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Gov’t prosecutors want ex-DA chief Lorenzo’s quash motion junked • •

Written by Tribune Tuesday, 17 December 2013 00:00

State lawyers yesterday asked the Sandiganbayan First Division to junk the motion to quash filed by former Agriculture Secretary Luis Ramon “Cito” Lorenzo. The former DA secretary was indicted in his capacity as former chairman of the governing board of Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corp. (Quedancor), a government-owned and controlled corporation, concerning an alleged P47.47-million anomalous supply contract. Lorenzo filed a motion to quash last Dec. 5 claiming there was no valid ground to include him in the graft charge. Aside from Lorenzo, his co-accused are former Quedancor president Nelson Buenaflor and former board members Romeo Lanciola, Jesus Simon, Nellie Ilas, and Wilfredo Domo-ong. The government position stated the motion to quash of the former DA chief was already moot as the graft court already had issued arrest warrants and hold departure orders against him, Buenaflor, Lanciola and Simon. Lorenzo has also been accused of plunder, along with Joc-Joc Bolante in the fertilzer fund scam, but it appears that the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio Morales, has not been acting on this case against him. Lorenzo, was quickly left the country when he was said to have been indicted for plunder, returned home after President Aquino assumed the presidency. He was seen in a Liberal Party

event where Aquino and Lorenzo were seen talking. Lorenzo was said to have supported Aquino’s candidacy. Nothing much has been heard about his plunder case. Instead, Lorenzo is merely being charged with the crime of graft, which is a bailable offense. Ilas and Domo-ong beat the warrant by earlier posting P30,000 bail bonds each. The government prosecutors cited that the arrest warrants were anchored on the pronouncement of the Sandiganbayan that it found “sufficient grounds for the finding of probable cause” after considering the Ombudsman’s resolution and the supporting evidence. Ombudsman Carpio- Morales signed a resolution last July 12, questioning the P48.6-million supply contract to Metro Livestock Inc. even if it had only P62,500 in paid-up capital. The resolution also noted the lack of public bidding. Under the P1.7-billion swine breeding program, Quedancor, a government-owned and controlled corporation, was mandated to extend loans to qualified livestock farmers. As DA secretary, Lorenzo was also the chairman of Quedancor’s board. Instead of cash, the loan was to be in the form of input supplies like breeding hogs, feeds, medicines and technical assistance. The Ombudsman’s investigators said Metro Livestock failed to deliver supplies, resulting in government losses of P47.47 million. Prosecutors said in conspiracy with the other accused, the former DA chief caused undue injury to Quedancor and its borrowers, by issuing and adopting Memorandum Circular No. 270 which dispensed with public bidding, posting of performance bond. Consenting to such arrangements, Lorenzo and his co-defendants acted with bad faith, or at the very least, gross inexcusable negligence, the prosecutors said.

By Alvin Murcia‐t‐prosecutors‐want‐ex‐da‐chief‐lorenzo‐s‐quash‐ motion‐junked 

Alcala, NFA head face P457‐M plunder complaint By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 


MANILA, Philippines - Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) administrator Orlan Calayag are facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly pocketing P457.2 million from a P4.1-billion rice importation deal with Vietnam eight months ago. Lawyer Argee Guevarra, in a 10-page criminal complaint, also accused Alcala and Calayag of violating various provisions of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by entering into what he called a manifestly and grossly disadvantageous contract. Guevarra said that sometime in April 2013, NFA officials transacted with Vietnam Southern Food Corp. (Vinafood II) general director Truong Thanh Phong for the importation of 205,700 metric tons (MT) of rice. Calayag, deputy administrator Dennis Guerrero, and alleged “broker/fixer” known only as “Buddy R” reportedly checked in at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City on April 1, 2013 and met with Vinafood officials.

Weeks later, the trio flew to Vietnam without official clearance for a meeting with Truong “ostensibly to conclude the deal,” Guevarra said. After Vietnam, Guerrero and Buddy R. reportedly flew to Singapore and stayed at the Hyatt Hotel in Room 1501. Truong and Vinafoods officials were billeted in the same hotel. “Why this unofficial meeting? These and the circumstances described hereunder lead to the conclusion that an exchange of kickbacks occurred in Singapore,” Guevarra said. On May 8, the complainant said Guerrero and Buddy R. flew back to Vietnam where they met NFA deputy administrator Ludovico Jarina to arrange an increase in the minimum access volume (MAV) and allow more imports under a government-to-government (G2G) scheme. Based on his computation and taking into account other factors like cost insurance flight, freight on board, shipping and cost of delivery to warehouse, Gueverra said the overprice amounted to $50.75 per MT or $10.439 million (P457.240 million). The alleged kickback, he said, was a “a virtual ‘pork,’ the use of which is under respondents’ absolute power and discretion.” “The transaction was concluded in a cloak and dagger operation, without the concerned NFA officials having been cleared for official travel. This smacks not only of irregularity but of outright corruption in the form of secret deals for kickbacks,” he said in his complaint. “For this April G2G alone, public funds lost to corruption amounted to $10,439,275 or P457 million, a windfall for a single transaction,” he said. “This sufficiently explains the DA’s and NFA’s overzealous insistence on pushing the private sector out of the international rice trade business,” he said. Guevarra argued that the contract with Vietnam was supposedly for the import of only 187,000 MT of rice but the NFA allegedly inserted an additional 18,700 MT to push the import volume to 205,700 MT without any prior approval from the Department of Finance (DOF) under the Fiscal Incentive Review Board. “The NFA Council for its part merely acted as Secretary Alcala’s rubber stamp, acceding to his and respondent Calayag’s absolute control of the rice trade,” Guevarra said. “Despite crystal clear indications that the imported rice was overpriced, and that the additional 18,700 MT insertion was illegal; and despite the imperious need to address the rice crisis, the NFA Council merely bowed in submission to respondents’ every wish and design,” his complaint read. “The string of circumstances or series of respondents’ acts, criminal in themselves even when taken singly, point to the fact that plunder was the ultimate goal, i.e. to amass for respondents an enormous sum of money representing the difference between the overpriced imports and the actual price thereof,” he said.

Guevarra said that what the respondents had transacted with Vietnam was a monopolistic G2G rice smuggling and not importation. He also said Alcala and Calayag “deliberately opted” to ignore the June 30, 2012 expiration of quantitative restrictions (QR) imposed on private rice importation when they made the transaction with Vietnam. “The reason is not as lofty and noble as to protect local rice farmers from foreign competitors. The diabolical plan is to preserve government monopoly over rice importations in order to earn large kickbacks for themselves by reason of their public offices,” the plunder complaint read. “By ‘importing’ millions of sacks of rice for the next three months, Proceso Alcala and company (are) bound to sack almost P2 billion in cold cash. This, after just a few months when he sacked P400 million,” Guevarra, in a statement issued after the filing of the charge sheet, said. He even tagged Alcala as the “biggest scammer” in the Aquino Cabinet “not only because of his habitual empty promises of rice self-sufficiency and ill-transparency in rice importation, but more so because he used Typhoon Yolanda as an excuse to import more overpriced rice instead of rehabilitating farmlands to restore the agricultural livelihood of farmers in the Visayas.” Guevarra said he is challenging Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to conduct a special investigation into the G2G rice deal between Alcala and Vietnam and promptly slap the officials with plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan.


Helpless SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2013 ‐  12:00am      googleplus    

President Aquino said in Tokyo that he cannot stop the power rate increase, and likewise he cannot stop fuel/gasoline increases. He stated the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is an independent body, and does not report to the President. He also verbalized that the Supreme Court decision prohibits the use of the Malampaya Fund to repair the towers blown down by typhoon Yolanda. Then, use the P40.2-billion Calamity Fund, use part of the Presidential Social Fund, and use the 2014 Calamity Fund. I cannot imagine a President being helpless against Meralco. Simply obligate them to place all their electric lines underground and remove the systems loss that is being charged to consumers. They will go down on their knees. On another problem, the President cannot stop the media killings, the kidnappings in Sulu and Cotabato, and the many killings all over the country. So what can he do? Suspend the Value Added Tax (VAT) on fuel and power increases, subsidize the price of electricity, reduce the electricity expenses of government offices, and regulate the gasoline expense of government vehicles. After three and half years — it is time for a Cabinet revamp. Some Cabinet members are burned out; add new blood to the Cabinet. His conscience is clear President Aquino joined the ongoing controversy involving DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez. He said “his conscience is clear.” He defended Roxas’ demand that Romualdez should sign a letter asking the national government to take control over the rescue and relief efforts in Tacloban. Roxas has said as shown on a video that the letter was necessary because “you are a Romualdez, and the President is an Aquino.” It doesn’t sound right that at a time of calamity, politics and the personality of officials should come into consideration. Note that similar letters was not required of the Mayors of Guiuan and Basey or Ormoc or Tanauan and Palo, Leyte. When one gets elected President, he becomes President for all the people, irrespective of past differences and political affiliation.

The “special’ treatment of Mayor Romualdez indicates a streak of vindictiveness on the part of the President, which is certainly unwelcome. The same goes true of Secretary Mar Roxas, who should not inject the issue into a calamitous situation. Impunity The impunity of criminals is again shown by the robbery at the Department Store of SM North EDSA in Quezon City, in the presence of thousands of shoppers. It was so serious that the President had to rush to the crime scene and look into the matter. Down South, two persons were kidnapped in separate incidents in Zamboanga Del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay. Chairwoman Cecilia Alas-as of Barangay Paniran, was kidnapped in Sibuco, Zamboanga Del Norte. Trader Cynthia Caboverde was kidnapped in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. In Navotas, a father, mother, and their pregnant daughter was shot dead by a suspected neighbour. New People’s Army (NPA) rebels raided the police station of Don Victoriano, Misamis Occidental and carted away 18 firearms and radio equipment. Barangay Chairman Enrique Valencia was shot dead in Nasugbu, Batangas. Four people died in a shooting ambush in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Corruption started Rehab czar Ping Lacson said he has detected attempts by local government officials to profit from rebuilding efforts. Lacson heard of demands for kickbacks by local government officials. Lacson asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate the reports. Lacson promised he would be “color blind” to politics. He also stated that he will disregard party affiliation of local government officials. Lacson visited Guiuan, Samar and Tacloban, Ormoc, Palo and Baybay, Leyte. He said the rehabilitation effort will take four years. No, he didn’t sleep in a tent, he returned to Manila Why now?

It is Christmas time. Why is Department of Education (DepEd) talking about mass layoffs of employees? Considering the hard times, the government must suspend all layoffs. In fact, considering high unemployment rates, the government should start hiring more. Expand the ‘cash for work’ program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Social Welfare and Development. Give local government money to hire casuals or give job orders for cleanup, especially around public markets. Hire 10,000 more nurses and assign them to the 171 towns affected by typhoon Yolanda. UN increases aid. Valerie Amos, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator announced the United Nations is increasing its target aid of $301 million to $791 million. Amos visited Tacloban, and saw for herself the extent of the damage. Secretary-General Ban Kimoon of South Korea is due on December 21 to visit Yolanda typhoon-affected areas. Japan also increased its aid pledge to $66 million besides granting a $1 billion loan facility. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) earmarked $38 million for the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Tidbits: President Estrada visited Leyte last Saturday, and delivered P16 million in aid donated by the City of Manila for Tacloban, Javier, and Guiuan. Happy 80th birthday to superstar Gloria Romero and to actress-writer Bibeth Orteza. US-based Operation Christmas Child is donating 60,000 Christmas boxes intended to cheer up 60,000 children. The Yolanda death toll is now at 6,069, with 27,432 wounded. Bacolod volunteers mounted Bantayan 3,500 to deliver relief goods to all the islets and coastal barangays of Bantayan Island, Cebu. Mayor Elmer Codilla of Kananga, Leyte said that relief goods reached his town only on Nov. 15, one week after the typhoon hit on Nov. 8. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority Administrator Orlan Calayag were charged with plunder in connection with NFA rice importation anomalies.

Plunder rap filed over rice import By Cynthia D. Balana  Philippine Daily Inquirer  

4:40 am | Tuesday, December 17th, 2013    


Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala. FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag are facing a plunder complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the importation last May of 205,700 metric tons of rice from Vietnam, which was allegedly overpriced by P457.2 million. In his complaint-affidavit filed on Monday, lawyer and public interest advocate Argee Guevarra described the importation deal between the governments of the Philippines (represented by Alcala and Calayag) and Vietnam as a “cash cow” because of “overpricing, unauthorized addition of 18,700 metric tons of rice, and the government monopolization of rice retail.” The rice importation in May, according to Guevarra, was valued at $50.75/metric ton, or $10.439 million for the entire 205,700 MT of rice. (Guevarra used P43 per dollar as conversion rate; the rate on May 15 this year was P41.16 to the dollar—Ed.) Guevarra also accused the NFA of a new wave of rice importations from Vietnam beginning this month, and said the agency had imported 500,000 MT of rice to beef up the Philippines’ rice supply following the onslaught of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” The lawyer said the respondents had ignored the expiration by June 30, 2012, of the quantitative restrictions (QRs) imposed on private rice importations when they proceeded with the deal. “The diabolical plan is to preserve the government monopoly over rice importations to earn large kickbacks for themselves,” Guevarra said. He said the country was a signatory to the Marrakech Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization and was committed to remove QRs on rice imports, among other provisions.

However, the country was allowed an accommodation in 1994 to regulate the volume of rice importation via trade quota to protect the price of domestically produced goods. In 2005, this was extended to June 30, 2012. No legal impediment “With the expiration of the QRs on June 30, 2012, there should no longer be any legal impediment for the private sector to import rice,” Guevarra said. “However, the Department of Agriculture’s anomalous policy ensured respondents’ exercise of untrammeled discretion over the purchase and entry of imported rice, which they in turn used to enrich themselves with billions of pesos in illegal profits,” the complaint said. Guevarra said that based on the prevailing market price of low-grade Vietnam rice, the overprice of the December rice imports could be as high as P1.9 billion. He added that although the NFA had said that it was importing high-quality rice, Alcala through Calayag had allegedly sold NFA rice of the lowest quality. Barely edible “I recently did the rounds of the market to check the current quality of NFA rice, and all I can say is that it’s barely edible. It’s practically kanin baboy (pig swill). Is this what Alcala plans to feed to the Filipino masses, aside from lies and excuses?” Guevarra said. The complainant described the agriculture official as the “biggest scammer” in the Aquino Cabinet for using Yolanda as an excuse to import overpriced rice instead of rehabilitating farmlands to restore the agricultural livelihood of farmers in the affected Visayan region. Guevarra said all the elements of plunder were present in the complaint: The respondents are both public officials; the P457.2 million allegedly representing the overprice of imported Vietnam rice is beyond the P50 million threshold for plunder; the offense was allegedly committed through a combination or series of overt criminal acts by misappropriation, conversion, misuse or malversation of public funds.

DA to build P120-million chicken-dressing complex as exports demand increase Category: Agri-Commodities 16 Dec 2013

Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent A state-of-the-art chicken-dressing complex will be constructed in Bambang, Tarlac, early next year, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala told reporters on Monday. Estimated at P120 million and capable of processing 3,000 birds an hour, the construction of the chicken- meat complex, will ensure the competitiveness of the country’s broiler industry in time for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations market integration in 2015, the Department of Agriculture chief added. Triple-A slaughterhouse for hogs will also be constructed in Tanuan, Batangas, with an allocated budget of P150 illion, Alcala said during the signing of a memorandum of agreement. “We have been bragging about our chicken meat being free from avian flu, and our broiler raisers have expressed their interest to export their products, but to date, we have no facilities to process chicken-meat products, which will pass the international standard and capable of producing enough volume.” To recall, the Korean Quarantine Inspection Agency (KQIA) has recently given the go-signal for the Philippines to end its fresh chicken to South Korea starting this month, paving the way for the Filipino poultry industry to get a share of the $300-million fresh frozen-chicken market. The Philippine office of special agricultural attaché in Bangkok said the KQIA granted accreditation to Bounty Fresh Food Inc., one of the three processing plants inspected by KQIA personnel in October this year, a report from Alcala’s office said. “With this development, the Philippines becomes the only Asian country to export poultry products to the lucrative Korean market, further cementing its status as a reliable source of safe and quality meat products,” according to a statement released on Monday. The Philippines remains the only country in Southeast Asia that hasn’t been affected by the birdflu virus, according to local health officials. Alcala said this fact should encourage other Filipino processors and integrators to enhance their food quality and safety standards, and expand their capacities so they could also export to South Korea. Aside from South Korea, the country has been exporting “yakitori chicken” to Japan and later will also export processed chicken meat to Malaysia, according to Alcala. He added that the triple-A chicken- dressing facility could also process export-ready yakitori chicken and other similar processed meat. The chicken-meat complex is expected to be operational at the last quarter of 2014. Alcala said another triple-A slaughterhouse for hogs and additional triple-A dressing hubs will be constructed “later.”‐commodities/24440‐da‐to‐build‐p120‐ million‐chicken‐dressing‐complex‐as‐exports‐demand‐increase 

Recto: Time for ‘Yolanda’-hit farmers to get dividends from coco-levy fund Category: Economy

16 Dec 2013 Written by Mia M. Gonzalez The government can tap the multibillion-peso coconut- levy fund to help coconut farmers in areas devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Monday. Recto said the government should look at the estimated P77-billion coco- levy fund as a “lowhanging fruit” ripe for the picking for coconut farmers who lost their livelihood following the super typhoon. “We don’t need statistics to tell us the extent of the devastation. Pictures of leafless coconut trees standing like toothpicks have become the icon of Yolanda’s wrath. They also prove one point: With their trees dead, the source of income of tens of thousands of coconut farmers is gone, too,” he said in a statement. Recto said it was time for the coco levy to help the sector, whose farmers paid the tax from 1971 to 1982. He said a preliminary government data showed that the typhoon felled 34 million trees, covering 41,662 hectares, in Regions 6, 7 and 8. Recto added the farmers needed to be “paid the dividends of their contributions” so they can survive. The senator said any program for coconut farmers to be funded out of the coco levy should not be limited to coconut-tree replanting but must be “a buffet of activities.” “It will take up to seven years for a tree to bear nuts,” he said, adding that the farmers should have a source of livelihood before that time. Recto said qualified beneficiaries must be given the flexibility “to choose the replacement or transitory crop” of P15,000 per hectare from coconut alone. He said this approach is feasible, citing studies showing an increased annual income of P97,000 from P15,000, if coconuts are intercropped with cacao; and to P120,000 with cacao and bananas.‐recto‐time‐for‐yolanda‐hit‐ farmers‐to‐get‐dividends‐from‐coco‐levy‐fund 

State-of-the-art abattoir to be built in Batangas Category: Agri-Commodities

16 Dec 2013 Written by Alladin S. Diega AFTER several delays, the state-of-the-art abattoir will be finally constructed in Tanuan City, Batangas. This, after a memorandum of agreement between the local government of Tanuan, Batangas, and officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) led by Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, was signed on Monday. “The slaughterhouse complex will also serve as a meat-trading center,” Alcala told reporters in a briefing. Earlier this year Balagtas, Bulacan, officials formally withdrew their offer to host the modern meat-processing complex after their public market was razed by fire, Manuel Jarmin, executive director of the Livestock Development Council, told the BusinessMirror in a separate interview. “Although big commercial companies have their own modern slaughterhouses like Monterey, this is the first project funded by the government in partnership with local government units the private sector, and with the livestock farmers as beneficiary,” according to Minda S. Manantan, executive director for the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), who also attended the signing of the deal. Alcala told reporters that the triple-A slaughterhouse would allow the country to market meat products overseas, aside from ensuring a steady supply of quality meat products to the domestic market. He added the abattoir also aims at improving “the value chain of the livestock commodities.” Backyard hog raisers would also be allowed to access the completely mechanized slaughterhouse but their animals would need to undergo inspection first, Alcala said. He added that the construction of this type of slaughterhouse is expected to ensure the country’s capacity to compete with its Asian neighbors come 2015. In an earlier interview, Jarmin said the agreement signed on Monday provides for the national government’s ownership of the slaughterhouse and its equipment, through the agriculture department. The local government unit of Batangas will serve as the host. The local government will also work on all necessary documents and permits for the construction of the abattoir. Producers would be in charge of the operation, as the production would need the expertise and experience from those in the industry, according to Jarmin.

He added that based on the feasibility, the complex will earn 12 percent of the original investment after five years of operation. The complex will be capable of processing 250 hogs per hour, but the length of its operation in a given day will depend on the available volume of heads since nonstop daily operation will consume huge amount of electricity, Jarmin explained. The DA originally allocated last year roughly P180 million for at least five triple-A slaughterhouses with blast freezing equipment in selected areas in Luzon. The project has reached a breakthrough when pork producers agreed to supply pork parts to local meat processors who normally have to depend on imported pork parts for their raw material. The project was put off sometime last year after local government units initially chosen as hosts failed to meet project requirements, according to Jarmin. The NMIS, an attached agency of the agriculture department, has three classifications for slaughterhouses: “AAA,” “AA” and “A.” Triple-A slaughterhouses are top-grade abattoirs, with livestock and fowls slaughtered in these facilities fit for sale in domestic and international markets.‐commodities/24439‐state‐of‐the‐art‐ abattoir‐to‐be‐built‐in‐batangas                   

Victorias Milling okays debt conversion into equity By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Listed Sugar miller Victorias Milling Company Inc.has reached a settlement with its creditors to convert part of its existing debts to equity. In a regulatory filing yesterday, the company announced that its board of directors approved the conversion of P70.05 million worth of convertible notes into equity which is equivalent to 70,049, 966 shares pursuant to the debt restructuring agreement with its creditors. Creditors covered by the restructuring agreement include: Advent Capital & Finance Corp. (514,047 shares), Asset Pool (SPV-AMC), Inc. (706,138 shares), Narra Investment Corp. (19,344,551 shares), Central Bancorporation (337,743 shares), Narra Investment Corp. (40,083,757 shares), East Asia Capital (1,262,088 shares), First E-Bank/PDIC (514,047 shares), Philippine Commercial Cap., Inc. (1,584,016 shares) Sullasses Holdings, Inc.(5,621,087 shares). In April, the company approved to pre-pay part of its restructured loans. Its board approved the pre-payment of its creditors on May 31, 2013 amounting to P709.4 million and $3.24 million in accordance with its debt restructuring agreement. The company has been paring down its debt to strengthen its balance sheet as it ugrades its production facilities in preparation for heightened competition when sugar tariffs across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is reduced to between five percent to zero by 2015. VMC is engaged in integrated raw and refined sugar manufacturing. It’s plant facilities are located in Victorias City, Negros Occidental. It has subsidiaries engaged in fish canning, real estate, sugar sacks manufacturing and packaging, and golf course and restaurant operations The operating subsidiaries of VMC include Victorias Foods Corporation, Victorias Agricultural Land Corporation, Canetown Development Corporation, Victorias Golf and Country Club, Inc., Victorias Quality Packaging Company, Inc., and Victorias Industrial Gases Corporation. It began to encounter financial difficulties in the mid 1990s due to failure to contain rising overhead costs against falling domestic sugar prices. It was also unable to compete with new and expanded sugar mills and refineries.

Organic agriculture advocate-mayors to declare GMO-free zones in 2014 Category: Agri-Commodities

16 Dec 2013 Written by Bong D. Fabe / Correspondent DUMINGAG, Zamboanga del Sur—Saying they want to protect the gains of organic agriculture in their municipalities, mayors all over the Philippines plan to start declaring their towns as GMO-free zones next year. This, the 16 mayors declared during a forum here that presented zones declared free of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in Europe “worked well.” Led by Mayor Nacianceno Pacalioga Jr. of Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur, the other mayors are from: Molave and Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur; Siayan and Sindangan in Zamboanga del Norte; the Lanao del Norte towns of Kauswagan and Kolambugan; the municipality of Damulog in Bukidnon; Alegria town in Surigao del Norte; Talisayan in Misamis Oriental; and, the town of Jimenez in Misamis Occidental. Joining them from the Visayas are the municipalities of Bindoy in Negros Oriental and Daram in Samar. Those in Luzon are the towns of Bagulin in La Union; General Nakar in Quezon; and Goa in Camarines Sur. “We have long been into organic agriculture, we have long been defensively against GMOs but bringing the campaign to ban GMOs in a lighter proactive mood is new for us,” said Pacalioga, president of the League of Organic Agriculture Municipalities in the Philippines (LOAM). LOAM has a total of 50 members at present, and Pacalioga is hoping that the other mayors of the 34 LOAM municipalities will also declare their towns GMO-free zones. “We [have to] do this because organic agriculture and GMOs cannot possibly co-exist, as they contradict each other,” Pacalioga said. He added that he feared that GMOs will undermine organic-agriculture gains in the country, especially since the Los Baños, Laguna-based International Rice Research Institute and the Department of Agriculture announced in November that the genetically modified and patented “Golden Rice” will be commercially released within two to three years. Syngenta, the Swiss agrichemical firm, owns the patent of the Golden Rice. The mayors’ plan was firmed up following the advised of German organic- agriculture advocates during the organic agriculture forum here on December 4. “Declare GMO-free zones field by field, town by town, city by city, province by province until you cover the entire country,” advised Bernward Geier, representative of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. Geier said “in Europe more than 70 percent of the consumers reject GMO products,” as he urged the LOAM mayors to restrategize their anti-GMO position into a pro GMO-free position.

“When you are in a festive and positive mood while being passionate to your cause, more people come along with you, and there is power in numbers,” said Joseph Wilhelm, president of Rapunzel Naturkost, one of the largest organic foodstuff manufacturers in Germany. Wilhelm was the leader of the Genfrei Gehen, the 44-day-long march in 2009 against GMOs from Berlin, Germany, to Brussels, Belgium. In 2011 he delivered a stinging speech against GMOs and the people’s right to know during the closing program at the White House of the 16day Right-to-Know March that demand the labeling of all GMO products in the US markets.‐commodities/24438‐organic‐agriculture‐ advocate‐mayors‐to‐declare‐gmo‐free‐zones‐in‐2014                               

DTI‐7 price monitoring stepped up by Phoebe Jen Indino  December 16, 2013 (updated)  

Cebu City, Cebu — A top official of the Department of Trade and Industry in Central Visayas (DTI-7) said the agency has stepped up its monitoring on prices of construction materials and Christmas food items in the region. DTI-7 regional director Asteria Caberte said prices of construction materials have been strictly monitored following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that badly hit Bohol province last Oct. 15 and the Nov. 8 super typhoon that devastated towns in northern Cebu province. Caberte said that DTI 7 personnel were immediately deployed to check on prices of basic commodities immediately in the aftermath of the earthquake and the typhoon. She said so far, about 70 establishments have been sent notices in the two provinces For construction materials, Caberte said DTI-7 is looking at the price of galvanized iron (GI) sheets, nails, hollow blocks and other materials under the agency’s jurisdiction as well as with the so-called Noche Buena food items, with Christmas fast approaching. It can be recalled that 24 notices of violation were sent to retailers caught overpricing goods included in the price freeze order on Bantayan Island, Cebu. Earlier, DTI-Cebu province director Nelia Navarro said the agency’s price monitoring team observed 11 hardware and 40 retail stores on Bantayan Island that violated the order. For forest products , which are deemed crucial in the post-earthquake and typhoon rehabilitation stage, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR07) has created a two-member regional price monitoring team (RPMT) to check prices of prime forest commodities. The RPMT of DENR-7’s forest management services (FMS) includes forester Luisito Babaran as regional price monitoring officer and forester Olivia Apa-ap as regional price monitoring system (RPMS) regional focal person.

Agriculture chief, NFA administrator face plunder raps By Dennis Carcamo ( | Updated December 16, 2013 ‐ 12:48pm 


MANILA, Philippines - A private lawyer on Monday filed plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag in connection with the alleged anomalous imporation of over 205,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam last May. Lawyer and public interest advocate Argue Guevarra formally filed a P457.2 million plunder complaint before the Ombudsman in Quezon City against Alcala and Calayag. Guevarra, who exposed the alleged scam last September, claimed that the importation deal between the governments of the Philippines and Vietnam are overpriced with unauthorized addition of 18,700 metric tons of rice and a form of government monopolization of rice retail. "Alcala must answer the P28 per kilo question: Is the price of rice right?” Guevarra said, referring to the prevailing retail price of the NFA rice. "Under the 'Tuwid na Daan' reform program, it is baffling to think that the price of NFA rice is at P28 per kilo when the price of Vietnam rice was at US$459 per metric ton last May," Guevarra said in a statement.

"In contrast with the corrupt Arroyo regime, it’s only at P18 per kilo even if the price of rice imported by NFA by then secretary Arthur Yap was at a steeper US$710 per metric ton," he added. The plunder complaint came days after Guevarra bared the new wave of Vietnam rice imports, which started this month, wherein the NFA imported 500,000 metric tons to beef up the Philippines’ rice supply in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The massive import is pegged at a price of US$462.25 per metric ton, way above the market price of high-grade rice (US$420 per metric ton) and low grade rice (US$375 per metric ton). Guevarra said that based on the prevailing market price of low-grade Vietnam rice, the overprice of the December rice import could be as high as P1.9 billion. "By ‘importing’ millions of sacks of rice for the next three months, Proceso Alcala and company is bound to sack almost two billion pesos in cold cash. This, after just a few months when he sacked P400 million," he added. While the NFA propped up that it imported high-quality rice, Guevarra also pointed out that "in reality, Alcala through National Food Authority administrator Orlan Calayag has sold and continuously sell NFA rice of the lowest quality." "I recently did the rounds in the market to check the current quality of NFA rice and all I can say is that it’s barely edible. It’s practically kaning-baboy. Is this what Alcala plans to feed to the Filipino masses, aside from lies and excuses?" Guevarra said. Guevarra said that Alcala is the "biggest scammer" in the Aquino Cabinet not only because of his habitual empty promises of rice self-sufficiency and ill-transparency in rice importation, but more so because "he (Alcala) used typhoon Yolanda as an excuse to import more overpriced rice instead of rehabilitating farmlands to restore the agricultural livelihood of farmers in the Visayas." Guevarra also challenged Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to conduct a special investigation on the government-to-government rice deal between Alcala and Vietnam and file elevate the plunder complaints before the Sandiganbayan.‐chief‐nfa‐administrator‐face‐ plunder‐raps   

IFC invests $150 million for agribusiness lending Category: Banking & Finance 16 Dec 2013 Written by Cai U. Ordinario The private-sector arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corp. (IFC), is investing $150 million as equity at a Mindanao-based bank to supports its agriculture-based lending program in the region. The IFC has partnered with Rizal Microbank, a thrift bank owned by Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., one of the country’s leading commercial banks. “[Working with Rizal Microbank] is in line with the World Bank Group’s thrust to support agribusiness, particularly in regions where more jobs and livelihoods need to be created and economic growth has to be more inclusive,” IFC resident representative Jesse Ang said in a statement.The equity will be used for Rizal Microbank’s efforts to extend more financing to Mindanao’s agricultural input suppliers, traders, processors, postharvest facility providers and other small agribusinesses. IFC also said the lending program will also be extended to small and medium enterprise borrowers, particularly those headed by women entrepreneurs. “We see great potential in the agricultural sector of Mindanao and consider IFC’s global experience a unique advantage in accelerating the bank’s efforts to extend financing to different value-chain players in agribusinesses and small enterprises in rural areas,” said Lourdes Pineda, president of Rizal Microbank.IFC said support for the agribusiness sector is very important for the economy as a whole. The sector employs one-third of the country’s total work force—around 13 million people—and contributes to around 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2012. It added, however, the agribusiness sector’s growth declined to 2.9 percent in 2012 from 4.9 percent in 2007, pushing three times more families into poverty in the agricultural sector as a result.The IFC said Rizal Microbank lends directly to microborrowers and small enterprises. In the past four years, the bank has disbursed over P1 billion in loans ranging from P50,000 to P1 million to around 12,000 clients. In this year’s fiscal operations, IFC’s investments climbed to an all-time high of some $25 billion. The IFC is considered the world’s largest development institution focused exclusively on the private sector.

Agusan Sur cited for its Quality Corn by Mike Crismundo  December 16, 2013 (updated)  

Manila, Philippines – Agusan del Sur has reaped another national award when it topped the 2013 Search for Quality Corn Production (QCP) all over the country, officials said yesterday. The province was cited for its outstanding performance in producing premium quality corn. Agusan del Sur bested the provinces of Davao del Sur and Compostela Valley, which are also known as major corn producers in Mindanao. Agusan del Sur Gov. Adolph Edward G. Plaza personally received the prestigious award from Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in Tagaytay City recently. The provincial Chief Executive also received an incentive of P3 million worth of project grants which will further boost the province’s corn production program. Agusan del Sur is ranked as the Number One corn-producing province in Northeastern Mindanao (Caraga Region). According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, the province’s total area planted to corn is 15,818 hectares – 10,217 hectares for white corn and 5,600 hectares for yellow


P77‐B Coco levy eyed as ‘Yolanda’ aid by Hannah Torregoza  December 16, 2013 (updated)  

Manila, Philippines – Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto yesterday said the government should tap the estimated P77-billion coco levy fund to partially shoulder the cost of rehabilitation of farm lands destroyed during typhoon “Yolanda.” Recto said the government should treat the coco levy funds as the “low hanging fruit” that can be picked to help thousands of coconut farmers whose livelihood were “blown away” by the calamity.


228 BOC men reshuffled By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 


MANILA, Philippines - Newly appointed Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla yesterday ordered the reshuffle of 228 officials and personnel as part of the agency’s “return to mother unit” program. In a statement, Sevilla said he issued 29 Customs personnel orders to fully implement previous orders returning personnel to their permanent plantilla positions. In cases where there are vacancies, the next in rank would temporarily take over, he said. “These also filled in the gaps in ad hoc BOC units that do not have permanent plantilla headcount yet,” he said. He explained that the initial steps would give him a comprehensive view of the total manpower resource of the bureau and prepare for a more rational and relevant staffing system. Sevilla named the following officials: Geniefelle Lagmay, chief of staff, Office of the Commissioner; Felipe Geoffrey De Vera IV, acting chief, Risk Management Office; Jemina Flores, acting chief, Interim Customs Accreditation and Registration Office; and lawyer Julito Doria, officer-in-charge, X-Ray Inspection Project.In the Intelligence Group, others named were Intelligence Division acting chief Rolando Sacramento; Intelligence Division acting chief Jerry Loresco, and Intellectual Property Rights Division acting chief Teddy Sandy Raval. For the Internal Administration Group, the Administration Office director is Maria Corazon Azana, Central Records Management Division chief is Gladys Cabugawan, General Services Division acting chief Raquel de Jesus, Human Resources Management Division chief Erlinda Lazaro, Medical and Dental Division acting chief Manuel Jacinto Jr., Public Information and Assistance Division acting chief Charo Logarta-Lagamon, Interim Training and Development Division acting chief Lilibeth Bonifacio; In Financial Management Office are director Liwayway Mendoza; Accounting Division chief Alfredo Palma, Budget Division chief Rafael Crisol Jr., and Planning and Policy Division acting chief Jose de Dios.

In the Enforcement Group, the Enforcement and Security Service director is Willie Tolentino. For the Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group, the Imports and Assessment Services acting director is Arnulfo Gambayan; Assessment Coordinating and Monitoring chief, Alvin Guiam; Valuation and Classification Division acting chief Melita del Rosario; Warehousing Coordination and Monitoring Division Simeona Hernandez; Port Operations Service acting chief Lionel Gramata. For Revenue Collection Monitoring Group, the Collection Performance Evaluation Division acting chief is Joseph Escasio. The Management Information System and Technical Group Planning and Management Information Division chief is Jaime Taborda, while the Post-Entry Audit Group officer-in-charge is Angelito Ursabia.‐boc‐men‐reshuffled                                 

Core January to October government borrowings fall 33.5% Category: Top News 16 Dec 2013 Written by David Cagahastian Although the outstanding public-sector debt continued to rise due to increasing disbursements, core government borrowings in the first 10 months fell by 33.5 percent to only P532.03 billion. Figures from the Bureau of the Treasury showed that government borrowings from January to October 2013 totaled P532.03 billion, compared with year-ago borrowings amounting to P799.82 billion. The numbers indicate a national government better able to manage its finances than the larger public sector, which includes the various local government units, all 14 monitored government corporations, the two state-owned pension funds, three so-called government financial institutions, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Bond Sinking Fund. The decrease in government borrowings by 33.5 percent, however, has not contributed to a corresponding decrease in the outstanding public-sector debt (OPSD), which as of June 2013, stood at P7.735 trillion. This was due to the increasing budgetary needs of the government that its revenue-generating agencies were not able to fill, and the decline in the amortization paid by the government on loans that matured during the year. For the first 10 months this year, the government paid down loans totaling P219.47 billion. This was already 41.3 percent of the total borrowings of the national government. Data show revenue collections have not been in keeping with the spending level required by government operations. Still, as of end-October, the budgetary shortfall stood lower than anticipated at only P112.5 billion, considering that fiscal planners prepared for a full-year deficit as wide as P152.7 billion. As of October 2013, the total revenues from taxes, duties and other sources totaled P1.4 trillion. The government is prepared to spend as much as P2.006 trillion this year. In a related development, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has reported that it has collected P1.12 trillion in taxes from January to November 2013. This falls short of the P1.16-trillion target revenue from the BIR for January to November 2013.‐news/24466‐core‐january‐to‐october‐ government‐borrowings‐fall‐33‐5     

House ratifies 2014 GAA By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives ratified last night the bicameral committee report on the proposed 2014 national budget. The ratification came just minutes after the roll call, which showed the presence of 253 of the chamber’s 289 members. Some minority and independent members, including Lito Atienza of party-list Buhay, Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna and Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada, wanted to ask Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman, questions about the committee report. However, Deputy Majority Leader Magtanggol Gunigundo and Deputy Speaker Carlos Padilla, who presided over the session, said the House rules do not allow questions on a conference committee report. Padilla then called for a vote by ayes and nays. Seconds later, he declared: “The ayes have it and the report is ratified.” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters that the House had been discussing the proposed budget since August. He said any discrepancy between the House and the Senate versions have been resolved by the conference committee. “We had 12 members there, including the minority leader (San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora) and another minority representative,” he said. Colmenares, Atienza and Dela Cruz later alternately took the floor to make manifestations. Colmenares said he wanted to know how much was the final budget figure agreed upon by the Senate and House panels in the conference committee.

“The original proposal (of President Aquino) was P2.268 trillion. However, the conference committee report shows that they are recommending a budget amounting to P1.188 trillion. Then there is another figure of P1.186 trillion. So which is which?” he asked. Atienza said the majority should have allowed such questions to be asked to clear up confusion on the budget. Ungab said the final budget figure that was approved was P2.264 trillion, about P4 billion lower than the President’s proposal. He said the bulk of the P4 billion represents pork barrel funds deducted from the budget by 15 senators. The annual P200-million pork barrel of Vice President Jejomar Binay was also taken out.‐ratifies‐2014‐gaa                                 

Japan extends P8-billion ODA loan for maritime safety Category: Economy 16 Dec 2013 Written by Cai U. Ordinario The Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) has extended a new Official Development Assistance (ODA) loan to the Philippine government to boost maritime safety. Jica said the ¥18.732 billion, or roughly P8.54 billion, Japanese yen loan agreement aims to enhance the capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). The loan will finance the construction of 10 40-meter multirole response vessels (MRRVs) that is set to augment the PCG fleet operations. “This initiative combines enhancing the Philippine capability on search and rescue responsibilities with disaster response and maritime safety. Since the Philippines is an archipelago, maritime safety is critical to the country’s socioeconomic development,” Jica Chief Representative in the Philippines Takahiro Sasaki said in a statement. Jica said the MRRVs are expected to contribute to maritime safety, maritime law enforcement, monitoring, pollution control and disaster response, among others. It added that advanced shipbuilding technologies from Japan will be adopted in the construction of the vessels. The project will also involve human resource development of PCG to improve skills in operating and maintaining the MRRVs. The loan is covered by the Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) under Japan’s ODA loan agreement with the Philippines. Jica said that in the past, maritime accidents in the country have been due to increase in passenger and freight transport, improper operations and natural disasters. Consequently, maritime crime has also risen as passengers increase, making maritime security efforts focus on smuggling and illegal fishing, among others. The loan is expected to prevent these mishaps, as well as add to the efforts of Jica in helping the PCG. Recently, experts from Jica and Japan Coast Guard assisted PCG in controlling the oil spill in Estancia, Iloilo, after a power barge ran aground due to Superyphoon Yolanda. Jica has also provided vessels, rescue equipment, training facilities, communication systems and maritime safety equipment to the PCG. It has also deployed experts from the Japan Coast Guard as part of its technical cooperation assistance to the PCG. The signing of the new ODA loan follows the formal signing of the exchange of notes between President Aquino and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project on the sidelines of the 40th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Japan Friendship and Cooperation in Tokyo.The loan agreement was signed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Jica President Akihiko Tanaka.‐japan‐extends‐p8‐billion‐oda‐ loan‐for‐maritime‐safety 

Senate to tackle exemption of 13th month pay from taxes By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate ways and means committee will hold a public hearing today on bills that seek to increase the tax exemption cap for the 13th month pay of workers and other benefits. “We want to immediately address the issues raised by our government employees in relation to the taxation of their benefits. It’s sad to hear that some of our workers receive very meager amount of benefits due them. Something has to be done,” said Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the ways and means committee. While there is a need to understand the predicament of workers, Angara said there is also a need to listen to the concerns of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in terms of the amount that the government stands to lose if the tax exemption ceiling is raised. Under the current law, the 13th month pay and other benefits, such as productivity incentives and Christmas bonuses, not exceeding P30,000 given to both government and private sector employees are exempted from tax.The measure, proposed by Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, intends to raise the ceiling of the tax exemption to P75,000. The present ceiling was set by a law enacted almost 20 years ago when the lowest monthly basic salary for government employees was P2,800. Now, given the adjustments made in the basic salaries, the lowest monthly pay stands at P9,000. The committee has invited representatives from the Department of Finance, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Budget and Management, Bureau of Internal Revenue, National Economic and Development Authority, National Tax Research Center, Tax Management Association of the Philippines, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) to be resource persons in tomorrow’s public hearing. “We may not complete the legislative process for this proposed measure in time for this year’s release of bonuses but may serve as a glimmer of hope for our hardworking Filipinos that in future Christmas seasons, they would enjoy more of their hard-earned money,” Angara said. Recto said his proposal is premised on the fact that the prevailing conditions in 1994 – the year Republic Act No. 7833 or the statute that imposed the P30,000 cap was enacted – no longer apply to present circumstances. “At that time, the lowest monthly basic salary for government employees (Salary Grade 1, Step 1) was P2,800 and that of the President of the Philippines (Salary Grade 33) was at P25,000,” Recto said.‐tackle‐exemption‐13th‐month‐pay‐ taxes 

Cancer patients hit cigarette manufacturer By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 17, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - A group of cancer patients and survivors yesterday hit the Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Co. (PMFTC)’s plan to manufacture low-priced cigarettes to compete with a local brand. In a statement, New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) president Emer Rojas said the scheme would defeat the spirit of the sin tax law, which seeks to address the country’s smoking epidemic. Rojas questioned the PMFTC’s appeal before the Bureau of Internal Revenue to allow the company to come up with cheaper versions of its leading brand Marlboro “to level the playing field against local brand Mighty.” “You have to remember that the primary objective of the sin tax law is to increase the prices of cigarettes so smokers will choose to quit and that in the long term we protect public health,” he said. Rojas added if other players would be allowed to “produce low-priced cigarettes to catch up with others, then smokers would just choose cheaper brands instead of quitting.” “In the end, you will not only perpetuate smoking but you promote it,” he said. Rojas was referring to a letter of the PMFTC to the BIR last month requesting that the firm be allowed to manufacture four variants of its Marlboro products as low-priced cigarettes. Marlboro is considered a premium brand and is taxed higher than Mighty, labeled as a lowpriced cigarette product. The PMFTC claimed that sales of Marlboro have dropped significantly because smokers are shifting to cheaper brands like Mighty as a result of higher levies imposed on premium brands. It suggested that for the company to regain its dominance in the market, the government must allow it to come up with four low-priced variants of Marlboro. Rojas said the move by the PMFTC, which used to control more than 90 percent of the tobacco market, is “deemed to undermine the health and revenue objectives of the law, if not to deceive the public.” “There is something more than meets the eye on this move by PMFTC. If it comes out with cheaper Marlboro variants, it is possible that the public would think that the premium brand has returned to its original price and therefore smokers will continue to patronize it,” he added.

A pack of Marlboro costs P55, but in retail stores it can be purchased at four to five pesos per stick. Mighty, on the other hand, is sold for just P35 per pack and is currently dominating a big chunk of the tobacco market as a result of the sin tax. Approved in December 2012, the sin tax is expected to generate more than P36 billion at the end of this year, seven percent higher than earlier projected.‐patients‐hit‐cigarette‐manufacturer                                         

Moody’s ranks Philippine banks among the strongest in the world Category: Banking & Finance 16 Dec 2013 Written by Bianca Cuaresma Moody’s Investor’s Service announced on Monday that it has maintained its positive outlook on Philippine banks over the near term, saying that the Philippine banking systems will likely remain one of the strongest across the globe. The sovereign credit watcher said their positive outlook for the Philippine banking system was grounded on its positive operating environment and systemic support, its stable asset and capital quality, funding and liquidity, as well as its profitability and efficiency. Moody’s Assistant Vice President and analyst Simon Chen also said the positive viewpoint on local banks was in line with the rating agency’s expectation the country’s output measured as its gross domestic product (GDP) will remain “one of the strongest” among the emerging market economies over the next 12 to 18 months.The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’s implementation of the Basel 3 requirements next year was also cited by Moody’s as a factor that strengthened the banks’ capital base as they prepare to be well positioned in meeting the terms of the accord. Nonperforming loans (NPLs) ratio, or loans that remain unpaid about a month after due date, should remain manageable given the sustained “dramatic improvements” in recent years. The banks’ provision for NPLs were also seen to rise, indicating a stronger buffer against loan losses down the line. “We expect the Philippines’s robust economy and low interest rates to continue being supportive of borrowers’ ability to service debt. In addition, the low interest rate environment should result in the banks focusing on growing higher-yielding segments like small- and medium-sized enterprises and retail,” Chen said.Moody’s projects a credit growth of 13 to 15 percent in an annual basis next year. The banks’ profitability is also seen to remain strong next year as the healthy loan growth is expected to offset pressures on net interest margins. In terms of the banks’ physical network, Moody’s said the number of new bank branches is likely to tick up later next year, once the restrictions of opening new branches in Metro Manila has been lifted in the middle of next year. The rating agency said the positive outlook given to the Philippine banking system is consistent with their positive outlook on the country’s sovereign rating. Moody’s is the latest credit-rating agency that lifted the Philippines’s status to investment grade, following the earlier ratings of Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s.‐finance/24428‐moody‐s‐ranks‐ philippine‐banks‐among‐the‐strongest‐in‐the‐world 

Chinese‐Filipino owns largest pearl in the world   December 16, 2013  

Boracay Island, Aklan – A Chinese-Filipino resort owner in this island is also the owner of what will be considered as the largest pearl in the world. In an interview Monday, Richard King, chairman of the Crown Regency Hotel, said that a group of gemologists from the Guinness Book of World Records is expected to arrive here Dec.19-20 to formally inspect the pearl he calls as the “Pearl of the Kings.” Guinness currently recognizes the six-kilo “Pearl of Allah” now in the United States as the largest pearl in the world. “Based on our initial measurement, the ‘Pearl of the Kings’ weighs around nine kilos and we are confident that we could be certified by the Guinness Book of World Records,” King said. He added that he inherited the pearl from his grandfather. It reportedly came from the waters of Palawan like the “Pearl of Allah.” Reports said that the “Pearl of Allah” also known as the “Pearl of Lao Tzu” was given by a Muslim chieftain in the 70s and was found by a diver at Brookes Point, Palawan. “We have now decided to display the “Pearl of the Kings” at the oceanarium park in the Crown Regency Hotel as one of its attractions. “Aside from the pearl, our oceanarium also boasts of having the longest oceanarium tunnel in the Philippines, having 30 meters length,” King said. The “Pearl of Kings” although big is not considered as a non-nacreous pearl having no iridescence or sheen; thus it is not considered a gem stone. It is said to have come from a giant clam which produces the so-called tridacna pearl.‐filipino‐owns‐largest‐pearl‐in‐the‐world/         

Parenthood‐Family program benefits 25,477 couples by Mike Crismundo  December 16, 2013 (updated)  

Butuan City – At least 25,477 couples in the Caraga Region have availed of the various seminars, training, and other activities regarding Responsible Parenthood-Family Planning (RPFP) programs. For the continuing program in the grassroots level, the Region-13 office of the Commission on Population (POPCOM-13) already conducted 1,549 RP-FP classes throughout the region. At present, there are at least 28,907 couples involved in family planning (FP) based on the responsible parenting movement (RPM) classes, while 88,152 is the total number of FP users based on the records of rural health units (RHUs), and other government health facilities. Some of the programs, training, and seminars conducted by the POPCOM-13 include Responsible Parenting for Adolescents with general Parents’ and Teachers’ Associations, FP Technology, communication and counseling training and FP technology, and skills training, “Usapan” series training on family planning-maternal and child health and gender program, information education and communication advocacy materials, adolescent health and youth development, school-based campaign of teenage pregnancy, and population and development integration. The POPCOM-13 also partnered with the Caraga Youth Leaders Network (CYLN) and the Caraga Federation of Student Councils in an effort to push the program in the various schools – both government and private, and various youth organizations in the Caraga Region. The agency also launched its Web site in an effort to interact with every resident in the Caraga Region in line with the RP-FP program as it is also closely coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH), and Department of Education (DepEd) for the various projects of the POPCOM. “We are moving ahead, and we are implementing and upgrading our programs in 2014,” said POPCOM-13 Director Alexander A. Makinano. Meanwhile, the POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio A. Perez recently visited the region for a consultative meeting with the regional staff and the population officers of the various cities and provinces in Region-13. It was learned that the consultative meeting became productive as issues and concerns regarding the program implementation along Population and Development (POPDEV) integration, Adolescent Health and Youth Development (AHYD), and RP-FP programs were leveled off and acted upon. Perez acknowledged the importance of giving priority to the field operations, thus making impact on the reduction of unmet need for family planning.As support for the program operation, Perez committed to provide equipment, such as computers and printers to all population offices in the provincial/city levels. He also assured to coordinate with the DOH for possible posting of RNHeals nurses in every city/provincial population office who will assist in the RP-FP program.‐family‐program‐benefits‐25477‐couples/ 

Malacañang says gov’t has kept prices down By Christian V. Esguerra  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:33 am | Tuesday, December 17th, 2013  


Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda: Fallacy. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Monday hit back at administration Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who had dared President Aquino to use the Malampaya Fund to provide a subsidy for electricity to consumers, thus challenging a Supreme Court ruling in the process. “Senator Trillanes should not be so hasty in making general statements. I think he should appreciate the fact that this government has managed to keep prices down, has managed to keep prices within inflation,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda. Lacierda appeared ticked off when one reporter hinted the Aquino administration was “numb” to the rising cost of power. “You don’t give us due credit when the prices of gasoline go down. I think you forget that prices do go down. We’ve kept inflation at a very low rate, at a manageable rate,” he said, adding the government was investigating the new round of power rate adjustments. “Your assumption, your conclusion that we do nothing, that prices go up, that is a fallacy,” he said. Trillanes on Sunday said the Malampaya Fund could be used to soften the impact of the P4.15 per kilowatt hour increase in power rates.

Not for subsidy But the President said he had been advised by Palace lawyers that the recent Supreme Court decision barred the government from doing so. The ruling said the fund could be used only for energy development. “That’s just his interpretation of the ruling. It doesn’t say it’s illegal to tap it. He should go ahead with it and let the Supreme Court say it’s illegal,” Trillanes said. “As the saying goes, if you’re keen on doing something, you can think of many ways to do it. Otherwise, you offer a lot of excuses.”   Read more:‐says‐govt‐has‐kept‐prices‐ down#ixzz2nhKBYI6G   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                             

DepEd to keep grade, high school opening in June By Dona Z. Pazzibugan  Philippine Daily Inquirer   4:54 am | Tuesday, December 17th, 2013    


Education Secretary Armin Luistro. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Education (DepEd) does not see the need to revise the June to April school calendar for preschool, elementary and high school, even if some of the country’s top universities are reportedly planning to align their calendars to the prevailing schedules in the Asean region. The University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas are reportedly planning to start their classes in August or September, instead of June, and end it in June or July, instead of April, in line with the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2015. Asean 2015 is expected to promote mobility in the labor force, students and faculty among the 10 Asean member-nations, including the Philippines. No final decision The Philippines is the only country in the region that follows a June to April academic calendar. Education Secretary Armin Luistro said intercountry student and faculty mobility was not as felt in basic education as it was in higher education.

“We have no decision yet (on changing the school calendar) with regard to Asean 2015. But the school calendar for basic education (among Asean member-nations) also varies,” Luistro said. In the meantime, he said, the DepEd was sticking to the June to April school calendar since they had already studied the suggestion to move the start of classes to September to avoid frequent class suspensions due to inclement weather at the onset of the rainy season in June and July. Luistro said a study done with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration showed that typhoons were not always expected in June and July, and heavy rains were not widespread. “Besides, if we are still holding classes during the summer months, the children might not be able to study due to the intense heat,” he said. The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) has yet to give its imprimatur to the reported plan of some universities to shift their academic calendar. These top universities enjoy “autonomous” status, which gives them leeway in determining their academic programs, including their academic calendar. Other colleges and universities have to follow CHEd’s prescribed academic calendar.   Read more:‐to‐keep‐grade‐high‐school‐opening‐in‐ june#ixzz2nhL2iAWj   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                       

DUCUT PRESSED TO QUIT Published : Tuesday, December 17, 2013 00:00 Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco LAWMAKERS yesterday castigated Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) chairperson Zenaida Cruz-Ducut and urged her to resign after again ignoring the House Committee on Energy hearing held yesterday to shed light on some issues regarding the Manila Electric Company’s power hike. Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares challenged the House Committee on Energy headed by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali to compel Ducut’s presence in the next hearing. Colmenares demanded the resignation of Ducut, a three-term lawmaker from Pampanga who served from 1995 to 2004. “The Legislative should not take up the cudgels (for Ducut), let them defend themselves. If she cannot attend hearings, she could probably resign na lang. The heads of agencies should be here because there is no blanket immunity that they cannot attend hearings,” Colmenares said. “This is the second hearing of the committee that she was not here. Let us note in today’s headlines that she is considered as an agent of Janet LimNapoles in the pork barrel scam and she received a five-percent commission from the PDAF projects. I think this has bearing on the integrity of the ERC being the foremost guardian of the people’s interest in the energy sector,” Tinio told the committee. “We urge the committee as soon as possible to make sure that the chairperson appears before the committee and hear her response.” Umali responded in the affirmative, saying Ducut should present herself in the continuation of his panel’s hearing on Meralco’s P4.15 per kilowatt per hour (kWh) power rate increase.ERC executive director Atty. Francis Juan represented Ducut. “We regret that the Chair cannot make it because she has meeting in the Commission and it is convened on Monday and an important agenda will be discussed.”Umali said it was the third time that they invited Ducut to attend their hearing.‐ducut‐pressed‐to‐quit  

Kerry in PH Published : Tuesday, December 17, 2013 00:00 Written by : Cristina Lee-Pisco

UNITED States Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the Philippines today for a two-day bilateral talks with Philippine officials specifically on security issues. He will also oversee Washington’s ongoing relief efforts in the typhoondevastated city of Tacloban in the Visayas. The Department of Foreign Affairs said Kerry will meet with President Benigno Aquino and counterpart Albert del Rosario where issues of mutual interest to both countries will be tackled, Expected to be touched are China’s recent establishment of an air defense identification zone, which was rejected both by Manila and Washington, and the renewed tensions in the oil and gas-rich South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the disputed maritime territory. Kerry is also expected to discuss the increased rotation presence of US troops in the Philippines, which is still under negotiations. Other topics to be discussed are the broadening of security and economic cooperation and the strengthening of people to people exchange as well as humanitarian and disaster response, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said. In Tacloban, Kerry will meet the victims of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) as well as those involved in the relief operations, Hernandez said. The US, a long-time military ally of the Philippines, was among the first countries to provide financial aid and bring in troops, aircraft, and navy ships after the devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda on November 8 that left more than 6,000 people dead and millions affected.‐stories/63782‐kerry‐in‐ph    

Trillanes remarks rile Palace Published : Tuesday, December 17, 2013 00:00 Written by : People's Journal

MALACAÑANG yesterday slammed an administration ally, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, for suggesting that the Executive branch is powerless on the power rate hike and that people should show their anger at the Meralco power rate hike. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out that the government has managed to keep inflation and prices of fuel at “manageable” levels. “You don’t give us due credit when prices of gasoline go down. You forget gas prices go down. We kept inflation at a manageable rate,” he said addressing Trillanes. Besides, Lacierda said, the agency with the power to approve power rate adjustments is the Energy Regulatory Commission, which he said is independent of the Executive Department. “It’s very clear it was a decision made by ERB which is independent of the Department of Energy,” he said. For now, Lacierda said an investigation is underway to see if there was supposed collusion in Meralco’s power rate hike. Lacierda also said Senator Trillanes who reportedly called for people to “rage against power rate hikes,” “should not be so hasty in making general statements.” “I think he should appreciate the fact this government has managed to keep our prices within inflation... We also have monitoring of prices on a weekly basis from the Department of Trade and Industry. Don’t make general statements to that effect, give credit where it is due,” he said.‐stories/63778‐trillanes‐remarks‐rile‐palace      

US to provide $5 million for rehab of Clark Veterans Cemetery Published : Tuesday, December 17, 2013 00:00 Written by : Cristina Lee-Pisco THE Philippines and the United States yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation, Restoration, Operation and Maintenance of the Clark Veterans Cemetery. Arnel Paciano Casanova, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, signed the MOU for the Philippines while United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed the MOU for the US side. The MOU will take effect upon signature and will be implemented by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) of the Philippines and the American Battle Monuments Commission of the United States. The MOU provides the two implementing agencies with a cooperation framework on the approval of new burials and on the upkeep of the Clark Veterans Cemetery. With the signing of the MOU, the United States government will provide a US$5 million fund for the rehabilitation of the Clark Veterans Cemetery. The Philippine government, through the BCDA, maintains titles to the lands covered by the cemetery. The Clark Veterans Cemetery is a seven-hectare cemetery established in 1947 at the old Clark Air Force Base as a final resting place for Filipino scouts and American veterans.‐us‐to‐provide‐5‐million‐for‐ rehab‐of‐clark‐veterans‐cemetery         

Papua New Guinea needs 81 teachers, lecturers Published : Tuesday, December 17, 2013 00:00 Written by : Lee Ann P. Ducusin THE Department of Labor and Employment has announced that Papua New Guinea needs 81 teachers and lecturers. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz said the teachers and lecturers are urgently needed for deployment to Papua New Guinea as part of the initial phase of manpower recruitment under the newly-signed bilateral agreement between the Philippines and the said country. “Papua New Guinea is in need of lecturers and teachers to work in the Department of Education. The manpower recruitment is an ongoing, yet urgent requirement,” she said. Baldoz added that those who will qualify will be petitioned under the PNG government’s working visa status. The manpower requirements needed are lecturers on physics, biology and biological technician, building architecture, civil engineering, surveying, drafting, economic, management, and electrical engineering (power and electronics). The vacancies needed for teachers/instructors are for motor vehicle, diesel heavy equipment fitter, heavy equipment fitter, metal fabrication and welding, automotive electrical, tourism, housekeeping, mathematics A, physics, chemistry, graphic and drawing, ICT, academic subjects (math/science), general mathematics, biology, information technology, physical education and library electronic. The annual salaries of qualified applicants ranges from PNG Kina 52,759 to PNG Kina 47,489, or the equivalent of P844,144 to P758,224 per year. Baldoz said the aplicants who will meet the requirements will be shortlisted and interviewed by the representatives of Papua New Guinea‘s Department of Education. The bilateral agreement between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea,

which is in effect for five years, spells out the framework for areas of cooperation between the two governments on matters relating to labor—how to facilitate labor market access and accord labor mobility in accordance with existing rules and regulations in the two countries. Based on POEA records, OFW deployment to PNG has been on an increasing trend during the last four years: 3,296 deployed in 2009; 4,134 in 2010; 9,084 in 2011; and 15,520 in 2012. There are about 23,230 OFWs in PNG, majority or 92.5 percent of whom are migrant workers in production and manufacturing, professional services, administrative and managerial workers, clerical workers, sales workers, and service workers.‐papua‐new‐guinea‐needs‐81‐ teachers‐lecturers                              

Use coco levy to help farmers survive Yolanda Published : Tuesday, December 17, 2013 00:00 Written by : Bernadette Tamayo SENATE President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has urged the government to tap the estimated P77 billion coco levy fund to help thousands of coconut farmers in the Visayas whose copra farms were flattened by super typhoon Yolanda. Describing it as “frozen like a buko salad”, Recto said it is time that the levy, which was raised through tax on copra, be given back to the farmers who paid them from 1971 to 1982. Created under Republic Act 6260, the coco levy was imposed on copra sales purportedly to raise capital investment for the coconut industry. For these farmers to survive, they must now be “paid the dividends of their contributions,” Recto said. Initial report stated that Yolanda “shredded” at least 34 million coconut trees covering an area of about 41,700 hectares in Regions 6, 7, and 8. “But we don’t need statistics to tell us the extent of the devastation. Pictures of leafless coconut trees standing like toothpicks have become the icon of Yolanda’s wrath. They also prove one point: With their trees dead, the source of income of tens of thousands of coconut farmers is gone too,” he said. Recto noted that before Yolanda struck, coconut farmers in the Visayas were already impoverished, with 9 in 10 living below the poverty line. “Yet, the three Visayas regions Yolanda mowed down account for almost one-sixth of the country’s production,” he said. Last year, they contributed 17 percent or 2.7 million metric tons (MT) of the 15.86 million MT in total national production. Leyte and Samar accounted for 70 percent of total output in the Visayas. Recto said any coco levy-financed project should cover “a buffet of activities” and not just coconut tree replanting. “It will take up to seven years for a tree to bear nut. Hindi naman pwedeng hindi sila kumain habang hindi pa namumunga ang kanilang itinanim,” he said.

He said qualified beneficiaries must be given the flexibility “to choose the replacement or transitory crop” of P15,000 per hectare from coconut alone. This approach is feasible in light of studies showing that from an annual income of P15,000 from a hectare of coconut, intercropping it with cacao can raise it to P97,000, and with cacao and bananas to P120,000.‐use‐coco‐levy‐to‐help‐farmers‐ survive‐yolanda                                       

BINTANG NA 5% NI ERC CHIEF DUCUT SA ‘PORK’ SCAM UUNGKATIN NANG TODO Nina Marlo Dalisay, Aries Cano at Bernard Taguinod Namumuro na sa dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso si Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Zenaida Ducut kung saan hindi lamang sa kontrobersyal na power rate hike ng Manila Electric Company (Meralco) na inaprubahan nito kamakailan kundi partikular na kinakalkal ngayon ay ang paratang na diumano’y mayroon itong 5% na komisyon sa ‘pork’ scam. Ayon kay Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman ng Senate committee on energy na nagpapasimuno ng power rate probe sa Senado, sa ngayon ay ‘leave of absence’ lang ang pwedeng hingin kay Ducut matapos lumutang ang seryosong alegasyon ng sinasabing komisyon nito sa pakikipagtransaksyon sa itinuturong ‘pork’ scam queen na si Janet Lim-Napoles. “It all depends upon the seriousness of the case and I think the one that should check into that would be the Secretary of Energy. Wala tayong time mag-check n’yan,” pagamin ni Osmeña nang matanong kung dapat pang manatili bilang chairman ng ERC si Ducut. “Kailangan i-examine ‘yung kaso niya and find if there is probability. ‘Pag malakas ang evidence…kasi si Benhur lang nag-testify nu’n so you’ll have to look at the circumstances. Ano ba ‘yung mga documents na binigay ni Benhur kay Sec. De Lima? And if it is serious enough, the secretary can ask her to take a leave of absence,” dagdag ng senador. Sa Kamara, duda ito sa hindi pagsipot ni Ducut sa kanilang imbestigasyon hinggil sa pinapalagang power rate hike.

Ito ang ikalawang beses na hindi pagpapakita ni Ducut sa imbestigasyon ng Kamara. Dahil sa hindi paglutang sa imbestigasyon ng Kamara ay iginiit nina ACT partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio at Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares na magbitiw na lamang ito sa puwesto. Isa pang nais linawin ng Kamara sa ERC chief ay ang pagkakadawit nito sa pork barrel scam. Sa pinakahuling ulat ay sinasabing si Ducut ay tumanggap ng 5% komisyon sa mga pinasok na transaksyon sa nadiskubreng pork barrel scam. Niliwanag naman ng ipinadalang kinatawan ng ERC na si Atty. Francis Juan na may mahalagang bagay na tatalakayin ang ERC at mahigpit ang pangangailangan sa presensya ni Ducut kaya’t hindi ito nakadalo sa imbestigasyon ng Kamara. Tila nakatali naman ang kamay ng Malacañang hinggil sa panawagang baklasin na sa puwesto si Ducut. Ipinaliwanag ng palasyo na si Ducut, bilang appointee ni dating Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ay mayroong ‘fixed term’ at hindi basta-basta maaaring alisin. “Ang sa akin, ang kaso ay nasa Ombudsman na iyan eh, ini-investigate na iyan ng Ombudsman. So, kung ano ang maging resulta ng investigation, hintayin na lang natin ang Ombudsman,” ani presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda na ang tinutukoy ay ang pagkakasangkot nito sa Napoles ‘pork’ sacm.‐oOdIW1GY              

DOH may full blast drive kontra tigdas (Tina Mendoza)

Kasunod ng pagtaas ng kaso ng tigdas, agad na umaksyon ang Department of Health (DOH) ay inilunsad kahapon ang malawakang measles vaccination campaign sa Metro Manila.


Ayon kay DOH-NCR Director Eduardo Janairo, iikot sila sa Kamaynilaan para sa pagbibigay ng libreng bakuna kung saan kahapon ay sinimulan ito sa Purok Molave, Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City. “We will not wait for an epidemic of measles to spread and affect a large number of our children. It must be stopped aggressively so that we can prevent large-scale outbreaks that can lead to serious illness and even death,” ani Janairo. Aniya, iikot ang measles vaccination teams sa may 17 local government units sa Metro Manila kung kaya hinihimok nito ang mga magulang na ang mga anak ay hindi pa nababakunahan kontra tigdas na tiyaking makakakuha ng serbisyong ito sa kanilang team. Idineklara na ng DOH-NCR na priority health concern ang tigdas ngayong huling quarter ng taon.‐o1NIW1GY              

Plunder vs DA, NFA head (Joselito Perez) Sinampahan ng kasong plunder sa tanggapan ng Ombudsman sina Department of Agriculture (DA) Sec. Proceso Alcala at National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag.


May kaugnayan ang inihaing kaso sa umano’y maanomalyang pag-angkat ng bigas ng DA at NFA mula sa bansang Vietnam noong Mayo 2013. Ayon sa 18-pahinang reklamo ni Atty. Argee Guevarra, nagkaroon diumano ng overpricing sa pagbili ng naturang bigas na umabot P457.2 milyong halaga katumbas ng 205,700 metric tons na bigas. Ang reklamo ay inihain ni Guevarra matapos mabunyag ang pag-angkat pa na 500,000 metric tons kung saan ay natuklasan diumano na overpriced din ang mga ito para punan ang mga nasirang bigas noong kasagsagan ng bagyong Yolanda.‐o2NIW1GY                  

Iskul para sa bulag at bingi (Aries Cano) Magiging accessible na sa mga batang may kapansanan sa pandinig at paningin ang edukasyon dahil isinusulong ang pagtatayo ng special education facilities sa lahat ng munisipalidad sa buong bansa. Ito ang nakasaad sa House Bill 3039 na itinutulak nina Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Arroyo at Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Ang panukala ay inilatag ng mag-inang mambabatas sa layong matiyak ang mandato ng Konstitusyon na kailangan ng estado na i-promote ang karapatan ng lahat ng mamamayan sa de-kalidad na edukasyon at gawin itong accessible sa lahat. Inihain ng Bicol solon ang panukala dahil kumpara umano sa mga normal na mga bata, ang mga bingi at bulag na mga bata ay may kakaiba at espesyal na pangangailangan para bigyan ng sapat na atensyon.‐pDtIW1GY                      

P77B coco levy, gamitin sa coco farmers na nadale ni Yolanda (Dindo Matining) Sa halip na panatilihan lang na nakafreeze ang P77 bilyong coco levy fund, mas mainam umanong gamitin na lang ito ng gobyerno para matulungan ang libu-libong coconut farmers na naapaketuhan ng super typhoon Yolanda. Ayon kay Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, ito na aniya ang tamang panahon para maibalik ng gobyerno ang perang kanilang ibinayad bilang buwis mula 1971 hanggang 1982. “It is time that the levy, which was raised through a tax on copra, be plowed back to the farmers,” pahayag ni Recto kahapon. Sabi ni Recto, malaki aniya, ang maitututulong ng nasabing pondo para makabangon ang coconut industry kung saan halos 34 milyong puno ng niyog ang nasira sa Regions 6, 7 at 8 ng bagyong Yolanda. “It will take up to seven years for a tree to bear nut. Hindi naman pwedeng hindi sila kumain habang hindi pa namumunga ang kanilang itinanim,” dagdag ng senador.‐pO9IW1GY             

Nagpaliwanag si PNoy HORACIO PAREDES Nagpaliwanag ng bahagya ang Pangulo tungkol sa kung ano ang kanyang napuna sa ilang beses niyang pagbisita sa Tacloban, tungkol sa alkalde na nagkaroon ng bangayan kay DILG Secretary Mar Roxas. Ang naging komentaryo kay Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez ni PNoy ay: “He has spent time on a lot of interviews from Day One as opposed to doing what he is supposed to do.” Ang tunay na kakulangan ng Tacloban ay sa preparasyon nina Romualdez sa ipinahayag na ng PAGASA at NDRRMC na pinakamalakas na bagyo na maranasan ng Pinas. Marami sa mga alkalde ng mga lungsod at munisipyo na tinamaan din ng Yolanda ay nakapaghanda. Marami sa kanila ay nilayo ang mga nakatira sa tabing dagat at dahil dito at sa kanilang pagbigay-alam kung gaano kalakas ang parating na bagyo, marami silang naligtas na kanilang mga residente. Sa Tacloban, dahil walang paghahandang ginawa, marami ang naging biktima ni Yolanda. At ayon pa kay PNoy, ngayong panahon na ng rehab, hindi pa rin niya maasahan ang mga Romualdez ng Tacloban dahil sa hindi pa rin tinutupad ang mga kasunduan nila ng Pambansang Pamahalaan. At ngayong nagsimula na ang rehabilitasyon, hindi pa rin sila maasahan. Ang magkabilang kampo ay hindi pa rin nagkakasundo kung ano ang dapat na ginagawa ng magkabilang kampo. Ayon sa Pangulo, hiningi niya kay Alkalde Romualdez ang listahan ng makakaya ng local government at kung ano pa ang inaasahan nila sa pamahalaang pambansa. “We put it all down in writing so both of us know what is expected of the other... So they drafted the document and sent it over to us, I looked at it, sabi ko ‘okay na rin ito’.” “Sabi ko, magkapirmahan na kayo. Iniwanan ko sila na iyon ang understanding. So when I asked for a copy of the signed agreement, kinalabasan, hindi rin pala pinirmahan iyon.” Sa kanilang kasunduan, ang alkalde ang mangunguna sa pamimigay ng mga relief goods at sa pamumuno ng pagbalik ng lungsod sa normal nitong takbo. Ang nasyonal

naman ang panggagalingan ng relief, mangunguna sa paghakot ng mga bangkay, at mamamahala sa peace and order at sa paglinis ng mga lansangan. Ngunit ayon kay Pangulong Noynoy Aquino, walang nangyari sa kinasunduan. “Lahat ng napag-usapan natin parang naging…wala, walang nangyari. Pag walang nangyari, pupurihin ba kami? Naniwala kami sa kanya. Sasabihin sa amin ‘di ba dapat ginawa ninyo ito?’ at sinasabi na nga nila ngayon.” Ayon pa sa Pangulo, ang magpinsan na alkalde at kongresista na si Martin Romualdez ay ilang beses nagsabi na sila’y dadalo sa meeting ng National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Noong una sinalubong siya sa Tacloban Airport. Ngunit natuloy ang meeting ay wala ang alkalde at ang kongresista. “Pagdating ko doon, ang kaharap ko ay city administrator at saka si Vice Mayor. Wala si Mayor, wala si Martin. Hindi ko sila binabanatan, I’m just stating a fact, okay. So pagdating doon para bang one of the things [mentioned], and I think it’s on the video of RTVM...DPWH said, ‘We have to build the bunkhouses. We need land’.” Ayon kay City administrator Tecson Lim, meron silang nakalaan na 30 ektaryang lupa para doon. Pag-alis ni PNoy, akala niya na pagbalik niya ay masisimulan na ang paggawa ng mga bahay at makakalipat na ang ilang mga nawalan ng bahay. “Aba, pagbalik ko iyong land na sinabing dito ang pagtatayuan ay may plano raw na iba. So hindi raw pwede iyong land na iyon. So parang...identification of the site na pinangako, wala na.” Sa sinabi naman ni DILG Secretary Mar Roxas sa alkalde ng Tacloban: “You have to remember, we have to be careful. You are a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.” Suportado ng Pangulo si Roxas. ‘Ika niya: “Magkakaroon ng dagdag na kulay dahil na nga nagkataon na miyembro kami ng mga pamilyang ito. So ang ipinapakiusap lang ni Secretary Roxas at that time, ‘pwede ba nating iliwanag lang ito?’” Paliwanag ni PNoy na kahit na sa pamamagitan ng batas na bumuo ng National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, maaaring tanggalin ng Pangulo ang

alkalde kung ito ay “no longer able to function.” Ayon sa Pangulo, hindi niya ito ginawa dahil baka maisip ng iba na inaapi niya ang isang malapit kay dating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos. “So let’s bend over backwards. Nakiusap lang tayo na ‘pwede ba natin ilagay ito, na ito specific na request mo para hindi naman dumating ang panahon na sabihing hindi namin ginawa.” Ayon sa Pangulo: “The bottom line is they are in charge, they are the primary responders and if they are no longer able to discharge their functions then it is national government’s responsibility to fill the void.” ***‐ri9IW1GY                             

Bonipasko TG GUINGONA IBA-IBANG tao, iba-iba rin ang style ng pagdaraos ng Pasko. Maski sa mga bayani, kitang-kita ang pagkakaiba. Tradisyunal ang paraan ng pagsalubong ni Dr. Jose Rizal sa Kapaskuhan. Para sa kanya, ang Pasko ay araw para muling sariwain ang relasyon sa mga kaibigan at minamahal. Ang huling Pasko ni Rizal ay idinaos sa Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, noong 1895. Kahit pa ipinatapon doon ng pamahalaang Kastila, pinatingkad pa rin ni Rizal ang diwa ng Pasko sa pamamagitan ng isang party na dinaluhan ng mga kapitbahay. Habang pinagsasaluhan ang litsong biik at manok na inihanda ng bayani, nagsayawan sila ng non-stop at nagtawanan hanggang madaling-araw. Punong-abala sa party ang Irish na maybahay ni Rizal, si Josephine Bracken. Ibang-iba ang Pasko ni Andres Bonifacio. Hindi iginugol ng founder ng Katipunan ang kanyang mga Pasko sa katuwaan at inuman. Bagkos, sinamantala ni Bonifacio ang kasabikan ng mga Kastila sa araw ng Pasko para lalong patibayin ang Katipunan. Habang nililibang ni Rizal ang sarili sa non-stop na aliw noong Pasko ng 1895, pinamahalaan ni Bonifacio ang pulong ng Kataas-taasang Sanggunian ng Katipunan na tumagal nang dalawang araw na walang tigil, mula bisperas Disyembre 24 hanggang sa araw mismo ng Pasko. Ang pagtitipon ay ginawa sa bahay ni Andres Bonifacio sa distrito Dulumbayan ng Maynila. Gaya ni Josephine Bracken ni Rizal, maybahay ni Bonifacio, si Gregoria de Jesus, ang punong-abala sa Pamaskong pagtitipon ng Katipunan. Bukod kay Bonifacio, ang meeting ay dinaluhan ng mga kasapi ng Supreme Council at pinuno ng mga balangay ng Katipunan.

Nag-inuman ba sila sa meeting? Nagkasayahan ba sila sa araw ng Pasko? Ayon sa Katipunan records, una sa meeting ang paghingi ng tawad ni Inocencio Marcial, presidente ng Balangay Maluningning, sa mabagal na asenso ng kanyang gawain. Ito umano ay dahil sa itinanan niya sa Batangas ang kanyang treasurer (Perfecta Simeon) at kinukulit siya ni Perfecta na lagi na lang siyang wala sa bahay. Approved ang paliwanag ni Marcial (wala sa record ang hagikgikan).Susunod, pinagkaisahan ang proklamasyon na magpapalakas ng kasapian sa loob ng susunod na 15 araw. Idinisplay ni Bonifacio ang litrato ng mga kasaping traydor. Pero ipinakiusap ni Emilio Jacinto na tanggalin ang isa dahil nagsisisi na ito. Approved. Pinakamahalaga, nagkaroon ng eleksyon ng mga bagong opisyal ng Katipunan, tatlong kandidato sa bawat posisyon. Na-reelect si Bonifacio bilang presidente, Emilio Jacinto bilang kalihim, Pio Valenzuela bilang piskal, Vicente Molina bilang ingat-yaman at sina Aguedo del Rosario, Balbino Florentino, Pantaleon Torres, Hermenigildo Reyes, Francisco Carreon at Jose Trinidad bilang mga kagawad.Panghuli, pinagkaisahan ang solicitation letter na popular tuwing sasapit ang Pasko. Maski si Dr. Rizal, nag-solicit din: sumulat siya sa kanyang pamilya, humihingi ng kesong puti, mangga, angkak (butil na mala-birdseed), monggo, tuyo, at “terrinas de foie gras,” isang mamahaling French delicacy. Malayo ang solicitation letter ni Bonifacio sa mga nakakariwasang kababayan. Nakakasindak, lagot ang hindi magbibigay. Sabi ng sulat: “Ang Mataas na Sangunian, dahil sa malaking pangangailangang bumili ng mga baril at iba pang sandata ng mga nagtatanggol ng katuwiran at puri nitong katagalugan, ay nag-atas na mag-ambag ang mga kababayang nakaririwasa ng kanilang buong-kaya. Ang ‘di magkaloob ng abuloy ay ipalalagay na kalaban at lalapatan ng nauukol sa mga sukabang tumatalikod sa mga kalahi at tunay na kapatid.”Isang Pasko, dalawang pagdaraos. Tiyak na marami pang ibang paraan. Pero paano man natin idaos ang Pasko, tiyakin na ito ay sa paraang makabuluhan ‘di lamang sa sarili kundi sa kapwatao, lalo na sa mga kapus-palad. Happy holidays sa lahat!‐r1tIW1GY 

De Lima blames GMA for Leviste’s parole • •

Written by Benjamin B. Pulta and Charlie V. Manalo Tuesday, 17 December 2013 00:00

DoJ CHIEF DOES A NOYNOY GMA is to blame for the early release of the Batangas former governor. This is the latest word of the Department of Justice chief, to evade yet another responsibility that belongs to her. The penchant of President Aquino to blame anything and everything on something and someone on everyone else appears to have rubbed off on his Justice chief, Leila de Lima, who now puts the blame on former President, Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the parole board’s release of former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste. De Lima, who had earlier owned up to responsibility for the actions of the parole board, insisting that the board did it by the book, only to upset Aquino by the release and pronouncing that the former governor should not have been released early, due to his “good behavior,” insisted that Leviste was caught leaving the jailhouse without permission, and yet he still got off on the claimed “good behavior.” De Lima then turned around, saying that even as Leviste, who was convicted of murder, was released from jail, the President still has the last say on whether or not to accept the recommendation of the parole board. De Lima then said she would review the parole board’s recommendation and provide Aquino with all the information. Today, however, De Lima was clearly evading responsibility as she announced that her office has sent to Malacañang her formal position on the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP)’s recommendations to release murder convict and Leviste, placing all blame not only her undersecretary to head the Parole Board, but also the former president for passing two executive orders. De Lima has not offered to resigned but instead pointed to Arroyo and her Executive Orders. Speaking with reporters, the Justice chief said the final decision to uphold or revoke the parole will be up to the President but declined to give details on her personal position on the matter. De Lima however gave broad hints about blaming Mrs. Arroyo for passing two executive orders which practically ousted the DoJ chief from the composition of the BPP board, an agency that is under the DoJ and therefore, still de Lima’s domain. “I called the attention of the President that there seems to be something wrong in the composition of the BPP.” she said. Under the Administrative Code, De Lima said the chairman of the Board of Pardons and Parole has to be the Justice Secretary or her representative while the rest should be sociologists, members of the academe and lawyers group, among others.

However, De Lima said it was amended by Executive Order 868 issued by the former President where the head will have the rank of an undersecretary. “Under the Revised Administrative Code, the chairman of the BPP should be the DoJ secretary or his or her representative with the other members composed of sociologists, academicians, lawyers’ group’s representatives, etc. “But in two EOs (executive orders) issued by GMA, it was altered so there is a chairman that is not the DoJ secretary. “My position there is that a law cannot just be amended by an EO. GMA had no legislative power , that only existed under the Freedom Constitution but not the subsequent president(s). So you just cannot amend a law through an EO.” Initially, de Lima said there was no indication of irregularity in Leviste’s release, she said it would depend upon the President if he is satisfied with the explanation of the Bureau of Corrections and the Parole and Pardon (BPP) Administration . “He can intervene either to affirm or reverse the grant of parole. He is head of the executive branch so all executive offices are under his control and supervision,” she reoterated. What De Lima skirts, however, is the fact that she is the Justice Secretary and as such should have know the rules and the law covering the Parole Board, especially as she writes legal positions, generally favorable to Malacañang, which usually is contrary to the Constitution and the laws. Even with the BPP administering the laws on parole and probation, De Lima said her view is that “ it did not divest the power of the President also on the matter of parole so he can intervene and act either to affirm or reverse grant of parole of BPP.” Leviste ,73 , was sentenced to six to 12 years in prison in 2009 for the death of his aide Rafael de las Alas. Two years later a television news program ,acting on a tip, secured video footage of Leviste out of prison without guards. But criminal charges against Leviste for the unauthorized furlough was subsequently dropped. It is not the first time De Lima had reversed herself, as a investigation which she had chaired along with the late Interior Secretary, Jessie Robredo, came up with sanctions against Aquino’s allies and partymates on the Manila hostage taking fiasco, which ended in the deaths of at least eight Hong Kong tourists. for which Aquino refuses to accept blame and responsibility. He insisted on his review of the case, and claimed that the sanctions are too steep. In the end, no one recommended for sanctioning was penalized or charged criminally. Aquino is known to protect his allies and partymates while using his appointees, in the Ombudsman and the DoJ chief, to charge his political enemies who pose a threat to the LPs in the 2016 presidential polls. Meanwhile, as the entire world spends Christmas and New Year just a week apart, with families partaking of the traditional media noche and noche buena on these occasions, a lonely soul will just have to suit herself with having the customary dinners on the twin events all by her lonesome. And she happens to be the former president of the country. Yesterday, the camp of Mrs. Arroyo lashed anew at the Philippine National Police (PNP) for banning her from spending Christmas and New Year’s eves with her immediate family. This is on top of the earlier directive issued by the PNP prohibiting her husband, former

First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo from sleeping over in her detention room at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC). “Congresswoman GMA cannot spend Christmas eve and New Year’s eve (12 midnight) with her immediate family even at VMMC,” an insider in the Arroyo camp told the Tribune through a text message. “Why? This is already an intervention in practicing her faith of attending a private midnight mass with her family,” the insider added. Even before assuming the presidency in 2001, the source said that Mrs. Arroyo had always heard private masses with her family on the eves of Christmas and New Year. Aside from the traditional masses on Christmas and New Year’s eves, Mrs. Arroyo also hears private masses with her family every Sunday. The Tribune source said the PNP directive might be meant to further cause depression for the former head of state who is being detained on the basis of a plunder case filed against her involving the alleged misuse of the confidential intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). Her co-accused had since been granted bail by the court. “You can say that the PNP wants her to be miserable crying alone in her bedroom,” said the source. “Are we still a Christian country?” The former First Gentleman also lashed at the administration for allegedly pretending to be helpless on his wife’s case. “When the Palace does not want to do it, (Noynoy) says, ‘we don’t intervene in court matters. The decision rests on the court.’ But if (Noynoy) wants to do it, in five hours or less, he can have the Chief Justice impeached. The TRO (temporary restraining order) from the Supreme Court is ignored and immediate arrests and jailed are effected even when there is no evidence when it comes to his political foes. And they say they don’t interfere or intervene!!!” Mr. Arroyo posted in his Facebook account.‐lima‐blames‐gma‐for‐leviste‐s‐parole                    

NBI nabs ex-Pagadian mayor, wife over Aman Futures scam • • •

Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Monday, 16 December 2013 00:00

Fugitive former Pagadian Mayor Samuel Co and his wife, Priscilla Ann, the alleged brains behind the multibillion-peso Aman Futures investment scam, has been arrested by operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed yesterday.

De Lima said the couple was arrested at Ashton 2, Serendra Condominium building in Taguig City after law enforcement officials team from the NBI’s Investigation Service (IS) and Special Investigation Services (SIS) received information the couple is residing in the said plush condo unit. “Acting as buyers to gain access in the Serendra Towers, the NBI joint team closely monitored the couple that led to their arrest,” De Lima told reporters in a text message, adding that the couple was caught while attempting to flee in a vehicle. An arrest warrant had been issued by the Iligan Regional Trial Court (RTC) against the couple following the filing of syndicated estafa charges by the Department of Justice (DoJ) against them over the complaint of alleged Aman Futures investor Julius Labunog who claims that his group was duped by Co and the firm’s officers for a combined amount of P29.63 million. De Lima said the NBI will first make a return of the service of the warrant and will await the commitment order from the court to determine where they should be detained. “It is, of course, gratifying everytime there’s such an accomplishment from the NBI. I hope that they show further zeal in running after the other fugitives from justice, especially the so-called ‘Big 5’ fugitives,” the DoJ chief said, referring to former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, as well as former Gen. Jovito Palparan, Globe Asiatique developer Delfin Lee, Dinagat Rep. Ruben Ecleo.‐nabs‐ex‐pagadian‐mayor‐wife‐over‐aman‐futures‐scam 

NBI: No special treatment for arrested Co couple • •

Written by Pat C. Santos Tuesday, 17 December 2013 00:00

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) assured the victims of recently arrested former Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co, who was arrested for syndicated estafa charges over the Aman Futures scam, that there’s no special treatmet will be given to him and to his wife. According to NBI OIC Director Medardo de Lemos, Co and his wife Priscilla Ann will be treated as ordinary detainee. The Co couple were arrested by operatives of the NBI at the Serendra in Taguig City last Saturday. It was learned that the arrested fugitives were implicated in the P12-billion pyramiding scam of Aman Future Group of Manuel Amalilio who reportedly duped an almost 15,000 investors in the Visayas and Mindanao. The NBI will also formally inform the Iligan City and Pagadian City Regional Trial Court (RTC) about the arrest of former Pagadian City Mayor Samuel Co and his wife Priscilla. According to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, this will be done through the return of the service of warrant of arrest which will be submitted by the NBI before the Iligan City and Pagadian City RTC. De Lima said that within a period of 10 days, the return of the service of the warrant of arrest should be submitted. After this, De Lima said that it is expected that the RTC will issue a commitment order which will specify the detention facility where the Co couple will be incarcerated. Meanwhile, Trixie Angeles, legal counsel for the Cos, said that they will file a motion for reconsideration on the charges and they will prove that they are also victims of the scam. Angeles believes that the arrest on the couple has political motive. With PNA‐no‐special‐treatment‐for‐arrested‐co‐couple         

Enrile done with politics, to retire after Senate job By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Dec. 17, 2013 at 12:01am SENATOR Juan Ponce Enrile said Monday he was done with politics as he belied reports he will run for governor of Cagayan in the 2016 elections. The 89-year-old lawmaker said he will retire from politics when his term as senator ends on June 30, 2016, when he would have been 92.

Enrile “I’m done. I have done enough to help this country,” said Enrile, one of the leaders of the People Power Revolution that ousted President Ferdinand Marcos from power in 1986. “I didn’t succeed that much. In some I succeeded, but that’s life,” he said. Enrile served his first term in the Senate from 1987 to 1992, and his second from 1995 to 2001. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1992 to 1995. Enrile, who was defense secretary during Marcos’ time, said he would let his son, former Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, participate in politics on his retirement. The younger Enrile, who ran under the United Nationalist Alliance, lost in the last senatorial elections. “I will finish that...I have nothing to do with it,” Enrile said when asked how he would deal with the controversies involving him, including the alleged pork-barrel scam. Enrile, along with Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, are facing plunder charges before the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Enrile has repeatedly professed his innocence and insisted he has not been involved in any wrongdoing, especially in the alleged misuse of his pork barrel appropriations. He has vowed to answer all the charges being hurled against him in court, saying he is confident he eventually will be cleared. His adversary, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, has written Justice Secretary Leila de Lima asking her to investigate Enrile for the alleged crimes he has committed and which she had enumerated in a privilege speech.‐done‐with‐politics‐to‐retire‐after‐ senate‐job/                                   

Solons press for probe of Meralco over rate increase By Rey E. Requejo | Dec. 17, 2013 at 12:01am THE Justice Department has been asked to investigate the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and several power suppliers for allegedly colluding to create a situation that would justify a sharp P4.15 per kilowatt-hour increase in electricity rates. In their complaint, Akbayan Reps. Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez III urged the DOJ to investigate Meralco, First Gas Power Corp., San Miguel Corp. Global Power Holdings (holding company of Kepco Philippines), Aboitiz Power Corp., Team Energy Corp., AES Philippines and DMCI Holdings Inc. for “possible violations of laws prohibiting cartelization, monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade as defined in competition laws.”

Power play. Workers protesting the coming high increase in Manila Electric Company’s power charges this month face off with police in front of President Benigno Aquino III’s ancestral home on Times Street in Quezon City on Monday. Manny Palmero The militant lawmakers cited the simultaneous and unscheduled shutdown during the same period of the power plants owned by the firms that led to Meralco’s rate increase that was also approved by the Energy Regulation Commission “without any public hearing or any investigation for possible market abuse.” The bulk or P3.44 of the increase was due to higher generation charges.

Meralco had already explained it was compelled to buy expensive electricity from the more expensive Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) to meet the 2,700 megawatts deficit of the electricity peakload demand of Luzon. Bello and Gutierrez said there seemed to be “a contrived scenario of extreme short-term shortage of electricity for the purpose of raising the price of electricity beyond what it would cost to generate it.” “This increase in electricity costs added to the economic burden of end-users and consumers who, at a time when the whole nation is reeling from the brunt of typhoon Yolanda and in anxious anticipation of the holiday season, face increases in prices of basic commodities like liquefied petroleum gas and Metro Rail Transit fares,” they said. Because of this, the complainants prodded the Justice Department to build the case against the private firms. They did not specify charges. “Now, more than ever, is the time to call on the government and all its regulatory and investigating agencies to examine the spike in electricity rates… The investigating powers of the Department of Justice, as the country’s competition authority, should be harnessed in assessing the price increase amid the tight supply and high market concentration among very few players in the generation of electricity,” they said. Bello and Gutierrez were joined by the Center for Power Issues and Initiatives, Freedom from Debt Coalition and Partido Manggawa – NAGKAISA Labor Coalition. Even before the formal complaint was filed, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered DOJ’s Office For Competition to start its fact-finding investigation and make its recommendation by next month. If possible violations are found, the department will then conduct a preliminary investigation, De Lima said. De Lima stressed that the fact-finding panel would specifically look for possible violations of anti-trust laws. “The policy under our Constitution is that there should be competition in businesses – not collusion. Collusion is the very antithesis of the competition. So we may look at possible restraint of trade and unfair business practices,” she said. She said the Department of Energy, which had earlier questioned the power rate hike, would be invited by the panel. She said it would also be inevitable to invite executives of ERC, Meralco and other power firms involved in the controversy.

“We want to conduct a holistic inquiry and come up with a complete report. This is a very significant matter, a hot issue, a matter of national interest and it’s clear in the mandate of the office for competition to know exactly if these increases are justified,” she said. The Office For Competition was created by President Aquino in June 2011 to ensure that there will be no monopolies and cartels in domestic and international trade. It is tasked to investigate all cases involving violations of competition laws and prosecute violators to prevent, restrain and punish monopolization, cartels and combinations in restraint of trade. It is also mandated to enforce competition policies and laws to protect consumers from abusive, fraudulent or harmful corrupt business practices. The Congress and the Department of Energy are also conducting separate probes on the power rate adjustment approved by the ERC. President Aquino has aired doubts on the validity of the rate hike. Lawmakers on Monday dared Energy officials to come up with a strong stand against the alleged collusion among energy players responsible for the significant power rate increase to be implemented by Meralco. In separate interviews, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo challenged Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla and ERC chairperson Zenaida Ducut to unmask and prosecute the people behind the alleged collusion out of greediness to gain more profits. “Whoever responsible for the unprecedented increases of power rates should be made to account. Congress should dig deeper into the reasons of the increases to enable it to enact legislation to prevent future occurrences,” Evardone said. Also on Monday, the Palace cautioned its ally in the Senate, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, “not to be hasty” in making general statements against the government on the power rate hike issue. Trillanes had earlier called on the government to investigate the rate hike and alleged collusion among the power companies. “It is incumbent upon the Senate, through the Senate Committee on Energy and other appropriate Senate committees, to protect public interest and safeguard the rights of consumers from alleged unjust financial burden and abuse of the law, especially at a time when the country is still reeling from a string of natural and man-made catastrophes,” Trillanes said. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, wrote this off as “an observation from a senator.”

“He has his views.... Insofar as the administration (is concerned), the President has already answered in Tokyo the issue on the rate hikes but, we are taking measures to cushion the impact. Number two, we’re also looking into whether there was collusion. (Justice) Secretary Leila de Lima already—also is undertaking an investigation into that effect, so is (Energy) Secretary Jericho Petilla,” Lacierda added. With Maricel V. Cruz, Ronald O. Reyes and Alena Mae Flores‐press‐for‐probe‐of‐meralco‐over‐rate‐ increase/                                       

2014 budget up for PNoy signing By Maricel Cruz | Dec. 17, 2013 at 12:01am THE House of Representatives ratified via viva voce on Monday the purportedly “pork-less” P2.264 trillion general appropriations bill for 2014. Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo moved for the ratification of the measure, which was P3.2-billion lower than the original P2.268 trillion proposal of Malacañang. The ratified measure will be transmitted to Malacanang for President Aquino’s signature at the soonest possible time, Gunigundo said. But Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares noted that it was not true that next year’s budget does not contain pork barrel funds because a total of P1.2546 trillion funds are parked as such under the allocations of several executive agencies, including the Office of the President. “The pork barrel is alive and kicking in the 2014 budget. The P1.2546-trillion pork barrel for the President, which includes off-budget funds, and his Cabinet certainly dwarfs the P25-billion [Priority Development Assistance Funds],” Colmenares said. Colmenares said the bicameral conference committee should have asserted congressional power over the budget by insisting that President Aquino itemize these lump sums. “Now these funds are open to corruption or patronage politics in the run off to the 2016 elections. We should not allow ourselves to be a rubber stamp of the executive” Colmenares said. Earlier, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, earlier stressed that passing the budget before the end of 2013 – which senators had already ratified last Wednesday – is one of their highest constitutional duties as lawmakers. Congress had earlier ratified a P14.6-billion supplemental budget for 2013 for calamity-stricken areas and a joint resolution extending the validity of some appropriations under the calamity fund and quick response fund in this year’s national budget. The P3.2-billion funds that were shaved from the original proposal of the Aquino administration came from the PDAF of 15 senators and Vice President Jejomar Binay who decided to surrender their allocations following public outrage against it and the Supreme Court ruling declaring pork barrel funds unconstitutional. The proposed budget for next year included the P100-billion rehabilitation and reconstruction fund for areas affected by recent calamities, such as typhoons Yolanda, Santi and Labuyo, and

the 7.2-magnitude quake in Cebu and Bohol and key mechanisms to boost transparency and accountability in the disbursement of public funds. With the reforms instituted in the reconciled budget version, it has also clipped the power of lawmakers to recommend projects after the enactment of the appropriations law pursuant to a decision by the SC. The budget bill also provides stringent reportorial requirements to Congress, the Commission on Audit and real-time updates on websites on when and where funds are spent by government agencies. It also contains a provision imposing penalties under the Revised Penal Code, the plunder law and the anti-graft law for those who will violate any provision in relation to the utilization of savings, realignment, and lump-sum funds. The P20-billion of the total rehabilitation fund will be sourced from programmed funds, with the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Transportation and Communications, Public Works and Highways, Health, state universities and colleges and local government units. The budget bill also included P1-billion quick response fund for the Department of Transportation and Communication meant to restore transportation facilities in disaster-hit areas.‐budget‐up‐for‐pnoy‐signing/                         

Media as the enemy By Manila Standard Today | Dec. 17, 2013 at 12:01am

Judging from his pronouncements, President Benigno Aquino III has always felt that media who do not praise him are out to destroy him. He has been known to take journalists to task for glossing over the positive and focusing on the negative. He went as far as accusing those among media who criticize the Disbursement Acceleration Program funds – the constitutionality of which is pending before the Supreme Court – of being in the employ of three lawmakers who had earlier been charged with plunder for the misuse of their own Priority Development Assistance Fund. In the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda, the President whined that his media critics did not appreciate his and his officials’ efforts in dealing with the death and destruction. And after his Interior and Local Government Secretary starred in a widely-circulated video leak that showed him browbeating Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez into saying the local government could not function anymore, and that he had to be careful because he “was a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino,” Mr. Aquino had this to say about his critics: “Bahala na ang Lord sa kanila. Basta ako busy. (The Lord will deal with them. As for me, I am busy.” Mr. Aquino also challenged is constant critics to trade places with him just so they would see how it feels to lead a nation. For someone who has difficulty practicing empathy, that’s a remarkable challenge. It is thus hardly surprising that the Palace does not seem to be alarmed at the killings of media workers. The official count shows media killings to have worsened under this administration;

since November 29 of this year alone, three broadcasters have been killed. This brings to 22 the number of media workers killed under the present regime. Another broadcaster was fired at last week in front of his home; he survived. Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma earlier said that there was no more impunity in the killings and that some of the names in the official list were not bona fide mediamen anyway. Worse, the President himself seems unaffected by the reports. In a recent statement made from Tokyo, Mr. Aquino dismissed Human Rights Watch’s description of the killings as a “national catastrophe” unless “somebody can say that there is some sort of an established policy to kill a journalist of this particular position, mentality.” The President also asked for a correlation among the dead aside from their common profession. Mr. Aquino needs to snap out of his notion that anybody who is not tripping over himself praising him automatically wants him to fail. Journalism was not invented for the purpose of bringing him down. Reporters, editors and opinion writers have their respective spheres in which they could perform their duty of telling things as they happen and swaying public opinion based on conclusions from verifiable, observable facts. Anybody more presidential would welcome the input of critics as a way of identifying his or her weak points on which he or she could improve. Not this particular leader, who does not seem to have outgrown the simplistic good-guys-versus-bad-guys stories he read as a child.‐as‐the‐enemy/                         

October remittances rose to record $2.1b By Julito G. Rada | Dec. 17, 2013 at 12:04am Money sent home by Filipinos working overseas climbed 7 percent in October to top $2 billion for the first time on record, supporting household spending at the start of the fourth quarter. The Bangko Sentral said remittances coursed through banks hit $2.1 billion in October, an alltime high and representing a 7-percent increase from $1.93 billion year-on-year, on the back of sustained demand for Filipino workers overseas abroad. The October remittances were also higher than $1.94 billion in September and exceeded the previous all-time high of $1.98 billion registered in December 2012. “For the period January to October 2013, cash remittances totaled $18.542 billion, or 6 percent higher than the level registered in the same period in 2012,” Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a statement. Remittances, which account for a tenth of the gross domestic product, helped the economy expand 7.4 percent in the first three quarters of the year. These funds drive the growth of banking, real estate, retail, manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, education and tourism in the country. The Bangko Sentral said including non-cash items, total remittances also posted an all-time high of $2.3 billion in October. “This represented an 8.8-percent year-on-year rise in personal remittances, the highest annualized monthly growth rate recorded in 2013,” Tetangco said. Data showed on a cumulative basis, personal remittances reached $20.5 billion in the JanuaryOctober period, higher by 6.8 percent than the level recorded a year earlier. “Cash transfers from both land-based and sea-based workers grew by 5.5 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively,” the Bangko Sentral said. Land-based workers remitted $14.2 billion in the 10-month period while sea-based workers sent $4.3 billion. Top sources of cash remittances were the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Canada and Japan. The Bangko Sentral said the deployment of Filipino workers abroad continued this year. Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed the approved job orders reached 675,966 in the first 10 months.

It said about two-fifths or 39.7 percent of the total jobs were processed job orders mainly for services, production, professional, technical and related workers. The main countries of destination were Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Qatar.‐remittances‐rose‐to‐record‐2‐1b/                                         

Don Mariano buses ‘most dangerous’ December 16, 2013 9:59 pm   by Ritchie A. Horario, Jing Villamente Reporters And Joel M. Sy Egco Chief Reporter Bodies of victims are piled near the Don Mariano bus that plummeted from the Skyway Monday morning. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN Don Mariano Transit, the operator of the bus that plummeted from the Skyway near the Bicutan exit in Parañaque City on Monday morning, has a dismal record of road accidents. In 2011, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) declared Don Mariano’s fleet as the most dangerous buses in Metro Manila. The LTFRB compiled a list of the most dangerous buses based on the number of accidents that resulted in deaths, injuries and damage to property. Don Mariano was not in the list of bus firms that caused the highest number of deaths, but it topped the list of buses that caused the most damage to property. Two years ago, the LTFRB has warned the bus line to improve its operations and discipline its drivers or its franchise will be cancelled. Based on the accident yesterday that killed 22 people, the bus firm’s drivers apparently did not heed the warning. One of Don Mariano buses fell from the Skyway at 5 a.m. yesterday into a van that was traveling on the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Two persons aboard the van died immediately, as well as several bus passengers. Twenty people were injured when the bus, which plies the Novaliches-Pacita route, fell six meters to the road below. The bus driver identified as Carmelo Calatcat survived but was reported to be in critical condition. He will be tested for drugs and alcohol, according to LTFRB Board Chairman Winston Ginez. In 2011, three people were killed and four were injured when a bus fell from the same elevated highway. The LTFRB grounded Don Mariano’s entire fleet of 78 buses. “We will require them to immediately stop their operation and submit their units for inspection,” Ginez said.

He said the owner of the bus, Dr. Melissa Lim, agreed to recall all the buses for road-worthiness inspection. “They already have pending cases regarding previous accidents the bus company had been involved in and we are looking into it,” Ginez said. He said the LTFRB, Land Transportation Office (LTO), Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) and Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group will jointly investigate the accident. “After the investigation is done, we will study if the franchise will be suspended or totally cancelled,” Ginez said. He said the victims are automatically covered by insurance. “The dead people will receive P75,000 and those injured will receive P15,000,” Ginez said. The families of the victims may receive more compensation once a complaint is filed against the bus company. Malacañang also ordered the accident probed. Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda confirmed that Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya ordered the LTFRB to ground all units of the Don Mariano Bus Lines for 30 days. There will be a separate probe on the structural integrity of the Skyway to find out if improvements are needed, Lacierda said. “Secretary Jun Abaya directed [Toll Regulatory Board] Executive Director Edmund Reyes to study possible infrastructure improvements to prevent a similar incident in the future,” he said. The TRB will review the footage of the accident caught on its closed-circuit television cameras. “I think tragedies like these only serve to remind us that we—especially the common carriers— have an obligation in transportation law. They are supposed to have what we call ‘extraordinary diligence.’ So they have that responsibility. It’s more than the diligence of a good father of a family . . . we have been implementing measures to ensure the traffic laws are enforced to the safety of the riding public and also the pedestrians,” he added.‐mariano‐buses‐most‐dangerous/61196/         

Kerry tackles sea row in Manila visit December 16, 2013 9:54 pm   by Bernice Camille V. Bauzon Reporter United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with key business leaders on the first day of official visit in Manila today. Kerry will also be meeting Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and discuss ways to improve and strengthen the relations between Manila and Washington. The US Embassy in Manila said Kerry will be meeting with business leaders as a way of thanking the private sector for its help for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda. He will take up with del Rosario the territorial issues in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), particularly maritime domain awareness, the bringing of the case before the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) and what the US military is doing in the region. A US official said the two will not talk about reestablishing military bases in the country, since it is not part of Washington’s agenda to ensure freedom of navigation and commerce in the West Philippine Sea, a vital maritime route. Kerry’s visit begins with a wreath laying ceremony at the Manila American Memorial and Cemetery, which holds the biggest number of graves of American soldiers killed in World War II. Kerry will then proceed to Makati City to meet business leaders. A banquet will be held in his honor tonight. President Benigno Aquino 3rd will meet the official there. On Wednesday, Kerry will meet with the American community, some survivors of Typhoon Yolanda and aid workers and government officials. He is scheduled to fly to Tacloban City, which bore the brunt of Yolanda’s fury. In Tacloban, Kerry will assess the US contributions in terms of humanitarian and relief operations, and plan his country’s commitment in the long-term reconstruction plan for the city and other typhoonaffected areas.‐tackles‐sea‐row‐in‐manila‐visit/61174/     

House to subpoena ERC chief on power rate hike December 16, 2013 9:47 pm   THE House of Representatives will subpoena Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairman Zenaida Ducut if she fails to attend the next inquiry on power issues, a House leader said on Monday. Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro, chairman of the House Committee on Energy, made the threat after Rep. Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers questioned the continued absence of Ducut in the ongoing House investigation on the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) power rate hike and the restoration of electricity in Yolanda-hit areas. “We will issue an invitation asking for Chairman Ducut’s presence in our next hearing next year indicating that her personal presence will be required. If she fails to attend for the third time, then we will issue a subpoena. She needs to recognize the authority of the House,” Umali told reporters. Ducut was absent in the past House hearings. She sent ERC Commissioner Josefina Asirit and Executive Director Francisco Juan instead. “Her presence here [in the House Committee] is very important because ERC is a regulatory body [of power rates]. These increases are passed on to consumers, so it is very important that she gives attention to these,” Umali said. Meanwhile, Sen. Antonio Trillanes said it is possible that Ducut may also be involved in the collusion among power producers that resulted in the increase of power rates. “Her [Ducut] involvement in the pork barrel scam shows likelihood that there is collusion,” Trillanes told reporters. Ducut, based on the testimony made by pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, is said to be close to controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and allegedly received commission from the later. The senator maintained that the ERC failed to protect consumers and even acted as lawyer for power producers and justified the increase. The Senate committee on energy is set to conduct a separate probe into the power rate hike. Llanesca Panti And Jefferson Antiporda‐to‐subpoena‐erc‐chief‐on‐power‐rate‐hike/61147/ 

Alcala, Calayag face graft, plunder raps December 16, 2013 9:45 pm   by John Constantine G. Cordon Reporter Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag were charged with graft and plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman over the questionable importation of P457 million of rice from Vietnam. In his 10-page criminal complaint, Argee Guevarra assailed the P4.1 billion government-togovernment (G2G) transaction between the Philippines and Vietnam from which Alcala and Calayag allegedly got huge kickbacks. Guevarra said that in April 2013, NFA officials transacted with Truong Thanh Phong, general director of Vietnam Southern Food Corp. (Vina Food II), for the importation of 205,700 metric tons of rice. He said that Calayag’s deputy administrator Dennis Guerrero and a certain “Buddy R” flew to Vietnam without official clearance allegedly to meet Phong to “ostensibly conclude the deal.” They again met in Singapore and it was at this point when the kickback was given, according to Guevarra. “Why this unofficial meeting? These and the circumstances described hereunder lead to the conclusion that an exchange of kickbacks occurred in Singapore,” he said. The complainant said that Guerrero and Buddy R again flew to Vietnam on May 8. Three days later, NFA deputy administrator Ludovico Jarina joined them to secure quantitative restrictions on rice importation and to increase the minimum access volume to allow more imports. Gueverra said for the April transaction alone, public funds lost to corruption amounted to $10.43 million, or P457 million. Between May 13 and June 20, the accused purchased rice for $459.75 per metric ton when the prevailing rate at the time was only $360 per metric ton. If the cost of shipping worth $27 per metric ton and cost of delivery to warehouse worth $22 would be added, Vietnam rice should only be $409 per metric ton,” Guevarra said. “This sufficiently explains the [Department of Agriculture’s] and NFA’s overzealous insistence on pushing the private sector out of the international rice trade business,” he said. Guevarra claimed that the Philippines only has a contract with Vietnam for the importation of 187,000 metric tons of rice. However, 18,700 metric tons was allegedly inserted without approval from Fiscal Incentive Review Board.

He said that the NFA council acted as Alcala’s rubber stamp and acceded to his and Calayag’s “absolute control” of the rice trade. “The NFA Council merely bowed in submission to respondents’ every wish and design” even if there were reasons to believe that the importation was overpriced, and that the additional 18,700 metric tons insertion was illegal,” he said. “The diabolical plan is to preserve government monopoly over rice importations in order to earn large kickbacks for themselves by reason of their public offices.”‐calayag‐face‐graft‐plunder‐raps/61132/                                     

Traffic ate up P2T from 1999 to 2013 December 16, 2013 7:16 pm   by RITCHIE A. HORARIO REPORTER THE worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and elsewhere has chomped up losses worth about P2 trillion from 1999 up to the present, a multi-sectoral group said on Sunday. According to Red Advocates, a study conducted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in1999 showed that traffic jams slowed down the economy by P140 billion. Red Advocates is a newly formed multi-sectoral group of concerned citizens advocating “Respect Equals Discipline” on Philippine roads. On one hand, a University of the Philippines (UP) study covering the years 2001 to 2011 also showed that the country lost about P1.5 trillion from the same problem. “By these estimates, we can already come to the conclusion that the country had lost close or even more than P2 trillion over the years,” said Brian Galagnara, the president of the group said. Galagnara said traffic is a problem that can be cured by the active participation of all stakeholders- the government, the private sector and the general public. “All of us are confronted with this problem in our daily lives. We must recognize the fact that this problem exists and it has been draining us as a nation,” he added. Galagnara said the two separate studies quantified the financial impact of traffic in Metro Manila, the last of which was that by the UP National Center for Transportation Studies (UP NCTS). “The findings of these studies are essentially the same. They peg the losses due to traffic at approximately P140 billion annually,” lamented Galagnara. He attributed the huge losses to wasted gasoline, lost labor hours, employment of traffic aides and wasted electricity; the indirect losses refer to withdrawal of potential foreign investments, missed business opportunities and reduced capital inflow. “These are losses that should immediately be addressed,” said Galagnara adding that “traffic is getting worse by the day due to our inaction.” He said that his group would “go beyond finger-pointing and focus on doable solutions that would involve the participation of all the stakeholders affected by traffic, everyone.”

“Like corruption, traffic is something that affects us all, rich or poor. Even the powerful are powerless when our roads are clogged,” said Galagnara. He also stressed that it is obvious that the traffic enforcers have no proper training in the science of traffic management. According to Galagnara, there is also a need to instill the discipline through effective traffic law enforcement. “It is important for traffic enforcers to understand the driver mentality and behavior. Filipinos follow rules when enforced fairly and correctly like in Subic and when driving abroad,” the group had stressed. “This is the reason why we organized an advocacy group called The RED Advocates. R, E, D, or RED, means Respect Equals Discipline,” Galagnara added.‐ate‐up‐p2t‐from‐1999‐to‐2013/61032/                               

House ratifies P2.268 trillion budget for 2014, earmarks P100 billion for Yolanda rehab December 16, 2013 7:13 pm   Via a viva voce vote, the House of Representatives ratified the disagreeing provisions of House Bill 2630 or the proposed P2.268 trillion budget for 2014. With 253 members in attendance, the House gave its nod to the proposed 2014 budget which earmarks P100 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts needed to address the damages in Visayas provinces brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda—the strongest typhoon in the world for 2013. Of the P100 billion, P80 billion will come from unprogrammed funds while the remaining P20 billion will be from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF). The unprogrammed funds are allocations that cannot be released unless revenue sources exceed target, loans or borrowings are perfected and there are new revenue sources not included in the proposed source. The MPBF, on the other hand, is an allocation for new hires in government and is only released by the Department of Budget and Management to a specific agency if the new employees are already hired. The Aquino administration initially allotted P80.7 billion for MPBF under its proposed 2014 budget. Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management assured that the Aquino administration can raise the P100 billion, even the main source of the said fund—the unprogrammed budget—is largely dependent on government revenues. Abad cited that the unprogrammed fund cannot be found wanting because the P100 billion budget will be largely sourced from the concessional loan proceeds under the unprogrammed fund which include those coming from the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB), Japan International Cooperation Agency, European Union, United Nations and other bilateral sources. “The combined commitment of ADB and WB is already P66 billion. Add JICA, UN and bilateral sources, and that can likely reach P100 billion,” Abad argued in a separate text message. LLANESCA T. PANTI‐ratifies‐p2‐268‐trillion‐budget‐for‐2014‐earmarks‐p100‐billion‐ for‐yolanda‐rehab/61026/ 

Government urged to use Coco levy funds to help farmers affected by yolanda December 16, 2013 7:01 pm   DESCRIBING it as a ‘low-hanging fruit’ available for the government to pick, Senate president pro-tempore Ralph Recto, said that it is time to utilize the P77 billion coco levy fund to help thousands of coconut farmers whose livelihood were destroyed by super typhoon Yolanda last month. Recto said that for these farmers to survive they need all the help they can get and it is only proper for them to get the dividends of their contributions. Based on the initial estimate of the government at least 34 million coconut trees covering an area of over 41,662 hectares in Regions 6, 7 and 8. “But we don’t need statistics to tell us the extent of the devastation. Pictures of leaf-less coconut trees standing like toothpicks have become the icon of Yolanda’s wrath,” Recto insisted. Republic Act 6260 the law that created the coco levy was imposed on copra sales purportedly to raise capital investment for the coconut industry. By 1986, the total amount collected from the various coconut levies from 1971 to 1982 amounted to P9.7 billion. The amount was sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) after the people Power which pave way to the long legal struggle for its ownership. The Sandiganbayan on May 7, 2004, issued a partial summary judgment declaring the fund as “owned by the Government in trust for all the coconut farmers.” The Supreme Court, upheld the anti-graft court’s decision on January 24, 2012. According to Recto the total amount of Coco Levy Fund released for public dispensation by virtue of the Supreme Court Decision is about P77 billion including interest Recto also suggested that any coco levy-financed project should cover “a buffet of activities” and not just coconut tree replanting noting that coconut trees needs at least seven years to mature. He said qualified farmer beneficiaries must be given the flexibility “to choose the replacement or transitory crop” of P15,000 per hectare from coconut alone.

This approach is feasible in light of studies showing that from an annual income of P15,000 from a hectare of coconut, intercropping it with cacao can raise it to P97,000, and with cacao and bananas to P120,000. Before Yolanda struck, Recto said coconut farmers in the Visayas were already impoverished, with 9 in 10 living below the poverty line. Last year, they contributed 17 percent or 2.7 million metric tons of the 15.86 million MT in total national production. Leyte and Samar accounted for 70 percent of total output in the Visayas. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA‐urged‐to‐use‐coco‐levy‐funds‐to‐help‐farmers‐affected‐ by‐yolanda/61006/                                   

Posted on December 16, 2013 10:30:09 PM

Agriculture officials face plunder charges A P457.2‐MILLION plunder complaint was lodged yesterday against Department of Agriculture  (DA) Secretary Proceso J. Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan A.  Calayag in connection with the alleged anomalous importation of a 205,700 metric tons of rice  from Vietnam last May.  In the 10‐page complaint filed by lawyer Roberto "Argee" C.     Guevarra at the Office of Ombudsman yesterday, the  respondents allegedly received huge amounts of money in  kickbacks in the government to government (G2G)transaction between the Philippines and  Vietnam.    The complaint said that sometime in April this year, NFA officials transacted with Vietnam  Southern Food Corp. (VINAFOOD II) General Director Truong Thanh Phong for the purchase and  importation of 205,700 metric tons (MTs) of rice using public funds.    The complaint added that the NFA contract with Vietnam is for "the import of only 187,000  MTs of 25% broken rice however, the NFA inserted on top of that, 18,700 MTs, thus totalling  205,700 MTs, without any prior approval from the Department of Finance under the Fiscal  Incentive Review Board."    The complaint added that "the alleged undeclared volume of 18,700 was authorized under the  so called MOLSO (more or less at supplier’s option) provision of the G2G contract with  Vietnam."    "However, respondents knew all along that the 10% MOLSO was in violation of Philippine law.  There was no budgetary cover for the importation as revealingly declared by NFA Deputy  Administrator Ludovico J. Jarina in a panicky letter to the General Director of VINAFOOD II," the  complaint said.    The complaint cited an e‐mail dated June 11, 2013 of Mr. Ludovico to VINAFOOD II director  saying: "We understand the serious consequences of pursuing the loading of the 18,700 MT in  three vessels as the NFA Council has not approved yet the budget cover for this volume."   

"It is for this reason that we have quickly notified you to hold the loading to avoid unnecessary  expenses, penalties and charges on your part," the e‐mail further stated.    However, the complaint said that "the additional 18,700 MTs were loaded, delivered and  imported into the country."    "The NFA for its part merely acted as [Mr.] Alcala’s rubber stamp, acceding to his and  respondent [Mr.] Calayag’s absolute control of the rice trade. Despite crystal clear indications  that the imported rice was overpriced, and that the additional 18,700 MTs insertion was illegal;  and despite the imperious need to address the rice crisis, the NFA merely bowed in submission  to respondents’ every wish and design," the complaint read.    The complaint alleged that Mr. Calayag together with Deputy Administrator Dennis Guerrero  and accompanied by a certain "Buddy R.," played as "broker/fixer" for the deal.    CLANDESTINE MEETING  Mr. Guevarra, in his complaint, said that Mr. Guerrero and Buddy R. flew to Vietnam, "without  official clearances, for a clandestine meeting with [Mr.] Phong ostensibly to conclude the deal."    After Vietnam, Mr. Guevarra said Mr. Guerrero and Buddy R. supposedly flew to Singapore and  "billeted themselves at Hotel Hyatt Singapore in Room 1501 where Phong and VINAFOODS  officials were likewise checked‐in."    "Why this unofficial meeting? These and the circumstances described hereunder lead to the  conclusion that an exchange of kickbacks occurred in Singapore," Mr.Gueverra said in his  complaint.    Based on Mr. Guevarra’s computation on price per MT, and taking into account other factors  like cost insurance flight (CIF), Freight On Board (FOB), shipping, and cost of delivery to  warehouse, he said the alleged overpricing amounts to $50.75 per MT or a total of $10.439  million or P457.24 million.     "The transaction was concluded in a cloak and dagger operation, without the concerned NFA  officials having been cleared for official travel. This smacks not only of irregularity but of  outright corruption in the form of secret deals for kickbacks," the complaint read.    "This sufficiently explains the DA and NFA’s overzealous insistence on pushing the private  sector out of the international rice trade business," Mr. Guevarra in his complaint said. 

Mr. Guevarra said in his complaint that there exists probable cause for the crime of plunder  against Messrs. Alacala and Calayag "evidenced by the clear pattern of overt or criminal acts  indicative of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy."    "The string of circumstances or series of respondents’ acts, criminal in themselves even when  taken singly, point to the fact that Plunder was the ultimate goal," the same complaint read.     Messrs. Alcala and Calayag was not immediately available for comment. ‐‐ Imee Charlee C.  Delavin‐officials‐face‐ plunder‐charges&id=80903                                 

Posted on December 16, 2013 10:24:47 PM

Death sparks calls for school boxing ban A 16‐YEAR‐OLD athlete died after a week in coma following a boxing match, triggering calls for  the sport to be banned in schools, an official said yesterday.  Jonas Garcia, a high school athlete, suffered internal bleeding     after a boxing match in a regional sports competition and died  on Sunday.    Boxing is hugely popular in the Philippines, which has produced many international champions,  including Manny Pacquiao, once regarded as the world’s best pound‐for‐pound fighter.    The death has sparked calls for the suspension of boxing from national school sports  competitions, said Tonisito M. C. Umali, assistant secretary of the government education  department.    "Requests are being made for the suspension of boxing. Other regions are also saying they will  not continue boxing," he told AFP.    "We will not force them," he said, adding that boxing would still be part of the national sports  competition but regional teams will not be forced to send representatives.    Mr. Pacquiao, who has parlayed his sporting fame into a massive fortune and election to  Congress, had previously expressed sympathy for Mr. Garcia but had also said boxing programs  for the youth should continue.    "The answer isn’t to cancel boxing. This is where we get fighters for the Olympics. We just have  to take the proper precautions," he told broadcaster ABS‐CBN.    Mr. Pacquiao, who has won world championships in eight weight divisions, started as a teenage  boxer while living on the streets. ‐‐ AFP‐sparks‐calls‐for‐ school‐boxing‐ban&id=80898     

Posted on December 16, 2013 09:29:50 PM

93% of budget released so far OVER 93% of this year’s national budget has been released in the first ten months, in line with  the government’s thrust to improve the pace of its project implementation, according to the  Budget department.  In a report on its Web site, the department said it has released     P1.868 trillion or 93.17% of the P2.006‐trillion spending plan for  2013 as of Oct. 31.    This is 13.69% more than the P1.643 trillion released from January‐October last year, which was  90.47% of the P1.816‐trillion 2012 national budget.    "Significant releases include those made to the Department of Social Welfare and Development  (DSWD) and the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the victims of typhoon Pablo, as well as  releases for pension payments and other benefits for retired/retiring government employees,  and the creation and filling‐up of new positions across various departments and agencies," the  Budget department said.    Of the allotments made in the ten‐month period, P930.05 billion were released to  departments. This is 96.37% of the P965.128 billion programmed for departments under the  2013 national budget.    This is also 10.92% more than the P838.498 billion released to departments in January‐October  2012, which was 98.14% of the P854.391 billion programmed for agencies that year.    Meanwhile, P187.47 billion out of the P285.553 billion earmarked for special‐purpose funds  under this year’s spending plan have also been released, as of Oct. 31.    From January to October 2012, P139.53 billion out of the P237.98 billion programmed for that  year’s special‐purpose funds had been released.    A total of P702.005 billion in automatic appropriations were also released in the ten months to  October 2013, or 92.95% of the P755.219‐billion program for the year and 10.44% more than  the P635.657 billion released January‐October 2012.    These allotments included P333.902 billion for interest payments for the government’s 

liabilities, as well as P29.44 billion in retirement and life insurance premiums of employees of  state firms, among others.    The remaining P48.97 billion released in the period were under continuing appropriations from  last year’s budget.    The Budget department is said to be working to accelerate its releases to spur government  spending and facilitate the faster delivery of public services.    Among the reforms it is implementing this year to improve the absorptive capacities of  agencies is the one‐year validity of all appropriations. Under this regime, state agencies must  use up their programmed budgets by yearend as any excess will not be carried over for use in  the following year.    Starting next year, the department will also start using the national budget as a release  document, which means all allotments under the spending plan can be tapped by agencies for  disbursement as soon as the year opens, allowing them to proceed with planned programs and  projects immediately.    The budget execution process currently has three phases: allotment, release, and actual  disbursement.    Allotment is an authorization from the Budget department to an implementing government  agency to incur obligations. Once authorized, the amounts are considered released.    Disbursements, meanwhile, refer to the actual withdrawal of cash from the Bureau of the  Treasury ‐‐ checks issued by the government agencies are encashed to pay for their obligations.  Once an allotment release is made, the Budget department will still need to issue a  disbursement authority to the agency.    Public spending in the first ten months stood at P1.513 trillion, 10.52% more than the P1.369  trillion in expenditures recorded from January to October 2012.    The government wants to spend P1.98 trillion this year, 11.24% higher than the P1.78 trillion it  spent last year. ‐‐ Bettina Faye V. Roc‐of‐budget‐ released‐so‐far&id=80878 

Posted on December 16, 2013 09:03:22 PM

Mindanao agribusiness eyed INTERNATIONAL FINANCE Corp. (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, has partnered with  Rizal Microbank as it seeks to support the growth of the  agribusiness sector in Mindanao.     In a statement yesterday, IFC said it has inked a memorandum  of understanding with Rizal Microbank to boost its financing for  Mindanao’s agricultural input suppliers, traders, processors, post‐harvest facility providers and  other small agribusinesses.    “We see great potential in the agricultural sector of Mindanao and consider IFC’s global  experience a unique advantage in accelerating the bank’s efforts to extend financing to  different value chain players in agribusinesses and small enterprises in rural areas,” Rizal  Microbank President Ma. Lourdes S. Pineda said in a statement.    Rizal Microbank ‐‐ the microfinance arm of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. ‐‐ offers direct loans  to micro‐borrowers and small enterprises.  In its four years of operation, the Yuchengco‐led bank has extended over P1 billion worth of  loans, ranging from P50,000 to P1 million, reaching an estimated 12,000 clients.    In the first semester, it held P300 million in deposits, while revenues stood at P900 million.    Meanwhile, IFC said supporting agribusiness is crucial to the Philippine economy, stressing that  the sector has a workforce of 13 million people and accounts for 11% of the country’s total  gross domestic product.The partnership with Rizal Microbank “is in line with the World Bank  Group’s thrust to support agribusiness, particularly in regions where more jobs and livelihood  need to be created and economic growth has to be more inclusive,” IFC Resident  Representative Jesse O. Ang said.IFC has already invested $150 million in equity in Rizal  Microbank to support its efforts to increase lending to small and medium enterprises.    Last September, it also signed an agreement with CARD SME Bank, Inc., also in aid of the  country’s agribusinesses. It is also working with local insurers to provide indemnity insurance to  farmers and rural entrepreneurs. ‐‐ Diana Jean B. Evite‐agribusiness‐ eyed&id=80873 

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