P0.35 per liter. The militant transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON) is now coordinating with its regional leaders for a nationwide strike in reaction to another round of oil price increases. According to PISTON president George San Mateo, yesterday’s oil price hike was the fifth in a week’s time putting a heavier burden on the drivers’ shoulders. “Hindi magdadalawang-isip ang mga tsuper na maglunsad ng koordinadong pagkilos sa susunod na buwan lalo na’t walang ginagawa ang gobyernong Aquino sa mga nagdaang araw kundi mangampanya para sa kanyang mga kandidato sa Team Pnoy,” San Mateo said. Last Tuesday morning, PISTON again conducted a noise barrage along Aurora Blvd. in Cubao to call the attention of the oil companies, the Big 3 in particular, about the seemingly never-ending oil price increases. The protesters also reminded the government of the 15-year-old issue of oil deregulation. “Labing-limang taon na ang deregulasyon at labing-limang taon na ring nagpapasasa sa pera ng mga maliliit ng drayber ang mga kompanya ng langis at ahente ng gobyerno,” the PISTON official said. San Mateo said they are wondering why oil companies have to hike oil prices when the dollar continues

to weaken. “Hilahod na ang mga drayber sa lingguhang pagsirit ng presyo ng langis pero hindi pa rin naaawa ang gobyernong Aquino. Kinukunsinti pa ng gobyerno kahit na ang trend dapat ay bumaba ang presyo ng mga inaangkat na produkto gaya ng petroloyo dahil sa pagbagsak ng halaga ng dolyar,” the PISTON leader said.‐stories/45194‐oil‐prices‐up‐again‐piston‐sets‐strike                                       

Hike biodiesel blend — Zubiri • Published : Tuesday, February 19, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 59 Written by : Bernadette E. Tamayo

SENATORIAL candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri has called on Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to support the country’s biofuels sector by increasing the current coco-biodiesel blend of two percent to five percent in all diesel fuel requirements. He noted that it has been more than five years since Republic Act 9367 or the Biofuels Act was passed in January 2007 “yet the DoE (Department of Energy) has not progressed in terms of fully implementing the law particularly in increasing the blend for biodiesel. He said that under the Biofuels Act, the DoE is empowered to increase the biodiesel blend of the diesel fuel sold and distributed across the country by all oil company. In January 19, 2009, the DoE through the National Biofuels Board (NBB), implemented an increase of two percent blend from one percent. RA 9367 states that the blend may be increased taking into account domestic supply and availability of locally-sourced biodiesel component. “Our country has an abundant supply of coconut to meet the higher blend of 5 percent. Based on the data gathered, of the 12 million hectares of farmlands in the country, 3.1 milion hectares are devoted to coconut plantations,” Zubiri said. “The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has even developed 15 hybrids and one open pollinated variety, which can yield 4-6 tons per hectare per year enough to meet more than 5 percent

blend requirements”, he said. Zubiri, principal author of the Biofuels Act, said that the NBB was mandated by the law to recommend to the DoE within two years upon the effectivity of the law the maximum blending targets to promote the wider utilization of biodiesel and allow a meaningful contribution of this alternative fuel to the country’s energy consumption. He also noted that today’s world copra prices dropped significantly from Php61 a kilo in April 2011 to just about Php25 a kilo as of December 2012. “To help our coconut farmers, who constitute not only the largest land-based agricultural sector but also the poorest, he stressed that the government must help them by increasing the local demand for the country’s energy requirements,” he said.‐hike‐biodiesel‐blend‐‐zubiri           

2013 02 20 - QUEDANCOR Daily News Monitor  

News monitor for 2013 02 20

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