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Duterte vows to find real person behind ‘rice smuggler David Tan’ By Germelina Lacorte  Inquirer Mindanao   8:41 pm | Sunday, January 5th, 2014  

 

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte vowed to track down the real person behind alleged rice smuggler David Tan, the name tagged behind rice smuggling not only in Davao City but in the country as a whole but which has turned out to be fictitious. “The name of David Tan kept coming up as a ‘smuggling lord’ operating in the country, and there has been a (court) injunction to it, but I have tried to track him down and found the name fictitious,” Duterte said during the Sunday television program Gikan sa masa, para sa masa. “Whoever is behind it (rice smuggling), once I track him down, I’m going to file a case before the Ombudsman,” Duterte said, adding that on Monday, January 6, he would convene a conference with the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Maritime Police and all the other government agencies involved to solve the mystery behind the rice smuggling in Davao City. Earlier, Duterte warned rice smugglers not to mess with him in Davao City because he would be forced to take up harsh measures, after several shipments of rice without the necessary import permits were seized at the Davao port.


Duterte said that even if rice smuggling has been under the jurisdiction of national government agencies, he would suspend the importers’ business permits if the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) asked for his help. “The first things you will lose will be your business permits, and maybe your pants,” Duterte warned. “I can make life harder for you,” he added. He said that the entry of cheap, imported rice has been threatening the livelihood of millions of Filipino farmers, and that he would always fight on the side of the farmers. But the lawyer of two rice importing firms whose shipments were held in the Davao port, had cried foul over the “unlawful” seizure, saying that the government no longer had basis for imposing import permits after its Quantitative Restrictions (QR) for rice under the World Trade Organization (WTO) expired in June 2012. Lawyer Benito Salazar, legal counsel of rice importing firms, Silent Royalty Marketing and Starcraft International, earlier challenged the government to explain their position on the issue. Salazar said the government seizures violated WTO ruling and might put the Philippines in a bad light in international trade.   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/558181/duterte‐vows‐to‐find‐real‐person‐behind‐rice‐ smuggler‐david‐tan#ixzz2paY7OIJk   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

             


AFP accuses Moro breakaway group of extorting money from NIA By Edwin Fernandez  Inquirer Mindanao   5:30 pm | Sunday, January 5th, 2014      

 

Members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines – The military here has accused the renegade Moro rebels of mulcting National Irrigation Administration (NIA) officials and private contractors of a government flagship irrigation project in North Cotabato. Capt. Anthony Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a group that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been negotiating peace with the Aquino administration, has been demanding protection money from the administration of Malitubog-Maridagao irrigation project that has been irrigating 16,000 hectares of rice fields in the towns of Pikit and Aleosan, both in North Cotabato. “The BIFF is demanding P3 million from NIA officials and private contractors,” Bulao said. After breaking away from the MILF in 2008 when a preliminary peace agreement with the then Arroyo administration was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, the BIFF has been attacking government forces. Recently, the BIFF attacked military troops stationed in Nabalawag and Paidu Pulangi, both in Pikit. On January 1, the BIFF attacked a militia-Army detachment of 40th Infantry Battalion in Barangay (village) Nabalawag that left two BIFF members killed and a soldier wounded, Bulao said.


The next morning, a huge number of BIFF forces harassed a detachment of the 7th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Paidu Pulangi, forcing the Army to use artillery to drive away the rebels. Quoting village officials, Bulao said seven BIFF fighters were killed when hit by artillery attacks on Thursday morning. “The BIFF wanted to show it is a force to reckon with, thus they continue to harass Army and irrigation project workers,” he said. At 1 p.m. Friday, BIFF forces also fired at the Army detachment in Paidu Pulangi from across the Rio Grande de Mindanao, which separated North Cotabato and Maguindanao. Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, confirmed their men were involved in the harassment but denied they were extorting money from administrators of the irrigation system. “I am checking the casualty figure, I believe we have not suffered even one wounded fighter,” Mama said in Filipino. The Mal-Mar irrigation project is a multi-billion-peso irrigation dam funded by World Bank and national government. It has been benefitting rice farmers in the towns of Kabacan, Pikit and Aleosan, all in North Cotabato.   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/558129/afp‐accuses‐moro‐breakaway‐group‐of‐extorting‐ money‐from‐nia#ixzz2paZ8qyc4   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                 


Frost in Benguet won’t affect vegetable supply – DA By Kristine Angeli Sabillo  INQUIRER.net   1:23 pm | Sunday, January 5th, 2014  

 

Frost has blanketed sections of Atok town in Benguet once again, but it’s a seasonal phenomenon that most vegetable farmers are prepared for. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / GLADYS MAXIMO MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Sunday allayed fears that the freezing of vegetables in Benguet would affect Metro Manila’s vegetable supply. “The Department of Agriculture has quickly mobilized its resources to address frosting on vegetables in three [villages] of Benguet and its possible effect on Metro Manila’s vegetable supply, even as its said damage has been very minimal thus far,” the agency said in a statement. The DA has been monitoring Barangay (village) Paoay, Atok and Madaymen in Kibungan, Benguet after vegetables in the area showed signs of frost because of the cold weather. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is also set to meet with local DA officials to come up with strategies that would prevent “future frost incidences in one of the country’s vegetable bowls.” The DA-Cordilla Administrative Region (CAR) earlier reported that three hectares of potato and cabbage farms were affected by frost as temperatures there fell to nine degrees Celsius. However, only one-fourth hectare of the crops was totally damaged.


DA-CAR Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina said frosting or the formation of ice crystals is a “regular episode” in high-altitude areas. “These normal occurrences have taught Cordillera farmers mitigation measures such as water sprinkling. They also adjust the schedule of planting, which is why they were able to harvest most of their crops ahead of the frost occurrence,” she said. DA has allotted P2.4 million for the construction of a small water impounding facility and several units of power sprayers, in addition to the construction of a greenhouse that would allow the farms to grow crops amid harsh weather conditions. The department is looking to Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino as alternative sources of upland vegetables amid fears that frost damage would push prices of vegetables upward. Benguet accounts for nearly three-fourths of Metro Manila’s supply of semi-temperate vegetables, such as cabbage, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, beans and bokchoy (petsay).   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/558051/frost‐in‐benguet‐wont‐affect‐vegetable‐supply‐ da#ixzz2paaAE8LV   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                         


Benguet frost welcomed by visitors, hated by tillers By Vincent Cabreza, Kimberlie Quitasol  Inquirer Northern Luzon   1:55 am | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

 

FROST has blanketed sections of Atok town in Benguet province once again, but it’s a seasonal phenomenon for which most vegetable farmers are prepared. Atok and other upland towns become far colder than Baguio City between December to February each year. GLADYS MAXIMO/CONTRIBUTOR BAGUIO CITY—Old-timers in this city and tourists welcome the steady drop in temperature as it provides them with their closest version of winter in a tropical country. But to residents in upland towns, such as Atok, Kibungan and Buguias in Benguet province, dipping temperatures still create a little panic. Concepcion Dangpa-Subagan, 48, an organic farming advocate, grew up in Buguias, where temperatures dropped lower than the normal cold.


Melt frost layer It was a life of dread for farming families that needed to rush out of the comfort of their homes to melt the layer of frost clinging to their produce, she said. Atok, Buguias and Kibungan are the biggest producers of highland vegetables—cabbages, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, broccoli and beans—sold in Metro Manila markets. Subagan said children might cheer the beautiful blanket of ice glistening over cabbage patches in Benguet, but it was different during her childhood. “My childhood was about wrapping ourselves in extremely thick jackets handed out for free in the mountain areas as we huddled around the open fire and cooked our breakfast,” she said. Colder than Baguio A popular assumption is that these towns get an uncomfortable 6 to 8 degrees Celsius, whenever the mercury in Baguio drops to 8 to 10 degrees, “but we never really recorded [temperatures during the] cold weather,” Subagan said. Baguio’s coldest was 6.3 degrees in January 1961, which would have meant 4 degrees in these Benguet towns, she said. Subagan said fewer people in Benguet had been bothered by the cold these days because the erratic weather had made it a fleeting experience. When Atok experienced a temperature of 9 degrees on Jan. 1, farmers scrambled to the patches of farmland still embraced by frost. Sitios (subvillages) Lower and Upper Engladad in Barangay (village) Paoay in Atok suffered pockets of frost, which also affected the Kibungan villages of Nilicob, Proper Madaymen, Taliboy-oc, Cagam-is and Masala, and the village of Cada in Mankayan town, according to agriculture data released by the Philippine Information Agency’s office in the Cordillera. Thinner frost But Atok Mayor Peter Alos, a farmer himself, said the frost used to cover far more areas of the town. “Frost used to reach the front yards of the houses, but today, frost can be seen only in vegetable gardens near the river,” he said. “I also remember that farmers experienced frost in [the villages of] Natubleng and Loo in Buguias [town], but now there’s frost only in Loo,” he said.


Alos said the frost the town was experiencing was thinner than the sheets of ice he remembered as a boy. Thicker in ’70s, ’80s

A splash of water or sunlight were all it took to melt the ice from cabbage leaves, he said. In the 1970s and the 1980s, farmers took hours to melt the frost wrapped around cabbage heads, Alos said. The icy layer was too thick, he said, so farmers had to spend more time watering the farms in order to save their produce. Morning ice The frost has shaped community life in upland Benguet. Marilou Zarate, an Atok municipal employee, said the cold used to freeze tap water so families huddled patiently until midday for the frozen water to melt. In her youth, Zarate said, water was pumped into the houses using hoses. “Instead of morning dew, we had morning ice,” she said. “I remember, as a young girl I would wear my rubber boots for an early morning walk with my playmates. We loved the sound of ice sheets breaking under our feet,” Zarate said. Upland diet Subagan said meat, common in upland diet, took on a different dimension in colder Benguet towns because people there believed animal protein kept the body warm. “That’s still the justification today for people here who won’t go on a proper diet,” she said. Subagan said vegetable farmers spent all that effort to cope with the frost because many of them used most of their resources for the season’s harvest. Over the past 40 years, vegetables have been a substantial profit center for Benguet. Each day, farmers send out 1,500 kilograms of vegetables to the trading post in the capital town of La Trinidad, where these are bought by 120 traders who supply Metro Manila and other Luzon markets, trading post records showed. Subagan said the change in weather gave most farmers less time to deal with frost. Farming cycles disrupted


“But the diminishing frost also adds to the confusion they now have about our farming cycles,” she said. The farming cycles have been disrupted by out-of-season typhoons and longer dry spells. “Our farmers have been used to a system. They plant on areas that receive less irrigation during the monsoon season and once that cycle ends, they proceed to plant irrigated areas,” Subagan said. “But these last few years, they plant when they expect rains but the rains don’t come. So farmers have been relearning…. They’ve been reconnecting with their environment,” she said. Frost has not yet completely disappeared because of the extreme weather patterns. In 2011, the Department of Tourism proposed to develop a tour in villages that experienced frost. Alos said the tour would take visitors to vegetable-growing areas as early as 4 a.m. because frost disappeared by 6 a.m. when the sun was up. Originally posted: 10:37 pm | Sunday, January 5th, 2014   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/558279/tourists‐glad‐at‐benguet‐frost‐vegetable‐farmers‐see‐ losses#ixzz2paf3Cs5G   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                       


NFA warns of ‘plot’ to create artificial rice shortage  (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The National Food Authority (NFA) has given assurance that the country has sufficient rice supply and there is no reason for prices to move up, which might result in public confusion. The agency gave this assurance after it received reports that some groups and individuals are allegedly again planning to launch a disinformation campaign and ultimately create a scenario of rice shortage. In a statement, NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said the supposed plan also includes distribution of thousands of sacks of rotten rice in various public markets using the NFA label, so as to put the agency in a bad light. Estoperez described the supposed move as like hitting two birds with one stone because the saboteurs could now dispose off their old rice stocks while also discrediting the agency’s leadership. The alleged plan was reportedly hatched to divert public attention away from some personalities and Bureau of Customs officials and employees who were implicated in recently exposed rice smuggling operations, he said. Estoperez said that just last December, some 450,000 sacks of rice or an equivalent of 22,500 metric tons (MT) arrived from Vietnam. The shipment was part of the 500,000 MT that was bought from Vietnam under the governmentto-government agreement, to ensure that the country has enough rice supply following the series of natural calamities during the latter part of 2013, he said.The remaining 380,000 MT is expected to arrive during the first quarter. Estoperez said the NFA’s rice stocks are all of the highest quality because the agency regularly monitors these stocks based on regulations and standards.He added that the agency’s quality assurance officers and internal auditing department regularly monitor and assess stocks stored in warehouses. “Our stocks need to pass our standards. If our monitoring team determines that they are of inferior quality, warehouse managers will be accountable to us and we will not release these stocks,” he said. Estoperez said the NFA would go after all those found trying to sabotage the agency’s operations and deal with themto the full extent of the law. http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/01/06/1275462/nfa-warns-plot-create-artificial-riceshortage


DBM exec being probed over SARO By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - A ranking official of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is being investigated for the scheme involving falsification of special allotment release orders (SAROs), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared yesterday. De Lima confirmed that Undersecretary Mario Relampagos is so far the highest official covered by the probe of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the fake SAROs allegedly perpetrated by a syndicate in the DBM. “Given the involvement of some of his personnel, Usec Relampagos is inevitably covered by NBI’s ongoing probe,” De Lima said. “The core factual issues are: Does he know about the shenanigans of his subordinates? Did he tolerate the same? Worse, did he benefit from those corrupt practices?” she said. Pending the investigation, De Lima said Relampagos’ going on leave would be “a matter between him and his superior.” De Lima earlier revealed the NBI probe has so far pointed to involvement of several staff members of Relampagos that included his secretary, driver and janitor in the scam. De Lima had not named any of them. Relampagos then is the first official confirmed as among those under investigation over the controversy related to the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam. The NBI said they have already verified the SAROs for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces and found them to have been falsified and that several DBM personnel were involved. De Lima said the NBI uncovered the group, which kept specimen signatures of approving authorities that they superimposed on unsigned, photocopied SAROs.


The syndicate would photocopy advanced copies of the unsigned SAROs and superimpose on them signatures before photocopying the documents again. “After the SAROs were photocopied several times, the fake signatures would seem to appear authentic already,” De Lima said in explaining the scheme. Of the 12 SAROs being probed by the NBI, De Lima said two from Regions I and VI involving projects worth P161 million and P77 million, respectively, were fake. The other questionable SAROs involved projects in Calabarzon (Region 4A) and Soccsksargen (Region 12). SARO is a document issued by the DBM for actual release of funds for projects. De Lima said those involved in the scheme were DBM personnel led by a certain “supremo” of female gender and with staff of several congressmen. De Lima also revealed the NBI probe had initially pointed to a consultant of Aklan Rep. Teodoro Haresco as source of the two fake SAROs. Before being elected congressional representative, Haresco used to be a party-list representative. De Lima said the NBI was also determining if higher officials were involved in the scheme. “So far, there is no indication that the congressmen were aware of this. The NBI only established so far involvement of congressional staff,” she said. De Lima has given the NBI until end of this month to complete the investigation and submit a report. She said some of those being investigated are being eyed as state witnesses in possible charges expected to be filed as a result of the probe. Except for differences in font, the fake SAROs contained the same SARO numbers, codes, amount of money, dates, and name of signatories as the authentic ones. The fake SAROs were discovered only last November at the height of the pork barrel fund mess involving businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles who allegedly used spurious foundations to divert the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers and Malampaya funds with the help of several lawmakers and implementing government agencies. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/01/06/1275569/dbm-exec-being-probed-over-saro


BSP now fully capitalized Category: Top News 05 Jan 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma & David Cagahastian THE Aquino administration has remitted to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) the last tranche of the capital infusion pledged by the government about 20 years ago, the central bank said. BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. confirmed that the country’s central monetary authority has already received the remaining P10 billion of the pledged P50-billion capital increase. Budget Management Secretary Florencio Abad said the 100-percent equity infusion “will give the central bank the resource legroom it needs. Faced with fewer risks of income loss or balance-sheet weakness, the Bangko Sentral can now direct its full attention to refining the country’s banking and monetary policies and delivering key services that will further stimulate the economy.” BSP officials earlier said a fully capitalized central bank would help the country’s central monetary authority to push its mandate of maintaining price and financial stability in the country, particularly in cushioning the Philippines from the negative effects of foreign exchange fluctuations and other volatilities in the global market. Tetangco said President Aquino approved the remittance, discounting earlier claims that the BSP would have to wait a little longer to get its long-overdue capitalization hike. The P50-billion capital infusion is mandated by law in Article 2 Section 2 of the New Central Bank Act, which was signed into law in 1993. About P40 billion out of the P50-billion pledged capital infusion was remitted only under the current administration. From 1993 to 2012, only P10 billion was released by the government to the central bank. In 2011 Mr. Aquino approved the remittance of another P10 billion. The government released P20 billion more in 2012. The final tranche of P10 billion was received by the central bank first thing this year. Abad announced the full payment of the government’s P50-billion subscription to the BSP’s capital. “Although the first P10-billion equity infusion for the Bangko Sentral was made in 1993, the government has since been unable to provide full capital support to the central bank as prescribed by law. Only under the leadership of President Aquino—with guidance from the administration’s fiscal managers—were the equity payments successfully completed. The Bangko Sentral’s P50-billion capital requirement is now wholly accounted for,” Abad said in a statement. “The country grappled with huge losses in the aftermath of major calamities this year, and the administration needed to respond very quickly to the urgent aid requirements in the wake of these


disasters. This forced us to briefly defer the release of the last tranche of the equity payment. Nonetheless, the below-the-cap deficit and the government’s own prudent management of its resources eventually allowed us to complete the capital infusion to the Bangko Sentral, an institution that has performed remarkably well in keeping interest rates low and protecting the Philippine peso from volatile market forces,” Abad said. “We’re now looking at a central bank that’s in a much better position to preserve the Philippines’s macroeconomic strength and vibrant investment climate, which in turn will influence the Aquino administration’s ability to ensure long-term and inclusive growth in the country,” Abad added. The BSP has incurred net losses for three consecutive years, the largest of which was recorded in 2012 when it lost P95.38 billion. The central bank has also been lobbying for an amendment to the Central Bank Charter, which includes a request for an additional P150-billion capital increase. The central bank earlier said 20 years after its charter was implemented, the country’s economy has already grown thus, the need for a bigger capitalization. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/top-news/25446-bsp-now-fullycapitalized


PHL greening program aims to build rubber, coffee, cacao plantations on P6.2-B budget Category: Agri-Commodities 05 Jan 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga THE government is eyeing to expand coffee, cacao and rubber plantations in Mindanao, according to a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) official. Ricardo Calderon said this is part of the National Greening Program (NGP), the P6.2-billion budget of which will be spent in Mindanao this year. Calderon, director of the DENR’s Forest Management Bureau (FMB), said the greening program will prioritize high-value crops for Mindanao. “That is why more rubber, coffee and cacao plantations will be established there.” He added that Mindanao will also get funding for the establishment of tree plantations, specifically falcate and mangrove. This to enhance Mindanao’s natural defense against rising sea levels and storm surges, Calderon explained. For 2014, the government aims to cover 300,000 hectares. High value crops such coffee, cacao and agroforestry products like rubber, have been identified as among the trees to be planted in various parts of the country by the DENR under the NGP Commodity Road map 2013-2016. Wood from falcate, on the other hand, is among the top export wood-products of the Philippines. Under the greening program commodity road map, around 116,864 hectares of rubber plantations are to be established by 2016. Of the 111,194 hectares targeted, 80.57 percent (89,594 hectares) have been allotted for Regions 9 (Zamboanga peninsula), 10 (Northern Mindanao), 11 (Davao region), 12 (Soccksargen) and 13 (Caraga). These include the following: 30,000 hectares for Zamboanga Peninsula; 8,200 for Northern Mindanao; 10,000 hectares for Davao; 25,000 hectares for Soccksargen; and 16,394 hectares for Caraga.


Under the same plan, of the 87,903-hectare coffee plantation to be established, Mindanao will get a total of 36,903 hectares or roughly 42 percent. Zamboanga Peninsula will get 5,000 hectares, Northern Mindanao gets 2,000 hectares, and Davao Region 5,000 hectares. Soccksargen is eyed to have 10,000 hectares for coffee while 14,903 hectares for the Caraga Region. For cacao, of the 60,725 hectares target, Zamboanga Peninsula gets 1,000 hectares; Northern Mindanao 2,000 hectares; Davao Region 5,000 has.; Soccksargen 2,000 hectares; and, Caraga, 3,725 hectares, for a total of 13,725 hectares. The challenge is to produce quality-planting materials, in time for the planting season in June, Calderon told reporters last week. Still, he is confident these targets will be achieved. Calderon cited the DENR has tapped state universities and colleges that maintain the DENRfunded clonal nurseries for the production of planting materials for the program. He added that production of seedlings will be complemented by the five regular tree nurseries that the DENR aims to build this year. Calderon said the production of one million seedlings a day is their target, for which the 20 mechanized seeders worth around P1 million each to be imported early this year will be the key. Jonathan L. Mayuga http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri-commodities/25423-phl-greeningprogram-aims-to-build-rubber-coffee-cacao-plantations-on-p6-2-b-budget


Government deploys forest watchers in Western Mindanao Category: Agri-Commodities 05 Jan 2014 Written by Antonio P. Rimando PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur—A local government executive here confirmed that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has deployed Forest Surveillance and Monitoring Officers (FSMO) in huge forest areas in Western Mindanao. “That is what Secretary [Ramon J.] Paje directed, yes”, Region 9 Public Affairs Officer Reservirico Tan said. Tan explained Paje’s order is contained in an administrative order (AO) issued to Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices (Cenros) in Western Mindanao. Western Mindanao is comprised by the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibigay and their component cities of Zamboanga, Dipolog, Pagadian, Dapitan and Isabela (Basilan). Tan told reporters last week that the FSMO “is tasked to perform regular forest inspection activities in his designated area of jurisdiction and to coordinate with the forest tenure holders, private plantation owners, protected forest area supervisors, indigenous peoples’ (IPs) organizations and local community leaders and concerned citizens.” These activities, Tan explained, is in line with the DENR’s implementation of a Forest Surveillance System designed to monitor and detect malevolent signs of forest fungi and insect, collectively known as forest pests, which can destroy or damage forests.

According to her, the process of properly enforcing the program, which requires the hiring of more forest guards, is an integral part of the plan. “Although the forest pest-watch duties of the forest guards forms part of the Cenro’s regular forest activities with or without infestation.” Tan said the order further provides a set of appropriate rules and regulations to carry out a forest pest response mechanism. This includes the preparation of a blueprint of action “to totally eliminate the pest and prevent similar incidence in case of an outbreak of forest pest infestation”.


Also covered by the AO, “is the pest surveillance of forest with ancestral domains where IPs leaders are to be coordinated closely with by concerned Cenros.” The DENR region 9 public affairs officer recalled that over five decades ago, a forest pest known as “jumping lice” destroyed Ipil-ipil tree plantation in the uplands covered by the agency’s Community-Based Forestry Program (CBFP). This prompted the DENR to issue a moratorium in the planting of the species except for research until seeds of resistant varieties became available. Tan said other forest pests that have infected trees thriving in the country’s forests are: bechole borer, which attacks acacia, yemane and gemelina arborea; shoot borer, which attacks mahogany trees; varicose borer, which attacks bagras trees; and, the teak defoliator. Antonio P. Rimando http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/25424‐government‐ deploys‐forest‐watchers‐in‐western‐mindanao                               


Agri department says acting on veggie frost in Benguet Category: Agri-Commodities 05 Jan 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega

THE Department of Agriculture on Friday said officials are addressing frost that struck vegetable farms in three upland villages north of Manila. In a statement on January 3, the DA allayed concerns on constricted supply of vegetable produce by the reported frosting. “The DA has quickly mobilized its resources to address frosting on vegetables in three barangays of Benguet and its possible effect on Metro Manila’s vegetable supply,” the agency’s statement said adding that “damage has been very minimal thus far.” The government agency tasked to manage farms and fisheries cited that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has ordered employees on the field to “closely monitor” the incident and its possible re-occurrence in Barangay Paoay, Atok, and Barangay Madaymen in Kibungan, Benguet.” Benguet accounts for nearly three-fourths of Metro Manila’s supply of semi-temperate vegetables, such as cabbage, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, beans and bokchoy (petsay). The statement added the agriculture secretary will meet with key DA officials on Monday, “to firm up strategies to effectively confront present and future frost incidences in one of the country’s vegetable bowls.” In a report to Alcala on January 3, DA-CAR Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina said frost affected around three hectares of potato and cabbage farms in the three villages as temperatures there fell to 9 degrees Celsius. Of the total affected areas, only one-fourth hectare was totally damaged, the report said.


Night frosting was first observed on December 30 and worsened the following day, Sta. Catalina added. Known locally as andap, frosting involves the development of moisture into ice crystals on the plants and its leaves. When not immediately watered, affected crops would wilt as the sun melts the deposited ice. The extreme temperatures leave the affected plants brownish until they die. “Frosting or the formation of ice crystals is a regular episode in these high altitude areas, so farmers know what to do,” Sta. Catalina was quoted in the statement as saying. Hence, she said “damage has been negligible to date.” “These normal occurrences have taught Cordillera farmers mitigation measures, such as water sprinkling. They also adjust the schedule of planting, which is why they were able to harvest most of their crops ahead of the frost occurrence,” the DA executive added. The statement said the DA “has set in place a number of measures and tools to help farmers prepare for and combat frost.” It added that the DA has earmarked last year P2.4 million for the village of Atok, the area usually most affected by frost. The agency said the amount went to the construction of small water impounding facility and several units of power sprayers. “A greenhouse was also established to allow farmers grow and harvest crops under harsh conditions,” the statement said. The DA added that it “will step up its assistance for Atok and other frost-prone areas, including the establishment of more production facilities such as greenhouses and rain shelters, and distribution of additional power sprayers.” “Areas suitable for irrigation and spring development will be also identified and validated.” The statement added that to curb inflationary pressures on prices of upland vegetable, “the Department is now working to prepare alternative sources of upland vegetables for Metro Manila, notably Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.” Alladin S. Diega

In Photo: Farmers of upland vegetables in a farm in Benguet confront frosting, which the Department of Agriculture said is expected to have very minimal damage on supply. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Agriculture) http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/25422‐agri‐department‐ says‐acting‐on‐veggie‐frost‐in‐benguet 


Tagum City eyes hatchery for fish fingerlings on bid to hike supply Category: Agri-Commodities 05 Jan 2014 Written by Manuel T. Cayon DAVAO CITY—The City Agriculture Office of Tagum City would soon establish a hatchery for various species of fish aimed at providing easy supply of fish fingerlings for those engaged in deep sea water and fresh water fish production. The hatchery would be constructed in Barangay Liboganon and would be managed by the community, said the Tagum City information office in its recent dispatch. The facility is worth P1.2 million and would be taken from the fund of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture. Tagum City Agriculturist Harold S. Dawa said the hatchery would respond to the need of fingerling supply by fishermen in the area. Construction would be started soon and expected to be operational by the first quarter of this year. “Once operational, the hatchery will be the center for propagation of species, which will then be distributed to qualified fisherfolks and farmers,” the dispatch said. The document added that the infrastructure is part of the BFAR’s “Philippine National Aquasilviculture Program that aims to ensure resource sustainability attain food security and alleviate poverty.” The paper added that the target site is on a property privately owned by the Obero family and along the shoreline of Barangay Liboganon, which is adjacent to the City Agriculture sub-office. The land would be used through a usufruct agreement between the local government and Denia D. Obero, representing the owners. The signing of the deed of usufruct was done in November 4 last year with Mayor Allan Rellon and Obero affixing their signatures in front of the city hall employees gathered for their monthly convocation program. Manuel T. Cayon http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/25420‐tagum‐city‐eyes‐ hatchery‐for‐fish‐fingerlings‐on‐bid‐to‐hike‐supply 


Rules on gene-modified corn, soybeans in US may be lifted Category: Agri-Commodities 05 Jan 2014 Written by AP

MILWAUKEE—The US government on Friday proposed eliminating restrictions on the use of corn and soybean seeds that are genetically engineered to resist a common weed killer, a move welcomed by many farmers but feared by scientists and environmentalists who worry it could invite growers to use more chemicals. The herbicide known as 2,4-D has had limited use in corn and soybean farming because it becomes toxic to the plants early in their growth. The new seeds would allow farmers to use the weed killer throughout the plants’ lives. Among its critics, 2,4-D is best known as a component of the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange, which has not been produced since the 1970s. Agent Orange has been tied to health problems in Vietnam veterans, but scientists do not believe 2,4-D was the culprit. Instead, their research focused on dioxin, a cancer-causing substance found in another ingredient known as 2,4,5-T, which was banned by the EPA in 1985. Farmers have been eager for a new generation of herbicide-resistant seeds because of the prevalence of weeds that have become immune to Monsanto’s Roundup. But skeptics are concerned that use of the new seeds and 2,4-D will only lead to similar problems as weeds acquire resistance to that chemical too. “It’s just so clear. You can see that you have this pesticide treadmill effect,” said Bill Freese, a chemist with the Washington, D.C.-based Center For Food Safety, which promotes organic agriculture.


Most corn and soybeans grown in the US are already genetically engineered. Before Roundup was introduced in 1976, most farmers tilled their fields prior to planting, flipping the soil over and burying the weeds to kill them. The technique also exposed tilled earth to the air, creating problems with erosion and runoff. Herbicide-resistant seeds permitted most farmers to stop tilling because they could spray fields after their plants emerged, killing the weeds but leaving crops unharmed. The new generation of plants “allowed us to do a better job of controlling the weeds, and therefore, we’ve been able to do a better job of preserving the soil, which is our primary natural resource,” said Ron Moore, who grows 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of corn and soybeans with his brother in western Illinois. The US Department of Agriculture’s plant-inspection agency concluded that the greatest risk from the new seeds developed by Dow AgroSciences was increased use of 2,4-D, which could hasten the evolution of weeds resistant to it. But, the agency said, resistance could develop anyway because 2,4-D is the third most-used weed-killer in America. Freese and other advocates also raised concerns about possible health risks from increased use of 2,4-D and the chemical’s tendency to drift beyond the area where it is sprayed, threatening neighboring crops and wild plants. Dow AgroSciences has attempted to address that by developing a new version of 2,4-D and new equipment to use with it, company spokesman Garry Hamlin said. The seeds and new 2,4-D have been approved in Canada but not yet sold there. The company has targeted their release in the US for 2015, pending approval by various federal agencies. In anticipation of that, it has received import approval from seven nations and has applications pending in about six others to allow farmers who use the seeds sold under the Enlist brand to export their crops. Some nations, particularly in Europe, have been resistant to genetically engineered crops, and consumer concerns have created a market for organic and other foods made without genetically modified ingredients. Minneapolis-based General Mills announced on Thursday that it had switched the sugar and cornstarch in original Cheerios to make that product GMO-free. For now, Dow AgroSciences’ seeds can only be used in tightly controlled trials. The Center for Food Safety and the environmental group Earthjustice threatened legal action if restrictions are the seeds are lifted. The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a separate review on the impact of expanded use of 2,4-D, although it previously found the herbicide safe.


The EPA plans to release a report in the coming months, and the two agencies are expected to make final decisions simultaneously on use of the chemical and seeds. It was not clear when that would happen. Dow AgroSciences has asked the USDA to deregulate one corn and two soybean varieties, all resistant to both 2,4-D and glyphosate, the generic form of roundup. AP

In Photo: This photo taken October 16, 2013, shows Larry Hasheider walking along one of his corn fields on his farm in Okawville,Illinois. Hasheider grows soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on the farm, nestled in the heart of Illinois corn country where he also has 130 dairy cows, 500 beef cattle and 30,000 hogs and even gives tours, something he says he never would have done 20 years ago. On January 3, 2014, the US government proposed eliminating restrictions on the use of corn and soybean seeds that are genetically engineered to resist a common weed killer, adding to Hasheider’s worries. (AP) http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/25418‐rules‐on‐gene‐ modified‐corn‐soybeans‐in‐us‐may‐be‐lifted                           


DOH: Measles outbreak in MM By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  A mother carries her baby who received medical attention for measles at the San Lazaro Medical  Hospital the other day. Parents have been rushing their children to various hospitals in Metro Manila,  where most of the measles cases have been recorded.  EDD GUMBAN 

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) has declared an outbreak of potentially deadly measles in several districts in at least nine cities in Metro Manila. The outbreak was declared over the weekend in Quiapo, Sampaloc, Tondo, Binondo, Sta. Cruz, Port Area and Sta. Mesa in Manila; Dagat-Dagatan and Bagong Barrio in Caloocan City; Talon 5, Talon 2, and Pamplona Uno in Las Piñas; and Longos and Tonsuya in Malabon. Outbreaks were also detected in Alabang and Putatan in Muntinlupa; North Bay Boulevard South in Navotas; Moonwalk and Don Bosco in Parañaque; Bagong Tanyag in Taguig, and Ugong in Valenzuela. Records of the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center (NEC) show that from Jan. 1 to Dec. 14, 2013, there were 1,724 measles cases, including 21 deaths. A majority of the cases were in Metro Manila. The DOH is embarking on a massive measles vaccination drive in Metro Manila to stop the outbreak. Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said the DOH would meet today with local government health officials and civil society groups in Metro Manila to plan an intensified measles vaccination in the metropolis. Tayag noted that a single measles case can infect up to 18 other individuals compared to only five for human immunodeficiency virus and three for flu.


“A person who enters a room where a person with measles has just left, can still get measles as the virus can live up to two hours outside the host body,” Tayag said. “Most children with measles easily recover, but the illness can kill because of pneumonia, acute diarrhea with severe dehydration or acute encephalitis,” he added. Since measles is a highly contagious disease, Tayag stressed that vaccination must be done swiftly. Health officials said there is a need for a door-to-door vaccination drive to protect the public against measles, especially children, pregnant mothers and immuno-compromised individuals. The DOH intends to vaccinate as many children as possible to ensure the country remains on track in eliminating measles by 2017. “Measles elimination can be achieved if measles vaccine coverage is at least 95 percent in every district,” Tayag said. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/01/06/1275567/doh‐measles‐outbreak‐mm                             


No stopping PhilHealth, SSS hikes By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

 

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is not stopping the Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) from increasing the contributions of members. Speaking over state-run dzRB radio, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the higher premiums are not burdensome but would give more benefits to members. “The move was based on thorough studies and is within the law,” he said. “There is no plan to stop it.” Coloma said efforts were made to ensure that the upward adjustments in premiums would not pose a burden to members. Monthly contributions of employees with the lowest salaries would increase to P200 from P100, he added. Coloma said the employer and employee would equally shoulder the additional P100 per month. Such rate translates to an increase of just P3 per day, he said. Coloma said the same is true for overseas Filipino workers, whose monthly premiums have been adjusted to P200 from P100. “If we look at the new schedule of premiums, it is clear that the increases in the contributions are affordable considering the additional benefits,” he said in Filipino. Coloma said PhilHealth contributions provide members access to health services in 85 public hospitals nationwide. The increase in SSS contributions is needed to prevent funds from drying up, he added.


Coloma said higher contributions would bring down by P166 billion the unfunded liabilities of the SSS, which has reached P1.078 trillion. The maximum daily allowance for illness would go up by P30, from P450 to P480, while that of maternity benefits would increase by P33 from P500 to P533, he added. Coloma said members who contributed for 10 years under the P6,000 maximum salary credit may get a P400 increase in their monthly pensions. Labor and employer groups were consulted before the adjustments were approved, he added. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/01/06/1275573/no‐stopping‐philhealth‐sss‐hikes                                   


Congress allots P4 B for PDAF scholars By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - More than 300,000 college scholars receiving financial assistance from the now defunct Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or congressional pork barrel, will no longer have to worry about their continued schooling this year. With the PDAF gone, members of the two chambers of Congress made sure that their scholars stay in school by allotting nearly P4 billion for them in the P2.265-trillion 2014 national budget. Funding for poor but deserving college students was pooled from realignments made by the Senate-House of Representatives conference committee on the budget and which were carried in the budget law signed by President Aquino on Dec. 20. The funds were distributed among 113 state universities and colleges (SUCs) spread throughout the country. The biggest recipient, though not the largest SUC in terms of student population, is the University of the Philippines (UP), which received P1.275 billion in funds. The additional funding increased UP’s budget to P9.373 billion. UP, the nation’s premier state university, eats up more than a fourth of the P36 billion in combined appropriations for 113 SUCs. The Polytechnic University of the Philippines received P25.2 million for scholarship, increasing its budget to P948.5 million. PUP has a student population about four times that of UP. Some P22.5 million was added to the budget of the Philippine Normal University, the primary producer of teachers, bringing the total to P428.4 million. Five other SUCs in Metro Manila received an additional P53.3 million.


The allocations for the rest of Luzon are: P154.8 million for six SUCs in the Ilocos-Pangasinan region, P84.1 million for six in the Cordillera region, P71.5 million for five in Cagayan Valley, P144.8 million for 12 state schools in Central Luzon, P315.9 million for five SUCs in Southern Tagalog, P140 million for six in Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan, and P288.6 million for nine government schools in the Bicol region. In the Visayas, P233.6 million was given to 11 SUCs in Western Visayas, P160.6 million to five in Central Visayas and P129.6 million to 10 in Eastern Visayas. The biggest recipient in the south is Mindanao State University (MSU), which received P162.5 million for scholarships, increasing its budget to P1.940 billion. MSU is located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The five other SUCs in the region were given an additional P72 million. The other educational assistance allocations for the south are P128.4 million for five SUCs in Zamboanga peninsula, P124.7 million for seven in Northern Mindanao, P125.3 million for four in Davao provinces, P87.3 million for four in South Cotabato-Sarangani-Sultan KudaratCotabato area, and P124.2 million for four SUCs in the Agusan-Surigao provinces. When the Supreme Court struck down the PDAF as unconstitutional, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, appropriations committee vice chairman, conducted a survey to determine how many college students he and his colleagues were supporting with their PDAF. Nearly 200 House members responded, listing more than 305,000 scholars. Evardone himself helped 3,700 students with his PDAF allocation. The responders did not include 66 new House members elected in the May 2013 elections and who never tasted congressional pork. Malacañang and the House had appealed to the high court to allow the release of the pork barrel funds for college scholars and sick people, but the plea fell on deaf ears. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/01/06/1275572/congress‐allots‐p4‐b‐pdaf‐scholars           


Tropical cyclone may enter Phl this month – Pagasa By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  3 googleplus0  12  

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) yesterday advised residents in Southern Luzon and Visayas to brace for one tropical cyclone this month. PAGASA weather division chief Robert Sawi said that based on climatological data, zero or one cyclone usually enters the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) in January. “We are likely to experience one tropical cyclone this month based on our data. If ever a cyclone enters PAR, it will either recurve or cross Southern Luzon and Visayas,” Sawi told The STAR. The first cyclone that will enter the country this year will be named “Agaton.” With regard to the cyclone’s intensity, Sawi said some cyclones in January reach storm category while some remain as tropical depression. “There is also a probability that the cyclone will dissipate before making landfall due to the cold weather this month.” Southern Luzon and Visayas were the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November last year. On Jan. 3, 2013, Tropical Storm Auring entered the country, dumping heavy rains over some parts of the country, including Mindanao. Meanwhile, Sawi said the northeast monsoon would continue to prevail over most parts of Luzon this week, bringing light rains particularly over the eastern section. The tail-end of a cold front, on the other hand, would bring cloudy skies with rainshowers over Visayas and Mindanao.He also said that widespread rains would prevail over the eastern section of the Visayas and Mindanao by late Tuesday to Wednesday, which may trigger flashfloods and landslides.Cooler temperatures will persist over Metro Manila this week “but it will not surpass the lowest recorded this year for NCR.” Temperatures dipped to 11.8 degrees Celsius in Baguio City and 19.2 degrees Celsius in Quezon City on Jan. 1.These temperatures are the lowest recorded for the areas since the onset of the northeast monsoon in the country last October. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/01/06/1275581/tropical‐cyclone‐may‐enter‐phl‐month‐ pagasa   


Only Relampagos so far–DOJ Category: Nation 05 Jan 2014 Written by Joel R. San Juan JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed on Sunday that Mario Relampagos so far is the highest-ranking official under probe in relation to fake fund release documents. Relampagos, Undersecretary of the Department of Budget (DBM), is under the lens of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after some of his personnel were implicated in a scheme involving falsification of special allotment release orders (Saros). “Given the involvement of some of his personnel, Undersecretary Relampagos is inevitably covered by the NBI’s ongoing probe,” de Lima told reporters in a text message. According to de Lima, the NBI will determine whether Relampagos has knowledge of the illegal activities allegedly being perpetrated by some of his personnel. “The core factual issues are: ‘Does he know about the shenanigans of his subornidates? Did he tolerate the same?’ Worse, ‘did he benefit from those corrupt practices?’” Pending the investigation, de Lima said the DBM official’s decision to go on a leave of absence “is a matter between him and his superior.” However, she said the NBI is still continuing investigations. “We’re still trying to find out if higher officials were involved. That what we’re looking into.” De Lima added that probers are also determining other DBM and congressional personnel who may have knowledge or participated in the illegal modus operandi and how long the scheme has been going on. Earlier, de Lima disclosed that the NBI probe has so far pointed to involvement in the scheme of Relampagos’s staff, including his secretary, driver, and janitor. De Lima said initial investigation showed these people were involved in the fake Saros for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces under Rep. Teodoro Haresco. However, de Lima said there were no indications yet that that would link some solons in the scheme. Likekwise, the NBI “cannot confirm” information as to a possibility some lawmakers connived with a gang that produces fake Saros.


Based on the NBI’s initial investigation, members of this gang would photocopy advanced copies of unsigned Saros. Signatures would be placed on these duplicate copies before the Saros, now bearing signatures, would again be photocopied several times. Of the 12 Saros being probed by the NBI, it was confirmed that the two from Regions 1 and 6 involving projects worth P161 million and P77 million, respectively, bore fake signatures. But the fake Saros were not translated into cash as the projects were cancelled. Joel R. San Juan http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/nation/25436‐only‐relampagos‐so‐far‐doj                                     


What’s wrong with P-Noy? Category: Opinion 05 Jan 2014 Written by Dong Puno / My View Point

THERE are three things that are wrong with P-Noy: 1. He distrusts those below his rank, but follows and implements their orders. Normally, it would be the other way around. If those inferior to him in rank are not trusted, then their orders would not be followed. But P-Noy is different: He follows the orders of his subordinates, such as Mar and Dinky. This goes against good management practices. He should ignore those two. If he were strong, he should fire them. But he’s not strong. Thus, those two will remain in service. 2. The crazy inflation rate. The electricity-rate hike, higher water charges, Social Security System and Government Service Insurance System charges—these should dispel the notion that the inflation rate should stay at 2 percent. That is a pipe dream. The fact is that the inflation rate is more than 2 percent. It is accuracy in government statistics that is at issue here. 3. His belief in ratings. The belief of P-Noy in ratings is disturbing. He is supposed to be in the doldrums, but he is now at the very top. I predict that he is going to reach a low point, ratings-wise. The important thing about these ratings is that they show not only where he is right now, but also how much his endorsement will be worth. There are those who believe that the endorsement of the President will mean nothing. http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/opinion/25437‐what‐s‐wrong‐with‐p‐noy             


BDO seen dictating pace of pricing, products this year Category: Banking & Finance 05 Jan 2014 Written by Genivi Factao THE country’s largest banks led possibly by Banco de Oro Universal Bank were seen further boosting their collective balance sheet this year as indicated by aggressive expansion programs and strong loan growth thus far in the waning months of 2013, regulators and analysts said over the weekend. As of end-September 2013, total resources of the banking system rose by 6 percent on quarterly basis to P9.5 trillion. The increase was fueled by growth on loans, securities and other nonfinancial assets and indicative of the public’s continued trust in the banking system, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said. Nearly 90 percent of the total resources of the banking system was accounted for by the large universal and regular commercial banks. Data from the BSP show that as of June 30, 2013, BDO Unibank Inc. topped everyone and ranked first in terms of total assets totaling more than P1.3 trillion. The next largest pool of assets was owned by the Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank) totaling P992.475 billion with the Bank of the Philippine Islands owning only P808.759 billion. Government-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) was ranked fourth with assets worth P681.137 billion, the Philippine National Bank on fifth place with P540.033 billion in assets. Completing the top 10 lenders were the Development Bank of the Philippines which has assets worth P349.515 billion at sixth place; China Banking Corp. with assets worth P330.482 billion, seven placer; Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., P316.595 billion, eight place; Union Bank of the Philippines, P313.640 billion, ninth place; and Security Bank Corp. with P285.493 billion occupying the 10th and final place. BDO proved the leader in terms of total capital with P157.962 billion; followed by Metrobank with P129.811 billion; BPI, P96.984 billion; PNB, P75.390 billion; and LandBank, P74.491 billion. Total BDO deposit holdings amounted to P998.238 billion; Metrobank P770.109 billion; BPI P641.266 billion while Landbank and PNB posted P542.796 billion and P405.056 billion, respectively. In terms of total loans, net as of June 30 2013, BDO had P768.930 billion; Metrobank P480.597 billion; BPI P415.230 billion while Landbank and PNB reported P266.369 billion and P228.141 billion, respectively.


“Bank’s balance sheet saw steady improvements in resource base as well as in asset quality and loan-loss provisioning ratios. The banking system’s capital adequacy ratios continue to remain comfortably above the BSP’s and the Bank of International Settlements’ [BIS] minimum requirements,” the BSP said at its third quarter report on economic and financial developments. The BSP also said bank lending continued to grow at double digit rates and this helped sustain the solid performance of the productive sectors of the economy. BPI Asset Management and Trust Group’s head of research, Carlos E. Jalandoni, earlier said the top pick for banks at the moment is BDO. “Given the size of its balance sheet, BDO has the potential to redefine banking from the point of view of products and pricing particularly in an economy seen to grow at 6.5 percent per annum,” he said. As an indication of its aggressiveness, about 40 to 50 branches of BDO will be opened this year alone, it was noted. BDO’s keen eye for markets has forced BPI and PNB, for instance, to boost their respective capital structures and engage in a stock rights offering (SRO) within the month for this purpose. BPI expects to generate net proceeds of P25 billion from the SRO, helping boost loan growth seen averaging 22 percent and its deposits rising 18 percent this year in the process. BPI executives said the loans were seen to end fiscal year 2013 14 percent higher while deposits should grow 19 percent from year ago level. PNB, on the other hand, expects gross proceeds of P15 billion from its own stock rights sale. PNB, which recently fused its operations with Allied Banking Corp, anticipates higher doubledigit loan growth this year. The loan portfolios of LandBank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and United Coconut Planters Bank were to maintain their forecast double-digit growth this year. Analysts said the initial indications show both lenders basically on track with their anticipated lending goals for the year. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/banking‐finance/25421‐bdo‐seen‐dictating‐ pace‐of‐pricing‐products‐this‐year       


NBI tags DBM official in fake SARO scam by Leonard Postrado  January 6, 2014  

Manila, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has tagged Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Mario Relampagos for possible involvement in the scheme involving the falsification of several Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs). Relampagos was earlier slapped with a plunder case in connection with the alleged misuse of some P900 million worth of Malampaya funds. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima disclosed yesterday that Relampagos is so far the highest official being investigated by the NBI on the fake SAROs allegedly perpetrated by a “syndicate” within the DBM. “Given the involvement of some of his personnel, Usec. Relampagos is inevitably covered by NBI’s ongoing probe,” she said in a text message. “The core factual issues are: Does he know about the shenanigans of his subornidates? Did he tolerate the same? Worse, did he benefit from those corrupt practices?” De Lima asked. Pending the investigation, she said the DBM official’s going on leave “is a matter between him and his superior.” Earlier, the Justice chief said the NBI probe has so far pointed to the involvement of several staff members of Relampagos in the scam, including his secretary, driver and janitor. De Lima declined to name any one of them. Relampagos then is the first official confirmed as among those under investigation over the controversy related to the multi-billion pork barrel fund scam. Fake SAROs NBI probers have already verified that the SAROs for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces were falsified and that several DBM personnel were involved. De Lima said NBI agents had found out that the group kept specimen signatures of approving authorities, which they superimposed on unsigned photocopied SAROs. http://www.mb.com.ph/nbi‐tags‐dbm‐official‐in‐fake‐saro‐scam/     


Philippines in UK’s top 10 countries to see in 2014 by Ron B. Lopez  January 6, 2014 (updated)  

The Philippines is among the Top 10 Countries worldwide to visit this 2014, according to British travel guidebook Rough Guides. In its 2014 edition, the Philippines made it to the 10th place along with other beautiful and culturally-rich countries. Rough Guides cited Philippines’ natural places that are “not to miss” which include the islands of Boracay, the limestone islands El Nido in Palawan, the coasts of Coron that hidesbeautiful beaches and pristine mountain lakes, and Puerto Gallera.

 

Rough Guides said Boracay’s enchanting white beach on picture-postcard setting is one of the country’s major tourist draws. The Rough Guides, known for its travel references, has also recommended a must-visit in Chocolate Hills in Bohol, despite being partly damaged by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake the struck the province last year. It also recommended to visitors to see the tiny primate Tarsiers in the region. “Soak up the bizarre landscape of Bohol’s iconic Chocolate Hills, conical brown-green mounds said to be the calcified tears of a broken-hearted giant,” Rough Guides said.


Aside from the crystal-clear waters of Philippine beaches, Rough Guides also suggest to tourists to also try to explore the country’s beautiful mountains and the majestic top views they offier, including the perfectly-coned Mt. Mayon and mountain lakes in Mt. Pinatubo. Rough Guide describes the crystal-clear waters of Apo Reef Marine Natural Park in Mindoro as a “scuba diver’s dream,” along with other underground river in the country. Aside from places, tourist should also explore the traditions and colorful festivals in the country like the Ati-Atihan Festival on Panay to see the “indigenous dress and learn tribal dances,” the travel advisor said, adding that if one gets exhausted from the heat of the sun, a tall glass of Halo-halo, a local sweet icy dessert, will quench tourist’ thirst. Other countries in Rough Guides’ Top 10 countries to visit in 2014 are Georgia in Central Asia, Turkey, Macedonia, Japan, Rwarna, Ethiopia, Brazil, Bulgaria and Madagascar. http://www.mb.com.ph/philippines‐in‐uks‐top‐10‐countries‐to‐see‐in‐2014/                                 


DOF mulls guarantee fund for financial institutions By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Finance is mulling the creation of a guarantee fund for financial institutions to stimulate financing and provide them an additional level of comfort in dealing with victims of natural disasters. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the guarantee fund represents a good mechanism for lending institutions to broaden their outreach by making access to finance easier. “Banks operate for business. The risks they face when they lend to entities that have lost everything is higher so we’re working towards the creation of a guarantee fund,” he said. Purisima said the DOF is looking at tapping state-owned lending institutions such as the Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency and SB Corp. to provide guarantees to banks. “We’re looking at PhilExim and other GFIs (government financial institutions) like the DTI’s SB Corp., to be able to offer guarantees to banks so they can offer very low interest rates,” Purisima said.Aside from the lower interest rates, the banks may also set a grace period for the loan payments, he added. The Finance department is likewise considering setting up a mandatory disaster risk insurance fund for local government units to respond better to disasters. The fund shall provide insurance cover to key infrastructures which include municipal buildings, schools and markets. “This will require new legislation. The plan involves pooling of funds among LGUs to support rehabilitation efforts for storm-ravaged areas. Purisima said the Government Service Insurance System is likely to manage the fund. The planned disaster risk insurance fund is on top of the proposed climate resiliency fund that is aimed at helping the country better withstand catastrophes. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/01/06/1275487/dof-mulls-guarantee-fund-financialinstitutions


Market forces to dictate forex rates – BSP By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said the peso will continue to be determined by market forces although it may lend a hand in smoothing out excessive volatility. “The BSP will also continue to adhere to a market-determined exchange rate policy, with some scope for occasional BSP participation to moderate excessive volatility in the exchange rate,” the central bank said in its Report on Economic and Financial Developments. “This implies that the BSP will not set out to reverse the underlying trend of the peso, but only to smooth out volatility in the exchange rates.” The peso finished at 44.65 to a dollar last Friday, its weakest level since Aug. 29, 2013 when it closed at 44.75 against the greenback. The local currency ended 2013 at 44.395:$1, 7.35 percent weaker than its 41.05-per-dollar finish in end-2012. The peso’s volatility, a measure of the magnitude of its fluctuations during a certain period, settled at 3.24 percent for 2013. BSP Gov. Amando M. Tetangco Jr. earlier said the peso’s depreciating streak last year was in line with other Asian currencies such as the Singaporean dollar, the Thai baht, Malaysian ringgit, Indonesian rupee, and Indian rupee. The Korean won and the Chinese yuan were the only ones that bucked the weakening trend among Asian currencies. The peso’s movements last year were largely hinged on the investors’ anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s tapering of stimulus.


Volatility hit markets in May last year, when the Fed hinted it may start scaling back its stimulus on the back of an improving US economy. The wait for the actual taper caused sell-offs in global financial markets as investors repatriated their funds from emerging economies including the Philippines. The Fed last Dec. 18 finally announced it will bring to implement a modest $10-billion cut in its monthly asset purchases to $75 billion starting this month. Despite the Fed announcement, Tetangco last year said volatility is still expected to remain present in markets in the short term as investors, central banks, and federal government rebalance their portfolios to accommodate the tapering. Moreover, he stressed that the pace and timing of further cuts in the Fed’s massive bond purchases will create uncertainties in global financial markets. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/01/06/1275488/market‐forces‐dictate‐forex‐rates‐bsp                               


Exporters urged to seek halal certification By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino exporters are urged to seek halal certification for their products and services to tap the growing global halal market and expand their business overseas, Malaysia’s national trade promotion agency said. In a statement from the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc., Malaysia External Trade Development Corp. (MATRADE) trade commissioner Har Man Ahmad said Filipino goods like food and beverage items as well as non-food products and services such as logistics, financial, insurance and health care-related goods should get halal certification. Halal is the prescribed process of preparation of products according to Islamic law. “Halal industry is very big... For you (the Philippines) to benefit (in) the Middle East market which actually has a very huge potential, Halal certification is one of the compulsory things that you have to undertake,” Ahmad said. He said exporters need to seek such certification if they want to further expand their markets abroad. This, as the Muslim market is rapidly expanding. To date, it is estimated that there are a total of 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide. The Philippines, Ahmad noted has a competitive advantage in terms of its food ingredients, cosmetics and supplements. “Just by having a small halal seal will bring big difference to your products being exported abroad,” he stressed. Ahmad also encouraged Filipino exporters to participate in the upcoming 11th Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) slated this April 9 to 12 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. “We are able to get a lot of businessmen from all over the world. So it is time for you to look at new products for you to bring in to the Philippine market as well,” he said. The MIHAS, an annual trade fair organized by the MATRADE, features products and services that are halal-compliant. When MIHAS was first launched, it had a total of 330 local and international participants. Last year’s MIHAS attracted 463 companies and 177 international buyers from 30 countries. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/01/06/1275493/exporters‐urged‐seek‐halal‐certification 


SM Pure Foods taps IBM  (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - San Miguel Pure Foods Co. Inc., one of the country’s leading food companies, and IBM have signed a five-year strategic agreement to optimize the delivery of IT operations support and efficiently address the computing requirements of SMPFC to better serve thousands of users nationwide. As an industry leader, SMPFC wanted to create smarter operations and improve productivity and efficiency. The company wanted to engage a strategic partner to build a robust IT infrastructure and enable its growth trajectory. After a thorough evaluation, SMPFC tapped IBM to help transform its IT organization and become a smarter enterprise. “SMPFC is a pioneer in the Philippine food industry, and this engagement with IBM is a testament of our continuing commitment to drive transformation for greater results,” said Francisco S. Alejo III, president, San Miguel Pure Foods. Under the agreement, IBM will provide desktop management services to SMPFC, covering the deployment of hardware, end user support (helpdesk and onsite support), and asset management and tracking. This IT transformation project is seen to relieve the food giant of managing day-to-day IT operations, enabling it to focus on its core business. “IBM is looking forward to this long-term strategic partnership that will help bolster SMPFC’s leadership position and empower them to become a smarter enterprise,” said Mariels Almeda Winhoffer, president and country general manager of IBM Philippines. “By providing them with a cohesive IT support system, we hope to contribute to the company’s vision of becoming an even stronger food company in the region. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/01/06/1275501/sm‐pure‐foods‐taps‐ibm                         


NBI eyes deeper probe of DBM exec By Christine O. Avendaño  Philippine Daily Inquirer   3:07 am | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

 

Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos: Covered by NBI probe. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Authorities looking into the scam involving the release of fake special allotment release orders (Saros) are particularly interested in what Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos has to say considering that some of his personnel have been implicated in the case, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Sunday. “Given the involvement of some of his personnel, Usec Relampagos is inevitably covered by the (National Bureau of Investigation’s) ongoing probe,” De Lima said in text messages to reporters. “The core factual issues are: Did he know about the shenanigans of his subordinates? Did he tolerate the same? Worse, did he benefit from those corrupt practices?” she said. The NBI has been conducting a probe into the alleged participation of a driver and a janitor from the office of Relampagos in its investigation into the use of bogus Saros for farm-to-market roads. A few days after she had stated that the fake Saro gang involved a group of personnel from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as well as staff members of congressmen, the justice secretary said investigators were not ruling out the possible involvement of “a higher DBM official or officials” in the scam. But she stressed that they had not yet established the involvement of these high officials. De Lima said Relampagos had already submitted a statement to the NBI but investigators were “most probably” still going to question him about this.


A Saro is a document issued by the DBM that allows the release of lump-sum funds, such as those from a senator’s or congressman’s pork barrel. The fake Saro scam unraveled when Budget Secretary Florencio Abad sought an NBI probe in October. This developed after an agriculture official alerted Abad to the release of a Saro for P161 million, which turned out to be fake. Another Saro in Western Visayas amounting to P77 million was also found to be spurious. The originals of the documents remained at the DBM and were neither signed nor released. The DBM canceled 12 Saros covering P875 million worth of farm-to-market road projects, the funds for which had not yet been released or signed by the authorized signatory, then Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor. The NBI has identified members of a group engaged in producing original photocopies of Saros to secure the release of congressional pork barrel funds for public projects.—With a report from Jerome Aning   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/558351/nbi‐eyes‐deeper‐probe‐of‐dbm‐exec#ixzz2paVZjTew   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                       


More transparency in mining seen by Edu Lopez  January 5, 2014  

The government is confident that the creation of the Philippine extractive industries transparency initiative (EITI) would further enhance transparency and fairness in the mining sector. Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje said he expects the extractive companies to be as open, fair and uphold best mining practices in the country. Executive Order (EO) No. 147 issued by President Aquino is a milestone that has opened wide avenues for the mining sector to prove that mining can promote genuine development of developing countries possessing mineral wealth like the Philippines, said Paje. EO 147 is a requisite to complete the EITI process to make the Philippines a compliant country in the international undertaking to bring about transparency and accountability in the extractive industries and in government. Paje said the presidential directive was also among the reforms being introduced by the Aquino administration “to ensure that the mining sector revenues are utilized in the most efficient and effective manner with accountability being the guiding principle.” EITI is a global standard for transparency in the mining sector that involves the reconciliation of company payments with government receipts by an independent administrator and disclosure of that information to the public. The process is managed by the government with the active involvement of partners from industry and wider society. Under EITI, all companies engaged in a country’s mineral sector report what they have paid to the government, and then the government reports what it has received. The reports from the companies and the government are compared by an independent auditor and make up what is called the country’s “EITI report.” EITI is recognized as a useful tool for resource-rich countries like the Philippines to better manage their natural resources and ensure that the extractive industries make positive contributions to the improvement of economies of host communities during the development process. There are currently 25 EITI-compliant countries in the world and 16 EITI candidate countries, or those that are working to reach compliant status like the Philippines. http://www.mb.com.ph/more‐transparency‐in‐mining‐seen/ 


Meralco: TRO on power hike to trigger brownouts by Myrna Velasco  January 6, 2014 (updated)  

The “worst case impact” of the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) is compelling Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to resort to manual load dropping (MLD) or supply curtailment, thereby, leading to brownout incidents within its franchise area in the beginning months of the year. The utility firm stated such scenario in its December 26, 2013 letter to Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla; and the portended brownout incidents may happen even prior to the summer months. “Depending on the power supply and demand situation in the coming months, this may entail employing manual load dropping in some areas in order to limit Meralco’s exposure to the volatility of WESM (Wholesale Electricity Spot Market) prices and allow the full pass-through of its generation cost and other related charges at the rate temporarily capped by the Supreme Court TRO,” the Meralco letter stated. Meralco said its MLD recourse had to be anchored on any decision to trim down its WESM purchases, partly also because of the deferment of payment it has been seeking from power suppliers. “We would like to impress on the DOE that the temporary cap on the generation charge of P5.6673 per kilowatt hour, especially if made to apply on a continuing basis for the January 2014 and subsequent supply months, would severely constrain Meralco’s sourcing of power from PEMC (Philippine Electricity Market Corporation) and the generating companies,” Meralco has noted in the letter. January will remain a problematic billing month for Meralco because its generation charge was just capped by the ERC at P7.37 per kwh. So from the restrained pass-on level of P5.6673 per kwh in December, there will be an increase of P1.7027 per kwh in this month’s generation charge and such may trigger another round of controversy. The generation charge being passed on by Meralco under its December billing had to revert to the P5.67 per kwh level following the high court’s verdict. In the three-tranche pass on of its P4.15 per kwh hike as earlier proposed to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Meralco originally intended to reflect the initial P2.41 fraction of the total increase for December, and at a generation charge of P7.67 per kwh.


The power generation companies already sounded off that they are not inclined to agree to the “payment deferment proposal” because this will also obliterate their respective financial stature and could hamper their operations. Most vulnerable to this dilemma would be the diesel plants which will be in need of immediate cash for fuel purchases. Petilla advanced proposal that the government would do the fuel procurement for the diesel facilities. However, the energy chief could be smacked with legal hurdles if he will re-align government funding for private enterprises. http://www.mb.com.ph/meralco‐tro‐on‐power‐hike‐to‐trigger‐brownouts/                                     


In the Know: SSS, PhilHealth hikes take effect January Philippine Daily Inquirer   1:54 am | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

Increases in employees’ contributions to the Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) take effect this January. The 0.6-percent increase in SSS contributions—from 10.4 percent to 11 percent of a member’s monthly salary credit—was announced by President Aquino on Labor Day last year and approved by Malacañang in September. At the same time, the ceiling for the monthly salary credit, which is the base for computing the contribution, was also increased from P15,000 to P16,000. The floor salary credit, however, was unchanged at P1,000. Individuals in the private sector with monthly salaries ranging from P1,000 to P1,249.99 fall under the monthly salary credit of P1,000. With the new SSS schedule, the monthly contribution under this category shall be P110, up from P104. Of the P110 contribution, the employee’s share shall be P36.30 and the remaining shall be shouldered by the employer. Those with monthly salaries of at least P15,750 have a maximum salary credit, which is P16,000 in the new schedule. This means that contributions of individuals under this category shall be P1,760, up from P1,560. Of the P1,760 contribution, the employee’s share shall be P581.30 and remaining shall be shouldered by the employer. Late last year, SSS president Emilio de Quiros said that based on estimates, the SSS would be able to continue servicing claims only until 2039 given the fund’s current levels. The increase would lengthen the life of the SSS, allowing it to operate three more years, or until 2042, he added.

The rise in the monthly premium contributions of PhilHealth members was announced as early as 2011. However, public clamor against such increases resulted in the partial deferment until the end of 2013. In September last year, PhilHealth President Alexander Padilla signed a circular containing the new monthly contributions of those in the employed sector starting January this year. Under the circular, the premium rate for the employed sector starting this year shall be 2.5 percent and the minimum salary bracket shall be P8,000, up from P7,000. The maximum salary


bracket remains at P35,000. The salary bracket is the base for computing the monthly premium contribution. The adjustments mean that the monthly contribution of a member with a monthly salary of P8,999 and below shall be P200, with half of the amount to be shouldered by the employer. The monthly contribution of a member with a salary of at least P35,000 shall be P875, with half of the amount to be shouldered by the employer.—Ana Roa, Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archives, philhealth.gov.ph, sss.gov.ph   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/558311/in‐the‐know‐sss‐philhealth‐hikes‐take‐effect‐ january#ixzz2pafGWrfL   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                             


Bangko Sentral gets P10B more in capital By Michelle V. Remo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   10:03 pm | Sunday, January 5th, 2014  

The government has infused P10 billion in additional capital into the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in view of a potentially tougher task of keeping inflation modest this year. With the latest capital infusion, the government has completely settled its liabilities to the BSP. “The BSP already received the amount this week,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. told reporters on Friday. Under the charter of the BSP, which was created in 1993 to replace the old central bank, it is supposed to get a P50-billion capitalization from the government. Due to budgetary constraints, however, the government initially gave the BSP only P10 billion. The additional P20 billion was infused in December 2011 and another P20 billion in December 2012. Monetary officials last year strongly pushed for the settlement of the remaining P10 billion in capitalization, saying the money would help ensure that the central bank will be able to efficiently perform its mandate of managing liquidity in the economy. The call was made amid growing liquidity, given the robust expansion of the economy that needed to be well managed to keep inflation modest despite price pressures. The Philippine economy became one of the fastest growing Asian economies in 2013, with its gross domestic product expanding by an average of 7.4 percent in the first three quarters. The expansion of the economy was partly aided by the growth in loans extended by banks that helped boost demand for goods and services by consumers and enterprises.

For the past few years, the BSP has been incurring losses arising from efforts to prevent growing liquidity from causing inflationary problems. The central bank has been accommodating higher deposits from banks to temper the growth of liquidity circulating in the economy. This pushed the BSP’s interest expenses up. The BSP incurred a net loss of P59 billion in 2010, nearly P34 billion in 2011 and about P95 billion in 2012. In the first 10 months of 2013, its losses have reached about P22 billion. In the meantime, the additional capital infusion was just one of the items in the BSP’s wish list.


The BSP is also pushing other measures that will help enhance its efficiency in fulfilling its mandate of ensuring price stability. The monetary authority wants a law allowing it to issue and trade its own securities. Being able to buy and sell its own securities would aid in efforts to manage liquidity in the economy, officials said. The BSP is likewise seeking exemption from state taxes to reduce its expenses. It also wants a scheme that will require the government to share not only in the BSP’s income but also in losses. The central bank hopes to get automatic financial support from the government every time it registers net losses. Currently, as stated in the BSP charter, it is mandated to remit 75 percent of its income to the government as dividends. However, its charter does not require the government to provide funding support in case of losses.   Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/158977/bangko‐sentral‐gets‐p10b‐more‐in‐ capital#ixzz2paidg3iP   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                   


Slower economic growth, rising prices seen in ’14 Despite inflation concerns, Bangko Sentral likely to maintain key interest rates  By Doris C. Dumlao  Philippine Daily Inquirer   10:01 pm | Sunday, January 5th, 2014  

Economic growth is seen to slow down to 6.1 percent this year, from the estimated 6.9 percent in 2013, partly due to the devastation caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” and the possible decline in consumption in view of the rise in inflation, Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands said. But despite a likely increase in inflation, BPI does not expect the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to increase key interest rates this year, based on macroeconomic assumptions supporting the bank’s 2014 profit forecasts. “The BSP, although currently employing an inflation targeting framework, is not expected to raise interest rates in 2014 as the projected increase in inflation will mainly be supply-side driven. Under the inflation targeting framework, the BSP will only resort to hiking interest rates if rising inflation is brought about by demand-side pressure,” the bank said. “As such, we do not expect any changes to both the policy and SDA (special deposit account) rates, while the BSP may decide to maintain financial stability through the deployment of macro prudential measures as they see fit,” it said. In 2013, the bank noted that headline inflation prior to the Yolanda episode averaged 2.8 percent, with inflation dipping below the BSP’s 3- to 5-percent target for seven out of 10 months.

But the bank said the ill effects of Yolanda would likely surface in Philippine inflation in the next couple of months, as supply side disruptions push the prices of commodities higher. As such, BPI is expecting full-year 2013 inflation to breach the 3-percent level while it expects 2014 inflation to hit 3.5 percent. The aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda is seen gnawing at growth momentum. “Philippine growth is expected to be slowed to some extent by the recent typhoon due to the loss of output in affected areas and foregone consumption as inflation is expected to pick up. That being said, Eastern Visayas comprises a fraction of national output as growth remains NCR (National Capital Region)-centric. Furthermore, reconstruction efforts are expected to provide a boost and compensate for the loss of consumption,” the bank said.


In the meantime, as the US Federal Reserve tapers its liquidity-inducing bond buying operations, BPI expects the return of the trend of strong US dollar while emerging market currencies may retreat. “Although the Philippines continues to enjoy a healthy external position, solid economic fundamentals and a structural stream of foreign currency flows, thanks to the overseas Filipino and business process outsourcing route, we expect that the pressure to remain competitive in the region will keep US dollar-Philippine peso (exchange rate) in the middle of the regional norm,” BPI said. As such, BPI said it expected the peso to average this year at 44.173 to $1 and to settle at 44.60 by the end of the year.   Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/158969/slower‐economic‐growth‐rising‐prices‐seen‐in‐ 14#ixzz2paiqtO8Q   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                               


DBM exec tagged in scam By Rey E. Requejo | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am Undersec’s role in fake SAROs probed by NBI THE Justice Department on Sunday said it is investigating the possible involvement of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos in a scheme to falsify special allotment release orders (SAROs) involving millions of pesos. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Relampagos is the highest official so far in the National Bureau of Investigation’s investigation into the fake SAROs allegedly perpetrated by a syndicate within the Department of Budget and Management. “Given the involvement of some of his personnel, Undersecretary Relampagos is inevitably covered by the NBI’s ongoing probe,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters. “The core factual issues are: Does he know about the shenanigans of his subordinates? Did he tolerate the same? Worse, did he benefit from those corrupt practices?” De Lima added. The Palace said Sunday it did not plan to put Relampagos under preventive suspension. “We will await the result of the Justice Department investigation before taking any action. An investigation is not enough basis to suspend any official or employee,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a text message. Abad said he would like to see the investigation concluded soon. “I am as eager as you to find out if there really is a scam and if it is a concerted effort from within and outside the Department of Budget and Management,” Abad said. “The alleged scam puts a cloud of doubt on the department and its officials and employees. The earlier the investigation is completed, the earlier the agency and its officials and employees are cleared and those found to be liable--if there are--identified and


punished. We have extended full cooperation [to] the DOJ-NBI in our desire to ferret out the truth,” he added. De Lima earlier said the NBI investigation has so far pointed to the involvement of several staff members under Relampagos, including his secretary, driver and janitor, but she declined to identify them. De Lima confirmed that Relampagos is the first official being investigated in relation to the multi-billion-peso pork barrel fund scam. NBI probers have already verified that the SAROs for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces were falsified and that several personnel of the Budget Department were involved. De Lima said NBI agents had found that the group kept specimen signatures of approving authorities, which they had superimposed on unsigned, photocopied SAROs. The syndicate would photocopy advanced copies of the unsigned SAROs and superimpose signatures on them before xeroxing the documents again. “After the SAROs were photocopied several times, the fake signatures would seem to appear authentic,” De Lima said. Of the 12 SAROs being probed by the NBI, she said, the two from Regions I and VI involving projects worth P161 million and P77 million, respectively, were indeed fake. The other questionable SAROs involved projects in Calabarzon (Region 4A) and Soccsksargen (Region 12). The SARO is a document issued by the DBM authorizing the actual release of funds for projects. De Lima said those involved in the scheme were DBM personnel led by a certain “supremo” who apparently is a woman, and the staff of several congressmen.


De Lima also said that the NBI probe had initially pointed to a consultant of Aklan Rep. Teodoro Haresco as the source of the two fake SAROs. Before being elected congressional representative, Haresco used to be a party-list representative. De Lima said the probers are also determining if higher officials were involved in the scheme. “So far, there is no indication that the congressmen were aware of this. The NBI only established so far involvement of congressional staff,” she said. She has given the NBI until end of this month to complete the probe and submit a report. She said some of those being investigated are being eyed as state witnesses in possible charges expected to be filed as a result of the probe. Except for differences in font styles, the fake SAROs contained the same SARO numbers, codes, amount of money, dates, and name of signatories as the authentic ones. The fake SAROs were discovered only last November at the height of the pork barrel fund mess involving businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who allegedly used nonexistent foundations to divert Priority Development Assistance Funds and Malampaya Funds with the help of several lawmakers and implementing government agencies. – With Joyce Pangco Panares and Jennifer Ambanta http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/dbm‐exec‐tagged‐in‐scam‐/            


Now’s time to revise power law— Palace By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am After drawing much flak for claiming to be helpless in addressing the power rate hike imposed by Meralco, Malacañang is now saying it is time to amend the Electric Power Industry Reform Act. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said the government is committed to preventing any abuse in the power sector, following reports of collusion among power products to artificially justify the electric rate hike. “After 12 years since Epira took effect, it is now time to study the provisions of the law to remove its weaknesses and amend this with the public interest in mind,” Coloma said. On Friday, the Palace said it has no magic wand to ease the woes of the public from the power rate hike as it can only act within the bounds of Epira. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it was up to Congress to amend the law, which prevents the government from putting up power plants to act as standby reserve in case of shortages. “There is no magic wand to wave,” Valte said. “The Epira prevents government from being a power generator. So we try to work within what is present to address these concerns and these issues,” Valte added. Until now, the Palace legal team has yet to finish reviewing proposals to use the Malampaya Fund and the President’s Social Fund to subsidize Meralco’s power rate hike, attributed to the maintenance shutdown of natural-gas power planys. The Supreme Court has since issued a 60-day temporary restraining order on the Meralco increase. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/now‐s‐time‐to‐revise‐power‐law‐palace/  


Marijuana, anyone? Lawmaker gets a high By Maricel Cruz | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am An opposition lawmaker on Sunday proposed a measure seeking to legalize the use of marijuana but “under a very strict regulation for medicinal purposes. Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives, was quick to say that his proposal “needs further study”. “That’s supposed to be my bill, the medicinal marijuana. If you legalize it, you deglamorized the drug,” Albano said in an interview, following the legalization of marijuana in the US state of Colorado which took effect last January 1 allowing the sale of the substance that is banned in the Philippines for recreational purposes to state residents aged 21 or older Albano said that marijuana agement.” Some studies have said marijuana produces chemicals that ease the nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy, victims of trauma and stimulate appetite in severe weight loss caused by AIDS cancer patients, prompting the other countries to approve its use for medicinal purposes. Foreign tourists and locals alike in Netherlands may buy and smoke marijuana in coffee shops. But the US National Institute on Drug Abuse said marijuana can cause problems with memory, learning and behavior. When smoked, it can cause coughing and breathing problems. Despite this, some US states have approved “medical marijuana” to ease symptoms of various health problems. But the House leadership led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. struck down any proposal in the House that seeks to legalize the use and cultivation of cannabis sativa,


more known as marijuana. Such a proposal would not and should not prosper in the House of Representatives, he said. “No, I don’t think such a measure will prosper,” Belmonte said. “How can you legalize something that alters the mind?” Belmonte added. Palace had earlier said it would leave it up to Congress “the wisdom” to legalize marijuana. In the past Congresses, former Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao proposed the legalization of marijuana and backed by then Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel MacapagalArroyo on the context of strict regulation for medicinal purposes. Like Belmonte, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao and Marikina City Rep. Marcelino Teodoro vehemently opposed in separate interviews the proposal legalizing the sale and use of marijuana, explaining the medical intention does not justify the “risk factors.” “For medical purposes was a long standing alibi of the people pushing for marijuana legalization. Why should we legalize something that can become harmful? The medical benefits don’t outweigh the risks. I’m pretty sure it will be subject to abuse,” Baguilat said Aggabao, for his part, pointed out that the government is not capable of enforcing strict rules should Congress relax the policy on the sale and use of marijuana, resulting to further drug addiction of the illegal substance among youth. “No, we cannot legalize it, not just yet. Colorado legalized it but under tight rules. Our failings are that we can’t enforce rules. Thus, we will surely end up with our youth immersed in drugs,” Aggabao said. Teodoro said “the legalization of marijuana should be carefully studied.” “The health risks of marijuana should be seriously considered and its negative side effects be scientifically studied first before legalizing marijuana,” Teodoro said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/marijuana‐anyone‐lawmaker‐gets‐a‐high/


NFA warns: Saboteurs out to create shortage By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am The National Food Authority has declared that the country has sufficient rice supply and there is no reason for its price to move up. An oficial made the assurance on Sunday after the food agency received reports that some groups and individuals were out to create a scenario of rice shortage, thus sabotaging the agency’s operations. NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said the plan includes distribution of thousands of sacks of rotten rice in public markets with the NFA label on them, so as to put the agency in a bad light. Estoperez likened the move to hitting two birds with one stone, because the saboteurs could now dispose of their old stocks while discrediting the agency’s leadership. The plan was hatched to divert the public’s attention from some personalities and Bureau of Customs officials and employees who were implicated in a recently exposed t rice smuggling operations in the country. He explained that last month, at least 450,000 sacks of rice or an equivalent of 22,500 metric tons arrived in the country from Vietnam. The shipment was part of 500,000 MT that was bought from Vietnam under the government-to-government agreement, to ensure that we have enough rice supply following a series of natural calamities that hit the country last year. The remaining 380,000 MT was expected to arrive in the country during the first quarter of the year. Estoperez stressed that the agency’s rice stocks are all of highest quality because they regularly conduct monitoring of their stocks based on prescribed regulations and standards.


He added that their quality assurance officers and internal auditing department regularly monitor and assess stocks that are stored in its warehouses. “Our stocks need to pass our standards. If our monitoring team determines that they are of inferior quality, warehouse managers will be accountable to us and we will not release these stocks” he explained. Estoperez said NFA officials would go after all those who will be found trying to sabotage the operations of the agency and deal them the full extent of the law.

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/nfa‐warns‐saboteurs‐out‐to‐create‐shortage‐/                              


Govt urged to probe Mighty By MST Business | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am Local farmers called on the Agriculture Department and the Tariff Commission to investigate a Bulacan-based cigarette manufacturer over possible violations of the antidumping law, warning they will ultimately adversely affect tobacco production in the Philippines. The Ilocos Sur-based Banayoyo Reforestation and Tobacco Growers Credit Cooperative alleged Mighty Corp., based in Malolos, Bulacan, had been importing tobacco leaf at rates way below the floor price mandated by the government, making it liable for violating Republic Act 8752, or the Anti-Dumping Act of 1999. The farmers also inquired on the progress of the probe being conducted by the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue on Mighty’s alleged under-declaration of imported tobacco leaf and acetate tow. Franciso Gamboa, president of the cooperative, said he doubted Mighty’s recent statement that ‘‘it would buy more next year” from local farmers, considering that the company imports tobacco leaf at prices much lower than those prevailing in the market. “How can Mighty make good on its promise to buy more from tobacco farmers next year if the imported price of their tobacco is cheaper than even the rejects or floor sweepings sold here?” Gamboa asked. Customs and the BIR told the House committee on ways and means chaired by Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo on Oct. 22, 2013 that they had initiated an investigation on the complaints against Mighty. Documents submitted by Mighty to the BoC show it had imported tobacco leaf at just $0.68 per kilo (equivalent to only P29.24) in 2011 and 2012, or much lower than the government-mandated floor price even for rejects. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has ordered the Customs and the BIR to investigate the alleged under-declaration of Mighty’s imports. Customs records show that the cheapest imported tobacco in 2011 was $3.39 per kilo, way above the $0.68 per kilo importation of Mighty. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/govt‐urged‐to‐probe‐mighty/  


Money abroad powers savings By Julito G. Rada | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am The household sector remains the top saver in the Philippine economy in 2012, aided by the sustained inflow of remittances from migrant Filipino workers, according to the 2012 Flow of Funds Report of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas released over the weekend. The report is a summary of financial transactions among the different institutions of the economy and with the rest of the world. It identifies which institutions are net borrowers and net lenders after a series of financial transactions during the year. Institutions are categorized into financial and non-financial corporations, the general government and the households. “The household sector remained the top saver in the economy for the fifth consecutive year accumulating for P928.9 billion in savings. This was partly brought about by the steady stream of overseas Filipinos’ remittances,” the Bangko Sentral said. It said the non-financial corporation sector trailed behind, generating savings of P713.4 billion due to the broad-based growth across sub-sectors. “The general government sector registered the highest growth in savings at 33.5 percent to reach P252.2 billion due to sustained generation of savings of the national government, local government units and social security agencies,” it said. The financial sector, meanwhile, registered a growth in savings of 17.5 percent at P100.6 billion due to the increased revenue generation of top private life insurance companies and the steady stream of income of the other depository corporations. “Domestic savings continued to expand by 6.8 percent to P2.001 trillion,” the central bank added. The report said the economy’s gross capital accumulation expanded 7.7 percent to reach P1.69 trillion in 2012. The household sector was the economy’s largest real investor, accounting for 41.6 percent of the total.   http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/money‐abroad‐powers‐savings/  


Can we relaunch the Philippines? By Francisco S. Tatad | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am

TALK of massive official corruption and unbridled official incompetence marked most of 2013. Yet the annus horribilis ended (in T. S. Eliot’s overquoted phrase) “not with a bang but with a whimper.” Even more feeble was the official welcome that greeted 2014. President B. S. Aquino III could not say how he proposes to end the mind-boggling corruption and mindless incompetence that had become the hallmark of his administration. Even as the shattered institutions cried out to be rebuilt, along with the regions that were battered by the Oct. 15th 7.2 earthquake and the Nov. 8th super-typhoon, Aquino’s sudden reticence defied understanding. As though the new year had brought in a new death rather than a new birth or a new beginning. The Aquino regime should have been swept away by the sheer fury of last year’s scandals. Yet it remains stuck around the ship of state like a barnacle. The Energy Secretary naively tried to resign by invoking his word of “honor” to those whose homes he had failed to light up at Christmas. But he was reminded that he was not authorized to put his honor on the line. Aquino himself, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and some others continued to inflict the exact opposite of honor upon the nation. But they have not had to justify their staying on. Given all the bloopers Aquino had made during the year, somebody must have advised him to stop talking this year. It could be his New Year’s “resolution.” But that could be the wrong decision. The President needs to speak, to communicate policies, directives, decisions. He cannot just clam up on issues that need public airing.


The thing to do is to study the issues in depth and then formulate one’s position clearly and coherently before speaking out. This is what someone like Lee Kuan Yew used to do. The founder of Singapore was perhaps the most brilliant head of government in his time. He could deliver an extended lecture on the most difficult subject before an international audience of scholars, without notes, if necessary. But he never made the shortest official statement without writing anything on paper. It is not such a bad model. After what we have been through these last three years, it should be our common task to relaunch the country in 2014. The government must do everything to reenergize democracy, public morality, the economy, the peace process, and foreign policy. If it cannot do this, then it must get out of the way. If it won’t, then we, the people, must seize the responsibility. We could then make Aquino irrelevant, by acting as though the government did not exist. • Reenergizing democracy This should be our first priority. For Philippine democracy—whether understood as procedural democracy, liberal democracy or social democracy---is a sham. In theory, the majority governs, a responsible electorate elects the government in free and fair elections, an opposition party exists to challenge incumbents, a free press exists to inform the citizenry and help them form their enlightened opinions on various issues. In reality, the many (who are poor) are governed by the moneyed and powerful minority (the oligarchy). As part of the oligarchy, Aquino is now in virtual control of the three branches of government. No organized opposition party exists, and no free press either, outside of the social media and the small dailies. The electorate is usually corrupted or deceived through the venal manipulation of the electoral process, the paid propaganda surveys, and the conscript media. To illustrate, the 2004 presidential election was seriously flawed, as the “Hello, Garci” tape revealed. But even more seriously flawed were the 2010 presidential elections and the 2013 senatorial elections. These were conducted by a foreign firm, Smartmatic, on behalf of the Commission on Elections, which otherwise had the sole constitutional authority to conduct elections. Smartmatic used the precinct count optical scan (PCOS)


machines, without any of the safety features and accuracy mechanisms otherwise prescribed by law and originally built into the system. In 2009, the German federal constitutional court declared this type of automated voting unconstitutional. The court held that machine-voting did away with “the public character” of the election and thereby invalidated the process. In our case, the Comelec removed all the accuracy mechanisms and safety features of the PCOS machines, in violation of law. Some members of a university-based coalition of computer scientists, mathematicians and scholars have filed criminal charges against those involved. But the complaints have not moved at the Ombudsman. Meanwhile, the PCOS machines threaten to make a third appearance in the next presidential election. The Comelec, the Smartmatic voting system, and many of our election laws must be replaced to eliminate the slightest possibility of fraud in the electoral system. But the reform must be far-reaching. The entire political system must be overhauled. The unitary presidential system must go, preferrably in favor of a federal system with a parliamentary form of government. The political party system must be strengthened, along with the free press and the free flow of information. All this calls for a revision of the Constitution. Aquino is against it, while House Speaker Belmonte, who takes his marching orders from Aquino, says Congress should do it. We should ignore both and proceed on our own. The President has no legitimate official role to play in the process of amending or revising the Constitution. And the pork-fed members of Congress should be the last people on earth to get involved in the process. The only thing they can do is to call a constitutional convention so that we, the people, could revise the Constitution or write a new one ourselves. • Reenergizing public morality The pork barrel scandal and the bribing of Congress by the President say it all. We have lost all sense of right and wrong. We have traded truth for falsehood, public service for private gain. This came to pass because, as the novelist and iconographer Michael O’Brien puts it, while “medieval man may have believed that the sun revolves around


the earth, modern man uses all his knowledge and power to convince himself that the entire universe revolves around his own ego.” Aquino’s fascination with his own ego , his moral indifferentism, and his distorted understanding of the “separation of Church and state” have led him to adopt policies hostile to Christian morality and the Christian faith of most Filipinos. Upon our predominantly Christian society, he has sought to impose neo-pagan values. By paying off members of Congress to impeach and remove Chief Justice Renato Corona and to railroad the widely opposed RH Law, he made himself the chief corruptor of Congress. He also sought to make the State the official “provider of contraception” and “first preventer of conception.” The Constitution on the other hand obliges the State “to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” and of conception itself. This is a naked attempt to change our cultural identity, from perhaps the last orthodox Catholic country outside of the Holy See, to something else. We cannot allow this to happen. Our right and duty is to require Aquino to give us our due in the name of truth and justice. We should press it all the way, regardless of its cost or consequence. In seven years, we mark the 500th anniversary of the Christianization of the Philippines. We should celebrate it as a faithful Catholic country, and the next generations of Filipinos should look forward to celebrating the next 500 years. • Reenergizing the economy As the year begins, the Asian Development Bank predicts the economy will grow by around 6.7 percent, outperforming the nine other ASEAN economies. Workers’ remittances from abroad will rise to around $26 billion. And the rebuilding of Tacloban, Guiuan, Cebu and Bohol and the other places devastated by the 7.2 earthquake and the super-typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan promises to drive up employment, consumption, production and overall GDP growth. The real problem though is how to cause a leveling of the poverty and inequality indices and make the growth more inclusive. We need more foreign direct investments but we don’t have the necessary infrastructure to attract those investments. The energy


situation alone is a mess. At a time when almost everyone is able to assure the supply of reasonably cheap energy, we have among the most prohibitive prices. We have the world’s highest electric power rates for household consumers as we speak. Even more troubling to the acute economic observer, what does the government propose to do should the current colossal fictitious monetary bubble on both sides of the Atlantic finally burst? By adopting the policy of quantitative easing, which allows money to be created out of thin air, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve have long created a fictitious monetary bubble, which in the US alone now amounts to at least $4 trillion. What happens to the peso, which is tied to the dollar, should this bubble finally pop? Obviously our finance and monetary authorities have not had the time to consider this extreme possibility. But it is their duty to do so, and to prepare us for the possible disaster should it ever strike. We can surmise it’s going to be several times worse than Yolanda/Haiyan. • Reenergizing the peace process The September standoff between the military and units of Nur Misuari’s faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City, followed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Conakry, Republic of Guinea present an opportunity to intensify the Mindanao peace process. But a statement from Jose Ma. Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, last month, tried to grab the nation’s attention away from Mindanao. Some clashes between the military and the NPA have since occurred, following Sison’s statement, which called for renewed fighting to bring down the government. For a while, rumors were rife that Aquino had agreed to bring Sison home from Utrecht and make him member of the Cabinet under a coalition government. Obviously the military shot it down, and for good reason too. But does either side need a renewed armed struggle? Aren’t the prospects for a peaceful settlement brighter? • Reenergizing the nation’s foreign policy


China’s establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea has alarmed the US, Japan, Korea and even Aquino’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs. On the other hand, the adoption of the Air-Sea Battle Concept by the Pentagon, which some US analysts have described as a war plan against China, has naturally alarmed Beijing. Together they seem to increase the risk of war. But the Philippines cannot afford to be caught in such a war. How to prevent it, therefore, rather than how to stoke it should be our overriding concern. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/can‐we‐relaunch‐the‐philippines‐/                                      


An acid test for COA By Alvin Capino | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am

The issue of “fake” An Waray party list congresswoman Victoria Noel is an acid test on the objectivity and fairness of the Commission on Audit under the watch of Chairman Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan. Pulido-Tan had been accused of partiality for the political allies of President Benigno Aquino III and her detractors, including Senator Jinggoy Estrada, have accused her of being hard on the opposition but handling those identified with the Administration with kid gloves. This is the time for the COA chairman Disallowing the millions of funds released to the office of the second nominee of the party list An Waray is not difficult. The hackneyed expression here is that it is an open-and-shut case. The issue is complicated only because the brother of Victoria Noel is the An Waray founder and former An Waray Rep. Florencio Bem Noel who is a member of the Liberal Party and is a close ally of Pres. Aquino. Noel ran for Mayor of Tacloban City. The President openly campaigned for Noel against eventual winner re-electionist Mayor Alfred Romualdez. Presidential sister Kris Aquino even went to Tacloban City days before the elections and proclaimed Noel, mistakenly it turned out to be, as the next mayor of Tacloban City. No less than the chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Sixto Brillantes said in an interview on our morning political commentary Karambola sa dwIZ radio program that the Comelec had deliberately refrained from issuing a certificate of proclamation to the second nominee of An Waray because the seat lawyer Victoria Noel is occupying is reserved for another party list representative, Abang Lingkod, pending the Supreme Court decision of this party list’s disqualification case.


Brillantes said: “Hindi namin binigyan ng certificate of proclamation yung dalawa, dalawa ang seats ng An Waray. Hindi namin binigay yung isa, pero ganun pa man, ang House of Representatives filled up already the other one so puno na ho yung House of Representatives. (We did not give certificate of proclamation to two, An Waray has two seats. We did not give a certificate of proclamation to the other one but even then the House of Representatives filled the other one so all the seats for party list have already been filled.)” So it is clear that the An Waray second nominee has no certificate of proclamation which is the main basis and requirement to get a seat at the House of Representatives. It is thus unquestionable that she is a fake congresswoman and she has no right to have an office and get benefits from the Chamber. All COA has to do is to ask Noel and the House Leadership for a copy of the certificate of proclamation and if she does not have any, then all releases made to her are illegal and therefore should be disallowed. Lawyer Marlyn Yap who heads the secretariat of the House of Representatives tried to explain to a former congressional leader why they allowed Noel to occupy a seat in the chamber by saying that they were acting on the basis of reports that the An Waray party list are entitled to two seats. Yes, “An Waray” is entitled to a second seat but only if the disqualification of the “Abang Lingkod” is upheld by the SC. This is precisely the reason why Comelec withheld issuing a certificate of proclamation to An Waray and a seat was reserved for Abang Lingkod but the House leadership, without any legal basis at all, allowed the second nominee of An Waray occupy it. The problem of Yap and the House Leadership is that the SC, through an 11-4 vote, has ruled in favor of Abang Lingkod and has ordered Comelec to issue a certificate of proclamation to Abang Lingkod. The Comelec has filed a motion for consideration on the SC decision but it might take some doing to overturn the earlier decision of the court since it would mean that at least seven justices would do a 180-degree turn on their original position.


Brillantes said that if the SC affirms the majority decision favoring Abang Lingkod party list, there will be a big problem since the House of Representative already filled the seat supposedly reserved for Abang Lingkod by allowing the second nominee of An Waray to occupy it. This should not really be a problem. The An Waray second nominee has no certificate of proclamation and therefore she should be forced to vacate the seat reserved for Abang Lingkod even before the SC issue a ruling on the Comelec motion for reconsideration. The fact that the House Leadership allowed the second nominee of An Waray to occupy a seat poses a lot of problems. For example, if COA disallows all fund releases to the office of the second An Waray Representative, who would reimburse the money? Perhaps Speaker Sonny Belmonte or House Secretariat head Yap would care to explain.

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/06/an‐acid‐test‐for‐coa/                      


The fruits of corruption By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 04, 2014 at 12:01am

We need to eradicate corruption. It has caused so much hardship and suffering to Filipinos. The scourge of poverty, the abuse of power in government, the duplicity and lies in society --- they are fruits of corruption. We mark with much fanfare the onset of a new year. In a frenzy of celebration, our thoughts about corruption are crowded out by prospects of a new beginning, the possibilities in implementing new plans. But corruption is a dangerous enemy, and we should never allow it to slip out of our minds. Corruption has been with us for as long as we can remember. It has defied solution, and some people have learned to live with it, which is reckless and unpatriotic. Corruption is never part of our culture. It is abhorrent to our way of life --- we should denounce it. In his New Year message, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Socrates Villegas appealed for prayers for victims of violence and disasters and called on the people “to shun corruption.” “We pray for an end to kidnappings. We pray that violence stop. We beg for the end of terrorism and the conversion of the corrupt,” Villegas said.


President Aquino, whose administration has been smeared by illegal disbursement of billions of pork barrel funds, said in his New Year message that “traces of corruption are being eradicated through good governance.” But he did not give details of the “traces of corruption” and the measures he put in place “to ensure that people will benefit from public funds.” Malacanang, however, said the three branches of government have committed to fully support the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which requires governments to implement programs to prevent and prosecute people involved in corruption. Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, and Executive Secetary Paquito Ochoa have signed a resolution to implement certain measures such as creating more divisions in the Sandiganbayan to unclog dockets, strengthening the Witness Protection Law and Anti-Money Laundering Law, criminalizing bribery and influence peddling and passage of the Freedom of Information bill. Their commitment is a major thrust to eliminate a powerful enemy. Our victory will depend on how fast they can implement it. A new beginning requires a clean-up. To start anew, Aquino should wield a big mop to wipe out the traces of corruption.

http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/04/the‐fruits‐of‐corruption/               


DBM official probed for fake SAROs January 5, 2014 9:59 pm by JOMAR CANLAS

THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will question an undersecretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as it looks into the faking of special allotment release orders (SAROs). According to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos is the highest-ranking official being probed in connection with the controversy. In November last year, the NBI summoned several budget officials to explain the P879million worth of fake SAROs for farm-to-market-road projects in Cagayan Valley and Western Visayas. “Given the involvement of some of his personnel, Usec Relampagos is inevitably covered by the NBI’s ongoing probe,” de Lima said. She did not say if the investigation will include Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and other DBM officials. “The core factual issues are: Does he [Relampagos] know about the shenanigans of his subordinates? Did he tolerate the same? Worse, did he benefit from those corrupt practices?” de Lima said. Relampagos is the first Budget official to come under fire in connection with the pork barrel fund scam. De Lima earlier said the inquiry also covers the budget official’s secretary, driver and janitor. The DOJ, however, withheld their names. The SARO is a document released by the DBM for government projects, including those funded by Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), authorizing the implementing agencies to bid for the projects. The SARO is required before the DBM issues the Notice of Cash Allocation to allow the release of funds.


De Lima suspected that the release of fake SAROs could be the work of a Budget insider. “After the SAROs were photocopied several times, the fake signatures would seem to appear authentic already,” she said. The DBM last week announced that departments and agencies no longer need SAROs to get funds because the 2014 budget acts as the government’s official budget release document. Palace officials said the abolition of SAROs could reduce corruption and speed up the implementation of government projects.   http://manilatimes.net/dbm‐official‐probed‐for‐fake‐saros/65401/                            

 


Whitewash feared in power rate hike probe January 5, 2014 9:58 pm by JHOANNA BALLARAN REPORTER A lawmaker on Sunday raised fears that the investigation of the unprecedented power rate increase approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) could end up in a whitewash. Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna said the Department of Energy (DOE) is under intense pressure from the power producers who are suspected to have conspired to manipulate electricity rates. Colmenares urged the ERC to immediately release the result of its investigation to allay suspicions that it is succumbing to pressure to clear the power producers. “We have received reports from insiders doing the collusion probe that they are finding it hard to release the report even if it was way past their December 30 deadline because of the pressure from the power cartel that the investigation should say that there is no collusion,” Colmenares said. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla ordered the inquiry into the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour hike charged by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco). Energy Undersecretary Raul Aguilos told the House committee on energy in December there could have been collusion among power producers after nine power plants simultaneously shut down in November while the Malampaya natural gas plant was undergoing its annual maintenance check. The shutdowns caused power rates to soar to P33.22 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from P13.74 at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). “It is clear from the outset of the Congress investigation that even just based on the initial investigation done by the DOE, there are indications of collusion or cartelization of the power industry,” Colmenares said.


“It can only be changed when Malacañang, the DOE and the ERC would turn a blind eye to this and say that they can do nothing. Add to this the pressure from the power cartel that there would be blackouts when they are not paid then the result is a whitewash.” Colmenares said the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA) as well as the Palace, is “conditioning the minds of the people that there is no collusion among the power generators and that the P4.15 power rate increase should be shouldered by electricity consumers without complain.” President Benigno Aquino 3rd has said he cannot do anything to stop the rate increase. On December 23, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order stopping Meralco from collecting the rate increase. The Court will hear oral arguments in the case on January 21. Meralco justified the rate increase, saying it was forced to buy expensive electricity from the WESM to make up for the 2,700-megawatt deficit in the Luzon grid. Last week, PIPPA President Luis Miguel Aboitiz denied any conspiracy among power generators and warned that blackouts loom if power rates are not increased. Colmenares urged the DOE to release the result of its investigation. “The longer the report takes, the more pressure or blackmail the power cartel will exert on the investigators to exonerate themselves,” he said. Malacañang also on Sunday gave assurances that the government is taking steps to ensure there will be no power outages during the summer months. In a radio interview, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the DOE is coordinating with stakeholders to ensure a stable power supply. “We cannot allow widespread or frequent power outages because it will be bad for the economy,” Coloma said. “We can expect the Department of Energy to continue monitoring the situation,” he added. Coloma said the government is open to a study of the 12-year-old Electric Power Industry Reform Act.


The government will consider all proposals that will protect consumers from unjust power rate hikes, he said. “After more than 12 years, it is time to study the provisions of the law and replace its weak points with provisions that will benefit the people,” he said.   http://manilatimes.net/whitewash‐feared‐in‐power‐rate‐hike‐probe/65399/                                    


PDEA WANTS WIRETAP ON SUSPECTED DRUG TRAFFICKERS January 5, 2014 9:58 pm by JOEL M. SY EGCO THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) will wiretap suspected drug traffickers to find out more about the presence of the Sinaloa cartel in the country. Pdea chief Director General Arturo Cacdac said wiretapping is illegal in the Philippines, but it has become a necessity to counter the entry of drug syndicates which are looking at the Philippines as key hub in an “East-West� network they want to set up Cacdac said there is a need to immediately pass a law allowing the agency to conduct communications surveillance of suspected drug traffickers. The PDEA and other counternarcotic agencies must be able to hit the command structure of drug trafficking organizations, he told The Manila Times. He said the agency is backing the passage of a bill authored by Sen. Gregorio Honasan that seeks to legalize the wiretapping of drug traffickers. The United States government recently placed the Philippines at the center of its antinarcotics operation in Asia following reports that notorious drug rings that used to traffic drugs only in the West have found their way to the East through their Chinese associates. US Ambassador William Brownfield, assistant secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), was credited for the Christmas Day bust of a drug syndicate in Lipa City whose members include those from Sinaloa, the Mexican drug cartel. Brownfield said the cartel is eyeing the Philippines as a hub in Asia for selling narcotics that have too small a market in the US.


Some 84 kilos of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) were seized from a ranch in Lipa City on December 25. Government agents arrested four suspects, including the Chinese contact of the Sinaloa. Pdea public information office chief Derrick Carreon said that wiretapping should be done on personalities who are suspected to be involved in the drug trade “Basically it involves intercepting all forms of communication so that we can establish the involvement of personalities who do not directly handle the items but they instead call the shots in the illegal drug industry,” Carreon said. “I believe the measure was forwarded even before the involvement of Mexicans came to light,” he said. Besides wiretapping, Cacdac said moves to intensify drug operations include the activation of the National Coast Watch Council, which has been established to implement the National Coast Watch System. “The system helps address threats such as the entry and transshipment of illegal drugs, terrorism, smuggling and illegal fishing among others. PDEA is also part of the participating agencies in this endeavor,” Cacdac said. The Pdea wants the Bureau of Customs to be more actively involved in detecting drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals and other contraband materials. It said there is a need to enhance the x-ray systems and similar facilities in the country’s ports. In 2012, the Senate approved a bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to conduct wiretapping and surveillance on individuals suspected of being involved in the illegal drug trade. Senate Bill 3341, sponsored by Honasan’s committee on public order and dangerous drugs, was approved on third and final reading. “The bill addresses the need to further strengthen the campaign against illegal drugs in the country by giving more power to law enforcement agencies to go after dealers, smugglers, financiers, manufacturers and even cultivators of substances declared illegal


in Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” Honasan said. “It will take more than the present methods to address the drug trade which has assumed global proportions and now poses a threat to national security. We need to upgrade our countermeasures against this global menace,” he said. The bill would allow authorized intercepted conversations as evidence in court and only if it involves the sale, manufacturing, importing and financing of illegal drugs.   http://manilatimes.net/pdea‐wants‐wiretap‐on‐suspected‐drug‐traffickers/65397/                                  


Palace open to Sept. class opening January 5, 2014 9:55 pm by CATHERINE S. VALENTE Malacañang on Sunday said it will consider the proposal to move the school opening from June to September. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the proposal was in line with the preparations for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration in 2015. “Bukas ang pamahalaan sa pag-aaral ng panukalang ilipat ang panahon ng pagbubukas ng klase para sa mga kolehiyo at unibersidad, mula Hunyo patungong Setyembre, bilang paghahanda sa pag-iisa ng ating mga kasaping bansa sa Asean sa ilalim ng konsepto ng Asean integration simula sa taong 2015 [The government is open to studying proposals to move the start of classes in college from June to September, as part of our preparations for the Asean integration set in 2015],” Coloma said. He said that the bid was also in line with the advocacy of Asean mobility geared towards facilitating easier travel for people within the region. Coloma, however, said that it is up to Congress to decide whether to amend the law on the country’s school calendar. “Ipinauubaya ng pamahalaan sa Kongreso, bilang kapantay at independiyenteng sangay, ang pangunguna sa pagkilos sa paglipat sa schedule ng pagbubukas ng klase dahil ito ay napapaloob sa batas [Government is leaving it to Congress as a co-equal and independent branch to initiate the move to change the schedule of the opening of classes because the current schedule is provided by law],” Coloma said. He added that it is important to study the proposal in order to come up with a fruitful decision on the matter. “Sa kasalukuyan patuloy na tatalima ang pamahalaan sa pangunguna ng Kagawaran ng Edukasyon sa isinasaad ng batas tungkol sa itinatakdang panahon ng pagbubukas


ng klase [At present, the government, through the Department of Education, will continue to abide by the schedule provided by the law],” Coloma added. The Philippines is the only country in the Asean that follows a June to March academic calendar.   http://manilatimes.net/palace‐open‐to‐sept‐class‐opening/65387/                                        


Plot to create artificial rice shortage bared January 5, 2014 9:53 pm by RAADEE S. SAUSA The National Food Authority (NFA) has declared that the country has sufficient rice supplies and that there is no reason for the price of rice to increase. The agency issued the statement after it received reports that some groups are again planning to launch a disinformation campaign in a bid to establish a bogus rice shortage scenario. NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said that the plan includes the distribution of thousands of sacks of rotten rice in various public markets using the NFA label in order to discredit the agency. “The move as like hitting two birds with one stone, because the saboteurs could now dispose off their old rice stocks while also discrediting the agency’s leadership,” he said. The plot is also reportedly intended to divert the public’s attention away from the continuing probe on the rampant rice smuggling in the country involving some officials of the Bureau of Customs and several other personalities. “Tinitiyak namin sa publiko na tanging ang kapakanan nila ang nasa isip namin kaya kailanman ay hindi kami maglalabas ng mga bigas na alam naming makakasama sa kanilang kalusugan [We assure the public that we are always thinking of their welfare. That is why we will never sell rice that we know will harm them],” Estoperez said. He explained that the NFA has no reason to distribute rotten rice because the agency’s rice supply comes from newly milled rice crops harvested in 2012 and 2013. Besides this, the NFA also increased its buffer stock with rice imported from other countries under government-to-government agreements, he claimed. Estoperez also explained that in December last year, some 450,000 sacks of rice equivalent to 22,500 metric tons (MT) already arrived in the country from Vietnam.


The shipment was part of the 500,000 MT of rice that was bought from Vietnam under a government-to-government agreement, to ensure that the country would have sufficient rice supply following a series of calamities that hit the country during the latter part of last year. The remaining 380,000 MT of rice is expected to arrive in the country any time during the first quarter of the year. Estoperez also stressed that the agency’s rice stocks are of the highest quality because NFA personnel regularly monitor the quality of the agency’s stocks based on the required regulations and standards. He added that their quality assurance officers and internal auditing department regularly monitor and assess stocks that are stored in the agency’s warehouses. “Our stocks need to pass our standards. If our monitoring team determines that they are of inferior quality, warehouse managers will be accountable to us and we will not release these stocks,” Estoperez explained. He said that there is no reason for the public to believe the lies being peddled by the saboteurs who have no other motive but to discredit the good performance of the current NFA leadership. They also vowed to go after all those who will be found trying to sabotage the operations of the agency.   http://manilatimes.net/plot‐to‐create‐artificial‐rice‐shortage‐bared/65383/              


BSP now fully capitalized January 5, 2014 7:54 pm by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO AND KRISTYN NIKA M. LAZO The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is now fully capitalized as the national government finally released the remaining P10 billion of its mandated P50-billion capitalization. “Regarding the query on the P10-billion capitalization, the BSP already received the amount this week,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text message. The remaining P10-billion capitalization is part of the P50-billion capitalization mandated by the Republic Act 7653, or the New Central Bank Act of 1993. The law mandated the government to provide a P50-billion initial infusion for the BSP to support the central bank’s capital requirement to sustain the macroeconomic stability of the country. In an earlier statement, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said that a fully capitalized central bank can provide greater support in promoting price and financial stability that in turn could provide a very good macroeconomic condition for the Philippines. According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the government released the “final tranche payment” to complete the P50-billion capital infusion of the BSP for the fiscal year 2013. “Although the first P10-billion equity infusion for [BSP] was made in 1997, the government has since been unable to provide full capital support to the central bank as prescribed by law . . . The Bangko Sentral’s P50-billion capital requirement is now wholly accounted for,” Abad said. The DBM emphasized that since 1997, the government was able to fulfill the equity infusion requirement in the Aquino administration as the DBM disbursed P10 billion for the second tranche in 2011 and P20 billion for third tranche in 2012.


Abad said that the budget deficit “hovering below target” made it possible for the Aquino administration to pay the P10-billion tranche in December last year. “The country grappled with huge losses in the aftermath of major calamities this year, and the administration needed to respond very quickly to the urgent aid requirements in the wake of these disasters. This forced us to briefly defer the release of the last tranche of the equity payment,” the Budget secretary said. “Nonetheless, the below-the-cap deficit and the government’s own prudent management of its resources eventually allowed us to complete the capital infusion to [BSP], an institution that has performed remarkably well in keeping interest rates low and protecting the Philippine peso from volatile market forces,” he added. Full capitalization to uplift economy The government’s payment tranche to the BSP capital infusion is also seen to uplift the Philippines’ economic growth in the long term. “In plainer terms, the 100-percent equity infusion will give the central bank the resource legroom it needs. Faced with fewer risks of income loss or balance sheet weakness, the Bangko Sentral can now direct its full attention to refining the country’s banking and monetary policies and delivering key services that will further stimulate the economy,” Abad said. “We’re now looking at a central bank that’s in a much better position to preserve the Philippines’ macroeconomic strength and vibrant investment climate, which in turn will influence the Aquino administration’s ability to ensure long term and inclusive growth in the country,” he added. Meanwhile, besides from the P50-billion capitalization, the BSP is seeking for an additional P150-billion capitalization in order to enhance its administrative and fiscal autonomy amid a growing Philippine economy. The additional infusion will enable the BSP to meet the needs of the expanding economy and growing complexity and sophistication of the financial system. It will also allow the central bank to pursue its mandate of price stability conducive to a balanced and sustainable growth of the economy. http://manilatimes.net/bsp‐now‐fully‐capitalized/65293/  


First full week stock market trade for 2014 starts January 5, 2014 7:52 pm by MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR THE first full week trade for the country’s stock market will start today with an outlook that has somehow improved compared to how some previously predicted the local market would be this year. “Investors will start the first full week of trades practically where it ended 2013. We expect volume and value turnover to pick up substantially as liquidity in the region rises with Japanese markets rejoining the action,” Jun Calaycay, Accord Capital Equities Corp. analyst, said. “It is too early to tell whether investors are holding back on their equity commitments while waiting for domestic economic numbers. It would be safe to infer however that the outlook has improved from the almost entirely bearish tone of the last quarter to a more sanguine disposition,” he further said. According to him, participants can now find an almost mix of bearish and bullish pronouncements suggesting that even some of last quarter’s bears may have reconsidered their positions. On the first trading of the year, which was on Thursday, Philippine shares found itself going back to the 5,900-level as optimism toward another year stirred. Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) then climbed by 1.60 percent, or 94.43 points to 5,980.26, while the broader all shares went up by 1.23 percent, or 44.51 points to 3,658.83. Calaycay earlier cited that during that day, local share prices posted its best start since the 5.4 percent in the first session of January 2009.


However, the optimism within the market didn’t prolong up to the second trade of the year as the overall sentiment in other regional markets went moody after a profit-taking occurred in Wall Street. “Markets across the Asia-Pacific region took their hint from the negative action in US equities overnight as analysts predict equities to slow this year,” Calaycay commented. “Amid a rather dry news cycle, investors and fund managers opted to book gains of the late December rally that pushed both US measures to record levels,” he added. The benchmark index then slipped by 0.61 percent, or 36.33 points to 5,947.93, together with the wider all shares, which went down by 0.30 percent, or 10.92 points to 3,647.91.   http://manilatimes.net/first‐full‐week‐stock‐market‐trade‐for‐2014‐starts/65289/                              


Tobacco farmers ask probe on Mighty ‘dumping’ issue January 5, 2014 7:50 pm by JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ LOCAL tobacco farmers are calling the government to investigate Mighty Corp. over possible violations of the anti-dumping law, which ultimately would adversely affect the country’s tobacco industry. In a statement, Ilocos Sur-based Banayoyo Reforestation and Tobacco Growers Credit Cooperative (BRTGCC) said that Mighty had been importing tobacco leaf at rates way below the floor price mandated by the National Tobacco Administration—making it liable for violation of Republic Act (RA) 8752, or the Anti-Dumping Act of 1999. “The Department of Agriculture and the Tariff Commission should initiate a probe on Mighty’s dumping practices, which are hurting local farmers and could soon drive them out of business,” BRTGCC President Francisco Gamboa said. He recalled that the government-mandated floor price in 2011 was P58.69 per kilo for flue-cured tobacco and P38.42 for burley. For 2012, the floor price was P75 for fluecured and P61 for Burley. Mighty imported at a price equivalent to only a little less than P30 a kilo during these periods. Based on the provisions of RA 8752, dumping occurs when a foreign producer sells its products to an importer at prices lower than those prevailing in the local market or at prices below the cost of production, which, in turn, threatens a domestic industry making like or comparable products. Gamboa also called for the disclosure of the probe being conducted by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on the Bulacan-based firm’s alleged under-declaration of its tobacco leaf.


To recall, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has ordered the BOC and BIR to investigate the alleged underdeclaration of Mighty’s imports. Both the BOC and BIR told the House Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Miro Quimbo of Marikina City on October 22, 2013, that they have initiated an investigation on the complaints against Mighty Corp. Documents submitted by Mighty Corp. to the BOC show that it had imported tobacco leaf at only $0.68 a kilo (equivalent to only P29.24) in 2011 and 2012, which is lower than the government-mandated floor price even for rejects. BOC records show that the cheapest imported tobacco in 2011 was $3.39 a kilo, way above the $0.68 per kilo importation of Mighty. The Post Entry Audit Group of the BOC, in a letter to Mighty on October 21, asked the company to respond to the charges within 15 days. “As far as we know, the deadline has lapsed. We hope the hope would make public the results of their investigation,” Gamboa said. Doubtful statements Meanwhile, tobacco farmers in Ilocos Region were highly doubtful over the recent statements by Mighty that it would start buying more leaf next year from local growers, considering that the company imports tobacco leaf at prices much lower than those prevailing in the market. “How can Mighty make good on their promise to buy more from tobacco farmers next year if the imported price of their tobacco is cheaper than even the rejects or floor sweepings sold here?” Gamboa said. “We never saw or heard of Mighty or the Wongchungking family buying from farmers in the North. The government should immediately investigate this company to protect the welfare of farmers,” Gamboa said. Isabel Jimeno of the Samahan ng Magtatabako ng Kanlurang Mindoro said the local tobacco industry will die without a fight if the alleged “dumping” of tobacco leaf will continue.


“Mighty’s imported tobacco is even cheaper than the price of rejects at P43 a kilo last year. How did that happen? Mighty is openly and consistently violating the law yet they still manage to evade punishment,” Jimeno noted. Gamboa and Jimeno also urged the House Ways and Means Committee to include Mighty’s violations of the anti-dumping law in its inquiry into the alleged questionable trade practices of the company. The committee is set to conduct the probe upon a resolution filed by Rep. Pablo Javier, who wanted to know how Mighty managed to pay less taxes even though it imported more tobacco than one of its competitors last year. Besides tobacco leaf, Mighty reportedly imported acetate tow, the raw material used for cigarette filter at $0.30 a kilo. The cheapest tow imported in 2011 and 2012 was at $5.26 a kilo.   http://manilatimes.net/tobacco‐farmers‐ask‐probe‐on‐mighty‐dumping‐issue/65281/                          


‘Hot

money’ posts $353 million outflow January 5, 2014 7:50 pm by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO Foreign portfolio investments to the Philippines, also known as “hot money,” posted an outflow of $353 million in the week ending December 13, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed. The BSP data showed that hot money inflows reached $313 million, while outflows were recorded at $666 million. This brought net inflows to reach $4.245 billion for the period of January to December 13. Net hot money inflow for the period was higher by $1.045 billion from the $3.2-billion revised target for 2013. Inflows were recorded at $27.837 billion, while outflows reached $23.592 billion for the period. It was also higher from the $3.915 billion figure on the comparable period a year ago. The central bank said that the registration of inward foreign investments with the BSP is voluntary. It entitles the investor or his representative to buy foreign exchange from authorized agent banks and/or their subsidiary/affiliate foreign exchange corporations for repatriation of capital and remittance of dividends/profits/earnings that accrue on the registered investment. This year, these investments, or placements in local stocks and debt securities are seen to decline further to $2.1 billion.   http://manilatimes.net/hot‐money‐posts‐353‐million‐outflow/65279/          


Posted on January 05, 2014 08:26:10 PM

T-bill rates seen to rise RATES of Treasury bills are expected to rise by at least 10 basis points at the auction today -- the Bureau of the Treasury’s first for the year -- amid anemic demand for the debt papers on expectations of higher inflation in December. INFLATION RATE was expected to have spiked last month on a faster increase in electricity, fuel and food prices. -- JLC Bond traders interviewed by phone last Friday said rates of the shorttenored government securities are likely to rise by 10-30 basis points across the board from the yields they fetched last Friday. At the secondary market last Friday, the 91-day T-bills were quoted at 0.4%; the six-month papers, 0.5%; and the one-year securities, 0.8%. The yields of the debt papers have risen since the Treasury’s Nov. 4 auction -- the last T-bill auction last year. At that auction, the three- and six-month T-bills fetched record low rates, both settling at 0.001%, while the one-year papers got 0.278%. EXPECTATIONS “We expect Treasury bill rates to increase by 10-30 basis points due to expectations that inflation will be higher in December. Given this, investors will be asking for higher yields from the Treasury,” said a local currency bond trader in a phone interview last Friday. A BusinessWorld inflation poll for December of nine economists resulted in a median estimate of 3.9% -- the fastest since January 2012 when the rate hit 4%. The figure is near the low end of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ 3.84.7% estimate for the month and faster than November’s 3.3%, which was a nine-month high. The central bank has a 3-5% target for the entire 2013.


Official inflation data is scheduled to be released by the National Statistics Office tomorrow. “Low participation from offshore market players is also expected ahead of the release of the CPI (consumer price index) figure that could push the yields higher,” another local currency bond trader said in a separate phone interview. Both traders also noted that investors have been shifting funds to the central bank’s special deposit accounts (SDA) and banks’ time deposit products, which offer better yields than T-bills. Investors with placements in the SDA facility are offered a 2% interest rate. Funds in SDAs declined to P1.353 trillion in the week ending Dec. 20, dropping by 4.31% from the P1.414 trillion recorded the previous week, central bank data show. Tenders for the government securities are expected to be at least one-anda-half times more than the Treasury’s P20-billion offer. The government plans to borrow P135 billion from the domestic debt market this quarter. Broken down, it will issue P60 billion worth of T-bills and P75 billion worth of Treasury bonds. -- Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Finance&title=T‐bill‐rates‐seen‐to‐ rise&id=81520                    


Posted on January 05, 2014 08:20:34 PM

Peso trading to be muted as investors await clear leads  

THE PESO is projected to move within a tight range this week as investors stay at the sidelines amid little economic data and as they monitor further developments in the US. The local currency settled at P44.65 per dollar last Friday, depreciating by 25.5 centavos from its P44.395 close on Dec. 27, the last trading day of 2013. Last Friday’s close was the peso’s weakest finish since Aug. 29 when it settled at P44.75 to the dollar -- also the local unit’s weakest finish last year. “The peso is expected to be range-bound due to lack of market-moving data [this] week,” a local currency trader said in a phone interview last Friday. There was a two-day trading session last week as financial markets were closed due to the New Year holidays. The local unit has been sliding against the dollar since trading resumed last Thursday, Jan. 2 -- the first trading day of the year. In a market commentary, the Treasury department of Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. said: “Expect markets to remain hostage to developments in the US.” Over the weekend, Philadelphia Fed president Charles Plosser said the US central bank should hasten the pace of tapering of its bond-buying program. The peso is expected to trade within the P44.50-44.65-per-dollar range this week. -- A. R. R. Gregorio http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Finance&title=Peso‐trading‐to‐be‐muted‐ as‐investors‐await‐clear‐leads&id=81514      


  Posted on January 05, 2014 08:17:30 PM

Philippine debt yields track US Treasury bonds  

YIELD at the secondary debt market climbed last week as US Treasury bonds gained momentum on the back of positive economic news at home.

YIELD TRACKER

Yield rose by 21.36 basis points (bps) week-on-week and by 40.82 bps month-on-month, data from the Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corp. as of Jan. 3 showed.


“Government securities (GS) were [traded at higher rates] last week as US Treasury yields remained on an uptrend,” said a bond trader interviewed last Friday. He explained that US Treasury yields are rising due to an improving US economy, as shown in recently released economic data such as a lower unemployment rate and better factory output. “The impact on the local GS market was due to yield differential. Since US yields are rising, GS yields have to increase as well to remain attractive to buyers. Remember, all assets are being compared to the best asset available -- in this case, US assets,” he said. Higher inflation expectations also influenced yield movement. “Don’t forget the inflation forecasts for December…” the trader said. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas estimated inflation rate in December -which is scheduled to be reported tomorrow -- at between 3.8% and 4.7% against a 3-5% target for the full year. The five-year Treasury bond surged the most, gaining 76.40 bps to yield 3.6750%. The three-year T-bond followed, increasing by 45.10 bps to 2.5500%. Other papers at the belly of the curve also rose, with the two-, four-, and seven-year debt papers adding 12.50 bps, 15.00 bps, and 15.00 bps to fetch 2.2500%, 3.3500%, and 3.7000% bps, respectively. The 20-year T-bond went up 23.54 bps to 4.8670%. The 10-year and 25-year securities were up 18.74 bps and 6.14 bps, respectively, to 3.7874% and 5.3769%. Short-term papers gained 7.50 bps each: the 91-day Treasury bill fetched 0.4%, the 182-day T-bill yielded 0.5%, and 364-day T-bill, 0.8%. -- Trisha P. Octaviano   http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Finance&title=Philippine‐debt‐yields‐ track‐US‐Treasury‐bonds&id=81509         Posted on January 05, 2014 10:47:58 PM


DA-11 keen to set up ‘coconut hubs’  

DAVAO CITY -- The regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-11) is looking at rehabilitating the coconut industry in Davao Oriental by creating “coconut hubs”. A man harvests coconuts that fell on his roof in Compostela Valley, after typhoon Pablo in 2012. Nearby Davao Oriental hopes to recover from the storm with “coconut hubs”. -- AFP These hubs will link the stakeholders -- particularly the farmers -- the government, and other groups, according DA-11 Director Remelyn R. Recoter. Ms. Recoter expressed hope that the implementation of these hubs will result in the setup of processing plants as well as improved marketing for coconut products such as copra. Copra produced in the province has had to be transported to Davao City for processing, after an International Copra Export Corp. plant in Mati City closed about a decade ago. DA-11 is expected to release within the first quarter of this year the result of a study on coconut hubs’ viability, initially in the towns of San Isidro and Governor Generoso. Ms. Recoter noted that the government, through the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), has been implementing rehabilitation efforts in areas affected by typhoon Pablo in December 2012. Based on data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Davao Oriental was the second-largest coconut-producing province in the country with over 1.1 million metric tons annually, next only to Quezon province in Luzon, before Typhoon Pablo hit eastern Mindanao. PCA has provided planting materials to coconut farmers whose farms --


estimated to cover around 60,000 hectares -- were destroyed by the typhoon. Government estimates showed that, in the towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston, only about 10% of coconut trees remain standing. The devastation took place as the PCA and the provincial government were already implementing rehabilitation projects for old farms whose production has declined over the years. Ms. Recoter said the DA-11 projected that it would take another four years for the industry in the province to recover from the damage. Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon N. Malanyaon earlier told BusinessWorld that the provincial government will help farmers rehabilitate their farms or find ways to work with other crops. “Coconut is a sentimental product, so many of the [affected] farmers will choose, still, to rehabilitate their farms. We will provide them with options so they will come up with other livelihood activities that they want,” Ms. Malanyaon said. Many farms in the province, sources said, have been converted into cacao farms as the provincial government also distributed cacao planting materials to those who wanted to avail of the seedlings. There are no estimates, however, on the scale of such land use conversions. Other farms, on the other hand, have been eyed for crops like oil palm and rubber. First Pacific Co. Ltd. earlier announced that it wants to develop about 20,000 hectares of coconut farms in the province into oil palm plantations, with the help of Indonesian firm PT Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk. First Pacific Co. Ltd. is part owner of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld. -- C. Q. Francisco http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=DA‐11‐keen‐to‐set‐up‐ %E2%80%98coconut‐hubs%E2%80%99&id=81547    


Posted on January 05, 2014 10:50:25 PM  By Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag

Four trade missions to visit  

FOUR trade missions are expected to arrive in the country this month, a Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) official said Friday. Elmer H. San Pascual, PEZA Promotions and Public Relations Manager, said via text message: “For this month of January, we in PEZA will receive and host either lunch or dinner for four inbound missions: one from the United States (US), two from Japan, and one from South Korea.” Mr. San Pascual said the trade missions will include companies in agriculture, copper smelting, and banking. Last year, the Philippines hosted a number of trade and investment missions from the US, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, Switzerland, and Germany, among others. Companies that participated in these visits were said to be interested in investing in the Philippines’ energy, retail, information technology and business process outsourcing, agriculture, banking, and automotive sectors. The Trade department hopes to attract more foreign investors to the country by providing them incentives for projects registered with investment promotion agencies such as PEZA and the Board of Investments. Incentives available for foreign firms include income tax holidays and dutyfree importation of capital equipment. In the 11 months to November, investment pledges registered with PEZA rose 15.29% to 626 projects from the 543 recorded in the same period a year ago. These translated to investments worth P210.932 billion, up 72.16% from last year’s P122.518 billion. In 2012, PEZA booked investments worth P311.9 billion.http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=Four‐trade‐ missions‐to‐visit&id=81549 


Posted on January 05, 2014 10:48:33 PM

Negros Occidental food prices up  

BACOLOD CITY -- Prices of eggs, meat and other basic commodities have increased in Negros Occidental, especially in areas badly hit by typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan). Eggs now cost P96 per dozen from P54. Monitoring by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist showed that one dozen eggs now cost P96, about 78% more than the pre-typhoon price of P54. Provincial Veterinary Officer Renante Decena said there is a deficit in the supply of eggs in Negros Occidental. About 45%, or 4 million, of the average 9-million monthly egg supply in the province would come from Bantayan Island, Cebu, where the typhoon also made landfall on Nov. 8 last year. “The egg supply in Negros Occidental, as of the moment, is being subsidized by the local poultry growers,” Mr. Decena said. The province is also expected to get egg supplies from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite. To immediately recover from the egg supply deficit, Mr. Decena said that 1,500 ready-to-lay chickens have been distributed to local government units and backyard raisers. The veterinary officer also said that his office also anticipates a shortfall in the production of dressed chicken in the province, also because of the destruction of poultry farms in Bantayan.


Meanwhile, prices of some vegetables, meat and fish products -- especially in the cities of Cadiz and Sagay, also badly hit by the typhoon -- have also increased. Josephine Fernandez, agribusiness coordinator of Negros Occidental, said that in Cadiz City, alumahan fish or Indian mackerel, locally known as bulao, now costs P130 per kilogram from the previous P120/kg while squid is now priced at P150/kg from P140/kg. Vegetables such as cabbage, eggplant, squash, and radish as well as mung beans are more expensive. Fruits like bananas, papaya and calamansi are also higher-priced. Ms. Fernandez also said the price of refined sugar rose to P44/kg from P42/kg while brown sugar now costs P38/kg from P32/kg. The price of well-milled National Food Authority rice in Sagay City has increased to P30/kg from the regulated price of P27/kg while well-milled commercial rice is now priced at P35/kg from P33/kg. -- Adrian P. Nemes III http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=Negros‐Occidental‐food‐ prices‐up&id=81548                 


Health services access still a problem in Yolanda-hit areas, concedes DoH exec • •

Written by AFP and PNA Monday, 06 January 2014 00:00

The government acknowledges “problems concerning health services access” in some areas affected by super typhoon “Yolanda,” almost two months after it hit most of the Visayas region, an official of the Department of Health (DoH) said. “While the rebuilding is taking place, it is important that temporary facilities are available so that basic health services are delivered,” Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag told Agence France Presse. A district hospital is to be rebuilt this year, he said, but the authorities do not yet know when it will reopen. Nearly 4,000 patients have been treated in the Red Cross hospital since late November, said Atishay Abbhi, spokesman for the Red Cross contingent at the disaster zone. He said the aid agency has also built four water treatment plants across Samar, a region largely populated by coconut farmers and fishermen. Starting this month, the Red Cross will provide equipment like boats and hooks to fishermen and seeds for farmers as well as fund cash-for-work schemes for displaced laborers. Cash grants will also be set up to help small businesses get back on their feet. About 60 local medical personnel are now being trained on the job to take over when the Europeans are gone, Norwegian administrator Kjell Engkrog said, adding all the hospital equipment will also be handed over to Filipino authorities. The Red Cross has already shut down a 100-bed tent hospital it had put up in Ormoc, a city on neighboring Leyte island, where the local health needs were not as acute once typhoon-induced injuries were dealt with, Engkrog said.


Passing on medical expertise to the locals is vital if people are to continue benefiting over the coming months and years. As Abbhi, the Red Cross spokesman, put it: “We are not going to be (here) forever.” But the devastating typhoon that killed thousands of people in mostly in Tacloban has unexpectedly given young traffic accident victim Mario Renos hope that he could one day walk again. Hit by a motorcycle while walking to school months before Yolanda struck the central islands, the 13-year-old’s shriveled legs are taking their first steps to recovery at a Red Cross tent hospital put up in Basey town. “I want to go back to school,” said Renos, gritting his teeth as he held on to metal railings with both hands while trying to negotiate an improvised exercise stall made of lumber from typhoon-felled coconuts. “There is no reason he can’t walk again,” said Norwegian nurse Janecke Dyvi as she coaxed the boy across. Staffed by doctors and nurses from 10 European nations and offering its services for free, the $1.6 million hospital has uncovered a huge unmet need on Samar Island, one of the country’s poorest regions. Survivors of the ferocious winds and giant waves that flattened Basey’s coastal neighborhoods last November 8 are now flocking by the thousands to the medical facility that locals have affectionately named the “Norwegian Hospital”. And it is not just those injured directly by the typhoon who are feeling the benefits of such aid. Pitched beneath the damaged municipal gym, the hospital’s six air-conditioned tents have brought relief for a multitude of injuries including centipede bites, harelips, traffic accidents, strokes and burns, and other ailments and conditions unrelated to the typhoon. It also successfully delivered the town’s first ever baby via cesarean section, said Engkrog.


Haiyan, one of the country’s deadliest natural disasters which left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing and 4.4 million others homeless, also wrecked Basey’s hilltop district hospital. The temporary replacement is the same type as those put up by the Red Cross in conflict areas around the world, and is being deployed in the Philippines for the first time, Engkrog told AFP. It is part of the aid agency’s contribution to an international humanitarian effort that is evolving from meeting the survivors’ immediate needs, such as food and shelter, to addressing their longer-term issues. United Nations agencies and international aid organizations are also involved in the effort across the disaster zone, which covers an area the size of Portugal. Until Yolanda hit, the boy struck by a motorcycle in March last year had no access to a physiotherapist and his legs had atrophied because he was bedridden at home, forcing him to stop attending his fifth-grade classes, nurse Dyvi told http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/health‐services‐access‐still‐a‐problem‐in‐yolanda‐hit‐ areas‐concedes‐doh‐exec                      


Move to legalize sale, use of marijuana in RP bucked • •

Written by Gerry Baldo Monday, 06 January 2014 00:00

The move by a member of the minority bloc at the House of Representatives to legalize the use of marijuana in the country was opposed by allies of the administration led by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. Belmonte said moves legalizing the use and cultivation of marijuana would not and should not prosper in the House of Representatives. “How can you legalize something that alters the mind?” Belmonte said yesterday. Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, a member of the House minority bloc, had floated the idea of legalizing marijuana amid its legalization in some states in the United States early this year. Stores selling the grass had also opened. “That’s supposed to be my bill, the medicinal marijuana. If you legalize it, you deglamorized the drug,” Albano said in an interview. Former Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao had already proposed the legalization of marijuana during the previous Congress. He was supported by then Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Macapagal-Arroyo on the context of strict regulation for medicinal purposes. Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Deputy Speaker and Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao and Marikina City Rep. Marcelino Teodoro opposed the move. They said marijuana use for medicinal purpose does not justify the “risk factors.” “For medical purposes was a long standing alibi of the people pushing marijuana legalization. Why should we legalize something that can become harmful? The medical


benefits don’t outweigh the risks. I’m pretty sure it will be subject to abuse,” Baguilat said. Aggabao explained the government is not capable of enforcing strict rules should Congress legalize the sale and use of marijuana. “We cannot legalize it, not just yet. Colorado legalized it but under tight rules. Our failings are that we can’t enforce rules. Thus, we will surely end up with our youth immersed in drugs,” Aggabao stressed. For his part, Teodoro said “the legalization of marijuana should be carefully studied. The health risks of marijuana should be seriously considered and its negative side effects be scientifically studied first before legalizing marijuana.”   http://www.tribune.net.ph/metro‐section/move‐to‐legalize‐sale‐use‐of‐marijuana‐in‐rp‐ bucked                            


BUDGET EXEC PROBED Published : Monday, January 06, 2014 00:00

A ranking Budget and Management official is now under investigation for alleged involvement in the falsification of special allotment release orders (SAROs). Justice Secretary Leila de Lima identified the official as DBM Undersecretary Mario Relampagos who is now being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) over the fake SAROs allegedly produced by a “syndicate” in the DBM. “Given the involvement of some of his personnel, Usec. Relampagos is inevitably covered by NBI’s ongoing probe,” she said. “The core factual issues are: Does he know about the shenanigans of his subordinates? Did he tolerate the same? Worse, did he benefit from those corrupt practices?” De Lima stressed. Could Relampagos be forced to go on leave? De Lima said the DBM official’s going on leave “is a matter between him and his superior.” Earlier, De Lima said that the NBI probe has so far pointed to the involvement of several staff members of Relampagos -- including his secretary, driver and janitor -- in the scam. NBI probers have already verified that the SAROs for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces were falsified and that several personnel of


DBM were involved. De Lima said NBI agents had found out that the group kept specimens of signatures of approving authorities, which they had superimposed on unsigned, photocopied SAROs. The syndicate would photocopy advanced copies of the unsigned SAROs and superimpose signatures on them before xeroxing the documents again. “After the SAROs were photocopied several times, the fake signatures would seem to appear authentic already,” De Lima had explained the fakers’ modus operandi. Of the 12 SAROs being probed by the NBI, she said the two from Regions I and VI involving projects worth P161 million and P77 million, respectively, were indeed fake. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/headlines/64795‐budget‐exec‐probed                           


P14B FOR REHAB PLAN OKAYED Published : Friday, January 03, 2014 00:00 Written by : Efren Montano

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino has signed the P14.6-billion supplemental budget for 2014 to fund relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in areas affected last year by super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. In his regular press briefing yesterday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President signed the budget last December 26. “On December 26, it was signed. ... Pinirmahan na ang joint resolution ng both houses of Congress for the supplemental allocation of P14.6 billion (It was signed December 26. This was the joint resolution by both houses of Congress for the allocation of P14.6 billion),� Coloma said. Yolanda, which tore through the Visayas and Southern Luzon last November, left more than 6,100 dead. The supplemental budget will also help survivors of other devastating cyclones. It will fund the P40.9-billion rehabilitation plan President Aquino had approved.


Coloma said the rehabilitation plan had gone through several revisions and “various stages of refinement.” The supplemental budget is sourced from the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund last year. It would also cover expenses for the rehabilitation of Zamboanga following the attacks by MNLF rebels.   http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/headlines/64659‐p14b‐for‐rehab‐plan‐okayed                                       


NFA warns vs bogus rice shortage Published : Monday, January 06, 2014 00:00 Written by : Marlon Purificacion

THE National Food Authority (NFA) yesterday declared that the country has sufficient rice supply and there is no reason for its price to move up, an unlikely development which might only result in public confusion.The assurance was made by the agency after it received reports that some groups and individuals are again planning to launch a disinformation campaign and ultimately create a scenario of rice shortage. NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez said the plan also includes the distribution of thousands of sacks of rotten rice in various public markets using the NFA label to put the agency in a bad light. Estoperez described the move as ‘hitting two birds with one stone’ since the saboteurs could dispose off their old rice stocks while also discrediting the agency’s leadership. The plan was reportedly hatched to divert public attention from some personalities and Bureau of Customs officials and employees who were implicated in a recently exposed rampant rice smuggling operations in the country. “Tinitiyak namin sa publiko na tanging ang kapakanan nila ang nasa isip namin kaya kailanman ay hindi kami maglalabas ng mga bigas na alam naming makakasama sa kanilang kalusugan” he said. “Unang-una ay walang dahilan para gawin namin ito dahil ang mga bigas po natin ay pawang mga bagong giling na mula sa ani ng palay noong 2012 at 2013. At maliban pa doon ay pinatibay pa ang ating buffer stock ng mga bigas na inangkat sa ibang bansa sa ilalim ng government- togovernment agreement,” Estoperez added. He further explained that just last December, some 450,000 sacks of rice or an equivalent of 22,500 metric tons arrived in the country from Vietnam. The shipment was part of 500,000 MT that was bought from Vietnam under the government-togovernment agreement, to ensure that we have enough rice supply following a series of natural calamities that hit the country during the latter part of last year.


The remaining 380,000 MT is expected to arrive in the country any time during the first quarter of the year. Estoperez stressed that the agency’s rice stock are all of highest quality because they regularly conduct monitoring of their stocks based on the required regulations and standards. He added that their quality assurance officers and internal auditing department regularly monitor and assess stocks that are stored in its warehouses. “Our stocks need to pass our standards. If our monitoring team determines that they are of inferior quality, warehouse managers will be accountable to us and we will not release these stocks,� he explained. Estoperez said there is no reason for the public to believe the lies being peddled by the saboteurs who have no other motive but to discredit the good performance of the current NFA leadership. They also vowed to go after all those who will be found trying to sabotage the operations of the agency and deal them with the full extent of the law. It can be recalled that the rice smugglers already created some noise from July up to September last year, when they capitalized on the so-called lean months and made it appear that there was a rice shortage which caused the prices of the product to spike up. Their sustained media campaign even lured various militant groups and party list lawmakers into supporting their cause and joining them in lambasting the government. In the end, it was eventually determined that the artificial rice shortage was only a scare tactic meant to coerce the government into taking away from the NFA the functions of rice importation and sabotage its operations. A probe was conducted and charges are now being readied against those involved in the said illegal activities. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/top-stories/64807-nfa-warns-vs-bogus-rice-shortage


Palace, DoE, power firms hit over ‘collusion’ Published : Monday, January 06, 2014 00:00 Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco

A House opposition leader yesterday accused Malacañang, the Department of Energy (DoE) and the industry power players of conditioning the public to the idea that there is no collusion among the power generators. House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares cited the purported uniform position of the Palace, DoE and industry players that the P4.15 power rate increase by the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) should be shouldered by electricity consumers without complaint. “We have received reports from insiders doing the collusion probe, that they are finding it hard to release the report even if it was way pass their December 30 deadline and even if they already announced that it will be released January 6, because of the pressure from the power cartel that the investigation should say that there is no collusion,” Colmenares said. Colmenares hit Malacañang’s statement that it is powerless to stop rate hikes. He also lamented Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla’s position that the planned P4 per kilowatthour power increase by Meralco which the Supreme Court temporarily stopped is aboveboard and the country’s largest power distributor has all the right to appeal the temporary restraining order (TRO) if it cannot absorb its losses. “It is clear from the outset of the Congress investigation that even just based on the initial investigation done by the DoE itself there are indications of collusion or cartelization of the power industry. It can only be changed when Malacañang, the DoE and the ERC would turn a blind eye to this and say that they can do nothing. Add to this the pressure from the power cartel that there would be blackouts when they are not paid then the result is a whitewash,” Colmenares said. “The only way for the public to combat this is for continued vigilance and to demand that the report be released tomorrow (today) or at most during the week. The longer that the report takes the more pressure or blackmail the power cartel will exert on the investigators to exonerate


themselves,” Colmenares added. Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA), president Luis Miguel Aboitiz has denied that there is collusion among power generators and said that there may be blackouts when the power rates are not increased.

No brownouts Malacañang said the government is working to ensure there will be no power outages during the hot summer months. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the DoE is coordinating with stakeholders to ensure a stable power supply. “Hindi po pwedeng mapahintulutan yung pagkakaroon ng malawakan o madalas na brownout dahil magiging masama po ang epekto nito sa ating ekonomiya. Kaya makatitiyak po tayo na patuloy na tinututukan ng ating Department of Energy ang sitwasyon (We cannot allow widespread or frequent power outages because it will be bad for the economy. We can expect the DOE to continue monitoring the situation),” Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan yesterday. He said the DoE is working with the concerned stakeholders to balance the power supply and demand to address possible power outages. Meanwhile, Coloma reiterated the government is open to concrete proposals that will protect consumers from unjust power rate hikes. He said the government welcomes a study of the 12-year-old Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA)’s provisions. “Pagkatapos ng lampas sa 12 taong pag-iral ng batas, napapanahon nang suriin ang mga probisyon ng batas upang tanggalin ang mga nakikitang kahinaan nito, at palitan ng mga bagong atas na naaayon sa kapakanan ng sambayanan (After more than 12 years it is time to study the provisions of the law and replace its weak points with provisions that will benefit the people),” he said.   http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/top‐stories/64796‐palace‐doe‐power‐firms‐hit‐ over‐collusion


Pag-ibig: Huwad na pabahay! •

Published : Monday, January 06, 2014 00:00

LIBU-LIBONG bahay ang karaniwang naeembargo ng PagIBIG Fund. Sa mas madaling pang-unawa, mga bahay ito na nahahatak dahil hindi na nakayanang hulugan ng mga pamilyang umutang nito sa pamamagitan ng pondo mula sa Pag-IBIG. Ang mga kabahayan o kung minsan komunidad ay nagtatapos sa kamay ng mga malalaking negosyante na nagtatagisan sa pamamagitan ng subastahan o bidding. Ang kawalan ng bahay ng maraming Pilipino ang isa sa malaking problema hindi lamang ng majority ng mga mamamayan bagkus ay maging gobyerno sa pangkalahatan. Eksaherado ang istatistikang ginagamit na mahigit kalahating milyon lamang ang walang bahay sa Metro Manila. Siguradong mas mahigit dito ang pigura kung totoong buhay ang ating gagamiting timbangan. Sa populasyon na 92 million, sinasabi ng grupong Philippine Action for Community-led Shelter Initiatives, Inc. o PACSII na umaabot sa 22.8 million o 44% ng populasyon ay nakatira sa slums area. Kunektado ito sa mga problema ng bansa sa basura, edukasyon, krimen at kawalan ng trabaho. Pero dahil Pag-ibig ang ating pinag-uusapan, sumentro tayo sa pabahay.


Marami sa mga working class o kaya OFWs ang una sa kanilang agenda ang makakuha ng kahit maliit na bahay o condominium unit sa tulong ng PagIBIG. Karaniwan, nagbabayad ang mga ito ng P10,000 hanggang P25,000 reservation and processing fee. Magandang tingnan dahil may mga kumpanyang isinasama na ang bayad na ito sa kabuuan kapag itinuloy ang pagkuha ng unit. Pero karamihan sa mga ito ay hindi na naitutuloy ang pagkuha dahil una, sa laki ng kailangang equity, pangalawa, kung nakapagsimula man ng pagbabayad, hindi na nila maituloy dahil sa mga posibilidad na nawalan ng trabaho o kaya’y hindi na sumasapat ang buwanang kita dahil sa paglaki ng mga gastusin sa araw-araw. Kaya nga ang ending, nasuba na sila ng property ng reservation fee, forfeited na rin ang kanilang mga naihulog sa Pag-IBIG man o sa pamamagitan ng bangko. Kailan ko lang naintindihan kung bakit maraming mga kababayan natin ang nagtatapos din sa pangungupahan kahit sa umpisa ay tinangka nilang magpasaklolo sa Pag-IBIG para makapagpatayo ng bahay. Ang dahilan pala, ang buwanang bayad na binubuno ng umutang ay hindi sapat para makatapos siya sa kanyang binabayaran. Sa ginawa nating pag-aaral, nakausap natin ang isang Pag-IBIG borrower na ang kanyang inutang sa Pag-IBIG ay P1.3 milyon para maipatayo ang kanilang bahay sa isang lalawigan dito sa Luzon. Ang inutang niyang P1.3 milyon na babayaran ng P13,000 buwan-buwan sa loob ng 25 years ay aabot sa mahigit P4 milyon. Maganda itong tingnan kung may garantiya ang kanyang pinapasukang kumpanya na hindi siya masisibak at kung sa loob ng ganoong kahabang taon ay kaya pa niyang magtrabaho. Pero nalaman din natin na kaya pala umaabot ng ganoong kahabang taon ang bayarin ay lumilitaw na sa P13,000 monthly payment ng borrower ay halos P2,000 lang pala ang nababawas sa kanyang principal loan na P1.3 milyon. Kaya kung umaabot na sa limang taon ang iyong pagbabayad, ibig sabihin


P24,000 annually multiply by 5 kaya ang naibabayad mo pa lamang ay P120,000 sa halip na P780,000. Nakukuba ka na sa pagbabayad, hindi mo pa siguradong mapapasaiyo kalaunan ang iyong bahay na binabayaran mo gamit ang dugo’t pawis. Lumilitaw dito na tinutubuan ng pamahalaan ang mga mahihirap niyang mamamayan ng mahigit 300% mula sa kanyang inutang. Dito dapat pumasok ang totoong pag-ibig ng gobyerno regardless kung sino pa ang nakaupong pangulo. Sa tingin natin, mananatiling malaking problema ang pabahay sa marami nating mga kabababayang mahihirap kung hindi magbabago ang sistemang ito. Sa pag-iral ng ganitong proseso, hindi imposibleng ang mismong gobyerno ang malaking sagabal sa pag-unlad ng kanyang mga mamamayan. Sa tingin natin, kailangang bisitahin muli ang sistema ng ating pabahay. Kung talagang gusto ng pamahalaan na bumaba ang poverty incidence, kailangan siya muna ang magpakita ng totoong malasakit sa mga dukha niyang nasasakupan. Hindi tayo eksperto sa accounting subalit sa pagkakaunawa ko sa ginawa nating pag-aaral, sapat na marahil ang 50% interest sa mga housing loan para talagang maramdaman ng mamamayan na gusto talaga siyang sagipin ng gobyerno sa kahirapan. Mananatiling huwad ang mga housing program ng gobyerno kung hindi magbabago ang pahirap na sistemang ito. Hindi ito totoong pag-ibig, panggigipit at pagmamaltrato ang tingin ko rito.   http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/opinion/64794‐pag‐ibig‐huwad‐na‐pabahay          


Mga hepe ng Pangasinan PNP, matitigas ang ulo Published : Monday, January 06, 2014 00:00

KAMAKAILAN ay nasibak ang provincial director ng PNP Pangasinan at ang PNP Region 2 director dahil sa talamak na iligal na pasugalan sa naturang lalawigan. Dahil dito, tumigil ang mga pasugalan sa lugar. Sinibak ni Chief PNP Alan Purisima si Pangasinan provincial director Col. Marlon Chan dahil sa hindi nito mapatigil ang pasugalan sa kanyang area of jurisdiction. Damay din si PNP Region 2 director Gen. Rodolfo Marquez dahil sa command responsibility. Pero noong nakaraang linggo, muli na namang nagbukasan ang mga iligal na pasugalan sa nasabing lalawigan tulad ng “perya� at malapit lang sa mga munisipyo at mga istasyon ng pulisya. Ayon sa isang opisyal sa Pangasinan Provincial Capitol, maging si Gov. Amado Espino Jr. ay nabubuwisit na dahil inatasan na nito ang mga alkalde kabilang na ang mga hepe ng bawat bayan na ipasara na ang mga peryahang ito pero tila nananatiling bulag at bingi ang mga mayor at mga chief of police. Naglipana at mas dumami pa raw ngayon ang perya sa mga bayan ng Lingayen, Pozorubio, Mangatarem, Villasis, San Fabian, Mabini, Urbiztondo, Aguilar, Urdaneta, Malasique, Balungao, Umingan, San Juan, San Manuel, Dagupan, Calasiao, Alaminos at Asingan.


At ang nakapanlulumong eksena pa raw ay kadalasang mga parokyano o manlalaro ay pawang mga kabataan, edad walo hanggang l2 taon gulang ang mga nagsusugal dito. Bukod kay Gov. Espino, buwisit na rin ang mga religious group at ilang mga magulang dahil sa pagkakalulong na raw ng mga anak nila sa nasabing sugal dahil ultimo mga pambaon nila sa eskwela ay itinataya na nila. Nakapagtataka raw na ang mga bagong talaga na provincial director at regional director ng PNP doon ay nananatiling bulag sa mga iligal na pasugalang ito lalo na ang mga chief of police ng iba’t ibang bayan sa Pangasinan. Ang tanong ngayon, hindi ba natatakot ang mga kumag na mga hepe ng pulisya doon kay PNP chief Gen. Alan Purisima na sibakin sila sa puwesto dahil ayaw ni Chief PNP ng mga pasugalan? Naku, Gen. Purisima, sir, kailangan na sigurong sibakin ang lahat ng mga chief of police sa Pangasinan at ang kauupong provincial at regional director doon dahil ayaw sumunod sa inyong utos. Kailangan masampolan ang mga kurap na mga hepeng ito sa lalong madaling panahon, sir!

http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/opinion/64793‐mga‐hepe‐ng‐pangasinan‐pnp‐ matitigas‐ang‐ulo              


2014 01 06 quedancor daily news monitor