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DA unit urging Leyte, Samar farmers to plant abaca By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Fiber Industry and Development Authority (FIDA) is engaging abaca farmers in typhoon-damaged Leyte and Samar provinces to intercrop abaca with other crops like coconut to recover production losses caused by the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda. The FIDA is replicating the success of its abaca integration program in the Bicol region to typhoon-hit Visayan provinces to help farmers revive production and conform to global production standards. FIDA’s ‘Enhancing Productivity of Abaca Farms in Bicol through Integrated Farming System” also known as Abakayamanan, was previously implemented in San Roque, Maliliput, Albay and Gubat, Sorsogon. The project received a P1.8-million funding from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR). The program has raised farmers’ income in two pilot areas by P14,400 per 1,000 square meters. “We may be able to duplicate Abakayamanan in Tacloban City. Even prior to Yolanda, Leyte and Samar are the biggest provinces in abaca production,” said FIDA’s Dr. Editha O. Lomerio, also the Abakayamanan project head. BAR director Nicomedes P. Eleazar wants Abakayamanan to be implemented in other abaca-producing provinces. “We can have a holistic approach in our abaca production through Abakayamanan,” he said. The replication of the Abakayaman project in Leyte-Samar is seen to enhance the marketing of quality abaca manufacturing in the Philippines, especially now that several abaca manufacturers in the country have obtained certification for sustainable production systems from New Yorkbased Rainforest Alliance. Abaca manufacturer Glatfelter (Germany), for instance, which has an abaca manufacturing plant in Barrio Maria Cristina, Balo, Lanao Del Norte has obtained a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) from Rainforest Alliance. Glatfelter manages Newtech Pulp, a producer and exporter of abaca pulp.The company has been teaching its constituent farmers to plant trees sustainably. The firm manufactures composite fibers, specialty papers, and engineered products made from abaca. Local abaca products that are Rainforest Alliance Certified could gain access to more foreign markets and fetch a higher buying price.

DA: Shrimp is banner commodity for 2014 Category: Agri-Commodities 26 Dec 2013 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is targeting a 25-percent increase in shrimp production for the first semester of 2014. Major target markets would be the US, Japan and other Asian Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala in a news briefing on Tuesday.



Government interventions in the fisheries sector through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have been paying off, said Asis G. Perez, BFAR national director, who was also at the news briefing. The imposition of an indefinite ban on imported live shrimp sees exporters cash in on the Philippines’ disease-free status, but more than this, the government and the private sector are united in upgrading the industry’s efficiency, particularly in establishing our own fingerlings by maintaining a brood stock,” Alcala said. “We need to develop our own brood stock, the shrimp that produces the fingerlings,” Perez said, adding that an imported parent stock costs $30. If locally produced, it can go down to $5. Both tiger prawn and the white variety, the vannamei, are being primed for increased production next year to meet growing demands from the overseas market, Alcala said. The Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS), however, said tiger prawn production dropped by 1.23 percent during the third quarter of this year, at 11,178 metric tons (MT), compared with 11,317 MT during the same period last year. High mortality rate and a decrease in the harvest area due to lack of capital were the reasons cited in Quezon, while in Pampanga, the decrease was attributed to overflowing of fishponds due to Typhoon Maring (international code Tramil) and continuous rains brought about by habagat. Tiger prawn production accelerated in Lanao del Norte due to good prices and demand by the export market, the BAS said. Tiger prawn production last year reached an estimated 48,196 MT, which was 1.48 percent higher than the 2011 record, the BAS said. The biggest output increase of 17.4 percent was observed in Lanao del Norte and was traced to the impact of commercial feeds used and the intense stocking in response to high demand for tiger prawn overseas. The country enjoyed a brisk shrimp export market in the 1990s, cut-short when shrimp diseases wiped out farms.

DAR legal aid to farmers boosts agrarian justice delivery Category: Agri-Commodities 26 Dec 2013 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga VARIOUS programs that provide farmers legal assistance boosts agrarian justice delivery under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), an official of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said on Thursday. Agrarian Reform Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said among the major programs and projects launched by the DAR this year is the Web-based Legal Case Monitoring System (LCMS). LCMS, described by Parungao as “a first of its kind scale and complexion in government service,” provides a central storage of legal case records, and accordingly designed to be an efficient means of capturing data with its multiuse features, including built-in word processors, accessibility over the Internet and utilization of barcode technology to ensure easy tracking and integrity of documents. The LCMS records and allows the efficient monitoring of the various kinds of agrarian administrative cases pending with the DAR’s provincial, regional and central offices, including agrarian disputes and special cases lodged before the DAR’s Adjudicators’ courts, as well as cases where DAR lawyers represent and defend clients before the courts, and quasi-judicial bodies. The LCMS also enables the DAR’s top management to track the movement of specific or highprofile cases, and have real-time detailed reports on the status of all cases, anywhere in the country. Through LCMS, the DAR’s top management can generate summaries that can be accessed anywhere by any authorized personnel, and lawyers and legal officers on the other to, likewise, use the system itself with its pro-forma templates; Facebook-style features, Global Search tool, and ability to automatically print Registered Return Cards (RRC) for documents that need to be registered in the postal office, along with mail labels for envelopes, among many others. “The LCMS is not just a comprehensive database; it is also a management and planning tool, a personnel performance indicator, and a new Web-based work sharing or work coaching environment, all rolled into one,” he said. LCMS complements the continued operationalization of the DAR’s Legal Information System (LIS), an electronic “legal library” containing all agrarian-reform laws, jurisprudence, administrative issuances, course outlines, articles, templates and related materials that can be accessed through the Internet.

The DAR LIS is also the first of its kind in the executive branch of the government, on account of the sheer volume of uploaded internal agrarian reform-related documents, with over 12,000 issuances; an internal search engine which is site-specific; customized search templates for the web site, full-text search capability; and the linking of cited issuances found in the body of the documents themselves. Also, the DAR’s Program Beneficiary Development (PBD) Lawyering Program launched in 81 provinces, otherwise known as the Enterprise Lawyering Program, provides a unique training intervention aimed at developing the skills of agrarian-reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and their organizations. The training aims to help them access credit facilities and manage their farms as business enterprises, through the assistance of DAR’s legal officers and support services personnel who shall comprise the PBD Lawyering Teams in the provincial level, serving as “learning coaches” in various aspects such as documentation, contract negotiation, governance and technical assistance, financial literacy, awareness of the regulatory environment and possible models of agricultural business enterprises, risk mitigation, creation of growth opportunities and capturing private investments. Parungao said the first batch of six-week training sessions nationwide was conducted from December 2012 to April 2013, with the following modules: Module 1—Revisiting PBD Thrust and Directions; Module 2—Exploring the Business and Regulatory Environment; Module 3— Successful Models and Ideation for Cooperative-Managed Agri-Based Enterprises; Module 4— Understanding the Building Blocks of Financial Viability and Growth; and Module 5—Crafting Technical Assistance Plan and Team Coaching for Selected Priority ARB organizations. Parungao said the training program was unique in the sense that the combined expertise and experiences of the DAR’s legal and support services offices were harnessed to enhance the legal and support services on access to credit of ARBs and their organizations. The Exceptional Caseload Management Performance Statistics marked the lowest ending balance of 1,421 cases by the DAR Adjudication Board Central Office in the last 15 years. As of the end of November 2013, the Legal Sector has already accomplished 90 percent of its targets approved by the Department of Budget Management for representation work in courts and quasi-judicial agencies, and 91 percent for Agrarian Law Implementation cases inclusive of referral matters, cancellation cases, land transfers and land-use cases. With respect to Adjudication (DARAB), the accomplishments as of the end of October 2013 were 92 percent from the field regional and provincial adjudicators nationwide and 85.74 percent over-all, he said.

Tourism, Agriculture and political peace powers Cordillera in 2013 by Zaldy Comanda  December 26, 2013  

STRAWBERRY DELIGHT – Yuletide revelers in Baguio City are drawn to the La Trinidad strawberry fields in Benguet for this sumptuous experience of picking strawberries at only P300 per kilo. (JJ Landingin) Baguio City — As the year 2013 winds down to its last days, tourists continue to flock to this city to rekindle romance, make family bonds memorable, or simply, to experience the closest thing to a wintry Yuletide holidays away from all the worries of everyday dealing. Call it the “City of Pines” or the “Summer Capital,” Baguio keeps improving itself as a vacationer’s haven as seen this year when Burnham Park was relaunched into a world-class park through the efforts of the local government and the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA). The P40-million rehabilitation followed the master development plan by former congressman Bernardo Vergara with a team of architecture students from the University of the Cordilleras. Rose Garden now has three fountains, a new landscape, ampitheater with seating benches, walkways with Herrington mosaic tiles, center stage, senior at youth park lawns including the planting of herbs, roses on the park’s surroundings with shrub. Even the Bishop Cup Foundation, led by Bishop Carlito Cenzon, made a pitch for the fencing of the park, which was installed with solar energy lights for nighttime security. With the programs and improvements that add up to the natural attractions of Baguio, City Tourism Officer Benedicto Alhambra expressed optimism that by the start of 2014, it will have surpassed its 1.7-million tourist arrival target. This year also saw how a stronger tourism program in Baguio was complemented by greater political peace and security unseen in the Cordilleras for decades.

Political Peace In Abra, for instance, the oft-turbulent political situation made a 180-degree turn in 2013 as it recorded zero political killings. This becomes even more significant due to the fact that it is an election year. Credit this to Conflict Mediation and Diffusion (CMD) program conceived and implemented by Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong, Police Regional Office-Cordillera director; Chief Supt. Robert Soriano, Task Force Abra chief; Major General Delfin Carmelo Iriberri, 503rd Brigade Commander; and Senior Supt. Benjamin Lusad, Abra Police Provincial Office director. The CMD gameplan was to engage politicians in dialogue, pacifying their brewing grudges, and reassuring each of them impartiality on the part of the police and military. This did not mean Abra was taken off the list of “hot spots” declared by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last May, but it resulted in a very peaceful and orderly election season – from the campaign to the proclamation. It was a different story, though, with the communist rebels who brought despair among “kailians” (town mates) in the Mountain Province and Ifugao. On April 5, three police officers were killed and three more were injured when rebels ambushed them in Sitio Nangkatengay, Barangay Namal, Asipulo, Ifugao. The rebels used automatic rifles and grenade, said Sr. Supt. Angelito Casimiro, Ifugao PPO director, of the ambush staged at 7:25 a.m. The victims were members of the Ifugao Provincial Safety Company and all natives of the place. Their mission was not even against the rebels, but to investigation of a series of murders which residents had asked to be solved to maintain peace in their remote town. On June 28, the rebels struck again – this time, opening fire at members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion who were undergoing training in Tadian, Mountain Province. “They were unarmed,” an irate Magalong told reporters then, adding that the group – 70 of whom were women – were jogging when they were fired upon by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. One policeman was killed and nine others were wounded. •Agriculture Is Key Despite these, many parts of the region was geared for economic progress like Benguet, whose farm produce has entered the world market. Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan, in a telephone interview yesterday said a lot of efforts are continuously being bolstered to protect the livelihood of its people. About 90 percent of the residents are engaged in farming.

Its 13 municipalities – Atok, Bakun, Bokod, Buguias, Itogon, Kabayan, Kapangan, Kibungan, La Trinidad, Mankayan, Sablan, Tuba, Tublay all produce agricultural products ranging from vegetables to cutflowers. With the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement expected to be in full force by 2015, and the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade of the World Trade Organization (WTO-GATT), Fongwan said the threat on the province’s livelihood is being faced head-on with the allocation of substantial a amount from the 2013 budget to improve the produce of Benguet, not just to sustain the people’s livelihood but more so, to allow their products to compete with the world’s produce in terms of quality and price. In 2013, Benguet has imported new planting materials from Argentina – an improved quality, to upgrade the present production. Likewise, the Department of Agriculture, Provincial Agriculture Office and the Benguet State University’s research center have engaged in propagating an all-season variety of strawberry. Benguet hopes to produce good quality and low priced strawberries the whole year round. The province’ partnership with the Japanese government for the technical knowledge is another addition to the improvements made in the agriculture sector. Going organic, a system that lowers the cost of production, is also being pushed to bring down the selling price of farm produce. Shift from chemical to organic vegetable production also attracts many consumers who have become health conscious, said Fongwan.

Coco exports soared by 64% in Nov. By Ronnel W. Domingo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:25 pm | Thursday, December 26th, 2013  

The volume of coconut-based exports jumped by 64 percent year-on-year in November despite Supertyphoon “Yolanda” ravaging millions of coconut trees in the Visayas. Preliminary data from the United Coconut Associations of the Philippines (Ucap) showed that the country shipped out last month 133,876 metric tons of coconut products in copra terms. The November volume also represented a 23-percent surge from the 109,022 MT exported in October. Ucap observed, however, that the November shipments fell short of the monthly average of 145,552 MT that was recorded in the quarter ending September. Still, for the 11 months to November, the volume of coconut exports showed strong expansion at 36 percent with a total of 1.84 million MT. All product categories, except copra, showed double-digit increases during the 11-month period. The January to November shipments of coconut oil jumped by 37 percent to 1.03 MT; copra meal by 32 percent to 744,480 MT; desiccated coconut by 29 percent to 114,101 MT and oleochemicals, in copra term, by 45 percent to 31,651 MT. During the period, the volume of copra export plunged by 74 percent to 116 MT.

In November, alone, shipments of top dollar-earner coconut oil surged by 64 percent to 71,350 MT, as did desiccated coconut, which jumped 51 percent to 10,751 MT. Oleochemical exports rocketed by 114 percent to 4,000 MT in copra terms but the volume of copra meal exports dropped by 30 percent to 46,406 MT. In a related development, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is setting up a P60-million coco coir tufting facility in Javier, Leyte, as part of efforts to bring exports up the value chain. The planned facility is meant to produce high-quality mats, geotextiles and rugs for shipment overseas. Being developed in cooperation with the local government of Javier, the workshop is awaiting tufting machines that are expected to arrive from India within the month.

According to the PCA, the project will benefit some 500 families, creating up to 2,500 jobs related to the making of twines from coco coir. Last October, officials of the PCA and of Javier signed an agreement through which the agency committed to provide the facility. For its part, the town council would mobilize the local coconut farmers’ organization and put up counterpart funds. Back then, PCA Administrator Euclides G. Forbes said the agency would promote the technology that would add value to coconut products and by-products such as the manufacture of twine and rope from coco coir. Read more:‐exports‐soared‐by‐64‐in‐nov#ixzz2odiDkqfK   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Farmers seek swifter setup of Luisita landmarkers By Tonette Orejas  Inquirer Central Luzon   7:40 pm | Thursday, December 26th, 2013  

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – Farmworkers at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province have accused personnel of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of slowing down the setting of boundary markers (mojon) in plots titled to them, resulting in the delay of the completion of agrarian reform in the sugar estate. DAR employees, they said, have been slow in setting the mojon in 4,001 hectares of the more than 6,000-ha Hacienda Luisita because they were either afraid of the ariendador (middlemen or planters who rent lands to grow sugarcane) or in cahoots with them. The farmworkers did not want to be identified or give their home villages for fear of reprisal from the DAR or ariendador. They said the setting of boundary markers happens even as the harvest of sugarcane is almost finished and the plots are already cleared. But lawyer Anthony Parungao, agrarian reform undersecretary for legal affairs, said the farmworkers’ suspicion has “absolutely without any basis whatsoever.” “Mojon are needed to avoid boundary disputes. Also, how will a farmworker-beneficiary know the exact metes and bounds of his or her farm lot without the monuments? This is the reason we are rushing this,” Parungao said on Thursday. “We’ve already started installing the monuments on portions of the landholding planted to rice that were already harvested. Next up will be those lands planted to sugar as soon as harvesting is done,” he said.

Mojon are being set in rice lands in Barangay Pando, Motrico, Parang and Mapalacsiao, he said. In a statement, Renato Lalic, head of Farmworkers Agrarian Reform Movement (Farm), said rice farmers in Hacienda Luisita did not plant this cropping season because the lots they were tilling were allocated to others. The ariendo, or lease system, evolved after the 2004 joint strike of mill and farmworkers. Without work, organized farmworkers occupied lands to grow cash or food crops.

Village leaders regulated this form of land control by assigning plots to other farmers. But for lack of money to farm, they leased their plots at P10,000 per hectare. Central Azucarera de Tarlac Planters Association and Association of Sugar Planters in Central Luzon grow sugarcane on some 3,000 ha in Hacienda Luisita, which is 75 percent of what the high court ordered distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries in the estate. But this represents only 16 percent of the 18,000 ha usually planted to sugarcane every season in Tarlac. “The ariendador are offering us advances so that we are forever tied to the leasing arrangement,” one of the farmworkers told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Our agreement with DAR was the mojon would be installed after the crops were harvested. But the ariendador are having this delayed,” another farmworker said. Read more:‐seek‐swifter‐setup‐of‐luisita‐ landmarkers#ixzz2odglPOuv   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

P6‐B payoff in rice smuggling revealed Former BOC exec names point man  By Gil C. Cabacungan  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:23 am | Thursday, December 26th, 2013  

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO A Goliath in rice smuggling has cornered the trade in this grain by plying Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials and rank-and-file employees with cash gifts that have amounted to P6 billion over the last two years. A former BOC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said one of the main challenges facing the new management at the bureau was whether it would dismantle the network built by a certain “David Tan” who was designated as point man when rice-smuggling transactions were centralized two years ago. “David Tan operates behind various brokerage firms. If you want to bring in rice without paying the right taxes, you have to go through him because the BOC officials deal only with him. The BOC officials do not entertain any other rice smuggler except Tan,” said the source, who described the rice smuggler as “young and with deep connections in rice exporting countries in Asia, especially Vietnam.” “They called these special operations or palusot because the rice shipments had no documents or import permit. After David Tan informs his connections where his shipments are arriving, the smuggling network goes into motion, from those who sign the papers to those who open the exit gates in the ports,” the former official said.

It was not clear whether “David Tan” was the same as “Mr. T” who, according to a new BOC official who talked to the Inquirer last week, was one of three big traders whose under-the-table deals with corrupt examiners, appraisers and other frontline personnel at the bureau were the cause of the agency’s failure to meet its revenue collection goals. The new bureau official referred to the other two big traders as “Big Mama” and “Ma’am T.” Old-timers in the BOC told the Inquirer on Monday that there was no reason to go after “Big Mama,” “Ma’am T” and “Mr. T” because the papers of the three traders “appeared to be in order.” The case is presumably the same with “David Tan.” The former BOC official said the scheme involved at least two top bureau officials (who get P10,000 to P20,000 each per container), at least one major port official (P5,000 to P10,000 per container) and more than a dozen desk employees whose signatures (P1,000 per container) were needed in the release papers of the smuggled rice. He estimated that Tan brought in an average of 1,000 TEU or 6-meter equivalent unit containers a week (a container can load 510 cavans of rice) or a weekly take of P37 million to P62 million. Kickbacks

In the last two years since Tan monopolized rice smuggling in the country, the former official said kickbacks had reached between P3.85 billion and P6.45 billion. The former official said roughly one-third of the kickbacks went to just one official who was believed to be representing an “influential” group. “Tan would pay low taxes by claiming that the TEUs contained goods of lesser value than rice. Often, his group declares the rice shipments as various construction materials that are also heavy but carry lower duties,” the former official said. Smuggled rice is usually brought in through the two ports in Manila and the ports in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao, the former official said. He said rice and oil were the two most smuggled goods in the country because of the huge profits involved in bringing these commodities in on the sly. Who is Tan? In October, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) president and former Abono Rep. Rosendo So urged the government to look into reports that a certain “David Tan” was the head of the country’s biggest rice smuggling syndicate and called on BOC officials to identify him so he could be arrested.

“We want to know who is David Tan and why the authorities have allowed him to allegedly manipulate rice imports for his own and his group’s profit,” So said. Nothing happened, as in President Aquino’s trying to shame BOC officials and employees into leaving by singling the bureau out for corruption in his State of the Nation Address in July. Former Rep. Ruffy Biazon whom the President had appointed to head the bureau, reorganized the agency to put an end to corruption there, but those who were shuffled challenged their reassignment in the Court of Appeals, frustrating reforms and keeping their lucrative posts. Biazon beat them in leaving the bureau by quitting in early December after being implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. Read more:‐b‐payoff‐in‐rice‐smuggling‐ revealed#ixzz2odhHeT2m   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Sultan Kudarat farmers adopt ‘resilient’ farming by Malu Cadelina Manar  December 26, 2013  

RESILIENCY – 38-year-old Baimen Simpal of Barangay Datal Blao in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, proudly shows the plot of land where she plants vegetables that are resistant to drought to cope with the extreme weather conditions prevailing in the area. (Malu Cadelina Manar) Catastrophic incidents like drought and floods are just ordinary to the B’laan tribesmen and Moro inhabitants of an area in Sultan Kudarat. In 1986, Barangay Sinapulan and the nearby villages in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, were inundated after the Alip River overflowed due to torrential rains – destroying the vast plantations of rice and corn in the area. Then in 1998, the villagers experienced severe drought that lasted for eight months – also devastating their palay and corn plantations that left them with no food to eat. After learning their lessons the hard way, the B’laan and Moro villagers said that they can now cope up with the disasters that may affect them. Lory Balilid, a B’laan resident in Barangay Sinapulan, Columbio, and Baimen Simpal, 38, of Barangay Datal Blao, also in Columbio, said they used to enjoy a steady supply of water from the river, spring, and other sources. But the kaingin system in their area, which continued until today, resulted to deforestation – destructing their environment.

This led them to practice monocropping or planting only one crop in the same place, year after year. While many claim that it is a more profitable way of farming than switching to other crops each year, it has an adverse effect on the environment. Monoculture farming zaps nutrients from the earth, and leaves the soil weak and unable to support a healthy plant growth. Realizing the destruction caused by the erratic weather conditions that affect the area, the Rural Development Institute (RDI) in Sultan Kudarat introduced a project dubbed “Building Resilient and Adoptive Communities and Institutions” or BINDS, with two component activities, which include Climate Resiliency Field School (CRFS), and the Integrated Diversified Farming System (IDFS). Balilid and Simpal are just two of the beneficiaries of the several projects initiated by that nongovernment organization (NGO), whose primary task is to help the farmers in Columbio, and nearby Esperanza town, also in Sultan Kudarat, cope up with the disasters, and help them become “climate resilient.” Under the CRFS, the farmers will be informed on the advantages of organic farming, at the same time, will be briefed regarding measure to alleviate the effects of global warming. Chris Dable, one of the farmers from Barangay Nomu in Esperanza town, Sultan Kudarat, that completed the CRFS in six months, said the practice of organic farming is safe, simple, and provide them with a huge return on investments. Dable said that with use of organic fertilizers and pesticides while adopting organic farming, the farmers will preserve useful pests that kill harmful insects. Meanwhile, RDI communications officer Ann Granada said that the CRFS is an innovative disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategy for agriculture. The project, according to Granada, is to enhance the capacity of farmers, rural women, and other stakeholders to understand the role of climate in plant propagation, growth, and development, as well as its relationship to pests and diseases.

Pagasa resumes operations in typhoon‐hit areas By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am  

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has replaced most of the weather equipment destroyed by Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas and parts of Southern Luzon, officials said yesterday. PAGASA officer-in-charge Vicente Malano said they have resumed operations in all areas affected by Yolanda, except in Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Strong winds brought by Yolanda damaged the P450-million Doppler radar in Guiuan. It is one of the three radars donated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to PAGASA. Officials of the weather bureau said JICA will shoulder the rehabilitation of the radar, which serves as the country’s first line of defense against typhoons. Malano said the agency has incurred P30 million in damage to weather equipment, excluding the meteorological buoy in Cebu. “We have spare (equipment). We have already replaced our damaged equipment except for the P36-million meteorological buoy installed in Bantayan Island in Cebu,” Malano told The STAR. Malano said their weather station in Tacloban, Leyte was temporarily transferred to the regional office of the Department of Science and Technology in Palo. PAGASA is an attached agency of the DOST. Meanwhile, the official said representatives from the United Nations’ World Meteorological Agency will arrive in the country next year to assess the extent of damage by Yolanda to weather instruments. Malano earlier said the UN agency will provide financial assistance to PAGASA for the repair of its facilities.

December inflation to rise to 2-year high Category: Top News 26 Dec 2013 Written by Bianca Cuaresma THE country’s inflation rate is seen to shoot up to a two-year high this month on the back of increased electricity rates and higher fuel and food, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said. (Two days before Christmas, the Supreme Court issued an order temporarily restraining the Manila Electric Co. [Meralco] from implementing an increase in electricity rates, as approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission. The temporary restraining order [TRO] will last 60 days during which the High Court will review the approved power-rate increase, which is under protest by many civic groups.) BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. announced on Thursday that the central bank expects the December inflation to fall between 3.8 percent and 4.7 percent, supporting the view of an upward inflation trend observed since August this year. The November inflation hit 3.3 percent, up from 2.9 percent the previous month. The country’s inflation rate has been continuously rising for three months after reaching a four-year low of 2.1 percent. The 11-month inflation average of the country, however, is at 2.8 percent—slightly below the government’s target range of 3 percent to 5 percent. If the inflation for December hits the higher band of the central bank’s target, it would be the highest inflation rate for the country since November 2011. It would also push the full-year inflation average to 3 percent. Tetangco said the higher inflation projection was made on the basis of “higher electricity prices, increase in fuel prices.” He also said the lingering price stresses on some food commodities as a result of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) added to the upward pressures in the prices of consumer goods in the last month of the year. Tetangco vowed to continue to keep a close watch on price movements as part of the BSP’s primary mandate of keeping stable prices in the country to support further growth. “Going forward, the BSP will remain vigilant in monitoring price pressures to ensure price stability conducive to a balanced and sustainable economic growth,” Tetangco said in a text message to reporters. The BSP targets an inflation rate of 3 percent to 5 percent in 2014 and 2 percent to 4 percent in 2015.

Hungry for chicharon? Try tilacharon By Rudy Fernandez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – All the crunch without the cholesterol. Chicharon (pork crackling) lovers can now enjoy a crunchy snack without the fat and cholesterol with the introduction of “tilacharon” or crispy tilapia skin. Presented as a substitute pulutan or bar chow to go with beer, wine or any favorite drink, tilacharon was developed by researchers of the Central Luzon State University-Freshwater Aquaculture Center (CLSU-FAC) situated in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. Scientists/nutritionists attest that tilapia contains high ratios of the more healthful omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. “Crispy tilacharon is served with spiced vinegar, chopped garlic, and chili pepper,” said Tereso Abella and Ravelina Velasco of CLSU-FAC as reported by the Los Baños-based Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development. Abella and Velasco said that in the preparation of tilacharon, fresh tilapia, seasoning and cooking oil are needed. When the fish is gutted and cleaned, it should be butterfly-ed for easy removal of the skin, which should be washed then boiled for three to five minutes. Dry the boiled skin under the sun for 20 to 30 minutes. Add iodized salt, pepper and seasoning. Food coloring is sometimes added to minimize the scaly appearance. Deep-fry the tilapia skin until crispy.

Higher prices seen in 2014 Category: Top News 25 Dec 2013 Written by Cai U. Ordinario THE destruction wreaked by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) on sectors like agriculture will push commodity prices higher for Filipino consumers in 2014, according to a local economist. But University of Asia and the Pacific Associate Prof. Victor Abola was quick to add that food prices, particularly that of rice, are not likely to increase as there is a rice surplus in countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and India that can provide rice supply to the Philippines through importation. Abola told reporters inflation could settle at around 4 percent next year and while this is within the 3-percent to 5-percent target set by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), it is higher than this year’s average of a little over 3 percent. The impact of Yolanda on both inflation and economic growth, Abola said, could last for the duration of the entire first semester or from January to June next year. Abola maintained his forecast that growth will still be within the 7-percent range next year. “The initial effect [will be] in the first quarter [because there was a] destruction of productive capacity mostly in the agriculture [sector],” Abola said. But he said the oversupply of rice in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia is making rice prices cheap in the international market. Abola said this was brought about by the reaction of farmers after the 2008 rice price crisis where farmers were encouraged to plant more because of the high price of the commodity. “Even in the case of [Typhoon] Ondoy, my analysis was [there will be high inflation in] six months and [this] will dissipate in six months. So we are looking at two quarters essentially, in the fourth quarter this year and in the first quarter of next year,” Abola said. Earlier, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said the total damage and loss from Yolanda has been initially estimated at P571.1 billion. This, he said, includes physical assets, reductions in production, sales and income, as well as the value of increased operating costs resulting from the disaster. The Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda plan said the typhoon caused some P33.98 billion in damages and losses to infrastructure; agriculture, P62.11 billion; industry and services, P116 billion; and education, P23.9 billion. Data also showed the damage to health is worth P5.57 billion; housing, P325.24 billion; and local government, P4.3 billion. The plan also said about 90 percent of the total damages and losses have fallen on the private sector with the remaining 10 percent on the public sector.

Mexican drug cartel now in Phl – PDEA By Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   1  8 googleplus0  3  

Drug suspect Gary Tan stands between PDEA agents following a raid on a ranch in Lipa City, Batangas  the other day. Lower photo shows part of the 84 kilos of shabu seized. ARNELL OZAETA 

MANILA, Philippines - A Mexican drug cartel is now selling shabu (methamphetamine) in the Philippines, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said yesterday. Authorities believed the 84 kilos of shabu worth P420 million seized during an operation at a ranch in Lipa City, Batangas on Christmas Day could be traced to the Mexican Sinaloa drug syndicate. PDEA director general Arturo Cacdac Jr. said Mexico was the latest foreign country that has smuggled illegal drugs, particularly shabu, into the country, in addition to China and West African nations. “We have monitored Chinese drug syndicates, then West African drug syndicates. Now we have confirmed that the Mexican Sinaloa drug syndicate has also penetrated the Philippine market,” said Cacdac in a press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City. Cacdac said the confirmation was made with the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Agency. He said the PDEA and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are closely working to counter the operation of the drug syndicates. “It is part of our investigation how the cartel was able to penetrate our country. So we are still in the process of determining what is the history behind the arrest of these people,” said PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima. The Sinaloa cartel is reputed to be the largest source of illegal drugs to the United States.

Its main leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001. He is now America’s most wanted drug trafficker, as well as being considered by Forbes as the most powerful criminal on the planet. Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias, chief of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF), said Gary Tan, alias Gary Chua, who was among three suspects arrested at the LPL Ranch in Lipa City, has links with the Mexican drug cartel. “Pieces of info received by AIDSOTF showed a certain Gary Tan operating in Metro Manila and nearby regions. He has been working with a certain George Torres, an American with US passport, and both appeared in the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel,” said Tobias. Aside from Tan, agents arrested Argay Argenos and his wife Rochelle during the raid, which also resulted in the seizure of 84 kilos of shabu packed in 84 vacuum sealed plastic bags placed in four traveling bags, a caliber .45 pistol with a magazine and 10 live ammunition, and a 12 gauge Winchester rifle with four live ammunition. Purisima said authorities are looking into the link of the owner of LPL Ranch in Barangay Inosluban in Lipa to syndicate operations. “We are studying the possibility of confiscating (the ranch) in favor of the government because it was used for drug business, but we all know they were just leasing the property and we will be consulting our lawyers,” the PNP chief noted. When asked how the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel managed to penetrate the Philippine market without being intercepted upon entry, Purisima said the geographical location of the country could be one of the factors. “We have 7,000 islands. If you go down south you can freely go to Sabah. There were times when they don’t pass through immigration. In piers, there were reports before containers were not opened, not checked so we have suspicions but we do not have evidence,” said Purisima. “There are so many ways of transporting drugs into our country.” He said there were also cases when illegal drugs are manufactured in local shabu laboratories. “Sometimes we have seen laboratories being set up in different parts of the country. So it’s part of the job of the AIDSOTF and PDEA and we are working closely together to address these problems,” he added. Raps filed against suspects The three suspects arrested in the LPL Ranch in Lipa were charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday afternoon. Charges of violation of Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and several other complaints were filed against Tan and the Argenos couple before the office of Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera.

Navera said he would issue a resolution after reviewing the evidence submitted by the police against the respondents. Police said the LPL Ranch is reportedly owned by former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste, who recently stepped out of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City after being granted parole following his conviction for the 2007 killing of long-time aide Rafael delas Alas. Investigators said the farm was being leased out by Leviste to a certain Jorge Torres, now the subject of a manhunt. Leviste’s daughter Toni, a top equestrian, vehemently denied that their family owned the LPL ranch in Barangay Inosluban in Lipa. “That’s not our farm, ours is not even in the same compound. I heard it’s in the compound that my uncle had developed in Lipa but that has nothing to do with my dad. We don’t even own anything in the same development,” she explained. Leviste reacted to a newspaper report yesterday (not The STAR) mentioning her father as owner of the LPL ranch, a vast gamecock breeding farm. “We don’t know the tenants at all, nor do we go to that area, since our own farm is not in that area, ours is in another direction (towards Balete town). Our farm is in fact near the Lipa City Hall where the parole board office is, where my dad has to report monthly as part of his parole conditions,” she added. “My uncle (who owns LPL ranch) has actually been incapacitated since having a stroke over 10 years ago and a kidney transplant early this year. I can’t see why that has anything to do with the drugs seized, even if it’s in his property. Just like the drugs seized in Ayala Alabang a few years ago, the developers of the village had nothing to do with the issue, why do they have to mention my father’s name?” She said insinuations were unfair as their farm “is an eco farm where even smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol is discouraged, so having drugs within our premises is out of this world.” Leviste was released from the NBP earlier this month after being granted parole by the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP). The BPP had explained that Leviste had met all the requirements for parole, including serving of minimum period of his sentence for homicide conviction for the 2007 killing of delas Alas and good conduct while inside the NBP in Muntinlupa City. With Edu Punay, Arnell Ozaeta

‘Senators should work harder’ By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  1 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - With only three bills passed since the start of the 16th Congress in July, two senators are disappointed by the performance of the Senate. Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III said senators should work harder to fulfill the chamber’s primary mandate of crafting laws that will benefit the country. “Let’s just hope that we will be more prolific in 2014. We owe it to the people,” he said. Another senator, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from his colleagues, said the two bills – the 2014 General Appropriations Act and the P14.6-billion supplemental budget – should not even be counted in the accomplishment report because it is Congress’ obligation to pass them. The senator said the Senate has also approved on third and final reading the bill postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan elections. At least 2,047 bills were filed since regular sessions opened. “This could be considered as one of the worst Congresses ever,” the senator said. ‘Challenging’ Senate President Franklin Drilon had a different opinion on the performance of the Senate even as he admitted that a lot of work has to be done next year. He said the first six months of the year were challenging for the Senate, and for him in particular as its leader. His return to the post came at a time when the Senate was under fire over the use of its savings. Senators were also accused of misuse of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel. “During my first six months as Senate President, the challenge is how to restore the people’s confidence in the Senate as an institution. I think we have succeeded, maybe not fully, because it is a work in progress to completely bring back the confidence of our people,” Drilon said. He said the Senate had to give up its share of the PDAF even before the Supreme Court ruled it as unconstitutional.

“We have given up the PDAF and realigned the budget to calamity funds in order to help our people in Visayas and Mindanao,” he said. He also cited the early approval of the 2014 budget bill despite the various calamities that struck the nation. “We have passed the budget on time, highlighted by the fact that there is over P140 billion for calamity,” he added Drilon said a number of bills are lined up for approval, including the freedom of information (FOI) bill, when Congress resumes session on Jan. 20.

3 branches of gov’t vow to intensify fight vs corruption By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  1 googleplus0  0  

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. 

MANILA, Philippines - The three branches of government have agreed to further step up the fight against corruption by adopting measures and passing bills – such as on freedom of information – that could help curb the menace. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the three branches of government had agreed on the Philippines’ commitments to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Coloma said in the past year the people spoke loudest against corruption and the misuse of public funds. Last week, Coloma said the leaders of the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judiciary – stood on the same platform with the Office of the Ombudsman to declare a unified stand in support of the UNCAC. A resolution containing the government’s commitments on the UNCAC was presented and submitted by Senate President Franklin Drilon, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to President Aquino, Coloma said. Among the significant actions they agreed to implement were: creation by Congress of more divisions in the Sandiganbayan to unclog its dockets and hasten the disposition of pending antigraft cases; strengthening of the Witness Protection Law and Anti-Money Laundering Law; enactment of the Whistleblowers Act; codification of anti-corruption laws criminalizing bribery in the private sector, active and passive trading of influence; amendments to the forfeiture law,

the extradition law and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, and passage of the Freedom of Information bill. Coloma said Ombudsman Morales reported 85 percent compliance by the country on international cooperation agreements and 65 percent compliance on criminalization and law enforcement. The UN General Assembly adopted the UNCAC in 2003. It is the first legally binding international anti-corruption instrument that requires states and parties to implement, through laws, institutions, programs and practices, a wide range of measures to prevent, detect, prosecute and sanction corruption and recover its proceeds. The UNCAC was signed on Dec. 9, 2003 by 140 states, including the Philippines, and was ratified by the Philippine Senate on Nov. 8, 2006. At that time, the Philippines was only the second country in Southeast Asia and the fifth country in Asia to have done so. After this so-called “lost decade,” Aquino said last week that “our first actions were not to build on what has been achieved, but to fill the fissures in our public institutions” with the following important elements in the fight against corruption. First of these was vigorous implementation of the concept that no one could be above the law, as exemplified by the filing of cases against a former president, and the impeachment of a chief justice and the relentless prosecution of smugglers and tax evaders through the filing of 423 cases to date.

BSP says special deposit accounts at 2-year low Category: Top News 25 Dec 2013 Written by Bianca Cuaresma ABOUT half-a-trillion pesos was pushed out of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’s (BSP) vaults as a result of the monetary authority’s fine-tuning measures on its special deposit account (SDA) facility, latest data from the central bank showed. The aim, according to central bank officials, is to push such funds out of the central bank’s vaults and into more productive sectors of the economy. The latest SDA tally as of end-November was at P1.41 trillion, the lowest SDA level for more than two years, or since June 2011. On May 20 the BSP banned all investment management accounts (IMAs) from the SDA facility. The monetary authority gave the banks and other trust entities two deadlines to calibrate the withdrawal of IMAs in the SDA window. A 30-percent pullout was required in July this year, and the deadline completion of the total withdrawal was set in end-November this year. The BSP has also been cutting interest rates on the high-yielding facility. From the initial 3.5 percent, it has been cut by 50 basis points thrice to reach its present rate of 2 percent. The SDA level in end-November was about 25 percent lower compared with the SDA deposits in the week ending May 24—or the week when the BSP’s new mandate on access to SDA was implemented— at P1.88 trillion. This means that between May and November, about P470 billion has been flushed out of the SDA facility. From end-July this year about P360 billion went out of the high-yielding facility. BSP Deputy Governor for the Supervision and Examination Sector Nestor Espenilla Jr. earlier said the trend in the movement of funds is toward time deposits as the SDA investors’ profile is largely conservative. He, likewise, said he expects some of these funds to go back to the SDA facility once repackaged as proper pooled funds.

CSC exams go high‐tech in 2014 By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  12  

MANILA, Philippines - Pencil and paper civil service examinations will soon be a thing of the past. The Civil Service Commission (CSC) is scheduled to launch today a new system to make the civil service examinations high-tech in 2014 through a new computerization program. COMEX or the CSC Computerized Examination System will automate and streamline examination administration. Chairman Francisco Duque III said yesterday the new computerization program will be made available to the public beginning January.

YEARENDER: Disasters highlight gaps in Phl preparedness measures By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - It was late afternoon of Nov. 8 and personnel of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) were about to end their meeting at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. The meeting, which lasted about three hours, discussed the government’s preparations for Super Typhoon Yolanda that hit the Visayas that day. NDRRMC executive director Eduardo del Rosario told reporters they did not yet have data on typhoon casualties as they could no longer communicate with their units in Eastern Visayas, the region worst hit by the cyclone. Del Rosario, however, made a statement that would likely join the ranks of forgettable quotes. “Based on our record in 1990, Nov. 10, the result of a (typhoon with) 240 kilometers per hour winds is 508 dead, 1,278 injured, 246 missing with almost P11 billion in damage. If we compare it now, and if that’s the premise of the question, we can see that we have not received reports on casualties,” Del Rosario said in Filipino. “I hope, maybe (the number of casualties is) very low and we might get an encouraging report by tomorrow (Nov. 9),” he added. Del Rosario went on to congratulate state agencies and local governments for stepping up preparedness measures. He said the low casualty figure could be attributed to the massive pre-evacuation preparedness activities undertaken by local government units and agencies of the national and local governments. “A big factor here is the very timely and accurate reporting of PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration).” Unfortunately, Del Rosario spoke too soon. As of this writing, the number of fatalities caused by Yolanda is over 6,100, more than ten-fold the death toll of the 1990 cyclone he mentioned during the Nov. 8 meeting. Yolanda also damaged more than P36 billion worth of property and left more than four million residents displaced, more than 27,000 persons injured and more than 1,700 individuals missing. Unfortunately, Yolanda was not the only disaster that tested the mettle of Filipinos this year.

A challenging year Asked for his thoughts about 2013, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said: “I have everything. You have the encounter, the attack in Zamboanga, you have the earthquake in Bohol, you have the storm of Yolanda. What else can you ask for?” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista echoed a similar sentiment. “We went through a lot of crises this year. The year 2013 had just started yet we already had the Sabah (standoff), the kidnapping of our personnel in Golan Heights, the successive typhoons, the Zamboanga crisis,” Bautista said. When asked to describe 2013, the military chief said: “challenging but fulfilling.” This year was indeed a trying one for soldiers who serve as the first responders in times of disasters, be it natural or man-made. In February, followers of the Sulu sultanate entered Lahad Datu in Malaysia-administered Sabah to assert their claim to the area, which they consider their ancestral land. Clashes ensued after members of the Sulu army refused to leave despite the deadlines set by Malaysia. Dozens of sultanate followers and Malaysian security personnel were slain in the clashes that spilled over to other parts of Sabah. While the AFP was not directly involved in the conflict, it was tasked to conduct maritime patrols and to provide assistance to Filipino evacuees from Sabah. Clashes and aftershocks The Zamboanga City crisis, which left at least 140 persons dead, happened last September, ironically declared as “National Peace Consciousness Month.” It all started after followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari tried to hoist their flag at the Zamboanga City Hall. This came weeks after Misuari declared independence from the Philippines in Talipao, Sulu and declared himself leader of what he called the “Bangsamoro Republik.” The AFP admitted knowing about the MNLF’s plan to hold mass actions in Zamboanga three days before it happened. But it did not expect the massing up to lead to a full-blown crisis, since the MNLF had held similar peaceful actions in Davao. The rebels held numerous civilians hostage, resulting in firefights with security forces that claimed the lives of 19 soldiers, five policemen, 11 civilians and 105 Misuari followers.

After almost three weeks of clashes, the defense department declared that the crisis was over but clearing operations would be conducted to weed out stragglers and explosives. Critics said the crisis would have been avoided had the government taken seriously Misuari’s earlier pronouncements. Rebellion charges have been filed against Misuari, who continues to elude government forces. The country faced another disaster in October when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit a huge part of the Visayas, killing 222 persons while 976 others were hurt. Officials said the numbers would have been higher had the earthquake happened on a Sunday, since several churches were destroyed. The earthquake damaged P2.26 billion worth of roads, bridges and public buildings. That estimate, however, does not include the historic churches that collapsed as well as the relics and antiquities that were destroyed with them. Monster typhoon Over 20 typhoons visited the country this year but the most notable among them is Yolanda (international name Haiyan), which placed the Philippines at the center of world attention. The gaps in the government’s response during the first few days after the typhoon struck were revealed to the world by international media. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said the situation of typhoon victims was among the most desperate he had seen in the last couple of years. “As to who’s in charge of the Philippine side of the whole operation, that is not really clear,” Cooper said. BBC correspondent Jon Donnison remarked: “There does not yet seem to be an effective operation to get help to those in need.” ABC News’ Terry Moran, meanwhile, said the government was paralyzed by Yolanda’s strength and scope. “There are signs here in the Philippine capital that the government simply cannot handle the massive challenges the country faces in the wake of typhoon Haiyan,” Moran said. Gazmin recently admitted that the Philippines was not prepared for a cyclone as powerful as Yolanda.

“Actually, we were not prepared for that kind of typhoon. It was too strong, signal number four. It appears that it was the strongest in the world. Any country that will be hit by it would experience the same,” Gazmin said. He said preparedness measures could be improved by organizing local governments, amending the Building Code to ensure that structures can withstand strong winds, relocating people in risky areas, acquiring new equipment and simplifying warnings. Are we ready? Even before Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the country, experts warned that the Philippines’ disaster preparedness measures are inadequate. In a report released in 2010, multinational risk consultancy Pacific Strategies & Assessments said claims that the Philippines had achieved progress in disaster preparedness are “misleading.” “As with most everything in the Philippines, there is a gaping disconnect between what is being proclaimed by politicians and bureaucrats as progress and ground truth realism,” the report said. “The reality remains that, despite the government pretentiousness, the country remains illprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the majority of disaster or crisis situations.” The report cited “a blatant lack of government resources and coordination” between national and local officials to properly use international assistance. Officials, however, claim that they are continuously working to make the country more resilient to disasters. So is the Philippines ready for the next big one? It sounds morbid but answering that query might require another super typhoon or another powerful earthquake. If that’s the case then perhaps the question is better left unanswered.

Senators prescribe measures for more disaster-resilient PHL Category: Economy 26 Dec 2013 Written by Mia M. Gonzalez While the Philippines has earned a reputation as one of the better performers in the region, it needs more legislation to help it nurture a truly resilient economy that would withstand manmade and natural disasters that pummeled parts of the country in 2013. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in an interview that the P140-billion rehabilitation and reconstruction fund in the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA), a Senate amendment in the budget, was “precisely” created to sustain the country’s economic resilience, after the disasters that hit parts of the country this year. “That’s 1 percent of GDP [gross domestic product]. The faster they’re able to spend that then they have a chance for the economy to grow at sustainable levels,” said Recto, former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda). To make the country more resilient to disasters, Recto proposed a 25-percent minimum increase in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local government units (LGUs) to give them “greater autonomy.” “The absorptive capacity of the national government is very weak. Why not download resources to the local government units so that they can spend all this money faster?” he said. Recto said even if the national government has P140 billion for rehabilitation and reconstruction in 2014, the challenge would be its absorptive capacity to spend all of it, so it would need some help from LGUs. “Even if you give the national government P140 billion, it may not have the absorptive capacity to spend that. So download some of it to the local governments,” he said. Recto said only 5 percent of the income of local governments go to their calamity fund, which he believes is “not enough,” especially as “only 30 percent of the 5 percent can be used for disaster risk reduction.” “All of that has to be changed….The last time we amended the Local Government Code was in 1992. So I think all of that is needed. If you want the economy to grow at a much faster rate, tap the local governments,” he said. The senator said to make the economy more resilient, the country requires a liberalized economic environment that would enable the economy to grow at a faster rate than 7 percent, which would require amendments on constitutional provisions on land ownership and business ownership.

Recto also cited pending bills on the rationalization of fiscal incentives and amendments to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Charter and the proposed Customs Modernization Act. “Clearly we need to be investing more on specifics, we need to be investing more on infrastructure. PPPs [public-private partnerships] roll-out should be faster so that the excess liquidity in the system can be used to finance all these PPP projects,” he said. In the short term, the senator said the government should reconsider its plan to hike fares of the Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit, since it would add to the financial burden of ordinary Filipinos; and to attract more investments in the power sector. Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship, said the key to the country’s economic resilience amid disasters is inclusive growth, which is at the heart of his proposed measures. “At the end of the day, if you’re talking about resilience, we need to have each family better prepared for these disasters, by having more income,” Aquino said in an interview before Congress went on Christmas break. Aquino authored Senate Bill (SB) 1028, or the “Go Negosyo” bill, which he believed to be one of the “foundational bills” needed for inclusive growth in the country. Explaining the importance of such growth, the senator said, “If our economy is doing really well but a lot of our countrymen are still poor, it’s an [empty] victory. It is not the totality of what we want to achieve. So it goes back to inclusive growth; what do we get each family to earn better, to have more stable income so they can be more resilient on their own?” In his sponsorship speech of the Go Negosyo bill, Aquino said the measure provides the framework for delivering services to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), especially for micro enterprises that comprise 92 percent of all businesses and 66 percent of all jobs in the country. “The numbers show that boosting the MSME sector will help us create more decent, sustainable jobs that can lift many Filipinos out of poverty,” he said, adding that MSMEs should be regarded as a “pipeline for development.” The bill also seeks stronger coordination with schools and organizations on the development of a youth entrepreneurship training program, in a bid to ease youth unemployment. Aquino has also filed SB 1843 seeking to give Local Development Councils (LDCs) a more active role in disaster and calamity preparedness by mandating at least four meetings a year. “LDCs should be strengthened and made more active because they are one of the keys in the disaster preparedness of a community. Community needs will be better diagnosed and addressed if different sectors converge and discuss more regularly,” he said.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chairman of the Senate Committees on Climate Change and on Environment and Natural Resources, is calling for a “resilient recovery” in calamity-devastated areas in the country. “As we rebuild the lives and communities affected by Yolanda, our path should be to move forward, as one community, towards resilient recovery. We must be cautious not to restore the risk and vulnerabilities that existed before,” Legarda said. She said a disaster-resilient Philippines would “free us from the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities every time a typhoon, storm surge, or earthquake hits our communities.” Legarda said that as part of resilient recovery efforts, the national and local governments should faithfully implement the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Climate Change Act and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, among others.

DENR declares Ilocos Norte’s dipterocarp forest critical habitat for threatened species Category: Regions 26 Dec 2013 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has declared a 3,250-hectare dipterocarp forest in the municipality of Adams, Ilocos Norte, as a critical habitat for wildlife species. Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje recently signed a DENR Administrative Order (DAO) declaring and renaming the forest Adams Wildlife Critical Habitat (AWCH). Dipterocarps refer to a family of hardwood, tropical trees like mahogany. Paje said declaring the area as a wildlife critical habitat would help protect and conserve Ilocos Norte’s “last frontier of dipterocarp forest,” and all floral and faunal species living there. The lush forests of the AWCH are known to be habitats of threatened species, such as the Philippine falconet, Philippine hanging parakeet, Philippine brown deer, Philippine warty pig, as well as jade vines, giant tree ferns and other dipterocarp trees. “The DAO will enjoin the participation of all stakeholders from planning to the implementation process, encouraging them to be sustainable in their efforts as they will also stand to benefit the most from the health of the environment,” Paje said. The involvement of the local government and other stakeholders—who usually rely on both the ecological and economic services that the environment naturally provides—would ensure the area’s viability as habitat for wildlife species even in the presence ecotourism development and other human activities, the DENR chief said.The DAO gives the DENR regional executive director (RED) of the Ilocos region the authority to enter into a partnership with all concerned groups for the preservation and conversation of AWCH. The RED could also delegate management of the critical area to the local government of Adams after determining and enhancing the latter’s capacity. The DAO requires the preparation of an AWCH Management Plan, which contains details about management issues and strategies to sustainably develop the area, including rehabilitation, community organization, promotion of environmental education and ecotourism. Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, prohibits certain activities within a declared critical habitat. These include dumping of waste products that could adversely affect wildlife, illegal occupation of certain portions of the habitat, quarrying, mineral exploration or extraction, burning and logging.

Non-affiliated thrift-bank units give rival subsidiaries headaches Category: Banking & Finance 26 Dec 2013 Written by Genivi Factao Thrift banks that are non-affiliated with commercial banks must strengthen their foothold in their niche markets as bigger banks are coming to gobble up or erode their market shares in the coming years. Chamber of Thrift Bank (CTB) President Jose Teodoro Limcaoco, president at BPI Family Savings Bank, said 2013 was a good year for thrift banks but their immediate fortunes could change quickly down the line. “Overall, thrift banks had a good year. We see healthy growth for thrift banks and they are consistently growing. Clearly, the industry is very competitive,” he said. “We don’t see thrift banks competing with another thrift bank but with the [larger] commercial banks that are focusing on consumer loans and small and medium enterprises [SMEs] business. “Non-affiliated thrift banks will have more challenges. Smaller thrift banks have to focus on these areas,” he said. CTB members with no affiliated commercial banks include the likes of Luzon Development Bank and One Network Bank, which caters mainly to Mindanao and the Visayas clients. Those affiliated with commercial banks include BPI Family Bank and Philippine Savings Bank, the thrift unit of the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. Limcaoco said thrift banks can leverage on familiarity and understanding of their clients’ need and that for most of them, these will be the strategy. Limcaoco said the cross-selling framework is one area where thrift banks can grow their business. CTB sees that any major city or region in the country will have strong growth, whether driven by strong overseas Filipino family concentrations or in tourism-driven areas with high growth in employment. “If manufacturing picks up, then employment will also grow,” according to Limcaoco. He sees growth in the coming year will be driven by employment and strong remittances.

“The SMEs will thrive if we focus on tourism, trading, merchandize,” he said Thrift banks should also be on the lookout for competition from the outside. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has alerted thrift banks on what to expect in the next few years when financial integration in the region takes root. BSP Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla and Johnny Noe Ravalo, assistant governor, have since explained the upcoming Asean Integrated Banking Framework for 2020 and have since presented a road map on what to expect. Asean pertains to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which include the Philippines. “If banks wanted to be an Asean bank, they would need to grow in size and relevance in the Philippines and make sure they have all the good practices in place. “When you look at ABIF 2020, we can expect competition from world-class banks of the big four in Asean—Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Possibly, one or two foreign banks will be coming into the Philippines by 2020. We have to prepare both ways,” he said. Currently, regulators are not seeing any thrift bank that’s looking to expand outside the Philippine shores in terms of competing in another country. “How we prepare thrift bank for competition? That will be more intense and preparation has to begin as early as possible,” the regulators said. “If banks want to compete in 2020, they need to raise capital and figure out their market,” the regulators added.

Phl to rely more on foreign borrowings By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2013 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - The National Government plans to borrow more from overseas investors next year to take advantage of cheap loans to fund massive reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts for the storm-ravaged Eastern Visayas. National Treasurer Rosalia De Leon said the government is raising the foreign component of its borrowing program for 2014 to 15 percent from 13 percent. Government borrowings are estimated to hit P730 billion next year, 2.1 percent higher than the original proposal of P715.04 billion. The amount, however, is still lower than this year’s P735 billion. It remains uncertain whether the country would pursue its planned $1- billion global bond issue next year. The bond float, however, is still an option for the government which aims to limit the country’s deficit to two percent of the total economic output. The Aquino Administration sourced nearly all of its funding needs this year from the local debt market to help contain the peso’s rise against the US dollar Last year, the Philippines raised $1.5 billion from the sale of notes in the US currency. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said earlier the country would borrow $2.2 billion from foreign lenders next year, some of which would be in the form of official development assistance (ODA) loans which have very low interest rates. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have each offered $500 million worth of loans to the Philippines to aid the rehabilitation of the communities damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda. An initial P40.9 billion has been earmarked by the government for the massive reconstruction effort. Government officials are confident the country would sustain its positive trajectory moving forward given rising tax collections and a much-improved fiscal position.

House bloc pushes repeal of EPIRA by Ben Rosario  December 27, 2013  

Manila, Philippines – If the ongoing congressional inquiry establishes that there was collusion behind the increase in electricity rates, Congress has no option but to immediately approve the long-pending measure that seeks to repeal the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, Antonio Tinio, a congressman representing the ACT Teachers Partylist, said yesterday. The House Committee on Energy owes it to the public to fast-track its investigation into the implementation of a huge hike in power rates by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), said Tinio. “If a cartel or a collusion is proven during the congressional investigation, then the energy committee will have to act immediately on our bill,” he said. Tinio and six other members of the Makabayan bloc have filed House Bill 256 to repeal the EPIRA law and “put an end to an electric power cartel.” A similar bill was filed during the 15th Congress but the Liberal Party-dominated House never called for a hearing on the proposal. Tinio said the authors of HB 256 are willing to allow the probe on Meralco to take precedence over their bill to repeal EPIRA in the meantime because this would help pave the way for the swift approval of their measure. He explained that determination of a collusion or cartel in the power industry will give the House panel no more reason to ignore HB 256 which was filed last August. The Committee on Energy appeared to have become an exclusive turf of LP congressmen, who headed the House panel in two consecutive Congress regular sessions. In the 15th Congress, the Energy Committee was chaired by Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, an LP stalwart and wife of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. The present chairman in the current 16th Congress is Rep.Reynaldo Umali of Mindoro Oriental. 12 Years Of Increased Power Rates Without Hearings HB 256 is authored by Reps. Nery Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna; Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela Women’s Partylist; Terry Ridon of Kabataan; Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis, and Tinio. “In the 12 years that it was implemented, consumers were made to endure high power rates which were implemented without public hearings and consultations,” the lawmakers said.

They said power rates have doubled and Metro Manila electricity rates now rank ninth highest in the world. “Through EPIRA, government unjustly obliged all electric users to cover payment of Napocor’s stranded debts and stranded generating costs,” the bloc said. EPIRA resulted in “rampant price manipulation and price rigging” in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, it said. “It resulted in the proliferation of dubious bilateral price contracts between related power, distribution, and generation companies,” according to Makabayan. They noted that Meralco’s financial fortunes shot up since EPIRA with the firm enjoying a “consolidated core net income of P14.9 billion” in 2011. The amount was 22 percent higher than what the firm made in 2010. House Ready To Review EPIRA Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II said yesterday the House is ready to take a second look at the EPIRA. Belmonte said it is “a good time” to revisit the EPIRA following the skyrocketing power rates.and Gonzales agreed with the House chief, saying that the EPIRA review is “possible” this 16th Congress. Other House leaders – Congressman Umali, chairman of the House committee on energy, and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations – also said they plan to introduce more “consumer-centric” amendments to EPIRA. “EPIRA promised a reasonable rate and reasonable power supply, so we will bring back EPIRA to its original promise,” Umali said. The Umali panel has decided to look into the “unprogrammed” power outages after the Department of Energy (DOE) recognized that there was indeed a collusion. The panel said it had anticipated an increase of only P1.58 per kilowatt-hour, not the P4.16 which was imposed by Meralco and was approved by Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). The SC has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the ERC from implementing its December 9, 2013, order allowing Meralco to increase its rates starting this month. EPIRA Failed To Reform The Power Industry “A fter more than a decade of implementation, all indicators show that the EPIRA failed to genuinely reform the power industry sector. It only strengthened the private sector’s control and oligopoly in the power industry. To rectify the grave injustices to the Filipino people, the immediate repeal of the EPIRA is strongly recommended,” the Makabayan group said.

“Through EPIRA, the government unjustly obliged all electricity end-users to cover payment of Napocor’s stranded debts and stranded contract costs,” the group said. In 2001, Napocor’s debts stood at $16.39 billion or P834.29 billion. The Public Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) went to the rescue of Napocor by paying $18 billion to settle the obligations of Napocor from 200I to 2010. “But after more than a decade of paying billions, EPIRA failed to trim Napocor’s debts. By November, 2011, Napocor’s debts remained at a staggering $16.63 billion, higher than the $16.39 billion when EPIRA was passed,” the Makabayan bloc said. The group also charged rampant price manipulation and price rigging in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), which resulted in the proliferation of dubious bilateral price contracts between related power distributors and generating companies. They said EPIRA only strengthened the monopoly and control of a handful of private companies in the power industry, noting that more than half of the total generation capacity, the entire transmission system, and a major part of distribution, are controlled by large companies. Energy Officials’ Resignation Sought Workers are now calling for the resignation of two energy department officials for allowing the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to implement its record-high power rate hike. Nagkaisa, a joint initiative of the country’s 47 leading labor groups, issued the statement yesterday after Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla announced he will tender his resignation after failing to meet his self-imposed deadline to restore electricity in typhoon-hit areas before the end of the year. It said both Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Zenaida Ducut and Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) head Mel Ocampo should follow Petilla’s example after they failed to prevent Meralco’s recent rate adjustment despite being informed about it since last year. (With a report from Samuel P. Medenilla)

PAGASA: Clear weather for the rest of 2013 by Ellalyn De Vera  December 26, 2013  

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) sees no potential weather disturbance in the remaining days of 2013. PAGASA forecaster Fernando Cada said there will be no weather disturbance that may affect any parts of the country until the end of the year except for some light rains in the eastern section, particularly Eastern Visayas and Caraga Region. Meanwhile, the dominant weather system in Luzon will be the northeast monsoon, locally called hanging amihan, which will bring light or sudden rains over the area, Cada said. Last Thursday (December 26), the easterlies or the moist and warm air coming from the Pacific Ocean brought isolated rains over parts of Metro Manila. Cada explained that the prevailing weather system over Luzon is the northeast monsoon but the high temperature, and the convergence of easterly and northeasterly winds brought about the sudden rains over Metro Manila. PAGASA said this Thursday, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos Region, and Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) will experience cloudy skies with light rains. Meanwhile, Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. Moderate to strong winds coming from the northeast will prevail over Northern and Central Luzon and from the east to northeast over Southern Luzon and Eastern Visayas. PAGASA said the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the east to northeast with slight to moderate seas.

Senate will pass FOI bill by March–Drilon By TJ Burgonio  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:55 am | Friday, December 27th, 2013  

Senate President Franklin Drilon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Franklin Drilon sees the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in the upper chamber by March. The controversial measure has been bypassed twice by Congress. Given its relatively light load in the early months of the year, the Senate could pass proposed legislation, including the FOI bill, by the first quarter, Drilon said. The bill would grant the public access to government information, excluding only sensitive national security issues. For this reason, among others, most legislators are opposed to as it could lead to revelations of government workings that public officials would rather keep from the people. Advanced stage “The FOI is in an advanced stage of debate, interpellation has been going on. We imposed a deadline of the first quarter next year within which to pass the bill,” Drilon told reporters on Dec. 19, the day after Congress adjourned for the holidays. Some senators spent the last session days interpellating Sen. Grace Poe on the salient provisions of the measure which she had sponsored on the floor as chair of the committee on public information. Poe said the goal of an FOI Act was to apply the “sunshine principle” in government.

“Exposing the government to the sunshine of public scrutiny will kill the germs and disinfect the microbes that lead to waste and red tape, abuse of authority, gross misconduct, and graft and corruption,” she had said in her sponsorship speech. Less corruption Poe said that after Sweden passed such a law in 1766 granting its citizens access to official documents—the first country to do so— Finland, Norway and Denmark followed suit. Even Thailand passed its version of the law. So far, 94 countries have such a law, while another 53 nations are on track to ratify similar legislation. Poe indicated that such a law had a direct correlation to less corruption in states. A majority of the countries with an FOI law, however, have freedom of information “in name only, but not in spirit,” she said. For it to be strong, the law must have a presumption of release, clearly defined exemptions, an independent implementing agency, efficiency and timeliness, and strict penalties for noncompliance, Poe added. In the House of Representatives, meanwhile, the measure has been stuck in the committee on public information, but Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has vowed to see its passage by the end of his term in June 2016. The bill was tied up in the previous 15th Congress due to Malacañang’s reservations about some provisions. Aquino’s concern President Benigno Aquino III had said that he was mainly concerned about a provision making transcripts of Cabinet meetings, except those pertaining to national security and diplomacy, available to the public. With such a provision, a Cabinet official may think twice about what he will say because the meeting is being recorded, Mr. Aquino had said in September. “The only thing I really am conscious about is that when [we] have discussions nobody is intimidated to say what they have to say,” he said. But a push from the President would go a long way toward boosting the chances of the FOI bill being promptly passed by the House, one of its authors has said.

Since an FOI law is among the government’s commitments under the UN Convention Against Corruption, an indication of Mr. Aquino’s backing—even if it was not a certification of urgency—would be significant, said Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat yesterday. “Certification is not necessary now, although it’s desired. But even just a sweeping statement of support for the UNCAC commitment clearly mentioning the FOI will be a big impetus,” Baguilat added. He noted that both leaders of Congress had committed themselves to seeing through the passage of the FOI bill in their respective chambers. How soon? “The question is how soon and how aggressive the push will be. It’s not really a done deal and I think the House champions will have to work extra hard for it, without an extra lift from the powers that be,” he said. The House committee on public information has created a technical working group (TWG) to consolidate the bill’s different versions. The TWG has a mid-February deadline to come up with the consolidated version. The committee is headed by Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte. In the previous Congress, its chair was Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone. Baguilat said the TWG had yet to meet and he was apprehensive about hitting the target date. For Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, even if the FOI bill were to be fast-tracked, constant vigilance was needed because the Palace and the House leadership might push an “inutile” and “toothless” measure. “Advocates should make sure this intention fails, otherwise it would be as if we did not pass an FOI law,” Colmenares said. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria Read more:‐will‐pass‐foi‐bill‐by‐march‐ drilon#ixzz2odccHJUv   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook       

NCMF urged: Go after bogus halal products by Edd K. Usman  December 26, 2013  

Manila, Philippines – Muslim consumers yesterday appealed to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to stop the trade of what they claimed as bogus halal products in the Philippines. The Muslim consumers at the same time welcomed the NCMF’s accreditation last week of two Halal Certifying Bodies (HCBs), Halal International Chamber of Industry of the Philippines (HICIP) and Mindanao Halal Authority (MINHA) after complying with and passing stringent government criteria and guidelines. NCMF is mandated by Republic Act 9997 to promote and develop the halal industry, including accreditation of HCBs. Aleem Said Ahmad Basher, Chairman of Imam Council of the Philippines (ICOP), noted that a number of food and non-food products with the ‘Halal” logo are being sold in groceries and supermarkets. Basher said he gets reports that a halal logo bearing the name of the defunct Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) is still being used by some companies and selling their products to unsuspecting consumers who prepare those Shari’ah compliant. “It is about time action is made to stop the selling of fake halal products,” the ICOP official said. Basher said he believes that the Consumers Act of the Philippines should be amended to include a provision on halal products. ICOP’s call jibed with an earlier statement made by a halal expert of the Department of Agriculture (DA). Dr. Norodin Kuit, DA’s focal person on halal, said that unless the Philippine market is purged of fraudulent halal products, the country will continue to be at the bottom of the global trade for Muslim dietary products. He said the world market for halal products also include non-food items, such as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Kuit said the the use of “OMA Halal” logo by some companies on their products must be stopped. The DA halal expert agreed with NCMF Secretary Mehol K. Sadain that HCBs in the Philippines should use only one standard halal logo.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) cited the need for a globally-recognized halal standards to be used in OIC member-states and non-OIC countries with Muslim population. Outgoing OIC Secretary General Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanuglo placed the world halal trade at an estimated US$2.3-trillion. He said the halal market comprised of US$1.4 trillion (67%) for food and beverage; US$506 billion (22%) for pharmaceuticals; and US$230 billion for cosmetics and personal care. He spoke at the Congress on Halal Food in the Middle East 2013 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.


Easterly winds bringing warm air disrupting December ‘cool’ By DJ Yap  Philippine Daily Inquirer   3:12 pm | Thursday, December 26th, 2013  

MANILA, Philippines — Warm, moist winds from the Pacific have been taking the “brrr” out of December, the state weather bureau said Thursday. Explaining the slightly warm December mornings, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said easterly winds were bringing warm air to most parts of the country, including Metro Manila. “The influx of easterlies from the Pacific Ocean is causing warm and moist air masses to blow into the country,” Pagasa forecaster Mario Mendoza said. The easterlies interact with the northeast monsoon, or “hanging amihan,” referring to cold winds blowing from Siberia, which typically bring cool air into the Philippines at Christmas time. But in 2013, Pagasa noted that the monsoon’s effects, especially in Metro Manila and even Baguio City, were somewhat weakened due to the easterlies.

The coldest temperature recorded in Baguio City in December was 13 degrees Celsius on Dec. 6, while in Metro Manila, it was 21.8 degrees Celsius in the early mornings of Dec. 2 and 23 – higher than usual. But Mendoza said it has not been unusual for easterlies to disrupt the typical cold of Decembers. He noted that the Philippines was visited by strong typhoons in December of 2011 (Sendong) and 2012 (Pablo). On the other hand, no storm is expected anymore this December. Pagasa revised its earlier projection of one tropical cyclone striking the country this month. Based on Pagasa’s 24-hour weather outlook, the regions of Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and Cordillera will experience cloudy skies with light rains. Metro Manila and the rest of the country would be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms, it said. Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast would prevail over Northern and Central Luzon and come from the east to northeast over Southern Luzon and Eastern Visayas, Pagasa said. Coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the east to northeast with slight to moderate seas, according to Pagasa. Read more:‐winds‐bringing‐warm‐air‐disrupting‐ december‐cool#ixzz2odeuX4Z8   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Meralco to refund pre‐TRO payments Meeting held on SC order implementation  By Riza T. Olchondra  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:37 am | Friday, December 27th, 2013  

The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said it will refund customers who have already paid their new bills reflecting the higher power rates on which the Supreme Court imposed a temporary restraining order (TRO) last Monday. “For bills coming out starting Dec. 23 to end-December, bills will already comply with the SC TRO, using the generation charge of P5.67/kWh. For customers who already paid before the SC TRO came out, adjustments will be made in subsequent bills in accordance with the final SC decision,” Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said in a text message. Customers who have received their electricity bills but have not paid them yet will receive written notices on their “options,” Zaldarriaga said. Earlier, Meralco officials said the company would abide by the high court TRO and would refund customers that had already paid for the generation rate increase (plus taxes and other related charges) in their December dues. “We can easily refund,” said Meralco COO Oscar S. Reyes. He said the issues would hopefully be resolved before the next billing cycle. Meralco has asked state regulators to help achieve some “clarity” on the situation but maintained that the long-term solution to power price problems would be additional capacity through new power plants.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla summoned key officials of Meralco, the power generation firms and the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), the operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), to a meeting last night on how to implement the high court TRO. “The Supreme Court TRO must be implemented. I called the meeting to come up with an interim agreement and a way to share the costs at least,” Petilla said. Meralco automatically collects the power generation and other pass-on charges from customers and these go straight to its electricity suppliers. The Supreme Court issued a TRO on Monday stopping Meralco from collecting the increase in power generation and related pass-on charges for 60 days.

However, a complication arises as Meralco faces about P9 billion in dues to energy suppliers this month, of which about P6 billion was due to be paid yesterday to PEMC. The remainder goes to the power suppliers with which Meralco has bilateral contracts. According to energy experts, simply stopping Meralco from collecting the power rate increase, without additional intervention, could short-circuit the energy market. If Meralco, unable to collect from customers, fails to pay what is due the PEMC, it could lose its membership in the WESM. Should this happen, Meralco will be unable to source power from the spot market as needed, and that situation could result in power outages in Meralco’s coverage areas. Read more:‐to‐refund‐pre‐tro‐payments#ixzz2odgZvy00   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

NEDA: Growth to slow down through Q1 By Michelle V. Remo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:31 pm | Thursday, December 26th, 2013  

The country’s growth will continue to be slow because of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” the effects of which will be felt through the first quarter of 2014, said the National Economic and Development Authority. Neda Director General Arsenio Balisacan said that, because of the damage to the agriculture sector, estimated at over P10 billion, growth of the economy in the first three months of the coming year would not match the robust 7.7 percent registered in the same period of 2013. “But we expect to rapidly implement the recovery and reconstruction program in the affected areas to help ease the impact,” Balisacan said in a briefing before the Christmas break. After the supertyphoon devastated the Visayas last month, the economy is expected to falter in the fourth quarter of the year. Based on the Neda’s estimates, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) likely grew between 4.1 and 5.9 percent in the three months to December. From January to September, growth averaged 7.4 percent. Balisacan said the slowdown would continue to be felt until March next year, explaining that reconstruction efforts would still not be significant enough to make an impact on the country’s growth. But he was quick to stress that the economic slowdown would be short-lived.

Balisacan is also confident that the economy will recover starting the second quarter, when the positive impact of reconstruction kicks in. As a result, he said, the government’s economic team in a meeting earlier this month decided to keep the official 2014 growth target at a range of 6.5 and 7.5 percent. The government’s recovery plan, called the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY), includes the establishment of shelter for affected families, reconstruction of public infrastructure and government offices, and assistance to concerned farmers and fishermen, among others. The Neda placed the cost of reconstruction and rehabilitation at P360.8 billion. The government will provide part of the amount using its internal funds, while the rest will be sourced from foreign lenders offering cheap loans.

The World Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency each offered $500 million worth of loans to the Philippine government. The Asian Development Bank offered around $1.1 billion in loans and grants. The government expects to gather more pledges of financial assistance after the country’s economic officials earlier this month met with representatives of lending agencies from Australia, South Korea and the United States, among others. Read more:‐growth‐to‐slow‐down‐through‐q1#ixzz2odi13Eti   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Yolanda victims ipinagdasal ulit ni Pope (Noel Abuel) Muling narinig sa bibig ng Santo Papa ang pagmamahal nito sa mga Filipino matapos na muling maisama sa pagdarasal nito para makabangon partikular ang mga biktima ng super typhoon Yolanda. Sa kanyang Urbi et Orbi Message para sa araw ng Kapaskuhan, tinawag ni Pope Francis ang mga Filipino bilang “beloved people of the Philippines”. “Lord of heaven and earth, look upon our planet, frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity. Help and protect all the victims of natural disasters, especially the beloved people of the Philippines, gravely affected by the recent typhoon,” sambit pa ng Santo Papa sa kanyang pagdarasal.                        

Still jolly X’mas for most Pinoys By Joyce Pangco Panares | Dec. 25, 2013 at 12:01am This, despite calamities, according to SWS survey MOST Filipinos still expect a merry Christmas this year although many people in the Visayas expect the holiday to be bleak, according to the latest poll of the Social Weather Stations. The SWS said its nationwide survey, conducted Dec. 11-16, found that 62 percent of people in the country expect a happy Christmas. This is down slightly from 64 percent in 2012 and 2011. But in the Visayas, the expectation of a happy Christmas declined to a new record-low 57 percent in 2013 as the expectation of a sad Christmas reached record-high 11 percent, the SWS said. “Conversely, the expectation of a sad Christmas in Visayas increased by four points, from seven percent in 2012 to 11 percent in 2013,” the pollster added. The last quarter has been particularly bad for the region in terms on calamities, with a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu in October and the super typhoon Yolanda that devastated most parts of Eastern Visayas last month. The SWS survey showed expectations for a happy Christmas in Visayas declined by nine points, from 66 percent in 2012 to 57 percent this year. Before the post-Yolanda survey, the lowest recorded expectation of a happy Christmas in the Visayas region was in 2006 at 60 percent. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma, for his part, said the Palace still takes heart over the nationwide results of the survey, which showed that 62 percent of Filipinos remain optimistic of having a merry Christmas this year. “Despite the slight decline, we are gratified to know that nearly two out of three Filipinos expect to have a happy Christmas,” Coloma said. “Lower figure in the Visayas may be due to the series of calamities that affected nearly all the Visayan provinces,” the Palace official added. At least nine percent of Filipinos expect a sad Christmas, while 28 percent said the holidays will be neither happy nor sad. Across the country, Mindanaoans are the most optimistic of having a happy Christmas at 77 percent, compared to 61 percent in Balance Luzon, 57 percent in Visayas and 47 percent in the National Capital Region.

Metro Manila had its second lowest percentage of people expecting a happy Christmas, following the 45 percent record-low posted in 2006. The survey was taken from Dec. 11-16 using face-to-face interviews among 1,550 adults. It had sampling error margins of ±3% for national percentages, ±4% for Visayas, and ±6% for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon and Mindanao. Christmas this year comes as conflicts and natural disasters have stricken Christians worldwide, from the historic Syrian town of Maalula where residents still speak Jesus’ ancient Aramaic, to typhoon-hit Tacloban City in the Philippines. In Bethlehem. thousands of worshipers and tourists from around the world flocked Tuesday to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, as the Middle East reels from conflicts and Pope Francis celebrates his first Christmas mass. Jerusalem’s Latin patriarch will lead a procession to Bethlehem and celebrate midnight mass in the holy city attended by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and other dignitaries. In a Christmas message last week, Fuad Twal, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, spoke of the sufferings of the Palestinian people and the vicious conflict that has rocked Syria for 33 months. Twal, the top Catholic cleric in the Holy Land, said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that resumed in July after a three-year hiatus were being hampered by Israeli settlement construction. “As long as this problem is not resolved, the people of our region will suffer,” said Twal, adding the Israel-Palestinian conflict was “a major obstacle” to Middle East stability. The patriarch also called for a ceasefire in Syria, where bloody fighting between regime forces and rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad has killed an estimated 126,000 people since March 2011. “As the Syrian problem cannot be resolved by the force of arms,” he said. “We call on all political leaders to assume the responsibility for finding a mutually acceptable political solution that will end the senseless violence and uphold respect for the dignity of people.” For Maalula residents it will be a grim Christmas as hundreds of Christians have fled a rebel assault on their ancient hamlet and have taken shelter in the Syrian capital Damascus. Pope Francis, who has repeatedly prayed for an end to the Syrian conflict and spoken against international armed intervention since his election in March, plans to make his first visit to the Holy Land in May next year.

The Argentine pope will first visit Jordan, then Israel and the Palestinian territories and is expected to celebrate high mass in Bethlehem. The Vatican is expected to officially announce the visit after Christmas. “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” he said, calling for “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practise one’s own faith to be respected”. Eastern Christians number between an estimated 10 and 13 million, with minorities living in Muslim-majority Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian territories, as well as Israel. With AFP‐jolly‐x‐mas‐for‐most‐pinoys/                                  

CPP marks 45th year, calls for govt ouster By Joyce Pangco Panares | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am The Communist Party of the Philippines on Thursday issued marching orders for leftist groups to double their efforts to oust President Benigno Aquino III or cause his resignation. “We consider our efforts to remove Aquino from power as part of the process of strengthening the revolutionary movement and overthrowing the entire ruling system for the purpose of realizing fully the program for a People’s Democratic Revolution and proceeding to the socialist revolution,” the CPP central committee said in a statement marking the group’s 45th anniversary.

45 and counting. Sympathizers of the Communist Party of the Philippines are shown marching on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City on Thursday to celebrate the CPP’s 45th anniversary. Manny Palmero “As proven in the overthrow of (former Presidents Ferdinand) Marcos and (Joseph) Estrada, it is possible for the legal mass movement to drive the overthrow of Aquino. Even if this would not succeed, the movement would still be strengthened,” the CPP added. The CPP also criticized the government for its handling of natural calamities, such as the recent super typhoon Yolanda. “The Filipino people have been further outraged by the corruption of the Aquino regime with the exposure of the disappearance of calamity funds for the victims of natural disasters and with its criminal failure to make pre-disaster preparations to ensure the safety of the people and to provide timely and adequate rescue and relief to the millions of people assaulted by the monster winds of the super typhoon Yolanda and storm surges,” it said. Also last April, the Philippine government said it will no longer return to formal peace negotiations with the CPP due to the communist party’s refusal to return to the negotiating table without preconditions.

Government peace negotiator Alex Padilla said the CPP did not want to pursue talks during the campaign season because they would have to stop their collection of permit to campaign fees. National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, however, laughed off the CPP statement, saying that the party and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, do not have the capability to overthrow any President, much less Aquino who enjoys the support of a wide majority of Filipinos. “They are not capable of doing that. They have been issuing such statements since President Aquino took over. It is nothing new,” Garcia said in a phone interview. He added that the communist are “very, very far away” from their dream of achieving a strategic stalemate with the government. Aquino’s top spook said once the government signs a final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in January, the CPP will be “even more isolated in their pursuit of an armed struggle.” In a separate interview, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs chief Lt. Col. Demi Zagala said the CPP statement only betrayed the true intention of the group: “It only shows that their primary goal is to seek power and not to address societal issues.” “They just wish to make bold statements to remain relevant but in truth they are a lawless group. A lot of their actions are criminal in nature, including extortion in the guise of collecting revolutionary taxes,” Zagala said. The CPP accused the Aquino administration of insincerity in pursuing the peace talks which have remained stalled for the past two years and ten months. Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said a “new approach” is being formulated by the government that “will offer a better chance of bringing us to the peace our people desire and deserve.” “We are currently undertaking discussions toward this new approach,” Deles said. Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philppines in Caraga led by OIC regional director Police Regional Office-13 Sr. Supt. Keith Ernald Singian, have switched into full alert mode as the CPP-NPA celebrates its 45th year. Singian said that he has instructed all 70 municipal police stations in Caraga region to be full alert and in 24/7 watch in their respective areas. This developed, as the CPP/NPA/NDF released a statement to mediamen in Surigao City calling all farmers, workers, youth and students, professionals, urban poor, women, and other democratic sectors to join people’s assemblies in celebration of the group’s anniversary to be held in guerrilla zones across the country.

Past NPA celebrations also coincided attacks in police stations in the region and kidnappings of police and local officials such as the abduction of Surigao del Sur Mayor Jimmy Luna in 2008 and 2010, and the 2012 kidnapping of Henry Dano of Lingig. Both were released eventually. With Alvin Guanzon‐marks‐45th‐year‐calls‐for‐govt‐ouster‐/                                          

SWS: PNoy’s satisfaction rating ‘good’ By Joyce Pangco Panares | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am THE number of Filipinos dissatisfied with the performance of President Benigno Aquino III rose two percentage points, to 21 percent in October to December from 19 percent in the third quarter. Based on the fourth quarter survey of Social Weather Stations, Aquino’s satisfaction rating fell sharply in Metro Manila, but that was outweighed by improvements in Mindanao, Balance Luzon and the Visayas. Despite the slight increase in his dissatisfaction rating, 69 percent of Filipinos remained satisfied with Aquino’s performance in the fourth quarter, and that came at a time when a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu and super typhoon “Yolanda” devastated most parts of Central and Eastern Visayas. Aquino’s satisfaction rating was one percentage point higher than his rating in the third quarter. The SWS said that, with his net satisfaction rating at +48, Aquino’s score for the last quarter was “good.” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the SWS survey only showed that the Filipino people “continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Aquino administration.” “In lieu of the usual naysayers trying to promote the impression that there is a general dissatisfaction among the Filipino people, the survey shows that an overwhelming majority in Balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, as well as a healthy majority in Metro Manila, are solidly with the President,” Lacierda said. “These past few months the President has had to make tough but necessary decisions on issues of serious national concern, such as the conflict in Zamboanga City, the earthquake in Bohol and, most recently, the preparation and response to Typhoon Yolanda. “These results serve as a reassurance: The Filipino people, who he has constantly referred to as his strength, continue to stand behind him. They believe in his leadership founded on efficiency, firmness and foresight.” Lacierda, without naming names, said there had been efforts in the past few months to politicize the efforts of the Aquino administration. “We are grateful to our people for proving once more that they are on the side of true public service and are unswayed by mere politicking,” Lacierda said. “Their discerning facts from spin means the momentum of inclusive growth and change will continue unabated as we enter the final stretch of the President’s term.

“The administration will continue working overtime to propelling our country along the path to recovery and, ultimately, to unprecedented prosperity. Surely, with the belief and the participation of the Filipino people, we cannot fail.” The SWS said Aquino’s overall score for 2013 amounted to “very good” at +55, a slight improvement from his +53 score in 2011 and 2012. The SWS poll was conducted from Dec. 11 to 16 using face-to-face interviews with 1,200 Filipinos nationwide, and with sampling error margins of ±3 percent for national and ±6 percent for area percentages. SWS considers net satisfaction scores of +70 and above as “excellent”; +50 to +69 as “very good”; +30 to +49 as “good”; +10 to +29 as “moderate”; +9 to -9 as “neutral”; -10 to -29 as “poor”; -30 to-49 as “bad”; -50 to-69 as “very bad”; and -70 and below as “execrable.” The SWS survey showed satisfaction with Aquino fell sharply in Metro Manila but improved in Mindanao, Balance Luzon and the Visayas. In the Yolanda-ravaged Visayas, Aquino’s net score improved to a “very good” +50 from a “good” +48 in September. In Balance Luzon Aquino’s satisfaction score remained “very good” at +54, a two-point improvement. It also remained “very good” in Mindanao at +53, a one-point rise. But his rating in Metro Manila fell to a “moderate” +22 from a “good” +38 in September. The SWS said Aquino’s net satisfaction rating stayed “very good” at +54 percent in the rural areas, a six-point improvement from September, and remained “good” at +42 in the urban areas.‐pnoy‐s‐satisfaction‐rating‐good‐/                

20,000 ‘survivors’ find jobs By Vito Barcelo | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am At least 20,000 workers who have been displaced by typhoon Yolanda are now employed under the emergency jobs programs of the government and the International Labor Organizations, according to ILO country Director Lawrence Jeff Johnson. “Emergency employment provides a chance to reach out to workers and their families. This means making a difference in the lives of over 100,000 people by the end of 2013,” Johnson said. The ILO is working with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Social Welfare and Development to ensure that emergency employment programs are carried out from day one in areas badly hit by the super typhoon. ILO said that many families in the Visayas region are moving forward to a better living condition after Yolanda because of many job opportunities being offered by the government and private sector. Of the 5.9 million workers displaced by the typhoon, 2.6 million were already in vulnerable employment and living at or near the poverty line even before the typhoon, according to ILO. Workers in vulnerable employment are often forced to accept or create whatever work is available just so they and their loved-ones can survive another day, the ILO said. About 3 million or half of the workers were in the services sector. Over one third, or 1.9 million, were in agriculture and around 16 per cent or 1 million in the industry sector. Given the impact on people’s lives and livelihoods, the ILO underscored the urgency of helping typhoon-affected communities and supporting the Philippine government in rebuilding through emergency employment and sustainable livelihoods. “Engaging local communities can create a multiplier effect which will lead to real and lasting recovery,” ILO said. Emergency employment programs help improve working and living conditions by ensuring adequate wages, effective safety and health, skills development and social protection such as accident and health insurance in line with national laws and standards. He said workers regain their strength and dignity and are also motivated to work because they are aware that their families and communities will benefit from the emergency employment programmes.

“More importantly, ensuring decent work for one person can support an entire family and boost the local economy. For real impact, it must be done in a sustainable way, something that this approach in partnership with the government addresses,” said Johnson. The ILO, DSWD and DOLE approach consists of an immediate short-term emergency employment, which will transition to medium-term labour-based community work, skills training and enterprise development. With Sara Fabunan‐000‐survivors‐find‐jobs/                                      

Aquino keeps Petilla, rejects offer to quit By Joyce Pangco Panares | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am ENERGY Secretary Jericho Petilla will get to keep his job after President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday declined to accept his courtesy resignation following his failure to restore power in three out of the 320 towns devastated by super typhoon “Yolanda.” Petilla met with Aquino Thursday afternoon to submit his resignation letter, but Aquino declined it, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. “The President did not accept the resignation cognizant of the fact that, according to the original estimates, it would take three to six months to restore power in the town centers considering the extent of the damage caused by super typhoon Yolanda,” Lacierda said. “The Luzon-Visayas connection was down, the major geothermal plant in Leyte was also down and the generation, transmission and distribution lines were down. “In the face of these challenges the accomplishment of Secretary Petilla speaks for itself: First, from his original target of six months he was able to restore power in roughly 40 days. Second, within that period, Secretary Petilla was able to energize 317 out of the 320 affected towns, leaving 0.93 percent still to accomplish.” Lacierda said what Petilla had accomplished was, “by any measure, [an] excellent performance.” “The President noted that foreign observers who have seen work being done in the Visayas, and in comparison to the disasters of lesser magnitude in other countries, pointed out that the repair and rehabilitation of energy infrastructure was done faster,” he said. “For all these reasons, the President, in rejecting Secretary Petilla’s offer to resign, reiterated that he has no intention of losing the services of an honorable public servant.” Petilla earlier promised to connect all Yolanda-affected towns to the power grid by Christmas Eve. “I missed three towns [Salceda, Guiuan and Mercedes, all in Eastern Samar] and that falls short of my promise,” Petilla said in an earlier interview. And earlier on Thursday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told ABS-CBN that Petilla might be asked to stay in his post once he submitted his resignation. “He was able to do his job. He did not renege on his duties,” Coloma said. “He did everything he could.”

As of Monday, 98 percent of the “backbone lines” in the typhoon-hit areas had power running through them, although that did not mean electricity was available in all houses and structures as some power lines had yet to be fixed. All transmission lines of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines connecting to distribution utilities in the Visayas area had also been restored as of Wednesday. “But whether your house can connect to power lines will depend on whether the electrical [system] of the house can accept the power,” Petilla said. “I said we will restore power in your areas, but assessing whether the houses are ready to accept and connect to power sources is the responsibility of the local government units, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the mayor.”‐keeps‐petilla‐rejects‐offer‐to‐quit/                                

UK offers additional P1 billion aid to PH By Manila Standard Today | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am The United Kingdom has committed an additional P1.091 billion to the Philippines, bringing to P5.4 billion its total assistance to people affected by Typhoon Yolanda that hit eastern Visayas last November, a senior UK official said on Tuesday. UK’s International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the assistance was intended to help longer term recovery and restoration of livelihoods and rehabilitation of damaged areas. “The UK as at the forefront of the international emergency response in the Philippines, getting vital humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands of survivors,” Greening said. “Now, British money and expertise will help rebuild homes, get people back into work and protect the most vulnerable, especially girls and women,” Greening said in a statement. Greening visited the Philippines last month and announced a P363 million investment in four cities on such projects as flood protection and drainage systems.‐offers‐additional‐p1‐billion‐aid‐to‐ph/                        

Customs hires 200 examiners By Joel E. Zurbano | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am The Customs bureau has enlisted 200 new examiners who will man the 17 Customs ports as part of the reforms to curb smuggling and corruption in the agency, a source said. The new recruits will form the core of the newly created Office of the Revenue Agency Modernization, the source said. Most of them came from the Trade and Budget departments, government financial institutions like Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines and National Economic Development Authority. The old group of examiners will be reassigned to the controversial Customs Policy Research Office, dubbed as “freezer” at the Department of Finance, where the initial batch of Customs officials, including collectors, directors and lawyers, has been transferred. Under the continuing revamp, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima named six new Customs deputy commissioners, a move approved by President Benigno Aquino III. The new deputies: Jessie Dellosa (Intelligence group), Ariel Nepomuceno (Enforcement), Agaton Uvero (Assessment), Myrna Chua (Internal Administration), Edita Tan (Revenue Collection), and Primo Aguas (Management Information). Their designation was followed by the transfer of 27 collectors to the CPRO. However, 15 of the 27 Customs collectors, with position title of Collectors V and VI, were able to obtain a temporary restraining order from a Manila court judge preventing their transfer. But the court later came up with a decision against their favor. Later, the bureau issued another Personnel Order, this time transferring division heads and directors, including the heads of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service and Enforcement and Security Service, to the CPRO. This was followed by a CPO detailing personnel from different agencies and other governmentowned and controlled banks and corporations to various Customs offices like in the Philippine Economic Zone Authorities, Export Processing Zone Authority and to the offices of at least two deputy commissioners.Early last month, the new batch of district collectors, who replaced the 17 collectors transferred to CPRO, assumed their posts. The Finance department, which directly supervises the Customs bureau, recommended several names to replace those transferred to CPRO. At least five of the newly designated Customs officials are retired military generals.Mr. Aquino said the goal is to make Customs do what it’s supposed to do, which is to collect appropriate duties and prevent smuggling.‐hires‐200‐examiners/

Maranan follows up Pablo rehabilitation By Manila Standard Today | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am National Irrigation Administration Chief Claro Maranan has sent a team to Region 11 in Davao City to look into rehabilitation projects in the wake of supertyphoon Pablo that hit Mindanao in December last year, leaving more than 1,000 people killed and 90,000 others homeless. He organized task force Pablo composed of Senior Deputy Administrator Felix Razo, IAS Acting Department Manager Florentino David, IAS Chief Internal Control Officer Teresita Pantalla, IAS Senior Internal Control Officer-A Mary Jean Estefanio and SMD Senior EngineerA Maria Gracia Ramos. The contingent will do ground inspection from Friday to December 30 to assess progress in hardhit localities after Pablo caused losses of up to P1.6 billion mostly in the agriculture sector. Maranan is scheduled to meet farmers on Dec. 29 to get firsthand information on the projects being implemented. Following the disbursement of P500,000,000 for rehabilitation in Regions 10, 11, 12 and 13, the Department of Budget and Management will release P500,000,000 to NIA to restore other irrigation facilities damaged by typhoon Pablo.

Rice smuggler merely a ‘bogeyman’— lawyer By Merck Maguddayao | Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:01am LAWYER Argee Guevarra, who filed plunder complaints against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Administrator Orlan Calayag on December 16, accused them on Thursday of putting up a “bogeyman”, as alleged leader of a rice smuggling ring. “The problem with David Tan is that, for the power he supposedly wields, no photograph of him exists;[nor can] the compulsory processes of the House or the Senate... produce him in any congressional inquiry to elicit his testimony on the rice issue,” he said. The surfacing of Tan, Guevarra said, only “legitimized smuggling activities... through government-to-government rice importation schemes”. In the plunder complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, he accused Alcala and Calayag of facilitating an importation deal with the government of Vietnam in May for 205,700 metric tons of rice, which was overpriced by P457 million, based on the prevailing market price of Vietnamese rice in that month. A newspaper report (not in the Manila Standard) cited an anonymous source from the Bureau of Customs that said Tan monopolized rice importation in collusion with officials. Alcala, Guevarra said, declared during a Senate inquiry that he would resign if he would not be able to achieve full rice self-sufficiency this year. “Only five days remain before 2013 and Alcala impliedly admits his failure to reach his selfimposed targets,” he said.

Drive to ban firecrackers gathers momentum December 26, 2013 11:39 pm   by Francis Earl A. Cueto and Ritchie Horario Reporters Health and environment advocates blow horns, which they said are safer than firecrackers, which in the past have injured dozens of New Year revelers. Photo by Rene H. Dilan Government agencies and health advocates ramped up the campaign against the use of firecrackers on Thursday, five days before the start of New Year revelry. Waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition, the Department of Health (DOH), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and Manila’s First District Rep. Benjamin Asilo organized a multi-stakeholder campaign called “Pamayanang Hindi Nagpapaputok: Buo, Busog at Malusog.” Holding giant mock firecrackers with the poison sign and the word “Danger,” the groups paraded in barangays in Tondo, Manila, to promote the use of safe and eco-friendly noisemakers. “Firecrackers are the last thing anyone needs to celebrate the season, especially since these have already been proven to be harmful to humans, animals and the environment,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition. “The money saved by not blowing up firecrackers and fireworks can aid ongoing humanitarian efforts in places ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda,” Lucero said. “By shunning firecrackers and pyrotechnics, our communities and families will come out unscathed from the New Year’s revelry,” she added. Asilo discouraged people from lighting firecrackers, which he said can cause “unwarranted injuries, fire, and large-scale pollution.” “I urge the public to shun firecrackers, greet the New Year with their fingers and eyes unharmed, and with the surroundings clear of toxic smoke and garbage,” he said. The activity is part of the EcoWaste Coalition’s “Iwas PapuToxic” drive that complements the DOH and other agencies’ own no-to-firecracker campaigns. Meanwhile, the Makati City government has not lifted the fireworks ban in barangays Bangkal, Magallanes, and Pio del Pilar, which were affected when oil seeped from West Tower Condominium in 2010.

“Although the cleaning phase of the oil leak has been ongoing for years now, the city government deems it proper to keep the ordinance in effect so that no further harm could befall our constituents,� Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay said. Under City Ordinance 2010-A-020, violators of the firecrackers ban face a fine of P5,000 or six months imprisonment. For partnerships and corporations, the president or general manager shall be held liable. Banned fireworks include baby rocket, bawang, small triangulo, el Diablo, watusi, and sky rocket. Binay reminded the public of the 1994 ordinance banning the sale of firecracker to minors. Violation would mean a fine of P1,000 or imprisonment of 15 days. Reports from the DOH showed that most firecracker-related injuries from December 21, 2012 to January 5 this year involved children aged five to 12. Manila had 168 recorded incidents, the highest in the National Capital Region.

YEARENDER: BIR once again misses collection targets December 26, 2013 6:05 pm   DESPITE its well-publicized attempt to collect P2.2 billion from boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has not been successful in meeting its collection target for the year.Some critics attributed the failure to the bureau’s “selective” way of chasing after big taxpayers.The BIR is under intense pressure to improve its collection since the country will need massive funding for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda.But the bureau’s collection record this year is far from satisfactory. Except in April, it has consistently fallen short of its monthly targets. And based on the BIR’s list of the 500 biggest taxpayers in 2012, only 25 of the 40 Filipinos included in the Forbes list of the super rich were top taxpayers. Mall developer Henry Sy and his family paid only a combined tax of P93.8 million, despite his being listed by Forbes as among the five richest Filipinos. When it comes to paying taxes, the Sy family was eclipsed by the country’s top taxpayer — Azcona Vivian Que, who paid P131.4 million last year. Lucio Tan, considered to be the second richest man in the country, had a tax liability of P18 million in his and his family’s income tax returns (ITR) in 2012. The next three wealthiest Filipinos are Enrique Razon Jr. whose ITR showed a P19 million tax liability, John Gokongwei Jr. and family, P16.8 million and David Consunji and family, P14.3 million. After its row with Pacquiao, the BIR has not indicated if it will run after other big fish, especially those who failed to settle their tax liabilities. But compelling Pacquiao to pay could be difficult since he had claimed that he had paid his taxes in the United States. The Court of Tax Appeals had ordered the BIR and the Sarangani congressman to stop discussing the tax case in public, but if Pacquiao did indeed settle his taxes in the US, then the BIR loses its bid to collect P2.2 billion from the boxer/congressman. KRISTYN NIKA M. lAZO

Ilocos forest declared wildlife critical habitat December 26, 2013 9:25 pm   by James Konstantin Galvez Reporter THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has declared a dipterocarp forest in Adams, Ilocos Norte as a critical habitat for wildlife species.In DENR Administrative order, Secretary Ramon Paje said that declaring the area as a Wildlife Critical Habitat Would Help Protect and Conserve Ilocos Norte’s “Last Frontier Of Dipterocarp Forest,” And All Floral And Faunal Species Living There.Dipterocarps refer to a family of hardwood, tropical trees like mahogany.The forest, which has a total land area of 3,250 hectares (32.5 square kilometers.), has also been named Adams Wildlife Critical Habitat (AWCH).The lush forests of the AWCH are known to be habitats of threatened species such as the Philippine falconet, Philippine hanging parakeet, Philippine brown deer, Philippine warty pig, as well as jade vines, giant tree ferns, and other dipterocarp trees.“The DAO will enjoin the participation of all stake-holders from planning to the implementation process, encouraging them to be sustainable in their efforts as they will also stand to benefit the most from the health of the environment,” Paje said.He explained that the involvement of the local government and other stakeholders—who usually rely on both the ecological and economic services that the environment naturally provides—would ensure the area’s viability as habitat for wildlife species even in the presence ecotourism development and other human activities.The DAO gives the DENR regional executive director (RED) of the Ilocos Region the authority to enter into a partnership with all concerned groups for the preservation and conversation of AWCH.The RED could also delegate management of the critical area to the local government of Adams after determining and enhancing the latter’s capacity.The order requires the preparation of an AWCH Management Plan, which contains details about management issues and strategies to sustainably develop the area, including rehabilitation, community organization, promotion of environmental education and ecotourism. Republic Act 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, prohibits certain activities within a declared critical habitat. These include dumping of waste products that could adversely affect wildlife, illegal occupation of certain portions of the habitat, quarrying, mineral exploration or extraction, burning and logging.

Mindanao soldiers favor Cruz as next army chief December 26, 2013 9:18 pm   by Al Jacinto PAGADIAN CITY: Government troops deployed in Mindanao said they favor a decorated military commander in Minda-nao as the next Philippine Army chief. Gen. Noel Coballes, the current army chief, is retiring on February at age 56 and troops in the southern region said they want Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz 3rd to succeed as the next Commanding General of the Philippine Army. Cruz, who belongs to Class 1980 of the Philippine Military Academy, is the current chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City. Prior to that, Cruz was the commander of the First Infantry Division based in Zam-boanga del Sur province in Western Mindanao. He also served as deputy commander of the 10th Infantry Division and chief of the Task Force Davao, brigade commander and also an intelligence officer of the Philippine Army. “Pabor kami kay General Cruz dahil bukod sa magaling at matino at walang bahid ng anumang eskandalo at subok na namin si General Cruz at talagang masipag,” one army sergeant here said. He said many soldiers and officers also favor Cruz because of his loyalty and dedication to service and his unblemished military records and accomplishments. Cruz was largely credited for his extraordinary peace and development outreach program that until now is being used by the army to address the insurgency problems in Mindanao. Under Cruz’s stint as army commander and later as military commander in Eastern Mindanao, he introduced various reforms advocated the rights of indigenous people and strongly supported President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s peace process in Mindanao.

Inflation to settle at 3.8-4.7% December 26, 2013 8:50 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Reporter Inflation rate may spike between 3.8 percent and 4.7 percent in December on the account of typhoon-related disruptions, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said on Thursday. In a text message, BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. attributed the central bank’s higher inflation outlook for the last month of the year to the typhoon-related price hikes in some commodities and utilities.“The BSP projects inflation in December to settle between 3.8 percent and 4.7 percent given higher electricity prices, increase in fuel prices and lingering price pressures on some food commodities as a result of [Super] Typhoon Yolanda,” Tetangco said. Following the devastation made by the super typhoon, the central bank warned of supply disruptions in the flow of goods that could lead to a higher inflation. Data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council showed that the damage caused by Yolanda to infrastructures and agriculture reached the P35.5-billion mark. The damage to infrastructure was at P18.2 billion while damages in the agriculture sector was estimated at P17.3 billion. On the other hand, the BSP governor assured that the country’s monetary authority would maintain its vigilance in inflation monitoring. “Going forward, the BSP will remain vigilant in monitoring price pressures to ensure price stability conducive to a balanced and sustainable economic growth,” he stated. Inflation targeting is an approach to monetary policy that involves the use of a publicly announced inflation target set by the government, which the BSP commits to achieve over a twoyear horizon. Promoting price stability is the central bank’s main priority, and the target serves as a guide for the public’s expectations about future inflation, allowing them to plan ahead with greater certainty. In its latest Monetary Board meeting, the BSP said that inflation expectations remain firmly anchored within its target range of 3 percent to 5 percent for 2013 to 2014 and 2 percent to 4 percent for 2015. For this year, the BSP is seeing a 2.9-percent average inflation rate.

DA eyes abaca project in Visayas December 26, 2013 8:48 pm   by James Konstantin Galvez Reporter The Department of Agriculture (DA) is hoping to replicate an abaca integration project in typhoon-stricken areas in the Central Philippines to provide alternative livelihood to families and enhance the industry’s competitiveness globally. Under the “Abakayamanan” program, the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) and the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) aim to help farmers in typhoon-affected provinces to bounce back through the use of technology, which combines farming of abaca with other crops like coconut. “We may be able to duplicate the project. Even prior to the Yolanda, Leyte and Samar are already the biggest provinces in abaca production,” said Dr. Editha Lomerio, Abakayamanan project head. “We can have a holistic approach in our abaca production through Abakayamanan. It’s a food security source, and we may also have it as a zero waste crop,” Lomerio said. BAR has initially released P1.8 million for the Abakayamanan project, which was pioneered in Bicol region. The pilot areas are San Roque, Maliliput, Albay and Gubat, Sorsogon. The BAR-FIDA project on Abakayamanan is an integration of abaca operations. First, there is intercropping particularly of abaca with coconut farms. For short-gestating crops, among the crops integrated with abaca were okra, pechay, squash, eggplant, upo, mungbean, sweet potato, pole sitao, snap bean, ginger, papaya and pineapple. Abakayamanan brought a 13-percent increase in abaca area in Bicol Region to 50,212 hectares, employing 21,134 farmers. Bicol’s abaca fiber production contributes 37 percent of the country’s total production. Abakayamanan implemented integrated farming system, disease management, Integrated Pest Management, and value adding through manufacturing of handicraft and other products. Integrated to abaca planting are animal (like goat) growing, mushroom growing, and composting to produce organic fertilizer. Based on studies conducted by the agency, the program has already raised farmers’ income in two pilot areas by P14,400 per 1,000 square meters. Because of the program’s success, BAR Director Nicomedes Eleazar said they are now pushing for the wider implementation of the project in other abaca-producing provinces.

Enhancing the market Eleazar said that the replication of the Abakayaman project in Leyte-Samar will enhance the marketing of quality abaca manufacturing in the Philippines especially in light of a certification for sustainable forest management obtained by manufacturers. Abaca manufacturer Glatfelter (Germany), which has an abaca manufacturing plant in Barrio Maria Cristina, Balo, Lanao del Norte has obtained a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) from New York-based Rainforest Alliance. Glatfelter manages Newtech Pulp, a producer and exporter of abaca pulp, has been teaching its constituent farmers to plant trees sustainably. Its systems encourage greening of forest and soil erosion prevention. The company is one of the leading manufacturers of composite fibers, specialty papers, and engineered products made from abaca. “As Eastern Visayas has been the biggest producer of abaca fiber in the country, planting of abaca will definitely help rehabilitate the typhoon-stricken provinces,” Eleazar said. Leyte, Southern Leyte and Northern Samar are currently among the country’s 10 biggest abaca producers. The other top provinces are Catanduanes, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, Leyte, Sulu, Davao Oriental, Camarines Sur and Surigao del Sur. The Philippines is considered the world’s biggest supplier of abaca products with export value of around $100 million. As of 2011, the total area devoted to abaca in the Philippines was 172,528 hectares at a total product of 73,274 metric tons of abaca fiber. The abaca industry is also considered as a significant job generator. As of 2011, FIDA noted it employed 111,112 farmers and 506 traders. Employment in groups includes 17 licensed traders-exporters; 13 licensed GBEs (grading and baling establishments); six cordage firms; six licensed pulp manufacturers; and 109 licensed fibercraft processors. Eleazar said that opportunities abound the abaca industry as Ecuador, the Philippines’ next competitor in supply, is reducing its abaca area, according to Lomerio. The Philippines also has the competitive edge in abaca production due to its quality—durable, clean white, and long fibers. The country exports its abaca pulp, fiber and other products mainly to the United Stated, Europe and Japan. There is an expanding markets for abaca fiber made into denim in Japan.

Lawmakers see shrinking PhilHealth membership December 26, 2013 11:31 pm   by Llanesca T. Panti LAWMAKERS foresee a cut in Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) membership after the Supreme Court declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of lawmakers unconstitutional. Reps. Rodolfo Farinas of Ilocos Norte and Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list made the observation as they noted that significant portions of their PDAF financed the PhilHealth membership of their constituents. As of June this year, PhilHealth has 30.74 million members nationwide, up from last year’s 28.49 million members. The Supreme Court declared PDAF unconstitutional in a unanimous decision on November 19. “I see PhilHealth membership dwindling because around P3 million of my PDAF was allocated for PhilHealth memberships. Now, I don’t know if they could pay on their own,” Farinas, a lawyer, said in a text message to The Manila Times. Tugna said those who will bear the brunt are people enrolled in the PhilHealth premium, which is only good for one year. “Without PDAF, there’s no alternative financing for PhilHealth membership. PhilHealth is a government-owned and -controlled corporation, ran like a private corporation. If we don’t pay the premium, there will be no insurance coverage . . . unless the representatives will pay from their personal fund,” Tugna pointed. Tugna has used P600,000 to finance the PhilHealth membership of his 300 constituents. Each premium costs P2,000. As of June 2013, there were 9.5 million PhilHealth members under the sponsored program composed of indigent families from the lowest 20 percent of the population. Since 2011, the bulk of PhilHealth members and dependents are under the sponsored program.

Senate passed only 3 bills in 2013 December 26, 2013 11:29 pm   by Jefferson Antiporda THE Senate still considers 2013 a productive year despite passing only three major bills out of 2,047 measures, including the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which is now on its second reading.Senate President Franklin Drilon said the chamber’s biggest accomplishment this year was allocating funds for the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by calamities. He likewise cited the passage of the 2014 national budget, and the probe on the controversial pork barrel scam and artificial rice shortage.“Among the funding is the P14.6-billion supplemental budget which was sourced from savings made from the unreleased 2013 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the extension by one more year of the validity of the P12-billion 2013 calamity-related funds,” Drilon said. The P2.264-trillion national budget, he added, contains around P20-billion rehabilitation funds, P80-billion worth of unprogrammed funds to serve as standby authorization for sending foreign grants to victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda; and a calamity fund of P13 billion, which, along with a P4.8 billion quick response fund, will be used for future contingencies. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Francis Escudero said that the senators were “conscious of the fact that the timely passage of the budget is the key to fuel not only the entire government machinery but also to our capability and capacity as a nation, especially in this challenging time.”He made it clear, however, that their work does not end with the passage of the 2014 budget because the Finance and the House appropriations committees, together with the Commission on Audit, will strictly monitor the disbursement of the calamity funds through the Department of Budget and Management’s quarterly reports. Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, on the other hand, noted that the chamber also intensively investigated the pork barrel scam and initiated discussions on the FOI bill. “The Senate continued to be a guardian of the people by investigating controversial issues like the pork barrel scam, the power rate hike, and the sex-for-flight scandal. The Chamber also made history by scrapping the entire pork barrel system which perpetuated corruption in the highest levels of government,” he stated. Cayetano also lauded the sponsorship of the FOI bill, of which he is one of the primary authors and movers, saying that it “will empower all Filipinos to be individual graft-busters and will greatly increase transparency in the government.”

‘Aquino biggest problem of 2013’ December 26, 2013 9:37 pm   The administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd was a very disturbing year brought about by the issues he has not resolved, not only in the political arena, but also in natural disasters said retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz who sees the President as “the biggest problem of 2013.” Cruz, who is dissatisfied with Aquino’s administration, sees a brighter 2014 if Aquino will resign for the sake of the Filipino people who suffered a lot because of his leadership since he was elected as the president of Philippines three years ago. “I believe if he will resign although he [Aquino] will not do it and it will not happen, everything in this country will change. A brighter 2014,” Cruz said. Reacting to the recent survey to the people’s dissatisfaction of Aquino’s leadership, the prelate noted that the people can’t be fooled anymore by Aquino and his cabinet secretaries. Cruz added that Aquino had a problematic leadership in 2013. “Mr. Aquino had a problematic leadership in 2013, because if we look at the feedback of the trimedia especially in social media, the people who are not satisfied with his leadership are increasing,” he said. The prelate backs Aquino though, saying that the Philippines would become a boring country if he had not encountered problems. However, Cruz lambasted the president, saying that he was the biggest problem of 2013. “Sometimes I am thinking of Aquino . . . those people who are writing for Aquino’s speeches. It is true that the Philippines will be a boring country if there is no problem, but to tell you, Aquino was the biggest problem of the year,” he said. For Cruz, the Aquino administration was like a “big joke.” “First, he does not know how to lead. He is not capable of leading. Second, the country had become more problematic when he became the president,” he said. “I’m sorry, I hope I was, but I am not,” the bishop said when asked if he was satisfied of Aquino’s presidency. Robertzon F. Ramirez

FAO extends assistance to Aklan farmers December 26, 2013 9:13 pm   KALIBO: The Food and Agriculture Office (FAO) of the United Nations has extended assistance to farmers affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 17 towns here. The assistance, which is under FAO’s “Planting the Seeds of Recovery” Program in coordination with the Department of Agriculture, consists of 800 bags of certified seeds and 800 bags of urea as fertilizers.

World Bank to grant support for LGUs December 26, 2013 8:44 pm  

by Kristyn Nika M. Lazo International lender World Bank said that they provide grant for civil society organization (CSO) to promote accountability for local governments in the country. In its second global call for CSO proposals—first off which started in February—World Bank arm Global Partnership for Social Accountability (GPSA) said that it would help fund civil society organization social initiatives in the country focused on “strengthening transparency and accountability.” The World Bank arm said that proposals that can be funded should reach three to five years to ensure strategic funding for social accountability in which funding would require detailed budgets ranging from $500,000 to $1 million intercorrelated with the initiatives within the time frame of the proposal. According to GPSA invite to CSO accountability proposals, they aim to address the local governments’ delivery of social services to the poor as the information gathered from the proposal granted of support will be “used by local governments and relevant national government agencies to better design, deliver and monitor pro-poor interventions.” Also, the GPSA said that it would encourage community participation in local government units’ (LGU) budget transparency and accountability. The information would also help the LGUs to improve allocation, use and management of budget within their means and control. With this support, the GPSA sees increased activities and capacity building among CSOs and LGUs to “implement social accountability.” In February, the international lender awarded social accountability grants to 12 CSOs in 10 developing countries including Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kyrgyz Republic, Malawi, Moldova, Mozambique, Tajikistan, Tunisia and the Philippines. “The GPSA applies with these grants is to support the collaboration between citizens and governments to work on solutions for development challenges. This in turn helps the countries to reach the goals of ending extreme poverty and fostering shared prosperity,” said Roby Senderowitsch, GPSA program manager.

Asian markets mixed, dollar rises to fiveyear high December 26, 2013 8:40 pm   HONG KONG: Asian shares were mixed Thursday with Tokyo extending its gains following a record close on Wall Street in pre-holiday trade, while the dollar rose to a five-year high against the yen.The greenback rose to 104.85 yen in early trade—its highest since October 2008—before settling at 104.71 yen, compared with 104.39 yen Wednesday in Tokyo. New York was closed for the Christmas holiday. Tokyo closed up 1.03 percent, or 164.45 points, at 16,174.44, the best finish since November 2007. Seoul slid 0.11 percent, or 2.29 points, to 1,999.30 while Shaxnghai dropped 1.58 percent, or 33.25 points, to 2,073.10.Financial markets in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand were closed for a public holiday. Tokyo shares enjoyed a tailwind from the yen’s weakening on the back of continued monetary easing steps by the Bank of Japan, said Yoshihiro Okumura, general manager of research at Chibagin Asset Management. “The risk-taking sentiment is buoyant,” Okumura told Dow Jones Newswires. But the market showed a hint of caution as hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s controversial Yasukuni shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead including several highlevel officials executed for war crimes after World War II. South Korea and China see it as a symbol of Tokyo’s unrepentance and a misguided view of its own past.On Tuesday US stocks closed at a new all-time high before the Christmas break, following solid reports on durable goods and new home sales. The news followed a recent run of figures showing a pick-up in the US economy and the Federal Reserve announcement that it would from next month reduce its stimulus program by $10 billion to $75 billion a month.The euro bought $1.3679 and 143.27 yen against $1.3668 and 142.71 yen on Wednesday in Tokyo. In oil markets New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for February delivery, was up 13 cents at $99.35 in afternoon trade while Brent North Sea crude for February gained 17 cents to $112.07. Gold fetched $1,205.90 at 0855 GMT compared with $1,195.04 late Monday. AFP

Monetary Board eases rules on time deposit note issues December 25, 2013 8:09 pm   by Kristyn Nika M. Lazo The Monetary Board (MB) has eased the rules on the maturity duration of long-term negotiable certificates of time deposits (LTNCTD). In a statement, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said that the longer the period for the time deposit notes, the less risk these financial instruments are for borrowers. “The gains of having more long-term deposits should ultimately accrue to the borrowing public . . . Having less of the tenor mismatch reduces systemic risk and that is itself already a gain,” Tetangco said, citing that annual repricing of the borrower’s obligation will be reduced, and banks face less risks on refinancing. The MB said that the lengthening of maturity period would be beneficial as LTNCTDs “behave like fixed-term investment issued by a private entity,” and such instruments can be traded between one holder to another but cannot be withdrawn prior to its maturity. The LTNCTDs were only available for P5 billion per issue “while outstanding LTNCTDs were capped at 300 percent of an issuing bank’s capital.” “The lifting of LTNCTD limits comes with further refinements that promote issuer accountability. Under the new guidelines, the MB raised the reserve requirement for these deposits instruments from 3 [percent] to 6 percent of outstanding LTNCTDs,” the MB said. “Likewise, any portion of an approved LTNCTD that is not issued within six months of its approval will be forfeited. This ensures that banks will structure an LTNCTD issue size which they believe they can sell within the six-month period,” the board added. The new rule for longer-term time deposit notes would require listing LTNCTDs at an accredited exchange. This would be “aligned” with global practices of enhancing transparency, instilling price discovery, and providing ultimate investor protection. The MB said that the new rule will boost the financial stability of banks with stronger balance sheets that operate in a well-functioning capital market.

Posted on December 26, 2013 10:31:43 PM By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Reporter

Inflation seen peaking this month INFLATION will likely accelerate to its fastest rate for 2013 this month, the Bangko Sentral ng  Pilipinas (BSP) yesterday said, due to higher power, fuel and food prices.    "The BSP projects inflation in December to settle between 3.8‐4.7%...," central bank Governor  Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. told reporters in a text message.    The December outlook is higher than the 3.3‐4.1% he had offered for last month, when  inflation hit a nine‐month high of 3.3%.The latest range is also higher than the current peak for  this year of 3.4%, which was recorded last February.Inflation hitting the low end of the  December forecast will be the highest since January 2012 ‐‐ when the rate hit 4% ‐‐ and would  match the 3.8% recorded in August of that year.    Inflation averaged 2.8% as of November, still below the central bank’s 3‐5% target for the year.    Food prices have risen in the wake of the disaster caused by super‐typhoon Yolanda  (international name: Haiyan), described as the world’s most powerful storm this year, which  pummeled the central Philippines last month.At least 6,109 individuals were killed and the  damage to infrastructure and farms has been estimated at around P36.69 billion.    Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), meanwhile, began implementing the first phase of a record P4.15  per kilowatt‐hour (kWh) increase this month. The Supreme Court last Monday issued a  temporary restraining order against the rate hike, which was to be completed in March.    Oil companies also raised the prices of diesel, gasoline, and kerosene several times this month.    The central bank, said Mr. Tetangco, will continue to be watchful of any developments as it  fulfills its mandate to temper inflation."Going forward, the BSP will remain vigilant in  monitoring price pressures to ensure price stability conducive to a balanced and sustainable  economic growth," he said.Monetary authorities expect inflation to settle at 2.9% this year,  before accelerating to 4.5% next year and 3.2% in 2015.

Posted on December 26, 2013 10:31:05 PM

BSP tweaks rule for banks THE BANGKO Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has tweaked its rules on long‐term deposit certificates,  allowing banks to issue more to address financing gaps, while tightening transparency and  accountability among issuers.    The central bank said the Monetary Board (MB), its policy‐setting body, had removed issuance  limits on long‐term negotiable certificates of time deposits (LTNCTDs).    "Prior to the liberalization, LTNCTD offerings were limited to P5 billion per issue, while total  outstanding LTNCTDs were capped at 300% of an issuing bank’s capital," the BSP said.    LTNCTDs are certificates of a bank’s indebtedness with a designated maturity. These represent  an obligation to pay the LTNCTDs’ face value upon maturity and the specified quarterly interest  during the life of the instrument.    Unlike regular time deposits, LTNCTDs cannot be pre‐terminated. They can, however, be traded  in the secondary market. The instruments have a tenor of at least five years and all issuances  require MB approval.    "[The] issuance of LTNCTDs effectively ‘lengthen’ the maturity profile of funds sourced by  banks. Such longer‐term funds can be used to better match against their long‐term loan  exposures," the central bank explained.    "To the public, LTNCTDs behave like a fixed‐term investment issued by a private entity."    The BSP noted that the lifting of issuance limits would help in extending debt maturities.    "Lengthening the maturity profile of deposits has long been a challenge since the majority of  deposits in Philippines are in the form of savings deposits which can be withdrawn by  depositors as needed," it said.    "By default, then, banks have to finance their term loans with funds whose maturity profile is  substantially shorter. This creates a mismatch in the tenor of assets versus liabilities and banks  address this by often having the interest rate on long‐term loans reset annually."    Central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., in the statement, noted that "the gains of 

having more long‐term deposits should ultimately accrue to the borrowing public."    "[H]aving less of the tenor mismatch reduces systemic risk and that is itself already a gain."    He added that with more long‐term deposits, the risk borne by borrowers through the annual  repricing of their obligations is reduced. Banks also face less of a refinancing risk.    The MB, meanwhile, also refined its guidelines to promote greater accountability among  LTNCTD‐issuing banks.    "Under the new guidelines, the MB raised the reserve requirement for these deposit  instruments from three to six percent of outstanding LTNCTDs. Likewise, any portion of an  approved LTNCTD that is not issued within six months of its approval will be forfeited," the  central bank said.    "This ensures that banks will structure an LTNCTD issue size which they believe they can sell  within the six‐month period."    The MB also required the listing of LTNCTDs on an accredited exchange, noting that the  instruments have "investment‐like features and can be traded in the market before its date of  maturity."    "With this requirement, the new guideline is aligned with global best practice on marketable  securities by enhancing transparency, instilling price discovery and ultimately providing investor  protection," it added. ‐‐ Bettina Faye V. Roc

Posted on December 26, 2013 10:30:29 PM

Remittances throw a lifeline to typhoon survivors PALO ‐‐ A sister living on the other side of the world gave Roberto Retanal what he needed  most to piece his humble home back together after the devastating typhoon that tore through  his village in the central Philippines last month.  She sent him P40,000 ($900) to replace the  roof ripped off his house by the strongest winds ever recorded in a country where typhoons  are all too common.     Mr. Retanal’s sister lives and works in Britain. There are some 10 million Filipinos living and  working abroad, sending regular remittances to help their families get by. Between January  and October, they had sent back around $18.5 billion, 6% more than last year and running at a  rate equivalent to around 10% of gross domestic product.     When disaster struck on Nov. 8 the telegraphic transfers went into overdrive.     "Filipinos dug even deeper," said Pia de Lima, spokeswoman for Western Union in Asia‐Pacific,  which cancelled transaction fees for three weeks after the typhoon for money coming in from  43 countries. Super‐typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) killed nearly 6,100 people,  with around 1,800 still listed missing.     But more than 16 million people have been affected by the calamity. Aside from the ruined  infrastructure and housing, the coconut groves that provided livelihoods for families in rural  areas were uprooted. The worst‐hit eastern and central Visayas region accounts for around 9%  of the Philippines’ GDP. Economic growth is expected to be 7% this year, slightly slower than  China. As a result of the typhoon, analysts expect growth to slow to between 4.1‐5.9% in the  fourth quarter, but officials are sticking with a 6.5‐7.5% growth target for next year.    Whatever the rate, the survivors in the central Philippines will struggle, but they can at least  count on support from relatives abroad, as 1.7 million of the Filipino diaspora hail from the  stricken region. Mr. Retanal is jobless and, with a wife in a low‐income government job and  two grown‐up children both earning pittances in far‐off Manila, he is lucky to have a sister  working as an accountant in Britain.     "If not for my sister and her mother‐in‐law in London, who also donated cash, it would take  me another 10 years to complete this roof," the 59‐year‐old told Reuters in his living room  that a few weeks ago was left completely submerged after the storm surge inundated his one‐ storey concrete house. The windows have still to be replaced, and aside from a silvery "Merry  Christmas" sign hung from a pole, there was little else in the room other than a broken  television set and four plastic chairs.     All the other houses in this tiny, lower middle‐class community were covered by temporary  roofing, either blue tarpaulin or metal sheets twisted by the storm and salvaged after the 

floodwaters receded.    The Philippines, along with Mexico, is the world’s third largest recipient of remittances, with  India in the top spot followed by China, according to the World Bank.     The country’s central bank governor expected the higher level of remittances seen post‐ Yolanda to stretch into the early months of next year, based on what he saw in 2009 when  two typhoons inundated large parts of the main island of Luzon.     "Understanding Filipino values, it would not be unreasonable to expect an increase in monies  that overseas Filipinos would send their families for rebuilding," Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas  Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. told Reuters.     "We might even see that trend continue to the first quarter of 2014."     Analysts do not expect the extra inflows to have a big effect on the peso, as it will be offset by  the need to import more goods for the post‐disaster reconstruction.     Only few families are as fortunate as the Dacatimbangs of Tacloban City. A daughter works as  a nurse in Indiana and has sent around $1,000 twice a month since the typhoon struck to help  her parents repair their home and replace essential items. For the less well paid, like maids  and laborers, the margins to help are far slimmer.     "How much more can they send back over and above what they are sending now?" said Jun  Trinidad, economist at Citigroup in Manila. "These are mostly fixed‐income wage earners in  the Middle East, Singapore, I don’t think they have that tremendous flexibility to augment  their remittances."     But for some, even small amounts received make a big difference.     Divina Codilan, a 44‐year‐old woman with 11 children and two grandchildren, said a single  remittance of P5,000 ($113) from her brother working as a laborer in Saudi Arabia allowed her  to restart her vegetable and fresh chicken stall on the main highway in Tacloban City.     "Life is difficult at the moment, money is hard to come by, what I earn everyday is enough to  feed us and buy milk for my grandchild," Ms. Codilan said. "My brother cannot send us more  money, he has his own family to feed." ‐‐ Reuters Posted on December 26, 2013 10:27:42 PM

Aquino rejects Energy chief’s resignation PRESIDENT Benigno S. C. Aquino III has rejected the resignation of Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. 

Petilla, who offered to quit after having failed to restore power to typhoon‐stricken areas in  the Visayas by Christmas.    Palace Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, in a statement, yesterday said: “The President did not  accept the resignation, cognizant of the fact that according to original estimates, it would take  three to six months to restore power in town centers, considering the extent of the damage  caused by super‐typhoon Yolanda: the Luzon‐Visayas connection was down, the major  geothermal plant in Leyte was also down; and generation, transmission and distribution lines  were down.”    Mr. Petilla offered to quit in a meeting with Mr. Aquino yesterday.    “In the face of these challenges, the accomplishments of Secretary Petilla speaks for itself,” Mr.  Lacierda said.    “First, from his original target of six months he was able to restore power in roughly 40 days;  Second ... Secretary Petilla was able to energize 317 out of 320 affected towns, leaving 0.93%  still to accomplish,” he added.    “By any measure this is excellent performance.”    Mr. Lacierda said the President “noted that foreign observers who have seen work being done  in the Visayas, and in comparison to disasters of lesser magnitude in other countries, pointed  out that repair and rehabilitation of energy infrastructure was done faster.”    “For all these reasons, the President, in rejecting Secretary Petilla’s offer to resign, reiterated  that he has no intention of losing the services of an honorable public servant.” ‐‐ K. M. P.  Tubadeza‐rejects‐Energy‐ chief%E2%80%99s‐resignation&id=81306     

Posted on December 26, 2013 10:16:48 PM

ADB boosts development funding THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) has increased its funding for development projects in the  Asia‐Pacific by a tenth in 2011‐2012 as it recognized the continuing problems of poverty and  climate change in the region.    In its 2013 Sustainability Report, the ADB said it approved $43 billion worth of development  projects in 2011 and 2012, a 10% increase from the previous two‐year period.    "Each approval takes into account economic, social and environmental impacts... ADB  investments contributed to providing and improving access to basic services, including funding  for education, health, energy, water supply, sanitation and transport," it said in its report.    However, the multilateral lender noted that several problems continue to persist in Asia,  including the lack of inclusive economic growth and the impact of climate change.    "The gap between the region’s rich and poor has widened significantly in the last two decades.  The pattern and quality of economic growth is critical to ensure that the poor and  disadvantaged are not left behind," the Bank said.    To address this, the ADB continues to provide "effective solutions to the needs of the rural and  urban poor for transport and for information and communication technology."    "Such solutions improve the poor’s access to economic opportunities and social services such as  hospitals and schools," the report said.    Education projects in the last two years reached $951 million.     The ADB said it is also focused on countering the effects of climate change, noting that the  region "has become a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, increasingly contributing to  climate change."    It stressed that the Asia‐Pacific faces higher risks to the consequences of climate change  because most of its population live in coastal areas or depend on agriculture for a living.    "Continued economic growth and poverty reduction will not be possible without proactive  efforts to mitigate the causes of global warming and help the region adapt to the expanding 

impacts of climate change," the Bank said.    In line with this, the ADB approved 112 environment‐related projects amounting to $13 billion  in 2011‐2012, 50% higher than the previous two‐year period.    It also approved 221 technical assistance projects amounting to $278 million and 35 grants  worth almost $294 million geared towards environmental sustainability.     Under its long‐term strategic framework covering 2008 to 2020, the ADB said it would continue  to support projects that promote inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable  growth and regional integration.    The lender said it would concentrate funding on five core areas, namely infrastructure  development, environment and climate change, regional cooperation and integration, finance  sector development, and education. ‐‐ Diana Jean B. Evite‐boosts‐ development‐funding&id=81304                           

Posted on December 26, 2013 10:08:29 PM

Injuries due to firecrackers decreased by 34%, DoH says INJURIES RELATED to New Year revelries were lower so far this year compared to last year, the Health  department said yesterday.  The Department of Health (DoH) said in a press release injuries from      fireworks were 34% lower compared to a year ago from Dec. 21 until  6 a.m. yesterday.A total of 77 cases were reported this year  compared to 116 last year.Of the 77 cases reported to the Health department, 72 were due to fireworks,  four from stray bullets and a lone case of fireworks ingestion.No fatalities have been recorded to date.    A total of 66 individuals sustained blast injuries but did not require amputation. Seven eye injuries were  recorded.Piccolos, kwitis (rocket), and unknown firecrackers topped the causes of injuries, the Health  department said.Victims were mostly male with 62 cases. All four stray bullet cases were also males, the  same press release noted.Health Assistant Secretary and department spokesperson Enrique A. Tayag  said the first stray bullet victim was a 23‐year‐old unidentified man from Ormoc City in Leyte.    Mr. Tayag said the victim was hit in the thigh by a stray bullet inside his own home around 1:30 a.m. on  Dec. 23. "Stray bullet victim from Ormoc is now at Vicente Sotto Medical Center in Cebu City for surgery  of fractured left femur (thigh bone)," Mr. Tayag wrote on his official Twitter account.    Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona earlier said the department expects lower cases of fireworks‐related  injuries this year as it intensify its campaign for a healthier way to welcome the New Year.    Aksyon Paputok Injury Reduction or APIR is DoH’s program aimed at lessening injuries due to  firecrackers.    Last year, there were 904 fireworks‐related injuries, based on official data from the Health department.    Mr. Tayag earlier said there will be lower cases of firecracker‐related injuries if "children do not play  with fireworks, piccolo disappears, Metro Manila just has community firework display." Mr. Tayag is also  leading the department’s campaign to encourage the public to welcome the New Year by dancing Katy  Perry’s "Roar," instead of using firecrackers. Last year, Mr. Tayag used the popular dance craze  "Gangnam Style" by Korean singer Psy in its anti‐firecraker campaign. ‐‐ MFEF‐due‐to‐ firecrackers‐decreased‐by‐34%,‐DoH‐says&id=81299

Posted on December 26, 2013 08:23:54 PM By Diana Jean B. Evite

Peso weak ahead of last day THE PESO gave up ground against the greenback yesterday as the United States released more  upbeat data, cementing the case that its economy is on the mend.  The local currency closed at P44.465 to the dollar yesterday, 12.5 centavos weaker than its  P44.34‐per‐dollar finish on Monday. Financial markets were closed on Tuesday and Wednesday  for the Christmas holidays.    The peso has depreciated by 8.32% so far this year against its P41.05‐a‐dollar close in end‐2012.  Today is the last trading day for 2013.    “The peso closed weaker because of a stronger dollar across the board due to better data out  of the US,” a trader said in a phone interview.    “The peso only followed other Asian currencies which were also weaker against the  greenback.”    The US Commerce Department on Tuesday said orders for durable goods climbed 3.5% last  month, a recovery from the 0.7% drop in October.    Durable goods include long‐lasting manufactured goods, ranging from aircraft to electronics.    Economists expected the orders for such products to increase by only 2%.    The Commerce Department also reported that sales of new single‐family houses dropped to a  seasonally adjusted 464,000 units last month, 2.1% lower than the October sales.    They exceeded, however, the market expectation of 445,000. October sales were also revised  up to 474,000 units from the initial report of 444,000.    The data confirm the rosy outlook for the world’s largest economy and further boost appetite  for the dollar, which began last week when the Federal Reserve announced it was ready to cut  its stimulus program in January.   

Another trader said corporate demand also weighed on the peso.    “We saw some corporates coming in, probably closing in their month‐end requirements,” the  trader said.    Corporate demand for the greenback usually rises near the month‐end as companies buy the  greenback to remit earnings back to their parent firms.    Dollars traded yesterday dropped to $476 million from $535 million on Monday.    The peso is seen to trade to the dollar within the P44.20‐P44.50 band tomorrow.    WEAKNESS ACROSS ASIA  Most emerging Asian currencies slid yesterday in the face of solid US economic recovery.    The Thai baht hit a near four‐year low yesterday due to political uncertainty. The baht fell 0.2%  to 32.83 per dollar, its weakest since March 2010, according to Thomson Reuters estimates.    Thai police fired teargas and rubber bullets at anti‐government protesters in Bangkok after  demonstrators tried to disrupt preparations for a February election, the clashes flaring after  almost two weeks of relative calm.    Due in part to the impact of the political tensions, the Thai finance ministry yesterday trimmed  its growth forecasts for 2013 and 2014.The baht, like the peso, was also under pressure from  yearend dollar demand.    The greenback was broadly higher, touching a five‐year high versus the yen, on expectations  that a healthy recovery of world’s top economy will allow the Fed to gradually scale back its  bond‐buying stimulus.The US central bank has been buying $85 billion in bonds every month to  provide the economy with easy money. Much of this had funded investments in emerging  markets, where investors flocked for higher yields.However, since the Fed first hinted at the  taper in May, investors have begun shifting their portfolios back to developed economies,  dumping emerging Asian assets as a result.    This year, the peso hit a peak of P40.57 per dollar on Jan. 15. At its weakest, it fell to P44.75 a  dollar on Aug. 29. ‐‐ with a report from Reuters‐weak‐ahead‐of‐ last‐day&id=81282 

DOH REPORTS 34% DECREASE IN FIREWORKS INJURIES The Department of Health DOH) yesterday reported a 34% reduction in the number of fireworks-related injuries compared to the same period last year (116 cases).From December 21 until 6AM yesterday, a total of 77 cases of fireworks-related injuries were reported by the sentinel hospitals. Of the total, 72 were due to fireworks, 4 were due to stray bullet and one case of fireworks ingestion. There was no fatality.Most (33) cases came from the National capital region, followed by Western Visayas (9), and Ilocos Region and MiMaRoPa with 7 cases each.Of the 72 fireworks injuries, 62 were males. Age ranged from 2-65 years. This year, there were only 25% children aged 10 years below who were injured. Last year for the same period, there were 37%. About 42% of those injured were passive users. Sixty six (92%) sustained blast injuries not requiring amputation. There were 7 eye injuries.The top three fireworks causing injuries were piccolo (37), unknown firecrackers (6), and kwitis (5).All 4 stray bullet cases were males with ages ranging from 17-65 years. “Children should not be allowed to handle fireworks. We can prevent injuries,” Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona reminded.                   

FEARED MEXICANS Published : Friday, December 27, 2013 00:00   Written by : Alfred Dalizon  

THE Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force yesterday said it has discovered an ongoing attempt by the world’s most powerful drug cartel based in Mexico to gain a foothold in the country following the seizure of an estimated P420 million worth of shabu at a farm in Lipa owned by the family of a former governor of Batangas.“The Mexicans are here. This is the first time that we have confirmed it,” PNP-AIDSOTF commander Senior Superintendent Bartolome C. Tobias told a press briefing at Camp Crame where he, PNP chief Director General Alan LM Purisima and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chair Undersecretary Arturo G. Cacdac Jr. presented the major drug haul.Tobias said the Mexican drug cartel is already making forays into Philippine territory as evidenced by the clandestine shabu storage facility inside LPL Ranch in Barangay Inosloban, Lipa City where they also arrested three suspects. The drugs, a total of 84 kilos of shabu in vacuum-sealed latex packs, were placed in four pieces of luggage. According to Tobias, they recently received information that one of the arrested suspects identified as Gary Ting Tan is a big-time drug trafficker operating in Metro Manila and the nearby regions.“Reports further disclosed Tan worked with a certain Jorge Torres, a FilipinoAmerican with a US passport. Both are accordingly affiliated with the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel,” the PNP-AIDSOTF commander said. Wire reports described the Sinaloa Cartel as the largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Western Hemisphere. A New York Times article said the cartel is responsible for the creation of underground tunnels that allowed the entry of drugs from Mexican border towns to the United States.

Non-bailable charges for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 have been filed against Tan, the raided farm’s caretakers identified as Argay and Rochelle Argethe, Torres and two other Mexican nationals identified only as alias Jaime and alias Joey. The two Mexicans are also believed to be part of the Sinaloa Cartel. For his part Gen. Purisima said he has ordered the AIDSOTF to investigate how the Mexican drug cartel is moving the drugs into the country whose long unguarded coastlines make it easy for international drug dealers to smuggle huge volume of drugs. Purisima said there is a major possibility that the Mexican cartel focused on shipping shabu because it is easier to sell in the Philippines. “The market for methamphetamine hydrochloride is easy in the country. Besides, the drug is much easier to manufacture, much easier to sell. It’s actually more feasible unlike cocaine which costs more and they would be hard-pressed to find a market. It’s like business,” he said. Cacdac said the Philippines is not the only country being eyed by the cartel. He also said that Japanese authorities have also discovered shipments of shabu supposedly coming from the cartel. “They found Asia has a market for shabu,” he said.Purisima said the cartel is getting help from Chinese drug traffickers to establish operations in the Philippines. “We can see that they are just starting. We need to take action so they cannot go further in,” he said. The PNP chief also said that police investigators are consulting with their lawyers after the shabu storage facility was discovered on LPL Ranch, which is owned by the family of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste. Leviste was tried and convicted of murdering his aide in 2007 but has since been granted parole.Purisima said the compound used as a shabu storage facility was leased.

Palace assurance Malacañang assured the public yesterday that the government will take the needed measures to neutralize a Mexican drug cartel which has made its presence felt in the Philippines. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said authorities have a duty to arrest lawbreakers and protect the public. “Siyempre po pag-iibayuhin ang pagsisikap na masabat o mahuli ang mga lumalabag sa batas, itigil ang kanilang krimen, at pangalagaan ang kapakanan ng mga mamamayan (Of course, the government will seek to arrest these lawbreakers, stop their crimes, and protect the citizenry),” Coloma told Palace reporters yesterday.

With EMontano, Hector Lawas‐feared‐mexicans

Meralco prodded on refund Published : Friday, December 27, 2013 00:00   Written by : Jester P. Manalastas   CONSUMERS of Manila Electric Company (Meralco) deserve a refund. This is according to Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares as he asked Meralco to immediately return to the consumers the adjustment in generation charge which was included in the bill this December. Colmenares said the Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the P4.15 increase in generation charge and therefore Meralco should not include this in the latest electric bill. The solon asked Meralco to immediately issue a statement explaining how much of the December billing is covered by the TRO. ”The consumers will only pay the remaining amount of the bill not covered by the TRO. Meralco should also not implement any notice of disconnection this December because many of the consumers are still confused as to the actual amount they should pay,” Colmenares said. “The distribution company should also immediately refund consumers who already paid their electric bills with the generation charge increase” he added. The SC stopped temporarily the increase in generation charge and set the hearing on the petitions against the rate hike in January of next year. ”This is what happens if we continue with the ERC practice of provisional approval of applications for power rate increase. Had ERC not approved the Meralco letter requesting the increase, this would not have happened,” he added. Colmenares added that the SC decision bolstered the petitioners’ argument that the ERC provisional approval was hasty and in violation of due process. “The Supreme Court’s two months TRO actually implies that the ERC could also have desisted from approving the rate increase for 2 months while the claimed generation charge was being investigated,” Colmenares said. He also called on consumers in other regions facing power rate hikes to also seek a TRO and question the constitutionality of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). The progressive solon made the call as electricity consumers in other provinces are facing power rate hikes — in Pangasinan P1.98-P5.16, in Baguio P.26 and in Camarines Sur P3.89.

In all these provinces the reason given for the power rate hike is the same as Meralco’s which is the suspicious simultaneous shutdown of power plants. ”I also ask progressive lawyers such as those of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers and the IBP to help the consumers in these provinces prepare their petition. It is about time that we put a stop to this practice of allowing greedy companies to earn obscene profits at the expense of the people,” he said. “Yesterday morning before the TRO, the DoE said that power producers would defer the collection of the Meralco rate hike. If they are really sincere with this announcement we are now challenging them to do the same for non-Meralco consumers that they are servicing,” said the senior deputy minority leader.‐stories/64308‐meralco‐prodded‐on‐refund                                

Pinoys advised to secure e-Passport Published : Friday, December 27, 2013 00:00   Written by : Cristina Lee‐Pisco   TO avoid encountering problems when traveling abroad, Filipino passport holders were advised to start securing an e-Passport, the only travel document accepted, as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is set to fully implement soon the international standards. Thus, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh informed all Filipino nationals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that, per regulations of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the standards set by the ICAO, all non-machine readable passports may no longer be extended beyond 31 October 2015 and must be completely phased out by 24 November 2015. This means that Filipino nationals holding Machine Readable-Ready Passports (MRRP; green passports) and Machine Readable Passports (MRP) will no longer be allowed to apply for an extension of the validity of these passports beyond 31 October 2014. They must instead apply for a new e-Passport as soon as possible before the expiry of their current MRRP (green) or MRP (maroon) passports. Those who fail to do so will likely encounter difficulty at immigration checks when traveling through any ports of entry around the world after October 2015. Those wanting to obtain a new e-Passport may do so by visiting the Philippine Embassy website ( and getting an appointment online. The documentary requirements and the schedule of fees are available online. Passport holders are also reminded that there are strict rules for applying for an extension of the validity of expiring or expired passports. Passports that are valid for less than six (6) months or those that have already expired may be extended once only in the following instances: death in the family requiring the OFW and members of his/her dependent family to urgently travel to the Philippines; Medical emergencies requiring the OFW and members of his/her dependent family to urgently travel to the Philippines or another country for medical treatment; OFWs returning to their employers abroad with valid employment contracts processed by the POEA; and those going home on final exit visas. In these instances, proof of urgency such as a copy of the death certificate, medical certificate, valid employment contracts processed by the POEA or any of the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) in Saudi Arabia, along with plane tickets with confirmed flight details shall be presented.

Likewise, Filipino nationals are informed that Saudi Labor Law prohibits employers from keeping their passports or not handing them over when requested. Filipino nationals are encouraged to report their companies or employers to police authorities or the Saudi Labor Office should they encounter this problem.‐pinoys‐advised‐to‐secure‐e‐ passport                                      

BANGKO SENTRAL HANDS OVER P3.5M FOR BOHOL, YOLANDA VICTIMS Recently, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco, Jr. hands over the BSP’s donation of P3.5 million to Department of Health’s (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona to augment the DOH relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of the Bohol earthquake and super Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas.The donation is part of BSP’s corporate social responsibility initiatives. One million pesos will go to the Bohol earthquake victims while P2.5 million will be allotted for the Yolanda victims in the Visayas, especially in severely affected areas where branches of the BSP are located.BSP lauded the DOH for its continuing efforts to assist Filipinos deeply affected and devastated by these disasters and pledged that it will continue supporting the agency’s endeavors.   


2013 12 27 quedancor daily news monitor  
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