20% tariff on flour may hike pandesal price Published : Saturday, August 24, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 89 Written by : Joel dela Torre IMPOSING an additional 20 percent tariff on imported flour and wheat may trigger price hikes especially on the ever popular Filipino breakfast specialty -- pandesal. This was expressed yesterday by Abdulgani Macatoman, executive vice president of the Importers Association of Flour Millers, who predicted a double in the price of pandesal if Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala granted the request of local flour millers for a tariff hike. Speaking at a forum in Rembrandt Hotel, Macatoman said he sensed that two giant flour millers in the country -- San Miguel and Purefoods which control 91 percent of the market wanted to corner the importation and at the same time build a cartel to dictate the pricing. Recently, the Philippine Association of Flour Millers led by San Miguel and Purefoods wrote Alcala and requested for an additional 20 percent tariff on imported flour “to level the playing field.” “We only represent nine percent of the total market in the country. Why punish us?” Macatoman said adding they also sell Php200 per bag in the market just the same as the locally manufactured. According to him, they only import the best flour and wheat in the world from Turkey as they are paying more revenues such as the 12 percent value added tax and seven percent duty tax while the locally made are only paying vat. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/national/56759‐20‐tariff‐on‐flour‐may‐hike‐pandesal‐price
Editorial: Partnership for rice seed production Published: August 24, 2013 The Department of Agriculture (DA) and 16 agriculture-based State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) have entered into a partnership to produce and promote high-yielding seeds for the Philippine rice production program. The DA-SCU partnership is envisioned as a sustainable support service to farmers. It complements the Philippine Rice Research Institute’s production of registered seeds for distribution and sale to farmers. SUCs will each allot at least two hectares to plant registered seeds that will yield certified seeds, assisted by farmers’ cooperatives and irrigators’ associations. The DA will provide SUCs with R50,000 per hectare to cover cost of parental seeds and training of technical staff. SUCs will give back 80 kilos of seeds to DA in exchange for the R50,000 grant; the excess seed production will be for their own profit-generation. Participating SUCs in Luzon are Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte, Cagayan State University, Isabela State University, Nueva Vizcaya State University, Pampanga State University of Agriculture, Western Philippine University in Palawan, Mindoro State University in Oriental Mindoro, and Romblon State University. In the Visayas are Eastern Samar State University and University of Eastern Philippines. In Mindanao are Central Mindanao University in Bukidnon, Southern Philippines Agri-Business and Marine and Aquatic School of Technology in Davao del Sur; University of Southern Mindanao in North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat State University. In the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are Upi Agricultural School in Maguindanao and Mindanao State University in Marawi City. We congratulate the Department of Agriculture headed by Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, Assistant Secretary and National Rice Program Coordinator Dante S. Delima, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Dr. Patricia B. Licuanan, Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges President Engr. Ricardo E. Rotoras, and Philippine Rice Research Institute Executive Director Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr., for their programs to empower rural farmers through technology, high-yielding inbred seeds and more inputs to agricultural productivity in the Republic of the Philippines. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY! http://mb.com.ph/News/Opinion_Editorial/28671/Editorial:_Partnership_for_rice_seed_production#.U hxb4n‐veKE
Maring’s damage to agriculture, infrastructure hits P400 M By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 24, 2013 ‐ 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The southwest monsoon enhanced by Tropical Storm Maring has damaged P400 million in agriculture and infrastructure, latest reports from disaster management offices showed. Damage in agriculture accounted for P325.92 million while the amount of damaged infrastructure reached P74.809 million. Central Luzon bore the brunt in terms of agriculture damage with P212.09 million, according to the report by the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Region 3. Agriculture damage in Bataan alone soared to P72.149 million. Agriculture damage in Calabarzon region (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) hit P8.151 million, latest data by the OCD Region 4 showed. The amount does not include the damaged hectares of forest and fruit-bearing trees under the National Greening Program worth P282,000. The amount of agriculture damage incurred by the Ilocos region reached P95.438 million while that of Mimaropa (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan) and Cordillera Administrative Region amounted to P5.456 million and P4.5 million, respectively. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the amount of damaged infrastructure has risen to P74.809 million. Mimaropa accounted for P56.58 million of the damaged structures while Calabarzon sustained P18.23 million. NDRRMC said a total of P1.93 million people or 402,415 families have been affected by the floods and heavy rains caused by the monsoon. The bad weather also displaced 600,822 persons nationwide. Of this figure, 45,766 families or 200,060 persons are still inside 675 evacuation centers while 400,762 individuals or 77,348 opted to stay in the houses of their relatives or friends. The death toll from the monsoon rains is at 21 while 41 others were injured. Four persons remain missing. The NDRRMC said the floods and rains damaged 231 houses in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Cordillera.
A total of 29 roads in Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol, Cordillera and Metro Manila remain impassable as of yesterday. Five provinces, eight cities, 10 municipalities and two barangays have been placed under state of calamity. The provinces that declared a state of calamity were Bataan, Pampanga, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal while the cities that made the declaration were Parañaque, Muntinlupa, Malabon, Marikina, Pasay in Metro Manila; Candon City in Ilocos Sur, Dagupan City in Pangasinan, and Tarlac City. The municipalities that have been placed under state of calamity were Pateros in Metro Manila, the towns of Lidlida, Narvacan, Gregorio del Pilar and Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur, the towns of Sta. Barbara and Calasiao in Pangasinan, Obando and Hagonoy in Bulacan and Abra de Ilog in Occidental Mindoro. The barangays that made the declaration were Victoria and Lagnas in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rhodina Villanueva, Dino Balabo, Ed Amoroso, Raymund Catindig, Ric Sapnu, Charlie Lagasca, Teddy Molina http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/08/24/1128771/marings‐damage‐agriculture‐infrastructure‐ hits‐p400‐m
Enough rice supply, NFA assures Manila Bulletin – Sat, Aug 24, 2013
Cagayan De Oro City - The National Food Authority (NFA) yesterday assured the public that there is enough supply of rice in Northern Mindanao. As of this time, at least 755,686 bags of rice are available in warehouses in the region, NFA officials said. The NFA said stock inventories positioned in the different NFA bodegas in the region reached 755,686 bags of rice at 50 kilos per bag. Aside from the NFA, the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-10) also assured consumers that there is enough supply of rice and there's no truth to the reported rumors on the alleged shortage of rice supply in some areas in the region. The two agencies also warned rice manipulators of penalty if they find an unreasonable increase in the price of rice. Both agencies assured the public of their continuous monitoring of supplies and prices of rice in the market. They also vowed to undertake measures to stabilize the prices and stocks of rice in the region. Region 10 DA Regional Executive Director Lealyn A. Ramos said the latest price monitoring results conducted by its Agribusiness Assistance Division found an increase of P0.50/kilo for regular milled rice for the period. http://ph.news.yahoo.com/enough‐rice‐supply‐nfa‐assures‐000500644.html
Benguet vegetable prices slashed August 23, 2013 8:27 pm by LARRY MADARANG CORRESPONDENT LA TRINIDAD, Benguet: “There is over supply of vegetables and prices plummeted, this is the case of the vegetable industry in Benguet this week,” said Augusta Balanon, executive manager of the Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative (BFMC). Balanon said, since Monday, when the flooding in the lowlands occurred, prices of vegetables went down to as low as P1 per kilo. At some point, on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the number of buyers decreased and even those who purchased lessened their volume, Balanon said. On the production side, Balanon said, the Baguio-Bontoc road remained open and loaders of Department of Public Works and Highways and the Provincial Government are always on standby to punch through or clear the road slides so that the inflow of vegetables is continuous making the supply high. But since the demand is low, a lot of vegetables were not bought on Tuesday and Wednesday; the first-class vegetables became second-class, the second-class vegetables started to rot and were thrown away, Balanon said, adding this is true especially for cabbage, wombok, celery and brocoli. For potatoes and carrots, at least their shelf lives are longer so that no carrots/potatoes were thrown. Balanon, however, said as of Thursday, there was a noticed increase of prices of vegetables, the rise of prices was triggered by demand from the lowland markets, especially in Metro Manila. The volume of flood/rainwater in Metro Manila markets started to subside on Thursday night and some roads from provinces were opened on Friday morning so that the Manila orders of veggies increased, she said. From a low of 8 tons to 10 tons during the monsoon rains brought by Maring, volume of vegetable purchases went up to 18 to 25 tons as of press time, she said. http://www.manilatimes.net/benguet‐vegetable‐prices‐slashed/32593/
DTI forecasts P15‐M sales for Sikat Pinoy fair By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 24, 2013 ‐ 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) expects exhibitors to generate P15 million worth of sales from the ongoing Sikat Pinoy National Food Fair, a trade show for homegrown food products and delicacies from all over the country. “The Sikat Pinoy National Food Fair expects to generate sales of at least P15 million for the exhibitors,” the DTI said in a statement. Bureau of Domestic Trade Director Rhodora Leano said during the opening Thursday (Aug. 22) of the trade show in the Megatrade Hall in SM Megamall that more than 250 food entrepreneurs from the country’s 16 regions are participating in the event. The Sikat Pinoy National Food Fair, which will run until Aug. 25, is organized by the DTI’s Bureau of Domestic Trade (with its regional and provincial offices as well as the Department of Agriculture) to bring the country’s food products, regional specialties and other delicacies in one venue. Through the trade show, the DTI would like to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the food and beverage sector to link with buyers of their products. This, as DTI records show that about half of the country’s MSMEs are in the food and beverage sector. “We sincerely believe in the potentials of these companies,” Leano said. She added that as institutional buyers from hotels, resorts and restaurants are expected to attend the event, the government is hopeful that MSMEs could find more buyers for their products. For his part, DTI Undersecretary Ponciano Manalo, Jr. said the department also wants to help MSMEs sell their products overseas. “With the huge potential for Filipino food entrepreneurs, we hope to provide greater access for our MSMEs, to the point that they will be successful enough to eventually make it to the international market,” he said. Among the products being offered at the trade show are baked products, snack foods, processed fruits and vegetables, wines and beverages, sauces and condiments, organic and natural products, processed marine products as well as processed meat products. The trade show also features a coffee pavilion which sell’s and gives sample coffee products, as well as a Filipino Kitchen which serves hot meals. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/08/24/1127021/dti-forecasts-p15-m-sales-sikat-pinoyfair
SL Agritech, Brunei firm forge farming deal By Amy R. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 10:33 pm | Friday, August 23rd, 2013
SL AGRITECH Corp. and a Brunei firm have signed an agreement to jointly develop 2,000 hectares of rice plantations, in a bid to help uplift the lives of more Filipinos. The proposed plantation program of SL Agritech and Four Bays Iman Sdn Bhd (FBIS), which are now preparing to jointly farm in Palawan and Nueva Ecija, falls under the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines-East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) development program, according to SL Agritech. Under the joint venture, SL Agritech will provide the hybrid rice technology, seeds, agricultural chemicals, and marketing work. FBIS, meanwhile, will invest in irrigation, farm to market roads, land to be subjected for contract farming or lease, drying equipment, transport, post harvest and other processing facilities. The proposed five-year plantation program will require an investment of P1.3 billion on the first year. The joint venture was an offshoot of the BIMP-EAGA agribusiness cluster meeting in Palawan last June 2013. It has been part of an initial discussion between private sector representatives and BIMP-EAGA Business Council Chairman Pg Yura Kesteria PSN Yusuf. http://business.inquirer.net/139929/sl-agritech-brunei-firm-forge-farming-deal
NTA eyes more fees for imported tobacco products Category: Agri‐Commodities Published on Thursday, 22 August 2013 19:00 Written by Paul Anthony A. Isla The National Tobacco Administration (NTA) is proposing to impose additional fees before allowing the sale and distribution of imported tobacco products in the country. This is contained in the draft Memorandum Circular 003 Series of 2013, a copy of which was obtained by non‐governmental Action for Economic Reforms (AER). “As part of the requirements, sellers and distributors of imported tobacco products will be levied a license fee that amounts from P100 to P600 on top of the license fee previously levied,” AER said. “In addition, the said memorandum imposes additional evaluation fees for what is already a redundant inspection mechanism on imported cigarette products,” the group added. AER said the NTA claims that the proposed policy will prevent smuggling, counterfeiting and illicit trading of imported tobacco products “through proper supervision, monitoring and regulation in order to protect the consumer/smoking public.” “On the contrary, however, we contend that the ulterior objective for the said proposal is only to perpetuate a discriminatory system that favors domestic cigarette producers,” AER said. The group said raising the evaluation fee and imposing “redundant” evaluation procedures on imported cigarettes will not stop the smuggling of tobacco products. The group also warned that the move is “discriminatory” and will violate the country’s commitment to international trade rules, specifically the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which prohibits the use of internal fees or taxes to favor the domestic industry. “We challenge the NTA to prove the legitimacy of its intention to curb illicit cigarette trade, and not merely perpetuate discrimination against foreign product through the proposed measures under Memorandum 003‐2013,” AER said. From a “tobacco‐control perspective,” the group urged the attached agency of the Department of Agriculture to revise the memo and apply the proposed measures to all cigarettes. AER said uniformly imposing higher evaluation and regulatory fees on both foreign‐made and domestically produced cigarettes will discourage the sale of tobacco products and make them less accessible to the public.
Feedmillers to remain reliant on local corn By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 23, 2013 ‐ 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Feedmillers are still inclined to source most of their corn requirements domestically as prices remain stable even after a lower second quarter harvest. “We will always support the corn farmers of the Philippines,” said Norman Ramos, president of the Philippine Association of Feed Millers (PAFMI). He said, however, that feedmillers would bring in additional feedwheat imports for the year as prices of the alternative feed ingredient becomes more competitive to corn. “If world prices of feedwheat are competitive, industry players will import as the need arises and as prices are competitive relative to local corn,” he added. Ramos noted that importing yellow corn from the US or South America “remains uncompetitive due to world commodity price and tariff rates.” Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) showed that corn production in the first half of the year was placed at 3.32 million metric tons (MT), down 4.2 percent from the 3.42 million MT output in the same period in 2012. In the second quarter of the year alone, corn output fell 25.9 percent to 1.075 million MT from the 1.451 million MT produced in the same period in 2012 because of moisture stress and shifting to cultuvation of oil palm in Cagayan Valley, ARMM, Ilocos Region and Western Visayas. The third quarter harvest, based on farming intentions, is expected to rise seven percent to 2.60 million MT from the previous 2.43 million MT. The average farmgate price of yellow corn for the first six months of 2013 was P12.05 per kilogram, lower than P12.92 per kilogram last year. Philippine Maize Federation (PhilMaize) president Roger Navarro said that farmgate prices of yellow corn are currently placed at P13.60 to P14. http://www.philstar.com/business/2013/08/23/1120182/feedmillers-remain-reliant-local-corn
Special insurance program for rice, corn farmers pushed Published : Friday, August 23, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 160 Written by : Bernadette E. Tamayo
SENATE Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto is seeking the creation of a special insurance program for rice and corn farmers heavily affected by calamities as agricultural damages continue to soar due to the recent onslaught of typhoons Labuyo and Maring. He filed Senate Bill 714 or the Special Rice and Corn Insurance Program of 2013 which enables rice and corn farmers cultivating land with a maximum area of five hectares to replant as soon as weather and soil condition permits, through the help of the government, thereby ensuring the least disruption in crop production, ensuring food security and farm incomes. “This piece of legislation aims to aid our rice and corn farmers in times of severe calamity.Those affected have no recourse but to bear the brunt of extreme weather conditions,” Recto said. He said the “premium shall be fully-paid” for by the government through the Special Rice and Corn Insurance Program to be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation. “This bill seeks to provide a special insurance program to cover losses incurred exclusively by rice and corn farmers,” Recto said,adding the bulk of the Filipino diet and food expenditures consist of the staple grains, rice and corn. “Generally, the Filipino family spends 20-30 percent of their food expenditures budget on rice. On the other hand, around 14 million Filipinos prefer to eat white corn grits as their main staple,” he said. “The cycle of crop loss and hunger is reinforced as farmers who suffered such crop losses exhibited the following coping mechanisms: passive acceptance and belief in the futility of attempts to prevent crop loss; replanting the damaged crops; and, planting alternative crops,” Recto said. Aside from extreme weather conditions, diseases and pest infestations similarly lead to crop losses, he said. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/national/56731-special-insurance-program-for-ricecorn-farmers-pushed
Dimaporo plea vs arrest warrant opposed By Cynthia D. Balana Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:29 am | Friday, August 23rd, 2013
Lanao del Norte Representative Abdullah Dimaporo INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—State prosecutors have opposed the twin motions of Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo seeking the recall of the warrant of arrest against him and the dismissal of the graft and malversation cases in connection with his involvement in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. Citing lack of merit, a nine-page comment and opposition to the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division by government prosecutor Omar L. Sagadal said Dimaporo failed to raise any substantial argument that would warrant the dismissal of the two criminal complaints against him. In his motions dated Aug. 13, 2013, Dimaporo insisted lack of probable cause to indict him in the absence of the elements of the offenses charged against him. He pointed out that court erred in adopting in its entirety the prosecution’s memorandum dated March 25, 2013, recommending his indictment despite substantial evidence negating the existence of probable cause against him.
Dimaporo also argued that the court erred in ruling that the Commission on Audit (COA) report prepared by State Auditor Edwin Canios was irrelevant in the determination of probable cause in the instant cases. The prosecution stressed that the issue on the existence of probable cause has been rendered moot and academic when the accused, through his counsel, manifested during the hearing of this case on Aug. 5 that he was submitting to the custody of the court. It also said that records of the cases showed controverting evidence and supporting documents submitted by the accused-movant, prompting the Ombudsman to file the information. It likewise said that the finding of probable cause needs only to rest on evidence showing that more likely than not, a crime has been committed and there is enough reason to believe that it was committed by the accused.” “It need not be based on clear and convincing evidence of guilt, neither on evidence establishing absolute certainty of guilt,” the prosecution said. “Thus, the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause does not touch on the issue of guilt or innocence of the accused. It is not the function of the Office of the Ombudsman to rule on such issue.” Dimaporo was allegedly involved in the diversion of P5 million to Lanao Foundation Inc (LFI), by making it appear that fertilizers were indeed distributed to farmers under the Department of Agriculture’s farm input and farm implement program. Also implicated were provincial agriculturist Isabelo Luna VI and private individuals Felizardo Dragon, Evangeline Ontiveros, Rosalinda Bisenio and Elmer Sayre who were charged under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. All accused private individuals were officials of the foundation established by Dimaporo himself in 1994. The court has set P30,000 bail for each for the graft charge. Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/472657/dimaporo‐plea‐vs‐arrest‐warrant‐ opposed#ixzz2d9kAo9kE
Artificial spikes in prices in times of natural calamities COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 23, 2013 ‐ 12:00am
The heavy downpours brought by “Maring” that drenched the country’s rice and vegetable producing regions have brought to fore the basic problem of ordinary Filipinos – food security. We are again seeing the specter of so much crop losses and heavy damage to agricultural sector by this climate change phenomenon we call “habagat” (monsoon) that brings so much rain during tropical storms. Thus, crop losses consequently push prices of rice and other basic commodities because of less supply in the market. Doubts are thus cast on the government’s insistent claims that we have sufficient buffer rice stock if based strictly on the law of supply and demand. It defeats logic then when the Department of Agriculture appears to be bent on controlling rice supply in the country. The DA is now seeking an extension of the Quantitative Restriction (QR) on rice imports which lapsed in June last year. Does this have the imprimatur of President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III? Without the QR, the government-imposed quota on rice importation would not hold water under existing provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a signatory to the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT)-WTO, the Philippines is dutybound to lift trade barriers on rice importation, such as quota restrictions. And if a single typhoon can cause insecurity in the stock of rice in the country, why then is the government seeking an extension of the QR until 2017? Is it related to the bid to keep the 40 percent duty on rice entering the country under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV)? There is nothing wrong in strengthening the local rice industry to become competitive under a free trade regime. But obligations under the GATT-WTO must also be respected and a bid for self-sufficiency must not be at the expense of enough stock to ensure stable prices in the market. In fact, neighboring countries have already asked the Philippines to increase import allocations as well as lower tariff. Under the country’s previous QR on rice, imports outside of the 350,000 metric tons MAV are levied a higher tariff of 50 percent. Rice imports have been drastically reduced from 2.4 million metric tons (MT) in 2010 to 500,000 MT last year. The government should also remember that the Philippines is bound by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Trade in Goods Agreement (or ATIGA) which stipulates that a reduced tariff of 35 percent should be imposed on all rice imports, regardless of volume. It is interesting to note that last month, commercial price of milled rice in the Visayas increased allegedly due to insufficient supply.
Economist Roehlano Briones of the state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies also cautioned that self-sufficiency must not be at the expense of food security. “The goal of rice self-sufficiency is noble, but it cannot be equated to zero importation,” Briones pointed out. “With the continuous demand for food staples, particularly rice, as a result of a steadily increasing population, the government should maintain a practical stand to achieving food security,” Briones stressed. That practical stand does not – and must not be – by way of controlling the importation volume while ordinary Filipinos complain of insufficient supply and increasing prices. More importantly, it should not be through restrictions that circumvent existing free trade provisions and put the country’s credibility on the line before the international community. Such government restrictions only serve to entice unscrupulous rice traders to ply their nefarious smuggling activities with impunity because they can get away with it. Mis-declared as stone and wooden slabs, 520,000 bags of rice were seized by the Customs Bureau via its Cebu port last April. They were loaded in 1,069 container vans from Vietnam, with an estimated total value of around P950 million up to P1 billion worth. That’s why it was described as the “mother of all smuggled rice.” The Bureau of Customs in Cebu is set to auction supposedly yesterday the 174,720 bags of these smuggled rice amounting to P223.6 million. Earlier, the BOC in Cebu already conducted two public biddings for the total of 185,253 bags of seized rice on board 362 container vans. The bureau has earned P252.7 million from these auctions. A total of 371 container vans with an estimated 520 bags per container, or 192,920 bags that are now left will be also put on public auction by September this year. It was only in September last year when 93,952 bags of imported rice also from Vietnam, worth around P154.5 million, were smuggled through the Customs port in Legazpi City in Albay. So obviously, smuggling rice is being made very lucrative by the unintended consequence of well-meaning moves of the government to protect Filipino rice farmers. Having said that, our country has international trade treaty obligations and commitments that it must comply with if it is to earn trust and confidence of its foreign trade partners. Insofar as the issue of QR on rice is concerned, the country has been given sufficient time to implement QR on rice importation to cushion its impact and to prepare the local industry to become competitive when it fully opens up its market to entry of foreign products. Restricting the entry of imported agricultural products like rice to protect the local industry may not be bad at all as it protects the interest of Filipino traders. But when there is a supply lack, why restrict its importation that only engenders smuggling? The bottom line is the government must ensure sustained and stable supply of rice to keep the prices of our staple food at most affordable price as possible, especially to the greater number of
low income families. Its importation should not be restricted if local production can’t sustain the country’s requirements. At the end of the day, to borrow the favorite phrase of P-Noy, this kind of policy is not healthy because it will trigger artificial spikes in prices, especially not timely during periods of natural calamities. http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2013/08/23/1124202/artificial-spikes-prices-times-naturalcalamities
600,000 victims still displaced Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:23 am | Saturday, August 24th, 2013
About 600,000 people remained at temporary shelters or with relatives on Friday after days of heavy rain that killed 20, officials said. A day after floods ebbed in Metro Manila, stagnant pools of water and high tides in coastal areas prolonged the misery in Central Luzon, according to civil defense official Josefina Timoteo. “These are mainly farmers and fisher folk who still cannot return to their homes or resume work. We are still supplying their needs,” said Timoteo, the civil defense chief for the region. “These are low-lying regions and this happens every year. It is a way of life for many of them and the local governments are well-organized to provide relief,” she told Agence France-Presse. Seasonal monsoons dumped more than a month’s rain in Manila and surrounding provinces between Sunday and Wednesday, the weather service said, submerging about half the capital in floodwaters. Off to China The rains were worsened by Tropical Storm “Maring (international name: Trami),” which hit China on Thursday after hovering off northern Luzon earlier in the week. The government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 200,000 people were still in government-run shelters on Friday, with 400,000 others staying with friends or relatives and likewise receiving food rations and other emergency aid. The council raised the death toll to 20 as receding floodwaters led to the discovery of two bodies in Cavite province. Most of those who have yet to return home are in Central Luzon, where 481 villages remain under floodwaters up to a meter deep, Timoteo said. The weather is improving but the evacuation centers, mostly school buildings, are expected to start emptying only next week, she added.
Still no classes As a result, classes are still suspended in those areas, she said.
The health department has stocked up on medicines at evacuation camps to prevent the spread of epidemics, she said, adding there had been no reports of widespread diseases so far. The floods caused an estimated P97.3 billion pesos worth of damage to infrastructure and crops, the government said. The National Food Authority (NFA) distributed some 7,900 bags of rice to flood victims, mainly in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. Rice bags were also sent to Southern Tagalog provinces as well as the Cordillera and Ilocos Region where large areas were flooded for several days. According to the NFA, prices and supplies of rice are stable in affected areas. The agency said its monitoring showed that at the height of Maring, prices of commercial rice were observed at a range of P30-P32 per kilogram for regular-milled rice and P32-P39 per kilogram for well-milled rice in Metro Manila.
GSIS loans available Meanwhile, the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) announced it would extend emergency loans to its members affected by floods. In a statement, the GSIS said members in good standing can take out up to P20,000 under its Emergency Loan Program, payable in 36 equal monthly instalments. “The GSIS has made available a budget of P7 billion for the emergency loan program this year,” said GSIS President and General Manager Robert G. Vergara. The GSIS has reduced the interest rate of the loan from 8 to 6 percent, waived the 1-percent service fee and extended the payment of the first monthly amortization to three months from the loan drawdown. GSIS estimates that 200,000 of its members either work or reside in areas that were declared under “state of calamity” this week and would therefore be eligible for loans. GSIS members may either apply for the loan in any GSIS branch or through its 147 GSIS Wireless Automated Processing System kiosks stationed in provincial, city or municipal halls and selected Robinson’s Malls. Some mobile loan processing units will be deployed in calamity areas. “Members may apply for the loan beginning today, Vergara said. AFP, Ronnel W. Domingo and Paolo G. Montecillo http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/473267/600000-victims-still-displaced#ixzz2d9dEflQS
Solons hit loss of checks and balances By Christine F. Herrera | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:02am | 2,026 views 12
Lawmakers on Friday warned against a de facto martial rule or fiscal dictatorship following the collapse of the system of checks and balances after President Benigno Aquino III snatched from Congress the power to identify P27-billion worth of pork barrel projects. They demanded that the line-item budgeting be imposed on the entire P2.268trillion national budget for 2014, including the P1 trillion pork barrel of the President. They said the President was trying to mislead the public for announcing that the pork barrel, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund, had been abolished when in fact, he only transferred the power to endorse projects for districts from Congress to the Executive, with the latter retaining its power to implement them. “It is the same dog with a different collar but the lawmakers now would be made to beg for their projects with the Palace and the Department of Budget and Management,” said Independent Minority bloc leader Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. “The President is misleading the people. He did not abolish the pork barrel. In fact, he just consolidated his presidential pork even further,” said neophyte Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon, a member of the bloc led by House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora. “Are we being made to believe that a martial rule is in the offing? The President also wanted to strip the Judiciary of its fiscal autonomy. So where are the check and balance and separation of powers?” Romualdez said. “It can lead to a de facto martial rule as the entire system of check and balance collapses with the concentration of power with the President,” Ridon said.
Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus said the President’s decision was “more scheming and deceptive.” “This is just a move to douse the people’s anger at PDAF, which, in essence strengthened the presidential pork barrel system,” De Jesus said. “This is a financial martial rule.” De Jesus attributed the President’s decision to preempt the snowballing of spontaneous protest call of civil society groups to mount “Isang Milyon: Martsa sa Luneta,” a mobilization on August 26, National Heroes Day in Luneta Park to demand the scrapping of the pork barrel, including that of the President’s. Romualdez and Zamora demanded that the entire P2.268-trillion budget be subjected to line-item budgeting to do away with lump sum appropriations. The President did not say how much ceiling would be imposed on the pork barrel of the congressmen that originally amounted to P70 million each and P200 million for each senator annually. But Zamora cautioned his colleagues against believing that this was a precursor to martial rule. “Let us not go and scare ourselves. It is not,” Zamora said. ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio of the Zamora bloc echoed De Jesus’ claim that Aquino’s announcement was to preempt the Monday massive protest. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/solons‐hit‐loss‐of‐checks‐and‐balances/
Bad weather up with new LPA By Rio N. Araja | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:02am | 1,211 views 2
A new weather disturbance entered the Philippine area of responsibility on Friday and weathermen warn that it may turn into a tropical depression in the next three days, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. Weather forecaster Gilbert Aquino said the LPA was 640 kilometers east of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur and was too far to affect the lighter monsoon rains over most parts of the country in the past two days.
Another weather disturbance. Weather forecaster Aldszar Aurelio points to a lowpressure area east of Hinatuan in Surigao del Sur that could bring more rain to the country. Manny Palmero But Aquino said the LPA may gain strength because it is still at sea and it may affect Mindanao by Saturday night and parts of Visayas and Luzon by Sunday night. If it does intensify into a tropical depression, will be given the codename â€œNandoâ€? and may cause flashfloods and landslides in parts of Mindanao. Meantime,a trough in the LPA over the regions of Caraga and Davao will cause moderate to occasionally heavy rain showers and thunderstorms while Eastern and Central Visayas and the rest of Mindanao will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers.
Aquino said the southwest monsoon continues to weaken but is still affecting Luzon. He added that sunny to cloudy skies with passing light rains will be expected in the next 24 hours over Luzon including Metro Manila, Ilocos Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon and Mimaropa. The new LPA arrived as the national disaster agency reported that Cavite had the highest death toll among provinces affected by the typhoon-enhanced monsoon rain. Eight people were killed in the province whihc also posted a record rainfall of 475.4mm in a single day. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported lower death counts in the monsoon-ravaged provinces of Pampanga (three victims), Bulacan (two victims), Bataan (one victim), Nueva Ecija (one victim), Quezon (one victim), Rizal (two victims) and Apayao (one victim). One victim was reported in Metro Manila. But Pagasa said its station at Sangley Point in Cavite show the enhanced ‘habagat’ on Wednesday dumped a record 475.4 mm of rainfall on the province, exceeding the 354.2mm rainfall recorded at the same station on Aug. 7 last year. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/bad‐weather‐up‐with‐new‐lpa/
‘Million people March’: Aquino’s turnabout won’t stop protest By Francisco Tuyay | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:02am | 2,118 views 15
Despite President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s announcement that his administration will re-design the controversial pork barrel system, the initiative to stage a people’s rally to protest the system gained ground on Friday as more groups pledged to join the demonstration scheduled for August 26. After some of its member-schools encouraged their students to join the protest rally, the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines issued a call to its 1,252 members to support the initiative and demand more transparency in the government’s allocation of taxpayers’ monies. The CEAP condemned the diversion of public funds for personal gain and blamed the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund which, the group said, was prone to misuse and abuse. “Incredibly, responsible bodies in the House of Representatives and in the Senate refuse its investigation and the Aquino Administration refuses its abolition,” CEAP said, echoing the positions of its member-schools. “It is an appalling state of affairs against the backdrop of a government that had done so well in rallying the citizenry to reform corrupt and crooked ways on the daan na matuwid [straight path],” the group added. Even more pledges of support emerged on Friday although Aquino announced earlier in the day that his administration would abolish the pork barrel system and replace it with a new system with more stringent controls. The event was actually independently conceived by several individuals through social network sites, like Facebook and Twitter, and netizens agreed to support the event which was eventually called “Million People March to Luneta.” Philippine National Police spokesman Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac admitted that there were no focal persons nor acknowledged event organizers and the authorities
are also using social media to reach out to participants and coordinate security preparations. Metro Manila police director Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo said the Manila Police District was set to go on alert on Saturday and they were “coordinating with the organizers” of the rally that is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Luneta. MPD director Chief Supt. Isagani Genabe confirmed the cancellation of leaves and reiterated that under a full alert, all Manila policemen are required to be at their posts. Genabe also appealed to the leaders of the event to coordinate with the police to avoid conflict and ensure that participants will not be victimized by criminal elements. “We would like to encourage the organizers to come to us. We meet, dialogue before Monday, so every knows what they expect from us and what we expect from them,” Genabe said. One of the well-known promoters of the event, activist nun Mary John Mananzan OSB said students and teachers of St. Scholastica’s College in Manila, all clad in white, will assemble at their school around 8 a.m. Monday before marching to the Luneta. “We are all going. I have gathered everyone from St. Scholastica to go there,” Sister Mary John said after a forum on the most recent scandal involving government pork barrel. De La Salle University, also in Manila, is also expected to have a sizable contingent to the event with Bro. Jose Mari Jimenez FSC, president of De La Salle Philippines, calling on other La Sallites to “join the mass action calling for the Abolition of the PDAF/ Pork Barrel on 26 August 2013, Monday at the Luneta.”Students and teachers from public schools, like the University of the Philippines, have also said they will attend the event. The UP College of Mass Communication had earlier issued a statement calling on Aquino to remove P27 billion in pork funds from the 2014 budget. “The faculty, students and staff of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication will join the people’s assembly and march at the Luneta on Monday, August 26 to express our collective outrage,” the college said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/million‐people‐march‐aquinos‐turnabout‐wont‐stop‐ protest/
Sea collision: Marina suspends skippers, crew of ferry, cargo ships By Joel E. Zurbano | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:02am | 561 views 1
The Maritime Industry Authority on Friday suspended the captains and all crew members of the ferry MV St. Thomas Aquinas and the freighter Sulpicio Express 7, the two ships that collided off the coast of Cebu on Aug. 16. The collision killed 80 people in the ferry and befouled Cebu’s waters as a result of the spilling of 120,000 liters of bunker oil, 20,000 liters of lube oil, and 20,000 liters of diesel oil. A total of 750 people have been rescued so far but 40 people remain unaccounted for. The Coast Guard’s Special Board of Marine Inquiry started its hearing on the collision at 10 a.m. at the Philippine Coast Guard headquarters in Cebu City. Commodore Gilbert Rueras, chairman of the five-man fact-finding committee, said their main objective was to determine the violations of procedures committed by the two ship captains. “The primary job of the body is to find out what happened,” Rueras said. Rueras made his statement even as the Coast Guard placed under investigation the crew members of a ship owned by Trans-Asia Shipping Lines who were at the site when the ferry and the freighter collided but failed to respond to the incident. “Captains who receive distress calls from a vessel and is within range to respond to the incident is obliged to conduct search-and-rescue operations,” said Commodore Winniel Azcuna, head of the Boast Guard’s Cebu Station.
Commander Armand Balilo, the Coast Guard’s chief information officer, said the Trans-Asia vessel was behind the Sulpicio Express 7 before the incident happened. Meanwhile, the male residents of 26 villages in Cebu affected by the oil spilled during the collision had a mass haircutting to collect hair and add to the coconut husks, sawdust and chicken feathers that they had been using the clean up the oil spill. Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the mass haircutting took place in Cebu City’s Plaza Sugbu, where the provincial and city governments asked for donations of materials the could be used to sop up the spilled oil. Azcuna was the first to take the witness stand during the start of the Board of Marine Inquiry on Friday. He said a port-to-port call was made at 8:45 p.m. on Aug. 16, meaning the two ships were passing the channel on opposite directions, but it wasn’t clear who made the call. Eighteen minutes later, he said, the MV St. Thomas Aquinas made a distress call. Azcuna said the collision could have been avoided if the channel was being regulated as was the practice in Manila, where the vessels were cued and controlled. With Florante S. Solmerin http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/sea‐collision‐marina‐suspends‐skippers‐crew‐of‐ferry‐ cargo‐ships/
PNoy now turns vs pork By Joyce Pangco Panares | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 1,410 views 11
Palace eyes new system; critics tag it same dog President Benigno Aquino III reversed his stand on pork barrel Friday, saying it was time to abolish it, but critics said he was only changing the name of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and paving the way for a “new mechanism to steal taxpayers’ money.” In the face of growing public outrage over the misuse of public funds, President Aquino said at an impromptu press conference at the Palace that it was time to replace pork barrel with “a new mechanism” that would ensure congressional allocations would no longer be open to abuse.
Turnaround. Demonstrators at the Don Chino Roces Bridge in Mendiola, Manila, denounce the illegal use of billions of pesos worth of pork barrel. LINO SANTOS “Despite the reforms we have implemented, we have seen, as the events of the past weeks have shown, that greater change is necessary to fight against those who are determined to abuse the system. It is time to abolish the PDAF,” said Mr. Aquino, who was flanked by Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. “Now, we will create a new mechanism to address the needs of your constituents and sectors, in a manner that is transparent, methodical and rational, and not susceptible to abuse or corruption,” the President added.
But Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares dismissed the move as a superficial change in name. “The President is just transforming the PDAF into an itemized pork barrel. It’s just a new name and a new mechanism to steal public funds,” Colmenares said. Lawyer Harry Roque described the new mechanism as “the same dog with a different collar” as he urged Filipinos to push on with the Million People March protest gathering on Monday. “It was CDF (Countrywide Development Fund), then PDAF. They will call it another name but it will still be pork. See you in Luneta still,” Roque said in his Twitter post. Mr. Aquino said every congressional funded project will have seven safeguards against corruption: Projects to be funded will come from a specific menu of qualified projects; Projects cannot include consumable soft items such as fertilizers, seeds, medicines, medical kits, dentures, funding for sports fests, and training materials, among others; Projects cannot be temporary infrastructure and neither can they be dredging, desilting, re-graveling, or asphalt overlay projects; Funds cannot be disbursed to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and certain government-owned and/or -controlled corporations such as ZREC (ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation) and NABCOR (National Agribusiness Corporation) which will now be abolished for being “notorious for anomalies and which seem to serve no other purpose aside from being instruments of corruption;” Funds must be limited to the district or sector of the legislator who sponsored it; All items will be subject to open and competitive bidding, with all bid notices and awards posted in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System; and Each item will be disclosed in the website of the Department of Budget and Management and the National Data Portal of the government.
“I have tasked Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to consult with Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Drilon to craft this mechanism, and to submit it for my approval as soon as possible. We are all committed to putting this in place so that, moving forward, allocations per district will be included in the national budget, starting with the proposed budget of 2014,” Aquino said. The President said lawmakers can identify and suggest projects for their districts. Once approved, the projects will be earmarked as line items in the budget, he said. “In this way, they will be enacted into law as part of our national budget—every line, every peso, and every project open to scrutiny, as with all other programs of your government,” Aquino said. Aquino said pork barrel, established during the term of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, was not “intrinsically wrong.” Mr. Aquino again blamed his predecessor for problems that have persisted during his term. “What is wrong–indeed, what has outraged our people—was the collusion among a former President ready to trade favors just to remain in power, legislators, and members of the bureaucracy who were willing to conspire, enabled by a passive and indifferent citizenry. All these factors put together make the PDAF prone to abuse. We need to make sure the system can no longer be abused,” he said. In a separate interview, Belmonte said he will prod his colleagues to submit their proposed projects this early. “Even if we have to meet more than the usual number of days, we will do just so we can put in place this new mechanism by the end of the year,” the House Speaker said. “I believe we can live with it (no more PDAF),” Belmonte said, even as he acknowledged that he expects some of his colleagues were “mad” about the reforms.
The President also said he will keep a close eye on the government agencies tasked to investigate and prosecute lawmakers and other individuals involved in the misuse of pork barrel funds. “I would rather see a conviction under my term. But we are realistic and we are pushing for judicial reforms so we can expedite the process,” the President said. “I will be on their case, especially for those under the Executive branch. The Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit are independent constitutional bodies but we will appeal to them to hasten the process so we can set an example,” Aquino said. The President also expressed confidence that the movers and supporters of the Million People March are his allies when it comes to the issue of pork barrel. “Why should I be afraid? It only shows our allies in reforming the system are growing in number. So thank you to them,” Aquino said. Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said he would support the abolition of pork only if all such allocations and lump-sum appropriations of all departments are scrapped. Enrile also said the Commission on Audit incorrectly attributed to him P325 million in pork barrel allocations. The COA earlier this week released a report showing that some P6.2 billion in pork barrel had been transferred to questionable non-government organizations from 2007 to 2009. Of the P6.2 billion, P332.7 million allegedly came from Enrile’s PDAF. In a press briefing, Enrile told reporters that if the pork barrel is scrapped, it must be totally scrapped. “We should not only look at scrapping the PDAF but include the various ‘pork barrel’ or lump sum appropriations of all departments of government under the General Appropriations Act,” said Enrile. He acknowledged that the public is justified in its outrage over the P10 billion pork barrel scam and urgent calls to abolish the pork barrel, which was restored in 1989.
COA also disclosed last week that 10 NGOs linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles received P2.157 billion in pork barrel between 2007 and 2009. Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, has been declared a fugitive from justice after she went into hiding to avoid arrest. Enrile said he is ready to face any investigation by the Senate and by the Executive and be prosecuted “if anyone can prove I financially benefited from the unscrupulous and illegal schemes of criminal syndicates whether masterminded by Ms. Janet Lim Napoles or her ilk and her cohorts in or out of government.” “The dark cloud of suspicion that I have been a party to this large-scale robbery of public coffers is most unfortunate. The ongoing investigation and subsequent prosecution based on evidence as directed by the President is a welcome opportunity for me to clear my name and that of my office,” he said. “If any of my PDAF or pork barrel funds can be proven to have gone to my own pocket, I am ready to surrender whatever assets I and my family own, any or all of it if they want.” “If I were to choose something of value to leave to my family when I depart from this world, I would choose to leave honor and a good name, nothing else,” the 89-year-old senator said. He said the pork barrel amounts attributed to him are “distorted and misleading” because they came from missing and incomplete Budget Department records. He said both houses of Congress including the chairs of the House appropriations committee and Senate committee on finance are allocated additional amounts over and above their regular allocations for PDAF. Each senator gets P200 million in pork a year while congressmen are allotted P70 million each annually. In further disputing the COA report, Enrile pointed out that the amount of more than P325 million attributed to him were actually from several senators who asked for his endorsement when he was still the Senate president. He said those who asked for his endorsements were incumbent Senators Francis Escudero (P20 million); Jinggoy Estrada (P50 million); Lito Lapid ((P42 million);
Loren Legarda (P33 million); Miriam Defensor Santiago (P50 million); and former senators Rodolfo Biazon (P20 million) and Manuel Roxas II (P20 million); and congressmen who were members of the Commission on Appointments (P90 million). “The above-mentioned legislators merely requested my endorsement as then Senate President for the release of funds for the various projects under their own PDAF,” Enrile said.With Macon R. Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/pnoy‐now‐turns‐vs‐pork/
Arroyo ally backs FOI bill with ‘right to reply’ By Maricel Cruz | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 607 views 2
An Arroyo ally in the House of Representatives said on Friday that she would support the proposed Freedom of Information only if it would carry a provision on the right of reply. Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia said that the proposed transparency measure, once enacted, should contain a provision that would discourage entities, like the media, from ‘abusing’ their power. “I am in favor of the FOI bill in the spirit of transparency and accountability. It must, however, afford every public official the opportunity to reply in the spirit of fairness and justice. Otherwise, this bill could be prone to abuse and subsequent justice,” Garcia said in a text message. Garcia, a known ally of former president and detained Pampanga Rep. Gloria MacapagalArroyo, is currently facing malversation and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan. Several senators and congressmen had already filed FOI proposals in the 16th Congress. The Senate passed its version of the bill last December, but the House failed to do so as lawmakers opposing the FOI wanted to insert controversial provisions such as the right-to-reply on issues raised against them. The RoR requires the media to allot newspaper spaces or air time for the reply of individuals who were allegedly aggrieved for being subjects of news stories. Garcia said she will participate actively during the committee deliberations on the controversial measure to ensure that Congress will pass a ‘reasonable’ version of the measure. “I can promise you that I will study the bill very intently, participate in the committee deliberations and push for a fair, just and effective bill that should answer the call of the times,” Garcia said.Garcia admitted that the provision on the right of reply to be incorporated with the FOI bill would be a difficult task. “How do you compromise a right? It’s either you have it or you don’t,” she said. “But let’s see what the committee hearings will come up with.” http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/arroyo‐ally‐backs‐foi‐bill‐with‐right‐to‐reply/
Napoles ‘surgery’ mere rumor — DoJ By Rey E. Requejo | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 934 views
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday described as mere speculation reports that fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged architect of the P10billion pork barrel scam, is now sporting a different look after undergoing cosmetic surgery to avoid arrest. De Lima explained that the National Bureau of Investigation has not received any information that Napoles has undergone cosmetic surgery. “I don’t know if someone from the NBI really said that, or if there’s really a source. But there’s no official report relative to that possibility, so that is a speculation at this point,” De Lima said. According to De Lima, the NBI has been pursuing several leads in the nationwide hunt for Napoles and brother Reynald Lim, who were ordered arrested by a Makati City regional trial court last week for alleged serious illegal detention of whistleblower Benhur Luy. “There are many leads being pursued, but none has yielded positive results yet,” De Lima said. De Lima disclosed that the NBI has persistently been receiving tips about a particular place she refused to identify. “Just this morning, there is information on one place where the NBI team had previously been to several times, including the first day Napoles and Lim disappeared. We’re just waiting for the results now,” she said. De Lima earlier said there is no indication that the fugitives were able to leave the country, saying it would be hard for Napoles and Lim to sneak out of the country since the Bureau of Immigration has been alerted against their possible escape. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/napoles‐surgery‐mere‐rumor‐doj/
P500-m smuggled products seized By Jennifer Ambanta | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 667 views 1
The Bureau of Customs on Friday seized three forty-foot container vans at the Manila International Container Port loaded with about P500 million worth of mobile phones, replica branded bags, and unregistered health products. According to Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, the goods were misdeclared by its consignee Tumbler Enterprise. “These seizures are definitely a big boost to the local market, especially for the distributors of high-end international brand products as this will enhance investor confidence for them in the country.” Biazon said. “Moreover, this will also avoid unfair competition in the local market due to the availability of cheaper, but lower quality smuggled fake products.” Lawyer Zsae Carrie De Guzman, Intellectula Property Rights Division head said covering documents will be transmitted to the Run-After-The-Smugglers for the filing of charges against the suspects. Local representatives of Louis Vuitton and Chanel among others, place the estimated value of the BOC haul at P500 million, based on the extent of the smuggling attempt and the prevailing pricing of the original counterparts of the counterfeit items. “That would have been the amount of local sales lost for the legitimate distributors of these high-end signature products in the country, had these three containers vans been able to get through customs gates.” Biazon said. With Joel E. Zurbano http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/p500‐m‐smuggled‐products‐seized/
Pasay to sue price fixers By Ferdinand Fabella | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 209 views
The city government of Pasay said monitoring teams are going after price saboteurs in the wake of weather disturbances that hit the National Capital Region. Pasay Mayor Tony Calixto said he has received reports of goods being sold on jacked up prices despite the city having been placed Wednesday under a state of calamity through a council resolution. “We will employ the full force of the law against all price saboteurs who make matters worse by increasing the prices of basic commodities and other necessities needed during these times,” he said. Among the flood-hit areas in Metro Manila, Pasay posted the highest levels by the Office of the Civil Defense, with Malibay and Maricaban districts going under seven feet deep floodwaters at the height of Typhoon “Maring.” At least 4,671 families were displaced as more than half of the city’s 201 barangays were submerged amind torrential rains, Calixto said. Citing the Price Act of 1992, he said prices of basic goods in an area declared as under a state of calamity are automatically frozen at their prevailing prices. Calixto violators will be sued for profiteering and illegal price manipulation and face five to 15 years in prison and a fine of P5,000 to P2 million. Residents may report their complaints through emergency hotline number 55177-77 at the Pasay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, he said. “This emergency hotline number is dedicated to calls related to disasters or other emergencies that hit our city, including price increases, calls for rescue, relief and recovery,” Calixto said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/pasay‐to‐sue‐price‐fixers/
Scrap all pork By Elizabeth Angsioco | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 1,624 views 28
Two weeks ago I wrote about the people’s right to anger over the “pork” scam. I said that President Benigno Aquino III must listen to the people on this one as I felt that people’s anger would escalate. I was among the first who called for the scrapping of “pork barrel”. Over the past days, people’s extreme displeasure became more palpable and the calls to scrap pork and punish the guilty gained momentum. The Commission on Audit report on “pork” disbursements (2007-2009) unleashed greater anger. And then, a few days before the planned “people’s protest picnic” in Luneta, the President announced that he is scrapping the Priority Development Assistance Fund a.k.a. “pork barrel” funds. Indeed, this is a welcome development, a good move to drastically reduce corruption opportunities. Immediately, a number of people expressed doubt over this presidential move saying that “pork” will just be given a different name and will resurface. This is understandable because of the history of pork. “Pork barrel” before being named PDAF was initially Countrywide Development Fund. The money used to be lodged with legislators who, under the scheme, were supposed to directly provide funds for their pet projects. Then in 1996, former Representative Romeo Candazo blew the whistle on how CDF was become a milking cow by corrupt legislators. The scandal brought changes. “Pork” reincarnated as PDAF. Money was no longer held by legislators but became lump sums allocated for their projects. This meant that a legislator would decide on which government agencies receive the funds, as well as who the implementors and beneficiaries would be. And then Napoles happened. So, should we now be resigned that nothing will happen despite PNoy’s announcement?
I say no. President Aquino mentioned these crucial changes in the system. Whereas under PDAF lump sum allocations were made, this time, lawmakers will have to propose actual projects they want funded in their districts or for their sectors (for party list representatives) based on a menu of allowable projects. Those approved will be included by the Executive as LINE ITEMS in its proposed annual budget for Congress’ deliberation. In short, such projects can be detected in the General Appropriations Act and will not appear as mere lump sums. This means that lawmakers will need to be involved in the budgeting process way earlier. It also means that their discretion after the GAA is approved is removed. Congress, however, should make sure that the money allocated for such projects are properly spent. This is where their oversight mandate becomes important. Second, “soft projects” such as medicines, fertilizers, seeds, training materials, etc., and temporary infrastructures including dredging, desilting, regravelling, and asphalt overlays will be prohibited. PDAF allowed these and such projects that are difficult to check. Thus, they are opportunities for corruption. Third, non-government organizations and Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations will be barred. I am sure that legitimate organizations would be hit but then again, Napoles and cohorts gave NGOs a bad name. We also know about politicians’ penchant for creating their own NGOs to channel people’s money to. As a head of an NGO, I support this also to keep organizations autonomous from government. We cannot be beholden to any politician. Last, from now on, the Department of Budget will make public through its website all disbursements in real time. This is good for transparency and should pave the way for other departments to follow suit. These are welcome changes. But are these enough? I say no. For total transparency, the president should now certify the Freedom of Information bill as urgent. The events of the past weeks brought to the fore the urgent need for this bill to be enacted. If PNoy really wants transparency and accountability, he should strongly push for the FOI law.
Another very important issue is that of the “other pork”. Now that the legislative ‘pork barrel’ is gone. The President should go full blast and include his own “pork” in these changes. There are many more billions of pesos floating around in discretionary funds. Should not these be also included in the GAA as line items so the people know the real magnitude of monies used by government? One example of the “other pork” is the Presidential Social Fund sourced from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. This amounts to a few billion pesos yearly and are “off-budget”, meaning, not included in the GAA. Therefore, it is unseen and unexamined. The PSF, as the name implies, is under the Office of the President for funding projects for beneficiaries that the presidential office chooses. This has been questioned several times during budget deliberations but until now, the PSF remains invisible. Another kind of “pork” involves the 132 BILLION pesos under the Malampaya funds. This enormous amount is also NOT included in the GAA. The total funds used to be 173 BILLION but reports say that Department of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said (during the recent budget hearing in the House) that P38.8 billion have already been spent since 2002. The legality of spending part of the Malampaya funds under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the subject of a case in the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, Petilla reportedly said in the HOR hearing that some 132 billion pesos is presently at PNoy’s disposal. Again, this is “off-budget”. The legal basis for the Malampaya funds is Ferdinand Marcos’ Presidential Decree No. 910 of March 22, 1976. This created an Energy Development Board and its Section 8 says: “… All fees, revenues and receipts of the Board from any and all sources including receipts from service contracts and agreements … and similar payments on the exploration, development and exploitation of energy resources, shall form part of a Special Fund to be used to finance energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government and for
such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President.” (emphasis supplied) Isn’t it time for President Aquino to also scrap and replace Marcos’ 1976 PD and include such special funds in the GAA? In fact, the scrapped PDAF cannot compare with the President’s ‘pork’. If the President really wants transparency and accountability under his ‘tuwid na daan’ slogan, he will need to scrap all ‘pork’, including his. President Aquino should continue setting an example. If he does this, mapapahiya ang lahat ng corrupt sa gobyerno. The fight against “pork” is not yet over. See you in Luneta on August 26, Araw ng Kagitingan. Para sa bayan, laban sa “pork”. email@example.com and @bethangsioco on Twitter http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/scrap‐all‐pork/
No to pork By Manila Standard Today | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 192 views
Officials and members of anti-crime group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) led by ‘running priest’ Father Robert Reyes (second from left) hold placards and wearing blindfolds in expressing their opposition to the pork barrel, otherwise known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during the Run Against Scrap Pork Barrel, Run for good Governance which started at the Rizal Monument in Luneta and ended at the Cory Aquino Monument in Manila on Friday. LINO SANTOS http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/no‐to‐pork/
Egypt OFWs assured of PH jobs By Vito Barcelo | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 982 views 1
The Labor Department on Friday assured returning overseas Filipino workers displaced by the civil strife in Egypt of employment and livelihood opportunities in the country. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz earlier directed the immediate repatriation of 1,540 OFWs in civil strife-torn Egypt after the Department of Foreign Affairs raised the alert level from 2 to 4. “Alert Level 4 requires mandatory repatriation of all Philippine nationals to the country,” she said. “We wanted to ensure the safety of our OFWs in Egypt, but we also know that they are half-hearted to go back to the country because they will be leaving behind their jobs which are their primary means of supporting their families. They should not sacrifice their safety, since there are jobs here awaiting them,” Baldoz said. Aside from the package of assistance under the National Reintegration Program being prepared for OFW repatriates from Egypt, Baldoz said that there are demands for cleaners, medical technologists, nurses, animators, mechanical engineers, instrument technicians, waitresses, bartenders, housekeeping staff, cooks, and masons in the country, which the repatriates can apply to. She said that Phil-JobNet, the government’s online job search and job matching facility, has recorded 80,660 jobs vacancies in the country, as of 22 August 2013. Under the ban, the deployment of new workers, as well as the return to Egypt of vacationing workers, spouses of Egyptian nationals, Islamic University students, and their dependents, is likewise suspended. “We do have a lot of job vacancies here in the country; vacancies which has fewer takers or no takers at all. They must consider these vacancies and apply or attend short training courses to qualify for these available jobs,” Baldoz said.
Meanwhile, the 30 International Labor-member states said on Friday that it was ready to implement the law that would protect the welfare of the 1.5-million seafarers and fair competition among shipowners. The implementation has already taken off in full force starting this week, after the 30 ILO-member state, including the Philippines, ratified the ILO Maritime Labor Convention which crafted in 2006. In a statement, ILO director-general Guy Ryder said that the implementation of the convention is a milestone in the maritime history. The convention has particular significance for the Philippines, the largest source of seafarers. One-third of seafarers in the world are Filipinos, the ILO also said. The ILO said that the convention marked a new era of decent work for seafarers in the global shipping industry. “I call on all countries with a maritime interest to ratify – if they have not yet done so – and urge governments and shipowners to work effectively to implement this Convention,” Ryder added. The new convention became a binding international law as of August 20 this year. It needs ratification by 30 ILO member-states, representing more than 33 per cent of the world’s gross shipping tonnage to enter into force. With Sara Susanne Fabunan http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/egypt‐ofws‐assured‐of‐ph‐jobs/
The floodgates to corruption By Rod Kapunan | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 1,269 views 21
Up to now, our delirious lawmakers are debating on whether or not to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund. President Noynoy Aquino already set his foot not to remove the trough full of pork barrel funds from our gorging politicians. [On August 23, President Aquino said he would abolish the PDAF. - Ed] His comparison of the pork barrel to a car that if driven by a fool is dangerous to the pedestrians is off-tangent. The issue is not how some of our legislators were able to divert them in whole or in part, but on whether it is morally right for them. This is asked because it is this government that coined the slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” To make sure it means business, it came out with a roadmap dubbed as “Tuwid na daan.” Yes, pork barrel is not illegal, but definitely it is immoral. Its immorality is not in the after-the-fact how the funds were diverted, but on the indubitable truth that our legislators should be doing their homework enacting sensible laws to promote the welfare of our people, not in acting as executive officials implementing projects. Moreover, even if there is no prohibition in the Constitution, neither is there a provision giving them a green light to do things outside the scope on what they are supposed to do. If some skunk legislators would argue that pork barrel is allowed in the US, then why should it be prohibited here? Not to be cynical about it, what is made as a practice in the US does not necessarily gain for it the imprimatur that it is perfectly moral or even legal here. The US system is as equally riddled with corruption, not to say it would not have ended up as the biggest debtor in the world today if what it has been doing is correct. Moreover, even if we take it that all the members of Congress have now been exorcised to wisely spend their pork barrel, the motive behind its restoration by Corazon Aquino, and practiced by all succeeding Presidents, was to ensure that all the members of Congress toe the line with regard to whoever is in
Malacañang. It is a form of corruption because the original argument, which is to ensure that provinces and districts that have low revenue income, are given their fair share of the development fund, is now out of the question. It is the President who determines who should be given their allocation, and sometimes the amount. Whether used wholly or surreptitiously deducted say of 10 to 30 percent of the amount to sustain the system of political patronage, their reelection, and to perpetuate their clan’s political dynasty, that would not make any difference. What remains pivotal is that the President is practically bribing the members of Congress. While Congress appropriates pro forma the amount to assert its “independence,” the final say is still on the President to decide who should be entitled. The decision to restore the pork barrel by former President Cory Aquino opened floodgates to massive corruption. It was a financial disaster because it did not end up with each senator receiving an average of P200 million and P70 million for each congressman. Rather, it became a down-the-line partitioning of the carcass. Provincial boards, city councils, municipal councils, and mind you, even the barangay councils now receive their respective pork barrel, all in the name of development. If we are appalled at the amount received by members of Congress, then one should know that in Quezon City, each councilor receives P44 million as his pork barrel, and there are six councilors in every district as against one congressman. So, if Congress allocates P70 million for him, the city allocates a total of P264 million pork barrel for the six councilors. Lately, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones discovered a nauseating variation of the pork barrel. While originally it was the President that played the role of Santa Claus to control Congress, now Santa Claus has learned to accommodate himself like counting “one for you and ten for me.” According to Briones, on top of the itemized expenditures in the national budget, the Office of the President has set aside a hefty lump sum of P1 trillion at his disposal. Thus, if 10 percent of his P1 trillion is dissipated by corruption, that would mean losing a staggering amount of P10 billion. Indeed, one might say things have turned “Tuwad na daan.”
Maybe Noynoy got the idea from Speaker Sonny Belmonte who served as Mayor of Quezon City. Aside from the itemized budgetary expenditures, the Mayor allocated for his office an annual whooping budget of more than P3 billion, an amount not even the Vice President could squeeze from Congress. Finally, if there is anybody we can blame for this unprecedented P10.5 billion pork barrel scam, we can also point to Mrs. Aquino for allowing nongovernmental organizations to received funds from the government. The 1987 Constitution officially gave recognition to NGOs, even empowering them to carry out their holier-than-thou advocacy and undertakings without the thought that many of them would morph to become big-time syndicates engaged in the systematic looting of government funds. Section 23, Article II of the Constitution clearly encourages non-government, community-based, or sectoral organizations (to organize) to promote the welfare of the nation. Not satisfied, NGOs were given additional powers in Sections 15 and 16, Article XIII of the Constitution. If they were given the license to operate and assurance of independence, logically NGOs should have their own private funds to carry to maintain that status. That should have served as the demarcating line between the government and the NGOs, meaning that no government funds, coming the PDAF of politicians or otherwise, should be allocated to them. It was a contradiction and downright idiotic for the yellow government to assure NGOs their independence while funding their operations. It is that loophole that has been shrewdly exploited by farsighted people like Janet Lim Napoles to operationalize the system of diverting the pork barrel funds. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/the‐floodgates‐to‐corruption/
BDO taps debt market By Jennifer Ambanta | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 186 views
BDO Unibank Inc. said Friday it will issue another tranche of up to P5 billion worth of Long Term Negotiable Certificates of Deposit. BDO said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange the issue aimed to lengthen the maturity profile of funding sources and support growth objectives. BDO in March also issued P5 billion worth of LTNCDs. The new tranche will carry a 7-year tenor at 3.00 to 3.25 percent a year and may still change until the end of the offering period on Aug. 30. “Due to the suspension of work in Metro Manila early this week because of the monsoon rains, the close of the offer period has been extended from August 27, 2013 to August 30, 2013, with the issue date now set for September 12, 2013,” BDO said in a statement. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/bdo‐taps‐debt‐market/
Rediscounting window By MST Business | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:01am | 134 views
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said Friday the Monetary Board approved the restructuring of the central bank’s rediscounting window to align it further with market-based monetary operations and the international practice of scaling down credit operations. Bangko Sentral Deputy Gov. and officer-in-charge Nestor Espenilla Jr. said the central bank effective Nov. 15 this year would establish for a prescribed period two separate rediscounting windows—one for universal and commercial banks and one for thrift, cooperative and rural banks. Thrift, co-op and rural banks can gain access to the rediscounting window at existing terms, but with a specified term premium per loan tenor. The window covers a five-year transition period for thrift bank and 10 years for co-op and rural banks. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/rediscounting‐window/
Govt rebids LRT-1 Cavite project By Lailany P. Gomez | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:02am | 349 views The Transportation Department said Friday it will push through with the bidding of the P60billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 Cavite extension project after revising the terms of the auction. The bidding and award committee of the department and the Light Rail Transit Authority said it would submit the revised terms to Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya next week. “An option to move the project forward under the Build-Operate-and-Transfer Law is to rebid it. In case of a re-bidding, a single-stage process is possible in order to meet the project’s original deadlines,” the committee said. “In order to formalize its recommendation, the [committee] needs to convene and pass a resolution prior to submitting the same to the Transportation chief. Once the… recommendation is approved, the DoTC will announce the next steps for the bidding of the project to the public,” it said. The DoTC said it would pursue the auction as scheduled despite the failed bidding last week, when only one of the four consortiums made an offer. The committee said the prospective bidders were concerned of the commercial viability of the project. Light Rail Manila Consortium, a joint venture between the Ayala Group and Metro Pacific Investment Corp., was the only party that submitted a qualified offer with certain conditions. AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., a unit of Ayala Corp., later announced it was pulling out of the partnership. The three other pre-qualified consortiums—San Miguel Corp.’s SMC Infra Resources Inc., DMCI Holdings Inc. and MTD-Samsung Consortium of Malaysia and Korea—withdrew, citing financial issues. The rail project will extend the 20.7-km LRT Line 1 system, which runs from Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City to Baclaran in Parañaque, by an additional 11.7 km. southward to Bacoor, Cavite. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/govt‐rebids‐lrt‐1‐cavite‐project/
Peso sinks to 19-month low By Jennifer Ambanta | Posted on Aug. 24, 2013 at 12:03am | 1,985 views 2
The peso fell to a 19-month low and bonds dropped after US economic data bolstered the case for the Federal Reserve to start tapering stimulus that has inflated asset prices in emerging markets. The peso lost 0.2 percent of its value to close at 44.26 against the dollar Friday and touched 44.305 earlier, the weakest level since Jan. 9, 2012. It dropped 1.4 percent this week. A local trader said the peso decline reflected the 6-percent slump of the stocks Thursday, as traders were covering some position ahead of the long weekend. Trading will resume Tuesday, as Monday (Aug. 26) was declared a holiday. The currency market reacted to the expected tapering of US Federal Reserve’s stimulus measures, the trader said. “That’s already priced in. What’s happening now is basically a market lobbying dollar holdings. The effect of that is already priced in at 44.50 cap,” he said. He said the peso was expected to trade at 44 to 44.40 against the greenback Tuesday. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Gov. Diwa Guinigundo said the peso’s declined reflected the impact of negative market sentiment against emerging markets in general. “We do expect, however, that when the markets have more time to think through what is happening, they will begin to realize that Philippine economic and financial fundamentals have remained strong,” he said. “Our external buffers continue to be solid as we have sustained a current account and [balance of payment] surpluses all these years. Our [foreign] reserves continue to be comfortable. We believe our fundamentals warrant a firm peso against the US dollar.”
The index of US leading indicators climbed in July by the most in three months, according to a report released Thursday, signaling improvement in housing and labor markets will help foster faster economic growth through year-end. Asian currencies fell this week as minutes of the Fed’s July meeting showed officials were “broadly comfortable” with reducing bond buying this year if the economy improves. “The peso is just tracking the weakness of most regional currencies,” said Emilio Neri, an economist at Bank of the Philippine Islands. “There’s a fundamental basis for the peso to outperform given the current-account surplus position, growth remaining generally on target and monetary authorities having ample reserves.” Financial markets were closed on the first three days of the week because of floods and a holiday. One-month implied volatility, a measure of expected moves in the exchange rate used to price options, fell 25 basis points, or 0.25 percentage point, to 6.76 percent. The yield on the 8-percent bonds due July 2031 rose 23 basis points to 4.98 percent, the highest since July 10, according to Tradition Financial Services Inc. With Bloomberg http://manilastandardtoday.com/2013/08/24/peso‐sinks‐to‐19‐month‐low/