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DA urged to turn over Nabcor branch to N. Cotabato local gov’t By Williamor A. Magbanua  Inquirer Mindanao   5:15 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. FILE PHOTO KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines – A town councilor of Kabacan, North Cotabato, filed on Wednesday, a resolution asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) to place the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) under the direct supervision of the local government unit. Jonathan Tabara, chair of the town council’s committee on agriculture, has asked Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for the formal turnover of Nabcor-Kabacan to the local government, instead of abolishing it following the alleged involvement of its top officials in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. Tabara said it would be better for the local government to manage the Nabcor facilities in Kabacan to ensure continued service to the farmers in the province. “It will also generate employment in Kabacan town and can add income to the local revenues,” Tabara said in his resolution. Tabara expressed optimism the DA would heed the request, especially since the agency has been serving at least 2,000 farmers in the entire province. The plan would also save 17 Nabcor employees who could lose their jobs if the agency was abolished, he added. Employees of Nabcor-Kabacan earlier said they should not be included in President Aquino’s proposal to abolish the firm due to its alleged involvement in pork barrel fund scam.

Citing the Commission on Audit’s (COA) reports from 2007-2009, Nabcor through its alleged bogus non-government organization received P1.227 billion from the pork barrel of legislators involved in fund mess. But Rosauro Paniza, the firm’s manager in Kabacan, said not a single centavo from the P1.227 billion. went to their office. He said Nabcor-Kabacan was established in August 2006, a year before some lawmakers allegedly allocated their pork barrel to agency’s national office. Paniza said their field office was able to get a P10-million grant from its main office and has been operating independently using these funds. “Now we have at least a P2-million profit from buying and selling corn cubs and corn processing,” Paniza earlier said. The Nabcor office in North Cotabato operates a corn processing plant and mechanical dryer. It also sells processed corn to firms like Cargill and B-Meg in General Santos City. Read more:‐urged‐to‐turn‐over‐nabcor‐branch‐to‐n‐cotabato‐ local‐govt#ixzz2nysj20yO   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 


Farmers told: Beware of fake hybrid rice seeds Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:45 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

SCIENCE CITY OF MUÑOZ— Officials of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) here warned farmers against businessmen who are passing off ordinary rice seeds as those of hybrid rice and are using bags bearing the agency’s name and logo to attract buyers. “They are making big money. They are selling the seeds at P4,000 to P6,000 per 20-kilogram bag,” said Dr. Eufemio Rasco Jr., PhilRice executive director. “They are not only making big money out of it but are also sabotaging efforts to increase rice production.” Rasco said certified hybrid rice seeds used by farmers for planting have a government-approved price of P1,200 per 40-kg bag.

The use of hybrid rice seeds for commercial planting is known to increase yield by at least 15 percent. There were reported cases that with the use of hybrid rice seeds, a number of farmers were able to harvest more than 300 cavans per hectare. Mention of hybrid rice seed has become a magnet for farmers in the hope of obtaining higher rice yield. It has also become a source for anomaly for scheming profiteers, PhilRice officials said. Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon Read more:‐told‐beware‐of‐fake‐hybrid‐rice‐ seeds#ixzz2nyuZrIJD   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook           

Shrimp production seen increasing next year By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Shrimp production is expected to increase by 25 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2014 as the industry resumes exportation after 15 years of inactivity. Fisheries director Asis Perez said since the implementation of the crash programming for the shrimp industry this year, Philippine vannamei (white shrimp) and monodon (tiger prawn) have been fetching attractive export prices, encouraging shrimp growers to sustain improved aquaculture practices. Philippine-grown frozen and vacuum-packed vannamei now fetches a price of P245 for every 10 grams, while monodon fetches a price of P430 per 30 grams. Local shrimp growers are now aggressively exporting to Singapore, Japan and the United States where demand is particularly strong. This year, vannamei growers in General Santos, Negros, Cebu, Batangas and other provinces have been shipping on a monthly basis 50 40-foot containers holding 26 metric tons of shrimp each. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Bicol and General Santos are growing production areas, supplying 30 percent of exports. Perez said the expansion of shrimp farming in General Santos is led by tuna businesses that reinvented some of their earnings in aquaculture. He said monodon production is also steadily increasing. The government is already laying the groundwork for the production of shrimp broodstock, or parent stocks, Alcala further revealed. The country currently sources most of its shrimp broodstock needs from Hawaii, costing growers $30 per shrimp. Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) showed that tiger prawn production reached 48,196 metric tons (MT) in 2012, up slightly from 47,494 MT in 2011. In 2010, production reached 48,161 MT. Annual production value of tiger prawn in 2012 was placed at P1.89 billion, up from P1.85 billion in 2011. In 2010, production value was placed at 1.82 billion.

In 2012, white shrimp production reached 1,878 MT, down from 1,974 in 2011. In 2010, white shrimp production reached 2,076. The local shrimp industry now enjoys a disease-fee status. In April, the BFAR suspended the importation of live shrimp species to protect the local shrimp industry from Early Mortality Syndrome (EMS), a disease prevalent in neighboring countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and Indonesia. EMS, the cause of which is still unknown, is characterized by death during the first 30 days of shrimp lifespan. Infected samples show slow growth, corkscrew swimming and pale coloration. From 1996 onwards, overcrowding of tiger shrimp hatcheries in the Philippines resulted to the prevalence of diseases that led to closure of farms. The government has since then attempted to revive the local shrimp industry with the introduction of white shrimp and adoption of stricter sanitary requirements in hatcheries.

Agriculture research funding doubled By Ronnel W. Domingo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:54 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

A big boost to rice production in Asia may be expected as international funding for agricultural research doubled to $1 billion over the past five years, according to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). CGIAR, the scientific consortium that includes the International Rice Research (IRRI) based in Laguna, said in a statement that such increase in investments could lift 150 million people in Asia out of poverty and reduce the number of undernourished people in the region by 62 million. Also, it said that 12 million African households might be provided with sustainable irrigation, 1.7 million hectares of forest might be saved from destruction and 50 million poor people could be given access to highly nutritious food crops.

CGIAR works with hundreds of partners to develop solutions, tools and technologies for the benefit of the world’s poorest people. “The $1 billion in funding will help finance CGIAR’s 16 global research programs and accelerate the development of scientific, policy and technological advances needed to overcome complex challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, land degradation, and chronic malnutrition,” said Frank Rijsberman, chief executive of the CGIAR Consortium. According to the CGIAR, its rice research programs are expected to result in an increase by 2035, of farmers’ yields and lower prices for poor consumers. Also, the CGIAR expects that by 2018, 50 million people will have access to staple food crops specifically produced to be rich in key vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc or vitamin A. Read more:‐research‐funding‐doubled#ixzz2nyvT5PvA   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Group says smuggled rice from Davao may flood market Category: Agri-Commodities 19 Dec 2013 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent ACTIVISTS raised an alarm on Thursday that smuggled rice seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Davao in October of this year will likely be flooding the market in the run-up to the holiday season. Civil society group Alyansa Agrikultura and Action Network (R1) based such scenario on an order by a Branch 16 Regional Trial Court judge ordering the release of 167x20 containers where the sacks of rice were stored. According to R1 leader Ernesto Ordoñez, the 14-page mandatory injunction was signed on December 12 by presiding judge Emmanuel C. Carpio. “However, we only learned of it just yesterday, thus, this press briefing,” Carpio explained. He said Carpio’s ruling ordered the provincial BOC to release the sacks of rice to Joseph M. Ngo, a local rice trader, citing quantitative restriction (QR) on rice importation as non-existent by virtue of the ongoing World Trade Organization (WTO) renegotiation on the rice preferential treatment for the Philippines. The court order provided justification by saying such treatment has relapsed last year, according to Ordoñez. In a telephone interview, Dennis R. Arpia of the National Food Authority (NFA) said that “that the agency [NFA] is in constant communication with the BOC and with the Department of Finance regarding the matter.” Pressed for NFA’s position, Arpia said: “It’s very simple.” “Under the Philippine law, the importation of rice is within NFA’s responsibility, and in cases of importation by other entity, the agency only ‘delegates’ some of its task through the issuance of permit.” Ordoñez alleges that the Davao RTC judge favored the contention of Ngo’s lawyer “since the Philippine government is currently negotiating for new extension on the quantitative restrictions from the WTO agreement.”

He added that the WTO provision restricts the entry of foreign agricultural products, which the country deems harmful to the domestic industry. A second agreement in 2007 has ended last year, and the country is currently negotiating for an extension. The negotiation is now bilateral, according to Aurora Regalado, convener of R1. “This means that the Philippines has to directly negotiate with WTO members that export agricultural products, such as India, Thailand, Canada, Pakistan and the United States.” Regalado added: “These countries, however, are using the QR issue to push for their agricultural products in exchange for giving the Philippines preferential treatment on rice imports.” Ordoñez said that while it is true that the quantitative restriction is being negotiated within the WTO, “we have our own law that restricts the entry of rice from other country.” “Hence, the creation of the NFA, which was specifically tasked to protect the rice industry and has the exclusive mandate to import rice.” He added: “We haven’t changed our law, for the reason that our farmers, particularly rice farmers, need protection and the WTO members, at least some of them, understand this because they are not forcing us to change our domestic law on this, and why am sure of this—they haven’t penalized us.” In October some 403 container vans of rice purportedly for Starcraft Trading Corp. were seized in Davao by the BOC through the request of the NFA. Ordoñez said that Carpio issued the ruling upon Starcraft Trading’s payment of bond amounting to P5 million.‐commodities/24597‐group‐says‐ smuggled‐rice‐from‐davao‐may‐flood‐market                

Rice smugglers umatake na naman! Published : Friday, December 20, 2013 00:00 Article Views : 70

ISANG balita ang nakarating sa inyong lingkod na dumating na raw ang 800 containers o 20,000 metric tons ng smuggled rice mula sa ibang bansa dito sa ating bayan. Mapalad na na-intercept naman kaagad ng Bureau of Customs (BOC) ang 167 containers mula sa nasabing bilang sa Port of Davao. Pero hindi pa tuluyang nakukumpiska ang kontrabando ng BOC dahil kaagad ding nagsampa ng kaso ang may-ari ng naturang bigas sa korte at kinikuwestiyun ang pagkakahuli ng kargamento. Pero ayon kay bagong-talagang Customs Commissioner Sunny Sevilla, iligal ang kargamento dahil wala itong import permit mula sa National Food Authority (NFA) at handa silang sagutin sa korte ang kanilang aksyon laban sa kontrabandong kargamento. Napag-alaman din na may 300 containers pa sa Port of Cebu at 200 naman sa Port of Manila ang hindi pa nailalabas ng mga smuggler ang kanilang ipinuslit na bigas papasok sa bansa. Ayon sa isang BOC insider, isang kumpanya na kilala lamang bilang “Starcrop” ang nasa likod umano nitong mga smuggled na bigas sa Pilipinas at katulong ang isang broker para mailabas ito sa pier na si alias “Santos” o “Bros.” Ang nasabing kumpanya, dagdag pa ng aking source, ay pagmamay-ari ng isang sikat na magkapatid na Tsinoy at pinapatakbo lang ng isang Tsinoy din na kilala lamang sa pangalang “Dave Tan.” Si alyas “Dave Tan” ay maimpluwensyang tao daw dahil may mga koneksiyon ito sa lehislatura at maging sa hudikatura kung kaya’t mahirap daw hulihin bukod pa sa mga peke ang mga consignee na gamit nito sa kanyang mga bill of lading.

Ang kanilang broker naman na si alias “Santos” o “Bros” ay matagal nang broker ng mga smuggled na bigas kahit noong panahon pa ni dating Pangulong Arroyo. Malapit din umano ito sa ilang opisyal ng National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) kung kaya’t malakas daw ang loob nito na isumbong kahit mali o walang katotohanan na smuggled ang kargamento ng isang broker para mahuli at maabala lang. Naku, tiyak pag nakarating kay BOC Intelligence Chief Dep. Com. Dellosa ang balitang ito...tiyak tapos na ang maliligayang araw ng mga smuggler na ito. Sige sir, sampolan n’yo nga ang mga ito! *** “NO TAKE POLICY” RAW SI DEPCOM DELLOSA? Ito naman ay naulinigan ko lang naman sa ilang kaibigang Chinoy businessmen na hindi raw tumatanggap ng lagay o regalo si Customs Deputy Commissioner Jessie Dellosa mula sa mga broker at importer. Simula raw nang maupo noong Nobyembre si Dellosa sa BOC, ilang cash at gifts na raw ang ipinasoli nito sa players sa pier kahit ultimo kakanin lang tulad ng bibingka o puto. Ayon sa ilang empleyado ng BOC, ayaw daw kasi na magkaroon ng utang na loob ni General lalo na sa mga broker at importer. Papaano pa raw niya sila huhulihin kung may utang na loob na ito sa kanila? Ikinatuwa naman ng mga negosyante ang balita dahil sa halip na mabawasan ang kanilang kita para panlagay kay Depcom, sa pamilya na nila ito napupunta. Dagdag pa ng isang grupo ng mga negosyante, hinihikayat pa raw sila ng tanggapan ni Dellosa na isumbong sa kanya mismo ang sinumang empleyado ng BOC na naghihingi o nagme-Merry Christmas sa kanila lalo na ngayong Pasko. Aba’y kung ganoon... mababawasan na ang BOC ng mga kotongero at huthutero. Good job, General!‐rice‐smugglers‐umatake‐na‐naman        

Ayala Group mulls entry into agri By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Ayala Group has expressed interest in investing in agriculture within and outside and rehabilitation program. This was revealed by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala following a recent meeting with Ayala Group officials. “We had a meeting with The Ayala Group. They are requesting for a feasibility study on various agricultural products that they can invest in,” said Alcala. Alcala said that the Ayala Group’s interest in the agricultural sector dovetails with newlyinstalled rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson’s invitation to the private sector to participate in the rehabilitation of typhoon-damaged provinces. Alcala said Lacson plans to meet with the heads of the country’s top 50 companies to present the government’s rehabilitation plan. Alcala will meet Lacson this week to discuss the rehabilitation plan for the agriculture sector. “We will encourage them (private companies) to participate in the rehabilitation because the government cannot do it alone,” he said. Meanwhile, Alcala admitted that the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is still having trouble finding large tracts of land for its planned agriculture investments. Pangilinan earlier said that his group has asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to identify parcels of land that could be used for commercial farming. Pangilinan, the managing director and chief executive officer of Hong Kong based First Pacific Co. Ltd., had expressed interest in forming a new company for his agricultural investments in the Philippines with PT Indofood, a unit of the conglomerate. Indofood operates plantations in Indonesia for the production of palm oil, sugar, rubber, coffee and cacao. Its palm oil plantation alone covers 240,000 hectares. Alcala said that the DA still has no leads to a sizable land area for large-scale commercial farming. “We are still identifying locations. Mr. Pangilinan wants a sizable land area which is not readily available,” said Alcala. Pangilinan is specifically interested in palm oil because of Indofood’s familiarity with the commodity.

Pangilinan’s group is initially looking for around 30,000 hectares of agricultural land in Davao to establish palm oil production and processing operations. “We cannot just find 30,000 hectares, said Alcala. “But the project is indeed adaptable in Mindanao.” In August last year, Pangilinan said First Pacific. is engaged in talks with hybrid rice seeds producer SL Agritech Corporation for a possible partnership for large-scale rice farming. Pangilinan’s group would provide the land for farming while SL Agritech would provide the rice seeds. SL Agritech, owned by businessman Henry Lim Bon Liong is a subsidiary of the Sterling Paper group of companies. It was formed in 1998, performing research work on hybrid rice. At least 10,000 hectares is needed for the project. Because of difficulties in securing agricultural lands, however, the two companies are considering to move their planned joint venture to Indonesia.                      

Baguio vegetable prices ride on high demand; farmers assure supply Details Category: Agri-Commodities 19 Dec 2013 Written by PNA LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—The high demand for fresh temperate vegetables produced in the highland farms of Benguet during the Christmas season has resulted in better prices of the products retailed in the country’s lowlands, mostly in Metro Manila. Benguet Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan said the more than 2,000 tons of fresh vegetables shipped daily to the market centers these days “are sold at a very minimal increase, which benefits our farmers.” A visit to the farms, terraces and greenhouses here and along the 100-kilometer stretch of Halsema Highway reveals that there are crops that would be harvested during the last week of December, second week of January 2014 and, likewise, in the middle of February 2014. Fongwan said that in previous periods, the bumper harvests of the farmers during the period resulted in temporary glut in the retail business, which normally resulted in the nosedive of the prices to the detriment of the agriculture sector. However, Fongwan explained that the effective “calendaring” of planting and harvest of certain vegetables no longer result in overproduction nor underproduction that the prices are kept stable. There is but a minimal mark-up during holidays when demand for the products is high. As of Wednesday morning farm-gate prices at the trading post here indicated that cabbage is sold at P18 to P22 per kilo. At the nearby Baguio public markets, the same is now retailed at P20 to P25 a kilo, depending on the size and variety of the cabbage. With the above comparison, the farm-gate prices would rise in a minimal 3 percent to 5 percent to defray costs of hauling, transportation and mark-up of vendors for a minimal profit. At the public market, the prevailing prices of these vegetables are as follows: carrots are sold at P70 a kilo; wong bok at P27 to P28 a kilo; sayote at P5 a kilo; pechay P10; Baguio beans P15; chicharo P40; onion leeks P10 a bundle; and potatoes P25 per kilo. Ambulant vendors of fresh strawberries from Mountain Province and La Trinidad, Benguet, sell the fruit at P200 to P250 a kilo. Root crops this period are likewise salable. The most salable include yakun at P25 a kilo; white potatoes P15; and gabi, P50. PNA‐commodities/24596‐baguio‐vegetable‐ prices‐ride‐on‐high‐demand‐farmers‐assure‐supply

Growers hatch programs for devt of sector, seek National Egg Week Category: Economy 19 Dec 2013 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent GROWERS belonging to the Philippine Association of Breeder Layers Inc. (Pabli) are proposing a one-week observance of egg nationwide every year. “The domestic demand for eggs is huge, considering that many Filipinos consume considerable amount of bread and pastry on a daily basis, and almost all bread and similar products contain eggs as ingredient,” said Tux Siddayao, the newly elected president of Pabli. Siddayao said having a National Egg Week may further develop the country’s egg industry, as well as other industries relying on eggs. According to Edwin Chen, elected treasurer for the group, many breeder and raisers are also into egg production to maximize the capacity of their production area. “But we need to promote egg as an industry by itself, because it has all the potentials,” Chen said. Earlier this year the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 4-A has reported that egg production is enjoying a brisk sale in Batangas, with a new packaging technology, making the distribution more efficient. The project was conceived by the Batangas Egg Producers Cooperative. The liquid egg-processing plant was completed in October 2012; the construction of which was assisted by the DA, capable of separating the white and egg yolks to suit specific needs of clients. In its chicken-industry performance report for the first semester of this year, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics said the volume of chicken egg production total from January to June 2013 was recorded at 218,583 metric tons. “This posted an increase of 2.55 percent from last year’s level of 213,145 metric tons,” according to the BAS. PABLI is thinking on proposing the egg week every April, to coincide with the Easter Egg celebration.‐growers‐hatch‐programs‐for‐ devt‐of‐sector‐seek‐national‐egg‐week  

Big Sagada oranges delight visitors in Baguio public market Category: Agri-Commodities 19 Dec 2013 Written by PNA BAGUIO CITY—Either you’re color blind, or blind, if you fail to notice giant yellow-color round objects adorning the long line of fruit stalls here. Twenty-year-old Anthony de la Riva did, saying that while Baguio City has so much to offer, these “giant oranges” top them all. The orange, which is as sweet as the popular Valencia variety, has a diameter of 6 inches and, at first glance, appears like a pomegranate (suha in Filipino) with orange covering. Hence, even in bamboo baskets on trucks from Sagada, Mountain Province, the bright colors elicit awe from hundreds of churchgoers and promenaders who notice the trucks going to the Baguio public market. Max Maslan, now in his 40s, remembers that his father, who once served as a regional director of the Department of Agriculture (DA), was among those who developed the unique variety of orange and first propagated it in Kalinga. Maslan credits the fruit’s growth to growers in Sagada, Mountain Province, who, he says, are excellent pomologists who grow at commercial scale other variety of oranges, apples, persimmon and other temperate fruits. The growers included planting the unique orange in their wide orchards, Maslan added. Years later in year 2000, the first jeeploads of the giant orange harvest from Sagada were unloaded in Baguio City. From then on, the giant oranges were to be called “Sagada Orange.” Likewise, the farmers have to grow the fruit as one of the “high-value crops” in the mountainous region to also help local environmentalists in reforesting denuded mountainsides. Being very salable during Christmas and New Year, the fruit growers from all over the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) find plentiful harvest during the cool months. How the unique fruit came about as a product of research from the Benguet State University (BSU) is still debatable since former Agriculture Secretary William Dar once mentioned that a cross of the regular orange and grapefruit could produce characteristics as the fruit is as sweet and delectable as the orange, but the size would be as big as the grapefruit. Dar, who served at the BSU as a professor then later became the agriculture secretary during the presidency of now city of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, is now employed in India.

The origin of the Sagada orange remains a favorite subject at the CAR where farmers, floriculturists, pomologists, agronomists and horticulturists gather with great ideas to make Philippine farm products world-competitive. Complex as it seems, the Sagada orange remains an outstanding “One Town, One Product” in several areas of Benguet, Mountain Province and Kalinga. And like any other fruits that “flood” the markets during the Yuletide season, the Sagada orange will remain as one of the nutritious food for visitors and residents for all seasons as it also bears enormous fruit even during rainy season. The fruit is sold at P20 a kilo at retail stores, while its farm-gate price could be less. Although there are yet no statistics as to how many hectares are devoted to Sagada orange in the Cordilleras, the estimated 2,000 metric tons produced every six months by the farmers would indicate that it is now produced in large commercial quantities. Hence, from an economic perspective, there is more to these bright giant oranges than meets the eye. PNA‐commodities/24595‐big‐sagada‐ oranges‐delight‐visitors‐in‐baguio‐public‐market                    

Taiwanese traders donate rice to fire, storm victims by Ellson Quismorio  December 19, 2013 (updated)  

Manila, Philippines – Victims of back-to-back disasters in Barangay San Antonio, Jasaan, Misamis Oriental recently benefitted from donations of Taiwanese businessmen consisting of 20 tons of rice. Misamis Oriental 2nd district Rep. Juliette Uy oversaw the distribution of rice to the poor families affected by a fire that struck the barangay on November 3. Five days later, the entire province was battered by super typhoon Yolanda. The World Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce and Taiwan Association in the Philippines delivered the 20-ton shipment of rice for the fire and storm survivors. “I convey my gratitude to the Taiwan Association for including me among the select few Philippine leaders you chose to trust in distributing your rice donation to Filipinos who are in dire need of assistance, especially those who were victims of disasters and calamities,” Uy said. The lawmaker said that the 26 families who lost their homes in the blaze were the first to benefit from the “act of love from Taiwan.” “Let this rice donation symbolize the generosity and friendship that we share with the Taiwanese people. This gesture from the Taiwan Association makes us feel that friendship which will not be easily forgotten,” Uy said during the turnover ceremony held in Jasaan. Gracing the event were Dr. Fang Hsin Lee, President of the World Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce, Taiwan Association of the Philippines President David Shih, Vice President Cheng Cheng Lee, Secretary General Tom Lin, Director Donford Liu, Former Taiwan Association Presidents Simmon Huang and Wayne Chi and the barangay council of San Antonio. Aside from Misamis Oriental province’s two districts, the legislative districts of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan Cities, and the provinces of Aurora, Pangasinan and Bulacan also received 20 tons of Taiwan rice from the Taiwan Association. Over 71,000 individuals from Misamis Oriental, including the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog were displaced by Yolanda. In Jasaan town alone, 822 families or 4,131 people sought shelter in evacuation centers. The rice donation was the first foreign aid to reach the province since the destructive storm, it was learned.‐traders‐donate‐rice‐to‐fire‐storm‐victims‐2/

New Canada envoy mulling over expanding trade in livestock and grains with Philippines Category: Economy 19 Dec 2013 Written by Recto Mercene

NEWLY appointed Ambassador to the Philippines Neil Reeder said Canada is predilected to expand trade with the Philippines, specifically on livestock and grains. Last year Philippine imports from the third-largest populated North American country hit $527 million, while exports to Canada was higher at $991 million, according to data supplied by the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines. Most of the latter are electrical machinery and optical equipment, the supplied briefer added. Looking to export of more quality meat products such as pork and beef and agriculture products such as wheat, cereal and pulp, which last year amounted to. This is against the Philippine’s export to Canada of which are manufactured locally by Japanese and Chinese businessmen to the tune of $991 million. “That’s a total of $1.5 billion in bilateral trade, which we want increased such as giving you pork and high-end quality beef because we are conscious that you got some sources of pork and beef, but we want you to have more choices,” Reeder said, adding that the Philippines is one of their 10th-largest destination in pork. “We know Filipinos love pork and 10 percent of our exports are destined to the pork industry.” He told reporters at his residence inside a posh Makati City subdivision that Canada is primarily interested also in the export to the country of minerals and wood pulps.

“[The Philippines] is an important market for Canadian pulp products.” Reeder and his wife Irene, had been in the country for just five week, arriving just before Supertyphoon Yolanda struck and immediately, they were in the thick of things, supervising the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction to the devastated municipalities in Central Visayas. He said that like their continued presence in Haiti, “our presence in the Philippines would be for the long haul.” “We cannot just leave simply because we have made our donations.” In a statement, Canada’s response to Yolanda includes an initial allocation of $30,000 for relief course through the Red Cross, while another $5 million was for immediate support to humanitarian organizations. Canada’s total humanitarian assistance has reached $20 million, a document from Reeder’s office said. They also deployed more than 300 members of the Disaster Assistance Response Team of the Canadian Armed Forces who were sent to Capiz and Iloilo, clearing roads, providing clean water with hundreds of gallons, providing engineering support repairing generators at hospitals and assessing damages to bridges, while providing medical assistance and logistical support. Two of the members are Canadian-Filipino, Maj. Jay Manimtim and Chief Petty Officer Joe Abando. Canada is also behind the seven proposals from across the country for the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. Reeder said Canada is prioritizing the processing of Filipino applicants for those who are personally affected by the typhoon. Request from Filipino citizens who are in temporarily in Canada and wish to extend their stay will be assessed in a compassionate and flexible manner. “Those without travel documents as a result of the typhoon will have their applications expedited by the Canadian Embassy in Manila,” Reeder said. Recto Mercene

In Photo: Canadian Ambassador to Manila Neil Reeder. (Recto Mercene)‐new‐canada‐envoy‐mulling‐ over‐expanding‐trade‐in‐livestock‐and‐grains‐with‐philippines    

Senate backs scrutiny of JDF By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate is launching its own probe into possible irregularities in the use of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), in support of an earlier move by the House of Representatives to scrutinize what is widely believed to be the judiciary’s own pork barrel. As this developed, House members challenged the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to do its own housecleaning and not get fixated on alleged anomalies in the executive and legislative branches. Senate President Franklin Drilon said yesterday he fully supported the call of Liberal Party colleague and fellow Ilonggo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. for a deeper examination of the use of other lump sum appropriations, including the judicial funds. “That’s part of our oversight functions as guardians of the people’s money. Yes, I would support that,” Drilon said, referring to the planned House review. “That’s a function of the Senate, that’s why we have the oversight committee on public expenditures.” He said it is the prerogative of Congress to check on the use of public funds. “But in doing so, we should exert the effort that we should not do so at the expense of people’s confidence in our justice system being eroded,” he said. Drilon assured the judiciary that Congress’ move was not a tit-for-tat after the SC declared unconstitutional the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). “It depends really on the way the inquiry is conducted. If the people see that this is a sincere effort to see how public funds are spent, I think you can overcome that perception,” he said. He said an investigation is never meant to tarnish the image of the judiciary.

“But we must be careful that in undertaking such power to investigate, we must maintain our respect for the judiciary. We must not allow such investigation to erode our people’s confidence in our rule of law and in our judicial system,” he said. Drilon, a former justice secretary, also said that in many instances, the judiciary remains the last bulwark of democracy in the country. “We politicians come and go. If we commit a mistake, we can be voted out office in the next elections. Insofar as the judiciary is concerned, we must be able to maintain the confidence of our people in our judicial system,” he said. Tupas had stated that the SC decision against PDAF would not only have short-term repercussions but would also affect in the long term the institutional setup of the three branches of government. He said that if the PDAF were really unconstitutional, other types of funds may be similarly placed and should be treated the same way. “There are other types of fund that should be scrutinized as well, and I’m referring to JDF, referring to the special allowances of the judges. I think it should be scrutinized, within the committee of justice depending on the decision of the leadership of the House. We go back to accountability of public funds,” Tupas told reporters. ‘Fix your backyard’ House members said they find it befuddling that the SC continues to enjoy its own pork barrel even after declaring someone else’s as unconstitutional. The SC’s pork barrel or JDF holds about P5 billion, according to Rep. Ben Evardone, vice chairman of the House of Representatives appropriations committee. “It is beyond scrutiny by Congress, Malacañang and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The highest tribunal use it for additional allowances, vehicles, furniture and the like,” he said. He said court fees go to the JDF and are not turned over to the treasury. Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the SC has always resisted congressional and Palace scrutiny of its pork barrel. “Whenever Congress conducts hearings on the national budget, the concerned committees always ask the SC where it has used the JDF, how much is its balance, so that Congress would know how much budget it would give the judiciary. But they always refuse,” he said.

He said that while the highest court had abolished PDAF due to alleged abuses by certain lawmakers, it is possible that the SC – unknown to Congress and the public – could be misusing its own pork barrel. Gonzales recalled that former chief justice Hilario Davide Jr. was nearly impeached by the House when reports of supposed JDF irregularities, including procurement of overpriced curtains, surfaced. “They want to fix the backyard of the executive and legislative branches of government. They should fix theirs,” he said. He recalled that the SC had also declared unconstitutional the use of the Malampaya Fund for non-energy related projects. Like the Malampaya Fund, the JDF is a creation of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Evardone said that after the SC demanded more accountability and transparency from lawmakers in its decision against PDAF, “now it’s our turn to say that they should be more accountable and transparent to the people and their elected representatives.” He said the mechanism for congressional inquiry into JDF is contained in a special provision the two chambers included in their final version of the proposed P2.264-trillion 2014 national budget. He added that the provision requires all agencies, including constitutional offices enjoying fiscal autonomy like the SC, to submit to the DBM, the Senate and the House quarterly and annual financial statements and accomplishment reports. He said the reports should include detailed use of funds, including off-budget items like the JDF, fees collected, as well as beginning and ending balances. The JDF is an off-budget fund as it is not included in the annual SC outlay. Another provision in the proposed 2014 national budget requires the SC to remit to the national treasury P541,428,000 representing special allowances granted to justices and judges that “have already been fully integrated into their salary increases as of June 1, 2012.” The provision states that once the amount is remitted, “the salary being received by the members of the judiciary shall be sourced and funded from the General Fund.” Impeachment For Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, the magistrates should be made to face impeachment proceedings if they are proven to have misused their JDF.

“They (SC justices) have absolute power over the JDF. They have been insisting that it cannot be scrutinized because of the SC’s fiscal autonomy. Not even the COA (Commission on Audit) can audit it, so it is very susceptible to abuse or misuse, especially if it remains unchecked,” Umali told The STAR. “If we want the tuwid na daan (straight path) in Congress, then we must do it in all branches of government,” he added. One of the charges against former chief justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in the Senate was his misuse of the JDF. “The PDAF has basis in the Constitution but the JDF is worse because it is not mentioned in the Constitution,” he said, adding that the lump sum was created by Marcos under Presidential Decree 1949 apparently to get into the good graces of the magistrates then. He said the SC overturned its 12-0 ruling on the PDAF, which was “quite perplexing because, about a year earlier, the same tribunal, in the case of Lawyers Against Monopoly and Poverty (LAMP) vs. Department of Budget and Management with (G.R. No. 164987) promulgated on April 24, 2012, declared the PDAF constitutional.” Umali said some SC magistrates “betrayed the public trust” with their discrediting PDAF because such decision deprived poor constituents of lawmakers of access to educational, medical and other assistance. “They know who they are and I think it’s better if they resign or face impeachment,” he said. “We must not let these despotic magistrates sit on their iron thrones for a minute longer. They must know where they stand and if they will continue to lord over the foundations of our great Republic, then they only deserve to be impeached,” Umali said in an earlier privilege speech. – With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero‐backs‐scrutiny‐jdf              

DENR to enforce ‘no‐build zones’ By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am    

Long queues greeted the opening of Robinsons Supermarket, Robinsons Department Store, Handyman  Do It Best, Robinsons Appliances, Toys R Us Toybox and Daiso Japan in Tacloban City yesterday. The  retail outlets, all under Robinsons Retail, will operate in approximately 5,500 square meters of selling  area in Robinsons Place‐Tacloban. Though faced with certain constraints such as unstable power supply,  Robinsons Retail is hoping that this will help bring Tacloban’s trade and commerce back to normal,  especially during the Christmas season. Daily store hours will be limited from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. This  temporary selling area will continue to operate while the mall is undergoing a major rehabilitation.  Robinsons Place‐Tacloban is expected to be re‐launched in April 2014. Several stores in Eastern Visayas  were looted in the days immediately after Yolanda struck. 

MANILA, Philippines - Authorities will implement “no-build zones” along coastal communities in Eastern Visayas ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje yesterday said his department will implement the no-build zone with a 40-meter easement in coastal communities destroyed by the monster storm on Nov. 8. Teams from the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau have identified specific areas that should be off-limits to residents and infrastructure. Paje said the no-build zone will be implemented along the entire eastern seaboard of Eastern Visayas. “We will further check whatever is the applicable remedy to a specific area, like if it concerns coastal communities, we will apply this ‘natural or soft’ method like planting mangroves and developing beach forests,” Paje said. If the subject areas are near dams, they will have to build the necessary infrastructure, he said.

“Our thrust with regards to this project is to build back better. We have to build more resilient communities,” Paje said. He said they have submitted a report to the Department of Public Works and Highways on the affected areas. The government, through the DENR, has earmarked P347 million for the restoration of mangrove and natural beach forests in coastal areas battered by Yolanda. The massive coastal rehabilitation program would cover worst hit areas in the Eastern Visayas, particularly the province of Leyte and its capital Tacloban City. “Tacloban is a major concern given its being a major population center, but the undertaking will cover practically the entire eastern seaboard of Eastern Visayas,” Paje said. He said the main objective is to restore the region’s degraded coastal forests to make its coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events. “It is clear in the law that we cannot allow people to build houses in areas for mangroves and beach forests,” Paje said. A provision of Presidential Decree 1067, also known as the Philippine Water Code, states that “banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.” Under the plan, some 19 million seedlings and propagules from mangrove trees and beach forest species like talisay will be planted over 1,900 hectares of coastline under the National Greening Program. Paje said about 80 percent of the allocation will be used for the government’s cash-for-work program for typhoon survivors who will take part in seedling production, planting site preparation, actual planting and maintenance of mangrove and beach forest areas. “Restoring the coastal forests in Eastern Visayas will set the foundation for the reconstruction and recovery of both coastal communities and urban areas in the province. We will design it properly and have it approved by concerned local government units,” he said. Paje said the establishment of coastal “green belts” will be done in clusters to allow fishermen access to the shorelines, as well as other sustainable activities like ecotourism and coastal management. Other areas covered by the coastal rehabilitation plan are Dulag town in Leyte; the municipalities of Guiuan, Llorente and Balangiga in Eastern Samar; and the town of Basey in Samar.

Death toll now 6,092 The death toll left by Yolanda has increased to 6,092 from 6,069, the figure reported by National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Eduardo del Rosario for three days running. Del Rosario also reported that 27,665 people were injured while 1,779 are still missing. Also as of yesterday, 890,895 families or more than four million people were displaced by the monster storm with 101,527 individuals still staying in 381 evacuation centers. On the other hand, close to four million are staying with relatives.– Jaime Laude, Helen Flores‐enforce‐no‐build‐zones                                  

Comelec asked to withdraw order unseating elected execs By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) was asked yesterday to withdraw an order for elected officials to vacate their office until they have complied with the requirements on campaign finance disclosure. Lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Comelec Resolution 9834 had clarified that the fine imposed on the officials does not constitute an administrative fine as defined under Section 14 of Republic Act 7166, the Synchronized Election Law of 1991. “In other words, there is no more violation of the SOCE rules under Section 14 of RA 7166, which could be the basis to remove or order an elected official to vacate his post,” he said. However, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the resolution only pertains to administrative liabilities, not an order to temporarily vacate their posts. “It does not have anything to do with the order of the commission for them to correct first the imperfections of their occupation of their offices, which is having invalid SOCEs,” he said. The law requires all candidates to file their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCEs) within 30 days after election day. Promulgated last Dec. 17, Resolution 9834 states that the payment of a fine together with the submission of a complete and fully compliant SOCE does not make candidates administratively liable for violation of RA 7166. Last week, the Comelec ordered a total of 422 elected officials to temporarily vacate their posts after being found to have failed to file valid SOCEs. As of Monday, 66 of them have complied and the Comelec deemed them eligible to occupy their posts.‐asked‐withdraw‐order‐unseating‐ elected‐execs      

Public urged to have healthy noche buena By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Have a vegetarian Noche Buena. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Filipinos should also give animals some holiday cheer. “For ethical, religious, environmental and health reasons, many families choose to share tasty vegetarian dishes at their Christmas meal,” the animal-rights group said. PETA said animal-friendly meals such as suman sa ibos, lumpiang sariwa, kare-kareng gulay and pancit are healthy alternatives to the traditional ham and lechon. “Traditional side dishes and desserts don’t need a single egg or a drop of milk, thanks to products such as coconut and soy milks, as well as vegetable broth — a flavorful and healthy alternative to meat-based stocks,” it said. To help “veganize” Noche Buena, PETA gave 10 tips: • Veganize Old Favorites. Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to create new recipes. Use vegetable broth and vegan margarine in green-bean casserole and baked stuffing. • Don’t forget the centerpiece. No one will miss the meat if you make a scrumptious nut roast or a turkey loaf. • Plan Ahead. If you’re eating out or attending a catered holiday party, call the restaurant or the catering company ahead of time to make sure that something can be prepared for you. • Spread the Cheer. If you’re dining at someone’s house, offer to bring something vegan. Who knows, your tangy lemon sugar cookies or succulent tofu barbecue may be reason enough for them to take our “Pledge to Go Veg.” • Ask for the Greatest Gift of All. Ask loved ones to go vegan for a week instead of purchasing a gift for you. • Forgo the Butter. Use non-dairy margarine instead. Try the Earth Balance brand. • Swap that Milk. Use soy milk in place of regular milk for creamy mashed potatoes that everyone will love. • Go Faux for the Fresh Loaf. When baking holiday bread, be sure to use an egg replacer and soy milk in place of eggs and milk.

• Dish Out Great Hors d’oeuvres! Check out vegan recipes, just make sure everyone isn’t too full for the main course. • Look It Up. Still not sure about what goes into the perfect vegan cake or what to use in place of gelatin? Look up a handy substitution guide that will answer all your vegan cooking questions.‐urged‐have‐healthy‐noche‐buena                                        

Gov't vows to pursue more economic reforms ( | Updated December 19, 2013 ‐ 11:00pm   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The government said today that it will continue to pursue reforms and policies which would boost local businesses and ensure high economic growth. Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. made the statement as the Philippine government welcomed survey results showing an upbeat outlook among Filipinos in 2014 and the country's improved global ranking in terms of business regulations. "We will continue to pursue reforms and policies that will create conditions conducive to the growth and competitiveness of businesses that play a crucial role in the attainment of inclusive and sustained economic growth," Coloma said. The "Doing Business 2014" report earlier released by the World Bank's International Finance Corp. revealed that the country's ranking improved by 30 notches to 108th from 138th, in terms of improvements in business regulations. Also, a survey conducted by research institute Social Weather Stations (SWS) on Sept. 20 to 23 showed that more Filipinos look forward to a better life in 2014. Despite the series of natural disasters that struck the country, the Philippine government said economic growth for 2013 would reach 7 percent. The Philippine government has also maintained its growth projection of 6.5 to 7.5 percent for 2014.‐vows‐pursue‐more‐economic‐reforms              

Govt targets to award 15 PPP deals by 2016 Category: Top News 19 Dec 2013 Written by Cai U. Ordinario

THE Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center says it will be able to award at least 15 PPP contracts by the time President Aquino ends his term in 2016. In a briefing on Thursday, PPP Center Executive Director Cosette V. Canilao told reporters that by the end of 2016, the government will have “a robust pipeline” of 50 PPP projects. “What we want to achieve by the end of 2016 is a robust pipeline of projects. From 2011, we created a mechanism [where] projects will be developed properly. [Our] approach is pipeline development and not [approve deals on a] per-project [basis],” Canilao said. This so-called pipeline includes the 15 projects the agency intends to award by that time. However, Canilao said there could be additional projects included in the pipeline in the coming years. The 15 projects that are likely to be within the next two years include the Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway (Slex) Link Road; Phases 1 and 2 of the PPP School Infrastructure Project (PSIP); Phase 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway; Modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center; Automatic Fare Collection System; Mactan-Cebu International Airport new passenger terminal building; and the Cavite-Laguna Expressway. Other contracts include that of the Light Railway Transit (LRT) Line 1-Cavite Extension and Operation and Maintenance (O&M) project; Integrated Transport System; Bulacan Bulk Water Supply project; Enhanced O&M of the new Bohol (Panglao) airport; establishment of cold chain systems covering strategic areas in the Philippines; O&M project for the Laguindingan airport; and O&M of LRT Line 2.

Apart from the said projects, Canilao noted that by the end of 2016 the government will be able to complete seven projects and turn over at least 10 infrastructure facilities to the private sector for operation and maintenance. PPP projects currently in the pipeline include 48 projects, with five projects already awarded; four projects in the bidding stage and two that were recently approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board. The list also includes five projects undergoing project evaluation; three projects being finalized; 12 that are undergoing feasibility studies; five projects obtaining transactional advisers; 10 under conceptualization; and three other projects for monitoring. The national government has earned a total of P27 billion from bidding out four key PPP projects in the past few years, according to the PPP Center. “Not only did the government earn P27 billion, but we have four upcoming infrastructure projects that will also increase the level of service to the public. We had a good start with the projects we rolled out,” Canilao said. She added that social PPP projects, such as schools and hospitals, will also be added to the list. Canilao said the Department of Education and Department of Health are also drafting similar projects that will be submitted for PPP undertaking. “The Department of Transportation and Communications and Department of Public Works and Highways are developing more projects so we will see more from both agencies. On the other hand, we also saw the success of social infrastructure projects so we’re also working with the Department of Education and the Department of Health in developing projects for social infrastructure so we would also see a lot of that [in the coming years],” Canilao said. Overall, Canilao said the government’s PPP initiative has been able to progress steadily. She said apart from the rolled out projects, the government was able to create guidelines that ensure a level playing field for both local and foreign players. The PPP initiative, which began in 2010, has been implemented by the PPP Center, an attached agency of the Neda. The Center was created by virtue of Executive Order 8, Series of 2010, signed on September 9, 2010. The program is a cornerstone strategy for national development aimed at accelerating infrastructure and other development services, in order to sustain national economic growth. In Photo: Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center Executive Director Cosette V. Canilao and Deputy Executive Director Jose Emmanuel P. Reverente brief members of the media at PPP Center headquarters in Quezon City. The government agency expects to award at least 15 PPP contracts by 2016. (Nonoy Lacza)‐news/24627‐govt‐targets‐to‐award‐15‐ppp‐ deals‐by‐2016

Senate open to Cha-cha discussion Category: Nation 19 Dec 2013 Written by Mia M. Gonzalez and Butch Fernandez THE Senate is open to discussions on amendments to the 1987 Charter, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Thursday. Drilon made the statement when asked about the Senate’s position on the issue, after the House leadership announced that it planned to take up proposed amendments on the economic provisions of the Constitution in the first quarter of 2014. “There has been no discussion of that for the past months. There were discussions during the first part of the year. We are open to it. We will see how these debates develop and we will take a position at the appropriate time,” he said. Drilon said, however, that “there must be consensus among the political leaders because this kind of political exercise must have the support of a unified political leadership,” apparently referring to the support of the Aquino administration. The senator said he has yet to discuss the matter with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., but observed that the process being suggested at the House is the same one that he had initiated several years ago, or the same manner laws are passed in the country, with each chamber voting separately. This means that “voting will be done separately and in the qualified majority as provided in the Constitution, meaning three-fourths of each house voting separately and is submitted to ratification.” Drilon said this is “to make sure that amendments would really be scrutinized.” “The reason the Senate rejected the proposal that we must convene as a constituent assembly voting as one is because you might as well abolish the Senate, because the Senate is just 24 as against the House’s 270 votes. That is why there is a resistance. But if we vote separately, as separate houses of Congress, then that possibility would not happen,” he said. Drilon said any proposed constitutional amendments should be limited to economic provisions since “many are of the view that the very restrictive provisions of the Constitution on the economy are hampering our ability to compete with our neighbors.” Other senators expressed support for Charter change (Cha-cha), particularly in the economic provisions.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said the economic provisions in the Constitution “has to be amended to make it attuned to the changing times.” “The Constitution was written almost 30 years ago when there was no Internet, World Wide Web and globalization. The world has become so much smaller and so different, we need to keep abreast with technology and globalization,” Ejercito said. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said he would like an “easing up of the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution.” He added, “Personally, I’m for the removal of the provision subjecting officers to go through the Commission on Appointments. Only the service commanders should be subjected to the confirmation process to insulate junior officers from transactional politics.” Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III said he would “have to be convinced” of the need for constitutional amendments. “I want to be sure that they would only amend [economic provisions],” Sotto said. Even as it accorded “due respect” to the leader of a co-equal branch of government, Malacañang on Thursday thumbed down as a “non-priority” Belmonte’s renewed initiative to fast-track passage next year of constitutional amendments lifting economic restrictions seen to discourage entry of foreign investments into the country. “We respect the processes of Congress as a separate and co-equal body and whose members like the President are also elected to promote the people’s welfare,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio B. Coloma said, but clarified that President Aquino has “no plan” to support Belmonte’s 2014 Charter-change bid. At a news briefing, Coloma recalled that Mr. Aquino had just recently reasserted his stand against tinkering with the Charter during his trip to South Korea in October. “He [Mr. Aquino] reaffirmed his position that the administration has no plan to revise the Constitution,” the Palace official said. Coloma said President Aquino “has consistently maintained that economic restrictions in the Constitution are not detrimental in attracting foreign investments.” The President had previously brushed aside the claim of Cha-cha proponents that removing an existing provision in the 1987 Charter limiting to 40-percent foreign ownership of certain businesses would lure more investments here. “We remain focused on implementing the priority programs under the Philippine Development Plan that have been instrumental in the country’s attainment of consistently high growth rates for the past seven quarters,” Coloma added. Asked why the issue is being repeatedly resurrected despite Mr. Aquino’s open abhorrence to do the Cha-cha route, the Palace official declined further comment, suggesting the question would be better answered by its pertinacious proponents.‐senate‐open‐to‐cha‐cha‐ discussion

Disaster resilience SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  3 googleplus0  0  

A 40-meter “no-build” easement zone will be imposed by the government in coastal communities devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda, according to environment officials. Good luck on that; let’s see if the communities will comply. There’s a lot of talk these days about killer storm surges being the new normal. That makes our archipelago of 7,100 islands extremely vulnerable to tsunami-like disaster. Will this inspire people to build homes inland and stay away from the water? With our extensive coastline, this isn’t easy, but some people may decide to give up their sea view and relocate. Moving inland is not likely for many of those who make their living from the sea. They tend to regard the sea like life: sometimes it’s calm, sometimes it’s choppy, and occasionally it can turn into a murderous monster. As surely as day turns into night and the dark gives way to sunrise, however, all storms blow over, including those that barrel inland at 315 kilometers per hour. In these coastal communities, disaster resilience means the ability to bend with the wind, and to bounce back as soon as the wind has died down. Resilience can be interpreted differently in a fatalistic society: shelters are built not to withstand powerful storms, but to be easily patched back together. Housing materials are light, and can be retrieved from neighbors’ yards if blown away. A similar mindset is behind the construction of shelters made out of light materials in some parts of earthquake-prone Japan. If a house collapses in a temblor, it can be built back quickly. Will it be built back better? Disaster victims will certainly welcome more resilient structures – if the better alternative is available. If not, shelter is a basic necessity, and victims are going to build with whatever is at hand. If the better alternative comes months later, there could be reluctance to destroy what has been rebuilt, even if it is considered less resilient to storm surges and earthquakes. Several relief workers in the Yolanda-hit areas have noted that the idea of “shelter” is basic: a roof over one’s head, and something to hold up the roof, preferably with four walls for privacy.

When I visited Ormoc, Leyte several days ago, some residents whose houses withstood Yolanda invited me in to narrate their experience during the typhoon and show how they were restarting their lives. Their problem, they said, was an acute shortage of galvanized iron sheets for roofing. Tarpaulin would do, they said, but they were still waiting to receive the items from relief agencies. When the GI sheets become available, they can be installed within a day. They aren’t cheap, especially in a disaster zone, and those who pay for a new roof will not easily agree to dismantle it later for something that is supposed to be more disaster-resilient. * * * Disaster resiliency, according to an official in a multilateral aid agency, should not just be a buzzword or buzz phrase but a way of life. President Aquino has promised that the typhoon rebuild will prioritize resilience. “We cannot allow ourselves to be trapped in a vicious cycle of destruction and reconstruction,” he said. “We know that it is more efficient to prioritize resilience now, rather than to keep rebuilding.” If he wants this to happen, his boys will have to move fast to explain exactly what resilience means to those who want to have their lives back ASAP. P-Noy issued the statement as his administration rolled out the other day a plan called RAY, or Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda, which calls for $8.17 billion (more than P360 billion) to rebuild the disaster zone over four years. The plan was unveiled before international donors and development partners at the Department of Foreign Affairs main office, the first stop for the processing of foreign aid. I asked an official of one of the participating entities if they believed the Philippines could utilize the still growing mountain of foreign aid for the long-term reconstruction. The diplomatic response was that their task was to make the aid available. The official is aware – as are several of those present at the RAY launch the other day – that the first Aquino administration had a serious problem with absorptive capacity after the international community committed billions under the Philippine Assistance Program to help rebuild a nation torn apart by the Marcos dictatorship. Foreign assistance was badly needed at the time (as it still is now). The government, however, could not put up counterpart funding for many of the projects and couldn’t get things off the ground. (Why does this sound familiar?) Huge amounts committed can be withdrawn by foreign donors if we fail to utilize the aid, or if the donors deem the aid being misused. Foreign governments and multilateral aid agencies must answer to their constituents. Monitoring of aid utilization is constant, with quarterly reporting to their stakeholders done by several of the major donors.

It’s a good first step that the government managed to present the reconstruction plan to the world within 40 days after the typhoon. The plan was drawn up by the National Economic and Development Authority in consultation with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, among others. Disaster resilience is written all over RAY. The acronym, I guess, is meant to refer to a ray of hope in the devastation. The devil, as always, will be in the implementation.‐resilience                                    

USAID, MNCs to help rebuild ‘sari-sari’ stores in ‘Yolanda’-hit areas Category: Regions 19 Dec 2013 Written by Recto Mercene SARI-SARI stores, the backbone of the Philippine consumer economy, many of which were demolished by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), would be revived with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and some multinational companies (MNCs) based in the country. This was announced by the United States Embassy in Manila, who said that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed with Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Coca-Cola to support the revival of economic activity and livelihoods in Leyte, the province worst-hit by Yolanda. Under these MOUs, USAID, P&G and Coca-Cola will help establish new sari-sari stores (small community stores) and rehabilitate damaged or destroyed sari-sari stores located in public markets. In addition, these organizations will facilitate sari-sari store owners’ access to microfinancing loans and other interventions that will help them succeed, the statement said. Announcing the partnerships as part of a broad relief, recovery and rehabilitation plan, US Secretary of State John Kerry, said, “This partnership with P&G and Coca-Cola is a great example of how we can bring the shared resources of the US government and American businesses to help the people of Philippines revive economic activity and restore livelihoods.” “Sari-sari stores are the backbone of the Philippines consumer economy and by supporting their reconstruction and rehabilitation in Leyte, we believe we will accelerate recovery at the grassroots level,” he said. Under these partnerships, USAID, P&G and Coca-Cola will help build the necessary infrastructure for the operation of sari-sari stores, promote opportunities for community entrepreneurship, and improve commercial capabilities and crisis preparedness of sari-sari store owners.‐usaid‐mncs‐to‐help‐rebuild‐ sari‐sari‐stores‐in‐yolanda‐hit‐areas      

Cutting of coconut trees in Aurora banned By Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

BALER, Aurora, Philippines – Starting this month, cutting of coconut trees in this province is not allowed, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). Violators face two to five years imprisonment and P100,000 to P500,000 fine, the agency said. PCA’s Memorandum Circular No. 05 signed by Administrator Euclides Forbes ordered a moratorium in the cutting of coconut trees to boost coconut production and mitigate effects of climate change. The PCA said it has already informed local coconut traders and coco lumber dealers of the moratorium. He said all permits for the transport of coconut products have been temporarily suspended.‐coconut‐trees‐aurora‐banned                              

Trans‐Asia unit secures P4.3‐B loan for wind farm By Riza T. Olchondra  Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:54 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp.’s unit has signed a combined P4.3-billion project financing facility for its 54-megawatt (MW) wind farm project in San Lorenzo, Guimaras province. In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Trans-Asia said its subsidiary Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corp. (Tarec) sealed the loan deal with the Development Bank of the Philippines and Security Bank Corp. The 15-year loan will be used to fund the construction and development of the wind project, Trans-Asia said.

The Guimaras wind farm project, which has pre-qualified under the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) scheme, is being undertaken by Tarec, which has 12 wind energy service contracts. Other projects prequalified for FIT are Energy Development Corp.’s 87-MW wind farm in Burgos, Ilocos Norte province; Alternergy Wind One Corp.’s 67.5-MW Pililla wind power project in Rizal; PetroWind Energy Inc.’s 50-MW Nabas wind project in Aklan; Northern Luzon UPC Asia Corp.’s 81-MW Caparispisan Wind Power Project in Pagudpug, Ilocos Norte; and FirstMaxpower International Corp.’s 50-MW Pulupandan Wind Power Project in Negros Occidental. Department of Energy director for renewable energy Mario C. Marasigan has said that, contrary to initial skepticism that the first-come, first-served policy on FIT allocation will discourage investments, the number of serious players competing for allocation has gone up and that such competition will help ensure reliable renewable energy capacity in the future. Prequalification for the FIT scheme gives the project developers a chance to secure an allocation from the 760-megawatt installation target or the total capacity of renewable energy projects that will be allowed to be constructed within a three-year period. Securing an allocation will make the project eligible for the FIT rate, a mechanism that will secure for the developer a fixed cash flow for 20 years.‐asia‐unit‐secures‐p4‐3‐b‐loan‐for‐wind‐farm#ixzz2nyvf6UgV   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

BFAR orders shellfish ban in parts of Zambo Sur, Bataan • • • • •

Written by PNA Friday, 20 December 2013 00:00 font size Print Be the first to comment!

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has imposed a shellfish ban in some parts of Zamboanga del Sur and Bataan due to the lingering presence of red tide. Based on BFAR Shellfish Bulletin No. 30 dated Dec. 16, shellfish collected at Damanquillas Bay in Zamboanga del Sur and in the coastal waters off Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal in Bataan are still positive for paralytic shellfish poison that is beyond the regulatory limits. Because of this, BFAR had prohibited the harvesting, selling, transporting and eating of all types of shellfish and “alamang” in these areas because they are not safe for human consumption. However, the government agency assured that fish, squids, shrimps and crabs in the said localities are safe to eat provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly and that the internal organs — such as gills and intestines — are removed before cooking.

List of basic commodities expanded with new order Additions include bottled water, fresh fruits, noodles  By Amy R. Remo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:52 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

The Department of Trade and Industry and four other government agencies have issued a joint administrative order outlining amendments to Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act. Joint AO No. 13-1, which was also issued by the Departments of Agriculture, Health, Environment and Natural Resources, and Energy, included new items on the list of basic goods and prime commodities. The order expanded “the definition or coverage of the term basic necessities to now include potable water in bottles and containers, fresh fruits, locally manufactured instant noodles, household liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene; and of the term prime commodities to now include livestock and fishery feeds, while excluding fresh fruit, noodles, swine and cattle feeds from its list.” These lists are critical as these become the basis for a price freeze, for example, when an area is proclaimed or declared a disaster area or under a state of calamity.

Violators of the price freeze may be liable to pay an administrative fine of up to P1 million. Based on the joint AO, the basic necessities under the DA are: rice; corn; root crops; fresh, dried fish and other marine products; fresh pork, beef and poultry meat; fresh eggs; fresh milk; fresh vegetables; fresh fruits; sugar; and cooking oil. For the DOH, this list named drugs and medicines included in the current edition of the Philippine National Drug Formulary Essential Drugs List, while for the DENR, the list includes firewood and charcoal. Under the DTI, basic necessities are bread; canned fish and other marine products; potable water in bottles and containers; processed milk; locally manufactured instant noodles; coffee; salt; laundry soap; detergent; and candies. At the DOE, the list named only household LPG and kerosene.

Potato Corner makes waves beyond PH shores By Tina Arceo‐Dumlao  Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:45 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

Joe Magsaysay poses with the Potato Corner crew at a kiosk at the World Trade Center during the AFFI Franchise Show. When Joe Magsaysay asked a US-based marketing guru if it would be a good idea to take the Potato Corner concept there and sell flavored French fries to the Americans, his response was an emphatic ‘no.’ It would not work, the marketing expert declared, as it was like selling ice to the Eskimos. After all, the United States practically owns the French fries category, thanks to the global presence of such quick service restaurants as McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King where French fries are among the best-selling items on the menu. Doing the opposite Fortunately, Magsaysay did not listen and went on to do the exact opposite.

Today, there are over 30 Potato Corner kiosks in the United States, which is just one of the growing number of countries where the proudly Filipino-owned Potato Corner is making its presence felt. “I really do not listen to negative comments, I use them to temper what we like to do but we remain pointed in our chosen direction,” Magsaysay tells BusinessFriday in an interview. And that audacious goal is to quickly achieve market dominance in its category, with franchising as its preferred method of expansion. “Like in the Philippines, our strategy is to achieve market dominance quickly in this category that’s why franchising will also help us in the US and in the international markets. Franchising helps us do a hyper-growth. And the US is not only the home of French fries, it is also the home of franchising. We are in familiar territory,” says Magsaysay. Magsaysay says that Potato Corner, which has operations in Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is in the best position to conquer foreign markets and strengthen its hold on the Philippine market as it took to heart the many lessons from the expensive and painful mistakes over the past 21 years. Potato Corner was born in 1992 when Magsaysay and some of his friends transformed their love for the snack food—described as the popcorn of the 21st century—into a business, with a starting capital of just P150,000. To differentiate itself from the market, Potato Corner added flavors such as sour cream and cheddar to the fries, and introduced the shaking ritual that has made Potato Corner such an instant hit, especially among children. “We had to change the rules or be innovative. We changed the way French fries are cooked, the way they are handled and the way they are served. If we did not re-invent some rules on how to manage French fries, Potato Corner wouldn’t have been a success and the current brand and product DNA wouldn’t have been born,” says Magsaysay. “Our shaking, and our flavors make a difference. We own the shaking ritual for flavored French fries,” he adds.

Rapid expansion From 1992 to 1994, Potato Corner expanded rapidly, from just one cart to 70 in just two years. “We were one of the pioneers in the cart franchise business in Asia. Even in the way we franchised, we were innovative, we changed the rules of franchising to fit our business model and to be compatible with the Philippine setting,” he says.

By 1997, Potato Corner had grown to a network of 120 stores and the group was on top of the world. Then, the Asian economic crisis that started in Thailand crashed into Philippine shores. The value of the peso plummeted and companies large and small were closing fast. Potato Corner came very close to becoming one of the many casualties of the crisis. “We started almost from scratch. From 120 stores in 1997, we were left with just 40 in 2000,” says Magsaysay. He knew, however, that flavored French fries, which appealed to the entire family, would always have a market. Thus after radically changing its processes and sharpening its focus, Potato Corner got its groove back and it has expanded to 300 outlets in the Philippines, 24 outlets in the United States and 30 stores in Indonesia. It also has a presence in Malaysia, Panama and in the Middle East with plans to enter even more markets. And just as it got into franchising as early as its second store, Magsaysay says that it will continue to look for partners to rapidly expand its operations and plant the Philippine flag in more countries. Magsaysay stresses that it was franchising that enabled Potato Corner, which received the Franchise of the Year Award from the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc., to survive the onslaught of competition from other companies that unabashedly copied the flavored fries concept. “If we did not go in to franchising the time we did, we wouldn’t have achieved the economies of scale and wouldn’t have gained market dominance. Within our first two years, we counted over 300 brands that tried to copy selling Flavored French Fries,” Magsaysay says. “We owe a lot to franchising. Because of franchising, we had to become even more focused on the brand, take good care of the supply chain and always look at long term because we now have franchisees who are our partners and we are responsible for them and we want to make sure their business, Potato Corner, grows and is sustained,” says Magsaysay,” Franchising forced us to make our company and brand better.” Magsaysay says that even with the success, Potato Corner is well aware that it cannot afford to rest on its growing profit if it wants to win the battle for share of wallet. Innovations This is why it is rolling out innovations such as the new look of the stores, the development of new store concepts from just kiosks to stand alone restaurants, and the expansion of the menu to include chicken and new fries formats and flavors. It is also looking to add new brands to its portfolio.

All these are part of the company’s thrust to be a worthy flag carrier abroad and to bring up the profile of small- and medium-scale enterprises. “We will continue to be a trail blazer in the industry and be an inspiration and guiding light to our fellow Filipino entrepreneurs,” Magsaysay says. “We are thinking about many new innovations. We want to share them so that we continue to set the bench higher and improve business for SMEs.” Read more:‐corner‐makes‐waves‐beyond‐ph‐ shores#ixzz2nyvyqz00   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                     

‘Green’ group wants leveling of Zambales mountain stopped Category: Companies 19 Dec 2013 Written by Joel R. San Juan AN environmental group on Thursday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a protection order against DMCI Holdings Inc. (DMCHI) from further leveling the mountain in Bolitoc, Santa Cruz, in Zambales province and from cutting off trees in the area. In a 10-page petition for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan, the Agham Party-list—led by its President Angelo Palmones—also asked the court to direct DMCHI to restore to its original state the subject land formation as it serves a barrier against typhoons and sea surges. Aside from a temporary protection order (TPO), a production order must also be issued to compel the respondents to produce all the pertinent documents in respect to DMCHI’s authority to cut and level the said land formation. The group noted that barangay residents claimed that they were never consulted prior to the operations of DMCHI in the area. The petitioner noted that the permit given by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to DMCHI to put up a port in the area does not authorize the latter to cut trees and flatten a mountain and dump its remnants into the sea for its port construction. Even, DMCHI’s environmental compliance certification, according to the group, does not permit the firm to do the same. “But, in any event, the cutting of the subject land formation is unnecessary to the development of port and related facilities and, surely, no government agency will ever allow or authorize the cutting of any land formation, which is illegal per se,” the petitioner added. Aside from DMCHI, named respondents in the petition were the Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau Region 3, led by Director Lormelyn Claudio and PPA, represented by its General Manager Juan Santa Ana. DMCHI, through DMCI Mining, operates a nickel and copper mine in Santa Cruz, Zambales.‐green‐group‐wants‐leveling‐of‐ zambales‐mountain‐stopped  

Peso weakens to 3‐month low By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   2  4 googleplus0  1  

MANILA, Philippines - The peso slid to a three-month low against the dollar yesterday after the US Federal Reserve decided to start scaling back its massive bond buying program. The local unit lost 17.5 centavos to close at 44.435:1 from its finish of 44.26 to $1 on Wednesday. This was the peso’s lowest close since it ended at 44.48 to a dollar on Sept. 8. The peso tracked other Asian currencies yesterday which also fell following the Fed’s announcement. The Indonesian rupiah plunged to a five-year low, while the Malaysian ringgit, Singapore dollar, and Thai baht all hit a three-month low. The US Fed yesterday has cut its monthly asset purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion, marking the start of its tapering. The Fed cited improving jobs data for its decision to decrease the volume of its massive bond buying program and added it may further scale back stimulus on further economic recovery. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas yesterday said policy settings in place remain appropriate and it stands ready to act if needed. Dollars traded on Thursday summed up to $915.9 million, higher than the $535.7 million on Wednesday.

DTI targets 20% hike in FDIs next year By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is a 20-percent rise in foreign direct investments (FDIs) to the country next year amid increasing interest from foreign firms to do business here. Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo told reporters yesterday the DTI is aiming for a 20-percent increase in FDIs on an annual basis starting next year. For this year, he said the target is for FDIs to reach $4 billion. FDIs have been on the rise, with investments reaching $2.8 billion last year from $1.8 billion in 2011 and $1.2 billion a year earlier. The DTI is aiming for total FDIs to the country to increase given the growing interest from foreign companies to do business here. “Wherever we go... what we have seen is there is a very strong interest in the Philippines. It’s almost too good to be true,” Domingo said. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

He noted that as result of the government’s roadshow in Europe in October, two business missions composed of British companies have already been to the country to explore investment opportunities here. The government conducted a roadshow in Europe as part of efforts to promote the country as an investment destination and create more jobs to support economic growth. During the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - Japan Summit held last week, Domingo said at least eight Japanese firms expressed interest to make an investment here. He said if the strong interest in the Philippines continues and firms actually make investments, the country can meet the FDI target set for this year. “If the strength continues, we have a good shot of meeting $4 billion,” he said. As of September, FDIs to the country amounted to $3.1 billion.


Stop Meralco hike, SC asked 4 Party-List Groups Seek Nullification Of ERC Approval by Rey G. Panaligan  December 20, 2013 (updated)  

Manila, Philippines – Four party-list groups yesterday asked the Supreme Court (SC) to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would stop the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) from implementing its staggered P4.15 per kilowatt-hour increase in electricity rates that started this month until March, 2014. They likewise asked the SC to hold oral arguments on their petition to thresh out the issues.

The public has been protesting the P4.15 per kWh increase being implemented by Meralco starting this month. The petitioners – Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna; Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela Women’s Party; Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers Party-list; and Terry Ridon of Kabataan Party-list – said that after the oral arguments, the SC should nullify the order of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) allowing Meralco to increase its rates. The SC, however, is on its Yuletide recess and will resume sessions on January 6, 2014.

But Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, even on recess, can act on any urgent case brought before the SC subject to confirmation by all the members of the court in their following full court session. Wrong Timing In their petition, the party-list groups told that the SC that the rate increases “come at a worse time when the country is still reeling from the worse ever disaster brought by super-typhoon Yolanda.” They said the ERC committed grave abuse of discretion in approving Meralco’s proposal to pass on to consumers the increase in generation cost without complying with the requirements. They pointed out that the ERC also abused its discretion in approving the increases without conducting a public hearing as required by the Electric Power Industry Report Act (EPIRA). They said the ERC, under Section 43 of R.A. 9136 of EPIRA Law, is mandated to promote competition and penalize abuse of market power in the restructured electricity industry. “The suspiciously sudden and simultaneous shutdown of various power plants to coincide with the announced Malampaya ‘turnaround,’ should not have hastily approved the Meralco proposed rate increase barely three days from its submission,” the petitioners said. Hasty Approval “It is really mind boggling that the ERC hastily approved Meralco’s letter request for staggered increase and at the same time order the investigation of the suspected collusion or violation of law of electricity generators and distributor; thus, making us believe that the ERC is also in collusion with vested oil interests in their profiteering activities,” they said. Meralco attributed the abrupt increase in its generation cost to the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya facility that supplies natural gas to three major power plants – Ilijan, San Lorenzo, and Sta. Rita – which supply an aggregate capacity of 2700 megawatts (MW) to its franchise area. It also said that the shutdown of Malampaya coincided with the scheduled maintenance of two other plants, Pagbilao 2 and Sual 1, which also collectively contribute over 950 MW to its requirements. These developments, it stressed, forced Meralco to buy expensive power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). On December 5, 2013, Meralco informed ERC that the total cost of generation to be passed on to its almost five million customers amounted to P22.64 billion, equivalent to a generation charge for December 2013 billing of P9.1070 per kwh.

It pointed out that the cost would result in an increase of P4.15 per kWh for residential customers. It was on December 9, 2013, that the ERC approved Meralco’s request for a rate increase. DOJ Probe Pressed Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon yesterday called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate an alleged collusion among power generators so that appropriate charges under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) could be filed. The call comes as consumers would begin in a three-month period to pay steep prices for power starting this month as a result of questionable and sudden shutdowns of power generating plants following the regular maintenance period of the Malampaya gas fields which supply relatively cheaper natural gas to these plants. The charges could be combinations and monopolies in restraint of trade, according to Drilon who was the Justice Secretary of the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, mother of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Drilon also called for a Senate review of the EPIRA law as a result of the public hearing by the Senate Energy Committee chaired by Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III on the alleged collusion of the power industry players “and examine how we can prevent a repetition of what we saw in the last 30 days of very steep increase in our (electric) charges.” As Senate chief, Drilon said he expects the Osmeña committee to recommend what possible amendments to the EPIRA law could be acted upon by Congress to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. Some legislators had expressed fears that electricity consumers would experience possible brownouts in 2015 because of the lack of power supply. (With a report from Mario B. Casayuran)‐meralco‐hike‐sc‐asked/            

Phl gets concessional loans from JICA: P7.94 B to fund PCG’s maritime safety capability improvement By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has obtained concessional loans amounting to around P7.94 billion from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that would fund the maritime safety capability improvement project for the Philippine Coast Guard. The loan agreement was signed by Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima and JICA president Akihiko Tanaka last week. Under the agreement, JICA will provide loans amounting to P7.94 billion to the Philippines to support the acquisition of ten 40-meter maritime vessels for the Department of Transportation and Communications-Philippine Coast Guard. The project is aimed at further strengthening and developing PCG’s coast watch/patrol and search and rescue capabilities to enhance its capacity in complying with the country’s international commitments on maritime safety and security and maritime environmental protection. The risk of maritime accidents in the Philippines has increased in recent years due to the surge in passenger and freight transport movements between islands, aging and overweight vessels, and natural disasters. The Japanese government has consistently been one of the top ODA Development Partners of the Philippines for several large-scale infrastructure projects which include the capacity enhancement of mass transit systems in Metro Manila which involves the expansion of existing lines of LRT 1 and LRT 2 as well as the new Bohol airport construction and sustainable environment protection project which will replace the existing Tagbilaran Airport.‐gets‐concessional‐loans‐jica‐p7.94‐b‐fund‐ pcgs‐maritime‐safety        

No Charter Change seen next year by Ellson Quismorio  December 20, 2013  

Manila, Philippines – Malacañang still won’t do the Cha-cha next year. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. yesterday said President Benigno S. Aquino III’s position on proposals to amend the 1987 Constitution remains – that means, no change, also known as Cha-Cha, in the 1987 Constitution. Amending the Charter is not on the Aquino administration’s priority list, he said, even if the House of Representatives is reportedly set to prioritize the matter in 2014. “When the President visited Korea last October, he reaffirmed his position the administration has no plan to revise the Constitution. He has consistently maintained that economic restrictions in the Constitution are not detrimental in attracting foreign investments,” Coloma told a news conference in Malacañang. Senate President Franklin Drilon himself said the legislative chamber is “open” to tackling Charter Change once sessions resume next year. But he said moves to amend the Constitution would only prosper under a “unified political leadership.” “We’re open to it. We’ll see how these debates develop. And we will take a position in the appropriate time,” Drilon told reporters Thursday, replying to questions on House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.’s reiteration of his desire to change economic provisions of the Constitution. “But there must be consensus among the political leaders. Because this kind of political exercise must have the support of a unified political leadership,” stressed Drilon. Belmonte, a Liberal Party ally, said Wednesday he would like the House of Representatives to work on softening the restrictive economic provisions of the charter by the first quarter of 2014. Also in Congress, Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas is anticipating the House leadership’s move to amend the restrictive economic provisions of the Constitution would get the nod of “more lawmakers.” The member of the Lower Chamber’s contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal supported Belmonte’s stance to push for the approval of Charter change measure next year with or without the support of President Aquino. Most Solons For Cha-Cha “I think that many of us in the House of Representatives are really for charter change. Others are not just that vocal but now that no less than our Speaker has spoken, I think that more congressmen will voice their support for his position on the charter change issue, “ he said in a statement. He lamented that while other fast growing countries continuously open their doors for more foreign investments, the Philippines remains stuck with its restrictive economic policies.

Both Houses of Congress went on Holiday recess at the end of the final session Wednesday and will not meet again until January 20. Drilon said there has been no recent talk of Cha-cha between him and the House leader. “I haven’t talked to Belmonte. There’s been no discussion of that for the past six months. There were discussions during the first half of the year.” President Aquino serves as chair of the ruling party. But while the LP has the numbers in both Houses to approve the amendments, Aquino himself has been lukewarm to Cha-Cha. Palace Has Other Plans In the meantime, Coloma said the government remains focused on implementing the priority programs under the Philippine Development Plan. These programs “have been instrumental in the country’s attainment of consistently high growth rates for the past seven quarters,” he noted. However, he stressed the Palace will respect the process of Congress as a separate and co-equal body. “We respect the processes of Congress as a separate and co-equal body and whose members like the President are also elected to promote the people’s welfare,” the Palace official said. Despite the lack of discussions between them, Drilon agreed with Belmonte in the sense that only economic provisions should be amended. “It should only be economic. The economic provisions set the policies on the economy. And many are of the view that the very restrictive economic provisions in the Constitution are hampering our ability to compete with our neighbors.” He acknowledged proposals for a complete Constitutional overhaul, including political provisions, but said “there will always be two sides of the coin.” Asked by a reporter if the political provisions needed to be changed since they are as old as the economic ones, Drilon said it shouldn’t work that way. “Some constitutions in the world would last for centuries. The Constitution is a basic document and it’s supposed to provide stability for governance. This is not an ordinary legislation that you can change often,” he said. (With reports from Charissa M. Luci and Mario B. Casayuran)‐charter‐change‐seen‐next‐year/

BAP supports faster integration of Asean banks (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

Photo shows (from left) ASEAN Bankers Association secretary general Paul Gwee, Perbanas chairman  Pak Sigit Pramono, Baiduri Bank Berhad DGM Andrew Young, Laos Bankers’ Association chairman  Vanhham Voravong, The Association of Banks in Cambodia chairman Pung Kheav Se, John Wong from  The Association of Banks in Malaysia, First Private Bank, Myanmar chairman Dr. Sein Maung, Central  Bank of Myanmar deputy governor Daw Khin Saw Oo, deputy minister of finance and revenue Dr.  Maung Maung Thein, Myanmar Banks Association Chairman U Thein Tun, The Association of Banks in  Singapore chairman Samuel Tsien, ASEAN Bankers Association chairman Javed Ahmad, Thai Bankers  Association chairman Chartsiri Sophonanich, Vietnam Banks Association chairman Nguyen Hoa Binh,  Bankers Association of Philippines president Lorenzo Tan and AFC CEO The‐Kwok Chui Lian. 

MANILA, Philippines - The Bankers Association of the Philippines has expressed its full support to the acceleration of the integration of banking services among South East Asian Nations. During the 43rd ABC Meeting in Yangon, Myanmar, the BAP, represented by its president Lorenzo V. Tan of RCBC and executive director Cesar Virtusio, joined counterpart banks across

the region in pushing for a speedier implementation of the ASEAN-wide certification program for the ASEAN One Banking Integration. The program is among the many “next steps” necessary to achieve integrated financial markets in the 10-member ASEAN by 2015. During the Myanmar meeting, the BAP actively participated in the different discussion sessions which outlined the main programs that will be pursued by participating countries in 2014. Among these are: the continuation of a one to one mentoring program which addresses the banking education needs of ASEAN member countries; the conduct of promotional workshops to increase awareness of ISO 20022 – an international payment standard recognized by the ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Banks as the standard to be adopted by ASEAN; the promotion for inter-operability of payments as well as facilitate the integration of cross-border payment systems among ASEAN countries, and; the conduct of study tours to build inter-regional relations. An initiative to establish an efficient and robust intra-ASEAN Payment System was likewise presented during the convention. At the end of the meeting, the Philippine delegation agreed to host the 2014 conference in Manila. “It will be a privilege for the country and for the Filipinos to have a first hand role in further shaping the future of banking across the ASEAN,” said BAP president Tan. “The 44th ABC Meeting along with the 20th ASEAN Banking Conference will be hosted by the BAP in Cebu by the last quarter 2014,” he added. The ABC is a consolidation of the national banking associations representing such countries as 1) Brunei, (2) Cambodia, (3) Indonesia, (4) Laos Bankers’ Association, (5) Malaysia, (6) Myanmar, (7) the Philippines, (8) Singapore, (9) Thailand, and (10) Vietnam.‐supports‐faster‐integration‐asean‐banks              

Trans‐Asia unit inks P4.3‐B loan facility for wind project By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp., the power generation arm of the Phinma Group, through its subsidiary. Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corp. (TAREC), signed yesterday a P4.3-billion project financing facility with the Development Bank of the Philippines and Security Bank Corp. The 15-year facility will be used to fund the construction and development of the 54-megawatt wind farm project in San Lorenzo, Guimaras, Trans-Asia said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE). The wind farm, which has an estimated cost of P6.3 billion, is expected to be in commercial operations within 16 months from the start of its engineering, procurement and construction works. In September, Trans-Asia announced that it has put the wind farm project under TAREC, its renewable energy subsidiary. Trans-Asia signed a deed of sale purchasing 100-percent interest in Trans-Asia Wind Power Corp. (TWPC) from TAREC as part of the restructuring of Trans-Asia’s renewable energy division. Trans-Asia has various investments in the energy sector. The company has power generation businesses by itself and through South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp., Trans-Asia Power Generation Corp. and CIP II Power Corp. Trans-Asia is also involved in renewable energy development via Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corp. and Maibarara Geothermal Inc. as well as in electricity supply as a licensed retail electricity supplier and a licensed wholesale aggregator. The company said it is aiming to double its power capacity to 400 MW in the next few years upon completion of a new 135-MW clean coal power plant in Calaca, Batangas in partnership with the Ayala Group, an integrated 20-MW geothermal project in Sto. Tomas, Batangas with the Yuchengco Group and the Philippine National Oil Co., and the 54-MW Guimaras wind farm.

Manila Water completes initial phase of Balara quake‐proofing By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Water concessionaire Manila Water Co. Inc. (WMC) has completed the initial phase of the P110-million quake-proofing project for its Balara treatment plants. The seismic retrofitting for the Balara Treatment Plants 1 and 2 is part of MWC’s Natural calamity Mitigation Program to ensure that the facilities could withstand a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. The Balara Treatment Plants 1 and 2 were built in 1935 and 1968, respectively. These facilities filter water from Angat, Ipo and La Mesa dams from its raw state to potable drinking water. The plants have a combined treatment capacity of 1, 600 million liters per day, supplying water to 95 percent of the East Zone concession area. The seismic retrofitting project, which lasted for a year, was conducted while the plants remained operational. MWC director for the Project Delivery Group Tom Mattison said the project is an “important first phase” for the Balara treatment plant seismic upgrade and a key part of the company-wide disaster preparedness and natural disaster mitigation program covering all operational facilities. “It’s vital for Manila Water to guarantee the performance, reliability and efficiency of all our facilities so we can continue delivering our water supply and waste water services even during and after major disasters,” he said. MWC is the concessionaire of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System providing water and wastewater services to more than 6.2 million residents in portions of Quezon City and Manila, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Pateros, Makati, Taguig and several towns in Rizal province. MWC is currently challenging before the International Chamber of Commerce the rate reduction recently implemented by the MWSS. The company registered a nine percent growth in its net earnings for the first nine months of the year on higher billed volume and lower operating expenses.

‘Giant Orange’ amazes folk, visitors by Philippine News Agency  December 19, 2013 (updated)  

Baguio City – The “giant oranges” delivered here from Sagada, Mountain Province, unusually awed hundreds of churchgoers and visitors passing by the Baguio public market, as their bright yellow color literally adorn the long line of fruit stalls here. The fruit, which is as sweet as the popular Valencia orange, has a diameter of six inches and at first glance, it appears like a pomegranate (suha) with orange covering. Max Maslan, 40, remembers that his father who once served as a regional director of the Department of Agriculture (DA) was among those who developed the unique variety of orange, and first propagated it in Kalinga. Fruit growers in Sagada who are excellent pomologists who grow at commercial scale other varieties of oranges, apples, persimmon, and other temperate fruits, included planting the unique orange in their wide orchards. In year 2000, the first jeeploads of the giant orange harvested from Sagada were unloaded in this city. From then on, the giant oranges were to be called “Sagada Orange.” Likewise, the farmers have to grow the fruit as one of the “high-value crops” in the mountainous region to also help local environmentalists in reforesting denuded mountainsides. Being very saleable during Christmas and New Year, the fruit growers from all over the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), find plentiful harvest during the cool months. Complex as it seems, the Sagada orange remain as outstanding “one-town, one-product” (OTOP) in several areas of Benguet, Mountain Province, and Kalinga.‐orange‐amazes‐folk‐visitors/          

Sin taxes effective vs smoking By Tina G. Santos  Philippine Daily Inquirer   7:38 am | Friday, December 20th, 2013      

AFP PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Higher tobacco taxes appear to be an effective tool in helping Filipinos kick the smoking habit, according to a group of health advocates. The Action for Economic Reforms (AER) said this observation was based on the surveys and interviews it has been conducting to gauge the impact of the sin tax law on Filipino smokers. Last year, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10351, which mandates a higher tax rate for cigarettes, among others, in a bid to make tobacco products inaccessible, especially to the poor and the youth. Since the first quarter of 2013, AER, in coordination with the Department of Health, has been conducting interviews and focus group discussions with smokers from different sectors in order to assess changes in their smoking consumption since the implementation of the Republic Act No. 10351. Read more:‐taxes‐effective‐vs‐smoking#ixzz2nyp1AZ2v   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook   

DBM defers BSP’s capital infusion by Chino Leyco  December 19, 2013  

The Aquino administration has deferred the release of the remaining P10-billion capital requirement of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) due to super-typhoon “Yolanda” that struck central Philippines. Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad said in an interview with reporters that the deferment was meant to make room for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas devastated by the recent typhoon. Abad pointed the government will be spending an additional P34.5 billion this year for central Philippines, while hiking the 2014 rehabilitation and reconstruction budget to P100 billion. Of the amount for next year, P80 billion will be sourced from unprogrammed funds, while the remaining P20 billion will come from programmed expenditures, the budget chief said. In December last year, the national government infused P20 billion into the central bank. The fund was part of the national government’s legally-mandated equity infusion into the BSP, under the New Central Bank Act of 1993 or Republic Act 7653. With the new release, the government has already infused a total of P30 billion into the BSP, on top of the P10 billion that the monetary authorities received way back in 1996. Abad said the national government only needs to cover a remaining P10 billion of a total P50billion authorized capital stock under the New Central Bank Act. Abad earlier said a stronger and more adequately capitalized BSP was needed in order to sustain the stable macroeconomic and investment climate, especially now that the country is an investment grade nation. The budget chief added that the additional capital infusion will allow central bank to expand its rediscounting facility and help stimulate economic activity by enhancing the delivery of credit to the private sector, particularly micro, small and medium-scale enterprises.‐defers‐bsps‐capital‐infusion/    

Paje unfazed by appointments body’s snub By DJ Yap  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:13 am | Friday, December 20th, 2013  

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje: Not bothered AFP FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Environment Secretary Ramon Paje on Thursday said he was not bothered by the continuing reluctance of the Commission on Appointments (CA) to confirm his ad-interim appointment three years into his term. Paje said his job involved a balancing of interests between environmental protection and promotion of industries (such as mining), which might have led some of the commission members to question some of his decisions. “There’s always a left and right. If you make a decision toward conservation, or environment, industry will object. If you decide in favor of industry, environment groups will object,” he said at the Christmas party hosted by his agency for environment reporters. “The true challenge is how to put yourself in the middle. That’s sustainable development. That has always been my formula. I cannot be swayed completely toward destructive industries, cannot be swayed toward conservation,” he added. He said he has been on the job for more than three years and the complaints raised against him are related to the decisions he makes. Paje said it was no longer about his fitness as a nominee. “What they’re talking about already is the result of my passion. The CA is to determine the fitness of the post, where the job is not yet involved, but since I’ve been here for more than three years, that’s what they talk about,” he said.

Paje also said he was not threatened by the apparent interest of certain political personalities in his post. “I don’t feel threatened… I just perform my work. It all depends on the President,” he said. Read more:‐unfazed‐by‐appointments‐bodys‐ snub#ixzz2nyq42iYX   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                       

‘No‐build’ zones marked in ‘Yolanda’‐hit areas By DJ Yap  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:11 am | Friday, December 20th, 2013  

Ducks swim past damaged houses and trees at typhoon-ravaged Tolosa town, Leyte province, on Dec. 9, 2013. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has finished marking “nobuild zones” on the coasts of Eastern Visayas that were ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” to pave the way for the construction of “green walls” of mangroves and beach forest to protect against coming storms. AP PHOTO/AARON FAVILA MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has finished marking “no-build zones” on the coasts of Eastern Visayas that were ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” to pave the way for the construction of “green walls” of mangroves and beach forest to protect against coming storms. Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the 40-meter no-build zones from the coasts covered approximately 100 kilometers in Samar and Leyte provinces, although not all the areas would be subject to the restriction. “There are areas where growing mangroves and beach forest is not applicable… there are places where infrastructure is more applicable, meaning dikes and breakwaters,” Paje told reporters. Infrastructure measure “If the applicable measure is infra (infrastructure), then we’ll apply infra. When a green measure is more applicable, then we’ll use beach forest and mangroves. There’s no hard and fast rule because there are places where mangroves don’t grow,” he said. Paje said the rebuilding should focus on better, more resilient construction.

“It means new houses in better places, more resilient construction. No more nipa huts and shanties,” he said. “At the very least, the houses should be able to withstand storm speeds of 200 kilometers per hour,” he added. The government has earmarked almost P350 million for a massive coastal rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas, particularly Leyte and its capital city, Tacloban. Restore coastal forests The objective is to restore the region’s degraded coastal forests and make its coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events. Under Presidential Decree No. 1067, or the Philippine Water Code, “banks of rivers and streams and the shores of the seas and lakes throughout their entire length and within a zone of three meters in urban areas, 20 meters in agricultural areas and 40 meters in forest areas, along their margins, are subject to the easement of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage, fishing and salvage.” “Had the mangroves in Leyte and Eastern Samar not been decimated, the storm surge in those areas would have been dissipated by 70 to 80 percent of their strength,” said Paje, citing a study by the Department of Science and Technology. Read more:‐build‐zones‐marked‐in‐yolanda‐hit‐ areas#ixzz2nyrXMNS5   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                     

Senate open to Charter change talks— Drilon By Maila Ager   3:59 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

Senate President Franklin Drilon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Franklin Drilon said the chamber was open to start discussions on Charter Change in 2014 but said it should be done through a constituent assembly where both houses of Congress should vote separately. “There has been no discussion of that for the past months. There were discussions during the first part of the year. We are open to it,” Drilon said at a press conference on Thursday. “We will see how these debates develop and we will take a position at the appropriate time. But there must be consensus among the political leaders because this kind of political exercise must have the support of the unified political leadership,” he said. Drilon issued the statements when sought to react to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte’s statements that he wold push for the passage of a Charter change resolution in the House of Representatives early next year. Drilon said he and Belmonte have not yet discussed the issue but pointed out that the amendments on the economic provisions being pushed in the House were the same amendments he was proposing a couple of years ago. However, the Senate leader said any proposals in the Constitution should follow the procedure in enacting laws and must be passed by a three-fourths votes of each chamber voting separately.

“Yes, follow the procedure in enacting laws but it must be passed by a three-fourths majority of each house voting separately and the amendments must be submitted for ratification before it b becomes effective,” he said. “The reason the Senate rejected the proposal that we must convene as a constitutional assembly voting as one is because you might as well abolish the Senate – because the Senate is just 24 as against the House’s 270 votes. That is why there is a resistance.” ‘But if we vote separately as separate houses of Congress then that possibility would not happen,” Drilon added. Asked if next year was the proper time to pass the Charter change proposal, Drilon said: “Every time that question comes up, the question being raise is: “Is it the proper time?” At the end of the day, it would depend on the people where in the process of ratification, they themselves would decide whether it is proper at this point to amend the Constitution in the manner as presented by Congress acting as a Constitutional assembly.” Read more:‐open‐to‐charter‐change‐talks‐ drilon#ixzz2nytAFOBO   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                       

Agham partylist wants levelling of Zambales mountains stopped By Tetch Torres‐Tupas   1:04 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

MANILA, Philippines–An environmental group on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to issue a protection order for the mountains in Bolitoc, Sta. Cruz, Zambales. The petition was filed against DMCI Holdings Incorporated and DMCI Mining Corporation, which have been engaged in the mining of metallic ore in Zambales. In a 10-page petition, Agham partylist President Angelo Palmones said a temporary protection order is necessary because the mining activity has already leveled a land along Bolitoc village, Sta. Cruz, Zambales. Agham claimed that DMCIHI dumps the soil from the scraped land formation into the seas off Sta. Cruz to form part of the latter’s port. “The subject land formation being destroyed by respondent DMCIHI serves as natural protective barrier of the residents of Zambales and that of the nearby towns of Pangasinan from typhoons and sea surges caused by it like what happened in Tacloban City, Leyte and some parts of Samar,” the petition said. “Once these natural resources are damaged, the residents of these two provinces will be virtually defenseless and their life, health and properties will be at the constant risk of being lost,” the petition added. Related stories Read more:‐partylist‐wants‐levelling‐of‐zambales‐ mountains‐stopped#ixzz2nytUUds1   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook     

BIR urged to raise cap on tax‐exempt 13th‐ month pay, bonuses, allowances By DJ Yap  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:53 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

Bureau of Internal Revenue building. INQUIRER file photo MANILA, Philippines — Rank-and-file employees of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) are petitioning Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares to raise the ceiling of taxes levied on all perks and allowances, including the 13th-month pay. They said employees of national agencies faced a “bleak Christmas” due to the decision of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to tax all benefits for government workers in excess of P30,000. Last week, the DAR management implemented a BIR memorandum circular clarifying the “taxability” of the benefits granted to government employees’ organizations duly approved by the Civil Service Commission (CSC). “It practically wiped out the December salary of the employees as the DAR management deducted in full taxes on fringe benefits over the P30,000 ceiling,” the DAR Employees Association (DAREA) said in its petition. The P30,000 ceiling was set by Republic Act 7833 some 30 years ago. The DAREA said the circular failed to consider that under the law, the ceiling of P30,000 “may be increased through rules and regulations issued by the Secretary of Finance, upon recommendation of the Commissioner, after considering among others, the effect on the same of the inflation rate at the end of the taxable year.”

It said the BIR also failed to consider a section under the law that “benefits given to the rank and file employees, whether granted under a collective bargaining agreement or not, are not taxable.” “However, the [Department of Finance] without the recommendation of the BIR Commissioner failed to consider the rate of inflation and issue recommendations to raise the ceiling and make it more beneficial to government workers,” the DAREA said. The union also circulated a separate petition by government workers seeking the intervention of Congress on the tax ceiling. It noted that the average take-home pay of rank-and-file employees ranged only from P9,000 to P15,000. “The BIR decision will affect an estimated 1.3 million government workers in the country,” it said. “It is sad that while one government agency, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) encourages government workers to negotiate with management for fringe benefits, other agencies like the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) imposes incentive caps and the Bureau of Internal Revenue delivers the death blow with taxes on these incentives,” it added. The workers also said they welcomed the filing by Sen. Ralph Recto of a bill increasing to P75,000 the exemption from income tax. “Hopefully, a champion of a similar bill will rise from the House of Representatives,” they said. “The administration of President Aquino can show his compassion for the lowly rank and file employees by certifying the bill as urgent,” they said. Read more:‐urged‐to‐raise‐cap‐on‐tax‐exempt‐13th‐month‐ pay‐bonuses‐allowances#ixzz2nytgXz4J   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook           

UP board mulls moving class opening to August By Julie M. Aurelio  Philippine Daily Inquirer   3:27 am | Friday, December 20th, 2013  

The Oblation on UP Diliman campus INQUIRER PHOTO Are University of the Philippines (UP) students ready to make the “big shift?” The UP Board of Regents (BOR), the university’s highest decision-making body, will take up in its next meeting in January the proposal to move the opening of classes from June to August. Except for UP Diliman, the flagship campus, other campuses have expressed their support for the shift in the academic calendar. These include UP Baguio, UP Los Baños, UP Manila, UP Visayas, UP Mindanao, the UP Open University and an autonomous college in Cebu. UP vice president for public affairs Dr. Prospero de Vera said the Diliman community’s stand has yet to be finalized as it has the biggest number of constituents who naturally want more consultations. “But based on a college by college assessment, most Diliman colleges seem to be ready for the shift,” he added. The final decision, however, would rest with the BOR. Based on the proposed calendar, registration for the first semester would begin in the second week of August. Classes would start the next week and end on the first week of December.

On the other hand, enrollment for the second semester would be held in the second week of January. Classes would begin the following week and end in the second week of May. As for summer classes, registration would start in the second week of June. Classes would kick off the following week and end in the third week of July. The five-page proposal noted that the shift in the academic calendar would have fewer disruptions, June being the start of the typhoon season. There would also be no interruptions in the momentum of classes since the shift would move the semestral break to coincide with the Christmas holiday. The change in the academic calendar, first proposed by UP president Alfredo Pascual, was mainly prompted by the upcoming integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2015. According to the proposal, the shift was “consistent with the provision of UP’s charter to be a regional and global university and addresses current developments in the region and the world.” Most member-countries of the Asean University Network as well as US, China, Japan, Korea and the European Union start classes in August. “Moving the classes to August will allow for greater synchronization of our academic calendar with that of Asean, Northeast Asian and the American and European universities as well. There will be less problem with semestral overlaps and students can easily get credit transfer on a per semester basis,” the proposal noted. De Vera added that high school graduates accepted as incoming freshmen would enjoy a longer break before the start of classes in August. The shift would not affect the university’s usual release of the UP College Admission Test results in February. However, the Upcat may be moved from its usual August schedule to July. Read more:‐board‐mulls‐moving‐class‐opening‐to‐ august#ixzz2nyuFoeq2   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook     

DPWH stops pork projects, payments Catanduanes multipurpose buildings, water systems, road concreting  By Fernan Gianan  Inquirer Southern Luzon   9:46 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013  

A PROTESTER wearing a pig mask at the Million People March against the plunder of public funds through pork barrel in Makati City in October RICHARD REYES VIRAC, Catanduanes—Contractors of infrastructure projects in Catanduanes province funded under the now illegal Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), better known as pork barrel, are in a dark mood this holiday season after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) suspended the projects and payments for completed work. As a result of the memorandum issued on Dec. 9 by Public Works Undersecretary for Regional Operations Romeo Momo, nearly P40 million in funding has been withheld by the DPWH Catanduanes Engineering District. According to DPWH insiders, several checks ready for signing by top DPWH officials have been returned to the department’s accounting section, frustrating claimant contractors who have been expecting payment for their PDAF-funded projects.

Many of the projects are either nearing completion or already completed, according to sources who also handed to the Inquirer a copy of Momo’s memorandum. Among the suspended payments covered P21 million for eight projects this year, P16.2 million for 23 projects in 2012 and P2.2 million for 12 projects in 2011, said the sources from both the DPWH and contractors privy to the transactions but who asked not to be identified. The projects include 15 involving road concreting worth P23.8 million, 13 water systems worth P1.6 million, nine multipurpose buildings worth P5.4 million, two drainage systems worth P800,000 and a flood control project worth P9.7 million. Momo, in his memorandum, directed all regional directors to “suspend all ongoing projects funded by the PDAF and not to cause payment of any accomplishment” pursuant to the recent Supreme Court decision declaring the PDAF as unconstitutional. He cited the high court ruling that said the decision was immediately executory and covered all PDAF-related projects. Momo, in the same memorandum, said Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson verbally instructed him to disseminate the information to all DPWH offices. Lawyer Brando Ray Raya, chief legal counsel of the DPWH in Central Visayas, had issued a separate memorandum to Ador Canlas, DPWH regional director in Central Visayas, on the same subject. Raya’s memorandum came as a reply to a query on whether the DPWH can still release funds for projects that had been contracted out before the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the PDAF on Sept. 10. In its decision, the Supreme Court said funds allotted in 2013 for PDAF projects must be returned to the National Treasury if no notice of cash allotment had been issued for the projects. In his memorandum, Raya recommended that the high court decision be respected. “Otherwise, the public official violating the same may be held criminally and administratively liable,” said Raya’s memorandum. Until Thursday, it was not known if the Catanduanes Contractors Association, or any of its members, would file a case in court to demand payment. One contractor, who chose to hide his identity for fear of retaliation, said the DPWH order violated due process. Read more:‐stops‐pork‐projects‐payments#ixzz2nyujP0m2   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Farmers oppose release of 28,000 bags of imported rice By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:03am A farmers’ group on Thursday asked the government to stop the release of 28,000 bags of rice seized by the Bureau of Customs in Davao City. The Alyansa Agrikultura and Rice Watch and Action Network or R1 said the Davao City regional trial court’s order to release the shipment would jeopardize the reforms in Customs designed to crash smuggling. “It will hurt local rice farmers who are resolved to intensify domestic rice production while the government institutes incentives and support to increase their income, in the midst of the series of calamities that devastated the agriculture sector this year,” the group said. R1 also asked the Bureau of Customs to continue to seek remedies to stop the release of the smuggled rice. “This is a test of government’s conviction to uphold good governance and the people’s interest. We call on Congress to look into this Davao RTC ruling that may become precedent of similar cases of smuggling that are hurting the local economy,” the group said. The National Food Authority earlier asked the BoC to go after several rice traders who recently brought into the country, through the Port of Davao, some 243,000 50-kilogram bags of rice without import permits. NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said the agency had recommended the filing of appropriate charges against the traders as well as Customs personnel who allowed the shipments to leave the port without permits.‐oppose‐release‐of‐28‐000‐bags‐of‐ imported‐rice/          

Food agency imports P9-b Vietnam rice By Rio N. Araja | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am IN the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda and other calamities that hit the country this year, the National Food Authority has opted to import 500,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam in a deal valued at P9.7 billion. The stocks are meant to serve as buffer for the lean months of July to September in 2014, NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said at a news conference. The rice import was awarded to Vietnam on a government-to-government tender to augment the NFA’s buffer stock that was depleted due to the “abnormally huge requirement for relief operations” in Region 8, particularly in Tacloban City, Leyte and Eastern Samar. Even the rice supply in Metro Manila has been affected by the impact of typhoon Yolanda that flattened Leyte and Eastern Samar and killed over 6,000 people on Nov. 8, he said. “In Metro Manila (Villamor air base) alone, 761,000 bags have been distributed for relief operations,” he told reporters. After an earthquake shook Bohol on Oct. 15, typhoon Santi that flooded a major rice-growing region on Oct. 12, and typhoon Yolanda on Nov. 8, the country’s rice self-sufficiency bid also went down the drain. Estoperez said NFA has only an available buffer stock of the staple for 10 days. Local palay harvest would be brought in by the private sector, and not NFA, for the commercial market. “The NFA buffer stock should be protected for our food security in July to September when there is very little harvest and natural calamities, such as typhoons remain a threat,” Estoperez said. “We have quality assurance officers to ensure that the imported rice from Vietnam is of good quality.” Yolanda affected 137,225 MT of palay planted in 81,056 hectares of land in Regions VI, VII and VIII. According to the Department of Agriculture, damage to rice lands stood at P2.23 billion.‐agency‐imports‐p9‐b‐vietnam‐rice/  

Arroyo to spend X’mas, New Year with family By Merck Maguddayao | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am   THE Sandiganbayan finally allowed former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with her, but only within the confines of her room at the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

Arroyo   The anti-graft court’s First Division granted the 66-year-old former leader’s plea that she be allowed to spend Christmas and New Year’s with her family after the Philippine National Police implemented stricter security measures last Dec. 9. The court allowed the former President to spend the whole days of December 24, 25, 31 and January 1 with her family. The court ordered the PNP Police Security and Protection Group to accept a list of immediate family members who will be spending the holidays with her that she has to submit to the authorities on Dec. 22. “We are thankful to the Sandiganbayan for granting our request,” said Arroyo’s chief of staff Raul Lambino. Lambino said Arroyo was happy with the decision although she continues to be threatened by medical complications from a recent cervical spine surgery.

Reacting to the announcement of the Sandiganbayan’s decision, Malacañang Palace said it was pleased that the former President was allowed to spend the holidays with her family. “We are pleased that the Sandiganbayan allowed former President Arroyo to celebrate Christmas and New Year with her family,” said Palace spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. “We all hope for peace and quiet and goodwill to reign during Christimas time,” he added, weeks after the Palace denied having anything to do with the PNP’s decision to increase restrictions on the detained former leader, including disallowing her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, to stay overnight at the hospital. The PNP announced the increased restrictions on Dec. 9, including shortened visiting and exercise hours, prompting Arroyo’s colleagues, particularly Rep. Silvestre Bello III of 1-BAP party-list, to to ask the Sandiganbayan to grant her a furlough for the holidays. Arroyo has been detained at the VMMC since she was ordered detained by the court pending her trial for plunder charges arising from the alleged misuse of P366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office from 2008-2010. She is also facing two electoral fraud cases before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court. With Ronald O. Reyes‐to‐spend‐x‐mas‐new‐year‐with‐family/                        

Edsa ‘zipper lane’ opens By Rio N. Araja | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am Chairman Francis Tolentino of the Metro Manila Development Authority on Thursday announced the opening of the “zipper lane” EDSA to ease Christmas traffic. He said the traffic counter-flow would start at the inner lane along SM Megamall and stretch to Robinson Place along Pioneer Street in Mandaluyong City. The traffic-reduction scheme is open from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. until Dec. 23 during weekdays, and is expected to control the big volume of vehicles from Ortigas Avenue going to Makati City during the morning rush, he said. As planned, vehicles from SM Megamall will be allowed to enter the northbound lane and to make a counter-flow until reaching the zipper lane exit on Pioneer Street.‐zipper‐lane‐opens‐/                            

‘Stop power rate hike’ By Rey E. Requejo | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am   Solons ask High Court to scrap Meralco move LAWMAKERS on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to stop Manila Electric Co. from jacking up electricity rates by P4.15 per kilowatt hour, the highest increase in the country’s history. In their petition, Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate; Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus; ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio; and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon sought the immediate issuance of temporary restraining order, arguing that the rate increase come at the worst time possible, with the country still reeling from the effects of super typhoon Yolanda. The groups also asked the Court to nullify the Energy Regulatory Commission approval of Meralco’s rate hike. They also appealed to the justices to declare as unconstitutional a provision of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA of 2001 which declared that the power generation and supply sectors were not public utilities, and therefore not subject to regulation by the ERC. In its letter to the ERC dated Dec. 5, Meralco said it would have to increase rates by P4.15 per kWh for residential consumers because it needed to buy more expensive power following the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya gas field. On Dec. 9, the ERC approved Meralco’s request. In approving the increase without the benefit of a public hearing, which is required by law, the ERC committed grave abuse of discretion, the lawmakers said. EPIRA, the petitioners added, was aimed at promoting competition and penalizing abuses of market power in a restructured electricity industry. Given “the suspiciously sudden and simultaneous shutdown of various power plants” to coincide with the announced Malampaya maintenance, the ERC should not have approved Meralco’s petition barely three days from its submission. The petitioners accused the ERC of reneging on its duty to protect the public from anticompetitive practices and market abuse when it approved the P4.15 increase despite clear indications of irregularity in the simultaneous planned and unplanned shutdowns, the hefty spike of electricity prices that Meralco sought.

“It is really mind boggling that the ERC hastily approved Meralco’s letter request,” the petitioners said, adding that the commission’s actions were also collusion with vested oil interests. In the Court of Appeals, the Special 16th Division junked a petition filed by the Foundation for Economic Freedom seeking to stop the ERC from hearing and deciding on a petition filed by the National Renewable Energy Board, which is expected to increase power rates to consumers. Associate Justice Pedro Corales ruled that the petition was moot and academic because the ERC had already ruled on NREB’s petition in October and November. The Appeals Court also ruled that the ERC had not committed grave abuse in approving NREB’s petition. The NREB filed the petition with the ERC on behalf of the renewable energy suppliers to adopt a feed-in-tariff for electricity generated from biomass, ocean, run-off-river hydropower, solar and wind energy resources. The tax on electricity consumers for a period of 20 years would generate money for a subsidy to encourage the development of renewable sources of energy. The FEF had warned that the taxes from electricity consumers nationwide would reach P11 billion annually for the next 20 years collectible through their monthly billings. The Palace on Thursday said it was determined “to uphold and protect the citizens’ welfare” and to carry out its mandate to prevent anti-competitive and market abuse practices.” “In view of this, we support the current Senate inquiry into the recent power rate adjustments. This runs parallel to the on-going investigation of the tripartite committee composed of the Department of Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation, as well as that of the Justice Department’s Office of Competition,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing. Coloma said the Aquino administration hoped that “the Senate inquiry will also lead to concrete proposals on how existing laws can be improved so that the protection of consumer welfare will be assured.” Senate President Frankllin Drilon on Thursday said if collusion is proved in the recent rate hikes, the appropriate criminal charges would be filed. Also on Thursday, a labor group criticized Senator Sergio Osmena III for concluding publicly that there was no collusion among power generating companies and Meralco on the rate hike, pre-empting the investigtions by the Energy and Justice departments.

“Serge is a consistent supporter of power industry players since his sponsorship of the EPIRA Law which ushered in the era of high electricity rates to his defense of Meralco’s gargantuan rate hike,” said Wilson Fortaleza of the Partido ng Manggagawa. Fortaleza was one of the signatories to the complaint against Meralco and generation companies lodged by groups last Monday with the Justice Departments Office for Competition. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima vowed to come up with the findings by January next year. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta, Ronald O. Reyes and Vito Barcelo‐stop‐power‐rate‐hike‐/                                    

Cha‐cha bid dead this early —Palace By Joyce Pangco Panares | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am   PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Thursday opposed a move by Congress to ignore the Palace and pursue amendments to the Constitution. “The President has re-affirmed his position that the administration has no plan to revise the Constitution,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said. “He has consistently maintained that economic restrictions in the Constitution are not detrimental in attracting foreign investments.” On Wednesday, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House of Representatives was prepared to defy Aquino’s wishes that they do not to tamper with the 16-year-old Charter. Belmonte, a stalwart of the President’s Liberal Party, said amendments to some restrictive economic provisions would be a priority when Congress resumes sessions on Jan. 20 next year. He said the amendments could be approved by the first quarter of 2014 as he assured the public that the Constitution’s political provisions will remain untouched. Coloma said Congress is free to propose any Charter amendments, but the President, who has the final say on legislative measures through his veto power, will not change his mind. “We respect the processes of Congress as a separate and co-equal body and whose members like the President are also elected to promote the people’s welfare,” the Palace official said. Earlier, Belmonte filed a resolution to amend some of the Constitution’s economic provisions through a separate voting of congressmen and senators. He said the amendments would take place after three fourths of all the members of the House and the Senate had voted. In an earlier interview, Aquino said there was “no absolute certainty” that lifting the economic restrictions would result in economic gain. “Before we do Charter change, I think there should be concrete evidence that it would help our country,” the President said. “There’s an American saying, don’t fix what ain’t broke,” he said, adding that instead of spurring growth, Charter change might actually derail the country’s economic takeoff. Aquino warned that even if the proponents of Charter change would want to limit the amendments to economic provisions, such moves can open the floodgates for other amendments.

A key ally of the President, Senate President Franklin Drilon, said the senators are open to amendments but said these should be limited only to economic provisions. “We will see how these debates develop, and we will take a position at the appropriate time,” said Drilon. He also underscored the need for a consensus among political leaders. “This kind of political exercise must have the support of the unified political leadership,” said Drilon, noting that there have been no discussions in the last several months. Drilon added that he had not talked to Belmonte about Charter change. “But the process they are suggesting is the process that I initiated a couple of years ago, that when we propose amendments to the Constitution... in the same manner as we pass laws,” Drilon said. He supported separate voting for both chambers, adding that the Senate would always resist having the two houses voting as one, because the congressmen outnumbered the senators 270 to 24. The changes Belmonte wants to introduce in the Constitution involve those that limit foreign ownership and exploitation of land, natural resources and businesses, including media and advertising. The Constitution currently limits foreign ownership of certain businesses to 40 percent equity. Belmonte said the House was keen on lifting these limits to attract more investments. “What we want is an inclusive growth, and that really involves creating jobs and new industries. And I think this will help in the country’s foreign direct investments and will result in an increase in our gross national product,” Belmonte said. With Macon R. Araneta‐cha‐bid‐dead‐this‐early‐palace/            

Canada sets priority for storm victims By Sara Susanne D. Fabunan | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am THE Canadian Embassy is speeding up the application for immigration of the Filipinos dislocated by super typhoon “Yolanda,” newly appointed Canadian Ambassador to Manila Neil Reeder said Thursday. During a sit-down lunch with reporters in his residence in Makati City, Reeder said they were facilitating the immigration application of “several hundreds” of Filipinos affected by the killer typhoon. Yolanda left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing after winds of up to 315 kilometers per hour struck an area described by the United Nations as about the size of Portugal on Nov. 8. The giant tsunami-like waves created by the storm surges, as well as ferocious winds, wrecked 1.2 million houses, displacing 4.4 million people in some of the country’s poorest regions. “What we’ve done, we’ve gone through our files to see those who have family members in the typhoon-affected areas,” Reeder said. “We are pulling those files out and moving them up. We identify cases from Leyte, Samar, Panay and Northern Cebu.” Reeder said his embassy had been calling applicants if they wanted to advance their applications, but he said some were not yet ready to attend to immigration procedures. The Canadians who lost their travel documents because of the typhoon “will have their application expedited” by the embassy. As part of its assistance to the Philippines in the aftermath of Yolanda, the Canadian government earlier announced it would give priority to the pending immigration applications of those who were “personally and significantly” affected by the typhoon. The Canadian government’s Citizenship and Immigration Counter in Manila has set up special email addresses and dedicated phone lines to respond to any request from applicants and their families. There are also trunk numbers that applicants may call to demonstrate that they have significantly and personally been affected by the typhoon and wish to declare their cases a priority. Canada, Reeder said, continued to be an important destination for Filipinos looking to immigrate to Canada or to work or study in that country temporarily. “Our embassy in Manila is the second busiest Canadian visa office in the world,” Reeder said.

In 2012 the Canadian Embassy issued permanent resident visas to nearly 33,000 Filipinos. It also issued 8,292 temporary foreign workers’ visas and 31,757 temporary resident or visitors’ visas to Filipinos. “This flow of Filipinos to Canada has meant that Tagalog is now the fastest growing language group in Canada, and Filipinos are making their presence felt in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver,” Reeder said. Reeder arrived in the Philippines one week before Yolanda struck most provinces in the Visayas. “I am new to your country as I arrived one week before Typhoon Yolanda and have been on a fast track ever since,” Reeder said. “It is a great honor for me to serve as the new ambassador of Canada to the Republic of the Philippines, especially at a time when the relations between our two countries are pleasantly robust and constantly growing.” Reeder said the Canadians were deeply saddened by the scale of the devastation and the level of human suffering caused by Yolanda. Immediately after Yolanda struck, Canada started been working in consultation with the Philippine government and civil society representatives, Reeder said. He said Canada quickly provided $20 million worth of food, shelter and safe water to disaster victims. He said Canada’s Disaster Response Team had already completed its humanitarian assistance in the Philippines, particularly in Panay where most of its contingent had been deployed because most of the relief and assistance had been focused on Tacloban City.‐sets‐priority‐for‐storm‐victims/              

‘Yolanda not a result of climate change’ By Sara Susanne D. Fabunan | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am US SECRETARY of State John Kerry said Thursday science could not prove that super typhoon “Yolanda” was the result of climate change after a reporter from The New York Times posed the question. Yolanda swept through the Visayas on Nov. 8, killing almost 6,000 people and causing damage in 44 provinces across nine regions. Over 13 million people had their lives turned upside down and over a million houses were either destroyed or severely damaged. “I’ve been involved in this issue since the 1980s. I believe in the science of climate change, I believe in its scientists that human beings are contributing to it,” Kerry said. “A significant cause of climate change is the increase in emissions, which is creating major changes across the planet. The scientists predict we will see massive changes in agriculture, the ecosystem, the fisheries and in the water supply. “Having said everything, I say science cannot prove that typhoon Yolanda was specifically the result of climate change.” Kerry said it was not possible at this point in time to make a direct linkage between climate change and the devastation wreaked by Yolanda. “They are predicting greater intensity in storms over time, but the pattern evolves and that may be more determinative,” he said. But Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said he considered the recent storm as part of climate change. He warned that typhoon Yolanda could happen again. “The expectation can be the norm. I think that climate change is a threat we must address—the expectation that Yolanda is not once in a lifetime. That it can happen again,” Del Rosario said. “[That’s why we need to] come up with a national plan for reconstruction.” In a separate interview on Wednesday, British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said his government had been calling on the Philippines to acknowledge the climate change.

PNoy finds ‘hope, comfort’ in 2013 TOYM awardees By Ronald Reyes | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am   This year’s awarding of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) at the Malacañan Palace Thursday brought “ hope and comfort” to President Benigno Aquino III. In his speech during the awarding ceremony, Aquino was all praises to the honorees, recognizing their individual and distinct services which contribute to the growth of the Philippine society and inspiration to the rising generation of Filipinos. “Because this is exactly what you have chosen to do, you are no longer just individuals who happen to excel in your specific fields. With this distinction, you are role models not only for the communities you have immediate contact with, but also and more importantly, for a nation of millions.” “Our countrymen see in your example the fruits of hard work, excellence, and compassion. You are the hope that inspires them to pursue their own dreams, and hopefully, in so doing, to touch the lives of others,” Aquino said. Events like this are a source of hope and comfort to me, he added. “Many people have asked me what will happen to the country when I step down from the presidency—as if to imply that I am the only one putting in long days and nights for this country. Events like this remind all of us that there will never be a shortage of Filipinos who are willing to take on the task of nation-building—that, in fact, there are so many of us who are working to uplift and empower our fellow men.” “This is the very principle of bayanihan—of everyone doing his part for a common purpose—a belief which all of you exemplify every day, as you tread your own Daang Matuwid in your professional lives. This is the very principle of The Outstanding Young Men awards. So at these events, when I meet people who are as committed to helping others as you are, I know I am looking at those men and women who are working alongside us in building the future of this country—a future characterized by solidarity and genuine, meaningful progress—a future where no one definitely would be left behind,” Aquino pointed out. According to Aquino, the occasion is “particularly important now, at a time when normalcy and hope are beginning to return to areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda, made possible by the dedication of the people who have come to their aid, including our friends from other shores and, especially, our countrymen.” Apart from extolling the ten awardees, Aquino did not also fail to express appreciation to all Filipinos who “never stand idly by and let others suffer alone, because compassion and the

utmost generosity are intrinsic to our people, ” particularly during calamities like when typhoon Yolanda hit central Philippines in November 8. “Is this not another thing to be thankful for?...We saw this in our fellow citizens who flocked to repacking centers day and night; and in students and employees who donated their allowances and salaries to relief efforts. We saw this in the private sector and civic groups who organized their own relief drives. We see this even today: in men and women like you who care about fostering change that uplifts their fellow men.” Leading the TOYM 2013 awardees are Chris Tiu (Youth Leadership Development), Emerson Bautista Atanacio (Social Enterpreneurship), June Cheryl Cabal-Revilla (Community Service), Nicole Paula Cayco Curato (Sociology), Custer Calingasan Deocaris (Science Communications), Miguel Rene Alcantara Dominguez (Government and Public Service), Alonzo Alolud Gabriel (Food Science and Technology), Karl Michael Gutierrez Reyes (Medicine), and Paolo Antonio Sandico Silva (Medicine).

Stocks, peso fall on Fed tapering By Jennifer Ambanta | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:04am The peso and the stock market retreated Thursday, after the US Federal Reserve announced it will reduce monetary stimulus that has fueled demand for emerging markets’ assets such as the Philippines in the past. The Fed said it would cut its monthly bond purchases to $75 billion, from the current $85 billion amid an improved outlook for the job market in the world’s largest economy. The PSEi, the 30-company benchmark index of the Philippine Stock Exchange, shed 38 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 5,923.12 Thursday while the peso dropped 0.4 percent to hit a fourmonth low of 44.435 against the US dollar. “It’s probably just a short-term reaction to the tapering announcement, but I don’t see a sharp sell-off from here,” said Shigehisa Shiroki, chief trader on the Asian and emerging- markets team at Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd. in Tokyo. The Bangko Sentral said it was watching developments to determine if there was any need to fine-tune its policy. “Coming to this meeting, several Fed officials had already indicated an openness to a taper soon, and some market participants have indeed called for, at best, a $10-billion reduction in asset purchases... So far, market has reacted as expected,” Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said. Tetangco said the Fed tapering was not a negative indicator, but a positive signal that the US economy was improving. “This step towards normalization is welcome, as this means the US economy is growing with some traction setting in, which in turn is positive for trade in EMEs [emerging markets,” Tetangco said. He, however, warned there might be some volatility in the future caused by the tapering. “There may be some volatility in the financial markets near term, but not in the order of what we had seen in May/June this year,” he said. Tetangco said economic fundamentals were in place and remained relevant to the current situation. “The Philippine fundamentals remain solid and policy settings continue to be appropriate,” he said. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the much improved macroeconomic fundamentals and better managed fiscal situation would allow the country to go through tapering from a proactive position.

“The government has always been mindful that the Fed will eventually scale back its bond purchases and consequently has imposed strict fiscal discipline and fast-tracked governance reforms that allowed us to deploy our resources strategically resulting in increased infra and people investments,� Purisima said.

Incipient bid winners of MRT-LRT ticket project By Boy P. | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:02am

As seen in past project bids opened by the Transportation Department, the MRT-LRT Ticket Project bid seems to have a winner but hasn’t been awarded the project yet. The Ayala-Metro Pacific consortium beat competitors in the MRT-LRT single ticketing project by offering a “negative bid” of a little over a billion bucks—which means the consortium will actually be paying government to undertake the massive project! But just as you start to imagine the DoTC speeding over to award the project, the mega tandem must wait for 15 days as the Special Bids and Awards Committee scrutinizes the bid and waits for any protest over initial results. Ha-ha. Apparently, one can’t be too careful with Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific, eh? But then again, this goes to show how careful the DoTC is in ensuring that government and the millions of MRT/LRT riders get the best deal possible. Thing is, the agency has built a solid track record for choosing not to award a project at all if the bidder shows any minuscule thing wrong with its bid. Oddly enough, the Ayala-MPIC status reminds us of another transportation project that we’re told actually had a winner but was not awarded because of a couple of missing brochures and laptops that weren’t even a core requirement of the bid. Yup,—that’s how exacting they are over at the DoTC and LTO with the Road IT Infrastructure Project! We wonder though why the bright guys of DoTC/LTO entertained the bid of a company whose office sits on top of a beauty parlor, and another whose Web site doesn’t even say who owns it. Thanks to that fiasco—er—extreme diligence on the part of the DoTC, drivers and people registering cars continue to experience the wonders of an outdated computer system. Why, even car smugglers and thieves are probably loving this old system, too! Lest we forget, Merry Christmas to Stradcom—that fine company serving the requirements of motorists so well that government decided it couldn’t be replaced. Not yet, at least. A few months ago a stoolie decided to come clean with “the law” and own up to a traffic violation. When the LTO guys looked up his license, they couldn’t find his record at all! You’d think our buddy would have gotten off scot-free but as it turns out, the guy behind the counter accused him of carrying a fake driver’s license! For sure, we laughed so hard at our stoolie’s misfortune before ordering him half a dozen shots of Johnny Walker Blue. That’s the kind of friends we are, we revel in the grotesque mishaps of people lucky enough to be associated with us.

With the number of road mishaps and accidents happening all around (like that Don Mariano bus that flew from the flyover and killed around 18 people), perhaps it becomes increasingly important to make sure the IT system that handles millions of driver’s license and car registration records is up to speed. It’s the basis of enforcing accountability and if we can’t do that, we might as well openly declare that governance exists everywhere except in the streets. Buses from hell Just how much exactly can a victim of a vehicular accident claim as a just and fair compensation for injury, damage to property or worse, death? The families of the 18 commuters who perished in the ill-fated Don Mariano Transit bus that fell from the Skyway onto a closed van along the South Luzon toll way last Dec. 16 would be compensated P75,000 each from the bus lines’ insurance firm, while those injured would receive P15,000 each. By any standard, that is a ridiculously measly sum of money to soothe the grieving families of those victims especially the fatalities because the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has miserably failed to do its job against erring bus operators and drivers. And to rub salt to injury, LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez merely ordered a 30-day suspension of the 78 buses of Don Mariano Transit instead of revoking the company’s franchise, banning its erring drivers and penalizing its operators for causing the most number of deaths, the most number of injured people and the largest cost of damage to property. We don’t understand why it has to take another accident for the LTFRB chair to order thorough roadworthiness tests for Don Mariano’s buses. After all, the agency that Ginez heads knows too well that the bus company has a long history of accidents. Was it not LTFRB itself that included Don Mariano Transit buses in the 2011 “List of Most Dangerous Metro Manila Buses” for causing the most number of deaths and injuries to motorists, commuters and bystanders alike? And another important thing: How sure are commuters and passengers that bus operators plying Metro Manila routes have a valid insurance policy to cover road accidents? Take the case of Precious Grace Transport Bus Lines whose bus with plate number UWC-367 rammed the rear of a Toyota Vios Sedan (ZEJ-127) while the driver was already on the safe lane taking a right turn to Eton Centris along EDSA last Sept. 28. Based on the traffic accident report that Happy Hour obtained, bus driver Rizalino Bosangit Bayobo admitted his fault and asked his supervisor to negotiate on his behalf. The guy promised to furnish a copy of the bus insurance policy so that the respective insurance companies can arrange for the expenses in repairing the damaged Vios. The bus is registered under Grace M. Joaquin of 88 San Jose Patag, Santa Maria, Bulacan whom we understand is also the operator and owner of the Precious Grace Transport Bus Lines. Unfortunately, when the Vios owner demanded for insurance claims, Precious Grace reportedly gave an incorrect policy paper. Despite repeated demands, the poor Vios owner was given the runaround. Worse, Precious Grace’s insurance firm, Standard Insurance Co. Inc., disclosed that the bus involved in the said accident was not covered by any insurance at all.

Can you believe it? Here’s a bus company that has often figured in accidents along Edsa (and highly suspicious hold-ups as well) but seems to be so irresponsible in allowing uninsured buses to ply the roads. This bus company might as well change its name to Dis-Grace. And by the way, what’s LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez doing to make sure that all buses have valid insurance policies? Why do bus companies and operators whose buses often figure in accidents allowed to operate—and only get their franchises suspended when fatal accidents like what happened in Skyway get wide media coverage? Just asking.

Govt eyes 50 PPP projects by 2016 By Jennifer Ambanta | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:02am The government plans to roll out 50 public-private sector partnership projects by 2016, the PPP Center said Thursday. PPP Center executive director Cosette Canilao said the government designed a mechanism for the faster implementation of the projects. She said the target of the government was attainable, considering the capacity building the PPP Center has undertaken over the years. “In 2011, we did a lot of foundation building, policies, all the non-sexy stuff and at least two projects was rolled out to test the whole process,” she said. The center said of the 50 projects identified by the implementing agencies, 15 projects were expected to be signed, seven completed and 10 turned over to the private sector by 2016. Canilao said aside from the identified 50 projects, the implementing agencies were also developing other projects. “Despite the current pipeline, there are still a lot of projects which the implementing agencies are developing,” she said. Canilao said various projects were being uploaded and taken down from the pipeline. “That is just the nature of the pipeline,” she said. She said one recent development was the signing of the contract of the Ayala Group, the management of the South Luzon Expressway and the Public Works Department. The contract stated the expansion plans that the expressway needed in the future which includes the widening of a four-lane highway to a six-lane road. Canilao said premiums from the bidding in 2013 hit P72.39 billion. The agency said of the total, P11 billion was from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport expressway, P900 million from the Daang Hari project, P1.88 billion from automated collection fare system and P14.4 billion for the Mactan-Cebu international airport project.

BSP equity delayed By Jennifer Ambanta | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am The Budget Department said the government may delay the release of an additional P10 billion for the capitalization of the Bangko Sentral. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said funds at the moment were directed to the Visayas for the reconstruction of areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda. “We might delay the additional payment to BSP to fund the reconstruction of typhoon-stricken areas,� Abad said. The additional P10 billion was supposed to be released to the Bangko Sentral this year and complete the P50-billion recapitalization of the bank stated under the New Central Bank Act of 1993 or Republic Act No. 7653. President Benigno Aquino III approved the release of P20 billion for the Bangko Sentral in 2012. The additional capital will allow the agency to expand its rediscounting facility and help stimulate economic activity by enhancing the delivery of credit to the private sector.


Group welcomes BIR cigarette ruling By MST Business | Dec. 20, 2013 at 12:01am The Philippine Council of Management, a non-political federation of professionals and technological societies, academe and business enterprises, has welcomed the decision of Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares to reject Philip Morris’ request to sell four premium Marlboro variants at prices similar to Mighty brands. “We commend the BIR for its alertness and steadfast implementation of Republic Act 10351, otherwise known as the Sin Tax Law, meant to level the playing field in taxation and protect local industries like Mighty Corp.,” Philcoman president Benjamin Santos said in a letter of commendation to BIR. “We are particularly concerned not only because local low-priced cigarette producer MC is being singled out for demolition by its rival, using convoluted statistics and baseless assumption produced by a research firm that MC was selling P1 per stick cigarettes because it had resorted to technical smuggling and tax evasion,” Santos said. “You don’t have to be an intelligent person to see the rival’s monopolistic motive why it tried to destroy MC while at almost the same time it sought BIR permission to allow its expensive premium cigarettes at prices similar to MC’s P1 per stick brands,” he said. “Make no mistake. They want complete control of the multibillion-peso tobacco market,” Santos said. Philcoman, a non-government organization that has been existing since 1954, is committed to protect Filipino businesses against economic malpractices, unfair labor, human rights abuses, monopoly and too much deregulation. One of its advocacies is the immediate passage of the anti-trust law pending before Congress.

Be angry at Meralco’s rate hike December 19, 2013 10:20 pm   by Rigoberto Tiglao Columnist Very angry in fact—the steep electricity cost is sheer highway robbery of Meralco’s more than five million customers, most of them poor. Its audacity is shameless, executed during the Christmas season and while the nation’s attention had been nailed to super typhoon Yolanda’s horror. Because of Meralco’s rate increase this month, a company or a small group of companies, which the firm isn’t disclosing, will generate P8 billion in windfall profits for just one month, December, and you’ll be paying for these. If your bill for the 400 kilowatt hour (kWh) you consumed in July was P4,501, your December bill would be about a thousand pesos more, at P5,671, the extra P1,000—your contribution to the dividends of the Philippine corporate elite. What happened? To simplify, Meralco bought in November about 10 percent of the electricity it distributed at three times its normal price, which higher cost it insouciantly passes to you in your December bill. Meralco claims it had to buy expensive power from the market because its regular suppliers couldn’t deliver the required volume, because many of them had to shut down. The following are the facts. Some 51 to 57 percent of your Meralco electric bill, depending on how much you consume, is the cost of the power the company buys from generators. The rest are such charges as distribution and transmission costs, Meralco’s profits margins, and the recovery of such expenses such as its P1.7-billion advertising budget. The power Meralco distributes come from two sources. First are its eight to ten regular suppliers which have supply contracts with Meralco. The second source, started in 2007 is the so-called “Wholesale Electricity Spot Market” theoretically a market which, in Luzon, consists about 50 companies that have power plants, a few distributors the biggest of which is Meralco, and about 300 electric cooperatives. Meralco purportedly has to buy from the WESM when its suppliers are unable to provide it with the necessary power, either because they had to shutdown for maintenance and other reasons (as happened in November) or demand becomes too high, as happens in the summer season as more electricity for air-conditioning are used. Since 2007, Meralco buys an average of 5 to 10 percent monthly of its total power supply y from the WESM.

Like any market, from a fish to a stock market, the WESM is supposed to be a mechanism by which electricity is treated as a tradable commodity, and therefore its price is determined by its supply and demand. However, as happened in October and then on a bigger scale in November, there was either a total failure of the market, or—the most logical reason—there has been a collusion between Meralco and its power suppliers. From July 2007 to September this year, the average cost of power Meralco had bought from the WESM was P7.8 per kilowatt hour (KwH). This, as in any market, represent some premium from the P4/kwH in Meralco’s Power Supply Agreements with six companies, and P5.5/kwh in its more expensive Purchase Power Agreements with three firms. Despite the fact that there have been more participants in the WESM, the average price Meralco has bought from it has doubled from P5.2/kwH from July 2007 to June 2010 under President Arroyo’s watch, to P10.11 from July 2010 to September 2013, during President Aquino’s term. And how much did Meralco bought from the WESM in November, which it will recover through your December bill? A staggering P33.22/kWh, which is three times the average monthly price of P11.7 from January to September this year. It is the highest price ever sold at the WESM in its seven years of existence. Meralco claimed it had to buy from the WESM because of shortfalls in the power volume its regular suppliers were contracted for, due to scheduled or unscheduled shutdowns for various reasons including the dearth of natural gas fuel from the Malampaya facility, which also closed for maintenance. But there wasn’t such a huge shortfall in electricity supply in November to merit such an exorbitant price as the P33.22 price paid in the WESM. Meralco’s regular suppliers in November provided 73 percent of its power needs. This was hardly different from the situation in October when its regular suppliers provided 75 percent of its electricity, and it bought 7.6 percent from the WESM at P13.7/kwh. There was in fact a bigger shortfall in the power its regular suppliers could provide in December 2010. For that month, Meralco had to buy 12 percent of its electricity from WESM, but it paid only P7/kwH, less than fourth of the P33 it paid in November this year. Transactions in the stock market are suspended when prices rise just 25 percent. Why didn’t the Energy Regulatory Commission step in and declare a market failure at the WESM? Was the national leadership alerted about this serious development that threatened the welfare of millions of metro Manila residents? Or didn’t it realize its impact? Or did it think, “Bahala na ang merkado.” (It’s all up to the market.)?

Why didn’t Meralco complain of an obvious market failure? Or would have its owners one way or another profit from the market failure? I was told that only three companies through the WESM sold Meralco the 286.4 gigawatt hours of power, at an average of P33.22/kwH. How much would they have made? The cost of power generated by these companies would be about P5.3/kwH, if we use the average price of power sold to Meralco in November by its regular power suppliers. This means that the firms which sold Meralco power at P33.22 for P9.512 million generated their electricity at a cost of only P1.5 billion. How much will they make when Meralco pays them, after we pay our electric bills? A staggering P8 billion, super-profits generated by 5 million mostly low to middle-income metro Manila residents, like you and me. Three groups own Meralco: that of Manuel V. Pangilinan (PLDT-Smart), the Lopezes of ABSCBN, and the San Miguel conglomerate. Firms owned by the Lopezes and San Miguel though are also Meralco’s regular power suppliers, with the former being the biggest supplier accounting for a fourth of its electricity and the latter, 20 percent. Other major suppliers are firms owned by the Aboitiz and DMConsunji conglomerates. It is important to note though that these firms are also players in the WESM. A very important information the Electricity Regulatory Commission should disclose to the public: Which companies sold Meralco electricity at the exorbitant price of P33.22/kwH in November, which will be charged to us, the consumers? The one fundamental reason for our high electricity rates is the cost of coal and oil, since we do not have the much cheaper nuclear power. Under an incompetent government though which is impotent in intervening in a market that has failed, there has emerged an even more important factor: the greediness of the elite. and

Malacañang backs Senate power rate hike inquiry December 19, 2013 10:18 pm   by Catherine S. Valentte, Jefferson Antiporda Reporters And Jomar Canlas Senior Reporter Malacañang is supporting the Senate inquiry to determine if power plant operators conspired to bring about the conditions that justify an increase in electricity rates. In a press conference on Thursday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government is ready to take the steps to protect the public welfare. ”We reiterate the government’s determination to uphold and protect the citizens’ welfare and to implement our mandate under the law to prevent anti-competitive and market abuse practices,” he said. ”In view of this, we support the current Senate inquiry into the recent power rate adjustments,” Coloma said. The Senate is looking into possible collusion among power plant operators to create an artificial power shortage and justify a record increase in electricity rates. The operators came under suspicion after several plants shut down simultaneously at a time when the Malampaya natural gas facility in Palawan was closed for repairs. Power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said the shutdowns prompted it to raise its rates by P3.44 per kiloWatt-hour. Coloma said the Senate inquiry “runs parallel to the ongoing investigation of the tripartite commission composed of the Department of Energy, Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Philippine Electricity Market Corp., as well as that of the Department of Justice’s Office of Competition.” ”We hope that the Senate inquiry will also lead to concrete proposals on how existing laws can be improved so that the protection of consumer welfare will be assured,” he added. But Senate President Franklin Drilon made it clear that the Senate investigation is meant to determine if there is a need to review the Electricity Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) Law. Drilon said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) can look into the collusion angle. The tripartite commission is scheduled to release its findings on December 30.

“The basic mandate of the NBI is to investigate crimes. The NBI and the DOJ have enough authorities under the existing laws to initiate an investigation,” Drilon said. Drilon said he has yet to review the Epira law, but because suspicions of collusion have surfaced he believes the law needs closer scrutiny. Senator JV Ejercito is also for reviewing the Epira law, saying it has failed to dismantle the power cartel or bring down the price of electricity. “Overpricing is not new for power companies. The problem is, even after the implementation of the Epira law in 2001, the power rate has not lowered. The present charge is almost the same with the 2001 rate of P3.846 kwH,” Ejercito said. A group of congressmen has asked the Supreme Court to stop the power rate hike. Reps. Neri Javier Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna; Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela Women’s Party; Rep. Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers Party; and Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan petitioned for a restraining order from the Court against the Energy Regulatory Commission and Meralco. The petitioners said the rate increase was ill-timed, coming as it is “when the country is still reeling from the worse ever disaster brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda.” They said “most of the end-users who will be suffering from more expensive electric bills from December to March are those who in some way have been likewise affected by the disasters which recently hit the country.”

Aquino still refuses to ‘Cha-cha’ December 19, 2013 10:16 pm   by Catherine S. Valente Reporter President Benigno Aquino 3rd is still firmly against the proposed amendments to the Constitution despite renewed appeals from Congress. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters on Thursday that the President has not changed his position, saying that the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions are not a necessary detriment to attracting foreign investments. “When the President visited Korea last October, he reaffirmed his position that the administration has no plan to revise the Constitution. He has consistently maintained that economic restrictions in the Constitution are not detrimental in attracting foreign investments,” Coloma said. “We remain focused on implementing the priority programs under the Philippine Development Plan that have been instrumental in the country’s attainment of consistently high growth rates for the past seven quarters,” he said. On one hand, Coloma noted that the Palace will not oppose any move by Congress to introduce constitutional amendments. ”We respect the processes of Congress as a separate and co-equal body and whose members like the President are also elected to promote the people’s welfare,” he added. Aquino earlier said the government could further enhance the business environment even without touching the Constitution. To ensure the ease of doing business in the country, the President has signed an administrative order creating an inter-agency task force to implement reforms in the business sector. The Task Force on Ease of Doing Business will carry out the Gameplan for Competitiveness designed by the National Competitiveness Council and endorsed by the Economic Development Cluster, Coloma said.

Extra budget available for ‘Yolanda’ reconstruction December 19, 2013 10:12 pm   by Kristyn Nika M. Lazo Reporter The budget cabinet Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) announced on Thursday that the allotted budget for super typhoon Yolanda operations was at P100 billion as P20 billion had been placed to program expenditures and P80 billion in unprogrammed plans. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told reporters after the DBCC 2014 proposed national budget meeting that the P100 billion for 2014 Yolanda reconstruction would be additional to the P34.5 billion for disbursement this year. The budget secretary added that aside from the reconstruction funds coming from the national budgets, the President is still bound to sign the supplemental budget proposed by the Congress totaling to P14.6 billion for the programs and actions listed in the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) plan. Besides government budget, the Abad cited that there will be an “increase” in Yolanda funds as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) offered additional amounts to Yolanda assistance that would total to $1.05 billion, near $1 billion and $500 million, respectively. “We are confident that with the commitments made by [ADB] and the World Bank, we should be able to cover with the proceeds from this very concessional loans,” Abad said. Abad and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the development partners, bilateral and multilaterals would still assess the help that they would offer in accordance to the presentation of RAY plan on Wednesday. “The response was very good because their seeing the government acting in this with urgency so they think that the possibility of increasing support is very good,” Abad said. Balisacan, who is also the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general, said that they are still looking for other sources of loans best for the recovery and reconstruction, as they prefer “highly concessional loans” with long grace periods. The NEDA chief also said that they are pushing for the infrastructure spending to reach 5percent share of the GDP within the president’s term.

As of today, infrastructure investments in country amounted to 3.2 percent, but it “can go higher� as there would be increased construction in wake of the Yolanda reconstruction and recovery in the Visayas region. On Wednesday, the NEDA said that the total recovery and reconstruction costs of Yolanda would total to P361 billion, or $8.2 million as per the RAY plan. The RAY listed that the P361-billion fund would be distributed to the building of shelters and resettlement areas (P183.3 billion), construction and repair of public infrastructure (P28.4 billion) health and education services (P37.4 billion), support to the agriculture sector (P18.7 billion), industry and services (P70.6 billion), local government (P4 billion) and social protection (P18.4 billion).

More Filipinos see better 2014 December 19, 2013 10:06 pm   by Jorge F. Zamora Reporter During the third quarter survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS), more Filipinos said they are optimistic of a better 2014. For the next 12 months, 40 percent of the total respondents claimed to expect improvements in the quality of their lives while 6% said otherwise. From a net +28 “high” (35 percent optimistic and 7 percent pessimistic) in the previous quarter, the result was ‘up’ to a net +35 “very high” (40 percent optimistic and 6% pessimistic) in the September 20-23 survey conducted by SWS. Likewise, the respondents showed confidence in the economy with a “very high” net at +17 which is unchanged from the previous quarter survey. The survey was conducted before the catastrophic 7.2 earthquake magnitude that rocked Bohol and Cebu and before the Super Typhoon Yolanda wrought havoc in Leyte and Samar provinces. Net personal optimism rose to “very high” across all socioeconomic classes. From a “high” +27 among D, it rose to “very high” +33. The survey also showed 17-point-gain to +49 from ABC and five-point- gain to +36 among E. By region, optimism rose five points in Luzon, 11 points in Mindanao and 13 points in Visayas. However, the score dipped by two points in Metro Manila but still tipping the “very high” mark. Optimism in the economy rose by 16 points among ABC and 17 points among D but fell by nine points among the E class. By region, optimism in the economy is still at “very high” except in Metro Manila. However, when asked about the change in their personal life for past year, 36 percent said it worsened while 24 percent said it improved. The survey conducted last September includes face-to-face interviews from 1,200 adults nationwide. The margin of errors were plus or minus 2 percent for national and plus or minus 6 percent for area percentages.

OFFICIALS URGED TO PROBE FLOATING DEAD FISH IN CDO December 19, 2013 8:30 pm   CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY: Residents in a coastal village in this seaport capital urged local officials to investigate the perennial “fish kill” in the fishing village here. Village chief Romeo Bacarro of Tablon, a coastal village north of Cagayan de Oro City, said that residents reported on Thursday morning that hundreds of dead fish of various species were seen floating along the coastline. He said it was the fifth time that the incident happened in the village where residents mostly earn a living through fishing and angling. “The incident has become alarming and residents started complaining about the local government’s failure to address the malady,” said Bacarro, who vowed to conduct his own investigation on the incident.

SENIOR CITIZENS, PWDS RECEIVE CASH GIFTS December 19, 2013 8:30 pm   LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu: The Lapu-Lapu City government handed out P1,500 each to senior citizens and P1,000 to person with disability (PWD) in the city. There are more than 16,000 senior citizens and 1,165 PWDs registered in the city’s 30 barangays. The senior citizens received their cash gift through their barangay treasurers on Wednesday, with the supervision of the City Treasurer’s Office.

BSP sees market volatility December 19, 2013 9:21 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Reporter The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is expecting volatility in the financial markets as the United States Federal Reserve decided to taper its stimulus program. “Coming to this meeting, several Fed officials had already indicated an openness to a taper soon, and some market participants have indeed called for, at best, a $10-billion reduction in asset purchases . . .,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text massage to reporters on Thursday. The US Fed announced that it would start to reduce its $85-billion a month quantitative easing (QE) program to $75 billion. Beginning January next year, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) would cut its monthly long-term Treasury on purchases to $40 billion and mortgage-backed securities to $35 billion a month, for a $10-billion total reduction in the US bond-buying program. The QE program, which was meant to stimulate the US economy has fueled an investment splurge in emerging Asia over the past year. “So far, market has reacted as expected . . . This step towards normalization is welcome, as this means the US economy is growing with some traction setting in, which in turn is positive for trade in emerging market economies,” Tetangco added. The BSP governor also noted that there may be some volatility in the financial markets in the near term, but not in the order of what happened in May/June this year. The Fed started to announce the possible tapering of its stimulus program in May, which sparked financial market volatility, resulting to weaker Asian currencies including the peso. Meanwhile, Tetangco assured the public that Philippine fundamentals “remain solid and policy settings continue to be appropriate,” noting that the monetary authority stands ready to deploy necessary policies to counter the negative impact of Fed tapering in the country’s financial markets. “The BSP is watching developments if there is any need to fine tune policy,” he said.

Peso drops P44.44 to a dollar on Fed decision December 19, 2013 9:19 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo The Philippine peso dropped to P44.44 to a dollar on Thursday, following the announcement on the tapering of the bond-buying program of the United States Federal Reserve. The local currency shed 18 centavos from the P44.26 per dollar close on Wednesday. This is the peso’s lowest level since it depreciated to P44.48 on September 8. Sought for comment, Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist of Banco De Oro, said in a text message that the tapering of the $85-billion quantitative easing program of the US Federal Reserve to $75 billion strengthened the dollar. “Tapering boosts the dollar,” Ravelas said, noting that less taper improves the value of the US dollar and highlights the improvement of the largest economy in the world. On the other hand, an analyst said that the Fed tapering next year was generally favorable. “It’s generally favorable as it removes uncertainty on the timing,” said April Tan, president of Chartered Financial Analysts Institute-Philippines. She added that in a way, the tapering was already expected, as the weakness which began in May was triggered by concerns of tapering. Meanwhile, other emerging market currencies also fell in response to the US Federal Reserve’s decision cut back its stimulus program next month, citing a pick-up in the economy. The dollar edged down against the yen on Thursday after hitting five-year highs in New York City, easing to 104.00 yen in Tokyo from 104.20 yen late in New York City, where it peaked at 104.36 yen—its highest since early October 2008—but still well up from levels just below 103 yen in Tokyo on Wednesday. At the end of a closely watched two-day meeting, the Fed on Wednesday said that it would reduce its bond-buying by $10 billion next month to $75 billion, citing a string of upbeat data indicating the world’s number one economy is strengthening. It added that it would likely take “further measured steps at future meetings” if the economy continues to improve while keeping interest rates a record lows “well past the time” the unemployment rate declines below 6.5 percent—its previous cut-off point before tightening monetary policy.

The news sent the greenback surging in New York City as the prospect of fewer dollars sloshing around the financial system boosted demand. Despite the slight dip on Thursday, analysts said that the dollar’s ascent may not be finished. Investors were heartened by the US central bank’s assessment that recent upbeat data was “consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy.” Highlighting that trend, data on Wednesday showed sales of new US homes soared in October in the biggest monthly increase in over three decades. The Fed had said that it would start scaling back its bond-buying program when the world’s largest economy shows signs it is on a solid footing. Against emerging market units the greenback rose to Tw$29.77 from Tw$29.69 Wednesday, to 1,060.22 South Korean won from 1,052.35 won, to 62.43 Indian rupees from 61.87 rupees. The US unit also rose to 12,163 Indonesian rupiah from 12,126 rupiah and to 32.41 Thai baht from 32.23 baht.

Metro Manila is still Philippine business center December 19, 2013 9:08 pm   State-run National Statistics Office (NSO) said on Wednesday that Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) remained the “hub of Philippine business and industry,” as the metro region accounted for highest share of the country’s establishments in 2012. According to its 2012 List of Establishments, the NSO said that the NCR had a total of 212,408 establishments, or 22 percent out of the total 945,000 establishments operating in 17 regions in the country, with the total establishments employing about 7.8 million individuals in 2012. “The two regions adjacent to NCR, Calabarzon or Region 4-A and Central Luzon or Region 3, had the next biggest count with 145,518 establishments or 15.4-percent share, and 105,580 establishments or 11.2 percent, respectively,” the NSO said. Outside NCR, provinces with the most establishments include Cebu with 45,185 establishments or 4.8 percent, Cavite with 38,158 or 4 percent, Rizal with 33,641 or 3.6 percent, Laguna with 32,648 or 3.5 percent as well as Bulacan with 31,376 or 3.3 percent of the total in the country. In terms of the type of establishments, wholesale and retail trade as well as repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles took the most share of the establishments, with a total of 437,293 nationwide. “Close to 35.8 percent of the total number of establishments engaged in agriculture were located in Central Luzon and Calabarzon, while 35 percent of the total number of establishments [were] engaged in industry and 38.5 percent of the total number of establishments engaged in services, were located in NCR and Calabarzon,” the statistical body said. Kristyn Nika M. Lazo

Posted on December 19, 2013 11:39:20 PM

Short‐term impact seen from Fed tapering LOCAL financial markets are expected to face short‐term volatility following the US Federal  Reserve’s decision to wind down its stimulus program, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)  chief yesterday said, with monetary authorities set to act if necessary.    Economic managers said the Philippines was well‐equipped to deal with any adverse impact  from the Fed move, while domestic market players said they were ready for "knee‐jerk"  reactions.The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) and the peso both fell yesterday even as  Wall Street hit new record highs after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday announced a  $10‐billion cut in the US central bank’s $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.     "Coming to this [week’s] meeting, several Fed officials had already indicated an openness to a  taper soon, and some market participants have indeed called for, at best, a $10‐billion  reduction in asset purchases. So far, the market has reacted as expected," BSP Governor  Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said in a text message.    "There may be some volatility in the financial markets in the near term, but not in the order of  what we had seen in May or June this year."    Emerging markets including the Philippines were hit by massive fund outflows after Mr.  Bernanke indicated in May that the US central bank could soon ease its quantitative easing  program. A reiteration the following month led to more upheavals.    Continued weakness in the US economy, among other developments, pointed to a tapering  next year but recent developments such as a bipartisan budget deal revived talk of the winding  down being announced this week, which again weighed on local markets.    After the Fed announcement, the peso hit a three‐and‐half‐ month low to finish at P44.435:$1  yesterday, shedding 17.5 centavos. The PSEi declined by 38.43 points or 0.64% to close at  5,923.12.     SETTINGS ‘APPROPRIATE’  Amid the expected turbulence, Mr. Tetangco reiterated that the BSP’s policy settings remained  "appropriate." 

"The Philippine fundamentals remain solid and policy settings continue to be appropriate. The  BSP is watching developments if there is any need to fine‐tune policy."    He also said the start of the Fed tapering was a signal that the world’s largest economy was  recovering, which would benefit emerging ones such as the Philippines.    "This step towards normalization is welcome, as this means the US economy is growing with  some traction setting in, which in turn is positive for trade in emerging market economies," Mr.  Tetangco said.    Central bank Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo, in a separate text message, said the Fed’s  move boded well for global financial markets as it "erased much of the uncertainty."    The size of the tapering, he added, was "more of a signal than a statement of aggressive  monetary stance."    "In fact, the Fed was very emphatic about the goal to sustain monetary accommodation ...  calibrating each instance by what macro data suggest. I therefore sense a more orderly conduct  of tapering and more appropriate normalization of interest rate policy."    GOV’T ‘PROACTIVE’  Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, meanwhile, said in a text message: "The Philippines’ much‐  improved macroeconomic fundamentals and better managed fiscal situation will allow the  country to go through tapering from a proactive position."     He added that the government’s liability management efforts ‐‐ which have allowed it to  lengthen average debt maturities, lower borrowing costs, and eliminate bunching‐ups ‐‐ would  help it deal with any tightening in financing conditions.    Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad shared the same view, noting that fiscal discipline has  allowed the country to maintain a healthy liquidity position.     "Also, the government has ample space if ever there is a need to further stimulate the  economy, especially since there’s a very good reason to do so because of the demand coming  from the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction needed following Yolanda," he added.    He said the recovery work, focused not only on rebuilding but on introducing greater resilience, 

especially for public infrastructure, will help not just areas devastated by the super typhoon but  also the broader Philippine economy.    "Topping up our spending on these things are investments that would spur growth," Mr. Abad  added.    He echoed Mr. Tetangco in noting that an economic recovery in the United States would  benefit the Philippines, saying: "recovery is going to induce more investments here".    "The BSP is also in good shape. They have assured us that if ever there will be an effect, it will  be minimal, and that they’ll be able to deal with ... any adverse consequences coming from the  tapering."Moving forward, Mr. Purisima said: "Deepening governance reforms and making the  country’s business environment more competitive is key to thriving in a post‐QE (quantitative  easing) environment."    FED MOVE ANTICIPATED  Rabboni Francis B. Arjonillo, Land Bank of the Philippines executive vice‐president, said some  degree of volatility could be expected even as markets had anticipated the move.    "In the last few months, the market has been preparing for the tapering. However, we still  expect some slight knee‐jerk reaction in the short term. But rates will stabilize eventually as  focus will again turn to country fundamentals," he added.    "Most of the emerging market funds that have entered recently will probably have factored in  the tapering and will stay for some time in the stock market. The locals may be looking for  opportunities to buy."    Asked how the Fed’s policy move would affect the government’s borrowing plan, National  Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said this would be taken into consideration.    Regarding a plan to tap offshore markets next year, Ms. de Leon said: "We cannot say [anything  about] the timing yet. We will wait for the market to settle." ‐‐ from reports by A. R. R. Gregorio  and B. F. V. Roc

Posted on December 19, 2013 11:34:28 PM

Gov’t to borrow more abroad for recovery effort THE OVERSEAS share of government borrowings will rise next year in view of official  development assistance (ODA) that will be tapped as part of a disaster recovery effort, the  National Treasurer said.    Most of the fundraising planned for 2014 will still come from domestic sources, however.    "We increased our foreign borrowings due to highly concessional loans being offered by  multilateral agencies for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Yolanda‐affected  communities," National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said late on Wednesday.    The gross domestic borrowings next year are expected to reach P730.03 billion, up 2.096% from  the P715.041 billion earlier planned, due to the recovery effort. The amount, however, is still  lower than this year’s P735.031 billion.    Broken down, the government is eyeing to source P620.01 billion from local sources next year ‐‐  unchanged from its earlier plan ‐‐ and P110.02 billion or $2.5 billion offshore, up from the $2.2  billion initially programmed. Commercial foreign borrowings were maintained at $1 billion but  ODA was increased to $1.5 billion from $1.2 billion.    "We have changed our projected borrowing mix to 85‐15, in favor of domestic sources, for  2014," Ms. de Leon noted.    The National Economic and Development Authority on Wednesday presented the  Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) Plan, a framework detailing the government’s  recovery road map for communities hit by super typhoon Yolanda last month.    Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Baliscan said recovery and reconstruction,  targeted to be completed by 2017, would cost P360.8 billion. Budget Secretary Florencio B.  Abad said the effort would be funded by next year’s budget, cheap loans and grants by bilateral  partners and multilateral agencies.

Posted on December 19, 2013 09:34:08 PM

Yolanda death toll hits 6,092; damage cost rises to P36.62B CASUALTIES AND DAMAGE cost in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda (international name:  Haiyan) has increased anew more than a month after it hit central Philippines on Nov. 8.  The situation report of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council  (NDRRMC) yesterday said the death toll has increased to 6,092 from the 6,069 reported on  Wednesday.The number of people missing and injured remained at 1,779 and 27,665,  respectively.    Damage cost estimate has breached the P36‐billion mark, as the NDRRMC reported a P36.62‐ billion damage cost broken down to P18.35 billion for agriculture and P18.27 billion for  infrastructure.    The number of affected population remained at more than 16 million, or a total of 3.42 million  families as of yesterday.    The number of people displaced also remained at 4.1 million or 890,895 families, of which more  than 20,924 families are still being served in the 381 evacuation centers opened by the  Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).    Damaged houses based on the joint assessment by the Public Works and Local Government  departments remained at 1.14 million, the NDRRMC report said.    The combined cost of relief assistance extended to victims of the typhoon from the Social  Welfare department, local government units and nongovernment organizations has reached  P1.185 billion.    The same situation report of the NDRRMC said that as of yesterday, a total of 35,463 personnel,  1,351 vehicles, 118 sea craft and 163 aircraft were deployed to the typhoon‐stricken areas to  facilitate delivery of relief assistance.    Despite the slowdown in the update of casualties and cost of damage, NDRRMC Executive  Director Eduardo del Rosario, in a text message to BusinessWorld, denied earlier reports that  the agency has stopped its casualties and damage count. 

"We based our reports from the reports given to us [by the] local government agencies  concerned," Mr. del Rosario said.    As of Wednesday afternoon, the DSWD also reported that local donations has amounted to  P64.059 million, while foreign donations coursed through the government has reached $15.12  million (about P671.71 million).    The DSWD said there will be no holiday break for some field offices and personnel of the  department to ensure that relief distribution will continue in areas affected by the typhoon.    "Our staff will be on rotational duty so that relief distribution will not be interrupted," DSWD  Secretary Corazon J. Soliman was quoted as saying in a statement.    Likewise, to hasten the relief operations, the DSWD said it has recently opened two relief hubs  in Isabel, Leyte and Catbalogan, Samar for storage and repacking of relief commodities.    To date, the DSWD said it is now on its 10th round of relief distribution in the 60 municipalities  and three cities in Eastern Visayas.    As of Monday, the DSWD said that a total of 3.32 million rice and food packs, 494,213 liters of  water, 109,601 pieces of canned goods, and 244,444 pieces of high energy biscuits have already  been distributed to the 273,782 displaced families in the region.    Non‐food items such as tents, hygiene kits, blankets, mosquito nets, mats, towels, cooking pots,  water containers, slippers and plastic cups, among others, were also given out.    In a separate statement, the DSWD said it has started to release on Dec. 11 the cash grants of  the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries from the 16 municipalities and one city  of Capiz in Western Visayas.    Ms. Soliman said the cash grants would be a great help to the beneficiaries in meeting their  needs as they rebuild their lives from the aftermath of the typhoon. A total of P77.1 million has  been allotted for the cash grants of 36,432 households covering the months of September to  October. ‐‐ Imee Charlee C. Delavin,092;-damage-cost-rises-to-P36.62B&id=81082

Posted on December 19, 2013 10:16:14 PM

BSP capital infusion could be postponed THE GOVERNMENT may defer the injection of fresh capital into the central bank to next year to  set aside funds for the recovery and reconstruction efforts following super typhoon Yolanda, a  Cabinet official said.  The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has long been clamoring     for the fulfillment of its P50‐billion authorized capital ‐‐ set all  the way back in its 1993 charter ‐‐ and as of last year, the  government has already infused P40 billion. Economic managers initially promised to grant the  last P10 billion this month, but Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said yesterday the plan  could be shelved for now.    “We did that (infused capital) last year but... at this time, we really need it (the funds) for the  reconstruction and recovery for the areas affected by the typhoon. So maybe next year, 2014,  we can do that,” Mr. Abad said.    “The number one consideration is that we don’t want to crowd out the ongoing relief and  reconstruction efforts.”    The Budget chief said the government is still assessing its financial position, especially after it  unveiled a P361‐billion recovery road map for Yolanda‐stricken areas.    “We’re looking at the available fiscal space because right now, we’re still about 0.4% down  from our cap, and that’s about P30 billion,” he said.    According to the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) Plan, the government needs P34.5  billion for critical actions following the typhoon ‐‐ an amount Mr. Abad said would come from  this year’s spending plan.    “Ultimately, giving the BSP the capital, that will have to be the decision of the President,” the  Budget chief said.    “It’s still on the table... We still have a few days to go for this year. And you know, these past  three years, we have not failed the BSP.” 

He added that the BSP has said it wanted to provide “massive credit support for microfinance  industries” in areas battered by Yolanda, and President Benigno S.C. Aquino III would want to  support that initiative.    Under Republic Act 7653 or the New Central Bank Act of 1993, the government is mandated to  subscribe to P50 billion of BSP’s capital stock.    In 1996, the government already infused an initial P10 billion into the central bank. The  government poured in P30 billion over the last two years after it had leftover revenues by the  yearend and it sought to accelerate public spending.    Beyond the completion of its capitalization, the BSP is eyeing an increase to help stem its losses  against the backdrop of market turbulence.    The central bank purchases dollars from the foreign exchange market to ensure the movement  of the peso is not sudden or sizable.    It maintained a presence in the market even more so last year as the local currency rose by  6.8%, closing at P41.05 against the greenback in the last trading day of 2012, well above the  P42‐P45 exchange rate it had assumed.    The amendment of the BSP charter, which includes a hike in the capital stock, is in the list of  priority measures for the 16th Congress.    The central bank posted a record‐high net loss of P95.38 billion last year, triple the P33.69  billion recorded in 2011 and well past the previous peak of P86.94 billion in 1997.    In the ten months ending October, the BSP pared its losses to P21.55 billion, down 72.523%  from a year earlier as interest rates fell and the peso weakened versus the dollar. ‐‐ Bettina  Faye V. Roc

Noy blasts Gloria anew on corruption Written by Paul Atienza Friday, 20 December 2013 00:00   AQUINO BACK TO HIS DISCREDITED CAMPAIGN SLOGAN Three years into the presidency and President Aquino, in a bid to project his image as a graft buster, yesterday again blamed all the ills of his government on detained former President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, projecting and presenting himself and his administration as squeaky clean and completely incorruptible. He was back to his old, discredited slogan of “without corruption, there is no poverty” even in the face of rising poverty among Filipinos under his watch, as well as his government being seen even by the international governments as a corrupt government. Even as his spokesman in Malacañang claimed that the Palace is “ecstatic” over the Sandiganbayan’s grant of Arroyo’s petition to ease the restriction on visiting time as imposed by the Philippine National Police (PNP), and granted her wish to have her family to be with her on Christmas and New Year in the Veterans Memorial Medical Hospital (VMMC) where Arroyo is detained, Aquino, speaking at the first state conference on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, blasted away at the former President, saying that a decade before he assumed office, the government was in a quagmire of severe corruption. Aquino said the Filipinos are well aware of what kind of damage brought by corruption to the government system. “I myself have pointed out that the 10 years before I stepped into office that this decade had been called a lost decade—one in which our country could have developed strong foundations to build upon. Instead, after my predecessor stepped down, our administration found a system of governance long decayed by corruption. “Our first actions were not to build on what had been achieved, but to fill the fissures in our public institutions,” Aquino said. The UNCAC occasion was attended by Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, all of whom are his allies and appointees, and other top officials of government from the three branches of government. Aquino said that it is fair to say, however, that there is “no gulf between his agenda and the public’s collective desire to curb corruption, to end the vicious cycle of self-centeredness, secrecy, and apathy, and to replace it with a virtuous cycle, where the government truly works for its people. “Filipinos know more than any other nation just how corruption can damage a society. Not only does it deprive the people of resources that are justly theirs, it saps public morale; it loosens the ties that bind institutions and the people together; and it breeds inequality,” Aquino said, adding that it was the “people’s collective cry during the 2010 elections”, when they voted for the idea

behind Aquino’s campaign for the presidency which was, simply put: Where there is no corruption, there will be no poverty.” Aquino said his administration has since heeded their call and worked non-stop to shine daylight on the government. “The very first element we identified in the fight against corruption is that no one can be above the law. It should not matter what position you hold in the bureaucratic ladder: If you do wrong by the people, then you should be held accountable,” Aquino said. It is irony for him to state that, since he knows that the public is aware of the fact that he protects his allies and aides while he destroys the reputations of his political foes and has both his Justice chief and his appointed Ombudsman to file cases against his political foes. Moreover, neither Aquino nor his aides ever acknowledge responsibility or accountability for anything. Instead they place the blame on others. But Aquino claimed that he has followed through his his beliefs. “We have filed cases against a former president, who is now under hospital arrest. Like-minded reformists in the legislature have removed from office a Chief Justice who chose to lie on his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth, this, after they impeached an Ombudsman who apparently saw it fit to put the interests of her political patrons over those of the people,” Aquino said. Aquino failed to mention that the congressmen and senators were bribed by him with the Disbursement Acceleration Fund (DAP) to have the Chief Justice impeached and convicted, and that he wanted the CJ impeached because the high court gave away the Hacienda Luisita, his and his family’s hacienda, to the tenant-farmers. Aquino also wanted the CJ impeached, to have his own appointed CJ, Lourdes Sereno, who flunked the psychiatric and psychological tests, to head the high court, to influence all the justices to see issues his way. Aquino also cited that cases were not limited to those in public office but even those who are in private sector whose taxes or duties are questionable. “This also means that regardless of your professional accolades, if you do not pay your taxes, the state will pursue you. It means that no matter how many resources you have at your disposal, if you choose to smuggle goods, you cannot escape the government,” Aquino said. He said in the past three years, they have filed a total of 423 cases under run against the smugglers (RATS), and run against tax evaders (RATE, and revenue integrity protection service (RIPS) programs. “This is why we ended the era of mere cosmetic changes in the Bureau of Customs by hitting the reset button,” Aquino said. Aquino said he appointed an entirely new set of Deputy Commissioners to take charge of the agency with newly appointed Commissioner Sunny Sevilla, “all of whom are honest and competent”. Aquino said that they also realized the importance of empowering the bureaucracy itself to truly serve the public. “We did this first by bringing common sense back to the national budget,” Aquino said. He said, “three years ago, the Department of Budget and Management instituted the zero-based budgeting system”. “ The idea is simple: Instead of continuing funding the same projects every year, regardless of their effectiveness, we have committed and are doing the studying of every single project to make certain that they are of true benefit to the Filipino people,” Aquino said.

He said that by having the system, “we have minimized bureaucratic red tape, and have given rise to a more dynamic and high-functioning government that can render better and faster service to the citizenry. “Again, no point in funding useless projects: use the scant resources to where it will benefit our people truly and best,” Aquino said. Aquino emphasized that “this is what unity of purpose can achieve”. “Lest I be accused of naiveté, allow me to also say: We are well aware that the road ahead will not be without its difficulties. But these past three years, we have proven that together, the drastic turnaround of this country’s fortunes is within our reach,” Aquino said. He said that all it requires is that “we put common sense ahead of partisan interests; that we lead by example and not merely appeal to the lowest common denominator; that we empower the public to participate, and measure for themselves the progress of their own campaign against corruption.” The UNCAC is an international anti-corruption treaty ratified, accepted, approved and acceded by 168 countries including the Philippines. As State Parties, the are obliged to implement preventive and punitive anti-corruption measures, including asset recovery, affecting their laws, institutions and practices. The convention emphasizes the importance of international cooperation as well as the need to help each other through technical assistance, as it recognizes the cross-border nature of corruption. Press Secretary Hermino Coloma earlier said Malacañang was elated over the decision of the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan to grant the petition of the detained former Presidentto spend Christmas with her family. “We are gladdened that the Sandiganbayan has granted the wish of former President Arroyo to celebrate Christmas and New Year together with her families,” Coloma said. Coloma added that it has been a consistent desire of the Aquino administration for every Filipino to have a meaningful holiday season. “Everyone of us expects to have a peaceful Christmas and prosperous new year,” Coloma said. The Sandiganbayan earlier ruled that Arroyo’s family can spend their time starting Dec. 24, 25, 31, 2013 and Jan. 1, 2014. The court gave a favorable response to the urgent motion of Arroyo filed last Dec. 13,citing humanitarian reasons thus it granted the motion in the absence of any objection or opposition from the government panel. Arroyo in a statement praised God for the humane action of the court as it understands the customs and traditions of the Philippines wherein close relatives observed the Christmas and New Year together. Normally, visiting hours end at 9:30 p.m. every day except Monday when absolutely no visits are allowed. Raul Lambino, chief of staff of Arroyo expressed thanks to the court for its decision to allow the close family members of Mrs. Arroyo to stay at the VMMC. This will have a good effect for Mrs. Arroyo because she will e buoyed by the presence of her close family members. Alvin Murcia

High power cost to hurt exporters Written by  Ed Velasco   Friday, 20 December 2013 00:00  

Exporters are worried the high power prices can hurt their profit margins and cause them to lose their competitiveness in the global market, a report obtained by the Tribune from the Philippine Exporters Confederation (PhilExport) said. “The semiconductors sector will be hit hard compared with those in the assembly. Margins will be squeezed further but we still have to deliver,” said Francis Ferrer, PhilExport trustee of the electronics sector. Ferrer said the new rate adjustment by Manila Electric Co. can increase the share of electricity to their total cost from 14 percent to 20 percent. Dennis Orlina, president of the Philippine Chamber of Handicraft Industries, believes that gas prices will have more impact as it adds to overall cost of living and freight. “More businesses (will incur) more losses. Liquefied petroleum gasoline has higher impacts on production costs,” he said. Roberto Amores, president of Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc., said high power rates can have a heavy negative impact on cost of fresh food that needs cold storage. For his part, Foreign Buyers Association of the Philippines president Robert Young said the 28percent electricity price hike will be detrimental to garment and apparel production cost. “Our forecast of sales increase will be hampered. It is a pity now that buyers are coming back due to Bangladesh 77-percent wage hike and United States jobs/retail sales increase. The Philippines has now the highest electricity in the world,” he said. Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Miguel Varela said the high power cost can affect thousands of small and medium enterprises whose operations are power intensive.Varela said hit hard are the producers and service entities whose power cost content is 20 percent to 30 percent of their production costs, and exporters who “work on very tight margins because they focus more on volume.”‐final‐bsp‐rule‐yet‐on‐sifi‐bap‐chief‐says        

No final BSP rule yet on Sifi, BAP chief says Written by Ed Velasco Friday, 20 December 2013 00:00   Thirteen days before Basel 3 starts in the Philippines, there is no final decision yet issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on how the dreaded systematically important financial institution (Sifi) will be implemented in the country. No less than the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP) confirmed there are no final rules yet from BSP about the issue. “The BSP has not yet released any final rules on the Domestic Systematically Important Banks or Sifi,” BAP president Lorenzo Tan told The Daily Tribune. Under Basel 3, all the 34 universal and commercial banks need to raise 2.5 percent in their tier 1 capital under Sifi rules. This means the minimum capital adequacy ratio of all UKBs operating in the country will be 12.5 percent. Earlier, Metrobank investor relations department head Jose Placido Mapa III said the BSP will bucket the top 15 banks when it comes to Sifi implementation. However, the banker wasn’t able to confirm what banks will be placed on bucket 1, 2 and 3 because it was just on the planning stage. Despite without clear basis on what will be the determinants for bucketing, the BAP said it has already consolidated the comments of its 34 members. The most common comments,questions and suggestions are: (1) allowance for flexibility in the use of alternative capital for compliance; (2) cost consideration for the additional capital requirements and how it dovetails into the growth and health of banks; and (3) clarity on the procedures to assess banks into their respective buckets. “This will require a process of assessment and categorization of banks by the BSP thus the buckets,” Tan said. With regards to the specific ratio assigned per bucket, it is now up to the BSP to determine such but the banks are hoping to be consulted on the matter, the BAP chief added. “What I’m sure is the basis to be placed in any of the buckets is not assets alone,” Mapa told the Tribune. The Sifi is an irritant to some bankers as additional capitals tend to make banks’ aim for return on equity easier. “BSP is imposing so many capitals. Why not just maintain the 10-percent minimum CAR? If a bank goes below that limit let them be on red flag until they meet the minimum level,” said a president of one unibank.‐final‐bsp‐rule‐yet‐on‐sifi‐bap‐chief‐says 

WB report on RP business regulations elates palace Written by  PNA   Friday, 20 December 2013 00:00   The Palace welcomed a World Bank report showing the Philippines posting improved business regulations besting other economies around the world. “We welcome the report of the World Bank’s International Finance Corp., that showed the Philippines recording the biggest improvement in business regulations jumping 30 notches to 108th from 138th among 189 economies across the globe,” Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said yesterday. “We will continue to pursue reforms and policies that will create conditions conducive to the growth and competitiveness of businesses that play a crucial role in the attainment of inclusive and sustained economic growth,” he said. According to the report, the Philippines made significant improvements in the areas of securing construction permits, providing access to credit information and streamlining the process of tax payments. The Philippines is among the top 10 economies improving the most in 2012 to 2013. Other countries include Ukraine, Rwanda, the Russian Federation, Kosovo, Djibouti, Cote d’ Ivojire, Burundi, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Guatemala. The Doing Business 2014 focuses report on regulations applying to small and medium-size domestic enterprises in 189 economies and ranks the economies in 11 areas of business regulation — starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering properly, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and employing workers. Launched in 2002, the Doing Business Project gathers and analyzes comprehensive data to compare business regulation environments among several economies. The project encourages countries to compete towards more efficient regulation; offers measurable benchmarks for reform; and serves as a resource for academics, journalists, private sector researchers and others interested in the business environment of each country.‐report‐on‐rp‐business‐regulations‐elates‐palace         

PNoy babalik sa Tacloban     (BTaguinod)

Babalik si Pangulong Noynoy Aquino sa BALITANG VISMIN Tacloban City sa Linggo para magsagawa ng inspeksyon sa unang bahagi ng rehabilitation effort na isinagawa ng kanyang mga tauhan sa Yolanda calamity area. Inihayag ito ni Aquino sa kanyang speech sa Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awarding ceremony kahapon sa Malacañang. Sa ngayon ay patuloy na nagtatayo ang gobyerno ng mga bunkhouses sa Tacloban City at Eastern Samar para sa pansamantalang tutuluyan ng mga biktima ng bagyong Yolanda. Bukod dito, nagsasagawa pa rin umano ng relief operations ang gobyerno at ipinapatupad na ang cash for work at food for work program ng iba’t ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan sa mga Yolanda calamity area.

P850M ilalaan kontra AIDS  (Marlo Dalisay) Dahil hindi pa rin mahanap ng mundo ang ganap na lunas para masugpo ang Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) kung saan ay patuloy sa pagtaas ang mga nabibiktima sa Pilipinas, pansamantalang iminungkahi ng Mataas na Kapulungan ng Kongreso ang pagtatayo ng mga pasilidad na maaaring makatulong para mapahaba pa ang buhay ng mga dinadapuan ng naturang karamdaman. Sa Senate Bill 2047 na inihain ni Senador Teofisto ‘TG’ Guingona III, chairman ng Senate committee on health, naglaan ito ng P850 milyon na paunang pondo para sa pagpapatayo ng Blood Disease and Transfusion Center, ang pasilidad na maaaring makatulong sa mga pasyenteng may iba pang sakit sa dugo na katulad ng AIDS. “There has been an unprecedented need for blood and blood products resulting from the rising incidence of dengue fever and its hemorrhagic forms, the increasing threat of AIDS and other blood borne infections,” ayon sa panukala ng mambabatas.

Sandigan's Xmas gift to GMA Published : Friday, December 20, 2013 00:00   Written by : Jester Manalastas   WITH only six days left before Christmas, the Sandiganbayan has allowed members of the Arroyo family to celebrate Christmas and New Year with former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC). The Sandiganbayan responded to the appeal the Arroyo camp earlier, made the Philippine National Police (PNP) Security and Protection Office imposed stricter visiting procedures. Based on the ruling, the family can stay with Arroyo on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1, 2014. The justices of the First Division granted the motion of Arroyo for humanitarian reason for her to spend Christmas and New Year with her family. “Acting on accused Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s urgent motion, dated December 13, 2013, for humanitarian considerations, and there being no objection/opposition from the prosecution, the court hereby grants the said motion and as prayed for, accused Arroyo’s immediate family members…are hereby allowed to be and stay with the accused the whole day of December 24, the whole day of December 25, the whole day of December 31 and the whole day of January 1 at her detention quarters at the VMMC,” the court ruling said. Last month, the PNP reportedly implemented stricter visitation rules that include preventing former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo from staying overnight with his wife. The order from the Sandiganbayan was welcomed by the Arroyo camp. In a statement, Mr. Arroyo said they welcomed and thanked the anti-graft court for considering their appeal. “Praise God, the court is more humane and understands Philippine customs and traditions.” Arroyo’s chief of staff, Raul Lambino, also thanked the Sandiganbayan for allowing members of the Arroyo family to stay at the VMMC beyond 9:30 p.m. or even overnight. He said the development will be good for Mrs. Arroyo, who will get relief at least during the Holidays. Just recently, a colleague in the House of Representatives, 1-BAP Rep. Silvestre Bello filed a

resolution urging the Sandiganbayan to grant Arroyo a Christmas furlough and got at least 70 signatures at the House. But the Arroyo camp said they are no longer asking for furlough since the previous appeals were all thumbed down. Instead the family and legal counsel only asked for the consideration of allowing some members to celebrate Christmas in her detention room at the VMMC.

Roxas to PNP: Find SM robbers Published : Friday, December 20, 2013 00:00   Written by : Jun Icban Legaspi   INTERIOR and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas has ordered the police to work double time to identify and arrest the perpetrators of the SM North EDSA jewelry heist Sunday night as he ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to coordinate with mall owners to enhance the security of shopping areas during the Yuletide season. Roxas, at the same time, instructed the PNP to increase police visibility in urban areas throughout the country as part of efforts to curb the possible increase of street crimes during the Christmas and New Year season. “We don’t want to spoil the feeling of joy this Christmas. Dapat maging handa ang kapulisan para tiyakin ang kaligtasan ng mamamayan ngayong Kapaskuhan,” he said, after emerging from a police command conference in Camp Crame Tuesday afternoon. Based on initial police investigation on the SM jewelry heist, the robbers bought the crowbar and hammer at the Ace Hardware Store inside the mall which they used to smash the jewelry store’s glass frames. The robbers took off with some P5 million worth of jewelry, using modus operandi similar to that of the “Martilyo Gang.” Apparently, Roxas said, there were lapses on the part of the mall’s security which allowed the suspects to execute what appears to be a well-planned heist. Roxas has asked PNP chief Director General Allan Purisima and Director Carmelo Valmoria, newly-appointed chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), to initiate a meeting with business owners and managers to ensure public safety in shopping areas and other public places. Roxas is mulling to standardize the number of security guards manning malls based on the floor area and number of entrances and exits for security purposes. He wants the PNP and mall owners to come up with recommendations on how to sufficiently cover security inside and outside shopping malls in the country, particularly in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities. “Nagpatawag na ng pag-uusap si Director General Purisima kasama si Director Valmoria kasama ang mga may-ari at managers ng mga malls hindi lang sa Metro Manila kundi sa iba pang lugar para magkaroon ng close coordination at siguruhin ang kaligtasan ng publiko at ng mga negosyo,” Roxas said.

Aside from shopping malls, Roxas instructed the police to increase mobile and foot patrols in churches, markets, banks and other public places frequented by people during the Holiday season. Roxas also called on local government units (LGUs) to mobilize their barangay law enforcement units to help maintain peace and order.

Violence vs media hit Published : Friday, December 20, 2013 00:00   Written by : Cristina Lee‐Pisco   THE United Nations (UN) yesterday warned that the continued killing of journalists in many parts of the world including the Philippines is undermining the free flow of information. The head of the United Nations agency entrusted with upholding press freedom pushed on with her campaign to secure the safety of journalists, condemning the killing of media workers in Syria, Iraq, India and the Philippines. “Violence against media workers undermines the ability of journalists to carry out their work freely as well as the right of citizens to receive the independent information they need,” UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ((UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement. Freelance Iraqi cameraman Yasser Faysal Al-Joumaili, 35, who often worked for Al-Jazeera International TV and Reuters news agency, was reportedly abducted and killed by members of a radical group in northern Syria earlier this month. Kawa Ahmed Germyani in Kalar, 32, editor of the magazine Rayal and a correspondent for the Awene newspaper in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, was shot by unidentified gunmen in his home in Kalar, on 5 December after reportedly receiving death threats in connection with his work. Indian journalist Sai Reddy, a reporter for the Hindi-language newspaper Deshbandhu, died on the way to hospital after he was beaten and stabbed in the market of Basaguda village in the central state of Chhattisgarh on December 6. In the Philippines, three journalists were killed in separate incidents in less than two weeks in Mindanao. Broadcaster Butalid was shot dead by a lone gunman in front of his radio station in Tagum City, Davao del Norte province, on December 11. Radio broadcaster Michael Diaz Milo was killed in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur province, on December 6 and the fatal shooting of radio journalist Joas Dignos in Valencia City, Bukidnon province, on Nov. 29. Bokova has so far this year condemned the killings of eight journalists in Iraq, seven in Syria, four in India, three in the Philippines as well as others in various countries around the world. A few days ago, Bokova called on the Philippines’ authorities to investigate the separate murders of three journalists in the southern region of Mindanao. “Too many professional and citizen journalists are losing their lives in the conflict in Syria, often

deliberately targeted by the various factions involved,” she said in her statement yesterday. “The circumstances of freelance journalists are a cause of particular concern, as they are often less well trained to deal with the dangers they face than are staff reporters.” In her statements on Iraq and India she called on the authorities to investigate the crimes.

Parañaque senior citizens to get more benefits in 2014 Published : Friday, December 20, 2013 00:00   Written by : People's Tonight   Making good on his promise, Parañaque City Mayor Edwin L. Olivarez yesterday said he has signed into law an ordinance granting monetary benefits for the city’s estimated 50,000 senior citizens under the so-called Senior Cash Transfer Program, as well as death benefit assistance, in recognition of the important contribution of elderly citizens to community development and nation-building. The benefits are spelled out under Ordinance 13-14, series of 2013, which also mandates the establishment of a Parañaque OSCA (Office of Senior Citizens Affairs) Cares Card System for registered and qualified senior citizens. “We have delivered on another promise to our constituents, particularly to our elderly citizens, who deserve all the care and appreciation we can give in return for their long years of service to our communities and families,” Mayor Olivarez said. “We will make sure that our citizens enjoy these benefits by providing the means and resources for these programs.” The ordinance mandates the allocation of P27 million for the first year of the implementation to fund the cash transfers and death benefits. Thereafter, an amount of P29.5 million will be automatically appropriated for the succeeding years, with a provision of a 20-percent increase if deemed necessary by the implementing offices. Under the ordinance, senior citizens will get a P500 cash gift on their birthday and another P500 for their year-end cash gift under the Cash Transfer Program. The ordinance also mandates a minimum of P2,000 in death benefits to the survivors of senior citizens who pass away. The ordinance will take effect starting January 2014. It was principally authored by Councilors Vincent Kenneth (Coach Binky) Favis and Joan Villafuerte-Densing and was passed by the City Council on Oct. 24, 2013. Under the ordinance, senior citizens who may avail of the benefits are those who are registered voters in the city and have been residents of Parañaque for at least three years, and must be a member of a duly accredited senior citizens’ association or organization in the barangays where they reside. Only those who meet the qualifications will be issued an OSCA ID and an OSCA Cares ID card, both of which must be presented when drawing the cash benefits from their respective barangay halls.

Moreover, if the senior citizens are a couple, only one will be entitled to draw the birthday and year-end cash gifts. The birthday cash gifts will be released every June for those whose birthdays fall between January and June, while those who celebrate their birthdays from July to December may draw their cash gifts every December. The year-end cash gift will be released every October, which is Senior Citizens’ Month.

2013 12 20 quedancor daily news monitor  
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