NDA putting up more processing facilities By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 31, 2013 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The National Dairy Authority (NDA) is putting up this year a milk processing plant and milk display center in its Ubay stock farm in Bohol as part of its efforts to strengthen the local dairy industry. The NDA recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) for the establishment of such facilities within the 635-hectare multiplier farm of dairy animals in Bohol. The processing plant, which will cover 4, 150 square meters, will comprise a pasteurization area and a sterilization line. The plant will process milk produced in the Ubay stock farm and adjacent farms which will, in turn, be sold within and outside of Bohol province. To complement the processing plant is a milk display center, for which as smaller area shall be allocated. This will serve as a market outlet for walk-in visitors and as exhibit center for promotion of milk products. The production capacity and the budget for the milk processing plant and the display center is still being finalized. Eight percent of the annual income generated by the process plant and display center shall be plowed back into the Ubay stock farm as development assistance. The facilities shall also be utilized for training activities of the NDA in the region. It is noted in the agreement that the Ubay stock farm is an ideal location for the establishment of such infrastructure because of its proximity to the main highway, therefore allowing for easier transportation of milk products. The NDA is revising its projection for domestic milk production for the next four years as milk production outpaces original targets. NDA administrator Grace Cenas said the agency now expects local producers to be able to provide for 50 percent of the countryâ€™s liquid milk requirements by 2016. Under the National Dairy Roadmap, the country aims to enable dairy producers to produce 43 to 46 percent of the total domestic liquid milk requirement. Raw milk production in 2012 rose 12 percent to 18.45 million liters from 16.45 million liters in 2011.
Milk production has been growing at an average of seven percent annually in the last five years. The growth in 2012 milk production exceeded the initial target of 10 percent. The NDA intends to keep the growth rate at 12percent and above in the coming years. Cenas said domestic producers currently satisfy 40 percent of the domestic liquid milk demand. The milk production target this year is placed at 20 million liters. The agency intends to achieve full sufficiency by 2021. To increase raw milk production, the government is importing more breeding dairy animals this year to improve local stock. More multiplier farms will also be established to increase the breeding stock. The country has a current inventory of 40,696 dairy animals. To fully meet the country’s dairy demand and replace imports, one million dairy animals would be needed. In 2012, the government imported 10 bulls and 2,100 female cows for breeding. The offspring of these breeding stocks are redistributed to capable dairy farms. This year, the NDA intends to procure an additional 700 milking cattle. http://www.philstar.com/agriculture/2013/03/31/925122/nda‐putting‐more‐processing‐facilities
DOST helps process goat milk into powder form By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 31, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - A local company is now producing powdered goat’s milk with the help of scientists from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). With the use of a spray dryer created from the original design conceptualized by the DOST’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) engineers, local company Skysoft Inc. based in Sta. Rita Village, Sucat, Paranaque is now processing fresh goat’s milk coming from the firm’s sister-unit Boergoat Club Farm in Lingayen, Pangasinan, into powdered milk that is more affordable at the proposed selling price of P400 per 340 gram pack compared to the imported commercial counterpart said to cost P663.50. The Skysoft-DOST-ITDI process involves the pasteurization of freshly extracted goat milk before being processed into powder milk using a newly fabricated spray dryer of the DOST ITDI.
The project started when Skysoft approached the DOST-ITDI requesting the technical expertise of food technologists/engineers in terms of product development and standardization of fresh goat milk processing. A pool of experts, headed by Engr. Melchor Valdecañas, chief of the food processing division and officer-in-charge at the Office of the Deputy Director for R&D, responded to the request for technical assistance of Skysoft. “We then worked on improving the product’s stability – prolonging its shelf life and at the same time, preserving its nutritional value after being processed,” said Elsa Falco, senior science research specialist and product development lead at the ITDI. After having standardized the process for goat’s milk production, the goat milk underwent storage studies and was subjected to physico-chemical, microbiological, and sensory analyses. Skysoft’s powdered goat milk performed well and was found comparable with existing imported brands in the market. Samples were still acceptable in terms of color and taste even after six months of storage. And lately, the products proved to be still good after one and a half years. Concrete nutritional facts proving that goat milk contains higher nutritional qualities or benefits are now widespread and gaining acceptance among consumers. Upon further evaluation of the produced powdered goat milk, this was also confirmed. Goat’s milk produced at Skysoft has higher total fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, and has lower level of carbohydrates as compared to cow’s milk. “And because of these good properties, goat milk is less allergenic; naturally homogenized; easier to digest; causes less lactose intolerance; and generally suits human body condition better than cow’s milk”, said Falco. Considering that milk is a staple food with cow’s milk leading in the market, these latest developments spell good gains for powdered goat milk. Though less advertised compared to its big competitors that can afford heavy ad campaigns, powdered goat milk may eventually clinch a viable share in the market. With full blast operations at Skysoft, dependence on imported powdered goat milk may soon be lessened, a welcome development for the local economy and local milk consumers, the DOST said. http://www.philstar.com/agriculture/2013/03/31/925121/dost‐helps‐process‐goat‐milk‐powder‐form
Globe Cordillera Challenge Year 4: Building forest nurseries through biking (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 31, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - For the fourth consecutive year, hundreds of environment-conscious individuals are expected to challenge the rugged terrain of the Cordillera mountain range through a 65-kilometer biking activity -- this time to raise funds for the building of 30 forest seedling nurseries. A vital resource area for water that serves the irrigation needs of thousands of hectares of farmland, the Cordillera region was thus the logical choice as the Globe Cordillera Challenge project beneficiary with the assistance of CCT, a non-stock, non-profit organization that provides environmental solutions and sustainable development strategies for the Cordillera mountain region. Most of Luzonâ€™s major river systems emanate from the Cordillera region which serves as the largest catch basin of rain water in the country. However, less than 50 percent of its total forest cover remains intact, thus, the decision from Globe to continue its greening campaign to save the massive mountain range from denudation.
“The Cordillera region as a major watershed underscores the importance of the Cordillera mountain range in providing ecosystem services to a large portion of Northern Luzon. Because of this, we are again conducting the Globe Cordillera Challenge, a fund-raising biking event which has, over the years, enjoyed enormous success in terms of awareness and reaction from the public through their donations,” said Rob I. Nazal, head of Globe corporate social responsibility. At present, demand for tree seeds and saplings continues to increase, prompting Globe to support the Roots and Shoots Nursery Seedling Program of CCT for the cultivation and propagation of the much-needed plant materials through donations from bikers and concerned citizens. The project began last year with the establishment of 20 seedling nurseries in various parts of the Cordilleras using the funds received from the Globe Cordillera Challenge cycling event. During the previous years, however, the donations were used to buy saplings which Globe employees and community volunteers planted in the mountain range. This time, a total of 300 bikers are expected to join Globe Cordillera Challenge on May 4 which will start and end at Tublay Municipal Hall passing by Ambuklao Dam, with a view of Agno River and Binga Dam. Although the route is long, it has 100 percent rideable sections by bikers of all skill levels. The challenge will be on the distance and the almost 3000 meter elevation gain and loss in one day. Each biker is asked to make a donation of P1,000 although non-bikers are also encouraged to help the cause. Registration is open to all mountain bikers via the Globe Cordillera Challenge 4 Facebook event page. Once done, bikers may send their donation through Globe GCash (text DONATE<space>amount<space>CORDI and send to 2882) or deposit the amount to the Cordillera Conservation Trust BDO Account (Account name: Tignayan Para Iti Konserbasyon Ti Kordilyera; Account number – 5180031673). Scanned copy of the deposit slip with biker’s name may be sent to email@example.com while confirmation text from GCash with the sender’s name may be forwarded to 0905-4050100. Globe Cordillera Challenge 4 is supported by Choose Philippines, Huawei, and Non-Pareil International Freight and Cargo Services, Inc. http://www.philstar.com/agriculture/2013/03/31/925123/globe‐cordillera‐challenge‐year‐4‐building‐ forest‐nurseries‐through
Binay seeks hike in subsidy for state schools By Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 1, 2013 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay said yesterday that the government must increase its subsidy for state colleges and universities (SCUs) “to solve the present problem in education.” He also said the government should upgrade the equipment in SUCs similar to those in Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University to improve instruction in public schools. For his part, United Nationalist Alliance senatorial candidate Jack Enrile opposed petitions of SUCs to increase tuition and other fees they would collect in the coming school year. Enrile said that the Commission on Higher Education should turn down the petitions as students and their parents are already burdened by the present level of school fees. Enrile also said that colleges and universities, especially SUCs, should ensure that their graduates could immediately be employed before asking for matriculation increase. He also asked the government and schools to undertake serious education-labor cross-matching so students can be steered to take courses that are in demand. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/04/01/925578/binay‐seeks‐hike‐subsidy‐state‐schools
US food exports to PHL may hit $1 billion in 2013 Category: Agri‐Commodities Published on Sunday, 31 March 2013 20:00 THE United States will remain as the Philippines’s top supplier of most food‐and‐beverage (F&B) products, with sales forecasted to grow close to $1 billion, or 16 percent higher than the level posted in 2012. The Global Agricultural Information Network (Gain) report prepared by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that American‐made food and beverage shipped to the Philippines went up by 11 percent on year to a record $859 million last year. “The top F&B exports of the US to the Philippines last year were dairy products, meat and poultry, snack foods, and processed fruits and vegetables,” the report read. While sales for these products are expected to remain strong this year, prospects are excellent for a wide variety of F&B products, particularly those that can be classified as “healthy,” “gourmet” and “convenient.” “With tiny ‘mom and pop’ stores still taking 70 percent of national retail food sales, US F&B exports to the Philippines could redouble by 2017,” the report read. The USDA report noted that last year, the Philippines maintained its long‐standing position as the largest market in Southeast Asia for American‐made food and beverages. “US F&B exports to the Philippines in 2012 filled over 21,500 trucks. These exports not only provided support to 1.8 million American food processing jobs [but also] supported food processing, distribution, and retail/hospitality jobs in the Philippines,” the report read. The Gain report revealed that in 2012, US food and beverage exports to the Philippines more than doubled 2009 levels, two years ahead of the White House National Export Initiative. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/business/agri‐commodities/11409‐us‐food‐exports‐to‐ phl‐may‐hit‐1‐billion‐in‐2013
Customs plans auction of seized Viet rice in April By Mar S. Arguelles Philippine Daily Inquirer 10:41 pm | Saturday, March 30th, 2013 LEGAZPI CITY—The Bureau of Customs (BOC) will auction off in April the 94,000 bags of Vietnam rice it seized at the port here in September last year. The smuggled rice from Vietnam is worth at least P135 million, a ranking Customs official said. Danilo Lim, Customs deputy commissioner for intelligence, announced the planned auction after inspecting on March 26 the seized rice kept in a warehouse in this city. Lawyer Leovigildo Dayoja, Customs collector here, said it would take the bureau a month to dispose of the seized imported rice through public auction. Dayoja, however, said that the multipurpose cooperatives involved in the rice importation now face smuggling cases that automatically disqualify them from participating in the auction. Dayoja said the auction would give additional revenue to the government, though it could not generate a 100 percent return due to the depreciation of the commodity’s value. Dayoja said the bureau has spent some P3 million so far to keep the seized rice in the warehouse and prevent its spoilage. At least 79,000 bags are currently stored in a warehouse that the bureau rents while 15,000 bags are still being unloaded from the vessel that brought them in and which is being held at the city port.
Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/382007/customs-plans-auction-of-seized-viet-rice-inapril#ixzz2PBzJNc00
2 in China first known deaths from H7N9 bird flu (philstar.com) | Updated March 31, 2013 - 7:02pm
BEIJING (AP) â€” Two Shanghai men have died from a lesser-known type of bird flu in the first known human deaths from the strain, and Chinese authorities said Sunday that it wasn't clear how they were infected, but that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission. A third person, a woman in the nearby province of Anhui, also contracted the H7N9 strain of bird flu and was in critical condition, China's National Health and Family Planning Commission said in a report on its website. There was no sign that any of the three, who were infected over the past two months, had contracted the disease from each other, and no sign of infection in the 88 people who had closest contact with them, the medical agency said. H7N9 bird flu is considered a low pathogenic strain that cannot easily be contracted by humans. The overwhelming majority of human deaths from bird flu have been caused by the more virulent H5N1, which decimated poultry stocks across Asia in 2003. The World Health Organization is "closely monitoring the situation" in China, regional agency spokesman Timothy O'Leary said in Manila. "There is apparently no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and transmission of the virus appears to be inefficient, therefore the risk to public health would appear to be low," O'Leary said. One of the two men from Shanghai, who was 87, became ill on Feb. 19 and died on Feb 27. The other man, 27, became ill on Feb. 27 and died on March 4, the Chinese health commission said. A 35-year-old woman in the Anhui city of Chuzhou became ill on March 9 and is being treated. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted tests and confirmed Saturday that all three cases were H7N9, the health commission said. Scientists have been closely monitoring the H5N1 strain of the virus, fearing that it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic. So far, most human cases have been connected to contact with infected birds. http://www.philstar.com/world/2013/03/31/925434/2-china-first-known-deaths-h7n9-bird-flu
GSIS reopens educational loan window By Chino S. Leyco Published: April 1, 2013 State-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) announced that the pension fund is reopening its educational loan window to all active members starting today. Robert G. Vergara, GSIS president and general manager, said that qualified active members for the educational loan are those who did not avail of the 2012 GSIS Educational Assistance Program. “Parents are hard-pressed on schooling costs at this time of the year. Under the educational aid program, GSIS lends a helping hand to members by defraying their children’s education expenses,” Vergara said in a statement. Active members, regardless of salary grade, may apply for the financial aid amounting to P4,000. The loan carries a six percent interest rate and does not require any approval from the employer. Vergara said the member will start paying a P20 monthly amortization three months after the loan is granted. GSIS launched the new loan program last year, following the Labor Day announcement of the President, directing both GSIS and the Social Security System (SSS) to establish an educational assistance fund for their stakeholders. More than 600,000 state workers availed themselves of the educational loan. GSIS has released over P2.45 billion under the program. The pension fund also recently opened 200 slots under the GSIS Scholarship Program for academic year 2013-2014. Government employees with salary grade 24, or those earning approximately P50,000, and below may nominate their children to the program, if they are incoming freshmen in any university or college, accredited by the Commission on Higher Education. A GSIS scholar is entitled to tuition and miscellaneous fees not exceeding P20,000 and a monthly stipend of P2,000.
Domestic trade rises 13.6% in Q4 By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 31, 2013 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The value of commodities traded within the country rose by more than a tenth in the fourth quarter from the previous year, the National Statistics Office (NSO) said. According to the preliminary results of the NSO’s Commodity Flow in the Philippines report, the total value of domestic trade went up to P141.76 billion in the October to December period, 13.6 percent higher than the P124.84 billion in the comparable period in 2011. “Trade transaction through water was the principal mode of transport comprising 99.4 percent and 99.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 2012 respectively,” the NSO said. While the value of domestic trade transactions posted an increase, it declined in terms of volume. The total quantity of domestic trade transactions decreased 8.6 percent to 5.04 million tons in the fourth quarter from 5.52 million tons in the same period in 2011. Domestic trade refers to the flow of commodities within the country through its water, air and rail transport systems. Data on commodities traded within the country is used as basis in the formulation and implementation of programs like countryside development and port planning. Having the largest share among the commodities traded within the country for the period were food and live animals, which amounted to P44.19 billion or 31.2 percent. Machinery and transport equipment had the second biggest share at 18.5 percent, valued at P26.26 billion, followed by manufactured goods classified chiefly by materials which had a 12.9 percent share worth P18.35 billion. By region, the NSO said most of the traded commodities for the period came from the National Capital Region (NCR) with the value of transactions amounting to P43.76 billion or 30.9 percent of the total. Central Visayas was the second biggest source with its 18.2 percent share valued at P25.74 billion, followed by Western Visayas which had a 16.7 percent share amounting to P23.62 billion.The NSO also said “the NCR posted the most favorable trade balance at P16.39 billion during the fourth quarter of 2012.” Other regions which surpassed the billion positive trade balance for the period were Central Luzon at P12.33 billion and Western Visayas with P1.96 billion. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/03/31/925164/domestic‐trade‐rises‐13.6‐q4
Thai firm eyes $120-M investment in Phl (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 31, 2013 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Charoen Pokhand Foods (CPF) Philippines Corp. plans to invest a total of $120 million in the Philippine agribusiness sector over the next three years, according to a company executive. In a recent industry briefing in Makati City, CPF Philippines finance officer Kasem Manoi said the investment would be made in agro-industrial businesses such as livestock growing and aquaculture focusing on shrimp and fish. “We are investing this money to expand our livestock and aquaculture business in the next three years,” said Manoi, adding that the company views the Philippines as an important growth area for CPF’s business interests. Manoi said the additional investments are for the expanions of the company’s livestock and poultry business in Pampanga. CPF will also plans to boost the operation for shrimp hatchery and fish culture in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, he added. CPF Philippines Corporation is a subsidiary of Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited, whose agro-industrial business includes animal farming and food manufacturing in Thailand and overseas. CPF Philippines Corporation was established in 2007, starting with a shrimp hatchery. It now has two core business lines: livestock which comprises broiler, layer and swine, and aquaculture mainly focusing on shrimp and fish. The products in each of these two business lines can be classified into three main categories, namely animal feed, meat (including live animal) and cooked meat and ready-to-eat food products.. The company has operations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/03/31/925170/thai‐firm‐eyes‐120‐m‐investment‐phl
Farm & family By Adelle Chua | Posted on Mar. 31, 2013 at 12:02am | 883 views It is Saturday morning and siblings Mario Jr., Mara and Marco Sebastian are seated on the benches of the Ateneo High School quadrangle, remembering their childhood with their father, Mario Sr., who has passed on less than a year ago. In a way, the sprawling Loyola heights campus where all four of them obtained their degrees is where it all started.
Long before it became fashionable to profess love for the environment, the elder Sebastian lived and breathed it, thus passing it on to his children who are now in their ’30s. Mara and Marco remember the pencils best of all. While most children would throw away their pencils when these have become so short from sharpening, their father took them and attached them to used ballpoint containers so the children could continue writing with them until all the wood was used up. They did not make much of this habit then, but now they realize their dad had all along been preparing them for something– something big. A farmer at heart Mario Sr. used to work in the distribution of agricultural products. The business did well, enabling him to be a good provider to his family. In 1992, however, he decided it was time to pursue his lifelong dream of establishing a tree farm —first in his hometown of Urdaneta, Pangasinan, and eventually in another location in Umingan town. He called it MARSSE (pronounced as mar-say). He wrote a letter to then-Ateneo president, the Jesuit priest Bienvenido Nebres, requesting permission to gather the Honduras mahogany seeds that just lay scattered all over campus. When his request was granted, he set his children to work. At that time, Mario Jr. and Mara were in high school and Marco was but a toddler. The two older kids picked up mahogany seeds in the afternoon —quite an unusual activity
for teenagers who wanted to spend time with their friends. They also spent their summers doing chores at the start-up farm. The kids also remember their father sacrificing much for his dream during those crucial times. “We used to have several houses and cars, but Dad sold them and we moved to a smaller townhouse and had only one car,” they say. They did not mind. “Dad has always been the kind of person ‘na walang arte sa katawan.’” He was the happiest he had ever been. No weekend farmers
Marco was just a little boy when his father decided to pursue his dream. Fast forward to 2013. In the Umingan farm now stand 120 thousand trees, mostly Honduras mahogany and teak but also with some gmelina, narra and kamagong. They make sure they plant 4,000 trees a year. The Sebastians had no prior tree farming knowledge—only a basic love for farming and a desire to learn how it’s done, even through trial and error. They consulted various forestry experts when they needed to, but on the whole just ran the operations by instinct. Brothers Mario Jr. and Marco live in the farm (Mara does marketing work from Manila), refusing to subscribe to the weekend-farmer model. “You have to be there, to know what is happening, and show good example to the farm workers,” they say. The brothers have been trained to do everything from start to finish, and they do not ask their workers to do or accomplish something they themselves cannot do. It fosters a spirit of teamwork, and offers an incentive for their farmers to be more productive. “Mahihiya sila magtamad-tamad because we are there doing exactly the same thing. This is one thing you cannot achieve by calling from the city and giving instructions over the phone.”
Three barangays surround the MARSSE farm, and the residents of these communities prove to be reliable farm hands. There are no permanent employees, however. “You have to know the work behavior and the patterns of people from the community,” Mario explains. On some parts of the year they work on other crops. On others, they help with the tree farm. “We work with whoever is around, and whoever is willing,” according to Mario. The surrounding communities derive indirect environmental benefit from the farm. When MARSSE started, the community grew one crop a year. But after seven years, springs started flowing and the farmers now grow at least three crops annually, making them more productive. They also found that they needed less fertilizer for their crops. In December 2011, MARSSE had its first harvest. But while he lived to see this milestone, Mario Sr. became progressively sick the following month and died in July 2012 from multiple organ illnesses, leaving the farm in the hands of his sons and daughter. No to cheap-wood mentality
Bar stools, salt-and-pepper shakers and pepper mills are made from tree fallings. Mara emphasizes that they are, first and foremost, tree farmers who simply happen to process and market their products. From their trees they come out with processed wood for custom flooring, paneling and molding. They prefer dealing with direct customers, homeowners who want sustainable wood in their homes, are willing to pay a slightly higher price, and are willing to wait the four months—the time it takes, on average, for the tree to be cut, and the wood processed to specification. “We don’t stock,” Mario says. “We let the trees grow for as long as they can. We only harvest when there is an order.” This has proven to be their niche—and they always show that the premium wood is well worth the wait. Other orders include furniture for homes and restaurants. MARSSE worked with the Department of Science and Technology and a private partner to develop equipment for custom-made orders.
The Sebastians make sure there is no wastage, too. For example, the fallings—wood that falls to the ground upon harvest—are made into kitchen and other home products like pepper mills, salt and pepper shakers, cheese serving boards and chopping boards. These are marketed by Sustainably Made, which has a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ SustainablyMade). The products are one of a kind —no two are ever the same. For example, the salt shaker may not be as round as the pepper shaker, even though they come together in a set. This is because they are fashioned according to the shape of the wood. Mass production is a term not found in the MARSSE dictionary. MARSSE does away with contractors or middlemen who are more interested in getting the wood cheap so they can add on layers of profits before the products reach the customers. “We don’t want to pay our farmers cheap. We give them slightly more because we save on middlemen anyway. We want to give them an incentive for coming to work with us.” Passing it on MARSSE conducts regular one-day seminars on tree farming, when they get requests from at least four participants in their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ MARSSETropicalTimber) The Sebastians want to pass on information and insights on tree farming they gained—often the hard way—over many years.
Mario Sr. before and after. “If we knew then what we know now, our trees would have grown faster, we would have harvested sooner, and we would not have wasted as much time, money and frustration as we have,” says Marco. The objective is to encourage more people to plant trees on idle land even as land for food crops must be cultivated even more. “We didn’t learn from the books, no site on the Internet will tell you what we have learned in the past 20 years.
They get a lot of requests from farming enthusiasts to landowners who simply have no clue on what to do with their property. Another seminar on harvesting has a four-day, live-in set-up that dwells on the details and gives the participants a closer look at what it’s like to have a tree farm. The objective is to replicate the success of MARSSE in many other areas in the Philippines and foster care for the environment not as some trend but as a sustainable way of life. The rewards may not be felt for another 20 years, but they are willing to wait. Other rewards are manifesting themselves now. “Not everything can be measured in pesos and centavos,” says Mario. So the cycle goes After graduation, Mara worked in a multinational marketing firm that took her from Manila to New York. She came back to the Philippines in 2010 and committed to work full time with her brothers.
Mario Jr., Mara and Marco Sebastian talk about their father’s legacy. Marco operates a bistro-bar in Pangasinan province—and all his furniture comes from the trees in the farm. Mario’s wife Lyn and two children, boys aged 12 and nine, live in Quezon City (they attend Ateneo Grade School) but spend summers with him in Pangasinan. It is not surprising that the boys are also required to put in a few hours a day in the farm at vacation time. Talk about starting them off early. They save what they earn and any gadgets, toys or branded things they might wish for themselves are bought using this fund. Lyn also helps with MARSSE’s marketing and administration— she’s been a part of it almost as much as her husband is. In their courtship days at the university, what counted as a date was an afternoon picking mahogany seeds for the farm. The Sebastians are also planning to set aside an area for conservation in memory of their father.
They do not dare call what they have a forest. Only God make forests, they say. But MARSSE, their father and now the siblings have helped make the next best thing. 15
Investment grade By Manila Standard Today | Posted on Mar. 31, 2013 at 12:01am | 924 views 4
Just before the Holy Week break, Fitch Ratings announced that it had upgraded the Philippines’ long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to BBB- from BB+. Simply put, this means that the country was given investment grade status. According to Fitch, the upgrade reflected the Philippines’ strong external balance sheet, underpinned by remittance inflows, and its resilient economy which grew by 6.6 percent despite challenges in the global economic scene. The ratings agency also cited the previous administration’s effort to improve fiscal management, the central bank’s management of monetary policy, and the current administration’s governance reform agenda. The Fitch report did not present an entirely glowing picture, of course. Average income in the Philippines, at $2,600 per capita, remains low compared to the $10,300 median of its peers in the BBB range. Low fiscal revenue take, at 18.3 percent of GDP in 2012, was also low compared to the 32.3 percent median of its peers. Fitch expects the effects of the sin tax law to kick in soon. It also warned that negative rating action could be taken against the Philippines should there be reversal of reform measures, sustained fiscal slippage, a
deterioration in monetary policy management and instability in the banking sector. By all means, this is good news. The stock market on Wednesday hit a new high, reflecting investors’ optimism about the country’s prospects as validated by the upgrade. An article written by Asian Institute of Management Policy Center executive director Ronald Mendoza, Ph.D., as published in Rappler.com, says that despite the apparent economic gains and the upgrade’s implications on borrowing costs, disparities exist. Access to bank financing, for instance, is a common challenge to small and medium businesses as well as to players in the agriculture sector. Mendoza also says that the Philippines’ net foreign direct investments have remained dismal at $2 billion dollars when even non-investment grade economies realize higher inflows. We must also work hard to improve our standing in the Doing Business survey, where we placed 138th last year. There is no doubt that President Benigno Aquino III’s “tuwid na daan” mantra had had strong resonance. But more serious work lies ahead especially in getting the revenue-generating agencies to achieve their original—not the dumbed down— targets. The banking sector must also be more accommodating to smaller businesses while maintaining sound policies. A stable and growing economy means nothing when it is concentrated on a few sectors and a small number of key cities. Stock market highs and record trading volumes do not guarantee that the funds will stay; investors can take them out at the first sign of trouble, or upon sighting a more attractive destination. On the other hand, direct investments all over the country will provide employment, food, education—holistic empowerment and human development to Filipinos, as a whole. And then perhaps the remittances from migrant workers which shore up our external accounts and fuel domestic spending will be replaced by something else with less heartbreaking social costs. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/03/31/investment‐grade/
Lola Basyang lives on in Naga City schools By Aimee Abaricia | Posted on Mar. 31, 2013 at 12:01am | 274 views
There are a lot of stories in Naga City and modern-day “Lola Basyangs” are telling them online. Just like the story-telling grandmother brought to life in magazine, books, comics, television and cinema, public high school students in Naga City are showcasing their way of life, traditions, practices, people and culture through Doon Po Sa Amin (DPSA), an online mapping activity conducted by Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) with partners since 2008. For this year’s run, a team from Naga City Science High School (NCSHS) rapped, sang and documented their way around Naga City’s must-see places in an original music video, and bagged the grand prize of Smart’s 2013 DPSA Community Mapping Competition. Their entry also received recognition in Best in Impact and Most Active School awards. NCSHS emerged as grand champion of the DPSA Community Mapping Competition (secondary level division). It was a sweet victory for the public high school, which has the distinction of winning the first-ever DPSA Learning Challenge in 2009 with “Si Ina: Sarong Debosyon sa Halawig na Panahon”, a research narrative that presents the Peñafrancia Festival through the years while addressing the current social issues revolving around the almost 300-year-old religious tradition. The entry also bagged the Best in Social Science award. NCSHS scored another first in 2010 by winning the grand prize in the first “Ano ang Kwento Mo?” (What’s your story?)“, another online tilt conducted by Smart, which seeks to get students across the country to create video blogs that feature a distinct characteristic, place, or culture in their communities.
NCSHS repeated their grand prize win in the 2nd year of DPSA’s Ano ang Kwento Mo (2011-2012) with their video blog entry on Sinarapan, the world’s smallest commercial fish which can be found in Lake Buhi, Camarines Sur. Their video blog “Orgulyo kan Naga, Kinalas na Kakaiba” featured Kinalas, a delectable noodle soup dish that has managed to retain its popularity in Naga City’s eateries despite the advent of bigger, more established and popular fastfood chains. Their account of the secrets of preparing Kinalas, where it can best be savored, and the city government’s attempts to integrate it as part of Bicol cuisine also won the Best in Travel and Cuisine category, and Best in Video Blog Design and Layout. NCSHS repeated its “Ano ang Kwento Mo?” grand prize win in 2011 with Doon Po Sa Amin, ang Maliit Pinagmamalaki”. Their video blog featured the Sinarapan, which is considered the world’s smallest commercial fish. The students’ account, which highlighted the Sinarapan’s status, the opportunities brought about by this tiny creature and the threats to its extinction, also got the Best in Environment and Disaster Preparedness award. These are not the only stories they have told. In 2009, NCSHS students bagged DPSA Learning Challenge category awards in Language and Literature for “Tigsik: Pagsalingoy sa Lengwaheng Bikolnon“, which features tigsik, an old form of Bicol poetry and Social Science for “Bagyo harayo pa, mga Nagueño preparado na!”, which documents the contributions of Naga City weather forecaster Mike V. Padua to disaster-preparedness in typhoon-prone areas. In 2010, a team also won Best in Livelihood and Economics for “Paracale: Bulawan na Banwa”(Paracale: The Gold Town), which highlights concerns about unregulated small-scale mining.
This attempt to document what a place and its people are all about and to share it with a global audience via the Web is an innovative project of Smart to promote information and communications technology (ICT) integration in basic education. Through DPSA, students are able to put their hometowns on a map, literally and figuratively. All the DPSA stories are laid out geographically on an online map, powered by Nokia Location and Commerce, and can be viewed at www.doonposaamin.ph. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/03/31/lola‐basyang‐lives‐on‐in‐naga‐city‐schools/
PH still lags in competitiveness, governance Published on 31 March 2013 Hits: 315 Written by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO REPORTER
Despite a very promising economic future, the Philippines needs to improve on its governance, competitiveness and fiscal management, an official from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said. “The Philippines has large favorable factors because it has macroeconomic stability, abundant natural resources, and a large working-age population. However, it needs to improve its governance, competitiveness and attractiveness to investments,” Dr. Anoop Singh, director of the Asia and Pacific Department of the IMF said. In a recent seminar-forum co-organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the IMF and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Singh also said that growth in the Philippines does not show much robustness as compared to other Asian countries. However, the IMF official said that he is optimistic with the World Economic Outlook‘s projected growth of over 6 percent for the Philippines this year. “What needs to be done to raise growth is to have more investments and higher productivity,” said Singh. He suggested that the country‘s weak investment climate can be strengthened by improving health and education outcomes and labor market efficiency, and creating strong institutions. The IMF official also mentioned that government revenue in the Philippines is low compared to other Asian countries. “There is a need for higher government revenue to raise public
investment,” he said, also recommending raising revenue by increasing the country`s tax base. “Get rid of exemptions that restrict the tax base by increasing and improving tax administration,” Singh stated. Moreover, he highlighted the importance of foreign direct investments to the economy, saying that FDI promotes competition which is needed for higher productivity. He suggested that the country‘s foreign ownership limits should be lessened, and its low ranking on ease of doing business index must be improved. A World Bank report showed that the Philippines is in 138th place on ease of doing business, clearly lagging far behind Malaysia which is at 12th place. On the other hand, the IMF director strongly supports the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Philippine government. He said with optimism that the program should be continued because CCT programs have significantly helped in decelerating economic inequalities in Latin America. Meanwhile, PIDS President Dr. Josef Yap said that in terms of gross domestic investment rate, the country has a low investment rate and this fact becomes more glaring when compared to its neighboring countries. “Indonesia has already exceeded its gross domestic rate of 31.1 percent in 1994 with 33 percent in 2011,” Yap said, adding that the Philippines did not even reach 25 percent since 1994. Yap also mentioned that conglomerates are reluctant to invest in the country because of their captured market, while competitive sectors are
also reluctant to invest because the costs they received from the conglomerates are also high (power, shipping, telecommunication costs, etc.). The PIDS president suggested that the government should play a big role in addressing the coordination problem among the different sectors of the economy, as this severely constrains investments into the country. http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/business/top‐business‐news/44442‐ph‐still‐lags‐in‐ competitiveness‐governance
Family savings in NCR much higher Published on 31 March 2013 Hits: 141 Written by RAADEE S. SAUSA
The National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) reported having a bigger percentage of respondents with family savings as compared to those in areas outside the National Capital Region (AONCR), according to the latest Consumer Expectations Survey (CES) of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. The survey showed that, “a bigger percentage of respondents in the National Capital Region reported having family savings of [35 percent] compared to those in areas outside the National Capital Region at [22.8 percent].” It added that 24.5 percent of households had savings. Respondents indicated that they were saving money for the following reasons: education; emergency/contingency fund; hospitalization and business capital. “By income group, more than half of the households with savings belonged to the high-income group [57.1 percent], followed by the middleincome [33.2 percent] and the low-income groups [14.8 percent],” it added. The CES also showed that two in three households with savings have deposit accounts. Among the respondents with savings, about two in three had bank deposit accounts, four in 10 respondents kept their savings at home, while less than 10 percent put their money in cooperatives, paluwagan (informal savings schemes) and other credit/loan associations. CES said that, “looking at saving preferences by income group, the bulk of savers in the low-income group [78.7 percent] kept their savings at home,
while only about 40 percent [39.1 percent] had bank deposits.” In contrast, a big majority of the savers in the middle- and high-income groups (74.1 percent and 85 percent, respectively) saved their money in banks and only a minority kept their savings at home (37.4 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively), it added. Meanwhile, CES noted that three in 10 respondents (31.6 percent) said that they could save money during the quarter. Among these respondents, six out of 10 could save less than 10 percent of their income, three in 10 could save 10 percent to 19 percent, and only one in 10 could save 20 percent and over from their monthly income. More than half (56.3 percent) of respondents from the high-income group could set aside money for savings in the current quarter, followed by respondents from the middle-income (40.6 percent) and the low-income groups (23.2 percent). For the first quarter of 2013, the CES was conducted from January 21 to February 3, 2013 with a total sample size of 5,670 households, of which 2,751 (48.5 percent) were from the NCR and 2,919 (51.5 percent) from the AONCR. http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/business/top‐business‐news/44439‐family‐savings‐in‐ncr‐ much‐higher
FCDU loans hit $8.7B in 4Q 2012 Published on 31 March 2013 Hits: 124 Written by RAADEE S. SAUSA
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced over the weekend that foreign currency deposit unit (FCDU) loans stood at $8.7 billion at the end of December 2012, up by $1.1 billion or 14 percent from the endSeptember 2012 level of $7.6 billion. In a statement, BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said that this development may be attributed to the favorable interest rate environment and positive business sentiment arising from strong macroeconomic fundamentals. The maturity profile of outstanding FCDU loans is as follows; medium- to long-term (MLT) loans (or those payable over a term of more than one year) represented 61.8 percent of total, down from 62.6 percent in the previous quarter; while short-term (ST) accounts (or those with original maturities of up to one year) comprised the 38.2-percent balance. Tetangco also noted that loans to resident borrowers (mainly from the private sector) represented 84.7 percent or $7.3 billion of the total portfolio, with the following as major beneficiaries; public utility firms (24.9 percent); merchandise and service exporters (18.3 percent) and producers/manufacturers, including oil companies (16 percent). Furthermore, gross disbursements during the quarter surged to $5.3 billion, or by $1.8 billion (51.2 percent) from the previous quarter’s $3.5 billion, with the bulk (78.9 percent) having short-term maturities. Tetangco added that, “FCDU deposit liabilities marginally decreased to $25.1 billion, or by $603 million [2.3 percent] from $25.7 billion in third quarter. The overall loans-to-deposits ratio increased from 29.5 percent in the third quarter of 2012 to 34.5 percent by end-2012.”
A substantial increase in the ratio was also noted compared to 2011’s 29.2 percent, because of the higher growth of FCDU loans vis-à-vis deposit liabilities, he added. http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/business/top‐business‐news/44438‐fcdu‐loans‐hit‐8‐7b‐in‐4q‐ 2012
Posted on March 27, 2013 05:13:39 PM | BREAKING NEWS
Philippines secures investment grade rating from Fitch INTERNATIONAL debt watcher Fitch Ratings today raised the country's credit rating to investment grade -- a first for the Philippines.
In a statement, the credit rater said it had raised the country’s longterm foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) to 'BBB-' -- a notch into investment grade -- from 'BB+'. It also raised the Philippines' long-term local-currency IDR to 'BBB' from 'BBB-'. With an investment grade rating, the country is expected to attract more foreign direct investors, gain access to a larger source of funding, and reduce its borrowing costs. In upgrading the country, Fitch cited the country’s robust economy, strong external balance sheet, improvements in the government’s fiscal management program, and the central bank’s appropriate use of monetary policy to support growth. The credit rater however said that to sustain this rating, the government must be able to continue pushing its good governance efforts and expand its revenue base to have the capacity to increase public investment. A team from Fitch Ratings visited the country last month to assess developments. The two other major credit raters, Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor’s, currently rate the country a notch below investment grade. -- Bettina Faye V. Roc
Credit upgrade has no meaning for poor — Ibon • •
Written by Tribune
Sunday, 31 March 2013 00:00
President Aquino used his Easter message to proclaim the country has progressed a lot when the true power of government was given back to the people apparently in reference to the decision last week of credit ratings firm Fitch Ratings to upgrade the country sovereign grade to investment level but an independent think-tank said the upgrade has little to do with the real state of development of the country. Think tank Ibon said credit rating agencies have a poor record of assessing debt and have even contributed to the recent global financial crisis. Fitch Ratings upgraded the Philippine sovereign’s long-term foreign currency rating to ‘BBB-’ from ‘BB+’. “This borderline “Investment Grade” is the 10th rating on a 20-level scale from the highest ‘AAA’ (highest credit quality) to the lowest ‘RD/D’ (restricted default/default). “While Malacañang hailed the upgrade as “an institutional affirmation of (its) good governance agenda,” the ratings only directly assess credit risk,” Ibon said. Ibon stressed the rating merely evaluates the government’s ability to repay debt and is oblivious to growing joblessness and poverty in the country.
For the past several years ago, many Filipinos left the country to find better opportunities elsewhere, but Aquino claimed there is a renewed interest for them to return to the Philippines because of an improving economy. The economy grew 6.6 percent last year but foreign investments which are the major source of new businesses jobs remained on an anemic level of below $2 billion for the entire year. Aquino also trumpeted “millions of marginalized and poor people grtting priority from government to improve their living condition through the Pantawad Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). More than three million households are receiving assistance from the government under the program, he said of the program which the government bankrolls with a P40 billion budget for this year. The government also has made strides to remedy the shortage in classrooms in the country, the President said. The government has been expecting to eliminate the 66,800 classroom backlog before the end of this year, he added. Ibon, however, said the number of officially-reported unemployed and underemployed increased by 918,000 from 9.9 million in January 2012 to 10.8 million in January 2013. Ibon said rising joblessness in the country is a clear sign of continued poor economic governance.
Ibon pointed out that credit rating agencies have poor credibility. “Their recent history of errors includes investment grade ratings for Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia before the Asian financial crisis of 1997, investment grade ratings for US energy giant Enron before declaring bankruptcy in 2001, and investment grade ratings for collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) with sub-prime assets before the US sub-prime meltdown and global financial crisis in 2008,” the research group said. IBON said that “the government’s investment grade-hype distracts from deeper economic problems”. “Without real reform in economic policies, the country’s problem of exclusionary growth will not be improved by the investment upgrade. “The supposed lower borrowing costs for the government will not translate into improved health, education and housing for the poor majority of Filipinos under its privatization thrust,” Ibon said. Ibon added that there is no reason to believe that the upgrade will change how the main economic growth sectors have not been in domestic agricultural and industrial production – which creates jobs – but rather in low domestic value-added trade, transport, communication and storage, finance, construction and utilities. President Aquino and his men prided themselves on the investment grade as given by Fitch group Wednesday. “We are pleased to hear that this afternoon, the Fitch group announced that they upgraded the status of the Philippines from BB+ to BBB-. This marks the first time in history that our nation has been granted investment grade status by a major credit ratings agency,” Aquino said. Aquino said that “this means much more than lower interest rates on our debt and more investors buying our securities. Greater access to low-cost funds gives us more fiscal space to sustain and further improve on social protection, defense, and economic stimulus, among others. More companies in the real economy can now consider us an investment destination”. “Investment grade for sovereign debt should also lead to lower borrowing costs for Philippine companies in the international markets, consequently allowing for higher valuations for their securities. This in turn enables industries to expand and generate more jobs for our countrymen—fostering a virtuous cycle of growth, empowerment, and inclusiveness that will redound to the benefit of Filipinos across all sectors of society,” Aquino said. The upgrade represents the perception of lessening risk in our markets; it formalizes the investment grade level at which the Philippines has already been securing credit, Aquino added. “This is an institutional affirmation of our good governance agenda: Sound fiscal management and integrity-based leadership has led to a resurgent economy in the face of uncertainties in the global arena. It serves to encourage even greater interest and investments in our country,” Aquino said. Aquino added that “it is one among many other positive developments that demonstrates the reclamation of our national pride: Truly, what was once known as the perennial laggard of Asia is taking off, and is accelerating towards its goal of an equitably progressive society”.
Aquino said that the task now is to ensure that expected inflows will be used to maximum effect towards a sustainable, progressively empowering economy. “We are determined to build on our economic gains to usher in a society wherein every Filipino, today and for generations to come, may be given the wherewithal to realize their full potential,” Aquino said. Finance secretary Cesar Purisima said investment grade open ups more sources of financing for our businesses, lowers the cost of borrowing, and encourages more investments, which in turn will lead to more jobs and greater incomes for our people. “The Aquino administration remains committed to eliminating corruption, investing in our people, and enhancing our infrastructure and overall business climate. We have already done so much in the past 3 years, with greater cooperation from our people, we can do so much more,” Purisima said. Purisima said April 15 is the deadline for income tax filing. I urge everyone to contribute to the work of building our country by paying the right taxes. Higher revenues will allow us to invest in more education programs, more health services, and more infrastructure, creating more jobs and more wealth for everyone. Everybody wins when everybody pays the right taxes. Budget secretary Florencio Abad said the investment grade rating by Fitch for the Philippines now formalizes what local and international markets have recognized over the past year: that the country’s flourishing economic environment is ripe for dedicated investments from the international community. “We are now affirming our growing reputation as a key investment hub in Asia, at par with our highperforming neighbors in the region, as we continue to enhance the country’s fast-moving industries, such as tourism and business process outsourcing. “What is even more notable about the investment grade rating is the fact that it comes at a critical junction in the country’s socio-economic development, as the Philippines primes itself for the next half of the Aquino administration. Over the next three years, we can expect the certain revival of the country’s manufacturing sector—especially its agri-based industries—towards more inclusive and far-ranging growth,” Abad said. Abad added that “we expect the upgrade to lower our risk profile significantly, which in turn will lead to lower interest payments for the country’s credit requirements. This will ultimately allow us to expand our fiscal space and, consequently, pour more investments into infrastructure, social services, and publicprivate partnerships” Published in Headlines
Sacrifice for nation’s good, Filipinos urged Published : Sunday, March 31, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 75
LAWMAKERS, led by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., urged people to unite for genuine peace and development as the nation celebrates Easter Sunday. In a statement, Belmonte said Filipinos should imitate the sacrifices of Jesus Christ for the good of the nation. “Beyond our personal and spiritual reflections, it is my hope that each of us have looked outward as well, and had the chance to dream of what we truly want, not just for ourselves, but for our country and its future,” Belmonte said. “We all know that dreams are within reach if we have the unity and mindset to see them through, as well as the willingness to take the responsibilities, sacrifices and setbacks that may sometimes pave its path,” he added. The House leader said that Holy Week has been an occasion to reflect on the Lord’s sacrifices and more importantly on how He has always stood up amidst trials and setbacks with a clear focus on His goal. Belmonte said Filipinos should relate this resolve and resiliency to their own experiences and exercise this inner strength as a people to achieve dreams of reform, genuine peace and development for our nation. Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said he prayed for the resurrection of our country for a truly Risen Philippines finally rising after
three decades of economic woes. Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño called on his fellow citizens to put into action their reflections on life by supporting those who will truly serve the people and the nation. “We say that Easter is a time for new beginnings. It is a time for renewal. For me, it is a time for change, on a personal and societal level,” he said. “Filipinos should work collectively to bring justice and hope to the country. We can no longer watch in silence as people suffer while only a few reap the rewards of our hard work and perseverance,” Casino added. He is also hoping that in the coming elections, the people will reflect on which candidates to vote, by scrutinizing their track record and their stand on issues. “Lagi natin sinasabing sawa na tayo sa ganitong sistema pero sa atin pa rin manggagaling ang pagbabago. Filipinos should be more discerning and ‘pihikan’ when it comes to the country’s leaders. After all, it is a decision we would have to live with for the next few years. Dapat magkaroon tayo ng mga lider na ang primaryang layunin ay mabigyan ng nakabubuhay na trabaho at sahod ang mga tao, mabigyan ng lupa at suporta ang mga magsasaka at umunlad ang lokal na industriya,” he said. Jester P. Manalastas http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/top‐stories/47570‐sacrifice‐for‐nations‐good‐filipinos‐ urged
Fishing industry outlook brightens Published : Sunday, March 31, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 48
AFTER a two-year slump, the country’s fisheries sector has seen brighter prospects this year as tuna catch is picking up and domestic fish supply is increasing. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala attributed the development ton the government’s conservation efforts and the imposition of “no-fishing seasons” in the waters off Visayas and Mindanao. Alcala said the increase was a result of the lifting of the fishing ban on tuna. He cited the so-called “Pocket 1” of the Pacific Ocean when Filipino fishermen resumed their operations in 2012 in the area whicht resulted in more catch. Pocket 1 of the Pacific Ocean is bounded by Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Because of conservation in the area, commercial catch of bigeye and yellowfin tuna in 2012 totaled 7,912 metric tons (MT) and 77,730 MT, respectively, These were 31 and 13 percent more compared to the total catch in 2011 of bigeye tuna (6,021 MT) and yellowfin tuna (68,625 MT), respectively. Consequently, exports of fresh and processed tuna in 2012 rose by 41% to $411 million (M) versus $292 M in 2011, said Director Asis Perez, of the DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic
Resources (BFAR). Alcala said that another bright spot is the increase of domestic supply, particularly of Indian sardines or tamban, mainly due to conservation efforts and imposition of a “no fishing season” in waters off Mindanao and the Visayas. The DA-BFAR — in partnership with commercial and municipal fishermen, local government units, and other concerned agencies — has initially imposed a closed fishing season in Zamboanga Peninsula from December 2011 to February 2012, coinciding with the sardines’ spawning season. The closed fishing season covered East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay. As a result, Dir. Perez said catch of sardines has initially increased by six percent to 156,150 MT in 2012 as against 146,835 MT in 2011, based on estimates by the DA-BAS. The three-month “no fishing season” was again imposed this year in Zamboanga, from December 1, 2012 to February 28, 2013. Joel dela Torre http://www.journal.com.ph/