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Phl named 26th friendliest country (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is the 26th friendliest country in the world. Based on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, the Philippines has made significant improvement in the travel and tourism industry, from rank 94 in 2011 to 82 in 2013. The top 10 friendliest countries were Iceland, New Zealand, Morocco, Macedonia, Austria, Senegal, Portugal, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland and Burkina Faso. The 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index has ranked 140 countries according to a number of things, including competitiveness and attractiveness to the tourism and travel industries. In the category “Attitude of population toward foreign visitors,” the Philippines ranked 26th with a score of 6.5. By region, the Philippines obtained an overall ranking of 16th with a score of 3.3.

The WEF report said: “The Philippines is the most improved country in the region, ranking 16th regionally and 82nd overall, up 12 places since the last edition.– Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin‐named‐26th‐friendliest‐country  

Noy, Binay still enjoy high trust ratings By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the Sabah crisis, President Aquino continues to enjoy majority approval and trust ratings in the latest survey by Pulse Asia. Pulse Asia’s February 2013 Pre-Election Survey found 68 percent of respondents satisfied with the performance of Aquino while 70 percent expressed trust in him. The President’s latest approval and trust scores were higher by two percentage points and one point from his January 2013 ratings of 66 percent and 68 percent, respectively. Malacañang yesterday said the result of the survey is an indication that the armed conflict in Sabah did not affect the approval rating of the President. “We are certainly happy that despite all the concerns, the people continue to repose their trust on the President. This is an affirmation of the governance of President Aquino,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters. Lacierda also noted that the Pulse Asia survey was conducted at a time when Filipinos were preoccupied with the Sabah standoff, mock polls, Atimonan shootout, and salvage operations of USS Guardian that ran aground at Tubbataha Reef.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, on the other hand, obtained approval and trust ratings of 70 percent and 72 percent, respectively. His latest scores were higher than the 69-percent approval rating and 71-percent trust rating he got in January. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, meanwhile, received approval and trust ratings of 46 percent and 43 percent, respectively. He received the same approval rating in January at 46 percent, but his trust rating dropped by three points from 46 percent previously.– With Delon Porcalla‐binay‐still‐enjoy‐high‐trust‐ratings

Stockbroker found guilty of fraud By Neil Jerome Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An executive of a defunct brokerage house was found guilty of fraudulent trading. In a statement, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) said Judge Selma Palacio Alaras of the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch (RTC) 62 ordered Francisco Borromeo of Asian Capital Equities Inc. to pay a fine of P2.1 million. Seven cases were filed against Borromeo in January 2005 for allegedly defrauding his clients. The cases include the sale of his clients’ shares without their consent, use of fictitious and dummy accounts, and failure to pay proceeds from the sale of shares. The PSE said it sought the help of the public in tracking down Borromeo, who went into hiding after several arrest warrants were issued against him. PSE president and CEO Hans Sicat said the resolution of the case is a mark of good governance of the government and the local stock exchange. “I understand that this is the first conviction for violation of the SRC (Securities Regulation Code), which is one of the reasons why the PSE has been following this case closely,” Sicat said.

“The outcome of this case shows that white collar crimes are punished in this country,” he added. ACEI was closed in 2003 and its assets, including its trading rights, were liquidated in 2008. “This should help give more confidence to the growing investing public,” Sicat said.‐found‐guilty‐fraud                  

Bid to reopen Banco Filipino junked By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has junked the bid of a group of depositors to reopen the Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank. In a five-page resolution promulgated last Monday but released only yesterday, the fifth division of the appellate court dismissed the petition filed by holders of uninsured deposits, or those over P500,000. The CA held that their intervention would only delay the resolution of the case. “Their rights may not be fully protected, as they insist, but we are of the view that allowing the intervention of movants-intervenors, numerous as they are, will unduly delay the adjudication of the rights of the original parties,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Ricardo Rosario. The depositors claimed Banco Filipino was still solvent and should not have been closed, adding that the computation of its assets should have been based on the market and not book value. They filed the petition after the special seventh division of the CA, in a ruling on Nov. 21, 2012, affirmed the closure of the bank and ordered the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to extend financial assistance to the bank worth P25 billion.

It was a reversal of a ruling of another division of the CA dated Jan. 27, 2012, which declared illegal the closure of Banco Filipino, citing BSP’s grave abuse of discretion and violation of the bank’s right to due process.‐reopen‐banco‐filipino‐junked                    

Moves against Phl hosting of tobacco expo snowball By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Moves against the Philippines’ hosting of the Protobex/Inter-Tabac Asia snowballed as it was seen as an affront to the country’s efforts to save people from the ill effects of cigarettes. In separate statements, the World Health Organization (WHO), South East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), Health Justice, New Vois Association of the Philippines, Philippine Cancer Society and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines said the exposition is a direct assault on Asia by the tobacco industry. “The Philippine government, as host to the WHO-Western Pacific Region Office, must take Protobex/InterTabac Asia’s arrival as both an attack and an insult,” SEATCA said. The group said that “anywhere tobacco and smoking are promoted, government efforts to protect and promote the health and welfare of their citizens are spat upon.” “No national or local government should promote nor partner with tobacco industry players as it will end up promoting their harmful products, and find itself making a mockery of their own principles and programs for public health,” SEATCA added. WHO has reminded the Philippines that it is one of the 176 parties to the WHO-initiated Framework Convention on Tobacco Control “whose article 13 requires a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.”

WHO said that close to 14 million adult Filipinos smoke every day and if this trend continues, an estimated 10 Filipinos dying by the hour from tobacco-related diseases like heart disease, cancer and stroke will continue to escalate. The FCAP, for its part, maintained that the staging of the exposition is an “outright disrespect” for Philippine laws as it is held for the second consecutive year in Manila. “The tobacco industry not only continuously undermines government’s tobacco control efforts but also blatantly disregards our rules,” FCAP added.‐against‐phl‐hosting‐tobacco‐expo‐ snowball        

World Bank extends $300-M loan to Phl By Ted P. Torres (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

Financing program seen to accelerate inclusive growth, create more jobs MANILA, Philippines - The World Bank is extending a $300-million development policy loan (DPL) to the Philippines to help the country enact its reforms in accelerating inclusive growth and creating more jobs. A DPL provides quick-disbursing assistance to countries undertaking reforms. The loan supports policy and institutional changes needed to create an environment for sustainable and equitable growth, as defined by borrower-countries’ own development agenda. World Bank country director Motoo Konishi said the Philippines can now implement a comprehensive reform agenda centered on restoring people’s trust in government through improved governance and empowering them to rise above poverty, with the approval and subsequent release of the policy loan. “We are pleased to support the program through the DPL as well as through our broader engagement under the bank’s country assistance strategy,” Konishi said in a statement. Under the DPL, the government expects to increase tax-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio by two percentage points from 12.1 in 2012 to 14.1 to generate more resources for financing important economic and social programs.

Some of the key results accomplished under earlier DPL are improved transparency and accountability in government budgeting and spending; increased and better spending for basic education, targeting lowincome families; and enrolment of the beneficiaries of conditional cash transfer program in the country’s universal health care program, thus providing these poor families better access to basic health care services. Commenting on the grant of the DPL, Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said that the game plan for putting the Philippine economy on solid ground amidst a tough global environment is producing good results. “This new financing, coupled with the support of other sectors of society, will boost our efforts for making sure that more of our countrymen, particularly the poor and the most vulnerable, are contributing to and benefitting from economic growth,” Purisima added. The Philippine economy has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in East Asia in recent years. Growth accelerated to 6.6 percent last year, a significant improvement over 3.9 percent in 2011.

Economists attribute this growth trend to the country’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals, improved government finances and execution of public investments, expansion of the construction sector, buoyant private consumption, and high confidence in the Aquino government’s commitment to reform. Purisima said that the policy loan would allow the Philippine to become more competitive in the international market. He said that the Philippines would also boost investments in infrastructure to make the country more conducive to doing business.‐bank‐extends‐300‐m‐loan‐phl                                        

Purisima wants more big firms to tap bond mart By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima wants to see more of the top 5,000 corporations tapping the bond market for funding rather than borrowing from banks. During the launch of the Asian Development Bank’s March 2013 issue of the Asia Bond Monitor, Purisima underscored the need to strengthen the bond market, which he said, is a key element, along with the banking system and the equity market, of a well-developed financial system. Purisima said the development of bond markets reduces dependence on bank financing enhances the effectiveness of monetary policy, and spreads corporate risks. “We don’t want our banks to be saddled with NPLs (non-performing loans) and create risk for the banking system. That’s why it is important for the bond market to grow,” Purisima said. About 87 percent of the outstanding bonds issued in the country represented government securities and only 13 percent were corporate bonds. Only 30 Philippine companies accounted for 93.5 percent of the total amount of Philippine peso corporate bonds outstanding.

While the volume of corporate bond issuances rose last year, Purisima said there was still room for improvement. “The bond market is an important pillar if we are to build sustainable infrastructure for Philippine growth. An efficient capital market is crucial if we are to intermediate savings at the lowest possible cost,” Purisima said. Bonds account for a 21.1- percent share of Philippine domestic financing while the total outstanding size of the Philippine peso bond market is 37.7 percent of GDP.

According to the ADB, the peso bond market grew by 7.5 percent quarter on quarter and 20.5 percentyear-on-year in the fourth quarter. Although, at the equivalent of $100 billion in size, it is still one of the smaller markets in emerging East Asia’s $6.5 trillion local currency bond market. Purisima stressed the need for Asian capital markets to manage their wealth flows so that savings contribute more to growth in home countries. “Bond market development is also important so that instead of recycling capital and excess savings of the region in western markets, they are recycled here in the region. For the Philippines for example, some funds that our Central Bank invests in do not have the Philippines as an acceptable investment destination,” he said.‐wants‐more‐big‐firms‐tap‐bond‐mart                                      

Phl, Malaysia lead Asia business optimism survey By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Business sentiment in Asia improved in the first quarter from the previous quarter with the Philippines and Malaysia having the most optimistic outlook for the period given the two countries’ positive economic conditions, according to a survey of Thomson Reuters and INSEAD. The latest Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Survey showed that the Asia Business Sentiment Index rose to 65 in March from 63 in December. A reading above 50 indicates an overall positive outlook. The survey showed that business sentiment in Southeast Asia was mostly optimistic due to government-driven investment spending in infrastructure as well as robust domestic spending. “Malaysia and the Philippines were the most positive with readings of 100 each,” the survey read. The survey noted this is the second consecutive quarter of 100 readings for both countries. Meanwhile, companies in China, Japan and South Korea, were the least positive with index readings of 50. Across the region, global economic uncertainty ranks as the chief business risk. The survey noted that uncertainty in recovery of the world economy is mainly responsible for the cautious outlook of most economies. Other business risks identified were rising costs, political instability and foreign exchange volatility. The survey covered 100 executives in 11 Asia-Pacific countries conducted between March 4 to 15. Thomson Reuters is the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. INSEAD is one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools.‐malaysia‐lead‐asia‐business‐optimism‐survey 

Now is the time to help micro and small entreps GO NEGOSYO By Joey Concepcion (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

Throughout the years that Go Negosyo has been in existence, we gained the support of many well-abled Filipinos who have shared their time and talent in promoting the entrepreneurial advocacy. But some of our supporters have actually stepped up and went beyond our expectations in encouraging Filipinos to adopt an enterprising mindset, just like Bam Aquino. He was the co-founder of Hapinoy, a social entrepreneurship endeavor that helps stay-at-home mothers sustain their own negosyos. We have included their story in our book on young entrepreneurs. He also became a part of our team as the host of our TV show “SME Go!: Powered by Go Negosyo”. As you can see, Bam has been with us since way back to help micro and small entrepreneurs reach higher levels. Now that he is running for a very important position this coming election, I asked him to share his thoughts about what he can do to sustain the advocacy. Here are his answers: Entrepreneurship creates jobs. Do you think this is a very good alternative to the OFW phenomenon? Entrepreneurship is definitely a very good alternative to going abroad. In fact, in my recent visit to Taiwan, almost all of the Filipinos I met there really wanted to go back home had there been opportunities in the country. It all boils down to opportunities. We have to make our country enticing for our people to stay at home and work here rather than working abroad away from their families. However, for the people who are already abroad, we should be able to provide them with alternative programs to go back to the country. One way is to guide them in putting up their own business through the Go Negosyo Act, a bill which I am planning to author if I will be given the chance to do so. The Go Negosyo Act provides access to training, market and finances to ensure the businesses put up by Filipinos will be successful. What are your platforms to support job generation through entrepreneurship? The growing confidence of investors, both foreign and local, in the country is brought about by the leadership of the President  and our commitment to Daang Matuwid. With these industries building their businesses in the country, the next thing we have  to ensure is to provide them with skilled workers. In order to respond to this increasing demand from the business sector, we  will legislate to improve on the skills training program of institutions accredited by TESDA and the like. This legislation not only 

responds to the problem of unemployment but underemployment as well. If Filipinos were given the opportunity to acquire  and/or improve skills crucial to the industries we have in the country, social and economic mobility will be within their reach.  Contractualization is another problem to address. Alongside providing opportunity for Filipino workers, the legislation will also  create an incentive system for companies to hire more regular employees, a win‐win policy for the companies and the workers  to contribute to the economy. This is a long‐term solution to providing sustainable livelihood for Filipinos. Through this, these  workers would be able to save up and be able to invest it into a business in the future.    The key to the growth of entrepreneurship is the expanding network of enterprises it generates. How do you think the  government can help Go Negosyo, or other entrepreneur‐friendly NGOs, champion the success formula of entrepreneurship  further?  I am fully supportive of entrepreneur‐friendly NGOs, especially Go Negosyo, so supportive in fact that I want to name the bill I  will author Go Negosyo Act (should you agree). I came from this sector and I have seen how entrepreneurship has changed the  lives of many people from the individuals to their communities. Legislating a bill that would be able to institutionalize  entrepreneurship from the academe to practice would be able to make it more impactful in the lives of the people.   What do you think are the changes that we need to adopt to make our education more oriented towards promoting  entrepreneurship?  The thrust of our education system, after K‐12, is to make sure that we produce graduates that are industry competitive  manpower, and this includes introducing them to entrepreneurship. I am all for the inclusion of entrepreneurship in the current  DepEd curriculum possibly including it in the Home Economics program. The theories, the skills and the discipline behind  entrepreneurship will be useful to the students regardless if they pursue entrepreneurship or not.  One of the things that hamper the growth of entrepreneurship is corruption and red tape in the local government levels. How  do you think we can solve this problem?  There are local governments in Batangas and Cebu that already made putting up a business easy. In order to make this a  national policy, we will legislate the GoNegosyo Act. The purpose of the bill is to make business licensing easy and cutting down  the red tape to encourage more investors to put up their businesses. This project will also focus on giving entrepreneurs access  to training, market and finances.  However, the greater goal is to change the mindset towards entrepreneurship. The government should be able to view  businesses not just a way to generate taxes, but a mechanism that gives people jobs and an opportunity for people to get out of  poverty.  * * *  Contact me at‐time‐help‐micro‐and‐small‐entreps             

Wealthy businessman moved by student suicide SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

A low key wealthy businessman who did not wish to be identified told Spy Bits he felt extremely dismayed when he learned about the 16-year-old student who took her own life after failing to settle a previous loan of P6,377 on time. The low key businessman had been giving financial support and scholarships to poor but deserving college students for over a decade now – which is why the suicide of Kristel Tejada for something as paltry as P6,000 struck him as very sad and distressing. “If I only knew about her situation, I could have easily paid for the P6,377 and would have taken care of the tuition for the rest of her college years,” he confided to us, saying he is urging other wealthy businessmen to be more proactive by putting up a foundation that would help bright kids belonging to the “poorest of the poor” attain basic and college education. The businessman pointed out that education foundations are given certain tax breaks and exemptions and so this proposal could be a win-win situation considering even government resources cannot cope with the booming student population. What happened to Kristel is very unfortunate but many are hopeful that her death will not be in vain because of the attention being given to the existing tuition policies at the University of the Philippines where students are made to pay according to the family’s income bracket. Many are also urging for a more humanitarian implementation of existing tuition assistance programs especially because majority of students in state universities and colleges belong to the lowest social brackets. Certainly, wealthy businessmen can take up the slack knowing they can make a difference even in just one life of a student they help put through school – keeping in mind that “if you save even just one life, it’s as if you have already saved the world.” RH bill in peril With the 120-day suspension issued by the Supreme Court on the implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill over the issue of its constitutionality, coupled with the installation of Pope Francis on the throne of St. Peter, the fear of pro-RH bill groups that the measure could be in peril seems to be coming into the fore. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and other anti-RH bill groups have been arguing against the legislation based on moral and religious issues, invoking the name of God in voicing their opposition – and so they are taking the ascension of Pope Francis as a “sign” in their favor. The new pontiff is known for his conservative views on social issues and at one time was even described by Argentine president Christina Kirchner as medieval for opposing contraception. Even HIV/AIDS workers are wondering how their efforts could be affected by the new Pope, hoping he would adopt a more practical perspective on the use of condoms to prevent the spread of the disease. In hindsight, many RH bill proponents, Catholics included, say that had Cardinal Tagle become the new pope, this would have given the CBCP enormous power in the Philippines since His Eminence was naturally against the passage of the RH bill. In any case, the contention over the bill is now on another

plane. The best legal minds from both sides will have to fight it out not in the court of public opinion but in the court of law. Quantum technology to turn sci-fi into reality? The announcement by Blackberry smartphone creator Mike Lazaridis to pour in $100 million worth of funds for quantum technology research has generated a lot of buzz not only among quantum physicists and nanotechnology proponents but among Star Trek fans as well. (Nanotechnology or nanotech has been dubbed as the “science of the small” since it involves the manipulation of tiny, atom-like particles and molecules for the benefit of a number of industries including the military.) According to Lazaridis, the Greek-Canadian founder of Research In Motion Ltd. (the company behind Blackberry) who turned a small town called Waterloo in Ontario into a hub for quantum computing, he is looking at a lot of revolutionary products including a medical device known as the Star Trek “tricorder” that could scan the environment and humans. Saying that a lot of the fictional devices featured in the science fiction franchise that began in the late 1960s have come true – such as computers, voice activated devices to the communicators as seen in smartphones today – Lazaridis is confident that the development of a ground breaking device that can perform multiple medical procedures like magnetic resonance imaging, scanning, and blood tests can become a reality in two to three years. Port King on a roll The winning streak of “Port King” Enrique “Ricky” Razon Jr. continues with the 2012 net profit of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) growing 10 percent to $143 million – surpassing analysts’ projections of $141 million. According to leading financial firm Maybank ATR Kim Eng, ICTSI’s strategy of making overseas acquisitions has boosted growth, with last year’s TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) volume also recording an increase of eight percent to 5.63 million TEUs. ATR particularly cited ICTSI’s new terminals in the last two years that accounted for the growth, among them Croatia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Oregon in the US. Port revenue last year also increased 10 percent to $729 million, the analyst firm reported, upgrading its recommendation from hold to buy. *** Email:‐businessman‐moved‐student‐suicide            

Index continues decline on consolidation By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Local stocks retreated for the eighth straight session yesterday, dragging the main composite index below the 6,500 level as the market continued to consolidate. The PSEi dropped 0.10 percent or 6.63 points to settle at 6,419.62 after ending the morning session down 0.82 percent or 52.75 points to 6,373.50. The broader all shares index shed 0.15 percent or 6.26 points to 4,042.86. “Again (the decline was) due to continued consolidation of the market. But there were bargain hunters after lunchtime,” said Astro C. del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Finance Inc. “Prices became too tempting for select investors,” Del Castillo said. Wall Street, which closed mixed on Tuesday, did not provide a push to the local market. The Dow Jones Industrial average picked up 0.03 percent or 3.76 points to 14,455.82 driven by better housing data while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index declined 0.2 percent or 3.76 points to 1,548.34. Asian markets closed mixed amid the ongoing worries on the eurozone’s bailout plan on Cyprus. Locally, most counters were in the red, led by holding firms that lost 0.48 percent or 26.99 points to 5,655.92. But property companies bucked the trend, adding 0.53 percent or 13.90 points to 2,628.33.‐continues‐decline‐consolidation      

BSP offers to sell dollars for sovereign wealth fund By Ted P. Torres (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has offered to sell US dollars to the National Government to capitalize the proposed sovereign wealth fund. On the sidelines of the national convention of the Chamber of Thrift Banks (CTB), BSP Governor Amando V. Tetangco Jr. said the country’s economic team led by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima is proposing to establish a sovereign wealth fund, which would be government’s tool to make investments in the open or international market as another instrument for raising funds. However, the wealth fund must be capitalized with US dollars. “If the government decides to put up the wealth fund, we can sell them the dollars which they can use to fund their operations especially overseas,” Tetangco said. He explained that in other countries in the region, governments invest in different types of instrument, mostly offshore. “And usually they have a separate entity outside their respective central banks to organize, manage and run the sovereign wealth fund,” Tetangco added. But since there are legal constraints in allowing the BSP from directly overseeing the proposed sovereign fund, the Philippine government can establish a separate entity to manage the fund. Meanwhile, the country’s balance of payments (BOP) in February experienced a deficit of $960 million, the first since April 2012. In January this year, the country registered a $2.043-billion surplus.

Thus, the year-to-date surplus was reduced to $1.083 billion as of February as compared to $2.043 billion the previous month. In February 2012, the government experienced a deficit of $588 million, bringing the BOP at $1.452 billion. In December 2012, the country had a surplus of $9.236 billion. It was at its highest in December 2010 at $14.308 billion. The balance of payments (BOP) is a summary of the economic transactions of a country with the rest of the world, for a specific time period. It serves as an accounting statement on the economic dealings between residents of the country and non-residents.

Pure Foods profit up 2% to P4.2B By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The food unit of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) said its earnings grew last year on the back of strong sales. Parent firm SMC, for its part, has tapped five banks to raise $1.3 billion for general corporate purposes. In a disclosure, San Miguel Pure Foods Co. Inc. (SMPFC) said its profit rose two percent to P4.2 billion last year. Consolidated revenues jumped seven percent to P95.8 billion, a record performance, given “robust sales, improved efficiencies and the continued expansion of the distribution network,” the company said. Despite difficulties like the volatility in cost of raw materials, the food company recorded better sales in the second half, SMPFC president Francisco S. Alejo III said. He said SMPFC also benefited from “strategic cost management efforts, introduction of new products and successful marketing initiatives that led to better offtake.” Specifically, the value-added business recorded a solid performance due to steady volume growth in core brands Purefoods, Star, Magnolia and San Mig Coffee. SMPFC said the agro-industrial business composed of basic meats and poultry remained strong despite high costs early last year while the flour business continued to be a major contributor. “We are optimistic that the momentum we gained in the second half of 2012 will continue throughout 2013,” Alejo said. Last year, SMPFC started the construction of a P3-billion grain terminal facility in Mabini, Batangas to cut freight and handling costs of raw materials. It will start commercial operations in the second half next year. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that conglomerate SMC tapped five banks for a $1.3-billion longterm syndicated loan for general corporate purposes. In January, SMC announced that it is looking to pay off its debts through a $1-billion five-year loan that will repay the $1-billion, five-year funding it secured from banks in 2010. It is also looking at generating $300 million for its working capital. The debt refinancing program aims to “prudently manage its capital and balance sheet structure by taking advantage of the opportunities presented by prevailing market conditions,” SMC earlier said.

SMC was reportedly in talks with Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered Bank to draw a $650million, one-year loan to buy back $600-million exchangeable bonds due next year. Local firms are tapping banks to pay debts early or lengthen the maturities of their debts amid the low interest rate environment.

PSE crafts early warning system for distressed firms By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) is crafting an early warning system to alert the investing public of financial trouble in a listed firm. In a memorandum, the PSE opened for public comment the proposed rules for companies under financial distress and firms under corporate rehabilitation. The rules were rolled out “to give the minority shareholders sufficient warning and afford them a timely opportunity to exit a company experiencing financial distress,” PSE said. “There is no exit mechanism for the minority stockholders of companies under rehabilitation in view of the immediate suspension of the trading of those companies’ shares,” it added. Hence, investors are locked up with the company or are forced to sell at a large discount given the trading suspension on companies under rehabilitation. Specifically, the troubled company is required to disclose major developments like the disposal of a major business, suspension of business operations for at least six months and negative stockholders equity for three consecutive years. Distressed firms should also disclose any delay in the payment of loans amounting to 10 percent of its total assets and the issuance of an adverse auditor’s opinion on the financial statement. PSE will designate firms in hot water as “company under financial distress” to allow the public to quickly discern the financial situation of the listed entity. Within five days from being labelled as a distressed company, the listed firm should submit a business plan specifying the activities and timeline to remedy the situation.

A Brown unit inks deal with Socoteco By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 21, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A Brown Co. Inc. (ABCI), through its wholly-owned subsidiary PeakPower Energy Inc., has entered into an agreement with a South Cotabato electric cooperative for the construction and operation of a bunker-fired power plant in the province. In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, A Brown said it has entered into a power supply and transfer Agreement (PSTA) with South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative Inc. (Socoteco II). Under the agreement, Peak Power will build-operate and maintain-transfer a 20.9-megawatt bunker-fired power plant in the franchise area of Socoteco. The project is part of the firm’s efforts to help address the power crisis in Mindanao, PeakPower president Roel Castro said. “This decision to build power generation facilities is our way of contributing a solution to the power problem in Mindanao,” Castro said. Socoteco, for its part, considered the project beneficial to its operations. “We found the contract advantageous to the electric cooperative, given the reduction in our supply contracts with National Power Corp. (Napocor) and a huge peaking requirement,” said Socoteco II board president Elenito Senit. The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the operator of country’s power transmission highway, said the Mindanao grid currently has a generation deficiency of 170 megawatts. ABCI hopes to assist power customers maintain their desired level of economic activities by putting up the needed power capacities especially during peak hours. Socoteco supplies electricity to South Cotabato, Sarangani and Gen. Santos. ABCI, meanwhile, is a publicly-listed corporation with major interest in real estate, infrastructure development, agribusiness and investments in listed companies. Its subsidiary Palm Thermal Consolidated Holdings is the developer of the 135-MW coal-fired power plant project in the province of Iloilo. PeakPower is ABCI’s newly incorporated subsidiary for its energy investments. Aside from energy and its palm oil business, ABCI also owns Brown Resources Corp., which owns and operates hotels and apartments.

Google to aid women entreprenuers with online management tools By Tam Noda ( | Updated March 20, 2013 - 4:15pm

MANILA, Philippines -- The Google Business Group (GBG) in the Philippines aims to equip women entrepreneurs with tools to help them maximize their business’s online presence. GBG hopes to impart skills on effective virtual collaboration and efficient customer relations, which will prepare businesswomen for successful online management. The GBG Makati, together with the Women’s Business Council Philippines will hold the first Women on the Web (WoW) Philippines Summit on March 22 and 23 at the Mint Meridian International College, McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio, in Taguig City. The two-day intensive workshop will provide training sessions on Google’s suite of tools and other relevant industry-related topics. GBG is an independent community-led group of business professionals in the Philippines that come together to share knowledge about Google web technologies for business success. According to GBG Makati's Community lead Ros Juan, the Web creates a level playing field for all business owners, big or small. "We believe that we can empower women entrepreneurs to excel in the digital field and supplement their business processes with the right tools and knowledge," Juan said. The WoW Philippines Summit was organized after the successful inaugural launch of the WoW program in Singapore in 2012. The summit is free, open and exclusive to all female business owners, professionals, and entrepreneurs. The Summit is in partnership with Smart Communications, IdeaSpace, Mint College, IMMAP, Binalot, Q Software Research Corp, Commune Coffee Shop, Azalea Residences, Moonleaf Tea Shop and Philippine Coffee Board, Incorporated.

Enrile: Lending programs for small farmers, fishermen key to food sovereignty Category: Top News   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 20:25    UNITED Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial candidate and Rep. Jack Enrile of Cagayan believes easy access by small farmers and fishermen to several lending facilities could bring the country toward food security and sovereignty. Enrile said that in 2012, a total of P39.9 billion in loans from the Land Bank of the Philippines were extended to small farmers and fishermen in Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley and Central Visayas. “Clearly, this is a step in the right direction if our government is serious about upgrading the country’s status from the world’s largest rice importer to a food exporter in the near future,” Enrile said. “Given the right infrastructure, the proper funding and subsidy, our country could well be on its way to food sovereignty. Our agricultural sector especially here in Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley and Central Visayas have all the potential to achieve, if not exceed, target production on a yearly and consistent basis.” Enrile filed House Bill 4626, or the “Food for the Filipinos First bill,” which he envisions to provide a mandatory path to self-sufficiency and security in rice for the country. The bill is specifically meant to raise total agricultural production with the corresponding increase in income for farmers and other stakeholders in the agriculture sector. It also aims to bring down the prices of food products. The loans extended to the agricultural sector were released through 900 farmers and fishermen cooperatives, 300 countryside financial institutions and 200 associations of irrigators. “Still, there is a need to institutionalize these banking policies and other related practices through the right legislation. A strategic Food Master Plan could help the country regulate food production and anticipate expected shortages caused by natural calamities,” Enrile said.

MBC wants Cha-cha within the year Category: Top News   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 22:46   Written by Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter 

SENIOR business executives belonging to the Makati Business Club (MBC) favor Charter change or Cha-cha, particularly economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016. Based on MBC’s Executive Outlook Survey for the first semester, 91 percent of respondents said they specifically want the removal of foreign-ownership restrictions under the 1987 Constitution to “attract more foreign investments.” “More than 59 percent of those who are for amending the Constitution’s economic provisions said it should be initiated within the next 12 months, and over 31 percent said this should be undertaken after the next 12 months,” the report said. Compared to the July 2003 survey, MBC noted that only 50 percent of the respondents were in favor of Charter change and nearly 40 percent were against it. “It must be noted, however, that in [this] survey, the respondents were asked whether they were in favor of Charter change in general at that conjuncture,” the report said. Aside from Cha-cha, the respondents were asked about other issues such as their projected corporate performance for 2013, as well as the preparedness of the country for the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. Almost 86 percent of the respondents projected that their company’s gross revenues will rise above 2012 levels by an average of 13 percent. Close to 8 percent of the respondents see no change in the level of gross revenues from 2012.

“In terms of net income, three quarters of respondents anticipate an average 13-percent rise in net income. Meanwhile, just over 14 percent of respondents project no change in the level of net income from the previous year,” the report said. The survey revealed that over 59 percent of respondents said their companies will make additional investments this year and the average amount of investments will reach P807 million. In terms of hiring practices, half of respondents’ firms will expand their labor force by close to 10 percent, close to 44 percent of respondents’ companies will retain their number of workers and less than 2 percent of respondents’ businesses plan to cut their work force by 20 percent. “In last year’s survey, more than 61 percent of respondents said they would hire more workers, over a quarter of them planned to maintain the size of their work force and just over 2 percent would lay off workers,” the report said. On AEC, over 64 percent of those surveyed believe that the Philippines is unprepared for regional integration. “When asked if their companies are already preparing to take the challenges posed by and opportunities offered by the AEC, more than 78 percent of respondents said ‘yes,’” the report said. MBC’s Executive Outlook Survey First Semester 2013 was conducted among MBC members from February 5 to March 6. A total of 64 members responded, representing close to 17 percent of the 380 MBC member-companies, excluding foreign embassies and trade offices. Over 92 percent of the respondents are in top management and under 8 percent are in middle management. By nationality, 84 percent of the respondents are Filipinos and close to 16 percent are foreigners.

In Photo: Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon poses with members of the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines after keynoting their joint regular membership meeting on Wednesday. Biazon spoke about reforms in the Customs bureau, detailing the government’s five-year “strategic plan” to modernize the bureau and improve Customs administration. Flanking Biazon are MAP Governor Peter Wallace, Marissa del Mar, also of MAP, and Henry Lim, chairman of Food Security Committee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (Stephanie Tumampos)

Luisita farmers question DAR’s criteria for audit firm selection Category: Nation              Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:41   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter    THE Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Ambala) on Wednesday questioned the criteria for the selection of the auditing firm that will open the books of the Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) to determine the share of farmer-beneficiaries from the P1.33-billion proceeds of the sale of a total of 580-hectare portion of the Conjuangco-Aquino sugar estate in Tarlac. The audit of HLI’s financial statement was deemed necessary by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to determine the legitimate corporate expenses incurred by Hacienda Luisita Inc. that are deductible against the firms P1.33-billion earnings from the sale of the 500 hectares to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and the 80 hectares expropriated by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project. In a statement, Ambala Chairman Rodel Mesa slammed the DAR, for its alleged bias for accounting firms allegedly close to the Cojuangco-Aquino family. The discussion on the draft criteria made by the DAR is scheduled on March 22 at 2 p.m. in La Majarica Hotel and Restaurant in Tarlac City. Mesa said that besides the criteria, the DAR made two questionable moves in the process of choosing the accounting firm that will scrutinize HLI’s financial statements. First, Mesa questioned the DAR’s acceptance of the letters of intent of three firms without first specifying the criteria in selecting the auditor. “In effect, what the DAR did was scrutinize each accounting firm and then based the criteria to favor that which is close to HLI and ease out the one recommended by the farmer-beneficiaries,” he said. Second, Mesa lamented that the DAR is insisting that HLI should be a party in choosing the auditing firm to be hired. “This violates one of the fundamental principles in order to achieve the objectives of the accountancy profession,” he said. It stipulates that, “a professional accountant should be fair and should not allow prejudice or bias, conflict of interest or influence of others to override objectivity.” One of the accounting firms that submitted a letter of intent should be disqualified outright, Mesa said. He was referring to Reyes Tacandong & Co. because most of its top officials used to work for SGV & Co. Philippines, which is the auditing firm of HLI. With regards to the draft criteria made by the DAR in choosing an audit firm, it has no provision on the need for independence based on the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants in the Philippines and other rules and standards based on the Philippine Standards on Auditing, Mesa added.

Benguet mayors cite Philex cleanup, rehab efforts Category: Nation   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:35   Written by Jonathan Mayuga    LOCAL officials of Itogon and Tuba in Benguet that hosts the Padcal mine of Philex Mining Corp. are impressed by cleanup and rehabilitation efforts initiated by the company. Philex, which was allowed to temporarily resume its operations last month, is now reeling from the losses it incurred because of an accidental discharge of sediments from its Tailings Pond 3 (TP3) early in August last year that dumped 20 million metric tons of sediments to the Balog Creek in Benguet and Agno River in Pangasinan. The company, as a result of the leak, was fined P1.034 billion for violations of the Philippine Mining Act and another P92.8 million for violations of the Clean Water Act. Mayor Florencio Bentrez of Tuba told a congressional hearing that he and Mayor Oscar Camantiles of Itogon are satisfied with the rehabilitation and remediation efforts that Philex has done from the time that the company voluntarily shut down the Padcal mine last year owing to the breach in TP3. Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, interviewed after the joint hearing of the Senate Committees on Environment and Natural Resources and on Health and Demography, commended Philex which presented the measures that the company has taken so far since last year’s spill. Philex Vice President for Community Relations Victor Francisco said during the hearing that the cleanup of Balog Creek was already 90-percent complete and has been so thorough that the local executives of Itogon “are recommeding to us that this now be turned into an [eco]tourism area.” In the same hearing, Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), said there was “a very high amount of rainfall due to the enhanced southwest monsoon” in the area at the time of the August 2012 accident, which supports Philex official’s explanation as to how the leak happened. Lawyer Michael Toledo, Philex senior vice president for corporate affairs, after the spill insisted that the leak was the result of an “event of force majeure” or act of God that was beyond the company’s control, as the rainfall that week was way above the single-day rainfall record of 234.50 millimeters in Padcal over the last 50 years. Nevertheless, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s (DENR) rejected such explanation and slapped the miner the corresponding penalty. Even if it was a case of force majeure, Toledo noted that Philex paid the P1.034-billion penalty imposed by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau—in cash and ahead of the DENR’s MGB-set February 19 deadline—to demonstrate the company’s good faith as a responsible miner and close cooperation with regulators on the matter of environmental protection and remediation for the people of the affected communities. Jonathan Mayuga

Do not use highways to dry palay, corn–DPWH Category: Nation   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:30   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga    THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) on Wednesday called on local governments and local police to help enforce law and order along national highways to prevent fatal road accidents. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson issued the call as he also appealed to farmers to refrain from using national highways as solar dryers, saying the practice could lead to fatal road accidents. “We have widened the national highways to facilitate smoother flow of traffic, especially in major arterial roads, and not to be used as solar dryers for palay or corn,” said Singson. He observed that farmers taking advantage of the good weather are drying their palay or corn along the national highways and cordoning off road sections that have undergone road widening. These national highways include the McArthur Highway or Manila North Road going to Ilocos region; the Cagayan Valley Road going to the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and Isabela; and the Manila South Road or Daang Maharlika going to Bicol. He noted that some farmers put stones and barriers along the national highways protect their palay from passing vehicles, which is very dangerous. “The presence of big stones or boulders poses danger to motorists,” said Singson. He also noted that tricycles and motorcycles are using the center lanes of these widened national roads. This practice hampers smoother flow of traffic or poses danger to motorists, particularly at nighttime. “These tricycles and motorcycles are slow moving vehicles and often do not have appropriate tail lights that are visible during nighttime,” he said. Motorcycles and tricycles, he said, should use the outer lanes to prevent accidents. “We are urging local governments to help put order along the national roads, particularly in poblaciones or market areas. We are experiencing heavy traffic on the approaches of these market areas or town centers because of the presence of tricycle terminals or parking areas encroaching on national roads,” he said. Jonathan L. Mayuga

Bulacan town blooms through its garden makers Category: Regions   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:02   Written by Ramon Efren R. Lazaro / Correspondent  GUIGUINTO, Bulacan—With the recent pronouncement by Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), the local weather bureau, that summer has officially started in the country, the garden and landscape industry in this town is also now blooming with all kinds of activities. Garden and plant enthusiasts discover that they need not go far to find the right merchandise suited for their dream landscape or indoor plants for their homes. All they have to do is go to the Garden City Multipurpose Cooperative in this town. The cooperative’s current chairman, Renee “Tak” Robles, told the BusinessMirror that members of the cooperative offer landscaping, plant supply, plant rental, garden construction and wholesale and retail of all garden materials. Art Javier, the predecessor of Robles, said the products and craftsmanship of their members are being showcased during the celebration of the town’s annual Halamanan Festival held every January 23. Initiated by former municipal Mayor Ambrosio “Boy” Cruz in 1999, the festival eventually became the town’s trademark celebration. The town itself wants to claim the title of “Garden Capital of Bulacan,” if not of the country. Robles, Javier and Cruz are charter members of the Rotary Club of Guiguinto Suburbs. With the success of the Halamanan Festival, the club adapted the festival as their Guintong Halamanan newsletter cover where the foliage represents the strategy of the club to sow the seeds of service and the services that are needed in reaching the grassroot level in order to create more stable and lasting results. Beside the Halamanan Festival, Javier said their members show off their talents, skills and products during the annual provincial celebrations for the “Araw ng Magsasaka,” Cooperative Month and Linggo ng Bulacan. Javier said from an initial 20 cooperators in the year 2000 and an initial capitalization of P41,000, their cooperative had, as of last year, registered 193 members with approximately P886,000 in total assets. All its members are engaged in the garden and landscape industry. Robles noted the growth of their group was made possible by the combined efforts of its members; they all propagate ornamental plants in their own backyards. The landscape and garden industry of Guiguinto also led to the creation of livelihood opportunities for allied industries engaged in baskets, plastic, pots and terra cota manufacture, among others. Plant nurseries have also sprouted in neighboring towns and city that provide income to once idle lands. Robles said the landscape craftsmen and garden specialists of Guiguinto start to get busy starting September. Peak activities are summer time.

Among the problems that members of their group encounter are the rising price for planting materials like plastic containers and ipa (rice husk), a major component for their bedding materials, and declining water table in the aquifer that affects their plants’ water needs especially during summer time. Robles also noted that the growing number of their members has also led to price competition for their products that is advantageous to the consumers.

Employers to help solve ‘jobless growth’ Category: Economy   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:42  EMPLOYERS will converge in May to draw up strategies on how they can help the government solve the “jobless growth” riddle that has been hounding the Philippine economy. The 34th National Conference of Employers (NCE 34), slated on May 23 and 24 at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City, carries the theme “Inclusive Growth: Vision, Prescriptions and Action.” The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop), which is organizing the meet, said top corporate executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders will attend the event as they heed the call of the Aquino administration for heightened public-private efforts to achieve inclusive growth. “It takes into account the platform of what the President enunciated in the Philippine Development Plan, which calls on every stakeholder to contribute in their own little way toward the goal of inclusive growths, which means sustained growth that creates jobs,” Ecop said. Earlier, the state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said the irony of a jobless growth continues to hound the Philippines as although the country posted the fastest economic acceleration in Southeast Asia in 2012, it remains as the cellar-dweller in terms of employment rate in the region. The PIDS noted that about 2.8 million Filipinos in the labor force are without jobs as the country’s unemployment rate stayed at a relatively high 7 percent, while underemployment slightly increased to 20 percent from 19.3 percent. This bleak employment picture lingered despite the 6.6-percent economic growth in 2012 as measured by the increase in the value of goods and services produced within the country in that year. The Philippines outpaced its usually better-performing Southeast Asian neighbors in 2012 in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) growth, with Indonesia at 6.2 percent, Malaysia 5.1 percent, Singapore 1.2 percent, Thailand 5.7 percent and Vietnam 5 percent. However, the 7-percent unemployment rate in the country in 2012 emerged as the highest in Southeast Asia. Indonesia was at 6.6 percent, Myanmar at 4.0 percent, Malaysia 3.1 percent, Singapore 2.7 percent, Brunei Darussalam 2.6 percent, Vietnam 2.0 percent, Cambodia 1.7 percent, Lao People’s Democratic Republic or Laos 1.4 percent and Thailand 0.7 percent. Ecop said the business sector is eyeing to unleash the potential of growth sectors and the new economic drivers by drawing up strategies that will complement national policies and programs to ensure growth and stability. “Corporate decision-makers will discuss issues on the general business climate, in general, and labor-management relations, in particular.” NCE 34 is chaired by Dr. Francis Chua, Ecop governor, and co-chaired by Ferdie Diaz and Jesus Varela. “Sessions lined up in NCE 34 dwell on the ingredients and elements of sustainability and the way forward for the Philippine

economy, becoming a breakthrough entrepreneur in today’s competitive business landscape, and the role of government and international organizations in the promotion of productive and decent employment, among others,� Ecop said.

BSP to set consumer-protection metrics for lenders Category: Economy   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:41   Written by Miguel R. Camus  THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is working on new regulations that will eventually result in a consumer protection-oriented ratings system for lenders, central bank governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said. “We will come out with the guidelines. Right now, we are still looking at what will be the appropriate metrics for this but the idea is to ensure that the bank has the adequate framework to ensure consumer protection,” Tetangco said at Chamber of Thrift Banks’ annual convention.“ So what we want to achieve in this effort is to make sure that consumer protection is embedded in the framework of the institution of the bank,” he added. Tetangco noted that the central bank has made some progress in crafting the rules with the approval of the reference standards for contract-to-sell financing. In his speech during the convention, Tetangco said the BSP has created a specialized department called the Financial Consumer Affairs Group, which acts as a clearing hub for complaints and as a redress mechanism. Lorenzo Tan, president of both Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and umbrella organization Bankers Association of the Philippines, welcomed the announcement by the BSP. “Consumer-protection regulations are good for our customers,” Tan said in a text message on Wednesday. “Our role as an association is to give feedback to our regulators about the feasibility, economic costs and benefits and practicality of consumer protection regulations.” Miguel R. Camus

North Cotabato braces for 7-10 hours of rotating blackouts every day Category: Regions   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:12   Written by PNA  KIDAPAWAN CITY—Businessmen and power consumers in North Cotabato are again bracing for longer brownouts as one of the units of the privately owned diesel-fired power plants in Compostela Valley underwent immediate repairs starting on Tuesday, a spokesman for an electric cooperative said. Vicente Baguio, a spokesman for the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) Main, said that starting on Wednesday, the rotating blackouts in their service areas would last up to seven hours as one of the engines of the diesel-fired power plants of the Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) in Maco, Compostela Valley, bogged down after longer usage. Wilfredo Rodolfo, TMI’s corporate communications head, confirmed the reports, saying the company had to cut off part of the power distributed to electric cooperatives and other companies when one of the barges of their diesel-fired plants in Maco town shut down. Rodolfo said the barge’s capacity is 50 megawatts (MW). He cited longer usage as the primary reason for the shutdown. “These diesel-fired power plants are designed only as peaking plants, meaning, they are only used when the Mindanao grid needs additional power during peak hours. But since 2010, these plants are into 24-hour operation, which is already beyond their capacity,” he said. The TMI, a subsidiary of the Aboitiz Power Corp., produces 200 MW from its power barges in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, and in Maco, Compostela Valley. The two diesel-fired power barges of TMI are running 24 hours every day to try to meet the power demand from Mindanao’s electric cooperatives. These barges supply power to 23 electric cooperatives and distribution utilities in Mindanao in addition to the supply provided for by state-owned National Power Corp.-Power Sector Assets Liabilities and Management. The Cotelco-Main, service provider for 12 towns and one city in North Cotabato province, used to buy additional 8-MW power from TMI. But since Tuesday, the electric co-op is only given 6 MW, which is 25 percent less of the total supply of power the Cotelco gets from the TMI. This means that from four hours, the rotating blackouts would last to seven hours a day. The power situation is worse in five towns in North Cotabato, which is part of the service areas of the sub-station of the Cotelco at the Pigcawayan-Pikit-Aleosan-Libungan-Midsayap Area, where rotating blackouts could last at least 10 hours a day. PNA

MGB recommends slope rehab, stabilization at EDC landslide site Category: Regions   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:10   Written by Felix N. Codilla III / Correspondent  ORMOC CITY—The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said immediate slope stabilization and rehabilitation measures must be established as a non-structural blockade to flooding at a landslide-damaged area in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, neighboring Kananga town in Leyte. Aside from this recommendation, the MGB also pushes for the construction of dikes, retaining walls, groins and breakwater to prevent floods during heavy rains and typhoons. The MGB has identified the cause of the landslide at Pad 403 on March 1 to the overlying weak materials coupled with a very steep slope surrounding the mountain. MGB Supervising Geologist Ceferino de la Cruz said the slope gradient in the area is measured at 52” which is considered very high based on the landslide susceptibility rating parameters of their bureau. “This is especially so because the slope is underlain by intensely weathered, fractured and altered volcanic rock exhibiting sulfide or iron staining with clayey materials,” he said. Historical records of old landslides, presence of escarpments and tension cracks are manifestations of inevitable landslide, he went on. The landslide area has an MGB rating of high susceptibility to landslide and not prone to flooding per geo-hazard mapping and assessment survey conducted in May 2006. De la Cruz said the area and its immediate vicinity has experienced landslide occurrences sometime in January and on Sept. 25 and 26, 2009, which resulted to surface and ground cracks at about 15 meters upslope that could have possibly led to mass movement. He underscored that the EDC must conduct mandatory assessment of areas and periodically monitor the potential geohazards being manifested in the grounds. The lack of monitoring was evidenced by the weak materials along the very steep slope surrounding the mountain where the steam pipeline is laid with high probability of being hit by an inevitable landslide. De la Cruz further noted that the vegetation cover is not enough to ensure a landslide environment. He thus called on the company to conduct a strict monitoring of ground degradation relative to landslide occurrence.

Mindanao’s power crisis traced to supply, demand woes Category: Regions   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:09   Written by Antonio P. Rimando / Correspondent  ZAMBOANGA CITY—Diminishing power supply and its increasing demand has been largely attributed here by Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla as the major cause for the continuous blackout in the entire Mindanao for the past many months. Petilla’s observation was supported by Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chairman Luwalhati Antonino. Both served as resource speakers in the Zamboanga Power Forum initiated last weekend by City Mayor Celso L. Lobregat at the Paseo del Mar here. The Department of Energy (DOE) chief said the current power crisis in Zamboanga City and other areas of the Southern Philippines was seen as early as six years ago. “Our capacity to supply power is going down but the demand for it is going up,” Petilla said. “What is needed now is a quick solution and the quickest is about four to eight weeks to go on diesel or bunker fuel which is very expensive to operate and maintain.” Petilla said there is no short-term solution to the ongoing power-supply problem which requires a long-term remedy even as he stressed that the energy department ”is now planning out energy as a whole.” He said that some of the solutions may not appear to be needed now, but they are actually needed in the future. “Otherwise, if we don’t consider them now, we will continue to suffer more serious power problems in the future.” Petilla said: “To set up a hydro plant would take more than five years with about 159 permits to comply with. A coalfired plant will also take time. All these possible solutions are long term.” Antonino said Mindanao’s current serious power shortage is brought about by a confluence of various reasons but basically due to the continuing economic growth in the area. “Magandang balita pero merong problem,” she said. “We are growing fast but we have no parallel increase in power supply.” Antonino echoed Petilla’s position that the power crisis needs long-term, not short- term, solutions even as she urged each Mindanaoan to help alleviate the worsening power issue in the country’s second largest-island region. “All of us must swallow the pill and the common objective now, especially for Zamboanga City, which is affected by a daily eight-hour brownout, is to increase the power supply,” she said. Antonino said, “It is very important that everyone should be aware that we are a part of the solution. Energy conservation is everybody’s responsibility.”

Lowly field grasses have use, value in Puerto Princesa Category: Regions   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:06   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter 

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan—Binuatan Creations, a souvenir shop in this bustling tourism city, is gaining popularity for its handloom-woven products made of fibers and grass endemic to the province. The shop, which started operations in 2001, is now part of the tour package offered to foreign and local tourists here, because of its unique venture. Situated in Barangay Santa Monica, the souvenir shop and handloom-weaving station is easy to find. Just ask any of the accredited tourist guides and they will gladly point you to the right direction. The Binuatan Creations souvenir shop offers a variety of functional products that showcases Filipino ingenuity and craftsmanship. Uniquely, most of its products are made of the lowly indigenous grasses, often ignored and taken for granted as they abundantly grow in the vast open fields in the area. Prices of these carefully and beautifully crafted native products range from as low as P20 to as high as P700 per item. The store has hundreds of different colorful products, each uniquely designed by a pool of weavers. The materials are harvested, processed, and turned from the lowly fiber and grass that they are into souvenir items visitors love to buy. Puerto Princesa, once known only for being host to the Iwahig Penal Colony, has become a popular tourist destination because of the Palawan Wildlife and Rescue Center, which houses a crocodile farm and nature park. It has become even more populare with the Puerto Princesa Underground River becoming one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Along with the tourism boom that slowly began in the 1990s, small and medium enterprises also started to flourish here.

Eva Valledor, the owner of Binuatan Creations, hires women-mothers, out-of-school youths and working students, giving them income and livelihood opportunity, said Jing Badahos, a storekeeper and one of the beneficiaries of this unique enterprise. The demand for native products as souvenir items continues to grow as more and more tourists frequent the city. The company pays P500 per meter of the fiber used to make assorted products. An expert weaver can easily earn twice as much with dedication and hard work. Employees of Binuatan Creations undergo training, and work under the close supervision of experts who have perfected handloom to make threads and fibers. Aside from the store, the Binuatan Creations also showcases Binuatan weavers at work at the nearby weaving station. With some luck, visitors are allowed to have a first-hand experience in handloom weaving. Currently, the company has 80 employees. There was a time when Binuatan Creations was a supplier of Calvin Klein, but the export of its products stopped because of raw-material shortage, Badahos said. Binuatan Creations produces table runners, placemats, handbags, wall finishing and window blinds, fashion bags, notepads and wallets, curtains, split curtains and grass-flower arrangements, notepads, slippers, key chains and coin purses. Aside from banana, palm tree locally known as buri and coconut ginit as fiber, the company harvests and makes use of field grasses like buntal, tikog, Ventiver, Ayena, danilnel, Florida and isay. Using similar technology in processing commonly used fiber materials, field grasses sourced from this city and the nearby towns of Roxas, Espanola, Dumaran and San Vicente are harvested, dyed with different colors, dried, handloom woven and turned into useful and valuable souvenir items that can be truly called authentic Palawan.

In Photo: Displayed in the Binuatan Creations souvenir shop are products ranging from handbags to runners, made from indigenous grass wildly growing in Puerto Princesa City. (Jonathan L. Mayuga)

Natural farming: A science for all Category: Agri-Commodities   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:22  Written by Marilou Guieb / Correspondent 

First of two parts

FOR those used to the way chickens are raised in the crowded coops and to the awful smell of chicken manure permeating poultry areas, a visit to the chicken house of farmer/engineer/scientist Eric Tinoyan in Camp 1 village, Tuba town, Benguet province, may offer a pleasant surprise. In this chicken house, one can walk on a floor covered with soft straw, among roaming free-range chickens, as the sweet, earthy smell of compost fills the air. This virtually odorless way of raising chickens (and livestock) is a strong feature of what is called the natural-farming method, devised by South Korean agriculturist and veterinarian Dr. Cho Han-kyu. “The natural-farming method is a science for the poor, a technology for humans and a philosophy for all,” Cho said. The method was inspired by the teachings of three Japanese: Yamagishi Miozo, who Cho described as a farmer full of love and respect for life who put the rights of chickens first before productivity; Shibada Genshi, author of The True Meaning of Enzymes who introduced the world of enzymes to Cho, who saw barrels of it in her small hut; and Oino Ueyas, who made the first cultivars in Japan and who taught Cho the nutritive cycle of plants. Cho devised the method, which can be adapted to any region and climate, in response to the introduction of chemical farming in South Korea in the 1960s, when the authoritarian government in power at the time forced farmers to follow it. For introducing natural farming and thus disobeying government policy, Cho was imprisoned and tortured. More than 40 years later, South Korean farmers are now using the natural-farming method after rice farmers in one county reported bigger and better yields at reduced cost after adopting it. More than 30 countries have adopted the method, which has become a buzzword of governments worldwide.

Maximizes nature THE natural-farming method maximizes the power of nature instead of relying on human intervention. For inputs, farmers use cheap and available material to make them. Cho aimed to make the method friendly to farmers in developing countries who he said once borrowed money to farm and now borrow more to pay off their initial debt. The method does not involve the use of chemical fertilizers because crops feed on them instead of albumen, which is the nutritive material stored within the seed that young plants use until they develops roots and leaves. What albumen is to the seed is mother’s milk to humans. In natural farming, the use of manure is not in accordance with the nutritive cycle of plants, which need different things at different stages: the vegetative stage, during which plants need nitrogen; the crossover stage—similar to the one when pregnant women experience morning sickness—during which plants begin to flower and need sour phosphoric compounds, similar to the way pregnant women crave sour fruits; and the reproductive-growth stage, during which plants need calcium from flowering to ripening and start storing carbohydrates. Natural farming also doesn’t involve tilling, and instead relies on earthworms and micro-organisms to keep the soil soft. Cho said earthworms can burrow as deep as 7 meters, while machines can plow as deep as 20 centimeters at best. The method also does not use pesticides, which not only kill insects but also affects the fruits, soil and water. Instead, it uses light, alcohol and others to control pests. It has been shown that pests decrease when a farm’s ecology is healthy. Natural-farming practitioners regard weeds as compost material and do not use herbicides. Instead, they use wild grass to keep weeds from sprouting, as well as to keep moisture in the soil and propagate microorganisms.

Promoting natural farming JOSEPHINE GAMBOA, one of the first natural-farming practitioners in the Philippines, met Cho in 1999 when he came to the country to talk about the method. Since then, Gamboa’s team and converts have promoted natural farming, giving lectures to farmers all over the country. One of these farmers was Tinoyan. The secret to Tinoyan’s odorless chicken house lies in the bedding. Seven centimeters of straw are laid out on the soil, then sprayed with lactic acid bacteria and indigenous micro-organisms (IMOs), which breaks down the chicken feces, virtually eliminating offensive odors. What makes this method of raising chickens attractive to farmers is that the straw flooring can stay for 10 to 20 years or be pulled out for use as fertilizers, leaving what remained to continue the cycle. Unlike conventional poultry raising, chicken houses employing natural farming do not use light to warm the chickens. The heat from the fermentation that occurs in the bedding keeps them warm. Galvanized roofing is also used to absorb heat into the coop. The heat then escapes through a roof window and the air is refreshed through a net walling.

Chicken feed is also made by the farmer. Gamboa gives newly hatched chicks shredded bamboo leaves and brown rice grains. Bamboo leaves strengthen the digestive system of the chicks and give them long intestines. Natural farming encourages farmers to use indigenous plants or easily available fibrous greens in their area. Tinoyan also makes his own feed by following natural farming-approved recipes that are modified depending on available materials. For broilers, he uses 50 kilos of mixed greens such as azolla, ipil-ipil, camote leaves and duck weed; 40 kilos of rice bran or kono; 4 liters of fish amino acids (FAA); a half kilo of salt; 1 kilo of lime; and a half liter of edible oil. These are mixed in a jar and left to ferment for three days. For layers employing the same proportions and procedure, he uses kangkong, azolla, duck weed, rice bran, FAA salt and 3 kilos of limestone. Tinoyan said it costs him P600 to make 50 kilos of the feed, while commercial feeds would cost P1,400. Beddings in piggeries follow the same principle used in chicken coops, according to Gamboa. Because her pigsty does not smell bad, she is able to stay and watch the pigs feed. She found that her pigs liked shredded bamboo leaves coated with molasses that were fermented overnight before their regular feed at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Other greens can also be used like kangkong or alugbati. “The animals taught me a lot on what they like,” Gamboa said.

Natural-farming formulas CHO’S formulas include IMOs, fermented plant juices, oriental herbal nutrients, lactic acid bacteria, fish amino acids, water-soluble calcium from eggshells and water-soluble phosphoric acid. The natural-farming primer gives a formula on making lactic acid, which shows how easily it can be made from natural and environment-friendly ingredients. First, fill a jar with 20 cm of rice wash. Cover it with paper and let it sit in a dark spot for a week. Then add this to raw milk at a 10:1 ratio. Between five and seven days the milk will have separated into solids and whey. Remove the floating substance and save the liquid; this is the lactic acid bacteria. It can be stored in a refrigerator or mixed with equal parts brown sugar and stored at room temperature. This lactic acid bacteria—which is the same as yogurt—is diluted 1,000 times. It can be combined with IMOs and sprayed on fields. It is also used in compost and livestock water, as well as to water plants. IMOs in the soil convert its nutrients into the food plants consume. These important bacterias increase carbon in the soil by depositing glomalin. This gives the soil its rich and soft texture, making tillage unnecesarry. IMOs can be made with 1 kilo of newly cooked rice placed in a jar or bamboo container, then left in a place where there is plenty of white mold. After three days the white mold also appears on top of the rice. Sugar or molasses is added and left to ferment for seven days, after which a mud-like juice—the IMO—is produced. Two tablespoons of this IMO mixed with 1 liter of water can be sprinkled on the soil or on plant cuttings to hasten composting, which takes place in two weeks at the earliest. To be concluded tomorrow

This feature is part of the International Women’s Media Foundation’s first environmental reporting fellowship program in the Philippines, launched in 2012.

In Photo: Dr. Cho Han-kyu talks to Filipino farmers about natural farming.

Thrift lenders to help PHL progress– CTB Category: Banking & Finance   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 20:20  Written by Paul Anthony A. Isla  THE Chamber of Thrift Banks (CTB) is focusing its strategies and plans on helping the country’s economy flourish, Jose Teodoro K. Limcaoco, president of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Family Savings Bank and head of the organization, said on Wednesday. Speaking at the CTB’s annual convention at the Dusit Thani hotel in Makati City, Limcaoco said they will continue to serve as an instrument for financial progress, especially at this time when they are experiencing optimism in the banking sector as the country enjoys progressive economic performance. According to him, the thrift-banking sector will continue to play an essential role in the country’s economic development through its mandate of savings mobilization, provision for loans for housing and the promotion of countryside development financing in rural areas. The CTB aims to maximize the current economic development to further contribute to the country’s radical growth, and is also optimistic as it foresees continuous increase in consumer spending and setting up micro, small and medium enterprises. Limcaoco said there is a need for thrift banks to upgrade their skills and technology to meet the challenge posed by bigger commercial banks. He added that the bigger banks will also be a challenge for their industry, saying that these lenders are trying to move into their turf. He also said the chamber is also trying to help member-institutions upgrade their skills and technology. Paul Anthony A. Isla

Fatca: The end of banking secrecy? Category: Banking & Finance   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 20:18  Written by Edzyl Josef G. Magante / Contributor  Second of four parts SO what does the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (Fatca) do? Fatca requires foreign financial institutions to report private information on every US account, such as the name and account balance, to the US tax authorities annually. If they fail to comply, a 30-percent withholding tax shall be imposed on all withholdable payments. For this purpose, the term “withholdable payment” covers, among other things, any payment of interest (including any original issue discount), dividends, rents, salaries, wages, premiums, annuities, compensations, remunerations, emoluments and other fixed or determinable annual or periodical gains, profits and income, if such payment is from sources within the US. This certainly raises a number of legal issues from the Philippines’s perspective. Banking secrecy FOR foreign financial institutions operating in the Philippines, opting to report the specified information on US accounts to avoid the withholding tax will not be easy. They will need to mull over a potential run-in with the law on the secrecy of bank deposits, which carries penal sanctions. Under Section 2 of Republic Act (RA) 1405, bank deposits are of an absolutely confidential nature, which may not be inquired or looked into, except upon written permission of the depositor, or in cases of impeachment, or upon the order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials, or in cases where the money deposited or invested is the subject of the litigation. In Republic v. Eugenio Jr., the Supreme Court held that any exception to the rule of absolute confidentiality of bank deposits must be specifically legislated. Thus, depositors in Philippine banks have a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to their deposits. Fatca may not constitute a specifically legislated exception to the rule of banking secrecy because it is not an act of the Philippine Congress. RA 10021, however, appears to suggest that the Philippine government may enter into a bilateral agreement with other countries for the purpose of exchanging information on taxpayer bank accounts. Section 3 authorizes the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to inquire into bank deposits held by financial institutions belonging to taxpayers who are the subject of a request for the supply of tax information from a foreign-tax authority, pursuant to an international convention or agreement on tax matters signed by the Philippine government. At first glance, it is easy to conclude that a bilateral agreement between Manila and Washington to implement Fatca will create a new exception to the rule of banking secrecy. Precedents, however, seem to point in the opposite direction. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that bank deposits are statutorily protected and fall within recognized zones of privacy. In BSB Group Inc. v. Go, the Supreme Court stated that the present legal order is obliged to conserve the absolutely confidential nature of bank deposits. It is thus uncertain whether a bilateral agreement to implement Fatca will create an exception to the rule of banking secrecy. It is questionable whether such an agreement, whose enforceability may only be anchored on RA 10021, barring a Senate ratification that transforms it into a treaty, can sanction a departure from the rule of banking secrecy, which may have its roots in the right to privacy.

In fact, if as further held in Republic v. Eugenio Jr., there is a right to privacy governing bank accounts in the Philippines, then even with a Senate ratification, there may still be constitutional imperatives that must be balanced with legitimate government objectives. To be continued on April 4 Edzyl Josef G. Magante is a tax associate director at Sycip Gorres Velayo (SGV) & Co., a member-firm of Ernst & Young, and a professor of law at the Ateneo de Manila Law School. The views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of SGV or Ateneo.

20 MT of yellow onions exported to Japan Category: Agri-Commodities   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:25  Written by Marvyn N. Benaning / Correspondent 

THE Philippines finally ventured in the lucrative yellow granex onion market in Japan after shipping out 20 metric tons (MT) of the crop on March 16, it was learned on Wednesday. Officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Onion Growers Cooperative Marketing Association Inc. (Nogrocoma) witnessed the loading of the onions—sourced from Nueva Ecija province’s Bongabon town, considered the country’s onion capital—into a 20-foot container van, which was loaded onto an Osaka-bound ship at the Manila Harbor Center. The onions are expected to arrive in Japan on Wednesday. According to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, the shipment “means that Filipino farmers can produce quality farm products like onions for export to countries like Japan.” “If the initial shipment conforms to the quality standards [of] and accepted by the Japanese market, it would [further boost] our onion industry and [provide] our farmers [additional] income, not only in Bongabon, but also in other oniongrowing areas in the country,” Alcala said. The shipment was a result of a research funded by the DA’s High-Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) through the Bureau of Agricultural Research, called “Enhancing the Productivity of Yellow Onion Toward Commercialization for the Export Market.” Under the project, farmers in Bongabon were trained to produce cost-efficient, export-quality onions using quality seeds and modern production technologies. Agriculture Assistant Secretary Salvador S. Salacup, who represented Alcala at the send-off, said it has been the vision of the DA to train and empower farmers so they can export not only onions, but also other vegetables and agricultural commodities. For her part, Nogrocoma Chief Executive Officer Dulce Gozon said if the trial shipment to Japan is successful, the country may start exporting yellow onions again after 13 years. According to her, the country’s onion industry suffered a slump in the 1990s due to the influx of cheap, smuggled onions that eased out local onions in the domestic market.

Gozon said with the tentative revival of yellow-onion exports, more farmers in Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Occidental Mindoro and other provinces would be encouraged to plant yellow granes and earn more income. Last year the country produced 124,830 MT of onions worth P3.9 billion, based on current prices. Red onions comprise approximately 55 percent of the volume; shallots, approximately 30 percent; and yellow onions, approximately 15 percent. Leah Cruz, chairman of the National Onion Action Team (Noat), said Filipino farmers should produce the right quality and size of onions to penetrate and create a niche, not only in the Japanese market but also in other possible markets. HVCDP Director Jennifer E. Remoquillo said the DA will continue to provide support to the onion industry and make it globally competitive, in partnership with Nogrocoma, other onion farmers’ groups, and other concerned agencies of the agriculture department. These include providing farmers with quality planting materials and other farm inputs and equipment, onion hanger storage facilities, marketing assistance, conduct of appropriate and location-specific researches, and establishment techno-demonstration farms to showcase different onion varieties, among other interventions.

In Photo: (From left) Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (Amas) Director Leandro Gazmin, National Agricultural and Fishery Council (NAFC) Deputy Director Florabelle Uy-Yap, NAFC Director Ariel Cayanan, National Onion Growers Cooperative Marketing Association Inc. (Nogrocoma) Secreary-Treasurer Fe Amor Ilagan, Agriculture Assistant Secretary Salvador S. Salacup, Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Director Clarito Barron, Nogrocoma Chief Executive Office Dulce Gozon, Japanese expert Dr. Teruko Haga, National Onion Action Team (Noat) Chairman Leah Cruz and Noat member Lamberto Punzalan pose with 20 metric tons of yellow granex onions bound for Japan on March 16. (DA Photo)

Sugar farmers hope for higher income under agri program Category: Agri-Commodities   Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 19:23  Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga  BALAYAN, Batangas—Sugar-cane farmers in Batangas province who are enrolled in the Sugar Block Farming program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) are expressing hopes that lower production costs—and possibly higher yields—will increase their income. Members of the Lucban Multipurpose Cooperative, one of the program’s four beneficiaries in Batangas, are now collating reports to determine if the program helped increase their output. The program was introduced in Batangas to introduce better sugar-cane practices to farmers and boost the productivity of selected sugar-cane block farms. The DA and DAR aim to establish 45 sugar block farms, including Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province, which is being distributed to the 6,212 qualified farmer-beneficiaries identified by the agrarian-reform department. The program’s long-term objective is to enhance the skills of agrarian-reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and their organizations in agricultural entrepreneurship. When the program was introduced, DA and DAR officials promised to reduce production costs from P1,100 to P900 per 50-kilogram bag of raw sugar, increase farm productivity from 60 tons to 75 tons of sugar cane per hectare and establish at least one agribusiness activity per sugar block farm, such as producing organic fertilizers, raising poultry or fattening cows. The cooperative was provided with a 10-wheeler truck and a 90-horsepower heavy-duty tractor with farm implements, which substantially reduced production cost and added income to the members. “As far as the cost of production is concerned, [it] was substantially reduced,” said Elvin Mirasol, agrarian reform officer in Batangas’s Balayan town. According to him, the town’s sugar-cane harvest that started in December is almost 90-percent complete. “We [are] now conducting individual computation of the crop production for 2012-2013,” Mirasol said. “Lower production [cost], by itself, will translate to higher income.” “We are just hoping that the yield would also increase from an average of 60 tons [of sugar cane] to 70 tons per hectare or more,” he added. The DAR official is confident that there will be a minimum increase of 10 tons per hectare.

Outreach program

MEANWHILE, an outreach program for the sugar industry was given in the area in partnership with the Sugar Regulatory Authority. In the program, farmers were trained in the cultural management of sugar farming. According to Leonor Magno, the cooperative’s manager, members are now spending wisely on fertilizers after they were trained. Magno, whose father is an agrarian-reform beneficiary, said they used to buy 20 bags of ammonium sulfate, which they use to fertilize their half-a-hectare sugar-cane farm. This was reduced to 15 bags this year, saving them P3,750. Jonathan L. Mayuga

LPA to bring rain in Mindanao–Pagasa By Frances Mangosing 9:37 am | Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Project NOAH MTSAT image as of 8:32 AM, March 21, 2013. Screegrab from

MANILA, Philippines — The low pressure area in Mindanao will bring moderate to heavy rains in the area, the state weather bureau said Thursday. Although there is little chance of intensifying into a cyclone, the LPA will affect the regions of Eastern and Central Visayas, Caraga and Davao, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said. These areas will experience cloudy skies with moderate to occasionally heavy rainshowers and thunderstorms which may trigger flashfloods and landslides, it said. The Bicol Region, the rest of Visayas and of Mindanao will be cloudy with light to moderate rainshowers or thunderstorms. As of 4 a.m., the LPA was spotted 475 kilometers east of Hinatuan City. Meanwhile, Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will have generally good weather except for isolated thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon, Pagasa said. Metro Manila also experienced its hottest temperature for the year at 34.6 degrees Celsius at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Moderate to strong winds blowing from the east to northeast will prevail over the eastern section of visayas and of Mindanao and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the east to northeast with slight to moderate seas, Pagasa said.

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Waterway squatters to be relocated on site By Marlon Ramos Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:47 am | Thursday, March 21st, 2013 President Aquino has ordered the construction of on-site or near-site resettlement areas for informal settlers living along waterways in Metro Manila. In a statement on Wednesday, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the government would implement the relocation policy of the President, who also approved the release of P10 billion for the effort to provide alternative homes for families removed from so-called “danger zones” in the metropolis. “President Aquino himself gave instructions that all relocation strategies of the government agencies should, as a top priority, prevent the displacement of families from their source of livelihood and schools,” Roxas said. “The President sees this near-site or on-site relocation as a solution,” he added. The interior secretary said the government had identified several slum areas located along the tributaries of Manila Bay as danger zones. “People living there are most prone to disasters brought about by sudden silt and deposit flows that occur mostly during the rainy season,” Roxas said. Citing 2011 data from the Metro Manila Development Authority, Roxas said a total of 104,219 families were located in high-risk areas in Metro Manila. Of these, about 19,440 families were identified to be living along eight waterways “that are deemed very hazardous,” he said. “The President wants us to focus on these families. He wants ‘zero casualties’ during the rainy season,” Roxas said. He said the government had already started the construction of a prototype housing project for about 120 families living along the Estero de San Miguel in Manila.

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Group that got solon’s pork ‘bogus’ Foundation tagged beneficiary of Padilla PDF linked to other scams By Melvin Gascon Inquirer Northern Luzon 11:28 pm | Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—The foundation that received pork barrel funds from Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla could no longer be located, but it left a trace of alleged anomalies in the disbursement of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers. Verification made by the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed that Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (Afpi), which is being linked to the anomalous release of Padilla’s PDAF from 2007 to 2009, showed that it had been involved in the P724-million fertilizer fund scam in 2004. “There appears to be a clear pattern by which bogus foundations were used as supposed channels of the PDAF, but did not actually reach their intended beneficiaries,” said a Commission on Audit (COA) source. The COA earlier identified Afpi as conduit of Padilla’s PDAF that supposedly went to about 2,500 residents of at least five towns in Nueva Vizcaya for training programs and materials. The projects were supposedly implemented by the Technology Resource Center (TRC) of the Department of Science and Technology, through training programs, livelihood kits and information materials to supposed beneficiaries. Upon validation by the COA, however, town officials said no such projects were implemented in their areas and that the names listed as beneficiaries were not their constituents. Padilla denied his involvement in the selection of Afpi. “It was the TRC [which] got the funds and implemented the project. Hence, I do not really know [Afpi],” he said, adding that his signature was forged in the documents used for the release of the funds. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website showed that Afpi was first registered as a nonstock corporation in March 1999. However, a copy of its articles of incorporation showed that it was registered on June 2, 2008. A check at its listed office address on 763 J. Planas Street in Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila, last week showed that it was a three-story house owned by the family of Alfredo Ronquillo, Afpi president and chief executive officer. The office telephone number on record is inactive.

Ronquillo’s wife, Juliet, told Inquirer that her husband died in 2007 and their house was never used for a foundation.

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Ifugao ‘muyong’ seen answer to Philippine water shortage By Maricar Cinco 11:15 pm | Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

THE ENGINEERING and environmental science devised by ancient Ifugaos to carve out the rice terraces is evidenced by their sustainability. Some of the terraces were eroded last year by a storm, but Ifugao folk and volunteers have rebuilt them. RICHARD BALONGLONG/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON A solution to the looming water shortage appears to have already been available several decades ago, right before our eyes. International researchers have proposed to replicate the muyong, a communal forest or woodlot in the highlands of Ifugao, as a strategy for sustainable water conservation. A watershed as big as five hectares, the muyong serves as the hydrological system that irrigates the Ifugao rice terraces and supplies potable water to lowland communities. Evolutionary anthropologist Scott Platt Salcedo and Korean researcher Jae Woo Jang presented a study on adopting the muyong system in other parts of the Philippines during the yearly convention of the National Association of Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Clubs in the Philippines. Not mainstream The conference on “Water Education: Developing Solutions for Sustainable Future” was held in Calamba City in Laguna on Jan. 26-29. Some 200 students, teachers and college deans, including delegates from Brunei, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, attended.

“The muyong system has been written about a lot, with studies done as far back as the 1980s, within the circles of anthropological research. The problem (however) is that these findings were not made mainstream,” Salcedo said. In a 10-page paper written after an ethnographic research in the Ifugao last year, Salcedo and Jang looked at the viability of adopting the system in other upland areas to sustain the supply of purified water, for instance, in Metro Manila. Salcedo and Jang are also the founders of “The Mind Movers,” a Unesco project aimed at promoting applied science among students. Reduce runoffs, erosion The muyong system, recognized worldwide as an ideal forest management strategy, basically works this way: Water from the rainforest cascades down the terrace ponds, which like staircases are carved with strong ridges that act as a “built-in water purifying or filter system” and help reduce runoffs and erosion. From the terrace ponds, a water conveyance network made from indigenous materials brings water downstream to the fields. The fields are layered with pebbles and stones, matching the water volume and velocity, to further purify the water for household consumption. Salcedo said the muyong could be tested in other mountain ridges, for instance, in the Mt. Makiling rainforest, but the process could be more intricate given other factors, such as the endemic flora and fauna of the Cordilleran forests. Advanced Another consideration, he said, is the sociopolitical structure in Ifugao communities, such as their deep veneration for nature. “I am not a Filipino, but your ancestors are far more advanced than Western technology,” Jang said. Salcedo and Jang said Philippine policymakers should come up with legislation that would ensure watershed management while owners of vast upland properties could donate lands for communal use, as how it was done in Ifugao. Although an indigenous irrigation system, the muyong is considered as a technological “innovation” since it is proven to be environmentally efficient, sustainable and time-tested, they added.

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‘WE DO THIS SO WELL’ Jimenez: Tourism industry to create 20% of all jobs By Aileen G. Yap Cebu Daily News 7:25 am | Thursday, March 21st, 2013 Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. yesterday challenged the private sector to invest in tourism enterprises, saying the benefits are not just profit but a ripple effect of creating jobs. “We do this so well,” he said, citing the hospitality of Filipinos and natural attractions in 7,100 islands, that make it “more fun in the Philippines.” He said tourism will eventually account for “20 percent of all employment” as the industry was identified by the Aquino government as one of three “sustainable growth engines” to be given priority support, aside from business process outsourcing, and agriculture. Jimenez was one of several panelists in the forum “Are we ready for inclusive growth?”, during the 25th anniversary and annual membership meeting of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) in the Visayas held in Marco Polo Plaza. He said President Aquino and he agreed from the start that “successful tourism is not about counting the number of Korean tourists who come out of an airplane. It is about counting the number of jobs and business opportunities we are able to create as a result of those arrivals.” Another panelist, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras said that “tourism is ideal in most places which helps generate more jobs for those geographically and demographically at the bottom of the economic pyramid.” A P12 billion budget is being recommended by the Aquino administration for tourism infrastructure alone, he said. Amarela’s Story Amarela Resort in Panglao, Bohol province was cited as an example of how tourism makes an impact on the low income segment or the bottom of the pyramid. Resort president Lucas Nunag, a panelist, described how their 25-room resort in a 1.5 hectare property started with less than 20 people in 2006.

“Now we have 54 employees who are very diverse in terms of educational attainment. We have people who have not even finished high school working with us, we have graduates of courses like nursing and we also hire people in the community for on-call jobs,” said Nunag. “I’m sure ours is not an isolated case,” he said. Jimenez, meanwhile, said the “opportunities are tremendous” for tourism as the country faces a shortage of 37,000 hotel rooms by 2016. “I talked to Singaporean investor once and asked him why are you investing in the Philippines and he told me that the question is almost silly. He said everybody knows that 47 percent of the hospitality industry in Singapore is run by Filipinos ‘I’m just going back to the source’ he told me,” said Jimenez. He said domestic tourism, which is growing fast, is the “bedrock” of all successful touristic countries. By 2016, the average expenditure of a traveler in the Philippines would be over P6,500 a day or potential revenue of 2 trillion pesos for the country. INVITATION The tourism secretary said one don’t invest in a Filipino because he is poor but because he is good at what he does. The “More Fun in the Philippines” campaign has ignited global attention, he said, propelled by Filipinos themselves who have come up with 75,000 versions of the popular slogan. “My message to the private sector is this: Your people have actually done their job and proven themselves over and over again in every country of the world that the Philippines is worth a visit. And now we are facing a 37,000-room shortage by 2016.” He said that in February, tourism traffic breached the 400,000 mark with 418,000 arrivals which is 15 percent growth from the same period last year. With this trend, the DOT increased its target for domestic travelers to 56.1 million by 2016 from an original goal of 35.5 million. The Philippines already logged 40 million domestic travels last year according to Jimenez. He attributed the activities of low cost carriers for this surge in domestic activity as 98 percent of the 40 million tourists arrive by plane. “By 2016 we will need 37,000 more rooms and raise tourism revenues to P6,500 per day. We are projecting at least P2 trillion in revenues from tourism now and we expect that to grow further.” In 2011, travel and tourism contributed 3,547,500 employment in the country which includes jobs generated from investment and in the supply chain or 9.6 percent of total employment.

Jimenez said they expect employment from tourism to reach 20 percent of total employment in the country in the near future. SEAMLESS TRAVEL “The hardest part is to release that demand and that is why we are working to create more connectivity and seamless travel to all the 7,100 islands in the country through more investments in infrastructure,” said Jimenez. This year, Jimenez said that the government has set aside a P12 billion budget for tourism infrastructure projects that they have identified since 2011. “A huge part of that will be invested here in the Visayas which we based on the projects that we together with the private sector have identified. What we are doing now is also identifying projects that will be implemented next year,” said Jimenez. Aside from tourism, agriculture and rural investments are also identified by the government as sustainable growth engines according to Secretary Almendras. “The main agenda of government is generating more jobs at the bottom of the geographic and demographic pyramid that is why we are urging private sectors to do business in these areas. All you have to do is a change of business model and be willing to learn about the business at the base of the pyramid,” said Almendras. Two ways to create jobs is through public investments in infrastructure and private investments especially in the rural areas. According to Almendras, because of the governments Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) program, at least P40 billion is circulating in rural areas because majority of the 3.8 million Filipinos qualified for the CCT are in rural areas. “We are inviting you to join us in the geographic base of our economy. There are many areas for investment in there (rural areas) and we assure you that the government will continue to invest in projects at the base like farm-to-market road networks for agriculture that will help your investments grow,” said Almendras.

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How Cebu entrepreneur set up coffee shop business By Christine Emily L. Pantaleon Cebu Daily News 7:17 am | Thursday, March 21st, 2013 HIS love for travel and coffee prompted a Cebu entrepreneur to set up his own coffee shop outlet in 1996. Steve Benitez has since grown Bo’s Coffee Club into a coffee shop chain with at least 50 coffee shops across the country today. In putting up a business, he said the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs would be the people to man the business. “Looking for the best and right talents is one of the hardest parts in the business,” said Benitez, who shared his experiences to businessmen at a breakout session in last week’s 27th Confederation of Asia – Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI) at Radisson Blu Hotel. If you have 20 to 50 stores, then looking for the best people to come up with a system for the business would be the hardest part, he said. For him, system is really important especially because it is the engine of growth for his business. “One of the lessons I’ve learned was to really put the system back before expanding. That’s where growth comes from. If the system is great, growth is really great,” he said. He toyed with the idea of putting up a coffee shop in the early 1990s when he was still studying law with coffee as his ultimate friend to wake him up studying until 3 a.m. STUDY So everytime he traveled starting in 1994, he would always look for coffee shops to experience and study the coffee shop culture in the US and Europe. Two years later, he started Bo’s coffee at Ayala Center with a small area of six square meters and six tables and chairs. The business did not grow big immediately. For the first three months, he said the business had a negative feedback since coffee at that time was something one can get at home for free. “Actually for the first three months, I was just giving coffee away to really introduce it in the market because when I introduced the specialty coffee in Cebu, people were not receptive to it,” he said.

Benitez’s advice Benitez often told those start-up entrepreneurs to pursue their passion because of his passion for coffee he had come up with Bo’s coffee. “If Bo’s coffee was purely a business to me, within six months, I would have closed shop. We were running negative for the first three months, and in the fifth month, it was like a break even. If it was purely a business, I would have shut it down,” he said. “But if it’s your passion, you will not give up,” he added. After the eighth month, the business went positive and he put up another coffee cart at SM Cebu. He said his best practice in running the business was in putting back his profit to the business. He cited two things that made his coffee shop different then. He used Philippine coffee, which can be found in the country and the shop employed and trained Filipino talents in terms of being baristas. “We really invest a lot in training our baristas to be of world class level,” he said. Today he said he’s so happy and proud to see a lot of Filipino baristas at coffee shops in Singapore, especially that some of them came from his coffee shop. Bo said aside from giving work for Filipinos, the business also benefited Philippine coffee farmers. “Hiring the best people is the key to any strategy. Finding the right people, I’m sure I see Bo’s grow to 100 stores in the next five years,” he said.

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Greening project to benefit SMEs in Cebu, Bohol By Aileen Garcia-Yap 10:09 am | Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 Small and medium enterprises in Bohol and Cebu will benefit from another three year joint “greening” project of the the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of the Federal Government of Germany, through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Department of Trade and industry Regional Operations and Development Group (DTIRODG). The project which is called GIZ Promotion for Green Economic Development (ProGED) was officially launched last week with a forum highlighting good examples of environment-friendly practices in major tourism establishments in the two regions. The project aims to focus more on the SMEs engaged in tourism-related businesses in Cebu and Bohol. Project manager Volker Steigerwald said they believed that many stakeholders were already doing some “green” processes in their establishments and all they had to do would be to make more people aware that it could be done in their businesses as well. green processes Tourism establishments like Be Resort in Mactan, Marco Polo Plaza Hotel in Cebu City and Amarela Resort in Panglao, Bohol shared the “green” processes that they adopted in their operations which included the use of solar energy in Amarela Resort, use of natural lighting and ventilation in Be Resort, and the energy conservation program implemented by Marco Polo Plaza Hotel. According to Marco Polo Plaza Hotel executive housekeeper Cielo Reyes, the hotel was able to save at least 8,859.6 kilowatt hour per month through their LED lightings, 24,850 kilowatt hour per month from their cooling load saving initiatives and 4,620 kilowatt hour per month saved from their solar-power water heater system. Steigerwald said that for the three year project, they had three target areas including advocacy and awareness creation, business matching for the enterprises to take examples from businesses similar to them and formulating a green framework or policies that would help support the SMEs and encourage them to adopt “green” practices. He added that the GIZ ProGED project looks at green economic development (GED) as a driver for competitiveness, innovation, new markets and more jobs for the country which would impact and result to inclusive growth.

“The project will run for three years, from January 2013 to December 2015 and will be piloted in the tourism value chain of Bohol and Cebu. We aim to up scale and move outside the pilot areas on the second year,” said Steigerwald. According to DTI regional director Asteria Caberte, the project will build on the gains and the useful experiences that they had in the SMEDSEP program. LGUS GIZ ProGED regional coordinator Mariam Bacalso, said that they would be seeking to work with each of the local government units (LGUs) in the area where SMEs would be operating for the successful implementation of the project. “LGUs involved will need to be tapped so that they will know how to help the enterprises especially in the area of providing compatible policies,” said Bacalso.

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Outlook turns rosier; Charter change favored Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 23:00  Executives of big business entities under Makati Business Club (MBC) are more optimistic about sustained economic growth that would impact their sales and profitability. Indicating this in a recent survey, the vast majority of the senior executives also said they now favor amending the Constitution particularly its economic provisions. MBC chairman Ramon del Rosario, commenting on the survey results, noted a “significant shift” in the business leaders’ attitudes on charter change over the last 11 years. The MBC Economic Outlook Survey for the first semester showed 66 percent of senior business executives polled expected the GDP growth to be faster in 2013 than the 6.6 percent posted in 2012. This optimistic outlook was viewed by 13.2 percent of the respondents to translate to higher revenues, while 12.7 percent said profits would also grow. Based on this rosy outlook, most MBC members indicated plans to make additional investments of about P807.2 million. The survey, done between February 5 and March 6, showed an increased proportion of members in favor of constitutional change than in 2003 and in 2006. On the proposed removal of foreign ownership restriction under the 1987 Constitution to attract more foreign investments, close to 91 percent of respondents said they favored the amendments. Around three-quarters of the survey respondents are Filipinos. More than 59 percent of those who were for amending the Constitution’s economic provisions said it should be initiated within the next 12 months, while over 31 percent said this should be done after the next 12 months. Only 6 percent did not favor charter change at all, the survey results showed. In the January 2006 MBC survey, only 52 percent were in favor of amending the Constitution and 31 percent were not in favor of changing it. In the July 2003 survey, half of the respondents were in favor and nearly 40 percent were against it and over 10 percent were undecided. The MBC said in these two earlier surveys, respondents were asked whether they were in favor of charter change in general at the time. This year’s survey was more specific in asking the question of whether or not they are in favor of amending the Constitution’s economic provisions. The positive sentiment that the GDP growth would be faster is reflected in the “very positive” view for investments, where 83 percent of the respondents projected 2013 investments to surpass last year’s levels—the highest measured rate since 1995.

Majority of the surveyed executives likewise expected higher exports and imports, and a continued appreciation of the peso against the dollar. Meanwhile, inflation and the interest rate were projected to remain at 2012 levels. In the corporate outlook, the survey found that a great majority of executives expected their firms to post higher gross revenues and net income this year, while making increased investments and hiring more employees. About 85.9 percent of the respondents said they expected gross revenues to be higher than in 2012, another 1.6 percent lower than in 2012, and 7.8 percent projected no change. Three-fourths of the respondents expected their net income to be higher than in 2012 and only 3.1 percent said their income would be lower. Around 14.1 percent said there would be no change. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said they would make additional investments and about half are going to hire more workers and 43.8 percent would hold off their workforce. A very small proportion of 1.6 percent would layoff workers. In other economic indicators, 46.9 percent said inflation would be the same in 2013 from 2012; 56.2 percent aid the treasury bill rate would be the same as in 2012 while 62.5 percent saw the peso-dollar rate appreciating. Some 82.8 percent of the respondents expected approved investments to be higher than in 2012 which as of third quarter last year amounted to P397 billion. Some 68.8 percent of the respondents also predicted higher exports from $52 billion a year ago and 81 percent saw imports to be higher this year than last year’s $61.7 billion. Regarding issues, 95 percent of business executives surveyed were aware of the ASEAN Economic Community’s establishment in 2015; however, 64 percent believed that the Philippines was not prepared for this regional integration. This year’s Economic Outlook Survey covered 16.8 percent of MBC’s member companies as respondents.

Study sees faster economic growth this quarter Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 23:00  The Philippine economy is expected to grow by around 7 percent in the first quarter of 2013, faster than the 6.3 percent growth during the same period last year, the Capital Markets Research newsletter said in its latest issue. The newsletter, produced by First Metro Investment Corp. and the University of Asia & the Pacific, said that it the stronger annual expansion expected in the first three months of this year is supported by a number of factors— manageable inflation, strong government and private election spending, booming construction, and a modest rebound of exports. There are still some downside risks, the report added. Expected to support exports are government efforts to strengthen trade relations with such markets as Australia, Italy, and the United Kingdom, said the newsletter. It also said that any continuous depreciation of the Japanese yen can provide room for expansion of its exports, mainly final good electronic products, which can in turn boost demand for Philippine raw electronic products. “Moreover, the robust economies of Singapore, Thailand, and other ASEAN countries can also contribute to the country’s export expansion,” the report said. A potential downside is the doubtful recovery in the United States and European Union, according to the report. In addition, the resilient peso continues to “freeze export earnings,” it added. On inflation, the report said it may hit 3.3 percent in March but may go lower in the second quarter of the year to below 3 percent. “This is because crude oil prices are likely to slip sharply after the winter season while the second crop harvest of rice looks quite promising to us,” it added, noting that ample food supply was also projected by the Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, the report said that it expects the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to further reduce the interest rate on special deposit accounts (SDA).

Public hearing set to probe export privileges Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 23:00  The United States Trade Representative (USTR) believes Philippines should continue to be under close US scrutiny while considering it for entitlement to duty-free export privileges due to little progress in on protecting labor rights. The opinion came after the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) reiterated its five-year old petition for the US to remove the Philippines from the list of countries entitled to duty-free privileges under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). ILRF has informed the USTR of its intention to appear at the public hearing on March 28 in the ongoing consultations on country petitions for GSP entitlement. Brian Campbell, ILRF director of policy and legal programs, said in a summary of the group’s planned message to the public hearing: “We urge USTR to continue the review (of) this petition over the next year.” ILRF said it hopes the Aquino government will take this opportunity to resolve outstanding issues raised on labor rights. In the summary, which was posted on the USTR website, ILRF said while the Philippines has made “some progress,” it said “violence still prevails” against unions and child labor. “Five years ago, when the ILRF filed a petition with the USTR to remove Philippines from the list of designated eligible countries under GSP, trade union and peasant leaders in the Philippines were being killed at an alarming rate. The substantial leverage created by the acceptance of the petition, the high-level ILO mission, and the continued engagement of the US government has pushed the Government of the Philippines to make some progress,” ILRF said. While killings of trade unionists have declined since 2009, it said, threats and violence still continue to take place with impunity. ILRF quoted the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) as saying that the government’s National Tripartite Industrial Peace Council (NTIPC) still lacks adequate funding and has not made nearly enough progress investigating cases of trade union killings, harassments, and torture. The group also said child labor also remains a problem, quoting a a new study by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) pointing to its prevalence on oil palm plantations in Mindanao’s Caraga region. In a separate submission to William Jackson, deputy assistant USTR for GSP and chair of the GSP subcommittee of the TPSC, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz appealed for consideration of the Aquino government’s achievements in upholding labor rights. Baldoz’s letter indicating intention to also testify at the hearing said: “The government of the Philippines ardently hopes for the termination of the review before the Office of the US Trade Representative.”

Baldoz said progress has been achieved in less than three years of the Aquino administration “and with manifest seriousness to see through the institutionalization of the reforms to embed respect for human rights and… internationally recognized worker’s rights.” In a prehearing brief also posted on the USTR website, Baldoz said the government hopes that in the review of the country’s status as a beneficiary country under the GSP, due consideration will be given to “the commitment of the Aquino administration to uphold human rights, to end impunity and to afford to its workers internationally recognized worker’s rights.” She cited progress in varying degrees in the reforms initiated to comply with the country’s “four areas of commitment” pursuant to the ILO High Level Mission’s “four areas for future action on ILO Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize) “The progress has so far been encouraging but the task of ensuring substantial progress is a continuing process, thus the government of the Philippines seeks to put forward a constructive partnership to sustain the initiatives as it embarks to achieve inclusive growth through decent and productive work and enterprise competitiveness,” Baldoz said. The four areas for future action are: a three- to four-year technical cooperation program on training and capacity building to strengthen labor market governance; rapid response such as setting up of a high level tripartite interagency monitoring body for alleged trade union rights violations; pushing for legislative measures to amend certain Labor Code provisions and resolving long standing committee on freedom of association cases through innovative approaches. Some $1 billion worth of Philippine exports currently enjoy duty-free privileges under the US GSP. The products include sugar, bananas, parts of air conditioning machines, wooden tableware and kitchenware, silver articles of jewelry, some types of women’s or girls’ dresses, parts of machinery, and other food products such as dried mangoes, guavas, and mangosteen. As of 2010, the latest data available, the Philippines was the seventh largest beneficiary of the system. The US GSP expired on Dec. 31, 2010 and was renewed in October 2011. The GSP is a 36-year-old trade preference program under which the US grants duty-free treatment to many imports from developing countries. Under the GSP program, up to 5,000 types of products from 128 beneficiary developing countries, including 43 leastdeveloped countries, are eligible for duty-free importation into the US. In 2011, the total value of imports that entered the US duty-free under GSP was $18.5 billion.

Philex waste spill causes loss of work, water supply Published on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 23:00   Written by JP LOPEZ  Outlying communities in the Cordilleras say they continue to suffer the loss of livelihood because of dwindling water supply for agriculture and households, as well as soil erosion—all because of mine tailing spills from operations of Philex Mining Corp. This declaration surface during an inquiry yesterday by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment on the effects of Philex Mining waste spills. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has imposed a P1.05 billion fine on Philex for the mine spill. The fine represents the 13.5 million cubic meters (or 206 million tons) in mine tailings that damaged the ecology, DENR secretary Ramon Paje said. Philex, for its part, said it paid the P1 billion fine last February 18. Philex officials told the Senate that the twin moves by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) to allow the temporary operations of the company’s Padcal mine in Benguet underscored the Aquino administration’s “vote of confidence in Philex as a responsible miner.” Lawyer Michael Toledo, Philex senior vice president for corporate affairs, said during the hearing that both the MGB and PAB of the DENR have already given their separate go-signals for the company to resume temporary operations for four months, so it can complete a P2-billion “beaching” process meant to fortify the repaired Tailings Pond No. 3 (TP3). This beaching process, which was recommended by the company’s foreign engineering experts, is intended “to ensure the safety of both the workers and residents of the host-communities and protect the environment—in time for the rainy season this June or July,” Toledo said. Toledo said charges against the company were “pure fiction because there was neither toxic spill nor human casualty in the Benguet accident, unlike the March 1 landslide in the geothermal complex of the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) in Leyte, where 14 workers were killed.” Toledo also cited the pipeline leak of the First Pacific Industrial Corp. (FPIC) in Bangkal, Makati City, three years ago that he said has become “an environmental nightmare” for residents of West Tower Condominium up to this day.

New money signals shift in gov’t TV By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on Mar. 21, 2013 at 12:01am | 433 views President Aquino has signed into law a measure to revitalize the operations of government television station PTV-4, giving it a P5 billion capital infusion to enable it to collect commercial revenues. “This new law addresses the two main problems of PTV-4: the “financial hemorrhage” marked by the depletion of the station’s capital and the lack of a stable source of income,” Presidential Communications Operations Office head Secretary Herminio Coloma said. The bill was previously included by the President in the priority list of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council. Coloma said out of the P5 billion capital infusion, P3 billion would be sourced from the General Appropriations Act over the next three years. The remainder will be sourced from revenues generated from advertising and airtime sales. “Now there will be a stable source of sustenance for the network,” Coloma said. Coloma said that the new law will also introduce reforms such as the nomination of an advisory council “to advise the network on relevant programming that will bolster the character of PTV as a public service broadcasting network.” He said there will also be a shift in focus toward a “new global best practice of public service broadcasting which means that government television becomes an active partner or an active instrument for promoting the public welfare.” “We hope to broaden the participation of the citizens in having a network that will mirror their aspirations. We want to invite the various sectors to give concrete suggestions on programs that will be beneficial to the community and to society. That is the rationale for the formation of an advisory council,” Coloma said. Coloma said PTV-4 will now allow blocktime programming “provided that it is focused on education, history, propagation of Philippine culture and quality entertainment.” “We do not intend to produce entertainment shows like the telenovela of the type that have been previously produced. Perhaps we can have a telenovela featuring the heroism of our Medal of Valor or Gold Cross awardees, or of the Dangal ng Bayan awardees of the civil service, or outstanding public school teachers, outstanding policemen, soldiers,” Coloma said.‐money‐signals‐shift‐in‐govt‐tv/

LRT schedule for Holy Week By Manila Standard Today | Posted on Mar. 21, 2013 at 12:00am | 102 views

The Light Rail Transit Authority will suspend operation from March 27 to March 31 for annual maintenance chores. The last trip for both Lines 1 and 2 on Holy Wednesday will be at 8pm. Trips will resume on April 1, 2013 at 5 a.m. Engr. Emerson L. Benitez, Officer-in-Charge, said work will cover replacement of rails and catenary wires as well as cleaning and check-up of LRT facilities, rolling stocks and systems. Line 1 runs from Baclaran station in Pasay City to Roosevelt station in Quezon City while Line 2 stretches from Recto in Manila to Santolan in Pasig City.‐schedule‐for‐holy‐week/

LTFRB chairman resigns March 31 By Rio N. Araja | Posted on Mar. 21, 2013 at 12:00am | 268 views Chairman Jaime Jacob, of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, has announced his resignation on Wednesday. He said his resignation will be effective March 31 according to his filing before the office of Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya. Jacob declined to give any reason for his decision to give up his post even as the board had its hands full in tackling multifarious issues particularly in the areas of out-of-line violators, phase-out of old taxi units along with professionalizing the ranks of the agency. Abay has yet to announce if the resignation is accepted and a replacement will be named.‐chairman‐resigns‐march‐31/  


SL Agritech eyes listing By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Posted on Mar. 21, 2013 at 12:00am | 96 views Hybrid rice seed producer SL Agritech Inc. plans to hold an initial public offering within the year to raise up to P3 billion, its top executive said Wednesday. “We are trying to assess at present of we are going to pursue the initial public offering probably by the end of the year. Hopefully next year, we already have it,” SL Agritech president Henry Lim Bon Liong said. “We want to raise at least P2 billion to P3 billion. The proceeds of the IPO will be used both for seed production and commercial rice production,” Liong added. Liong said the conduct of the initial public offering would depend on the company’s earnings.‐agritech‐eyes‐listing/

BoP swings to $960-m deficit By Julito G. Rada | Posted on Mar. 21, 2013 at 12:02am | 156 views The balance of payments swung to a $960-million deficit in February from a $588-million surplus year-on-year, after the government settled some of its foreign loans last month. The February deficit also reversed the $2.04-billion surplus posted in January, data from the Bangko Sentral showed Wednesday. This brought the BoP position in the first two months to a surplus of $1.08 billion, down 25 percent from a $1.45-billion surplus recorded during the same period in 2012. Balance of payments refers to trade and financial transactions between the country and the rest of the world. A BoP deficit means more money is flowing out of the country than coming in. A BOP surplus, meanwhile, adds to the gross international reserves and supports the appreciation of the local currency. The BoP deficit in February cut the gross international reserves by 1.8 percent to $83.8 billion from $85.3 billion in January, as the government settled some of its foreign debt during the month. The Philippines became a magnet for investment inflows due to the robust growth of the economy despite the weak global economic environment. The BoP surplus reached $9.2 billion in 2012, down 9 percent from $10.2 billion in 2011. The Bangko Sentral said earlier it was considering revising its earlier BoP projection of a $3billion surplus for 2013, after the BoP posted a surplus of $2.04 billion in January, up 136 percent from $864 million a year ago. The January figure was the highest since the BoP surplus hit $2.1 billion in November 2012. It was also 219-percent higher than the $640-million surplus recorded in December 2012. Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the BoP surplus in January was supported by foreign exchange operations and income from investments abroad of the Bangko Sentral.‐swings‐to‐960‐m‐deficit/

MSMEs provide more employment – BSP Published on 20 March 2013  Hits: 182  Written by RAADEE S. SAUSA    The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) cited that the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) provides great employment opportunities. “And if we are to raise our national economic vantage point and take advantage of the momentum coming into 2013, thrift banks need to consider lending more to this economic segment [MSMEs],” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said on Wednesday during the Chamber of Thrift Banks (CTB) Annual Convention. “I say this because MSMEs provide great employment opportunities. A healthier MSME sector will help ensure our economic growth is broad-based and inclusive,” he added. Tetangco said that thrift banks, however, must not just lend more in terms of nominal amounts. The challenge to the industry really is to ensure that such lending continuously creates further opportunities. Meanwhile, Tetangco challenge the CTB to further improve credit underwriting standards for real estate and consumer loans and raise vantage point by looking at its processes with the lens of financial stability; interact with its clients and raise vantage point by enhancing practices with the heart of consumer protection and financial education, and increase lending to MSMEs and raise vantage point by lending with the mind to create greater value. “But much more can be done,” he said. “It is never an easy task to move forward . . . but rest assured that the BSP will be with you as we take that journey together into broader horizons,” Tetangco said.‐business‐news/43894‐msmes‐provide‐more‐ employment‐bsp         

Posted on March 20, 2013 11:52:20 PM By Diane Claire J. Jiao, Senior Reporter

Fresh SDA rate cuts not being ruled out THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) will review domestic liquidity conditions and the inflation environment before considering further cuts to special deposit account (SDA) rates. "We will look at the liquidity situation, which can be affected by capital inflows. We will also review the inflation outlook, which can be affected by liquidity," central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said at the sidelines of the Chamber of Thrift Banks’ national convention yesterday. Money supply surged by 10.8% to P5.2 trillion in January from P4.48 trillion the year before. It was the fastest since June 2011, when the rate was 11.47%. Funds have been swamping the Philippines as foreign investors turn to emerging markets in search of better returns. The influx has led to a peso rise, which the BSP has sought to temper via changes to its SDA facility. Too much money in the financial system can also lead to higher prices. Inflation, while still within the central bank’s 3%-5% target, has been on an uptrend since November. It hit a five-month high of 3.4% last month, prompting the BSP to hike its full-year forecast to 3.3% from 3%. Mr. Tetangco said fresh tweaks to the SDA facility could not be ruled out, even after a rate cut of some 100 basis points so far. "We continue to review the situation and look at the appropriateness of measures we have in place," he said. SDA rates were trimmed to 2.5% from 3% across all tenors last week, after an earlier cut in January when they were taken to 3% from slightly over 3.5%. The BSP, moreover, prohibited non-residents from accessing SDAs last July. The facility, it said, was introduced to allow banks and trust entities to deposit excess funds, not for "opportunistic investment activities". Foreign investors were tapping SDAs to take advantage of high yields. "If necessary, we can either tweak some of the measures or introduce new ones as may be required by prevailing circumstances," Mr. Tetangco said. This includes any changes to the central bank’s reverse repurchase (RRP) operations, he added.

"We will review the different facilities we have. We have already fine-tuned the operations of the SDA facility." Monetary Board member Felipe M. Medalla has brought up the possibility of prohibiting nonresidents from accessing the RRPs, similar to what was done with SDAs. Under the RRP facility, banks and trust entities can place money in the BSP by buying its government securities, to be bought back at an interest rate of 3.5%. With the RRP rate dwarfing SDA rates, Mr. Medalla warned that funds could leave one facility and inundate the other. Mr. Tetangco, however, said volume limits on RRP operations would temper any inflows.‐SDA‐rate‐cuts‐not‐being‐ruled‐out&id=67575                                    

17% pass Bar; Ateneo grad tops exams Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Thursday, 21 March 2013 00:00

For the second time, the passing rate of the Bar examinations went below 20 percent, according to the results released by the Supreme Court.

Of the 5,343 takers in the 2012 examinations, only 949 or 17.76 percent passed the Bar with the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) and the University of the Philippines (UP) dominating the Top 10 Bar passers’ list. Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr., who is also the chairman of the 2012 Committee on the Bar Examinations, at a press briefing, yesterday admitted that they have to lower the passing grade to 70 percent from 75 percent just just to come up with nearly 1,000 passers.

“Actually if we didn’t lower the passing rate, only 361 will pass the test. We’re not cold hearted especially with the upcoming Holy Week,” he stressed.

The lowest passing percentage was recorded in 1999 at 16.59 percent (660 passers).

Ignatius Michael Ingles of AdMU topped the 2012 Bar examinations with a rating of 85.64 percent. The others in the Top 10 are Catherine Beatrice King Kay of AdMU, with 84.72 perceny; April Carmela Lacson of UP, with 84.48 percent; Xavier Jesus D. Romualdo of AdMU, with 84.10 percent; Maria Graciela Base of UP, with 83.99 percent; Jose Maria Angel Machuca of AdMU, with 83.99 percent; Patrick Henry Salazar of UP, with 83.71 percent; Ralph Karlo Barcelona of Aquinas University, with 83.43 percent; Marvyn Llamas of AdMU, with 83.29 percent; Carlo Martin Li of AdMU, with 83.27 percent; and Francis Paolo Tiopianco of UP, with 83.25 percent.

An original 5,686 were admitted to take the Bar but only 5,343 completed the four-Sunday examinations, according to Villarama.

The four-Sunday examinations were held last Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28 2012. The SC said the oath-taking of the successful Bar candidates will be on April 24 at 2 p.m at the Philippine International Convention Center.‐17‐pass‐bar‐ateneo‐grad‐tops‐exams.html

No deadline extension for ITR filing, says Henares Written by Ed Velasco Thursday, 21 March 2013 00:00

Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares yesterday reminded taxpayers about the April 15, 2013 deadline for the payment of income tax returns (ITR) as she warned there will definitely be no extension for it. The BIR is making a last minute appeal as there is no extension of the filing of ITR even for a day after the deadline. “They should pay the correct taxes and pay it early. There will be no extension of the deadline,” Henares told The Daily Tribune. An income tax is a tax on all yearly profits arising from property, profession, trades or offices or as a tax on a person’s income, emoluments, profits and the like. The bureau warned anyone that dodging the right taxes is a criminal offense. Last March 14, 2013, at least four individuals were slapped with tax cases. The latest four individuals to be sued for incorrect payment of taxes were the 157th so far. None among those sued has been hauled to jail. Only one — Gloria Kintanar — was convicted. Kintanar, who was convicted for non-payment of P4 million in back taxes, remains unlocated and rumored to have flown out of the Philippines long time before she was convicted. Henares earlier said that she wants to make the BIR comparable to the United States’ Internal Revenue Service, a tough agency that sent so many rich and powerful personalities in jail for tax dodging. As of November 2012, the IRS collected over $2.4 trillion each tax year from around 234 million tax returns. The Philippines has 12 million tax returns, of which almost 80 percent are mostly of poor individuals who earn so miniscule.‐no‐deadline‐extension‐for‐itr‐filing‐says‐henares.html                                  

Binay invites Pope to visit PH Published : Thursday, March 21, 2013 00:00  Written by : Cristina Lee-Pisco  VICE President Jejomar C. Binay invited Pope Francis to visit the Philippines during the 51stInternational Eucharistic Congress which will be held in 2016. The Vice President invited the pontiff after the latter’s installation and inaugural mass Tuesday evening. “I invited Pope Francis to visit the Philippines for the International Eucharistic Congress in 2016,” he said. Former Pope Benedict XVI announced in the 2012 Eucharistic Congress that the next congress will be held in Cebu, which is acknowledged as the country’s “cradle of faith.” The congress is held every four years. The Philippines last hosted the congress in 1937, with re-evangelization as the central program. The Vice President added that he also conveyed the well-wishes of the Filipino people during the meeting. “I extended the greetings of the Philippines to Pope Francis,” said Binay. Binay was asked by President Benigno Aquino to represent him and the country in theinstallation. He also carried the President’s letter congratulating the new Bishop of Rome.‐stories/47050‐binay‐invites‐pope‐to‐visit‐ph                       

PNP warns against fake P1,000, P500 bills Published : Thursday, March 21, 2013 00:00  Written by : Alfred Dalizon  THOSE planning to sell their votes in the coming May 13 elections, better watch out or you may end up being double-crossed by shrewd politicians and their operators. Yesterday, the Philippine National Police warned the public anew against the proliferation of counterfeit P1,000 and P500 bills being passed off in the local market or could be used in other illegal activities like vote-buying. Presence of fake bills is a main concern of law enforcement authorities including the PNP which has been tasked to ensure a secure and fair May polls. All preparations are currently underway to prevent unscrupulous candidates and other politicians from maintaining partisan armed groups and loose weapons to harass and coerce voters and most importantly, to buy votes particularly in the countryside. PNP chief Director General Alan LM Purisima last week commended the Pasay City Police Station headed by Senior Superintendent Rodolfo A. Llorca for arresting Jopee Alvarez,27; Arnel Abordo,45; Ronalyn Melico,23; Adrian St. Romana, 27; Zenaida Briones,30; Allan Rivera,25; and Melvin Rambla,41, selling fake money in Pasay City last March 4. The suspects were arrested in a buy-bust operation along Taft Avenue which resulted in the recovery of 80 pieces of fake P1,000 bills. The Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas said it has upgraded the security features in all of their new generation banknotes to make it easier for the public to protect themselves from receiving fakemoney. The BSP said it is also mounting a continuous nationwide information campaign to educate the public on how to tell genuine banknotes from counterfeits. Investigation showed that some of the counterfeit bills have been already distributed by the syndicate in different parts of Metro Manila, Ilocos-Pangasinan region and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region over the past three months. Purisima urged the public to report the activities of common criminal groups or individuals to the PNP Public Information Office through tel.nos. 7255115 or 7253179, by email at, or thru PNP Hotline “I-TEXT MO KAY TSIP” 0917-8475757 and PNP TXT 2920.‐pnp‐warns‐against‐fake‐p1000‐p500‐bills           

100-day countdown for NIA’s 50th year Published : Thursday, March 21, 2013 00:00  NAGA City -- The regional office of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) based here has launched a 100-day countdown for the the 50th anniversary celebration of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) on June 22. NIA was founded on June 22, 1963 under the late President Diosdado Macapagal. During simple ceremonies, NIA regional officials led the unveiling of the 50th anniversary markerat the gate of the NIA compound on Panganiban Drive, this city. NIA regional spokesman Eduardo G. Yu said a NIA-hosted congress will be held for some 500 farmer leaders and irrigation association officials in Bicol next month. According to Yu, the farmer leaders will give different testimonies on how the irrigation system in Bicol improve their crops and developed their communities. NIA administrator Antonio S. Nangel is expected to address the farmers’ congress. Yu said that major activities of the 50th anniversary celebration will be held at the NIA central office with scheduled sports festivals, a beauty pageant and citation rites for past NIA administrators. Some 50,000 trees will also be planted by the NIA nationwide during the celebration. Last year, NIA-Bicol has completed 101 irrigation projects at a total cost of Php 803.36 million, including the rehabilitation of 4,384 hectares, restoration of irrigation service canals to 3,983 hectares and actual irrigation of 3,983 hectars of new areas in the whole region. Sonny Sales‐100‐day‐countdown‐for‐nias‐50th‐year 

2013 03 21 - QUEDANCOR Daily News Monitor  

News monitor for 2013 03 21

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