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Marijuana as a crop still far-off, says agriculture official Category: Agri-Commodities 06 Jan 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent

AUTHORIZED cultivation of marijuana would take many years to become a reality, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA). “A broad consultation with different sectors of society is needed,” Marilyn Sta. Catalina told the BusinessMirror in a text message on Monday, in response to a query on the possibility of developing the presently prohibited plant into a high-value crop. Sta. Catalina heads the DA’s Cordillera Administrative Region’s office. On Friday, Malacañang said that marijuana will remain prohibited, unlike in some American states, particularly Colorado, where its use has been recently legalized. The Palace said that unless Congress amends the law, the use of marijuana will not be legalized soon even for medicinal purposes. And if the Congress approval should be the gauge, the approval is highly unlikely, according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala. “To be sure, Congress won’t allow it,” Alcala said in a text message. In June of last year, the Philippine National Police has discovered patches of vast marijuana plantations in Kalinga, which is one of the country’s marijuana hot spots. Located in the hinterlands of Mount Bitulayungan, the illegal plants were from a 4-hectare plantation in the area which was uprooted by the operatives of the Cordillera regional police, amounting to a billion pesos, according to reports. Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, the use even for medicinal purposes of marijuana is prohibited.

Pain relief is one of the well-documented benefits of using marijuana as a medicine. The American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Nurses Association, including the New England Journal of Medicine endorse the use of medical marijuana for the treatment of severe chronic pain.

In Photo: Marijuana plants grow under special lights inside the grow facility at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver on December 27, 2013. The push for legalization of marijuana in the Philippines’s former colonists spurred government officials to mullover potential farming of the currently banned crop. (AP)‐commodities/25484‐marijuana‐as‐a‐crop‐ still‐far‐off‐agriculture‐official                                  

Agriculture department confirms LGU’s report that frosts do not affect vegetable production Category: Agri-Commodities 06 Jan 2014 Written by PNA

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday confirmed the observation of Benguet provincial Gov. Nestor Fongwan that the local farmers can still harvest from the province more than 2,000 tons of vegetables despite the effects of frost locally known as andap. DA Cordillera Regional Information Officer Robert Domoguen also said the cool weather made the Benguet vegetables more sale able due to positive effects of the overhead irrigation system, or rainberg, used by the farmers at this time. Every year, there is approximately less than 1-square kilometer aggregate area affected by the frost in the province of Benguet. “Consumers know that the vegetables harvested with that kind of irrigation are juicier, crispier, more compact in texture and have better color,” he said. “The DA also confirms that the almost overproduction by the local farmers at this period benefits the consumers with better quality products sold at lower prices,” Domogen revealed. He added that some sectors might be “overreacting to the cold spell in the area or simply making some strategies to claim so much damages caused by the thin film of ice every morning as one way by which they can defraud buyers by claiming enormous losses suffered by our farmers.” PNA In Photo: This photo sent by the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Sunday shows a vegetable farm in Benguet not affected by frost, as claimed by the DA.‐commodities/25483‐agriculture‐department‐ confirms‐lgu‐s‐report‐that‐frosts‐do‐not‐affect‐vegetable‐production  

Foreign firms seen to invest in palm-oil business in Mindanao Category: Agri-Commodities 06 Jan 2014 Written by PNA DAVAO CITY—At least six foreign companies have expressed keen interest to invest in several palm-oil ventures jointly with Filipino partners in Mindanao. In a report presented to consultants of Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), palm-oil cluster industry Chairman Raul Nuevas said most of these foreign investors are looking for “big contiguous area” of 100,000 hectares that they can lease for 100 years. “It’s not possible to find big whole areas of 100,000 hectares in Mindanao that they can lease for a hundred years. We can’t find these kind of areas for them,” Nuevas said. The palm-oil industry cluster based in Caraga Region, according to Nuevas, had been receiving several serious inquiries from many foreign investors in the Asia-Pacific region, like Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and the Middle East, after a recent industry conference they held in Cagayan de Oro. Nuevas said these foreign inquiries came from the New Britain Palm Oil Ltd., Pertamina Indonesia, Perkeburas Nasuntara, Univanich, Bali Palm Oil and Marubeni Corp. All these companies expressed keen interest to invest in palm-oil ventures in Mindanao. There are currently 75 palm oil investors in Caraga who are mostly local farmers and big-time growers of oil palms. The Philippines’s biggest investors today are two Caraga-based companies: Filipinas Palm Oil Plantations that runs huge tracts of farmland planted to oil palms; and the Caraga Oil Refinery Inc. which processes and refines the palm-oil to meet the huge demand of the domestic market. Due to this huge demand and very limited supply, the palm-oil industry can only supply 30 percent of the domestic market, while the balance of 70 percent is imported by industrial users of this commodity in the Philippines, according to Nuevas. To reduce imports of palm-oil and boost the production output of the country’s palm-oil industry, total investment to make this possible is set at P212 billion and allocated as follows: plantations, P62 billion; oil mills, P20 billion; infrastructure, P100 billion; and refineries, P30 billion. Nuevas said this is part of the Palm Oil Industry Road Map that was prepared and developed by the Philippine Coconut Authority, which has given its full support and funding to develop the industry in the coming years.‐commodities/25482‐foreign‐firms‐seen‐to‐ invest‐in‐palm‐oil‐business‐in‐mindanao

Duterte to rice smugglers: I will kill you By Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

DAVAO CITY , Philippines – The mayor of this city has declared war on rice smugglers and has warned he is prepared to use lethal force. “I want smuggling of rice in my city stopped. But if you still do not stop your smuggling activities, I will kill you,” Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte warned. He said he does not want to see “even a single sack of rice smuggled in the city.” “If still you refuse to stop smuggling rice into my city, then I will go to where you are and check on your warehouse using my visitorial rights. I will check on your electricity consumption, your books with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and business licenses and everything,” Duterte warned.He said he would do his best to unmask whoever is behind a certain David Tan, alleged to be behind large-scale smuggling activities in various ports all over the country. A report of the Senate joint committee that investigated the existence of the rice smuggling cartel in the country had found that Tan was among the “financiers” of 26 cooperatives that cornered a big chunk of the rice importation of the National Food Authority. Duterte said BIR Commissioner Kim Henares has called him up again regarding rice smugglers operating at the Davao City port.He said he could delve into the rice smuggling issue because the national government through Henares sought his help to curb it. Duterte also met yesterday with representatives from the Bureau of Customs, Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard and other agencies involved in port operations to discuss rice smuggling.

Palawan mayor says still no final location for cold-storage facility as site ‘not accessible’ Category: Agri-Commodities 06 Jan 2014 Written by PNA PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—No final location has been identified for the cold storage facility project that the Department of Agriculture (DA) will implement for Bataraza in southern Palawan that was mentioned in the State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Aquino last year. Bataraza Mayor Katrina Ibba confirmed this in a local radio interview on Monday, after saying that it was initially planned at Barangay Buliluyan. But Ibba said that according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Buliluyan is not “easily accessible” to the fishing communities. She added that there is a probability that to be able to implement the project, the DA will transfer the planned cold-storage facility to Barangay Rio Tuba, a mining community that is reachable by all forms of transportation. Aside from the predicament in the location of the proposed project, Ibba said she has not heard about any other details regarding the cold storage facility that can greatly help the fishing communities in Bataraza. Last year during his fourth Sona, President Aquino announced that a cold-storage facility will be constructed in Bataraza to support initiatives to boost the “earnings” of fishing communities, as well as their standards of living. He said that according to reports he received from the DA and the BFAR, fish catch in Bataraza and nearby towns always end up in the market as “dried fish” due to the absence of a resource facility that can maintain their freshness. With dried fish, President Aquino said the fishermen cannot command a good price for their fish catch since they cannot bring them to the market on time and fresh. PNA‐commodities/25481‐palawan‐mayor‐says‐ still‐no‐final‐location‐for‐cold‐storage‐facility‐as‐site‐not‐accessible    

Probers looking at SARO big fish By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into the possible involvement of higher officials in a syndicate behind the falsification of special allotment release orders (SAROs). “The investigators are not ruling out the involvement of higher officials in the SARO scam. So far though, the same has not been established yet,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in a text message. De Lima earlier confirmed that Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos is among those being investigated by the NBI since some of his staff, including his secretary, driver and janitor, were tagged as members of the syndicate. De Lima said Relampagos has submitted a statement to the NBI, which is under her office’s administrative supervision. She refused to reveal details of the statement, but a source in the bureau said Relampagos denied any involvement in the scam. De Lima said Relampagos would “most probably” be invited for questioning. The NBI earlier verified that the SAROs for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces worth P161 million and P77 million, respectively, were falsified. De Lima said initial investigation showed that a DBM personnel led by a certain “supremo,” and staff of several congressmen were involved in the racket. She said evidence also pointed to a consultant of Aklan Rep. Teodoro Haresco as the source of the two fake SAROs. Haresco was a former party-list representative.

But she said there has been no indication at this point that the congressmen, whose staff had been tagged in the scam, were involved. “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 probe and submit a report. She said some of those being investigated are being eyed as state witnesses. Except for differences in font styles, the fake SAROs have the same SARO numbers, codes, amount of money, dates and name of signatories compared with the authentic ones. The fake SAROs were discovered last November at the height of the investigation into the congressional pork barrel fund scam in which businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles was tagged as the mastermind. Napoles allegedly used nonexistent foundations to divert Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malampaya funds with the help of several lawmakers and implementing government agencies.‐looking‐saro‐big‐fish                            

Only 115 out of 17,000 SEARCH FOR TRUTH By Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

Governor Corazon Malanyaon turned over 115 new shelter homes to the survivors of typhoon Pablo in Cateel and Boston. This is only the first batch finished, out of a target of 17,000 homes. Why the slow pace? Certainly not due to lack of funds. Only two hundred three bunkhouses have been completed in Leyte. This is a job for Ping Lacson. He should ask why the slow pace. Maybe additional contractors or Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) personnel are needed. Meanwhile, reports of overpricing and substandard housing have come out of Leyte. In Samar, the bunkhouses have no toilets or kitchen. Palafox warning Top Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. warned that a substantial part of the Yolanda rehabilitation funds would be lost to corruption. P361 billion has been programmed for the Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan, a big portion of which would go to infrastructure. Well, the problem is cut out for Secretary Ping Lacson, Presidential Assistant on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction. It is sad to note that this early some local officials have been accused of mishandling relief goods. The bulk of the projects will be handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Erap notes President Erap’s pre-Christmas visit to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) has opened up the number of visitors. Following Erap’s visit were President Fidel Ramos, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, and former Vice President Noli de Castro. As a result of the Erap visit, the rumor mill started asking whether a GMA-Erap political alliance is in the works. Erap categorically ruled out an alliance with GMA or FVR. Erap also has ruled out any plans to run for the presidency in 2016. The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidate is definitely Vice President Jejomar Binay, against Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party (LP).

Meanwhile, Mayor Erap has started an “orange/blue card” program for poor Manileños. Erap said that orange card would provide free medical services and medicines, while blue card holders are entitled to a 50% discount in the six city of Manila hospitals. Erap has given up on negotiations with Hong Kong on the Luneta bus hostage-taking incident. At the moment, he is busy pushing the clean-up of garbage in Manila. Erap told reporters that he will attend the mass at the Luneta on Jan. 9, the feast of the Black Nazareno. Road rage Joseph Villacorta, 42, a driver of Solid North Bus Company, was shot dead near the boundary of Pangasinan and Tarlac. Businessman Frederick dela Cruz, 35, driving a pick-up truck is the alleged assailant. He escaped. He left his wife to drive the pick-up truck. Frederick dela Cruz tried to overtake the bus, but its right side mirror hit the bus. When Villacorta went down to talk to Dela Cruz, he was shot by the suspect in the chest. Measles outbreak The Department of Health (DOH) has declared a measles outbreak in at least nine cities of Metro Manila. More than 1,500 cases have been reported, with 21 dead. It turns out that the DOH did not conduct an anti-measles vaccination program. Senator Nancy Binay has called for an investigation. Previously, the outbreak is of dengue. Now, add measles. Once again, the DOH has not prepared to deal with this outbreak. The President should release additional funds to the DOH to conduct a nationwide vaccination program. Meanwhile, DOH admitted, there is still limited access to health services in the typhoon Yolanda-hit areas. Change of school calendar Four big universities: University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, La Salle, and the University of Santo Tomas, have expressed support for a plan to move school opening of classes from June to September. Malacañang said it is open to the idea. But DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro has declared there is no need to change the school calendar for elementary and high school. Several school organizations have expressed opposition to the proposal.

Diokno’s assessment The Philippines is deteriorating, instead of improving as shown by the decline of its ranking in 90th place in the latest Forbes Best Countries for Business List. Previously, the Philippines was ranked 87th out of 145 countries. This was the comment of Professor Ben Diokno. Diokno pointed out that the Philippines is ranked last in the investment inflows, with only $5.9 billion behind Singapore, $161 billion; Indonesia, $52.4 billion; Malaysia, $35.7 billion; and Thailand, $28.8 billion. Diokno said that foreign investors remained unconvinced because there has been no significant change in the economic and political environment of the country. Forbes observed the Philippines has a high unemployment rate of 7% and an underemployment rate of 30%, and the government had limited success in providing jobs to the poor. Binay reports Vice President Jejomar Binay reported that his office has assisted 1,369 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including helping 71 distressed Filipinos. Among these assisted by VP Binay, was Solaya Dabpagan, who has been in coma in Dubai. Binay also reported extending assistance to OFWs in Saudi Arabia who were affected by the Saudization program. Binay’s office and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) have assisted 40,000 OFWs, to be repatriated from Saudi Arabia. Tidbits: Condolence to Mayor Del de Guzman of Marikina, for the passing of his wife Amalia due to cancer. Malacañang announced that President Aquino has no plans to visit GMA at VMMC. Mayor Alfred Romualdez said in a TV interview that 97% of Tacloban City has no electricity yet.National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) predicts that the population will reach 100 million in 2014. Greetings to Joey Leviste, Ramon Abad, Danny Lacuna, Dr. Honey Lacuna, Congressman Danny Suarez, Congresswoman Aleta Suarez, Tony Lopez, and RC Constantino.

DA: Benguet veggie frost a scheme to 'defraud' buyers By Camille Diola ( | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 2:15pm 

A mountain of vegetable plantation in Paoay, Atok, Benguet is covered in icy frost after the temperature  here dropped to 8 degrees Celsius. The province of Benguet is experiencing lower temperature that  affects the highland vegetables. PIA/Redjie Melvi Cawis 

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday denied reports that frost is adversely affecting farmers' crops in several towns in Benguet that are experiencing temperature below 10 degrees Celsius. DA Cordillera regional information officer Robert Domoguen said that farmers can still harvest more than 2,000 tons of produce despite the effects of the icy formations known to locals "andap." "[Sectors may be] over-reacting to the cold spell in the area or simply making some strategies to claim so much damages caused by the thin film of ice every morning," Domoguen said in a state news report. He added that reports on the frost are "one way by which they can defraud buyers by claiming enormous losses suffered by our farmers." Read: Icy 9-degree temperature frosts crops in Benguet town Frost affects approximately less than one-square kilometer area in Benguet, Domoguen explained.

The spokesman likewise concurred with Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan's observation that the cool atmosphere even contributes to the quality of the produce. "Consumers know that the vegetables harvested with that kind of irrigation are juicier, crispier, more compact in texture and have better color," he said. The agriculture official also said that Benguet vegetables this season are more saleable due to the positive effects of the overhead irrigation system used by the farmers at this time.

More sawmills needed for coco lumber in Leyte, Samar By Maricar Cinco  Inquirer Southern Luzon   7:12 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

FILE PHOTO SAN PEDRO CITY, Laguna—Thousands of coconut trees knocked down by Supertyphoon Yolanda still have to be retrieved and processed into usable lumber before they rot or, worse, clog the waterways and cause flash floods. Since November, government agencies have been processing and converting the fallen trees into lumber to build temporary shelters and repair the schools and public buildings destroyed by the typhoon. The Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI), which has an office in Los Baños, Laguna, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, have been operating at least three mobile saw mills in Tacloban City in Leyte and Marabut in Samar. Each saw mill produces an average of 1,000 board feet of lumber a day, said FPRDI forester Francisco Lapitan. “But it’s still not enough. There were just too many, thousands, of fallen trees,” Lapitan said in a phone interview on Sunday. The Philippine Coconut Authority, on its website, said Yolanda, considered the strongest in 2013, hit mostly the coconut producing provinces in Visayas. The storm, it said, damaged 3,058,948 coconut trees in seven provinces.

FPRDI director Dr. Romulo Aggangan said even a fallen coconut tree could still be of use, specially its outer portion, which is a cheap but sturdy construction material commonly used for houses in Laguna and Quezon provinces. “But (the lumber) has to be dried out and treated with chemicals so it won’t grow fungi or attract insects,” he said. Aggangan said the DENR planned to purchase five more mobile sawmills, while Lapitan said the United Nations Development Program was also poised to give 12 units for the storm-hit areas. Aggangan said they were “reinforcing” the Visayas rehabilitation in the coming months, when summer is much favorable for wood processing. He said it was also best they finish before the onset of the wet season due to the possibility of flash floods. In 2011, hundreds of people in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities were killed and crushed under logs that were swept down denuded mountains during a flash flood. Read more:‐sawmills‐needed‐for‐coco‐lumber‐in‐leyte‐ samar#ixzz2pfwi7eob   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Frost not cause of vegetable price hike, says Benguet Gov January 6, 2014 (updated)  

La Trinidad, Benguet — The frost phenomenon being experienced in this province is isolated to only five barangays and should not cause any supply shortage in highland vegetables or increase in their prices, the governor said yesterday. “The frost is not a reason for prices to increase because the supply of vegetable is stable. We have enough supply to meet the demand,” Governor Nestor Fongwan told the Manila Bulletin. Fongwan said that only one percent of the total land area being used for vegetable production is affected by the leaf-damaging frost observed in Barangays Sinipsip, Buguias, and Madaymen in Kibungan; Paoay in Atok; and Cada in Mankayan. He explained how Benguet has 25,000 hectares of vegetable plantations – producing potatoes, carrots, cabbage, wombok, and chayote, among others – and that the areas affected by frost only totals only 2,500 square meters or 0.25 of a hectare. As of yesterday, wombok is P6 a kilo while the first class cabbage is P30 a kilo at the farm. Add on other cost, he said, wombok’s price will not even reach P20 a kilo. He, however, said potatoes and carrots have low supply and this was already happening even before the holidays, but not because of the frost. “Even before Christmas, carrot prices already range from P18 to P30 a kilo depending on the size,” said Fongwan, adding that it was a result of the damage brought about by typhoon Yolanda and not at all related to the frost.Fongwan said that it is unfortunate that there are sectors or groups who try to manipulate the prices of highland vegetables from Benguet on the pretext that frost has affected supply, when in fact, there neither is a supply shortage nor an increase in farm prices. Department of Agriculture (DA) Cordillera Information Officer Robert Domoguen said frost bite happens when the temperature drops, particularly in the early morning, causing ice particles to form on the plants. At sunrise, the rays of the sun heat up and burn the spots on the leaves where the ice particles had formed. However, Domoguen said it has been an annual occurrence and farmers have already learned how to handle it. The solution of farmers to this phenomenon, is to water the plants before sunrise to melt the ice. Moreover, Domoguen explained that while cabbage and wombok are affected by this phenomenon, they do not go to waste because their outer covering can be peeled off and sold just the same.

QC mayor seeks special authority to buy rice for disaster relief By Jeannette I. Andrade  Philippine Daily Inquirer   6:02 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

FILE PHOTO MANILA—A Quezon City councilor has drafted an ordinance authorizing Mayor Herbert Bautista to obtain rice from the National Food Authority on credit for relief operations whenever a state of calamity is declared. Under the draft filed by second district Councilor Ranulfo Ludovica, the mayor would no longer have to ask for the council’s approval whenever he needs to purchase rice from the NFA when calamity strikes. The councilor said that a Dec. 13, 2013 memorandum from Bautista specifically asked the council to prioritize the passage of such an ordinance after he inked on June 25 last year a memorandum of agreement with the NFA for the purchase of rice on credit “when a state of calamity is declared either by local legislative bodies or the office of the President.” Ludovica cited provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991 in which the mayor is authorized to enter transactions for the city upon legislative approval and the local chief executive’s mandate to undertake emergency measures necessary during and after a calamity or disaster. He said that the local council, under the same law, may adopt measures to protect the city residents from the ill-effects of man-made or natural disasters and provide relief to victims. Ludovica asked his peers on the council to ratify the mayor’s authority for the relief of city residents who may fall victim to any type of calamity or disaster in the future.‐mayor‐seeks‐special‐authority‐to‐buy‐rice‐for‐disaster‐ relief#ixzz2pfxJOfky   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Feed made from microalgae to raise aquaculture production by Melody M. Aguiba  January 6, 2014  

A feed for aquaculture, microalgae, is eyed as both a highly nutritional and environment-friendly feed that can enhance aquaculture production, a sector that accounts for some P20 billion in Philippines’ gross value added (GVA). Microalgal pastes are now being piloted for production at the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) to support the aquaculture sector’s huge feed requirement. Feeds may account for as much as 50 percent of fishery production cost. “Microalgae, the small aquatic plant species that we commonly know, is about to make a big break in the aquaculture industry,” according to the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD). While UPV is still in the process of studying nutritional quality and shelf life of microalgae feed, microalgae has in fact already been considered a commercial product. It is in the market for its use in waste water treatment and as high value nutritional product. Microalgae are being cultured in order to produce algal paste for feeds. Algal pastes, also microalgae concentrates, are then further fed to planktons (drifting marine and freshwater organisms) that are used as feeds for fish larvae. The aquaculture sector, from 1997 to 2003, grew at an average of eight percent yearly with production reaching to 4.16 million metric tons, according to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Specific products are seaweeds, accounting for 70.17 percent as of 2005; milkfish, 15.93 percent; tilapia, 8.5 percent; and tiger shrimp, 2.09 percent. Minor products are shells and finfishes. Aquaculture involves raising of fishes through fish pens, cages, ponds in both fresh and marine waters. Mariculture of oysters, mussels, and seaweeds are also under aquaculture which accounted as of 2005 for 46 percent of total Philippine fishery production. Other fishery subsectors are municipal (coastal waters) and commercial fishing (deep sea).

“Philippine aquaculture has strong potential for expansion due to availability of vast resources: 338,393 hectares of swampland, 14,531 hectares of freshwater fishponds, 239,323 hectares of brackishwater fishponds, 200,000 hectares of lakes, 31,000 hectares of rivers and 19,000 hectares of reservoirs,” according to BFAR’s Nelson A. Lopez. International Funds for Agricultural Development records showed that fisheries contributed to a gross value added (GVA) of P44 billion as of 2004.

‘David Tan’ identified as rice trader from Davao By Jerry E. Esplanada  Philippine Daily Inquirer   1:46 am | Tuesday, January 7th, 2014  

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), which groups some 800 business companies in the country, will help unmask “David Tan,” the alleged Goliath of rice smuggling whose illegal activities have cost the government P7 billion in lost revenues every year. Jesus Arranza, FPI chair, told a news forum at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) headquarters in Port Area, Manila, on Monday that he would see Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to turn over information about David Tan. Arranza said David Tan was the alias of “a certain Davidson Tan Bangayan,” a Chinese-Filipino from Davao City. David Tan is wanted in Davao, with the city’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte himself tracking him down and vowing to prosecute him. Abono party-list chair Rosendo So told the Inquirer in a telephone interview Monday that rice millers had identified David Tan “as Davidson Bangayan,” who holds office in a midrise building in Pasig City. So, who is also president of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), declined to disclose the exact address of Davidson Bangayan, but said he had given it to the Senate committee on agriculture so that the panel could summon Bangayan to a hearing.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, head of the agriculture committee that is investigating rice smuggling through the BOC, declined to identify who would be “invited” to a hearing set for Jan. 22, but said all known rice traders would be there. Same person Arranza described Davidson Tan Bangayan as a “former scrap metal trader from Davao City before [going into] rice smuggling.” He later told the Inquirer that there was a “high probability” that the David Tan mentioned in a series of rice smuggling stories published in the Inquirer and the Davidson Tan Bangayan he was referring to were the same person. “Sometime in 2005, Eric Ang, a Singaporean trader, sought the FPI’s help in going after this David Tan,” Arranza said. “Resem Inc., where Ang was general manager, was supposed to forward 230 containers of scrap metal to India through one of David Tan’s companies. [But] it was discovered that instead of scrap metal, the shipped items were replaced with used tires, prompting Ang to file a complaint against Tan,” he said. Arranza gave reporters copies of Ang’s affidavit in a civil case against “Davidson Bangayan a.k.a. David Tan” that the businessman filed in the Calamba City Regional Trial Court on July 13, 2005. The FPI is following up the case, Arranza said. Tan heads several companies, including Advanced Scrap Specialist Corp., Amphibian Metal Trading Co., Advanced Transystem Corp. and Advanced Scrap Metal Corp., among other businesses, according to Ang. “[I]n May 2011, David Tan’s name was mentioned in a rice smuggling story in one of the major dailies (not the Inquirer), which reported that Tan’s group had tried to smuggle some 800,000 metric tons of rice from an undisclosed foreign country,” Arranza said. ‘Common knowledge’ Arranza said the operations of David Tan, “Big Mama” and “Ma’am T,” among other big-time traders doing business with the BOC, were “common knowledge” among FPI members. “Apparently, some players (during the previous administrations) are still playing at Customs. It means they’re good,” he said. Arranza urged the Senate to “continue looking into the rice smuggling activities of David Tan.”

The Inquirer earlier reported that David Tan’s operations were costing the government at least P7 billion in lost revenues every year. His operations also cause losses to Filipino farmers, whose rice is shunned by millers who prefer to deal with Tan because his rice, although illegally brought into the country, is cheaper and already milled.

Smugglers’ point man Tan became the point man of the rice smugglers after the illegal importation of the grain was consolidated into a single operation during the first half of the Aquino administration’s term, according to a former BOC official. The official, who asked not to be named, also disclosed that Tan was one of the financiers of bogus farmers’ cooperatives that had cornered a huge chunk of the National Food Authority’s rice imports. The same source added that in the past two years, Tan had given as much as P6 billion in payoffs to BOC officials and employees who facilitated the smuggling of rice through the ports. The National Bureau of Investigation has said it opened an investigation of Tan’s activities last year, but “hit a blank wall” in its search for Tan Late last month, De Lima said the NBI got no leads because nobody in the cooperatives allegedly financed by Tan was willing to cooperate in the investigation. The NBI also searched its files of people named “David Tan,” but found no information that would lead to the real David Tan. De Lima said the NBI would reopen the investigation. Wanted in Davao In Davao, Duterte said the name “David Tan” kept turning up in news reports about rice smuggling in the city. “I have tried to track him down and found that the name is fictitious,” Duterte said on television on Sunday. “Whoever is behind [rice smuggling], once I track him down, I’m going to file a case [against him] in the (Office of the) Ombudsman,” Duterte said. Earlier, after several rice shipments without import permits had been seized by the government in Davao City, Duterte warned rice smugglers not to mess with him, as he would deal with them harshly.

He said he would also suspend the business permits of rice traders if asked to do so by the BOC and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Uncontrolled entry of cheap, imported rice threatens the livelihood of Filipino farmers, Duterte said. ‘Illegal seizure’ Two rice importers in Davao, however, said the seizure of their rice shipments was “unlawful.” Their lawyer, Benito Salazar, said the government could no longer impose import permits because its “quantitative restrictions” for rice under the World Trade Organization (WTO) expired in June 2012. Salazar said the importers—Silent Royalty Marketing and Starcraft International—wanted the government to explain itself, as its action violated the WTO ruling.—With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan in Manila, and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao Read more:‐group‐to‐help‐govt‐trace‐smuggler‐david‐ tan#ixzz2pfyyJy4o   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Small‐scale miners reach Mt. Pulag By Vincent Cabreza  Inquirer Northern Luzon   9:03 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

MOUNT PULAG’S summit draws tourists each year because of its beautiful sunrise. Government recently picked it for an improved conservation and management plan. ELMER KRISTIAN DAUIGOY/ CONTRIBUTOR BAGUIO CITY—Mining has reached the slopes of Mt. Pulag, Luzon’s highest peak and one of the country’s richest biodiversity areas, and the government has started moving to save the mountain from small-scale miners, the Benguet police said on Sunday. Police in Kabayan town have alerted the office of the provincial prosecutor about the existence of 100 pocket mine portals that remain active in Poblacion and Gusaran, whose territories extend to parts of Mt. Pulag, said Senior Supt. Rodolfo Azurin Jr., Benguet police director. Fay Apil, acting Cordillera director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), said the agency had confirmed the mining operations and had issued cease and desist orders in Kabayan in early 2013. Azurin said police had also started interviewing residents to establish the ownership and legality of the operations of these mine tunnels. “We are in the process of verifying [if the miners were granted] permits and we have been identifying suspects [who defied a 2013 cease order] in coordination with the MGB,” Azurin said.

Apil said the MGB was hoping for support from the local government, given the vulnerability of the Kabayan environment.

Benguet police have been monitoring activities at Mt. Pulag, home to rare plants and animals, after discovering last year that farmers had cleared patches of pine forests to expand vegetable gardens in areas they claim to be part of the Kabayan ancestral domain. The government declared 11,500 hectares of the mountain as a national park in 1987 under the supervision of the Protected Area Management Board. The area straddles towns in Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya provinces. According to the Benguet provincial website, the Kabayan council earlier issued Resolution No. 34-06 urging then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “to recognize and return the management of Mt. Pulag National Park to the municipal government of Kabayan and its people,” partly to honor the town’s assertion that it is the ancestral domain of the Ibaloi, Kankanaey and Kalanguya of the area. The town believes its people have been considered squatters in their ancestral lands for too long, the website said. But the Kabayan ancestral domain has territorial issues with neighboring towns, like Bokod, which have yet to be resolved, Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan said. Provincial officials met last December to discuss legal and legislative strategies in order to arm Mt. Pulag’s protected areas against intrusions. Clarence Baguilat, Cordillera regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the agency also met with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, which issues ancestral land titles, and the Land Registration Authority to propose a harmonization of laws affecting Mt. Pulag’s conservation programs. Read more:‐scale‐miners‐reach‐mt‐pulag#ixzz2pfzKg0Of   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Hometown Snapshot 

‘Bagoong’ makes Lingayen townsfolk dance By Gabriel Cardinoza  Inquirer Northern Luzon   8:58 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

‘BAGOONG’ FESTIVAL. Students carrying earthen jars used to store “bagoong” (salted fish paste) dance in the streets of Lingayen town, Pangasinan province, during the Bagoong Festival featuring the capital town’s main product. WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—It’s not every day when one can say “bagoong” (salted fish paste) has made Lingayen dance. Residents of this capital town partied on the streets on Thursday to celebrate its third Bagoong Festival. The event was launched during the time of the late Mayor Jonas Castañeda to promote the town’s prime product and tell the world that Lingayen is the home of the most delectable bagoong, said Sunshine Robles, municipal information officer. Bagoong, which is produced in two coastal villages here, is one of the town’s thriving industries. Lingayen has 56 bagoong processors, wholesalers and retailers, according to the Department of Trade and Industry provincial office in Dagupan City. Each manufacturing firm is a medium-sized enterprise, employing 50 to 100 workers, with capital ranging from P15 million to P100 million. Each produces at least 1,500 boxes of bagoong in big and small bottles every month.

A bagoong maker in the area has been exporting its products to California and Hawaii in the United States. Daniel Bernal Jr., proprietor of JB Bagoong, one of the town’s biggest bagoong makers, said he had convinced officials of Barangay (village) Pangapisan Norte to organize the festival in 2011. “I told them, ‘Why don’t we also make noise? If other towns can hold festivals for their products, why can’t we?’” Bernal said. The first Bagoong Festival was held in April 2011 in Pangapisan Norte. It was joined by the neighboring village of Maniboc, another bagoong producer. The festival was eventually moved to January as part of Lingayen’s fiesta celebration in honor of its patron. “This is also our way of thanking God for the success of the bagoong industry. This has been the source of livelihood of many people here,” Bernal said. He said it was his father, Daniel Bernal Sr., who began bagoong making in his community. “My father was a fisherman who sold fish in the market [and peddled his catch] from one house to another,” he said. “One time, he put all the unsold fish in one jar [filled with] salt so he could [preserve them for frying]. Unfortunately, he forgot about [the jar] and when he saw it again after several weeks, all of the fish [had] decomposed. But [the jar’s contents] smelled and tasted good,” he said. That was his first set of bagoong, which has since become a popular ingredient in the everyday cooking of Filipino dishes. “We are blessed. Our sales continue to improve and we have also continued to improve our product,” Bernal said. Now, bagoong is sold in bottles. Read more:‐makes‐lingayen‐townsfolk‐ dance#ixzz2pfzdF3hm   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Probe Mighty over anti-dumping law breach, farmers press DA • •

Written by Tribune Tuesday, 07 January 2014 00:00

Local farmers are calling on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Tariff Commission to investigate a Bulacan-based cigarette manufacturer over possible violations of the anti-dumping law, which, they warned, would ultimately adversely affect the production of the country’s tobacco industry. The Ilocos Sur-based Banayoyo Reforestation and Tobacco Growers Credit Cooperative said that 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 asked what has happened with the probe being conducted by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Bureau of Internal revenue (BIR) on Mighty’s alleged under-declaration of its imported tobacco leaf and acetate tow. Franciso Gamboa, president of the cooperative, said he highly doubts Mighty’s recent statement that “we will 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 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. Both the BoC and BIR told the House committee on ways and means chaired by Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo on Oct. 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 per kilo (equivalent to only P29.24) in 2011 and 2012, which is remarkably lower than the government-mandated floor price even for rejects. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has ordered the BoC and BIR to investigate the alleged underdeclaration of Mighty’s imports. BoC records show that the cheapest imported tobacco in 2011 was $3.39 per kilo, way above the $0.68 per kilo importation of Mighty. The Post Entry Audit Group of the BoC, in a letter to Mighty last Oct. 21, asked the company to respond to the charges within 15 days. “As far as we know, the deadline has lapsed. We hope the BoC would make public the results of their investigation,” Gamboa said. Gamboa said the DA 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. “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. 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 flue-cured 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. Isabel Jimeno of the Samahan ng Magtatabako ng Kanlurang Mindoro said “our industry will die without a fight.” “Mighty’s imported tobacco is even cheaper than the price of rejects at P43 per kilo last year. How did that happen? Mighty is openly and consistently violating the law yet they still manage to evade punishment,” Jimeno said. 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. Aside from tobacco leaf, Mighty reportedly imported acetate tow, the raw material used for cigarette filter at $0.30 per kilo. The cheapest tow imported in 2011 and 2012 was at $5.26 per kilo.


It takes a village to defeat smuggling By Ernesto M. Ordoñez  Philippine Daily Inquirer   8:22 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

Just as it takes a “village” to raise a child (as Hillary Clinton described in her book), it also takes a “village” to defeat smuggling. Just as it is not the parents alone who can raise a child properly but the entire community, it is also not the Customs Commissioner alone who can defeat smuggling. He needs the help of relevant stakeholders. Last Dec. 30, this concept was highlighted by Jerry Esplanada in his news report: “New Customs chief says courts partly to blame for rice smuggling.” He quoted Customs Commissioner John Sevilla, who expressed frustration over a Davao court injunction that ordered BOC to release a shipment of smuggled rice: “Our intelligence personnel are risking their lives to get information that will allow us to seize shipments, and then courts are going to issue injunctions just like that.” Two weeks ago, I quoted the court transcription that showed the National Food Authority (NFA) lawyer, by design or by accident, neglecting to give the proper argumentation needed to stop this injunction. Here was a case where the BOC was practically deserted by a supposed government partner. Smuggling partners Just as it takes a village to defeat smuggling, it likewise takes several partners to allow it to succeed. When I was an Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, I found out that the agricultural product smuggler often needed the cooperation of both the BOC and the DA Quarantine personnel. When I replaced these DA personnel, smuggling decreased significantly. But when I left DA because of irreconcilable differences prior to the fertilizer, pork, and poultry scams, the former Quarantine personnel were recalled. Predictably, smuggling increased once more. Due to this experience, we commend Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima for his political will in appointing a totally new BOC management team. Last Dec. 31, Zinnia De la Peña wrote: “Purisima said reforming the corruption-ridden BOC would be a challenging task, but he has high hopes that it can be done following the top-to-bottom reorganization of the Bureau.” These hopes are getting fulfilled. Last week, we reported significant accomplishments in the last three months that were not seen in the last three years. One of these is the seizure of 1,500 smuggled rice shipments accomplished mainly by Commissioner Sevilla and Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Jessie Delloza. This

achievement may be totally wiped out by court injunctions resulting from similar weak government lawyer argumentation. The top officials of NFA, DA and the Department of Justice (DOJ), should ensure that the government cases presented against smuggling are strong enough to prevent these injunctions. The private sector should likewise join forces with the BOC. Last Dec. 30, Butch del Castillo wrote: “Rice smuggling in the country has never flourished as much as it has for the past two and a half years.” He also quoted Philcongrains president Herculeano “Joji” Co: “This has been going on for almost three years, and has greatly debilitated the industry. Another year of unbridled rice smuggling will irreparably destroy the trillion-peso rice industry in the Philippines.” Government institutions We must strengthen our government institutions during the last three years of the Aquino administration. This way, even with a change of government officials, our institutions can continue President Noynoy Aquino’s important reforms, especially in anti-smuggling. The revenue loss to smuggling is 200 times larger than that attributed to the alleged Napoles scam. And yet, smuggling is given very little attention. In the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) which reports to the President, there is an AntiSmuggling and Import-Export Documentation Committee that fully supports the BOC reforms. In this committee are officials from the relevant government stakeholders: Departments of Finance, Agriculture, Trade and Industry, and Justice. Equally important are private sector leaders from agriculture and industry, who can give good recommendations because they have first-hand knowledge of smuggling. Though this committee has been useful, it will be much more effective if it is composed of Cabinet Secretaries and Undersecretaries. This was done in 2005 when for the first time, the import underreporting (mostly smuggling) decreased from 8 percent to 6 percent. When this group was abolished, smuggling increased systematically. According to the latest UN Trade Statistics of 2011, this rate reached an alarming 30 percent (or an annual underreported $24 billion). We do not have to re-invent the wheel. Though the new BOC management has done a praiseworthy job so far, we are uncertain how long this will last. BOC needs other partners in a “village” to succeed, both in the short and long run. This committee, which should be reengineered with a Cabinet Secretary leading it, will provide the effective institutional framework for the needed “village” to support the BOC in defeating smuggling. (The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail or telefax (02) 8522112). Read more:‐takes‐a‐village‐to‐defeat‐smuggling#ixzz2pg4hoCro   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

What’s behind the fuss over CP Foods of Thailand? January 6, 2014 9:33 pm by FERMIN M. DIAZ First of four parts Editor’s Note: The following article was adjudged 2013 Agriculture Story of the Year by the BrightLeaf Agriculture Journalism Awards in December last year. It was originally published in the Livestock and Meat Business (LaMB) Magazine by the author, who started his journalism career as proofreader of The Manila Times. When local swine and poultry raisers groups learned that the Board of Investments (BOI) had granted tax and fiscal incentives to a Thai agribusiness company, they immediately voiced their grievances and mounted a campaign to pressure the board to rescind its decision. Their opposition to the BOI action was intense and unprecedented. After convincing legislators to conduct a congressional inquiry into the matter, they sued the investment promotion board before the Supreme Court. In a case filed in March 7, 2013, they have asked the High Tribunal to nullify and temporarily restrain BOI’s granting of tax perks to Charoen Pokphand Foods Philippines Corp. (CPF Philippines), calling the move “unlawful, whimsical and capricious.” The petitioners include the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc., the Association of Philippine Aqua Feed Millers, the SoroSoro Ibaba Development Cooperative, and the Abono, Agham, and Agap party-list groups. Since the Thai company is globally known to be an efficient feed and food producer and distributor—a stature domestic players haven’t yet achieved—they feared that the presence of the foreign firm in the local market which has been granted incentives will seriously threaten the livelihood of millions of workers in the farm sector. The hysteria over the tax perks has gone a bit farther. Even Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, whose department is mandated to uplift the productivity of farmers and fisher folk and ensure food is available and affordable to the nation’s 100 million inhabitants, was startled. “I myself do not agree with the decision of the BOI. I am afraid it could eventually kill our domestic livestock industry,” Alcala declared during a TV interview last year. Amid all the fiery rhetoric unleashed by local farmers groups and their political backers, this writer interviewed key informants from government, academe, feed, livestock, and meat industries, and dug up relevant data in an attempt to shed light on the issues raised and to present underlying factors behind the controversy.

Noise over CP but no howl over New Hope To begin with, it was not only CP Foods that was given BOI tax and fiscal privileges. Months before the uproar, another huge offshore company, the New Hope Group, obtained similar perks when it registered its three feed milling projects north of Manila worth close to P400 million, official records showed. The New Hope Group is China’s biggest agribusiness operator. With annual feed production capacity of 26.6 million metric (MT) tons, or more than four times the Philippines’ estimated total feed output of 6.25 million MT, the Chinese conglomerate is regarded as the world’s leading animal feed manufacturer today. For administrative efficiency, it formed three locally registered business units to run the mills. They are identified as New Hope Central Luzon Agriculture Inc., New Hope Tarlac Agriculture Inc. and New Hope Bulacan Agriculture Inc., which handle plants in San Simon (Pampanga), Gerona (Tarlac) and Pulilan (Bulacan), respectively. Altogether, the mills can produce 227,448 MT of animal feeds yearly. New Hope also has the option to go into large-scale poultry and hog production in the Philippines like what it is already doing in China, data obtained showed. Given that local agribusiness groups are raising a big howl over CPF Philippines’ tax perks, one wonders why are they not also grumbling over the fiscal incentives given to New Hope. Uneasy ties with gov’t What is becoming apparent is that the raging BOI tax perks controversy epitomizes decades of difficult, and sometimes volatile, relationship between certain swine representatives with vested interests, and a bureaucracy widely perceived as not doing enough to address mounting concerns of the industry in the face of stiffer challenges brought by globalization and free trade. “Some players feel they are being pushed to the wall not only because CP has already landed in their own turf but more importantly, because they believe government will not be of great help to them,” a Manila-based feed raw material supplier said. “So, instead of taking a healthy attitude by figuring out what business and trade opportunities and new technologies would the new player offer and what can be learned from it, local groups want to shoo CP away using available state apparatus,” the businessman, who volunteered to speak candidly on condition of anonymity, explained. “It is no wonder they are even invoking protectionism under the guise of achieving ‘fair competition’ to sway government’s sentiments toward their side,” he added. This is not the first time livestock groups have demonstrated a combative stance toward authorities when they see that things get awry. In early 2012, they threatened the government with carrying out a “pork holiday” when ex-farm hog prices dropped for weeks due to alleged government inaction in curbing smuggling, and for allowing unhampered entry of imported meats.

They also demanded that the heads of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) and the National Meat Inspection Commission (NMIC) should roll, blaming them for their economic woes. Malacañang gave in to their wishes, and the Palace announced that it was replacing BAI Director Efren Nuestro and National Meat Inspection Service NMIS Executive Director Jane Bacayo. The groups also pushed for the Bureau of Customs to adjust the reference prices of imported pork and poultry products, claiming previous quotes no longer reflect market realities. They prevailed on this one, too. As a result, the landed cost of the two commodities went up, effectively making domestic pork and chicken prices more competitive than imports. Handling favor seekers As the groups, notably swine raisers, gained political influence over the years, their leaders have increasingly become more insistent in seeking concessions from DA to advance their interests. One towering industry representative was appointed member of the board of Quedancor during the term of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap. He enjoyed the perks that went with his post until the state firm was rocked by a multi-billion peso swine financing scandal. Another hog leader was able to obtain financial assistance from the DA-administered Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) for a meat-processing project of his Batangas-based cooperative. Gaining stature for successfully negotiating the soft-term loan and for projecting himself as a tireless anti-smuggling crusader, he earned a seat in Congress as Agap Party-List representative. In what many say as bordering on arrogance, some industry players have also been reported to be seeking or following up certain favors from livestock agency officials even way beyond office hours. DA sources said that they nag bureaucrats late in the night, treating them like “24/7” household servants. “Some people in the swine sector are demanding. At times, they can be rude and irksome you really need a lot of patience dealing with them,” said Davinio Catbagan, DA assistant secretary for Livestock. (To be continued)


Opinion Posted on January 06, 2014 08:20:08 PM 

Reviving Visayas agriculture and fishery (a Marshall Plan?) THE DEVASTATION inflicted by Yolanda on the Visayas region  calls for outside‐the‐box strategic thinking. Millions of  coconut trees were toppled. Thousands of small boats and  large areas of fishponds were destroyed. Millions of lives  were disrupted, perhaps forever. 

Map Insights   Rolando Dy 

Official data shows that the size of coconut areas in the region are as follows:  Eastern Visayas 419,540 hectares; Central Visayas 128,660 hectares; and  Western Visayas 121,152 hectares. Altogether, the total area would be nearly    669,353 hectares, or 19% of the national area planted to coconut.    Hard‐hit were: Leyte 167,973 hectares; Eastern Samar 62,357 hectares; and Western Samar 50,150  hectares. Aklan and Capiz also suffered heavily.    The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) estimated the damage at around 10,000 hectares which is only  7% of the regional total, and less than 1% of the national total. An industry player said that the area  damage estimate is highly conservative. This is reflected by the fact that the world market prices reacted  as prices rose to $1,350 per ton of coconut oil from $1,100 per ton before Yolanda, or a 22% jump.    There are large areas planted to rice in these provinces. The three regions account for almost 10% of  palay areas. Irrigated rice areas total some 500,000 hectares, a large part in Leyte and Iloilo. The  national and communal systems will need repairs.    In coastal barangays, coconut and fishing are twin occupations. It appears that low coconut productivity  and sustenance fishing generate low income and, in turn, high poverty.    Poverty in the regions, measured by family income, was 37.2% in 2012 in Eastern Visayas, 28.8% in  Central Visayas, and 24.7% in Western Visayas compared to 22.3% for the country. The poorest  provinces are: Eastern Samar 59.4%, Northern Samar 43.7%, and Western Samar 36%. Leyte has a lower  poverty rate of 31.9%. Eastern Samar, Leyte, northern Cebu, Northern Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and northern  Antique all suffered devastation. 

WAY FORWARD  Will it be business‐as‐usual strategies and solutions again? With low farm productivity, what are the  future options for small farms and subsistence fishing, and what are our options?    Though the crisis has spawned numerous problems, it also presents us with opportunities.  Rehabilitation needs a long‐term plan. There are short‐term, medium‐term and long‐term strategies and  key result areas that need to be formulated to achieve the objective of sustainable rural incomes. Hiring  technical experts on land suitability is imperative.    SHORT‐TERM (TWO YEARS OR LESS)  First, small‐scale fishing needs to be brought back to its feet quickly. According to a University of Asia  and the Pacific study, there were about 3,350 motorized boats and 975 non‐motorized boats in 2008 in  Guiuan, Eastern Samar alone. There are thousands more boats in the fishing towns of Ajuy, Estancia and  Concepcion in Iloilo. Thousands of hectares of fishponds in Capiz need repair.    Crops like sweet potato, corn, mongo and peanuts can be planted as they have gestations of less than  four months. There is urgent need for planting materials as well as farm tools.    Other options are banana, pineapple and cassava. Lakatan banana can be harvested in 11 to 12 months.  It is for local consumption. Saba or the bigger cardava mature in 18 to 20 months, and 16 months  thereafter. It is raw material for banana chips for exports. Pineapple takes 18 months. Cassava takes  about a year and is raw material for feeds and alcohol. Incidentally, in 2012, Taiwan exported over $1.2  billion of baked products, driven by bakeries that ship pineapple cakes to China, Hong Kong, Japan and  Singapore.    MEDIUM‐TERM (TWO TO FIVE YEARS)  There is a need to heavily fertilize standing coconuts so that they can recover in three years or less.  However, this is only a partial solution. A better option is to replace them with other crops. First is  planting density: will three hybrid coconut seedlings per point work to make the trees wind‐resistant?  Hybrids can bear fruit in three to four years. According to an expert, it will take one year to multiply  dwarf hybrids good for planting 10,000 hectares. These hybrids have been in field stations since 15 years  ago, but there were no funds for multiplication.    Second, consider cacao and coffee as intercrop. They bear fruits in two years. Third, oil palm bears fruit  in 2.5 years, but needs about 6,000 hectares for a mill. According to Agusan and Davao planters, oil palm  survived the strong winds of typhoon Pablo in 2012.    A fruit with multiple uses is jackfruit. I was a jackfruit grower in the past in my backyard. It is a good  table fruit, and good for processing. Dried jackfruit from the Visayan State University is of excellent  quality, better than its Thailand and Vietnam counterparts. The fruit processors are also short of  guyabano. 

LONG‐TERM (SIX YEARS AND BEYOND)  Rubber, depending on management practice, can be tapped in 4.5 to six years. An entrepreneur from  North Cotabato planted 20 hectares of rubber trees near Ormoc, Leyte. Some 25% of the trees survived.  The key to survival, he believed, is heavy pruning    IMPLEMENTATION CONCERNS  First, given the massive challenge of rehabilitation, where will project management expertise come  from? Second, to attain scale in processing, marketing and technical services, production areas must be  consolidated. Where will ready‐to‐develop areas come from? Among these are 172 agrarian reform  communities in Eastern Visayas.    Third, how will the supply of seeds and seedlings be fast‐tracked? Fourth, in order to attain high  productivity, the farm inputs and good farm practice must be delivered. Fifth, where will workers’  subsistence wages come from during the growing stage of the long‐gestating crops? And there is the  whole concern on the markets and logistics for these commodities. Who will orchestrate the  rehabilitation of these areas using these more profitable crops?    The task of rehabilitation and sustainable farming is the major challenge. We will need the help of  experts, local and foreign. It is not the time to demonstrate hubris but to roll up our sleeves. The  alternative, as we have seen, is that scarce public resources are pocketed by the influential few in our  society. Let us prevent them from doing this.    (The article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the  Management Association of the Philippines. The author is the 2014 Chair of the MAP Agribusiness and  Countryside Development Committee and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness  of the University of Asia & the Pacific. Send feedback to and For previous articles, visit‐Visayas‐agriculture‐and‐ fishery‐%28a‐Marshall‐Plan?%29&id=81565             

External debt servicing up 6% by Lee C. Chipongian  January 6, 2014  

The country’s external debt service burden is six percent higher year-on-year as of the end of the third quarter, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data showed. As of end-September, debt service burden amounted to $5.5 billion from $5.18 billion the same period in 2012. Debt service burden includes both the principal and interest payments. The BSP reported that external loan payments are still manageable, in fact the end-September six percent increase is lower compared to the increase recorded in end-August of 7.3 percent. Based on the latest BSP data, the foreign principal debt service payments rose to $3.23 billion from $2.64 billion in 2012. Interest payments, in the meantime, declined to $2.25 billion versus the $2.54 billion recorded a year ago.The public and private sector’s foreign loan prepayments and principal payments on banks and non-banks’ fixed and revolving short term liabilities are not part of the debt service burden computation. The BSP remains confident the Philippines has strong buffer or reserves to pay all short-term and long-term obligations which makes the country less vulnerable to external headwinds. Debt consolidation and management of the past years have allowed the government to reduce foreign borrowings and build up reserves instead.As of end-September, the country’s outstanding external debt amounted to $59.1 billion, 4.3 percent or $2.7 billion lower compared to the same period in 2012. The central bank reported that the external debt ratio (a solvency indicator) or total outstanding debt expressed as a percentage of annual aggregate output slightly increased to 18.4 percent from the 18.3 percent in the previous quarter. A substantial improvement was noted in the ratio if compared with the 21.4 percent level a year ago. The external debt service ratio or the ratio of total principal and interest payments relative to total exports of goods and receipts from services and income, remained at 7.6 percent in the third quarter but a substantial improvement in the ratio was noted from the 8.3 percent level a year ago, said the BSP. “The ratio, which measures sufficiency of foreign exchange available to meet currently maturing obligations, has remained well below the 20 percent to 25 percent international benchmark, attesting to the country’s strong liquidity position.”

DOH sees no quick end to measles outbreak By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The number of measles cases continues to rise in Metro Manila and the Department of Health (DOH) does not yet see an end to the outbreak. In a press briefing, Health Secretary Enrique Ona yesterday admitted that while control measures are in place, the DOH expects to see more measles cases in the coming weeks. Ona explained that routine vaccination is regularly being done at health centers in cities where measles cases have spiked as well as other areas, but these efforts might not be enough to quickly contain the outbreak. “That is because even if we immunize now and we try to go after the children, it will take a couple of weeks before they develop immunity,” he said. The DOH also foresees an increase in cases because measles is highly contagious. Ona said a situation could be considered an outbreak “if there is even just one case, whether suspected or confirmed, in a community where in the past there was no case.” “Usually, if there is one case per two weeks for two consecutive weeks interval (there is an outbreak). Whether you have one case per one week, but the point is there should no longer be measles in (Metro) Manila or hopefully even in the Philippines, but it has not happened yet. We are not measles-free, so anytime of the year, you can diagnose suspected cases,” he added.

The DOH’s National Epidemiology Center reported 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. Based on the partial report of the DOH-National Capital Region (NCR), there were 416 confirmed measles cases in Metro Manila in the entire 2013. This figure is 1,568 percent higher than the 25 confirmed cases in the region in 2012. Most of the 416 cases were in Las Piñas City (78), Manila (72), Muntinlupa City (65), Caloocan City (45), Parañaque City (32) and Malabon City (31). Three deaths were recorded each in Muntinlupa, Caloocan and Malabon. Immunization could fail When asked why some children who have been vaccinated against measles still got infected, Ona admitted that immunization could sometimes fail. “People should understand that in medicine, there is no such thing as 100 percent. Like in 100 children, there may be two or three who may not develop antibodies,” Ona explained. Despite this, the DOH urged parents to have their children vaccinated against measles. “The problem is there is a good number of parents who don’t get their children vaccinated. Some even refuse to have their children vaccinated... because of religious beliefs,” Ona said. Measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. In 2011, approximately 158,000 people died from measles, mostly children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization. Expanded vaccination The DOH is now organizing a mass immunization campaign that will cover some 11.7 million children below five years old across the country. Yesterday, the DOH staff also met with health officers in cities and towns in Metro Manila at the DOH-NCR office to discuss the situation in their localities. Ona said all of the localities have expanded their vaccination programs. “This means that in the barangays where there are suspected cases, they (health authorities) go there to identify the family and possible contacts of the patients. And they vaccinated them... There is now an active vaccination campaign taking place,” he added.

The Quezon City local government, for instance, has intensified its measles vaccination program although no outbreak has been declared in the city. The vaccination program covers infants aged nine months to children aged five. Chief nurse Fe Justimbaste, coordinator for Quezon City’s expanded program on immunization, said the city’s health workers have vaccinated over 4,000 infants since April when the first measles case for 2013 was recorded in the city. She said only 11 confirmed measles cases were recorded in the city from Jan. 1 to Dec. 21, 2013 but 100 other cases are also being monitored. “Hopefully, these will not turn out as confirmed measles cases,” Justimbaste said, noting that symptoms such as fever and colds may be manifestations of other illness like the flu. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, on the other hand, yesterday said that he would meet today with Ona, city health officials and hospital officials to thresh out plans on how to solve the outbreak of measles in the capital. “I am coordinating with the DOH and officials of the hospitals and the city health department. We will be meeting tomorrow (Tuesday),” Estrada said in a telephone interview with The STAR. Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) has advised parents to keep their children whom they suspect to have measles at home. DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali yesterday said keeping children with measles at home would help contain the spread of the disease. – With Helen Flores, Janvic Mateo, Jose Rodel Clapano, Danny Dangcalan‐sees‐no‐quick‐end‐measles‐outbreak                  

Inflation figure to determine BSP policy rate decision Category: Top News 06 Jan 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is expected to raise its policy rates toward the second half of the year if inflation hits—and sustains—a rate of more than 4 percent in the coming months, ecotnomists from the First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC) said on Monday. “If inflation hits up to 1 percent higher than last year, then we do not foresee the BSP to change its policy rates for the year,” FMIC Senior Vice President Reynaldo Montalbo Jr. said in the company’s biannual news briefing. “However, if it goes beyond 1 percent, then we might see the BSP taking a look at its policy rates and possibly affect local interest rates,” he added. Inflation has consistently ranged between 2.1 percent and 3.4 percent in the first 11 months of 2013. The average inflation rate from January to November 2013 was at 2.9 percent. The BSP earlier forecast the December inflation to fall between 3.8 percent and 4.7 percent on the back of the price acceleration on electricity, fuel and key food items. If the inflation rate falls within this range, it would be the highest price growth seen for the entire 2013. University of Asia and the Pacific Economics Prof. Victor Abola supported this view, saying the possible rate increase would be between 20 basis points and 50 basis points. He said the 50-basis point raise was possible but “very unlikely.” “[The BSP’s] approach is always gradual. [It does] not want to make very drastic changes,” Abola said in the same news briefing. Abola noted that the BSP would still be looking for more signs that the relatively strong inflation expected in the coming months would eventually “die down.” In his assessment, the inflation rate would normalize below 4 percent and would head downward, starting in the second quarter of the year. “If the BSP sees that, it would delay any rate increase set for the second semester,” he said. The central bank has been holding all key policy and interest rates at record lows since April 2013, when it made the final cut in the rates of the special deposit account (SDA) facility. Overnight borrowing or reverse repurchase rate is now at 3.5 percent, and overnight lending or repurchase is at 5.5 percent. This has been the key policy rate since October 2012. SDA interest rates are at 2 percent, effective since April 2013. The BSP Monetary Board, or the policymaking body of the country’s central monetary authority, will hold its first policy- stance meeting for the year on January 23.‐news/25489‐inflation‐figure‐to‐determine‐bsp‐ policy‐rate‐decision

House reviewing all proposals on new school calendar By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives will carefully study proposals to change the country’s school calendar even as lawmakers described the move as a knee-jerk reaction to external developments, House leaders said yesterday. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said there are pending measures in the House on proposals to move the school opening to September from the current June. Among the measures being deliberated upon is House Bill 104 authored by Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, who cited the effects of typhoons as her reason for seeking to move the start of the school year to September. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED), which watches over universities and colleges, said the change may be necessary as part of the country’s efforts to take advantage of the economic integration of the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015. The Department of Education, which supervises basic education, cautioned against rushing to move the school opening due to differing climate conditions in different parts of the country. “We cannot please everybody. But for universities, maybe it’s okay to jibe with ASEAN universities’ schedules,” Belmonte said. Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, chairman of the House committee on higher and technical education, said the panel would hold a hearing on such proposals when Congress resumes session on Jan. 20.

He said there is a need to study the matter carefully as changing the school calendar may not always be advantageous and could actually have negative effects. “This should not be because of some knee-jerk reaction to external developments,” Romulo said, referring to the effects of climate change and the ASEAN integration in 2015. “Frankly, I don’t think there is a complete and integrated study on the matter. What we have are individual studies of universities, educational institutions and government agencies,” he told The STAR. “Whatever decision we will be making must be based on sound ground to improve our educational system, and the future of our youth,” he added. He said changing the school calendar would not automatically improve the quality of education in the country, which has been at the low end, according to some international surveys. The lawmaker noted reports that some higher educational institutions were planning to change their academic calendar to attract more foreign students and raise profits. “Based on institutional surveys, we are weak in terms of research component, so why don’t we work on that first? A mere change in the academic calendar will not make a dent, it is not a solution to improve our education,” Romulo said. “What kind of foreign students will we attract? If we improve the quality of our education, good students, scholars and academics will come to us no matter what calendar we have,” he said. Romulo said he is not in favor of giving free rein to autonomous higher educational institutions to change their school calendars. For his part, Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said that “change is inevitable” and the country’s educational institutions must synchronize their calendars with those of their counterparts in the ASEAN. “We cannot stand solo in the community of nations; otherwise, we might find ourselves left behind,” he said. Meanwhile, an official of a top university in Pangasinan said yesterday that changing the school calendar is favorable to the Philippines being a “labor-sending country.” “It is good to synchronize it with other countries,” Gonzalo Duque, president of the Lyceum Northwestern of the Philippines, told The STAR. Duque said the proposal is beneficial for students whose parents are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). “Many students are children of OFWs so it would be better if they schedule their homecoming at a time when their children are also on vacation,” he said. – Eva Visperas‐reviewing‐all‐proposals‐new‐school‐ calendar

DSWD has P714‐M disaster quick response fund for 2014 By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has a disaster quick response fund worth P714 million for 2014. The P714-million allotment for this year is higher than the P652.5 million last year. Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman brushed off concerns that last year’s string of calamities could be the “new normal” and hence the need for a bigger quick response fund. “That is only the initial amount. When it’s used up and has been liquidated, we can replenish,” Soliman said. The DSWD’s quick response fund for 2013 was already used up by July, and had started running low as early as April. The DSWD had made a request for additional funding to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in April. A big portion of the P652.5 million was used up by the DSWD’s disaster relief operations for victims of Typhoon Pablo, which caused massive destruction in Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, and Davao City in December 2012. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto called on the DBM to disclose the performance of the different government agencies based on the targets they set under the 2014 national budget. Recto said that these “promissory notes” that the government agencies submitted to the DBM with their proposed budgets were something new in the General Appropriations Act as a way to show the people how their taxes are being spent. He argued that this particular feature of the national budget was even more significant than the scrapping of the Special Allotment Release Order as a fund release document, which was recently announced by the DBM. Under the 2014 national budget, Recto noted that there would be a matching of countable outputs with every peso received by the different agencies. “Spending is now linked to performance benchmarks. The peso sign now comes with a performance guarantee. And these guarantees are part and parcel of the budget,” Recto said. Recto urged the DBM to ensure that agencies comply with their promises.

For instance, Recto noted that the Bureau of Fire Protection has vowed to respond to distress calls within seven minutes 87 percent of the time this year. In the case of the Philippine National Police, it has promised to pursue with earnest the minimum 629,258 crime investigations it will conduct this year and to increase by 25 percent its number of foot and mobile patrols. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has pledged to have all vehicles moving at an average of 29 kilometers per hour on the 197 kilometers of major thoroughfares under its jurisdiction. – With Marvin Sy‐has‐p714‐m‐disaster‐quick‐response‐ fund‐2014                                    

Enrile files counteraffidavit on ‘pork’ scam charges Category: Nation 06 Jan 2014 Written by Mia M. Gonzalez Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile has filed his counteraffidavit with the Office of the Ombudsman, strongly refuting the charges lodged against him by the National Bureau of Investigation for his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork-barrel scam. In a statement issued on Monday summing up the salient points of his Dececember 20, , counteraffidavit, Enrile described the charges as absolutely baseless. Contrary to news reports and to “stories” being spread by critics, the government’s own evidence shows he never personally endorsed to any implementing agency any NGO involved in the reported Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, whether connected to Janet LimNapoles or not, the senator said. The only role he or his office played in the whole process was to identify specific projects to be funded under his PDAF allocation, as requested by the officials of the local government units involved, Enrile said. Such procedure, Enrile said, is required by current laws and regulations and is being practised by all legislators, charged or not. He noted that it was ridiculous to charge him for obeying the law. He added that, in his case, despite the public impressions to the contrary, it was solely the implementing agency that in fact actually designated the NGOs for the purpose of implementing and executing the projects involved. Citing the Supreme Court ruling late last year on the constitutionality of pork barrel, Enrile noted that “from the regulation of fund releases, the implementation of payment schedules and up to the actual spending of the funds…” the Executive takes full control of the system, and, according to Enrile, “should not that power also come with full responsibility and accountability?” He noted that even Commission on Audit itself declared and admitted that the implementing agencies cannot “relegate this duty to the legislator.” In his reply, Enrile disputed the theory that he “may” have induced the agencies or the NGOs into misusing his PDAF allocation. He said the documents appearing to establish his alleged involvement or that of his staff were, as admitted by the government’s own witnesses, the whistle-blowers Merlina Sunas and Benhur Luy, were all forged and fabricated. Moreover, Enrile alleged that he does not personally know any of the agency officials involved, nor has he ever met Napoles, socially or otherwise.

Neither he nor his staff, as the whistle-blowers testified, has been to the office of Napoles. He has never been to a single social affair of Napoles. He stated there is not a single piece of evidence to establish even the suspicion of conspiracy in a fair mind. Enrile added that there is no testimonial or documentary evidence showing that he received any commissions or kickbacks. He categorically denied receiving “a centavo of ill-gotten wealth.” All whistle-blowers admitted they never saw him receive any amount from Napoles, much less 50 percent of the PDAF Fund involved, as alleged by one whistleblower, the senator noted. In fact, principal whistle-blower Luy himself has sworn that he merely put down in his accounting ledger whatever Napoles instructed him to put down; and Luy himself admitted that he has no personal knowledge of these alleged transactions. Moreover, the source documents of any alleged payoffs to anyone were shredded and destroyed by Luy’s group, as Luy himself admitted previously. Enrile rued he has been wildly accused and prejudged by several quarters and he simply asked that every fair-minded person judge the case solely on its merits. Finally, Enrile said that while he respects the adage that everyone, including his critics, are “entitled to their own opinions,” this does not, however, give them the freedom to create their own “facts.”‐enrile‐files‐counteraffidavit‐on‐pork‐ scam‐charges                    

Phl needs donors to manage population, says health exec By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines may have to rely on donations to manage its population which is seen to hit 100 million this year, a health official said yesterday. Health Undersecretary Janet Garin said this is primarily due to the reduction in the Department of Health (DOH)’s budget for the purchase of contraceptives. Garin said when the Senate ratified last month the bicameral conference committee report on the proposed P2.265-trillion budget for 2014, P304 million was removed from the DOH budget for contraceptive pills. She said the budget is supposed to be used to implement the Reproductive Health Law whose implementation has been stalled due to a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court. Garin admitted that the budget cut will have an impact on the DOH’s reproductive health programs which include family planning, oral care and maternal and child health care. She, however, said they remain hopeful that with the cooperation of the public and local government units (LGUs), they will be able to overcome this concern. Donors to fill gap Garin also expressed hope that donors would be able to fill the gap in contraceptive supplies. “Somehow, there will be a problem but I think donors see our political will. We keep our fingers crossed that they will cover the gap,” she said. Garin said at present, the Philippines is getting contraceptive donations from the United Nations Population Fund. In 2002, barely a year after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would stop donating contraceptives to the Philippines by 2004. The USAID, then the Philippines’ largest contraceptive donor, felt that the country was relying too much on donations. Arroyo was also against the procurement of contraceptives by the national government.

High time to buy contraceptives To prepare for a 100-million population, Commission on Population executive director Juan Antonio Perez III has underscored the need to buy contraceptives as soon as possible. Perez said contraceptive use in the country must reach 65 to 70 percent to cope with the increase in population. “But right now, the use of contraceptives is only at 49 percent,” he said, adding that doctors will also have to be trained on vasectomy and tubal ligation. “Very often these sterilization services are only available at the provincial level. We have to make sure that it is available even at the district level, even down to the barangay level,” he said. Perez said there should also be an intensified information campaign on all types of reproductive health methods to assist couples who want to manage the size of their families.‐needs‐donors‐manage‐population‐says‐ health‐exec                              

Workers protest hike in SSS, PhilHealth premiums By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  3 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino workers took to the streets in a bid to stop the impending increase in the premiums of the Social Security System (SSS) and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth). Workers belonging to labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) yesterday trooped to the SSS main office in Quezon City to demand the scrapping of the planned increase in contribution of members. Staring this month, the SSS would increase contributions from 10.4 percent to 11 percent, which KMU secretary-general Rogelio Soluta said would force minimum wage earners to pay P25 more in premium. KMU members are seeking a court restraining order to prevent the implementation of the increase. “We will not let the Aquino government push through with burdening us workers and the Filipino people. The SSS premium hike is a part of the government’s anti-worker and anti-people schemes of extorting our hard-earned money for their corrupt and greedy fetishes,” Soluta said. Soluta also said the claim of SSS that increasing the contributions was needed to prevent the agency’s fund from drying up was untrue since some of its officials received millions in bonuses. “We workers strongly demand the junking of the SSS premium hike since it would surely go not to additional benefits but only directly to capitalists’ and corrupt bureaucrats’ pockets,” he added. The KMU said it would continue the protest action against the premium hike until the plan is totally junked. The other day, over 400 Filipino workers in Hong Kong also staged a protest action in front of the Philippine consulate general to express their objection against the impending increase in PhilHealth premiums for OFWs. It was reported earlier that the annual premium of OFWs would be increased from P1,200 to P2,400.

Dolores Balladares, chair of labor group United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said the premium hike is an unjust burden for OFWs, especially those whose families were affected by the series of calamities that hit the country. “The new fee hike is very untimely, not to mention without any basis at all. This is the height of insensitivity of the government to the plight of OFWs,” she said. Balladares said OFWs would hold a series of protest actions against the premium hike.‐protest‐hike‐sss‐philhealth‐ premiums                                      

Treasury bureau thwarts lenders’ attempt to ramp up Treasury bill rates Category: Banking & Finance 06 Jan 2014 Written by David Cagahastian

The Bureau of Treasury (BTr) on Monday sold P6.645 billion worth of treasury bills, but rejected combined tenders worth P6.423 billion which asked for interest rates as high as 1.5 percent on the short-term government securities. At the auction for P20 billion worth of treasury bills, the BTr accepted bids for P3.535 billion worth of 92-day treasury bills at an annual interest rate of 0.693 percent, and P3.11 billion worth of 364-day treasury bills at an annual interest rate of 1.079 percent. The BTr rejected all bids for the intermediate 182-day treasury bills which received tenders with an average annual yield of 1.515 percent. National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon explained why the investors were looking for higher interest rates on the treasury bills. “They’re also looking for leads. Because based on the market, the inflationary expectations— given the higher oil prices, transportation and the weakening of the peso—[they’re expecting higher interest],” de Leon said. The inflation rate is projected to have hit 3.9 percent to 4.0 percent in December, the highest it has been since January 2012. Official inflation rate figures will be released today, Tuesday. The BTr rejected all bids totaling P3.3 billion for the 182-day treasury bills because the annual yields asked on these bids were higher than the annual yields being asked on the secondary market for these government securities. De Leon noted that the rates being offered on the 182-day treasury bills were “out of line,” pointing out that the average annual yield of 1.515 percent asked by investors on the 182-day treasury bills is even higher than the original offer of investors of an average annual yield of 1.479 percent for the 364-day treasury bills.

De Leon said the government is still deliberating on whether to offer to sell bonds abroad, as it’s still assessing the market’s reaction to the US Federal Reserve’s decision to gradually decrease its quantitative easing program of monthly bond purchases starting this month. But she said the government will still be planning to borrow P715 billion for 2014, in accordance with the government’s target to limit the budget deficit to a maximum of 2 percent of gross domestic product.‐finance/25472‐treasury‐bureau‐ thwarts‐lenders‐attempt‐to‐ramp‐up‐treasury‐bill‐rates                                      

Banks seen taking the more conservative road to lending Category: Banking & Finance 06 Jan 2014 Written by Genivi Factao The various commercial banks were seen to take a more conservative stance on lending this year as a way to manage risks and to prevent possibly higher default rates and the overheating of consumer lending market. As a result, both the regulator, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the lending community were to adopt more stringent lending guidelines in the months ahead to help tamp down the incidence of soured loans and ruin everyone’s lending portfolio, executives at the First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC), the investment banking arm of the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., said. FMIC President Roberto Juanchito Dispo said there remains volatility and uncertainty in the offshore market but the Philippine economy is resilient, projecting a 7 percent to 7.5 percent gross domestic product this 2014. First Metro President Roberto Juanchito Dispo said the banks are becoming more and more conservative and more prudent in lending to ensure against possible overheating in the consumer loan sector. “The liquidity is still there. Interest rate is still at reasonable level. The lending will continue to be healthy except that banks now will be more conscientious and more conservative in order to ensure default rates are manageable,” he quickly added. Dispo also said interest rates were to to trek to higher ground this year. Already, the former Bureau of Treasury official said interest rates in developed markets like the United States are trending up and their journey to higher levels should influence local rates. “The US Fed’s tapering concern induces a lot of volatility in the equity market, particularly in emerging markets. Still, the Philippine economy remains strong,” he said. Victor A. Abola, economist of the University of Asia and the Pacific, ruled out the likelihood of a real-estate asset bubble as a direct consequence of remedial actions that regulators as the BSP have put in place. He also said even if housing-loan rates were to rise by 3 percent, the number of housing-loan takeouts worth more or less P1 million should continue to grow. He said real-estate firms remain focused on the low-cost segment of the industry and that such projects should still be doing well.

Abola did not say the same for the high-end segment of the real-estate market and expressed the view the sector may have trouble owing oversupply down the line. “The banks and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will put more stringent requirements so that bubble will be avoided,” he said. Meanwhile, Senior Vice President Justino Juan Ocampo said banks that normally don’t like selling bonds, may take a second look at the useful instruments with the start of the implementation of Basel 3 capital and risk management standards effective on January 1. “We anticipate that banks will start looking at bonds,” Ocampo said of the forecast need for banks to beef up their capital structures consistent with Basel 3 norms. No significant movement was foreseen on interest rates in the early months but yields were seen to experience upward pressure in the latter part of the year. “Banks are seen to issue Tier-2 notes to comply with Basel 3 regulations. Equity is also a financing option but will be challenged by valuation,” Dispo said. Inflation will be at a manageable level of 3.8 percent to 4 percent and likely to continue its upward trek in the early part of the year but should begin to decelerate before the year ends. Overseas Filipino workers remittances were, likewise, seen growing by 6 percent to 7 percent this year. The local currency, the peso, was likewise, seen to average from P43 to P46 to a dollar this year.‐finance/25471‐banks‐seen‐taking‐ the‐more‐conservative‐road‐to‐lending                  

Peso seen as weak as P43 per dollar this year Category: Banking & Finance 06 Jan 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma The local currency, the peso, was seen to weaken to as low as P46 per dollar during the year as the economy of the United States, still the country’s largest trading partner, steadily gathers strength, economists at the First Metro Investments Corp. (FMIC) said on Monday. At FMIC’s biannual news briefing, executive forecast the peso trading within a band ranging from P43 to P46 per dollar this year. University of Asia and the Pacific economics professor Victor Abola, who consults for FMIC and their market research initiatives, said the main driver of the forecast significant weakening of the peso was on account of positive data from the US. As US growth gathers pace, fund managers favoring emerging market economies like the Philippines were seen trekking back to safer havens and dump their peso holdings for dollardenominated instruments. “Well it’s basically the strengthening of the US dollar. The US dollar will continue to be strong because their economy will be very much stronger compared to all of the advanced countries. Of course there will be a move out not only from the emerging markets but also countries in the euro zone and moving to the US dollar,” Abola said at the same briefing. The peso further slumped to a four-month low on Monday, opening the week at P44.70 against the US dollar. This is the weakest that the peso has been since August 29 last year when it hit P44.75 to a dollar. Monday’s close is also a further depreciation from the previous trading day’s close at P44.65. The total traded volume for the day hit $1.123 billion, slightly lower compared to the $1.307 billion in the previous trading day. The peso has been stuck in the 44-territory for about a month now, following the positive reports on the US’ lower unemployment rate and the higher output growth. Global financial markets were, likewise, affected by the worries over the US taper on asset purchase program which started this month. But more than a weak peso, however, regulators fear a volatile currency because exchange rate swings make it extremely difficult for investors and businessmen to plan their activities.‐finance/25469‐peso‐seen‐as‐weak‐ as‐p43‐per‐dollar‐this‐year  

Lawmaker hopes approval of FOI bill soon ( | Updated January 6, 2014 ‐ 2:57pm 

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Passing the Freedom of Information bill might just be one of congressmen’s resolutions for the Year of the Wooden Horse, Ifugao rep. Teodoro Baguilar Jr. hopes. Baguilat said that a new year means new beginnings and what better way to start the year than the passage of the FOI bill, which has been languishing in Congress, particularly the House of Representatives for much too long. “Early passage of FOI bill is desired,” said Baguilat, one of the co-authors of the measure. “Having such a bill would have helped to prevent scams,” he said. “It would have also helped in the ongoing inquiry on the alleged collusion between the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Manila Electric Co. as consumers could demand information on the process of consultation and the full set of guidelines and processes of ERC.” Baguilat said the Committee on Public Information of the House of Representatives has yet to set a meeting for the technical working group on consolidation, but he hopes that a meeting would be called soon so that the self-imposed deadline of February to pass a consolidated bill would be met.But with Congress’ sessions set to resume by the third week of January, FOI advocates will have no more time to conduct hearings. Despite these early snags this 2014, the Ifugao lawmaker is still optimistic 2014 would be the year that the FOI bill would finally be passed. For one thing, the authors of the various FOI bills in the House of Representatives have agreed to consolidate their proposals into one bill to expedite approval in the 16th Congress. Among the authors who have agreed to have a common FOI bill are Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan Represetnatives Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello, Winston Castelo, and Nars partylist Leah Paquiz. Advocates Roman Romulo and Em Aglipay also support the move to consolidate the bills into just one. The FOI bill was passed by the Senate in the last Congress and current Senate Committee on Information Committee chair Grace Poe has signified her commitment to pass an FOI bill under her watch. The FOI bill seeks to make it easier for the public to access public documents, especially those related to bidding of government projects as well as the allocation of government spending. With it, greater transparency in government affairs and the way that taxpayers’ money is being spent are seen. - Artemio A. Dumlao‐hopes‐approval‐foi‐bill‐soon  

Economy seen growing by 7.5% this year By Donnabelle L. Gatdula (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC), the investment banking arm of the Metrobank Group, expects the Philippine economy to remain strong this year, growing 7.5 percent from an estimated 7.4 percent in 2013. During their annual economic briefing, FMIC chairman Francisco Sebastian said the domestic economy will likely remain resilient this year, anchored on strong economic fundamentals. “Our fundamentals remain intact and will be able to withstand volatilities in 2014, be it domestic or global,” Sebastian said. He noted that the country had survived the numerous challenges of 2013. “The year 2013 is a year marked by natural calamities and uncertainties both in the developed and emerging market, but may also be remembered as a year when the Philippines achieved investment grade status. The country has shown resilience, we are still the best performing economy in ASEAN with a 7.4 percent GDP growth in the first nine months of 2013,” he said. “In 2014, the country’s GDP is projected at 7-7.5 percent, buoyed by the same growth drivers that continue to fuel the economy plus the robust reconstruction and rehabilitation work in typhoon and earthquake stricken Visayas, which will further spur public and private spending,” he added. For his part, FMIC president Roberto Juanchito Dispo said their bullish forecast remains despite a possible two percent drop in agricultural output caused by natural calamities in 2013. Dispo also warned against the existence of risk factors such as electricity rates that would possibly affect growth this year. He said any delay in reconstruction and rehabilitation in the calamity-stricken areas would also hinder growth. Other factors that could stall growth are political issues, inflated property assets and external developments.

On the inflation rate, FMIC said it would remain manageable at 3.8 percent to four percent. “It is likely to continue its upward movement in the early part of the year but is anticipated to decelerate before the year ends,� it said. OFW remittances will likewise grow six to seven percent as overseas Filipinos send more money to their families, particularly to those affected by the natural disasters. Demand for Filipino workers overseas will also be sustained, which will continue to stimulate and increase domestic consumption. In other indicators, FMIC said it expects a further softening of benchmark oil price to $95 per barrel from an average of $98.42 in 2013. The Philippine peso is seen to average at 43-46 to a dollar. Exports are expected to expand 6-10 percent due to the US recovery and China’s steady growth. Imports are also projected to recover at 8-12 percent. Meanwhile, FMIC sees no significant movement in interest rates in the early months of 2014 but yields are anticipated to experience upward pressure in the latter part of the year. Treasury bill rates are projected as follows: 91-day at one percent, five-year at 3.5 percent, 10-year at 4.25 percent, 20-year at 5.25 percent and 25-year at 5.75 percent.

Gov’t rejects all bids for 182‐day T‐bills By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The government rejected yesterday bids for the 182-day treasury bills (T-bills) as the interest rates sought by banks were deemed too high and unacceptable. The auction committee, however, accepted the bids for the 91-day and 364-day T-bills , saying the rates sought by the market for these instruments were reasonable. Banks sought a 1.515 percent yield on the 182-day debt paper, significantly higher than the 0.001 percent registered in the previous T-bill auction. Bids reached P3.313 billion or lower than the programmed P6 billion offering. The yield on the three-month debt papers, meanwhile, averaged at 0.693 percent, up by 69.2 basis points from the previous rate of 0.001 percent. There was strong demand for the shorter dated instruments with tenders reaching P5.095 billion or 27.375 percent higher than the government ceiling of P4 billion. The Bureau of Treasury, however, accepted only P3.53 billion. The latest rate for the one-year debt instruments reached 1.5 percent or 123.7 basis points higher than the 0.278 percent recorded previously. Bids reached P4.66 billion but the government decided to sell only P3.11 billion, which is well below than the programmed offering of P10 billion. The government raised only P6.645 billion or just a third of the planned P20 billion offering. National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said the government could afford to reject some bids given the country’s strong liquidity position. De Leon attributed the increase in interest rates to higher oil prices and the weakening of the peso against the dollar. She said the government is expected to borrow P715 billion this year, of which P620 billion will come from the domestic market.

The government has been tapping borrowings in the last two years from the local debt market and from bilateral and multilateral sources such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. De Leon said the government is likely to increase the foreign component of its borrowing program for 2014 to 15 percent from eight percent last year. The move is aimed at taking advantage of low interest rates offered by multilateral funding sources.‐rejects‐all‐bids‐182‐day‐t‐bills                                      

SDA funds down to 3‐year low By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 7, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The amount of money in the Special Deposit Accounts (SDA) under the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) fell to a three-year low as of Dec. 20 after the central bank prohibited banks and financial institutions from parking investment management account funds from the facility. Investment management accounts are singular accounts entrusted by individuals to banks’ trust arms. According to central bank data, SDA money amounted to P1.353 trillion as of Dec. 20, the lowest level since hitting P1.238 trillion in December 2010. Funds in SDA peaked to as much as P2.2 trillion in April last year. The SDA was introduced by the BSP in 1998 as a tool to mop up excess liquidity in the financial system. However, the low-interest rate that persisted in the previous years made investors park their funds in the facility instead of putting them in other financial instruments. The increasing level of funds in the SDA prompted the BSP to reduce the interest rates and adjust the guidelines in investing on the facility. Last year the central bank cut the SDA rates by 150 basis points to a record low of two percent. At the same time, the BSP ordered the removal of all investment management accounts in the SDA by Nov. 30, 2013 and were given until December 2013 to clear investment management accounts out of the SDA facility. Funds in the SDA were down to P1.772 trillion as of Aug. 2 following a partial implementation or a 30-percent removal of investment management accounts in the SDA.

The level of money further plunged to P1.412 trillion as of Dec. 6, after the full phase out of investment management accout in the facility. The declining level of funds parked in the SDA has been helping the central bank narrow its losses in 2013 versus 2012. Latest BSP data showed the central bank recorded a net loss of P21.55 billion in the 10 months to October 2013, far narrower than the P78.43-billion seen in the same period in 2012.


SSS, PhilHealth asked to justify hiked rates by Ben Rosario  January 7, 2014 (updated)  

Manila, Philippines – Officials of the Social Security System (SSS) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will be asked to justify their respective bids to increase premium rates before state auditors of the Commission on Audit (COA) who have noted adverse findings in examining the two state-owned firms’ finances. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said COA officials will be invited by the Lower House when it opens its inquiry into the plans of SSS and PhilHealth to increase the contribution of its members this year. Colmenares said lowly-paid SSS and PhilHealth workers, together with leaders of organized labor, should also be given a chance to confront officials of the two state-run firms. Two administration lawmakers yesterday backed calls for Congress to investigate the decision of the SSS and PhilHealth to raise the contributions of their members. Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said while he supports the position of Malacañang that the increase in SSS and PhilHealth premium is necessary to improve the services they provide, it is still equally important for both institutions to answer in detail all questions being raised by those opposed to their decision. “Malacañang’s position on this issue is very understandable. However, this should not stop Congress from going through the details of the SSS and PhilHealth’s decision to increase their fees. This is democracy at work,” said Nograles, chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment. The Mindanao lawmaker noted that a House probe would also be consistent with the Congress’ oversight powers on issues that concern public interest and national welfare. Senate Inquiry At the same time, when the Senate resumes regular session on January 20 after a four-week Christmas break, it will look into the financial health of government financial institutions and agencies such as the SSS, PhilHealth, Government Service Insurance System and Pag-Ibig Fund. Through his Senate resolution, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said he hopes the public inquiry into the financial status of these agencies to be conducted by the Senate banks, financial institutions and currencies chaired by Sen. Sergio R. Osmena III might provide answers to criticisms against increases in the premiums at SSS and PhilHealth.

Through its power as a Legislative branch of government, the Senate wants an omnibus assessment and review, in aid of legislation, of the actuarial status of state and private sector pension and insurance funds as managed by the GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth as well as the housing funds as administered by Pag-IBIG with the view of improving the delivery of their services and ensuring the financial viability of these government corporations. Colmenares is a member of the Makabayan bloc which has called for a congressional investigation into the allegedly ill-timed move of SSS and Philhealth to adjust premiums. The House Committees on Government Enterprises and on Good Government were asked to conduct the congressional investigation. Public Outrage Colmenares chided officials of the government corporations for pursuing bids to adjust premiums, saying the decision came at a time as public outrage has been registered in connection with the unjustified bonuses, financial perks and privileges being collected by SSS and Philhealth officials. COA has noted adverse audit findings in the respective annual audit reports submitted by the agency for 2012. The allegedly snail-paced processing of payments for death, disability and retirement claims of members remained slow since 2012. (With reports from Ellson A. Quismorio, Charissa M. Luci and Mario B. Casayuran) COA said the SSS must also swiftly take legal action in seeking the payment of P367 million in premiums and penalties from 139 delinquent corporations and employers which have been remiss in their responsibility under the SSS law. “Slow processing and payment of death, disability and retirement claims did not meet the commitment of SSS of providing prompt, convenient and meaningful social protection service to the members and their beneficiaries,� COA said. Tax Rates Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe likened the SSS to revenue agencies of the government that propose increases in tax rates rather than take a hard-line stance in collecting correct taxes and in weeding their respective agencies of corrupt officials and employees. In the 2011 annual audit report, SSS was also assailed by COA for imposing interest payments on loans that are in excess of some P788.8 million. Batocabe said SSS and PhilHealth must justify their request for additional funding by first improving their services.

For his part, Nograles noted that with the “triple whammy of calamities” that struck the country during the last quarter of 2013 — referring to the loss of lives and properties during the Zambonga siege, the Central Visayas earthquake, and super-typhoon Yolanda — “this might not be the right time to increase SSS and PhilHealth premiums.” He said while a 0.6 percent increase on the monthly contribution of their members might be “affordable” to some, this amount could already buy several cans of sardines and packs of noodles for some families, particularly those who are only getting the minimum wage and other members who can barely afford their monthly premiums. “I’m sure the SSS and PhilHealth officials have noble intentions in their decision to increase their monthly premium. But as representatives of the people, we would also like to hear from them more detailed answers on the many questions that are being asked by our constituents. They may be right, but they should explain to us why,” Nograles said. Meanwhile, Iloilo Rep. Jerry Trenas also voiced his support on calls to conduct an inquiry in aid of legislation on the decision of SSS and PhilHealth to increase their premium to enlighten the public on the wisdom of their action. “The investigation would be a perfect venue for the SSS and PhilHealth officials to be able to answer all the questions that our people have on this issue and at the same time, enlighten us on some of the intrigues thrown to them, including their allegedly scandalous paychecks and other perks,” Trenas said. “Personally, I support all moves to improve the benefits of our SSS and PhilHealth members and I appreciate the fact that they are doing everything necessary to make it happen. But there might just be other means to do that. There might be other solutions and schemes that would not require any additional financial burden from their members and I’m sure these things will come out during the course of our inquiry,” said Trenas, Vice-Chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries. Trenas noted that Congress can exercise its oversight powers not necessarily to oppose or question certain actions and decisions that has a direct effect on public interest, but also to provide the necessary legislative support if needed. “With the things that we may learn from this investigation, we would be able to help them educate our constituents on why there is a need to increase their SSS and PhilHealth contributions,” Trenas said. In the Senate, Recto pointed out that the laws that created GSIS, SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig allow these government corporations to use members’ contributions and premiums to finance their loan services and other investments in order to ensure their respective financial viability in providing the benefits and services they, in turn, owe to their members.

He cited reports that some of these corporations, if not all of them, have either invested members’ funds in the international stock market or employed foreign investment firms to manage their accounts. Recto pointed out that global economy has been volatile during the past few years as an off-shoot of the global economic crisis of 2008 that adversely affected international stock markets. Thus, there is a need for a review of the investments made by these government corporations to ensure that their funds are safeguarded from the potential effects of the instability of international stock markets, he explained. ‘’Due to the continuous outpouring of clamor on the part of the members for a more prompt and efficient delivery of services, there is a need for Congress to assess and review the actuarial status of these pension and insurance funds,’’ Recto said. Recto said that the assessment and review would also allow Congress to determine if legislation is needed in order to address the problems that may have affected the administration of these funds , if there are any, and to prevent a scenario in which the national government may be called upon to bail out these corporations. ‘’An assessment and review would also enable these government corporations to improve the delivery of services to their respective members and contributors. It is also important that the millions of people who are members and beneficiaries of these funds be informed on the status of their contributions in line with their constitutional right to information,’’ he added. (With reports from Ellson A. Quismorio, Charissa M. Luci and Mario B. Casayuran)

Recto wants DBM to publicize agencies’ ‘promissory notes’ January 6, 2014  

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto wants the Budget department to publicize the “promissory notes” agencies have issued in exchange for receiving taxpayer’s money. He said the most important feature of the P2.268 trillion spending measure is not the scrapping of the Special Allotment Release Order as fund release document but “the matching of countable outputs with every peso received.” He said government spending is now directly linked to performance guarantees that are part and parcel of the national budget. Recto cited the following as examples of deliverables with definite budget allocations: * the maximum seven minute response time of firemen to distress calls and a 25 percent increase in the number of police patrols. * the Philippine National Police’s vow to pursue with earnest the minimum 629,258 crime investigations it will conduct this year and to “increase by 25 percent its number of foot and mobile patrols.” * the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) promise of an average travel speed of 29 kilometers per hour on the 197 kilometers of roads under its jurisdiction. The MMDA has also pledged a maximum 15-minute response time to 90 percent of traffic obstruction. For this year, it has a budget of P2.65 billion, a P1.2 billion increase from last year’s P1.48 billion. * the Department of Education, it has pledged an 84 percent National Achievement Test passing rate for 12.56 million secondary school students. * the Department of Health (DOH) hospitals have pegged a target of 106,000 surgeries. The DOH has a budget of P80.8 billion for 2014, or almost a P30 billion jump from what it got last year. * the Philippine Heart Center’s promise of three percent mortality rate from cardiac surgeries. * the Army’s assurance that 90 percent of its 176 tactical battalions can be made combat-ready within one hour upon receipt of orders from higher authorities. * the Department of Public Works and Highways’ goal of 1,022 gravel roads paved, and 605 kilometers of national roads to be built in 2014.

“The Department of Agriculture has also indicated that it will repair 1,500 kilometers of farm roads,” Recto said. * the Land Registration Authority said it will be able to release 666,283 land titles while the Department of Foreign Affairs said it can issue 3,418,000 pieces of passports and other consular documents. Recto said that under the national budget, Land Transportation Office is obliged to make public the number of days it would take to release a car license plate.

Road repair project like this should come with a “promissory note” from the DPWH to assure the public that the budget for this and other public projects are not wasted but are actually delivered, according to Sen. Ralph Recto. (Linus G. Escandor II) Another major recipient of funds for 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, has attached a menu of targets to its budget. In addition to the beneficiaries of its “mega P62.6 billion” cash transfer program, it will be serving meals to 2,568,811 schoolchildren next year. The Department of Transportation and Communications has also vowed to inspect 100,000 land transport franchise holders and to impose penalties on violations discovered. It has pledged to increase rail speed to an average 48 kilometers per hour. Recto urged the DBM to ensure that agencies comply with their promises, describing the 2014 national budget as “having gone micro by detailing what an agency must deliver.” (Mary Rose A. Hogaza)

Rainy in Visayas, Mindanao—Pagasa By Frances Mangosing   8:49 am | Tuesday, January 7th, 2014  

MT Satellite image January 7. 2014, 7:32 a.m. Screengrab from MANILA, Philippines—The Visayan region and Mindanao will experience cloudy skies and light to moderate rains and thunderstorms, resulting from a trough or extension of a low pressure area affecting Mindanao, the state weather bureau said Tuesday. The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration clarified, though, that there is no low pressure area or other weather disturbance in the country. It added that the northeast monsoon continues to affect Luzon. Thus, strong to gale-force winds are expected to affect the eastern seaboards of southern Luzon and the Visayas. Fishing boats and other small seacraft are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves. Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail over the eastern sections of southern Luzon and the Visayas, and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the northeast with slight to moderate seas. Fishing boats and other small seacraft are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves. Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, meanwhile, will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains. Read more:‐in‐visayas‐mindanao‐pagasa#ixzz2pfvqdIjo   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Advantage of Halal seal underscored by Camcer Ordonez Imam  January 6, 2014 (updated)  

Cagayan De Oro City – In an effort to meet the demands of the world market, the business community in Mindanao have been urged to seek Halal certification. The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), in a letter, said that aside from food and beverage certification, non-food products and services like logistics, financial, insurance, and health care-related goods should also be Halal certified before they are allowed to enter the market. Aside from Malaysia, the Halal certification will also benefit Filipino businessmen seeking market in the Middle East, which reportedly has a very huge potential. Halal certification is one of the compulsory requirements in Islamic countries. Exporters need to seek the certification if they want to further expand their markets abroad, the Matrade noted, even as it said that the Philippines has a competitive advantage in food ingredients, cosmetics, and supplements. The Matrade issued the statement in its invitation to local exporters, especially from Mindanao, to participate in the 11th Malaysia International Halal Showcase (MIHAS) slated from April 9 to 12, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Businessmen from all over the world will meet in Malaysia for business matching during the annual MIHAS. Oro Chamber President Efren Uy is expected to discuss the matter during the chamber’s next meeting. He said it is time for businessmen in Mindanao to look at its own potential products that can be presented to the world market.

QC measure lets mayor ink deal with NFA Philippine Daily Inquirer   3:06 am | Tuesday, January 7th, 2014  

A Quezon City councilor has pushed for an ordinance that would authorize Mayor Herbert Bautista to obtain rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) on credit for relief operations whenever a state of calamity is declared in the city.

Under the draft measure authored by Councilor Ranulfo Ludovica of the second district, Bautista would no longer need the approval of the council to work out a deal with the NFA in case of a calamity.—Jeannette I. Andrade Read more:‐measure‐lets‐mayor‐ink‐deal‐with‐ nfa#ixzz2pfyPvfFx   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 


PH economy seen growing by 7% this year By Doris C. Dumlao  Philippine Daily Inquirer   4:55 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine economy is likely to grow by at least 7 percent this year, aided by additional spending for post-Supertyphoon “Yolanda” reconstruction, First Metro Investment Corp. said Monday. “We believe fundamentals will remain strong in 2014 as the country will benefit from the recovery of the global economy, particularly the U.S. and emergence of eurozone from recession. We expect emerging markets to stabilize in the next two years,” FMIC president Roberto Juanchito Dispo said at a press briefing. The global economic rebound will in turn support the recovery in the export market while business process outsourcing and overseas Filipino remittances would continue to support domestic demand, Dispo said, supporting a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7 to 7.5 percent this 2014. At the same time, he said, massive rehabilitation work in the aftermath of Yolanda would drive growth due to the multiplier effect. Economist Victor Abola of the University of Asia and the Pacific, FMIC’s partner in macroeconomic research, said the additional spending for Yolanda reconstruction would add at least 1.2 percentage points to GDP this year, bringing full year GDP average to 7.3 percent. The outlook for 2014 was thus seen as favorable despite a potential 2 percent drop in agricultural output caused by natural calamities in 2013. The Philippine economy has sustained a growth of at least 7 percent in the last five consecutive quarters. Read more:‐economy‐seen‐growing‐by‐7‐this‐ year#ixzz2pg0rCNkq   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook         

PH defers offshore borrowing Treasury defers bond sales as it gauges a jittery offshore market  By Michelle V. Remo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   8:50 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

The government has shelved temporarily its plans to sell bonds abroad as it takes a wait-and-see stance to better gauge a jittery international market.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon INQUIRER FILE PHOTO National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said the Philippines would allow other emerging countries to go first in tapping the international market for funds this year. De Leon explained that, after gauging how the bond issuances of other countries fared in the international market, the Philippines would then decide whether to sell its own bonds abroad. In the past few years, the Philippines always would raise bulk of its foreign, commercial funding requirements in January. Treasury officials said doing the fund-raising activity in January—and going ahead of other emerging economies—allowed the Philippines to corner a substantial portion of demand for emerging-market assets. But De Leon said the government would adopt a different strategy for this year. She cited the need to take into account the US Federal Reserve’s decision to “taper” its easy money policy and its impact on global demand for emerging market assets and interest rates.

“The environment is different this time. We want to first see how the latest developments are being digested by the international market,” De Leon told reporters Monday. “Tapering,” referred to in financial markets as the gradual withdrawal of stimulus funds by the US Federal Reserve, is expected to dampen demand for debt securities issued by emerging markets. This, in turn, could increase the cost of raising funds abroad. Under the originally proposed Philippine borrowing program for 2014, the government was supposed to sell $1 billion worth of bonds in the international capital market to partially cover its total borrowing requirement for the year. “If it would be too costly for us to borrow funds from abroad, then we would not,” De Leon said. She said the government would monitor market developments in the coming weeks before making a decision over its borrowing plans for 2014. De Leon said that, given the liquidity in the domestic capital market, there is no pressure to sell bonds abroad. Under the 2014 fiscal program, the government is supposed to borrow a total of P715 billion to fund its expenditure requirements for the year. Of the amount, 85 percent is supposed to be secured from domestic creditors while 15 percent will come from the international market. Foreign borrowings are done through the sale of bonds offshore and/or securing of loans from development lending institutions, such as World Bank and Asian Development Bank. De Leon said the Bureau of the Treasury so far would leave its options open as it monitors financial markets. Read more:‐defers‐offshore‐borrowing#ixzz2pg17n8az   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook           

BSP expected to raise key interest rate in 2014 Philippine Daily Inquirer   8:48 pm | Monday, January 6th, 2014  

The period of historic low yields and borrowings costs may be at an end as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is expected to finally raise its key policy rate this year. First Metro Investments Corp. (FMIC) and University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P), which run a joint research initiative, project that the BSP will hike its overnight borrowing rate in the second half of 2014. In a briefing Monday, FMIC president Roberto Juanchito Dispo said the central bank would raise its overnight borrowing rate either by 25 or 50 basis points in the second semester as a response to accelerating inflation. Because of the increase in the BSP’s overnight borrowing rate, Philippine banks may raise their own lending rates, potentially tempering growth in loans. The slowdown in the expansion of credit may ease growth in demand for goods and services and, in turn, slow down the rate of rise in consumer prices. During the same briefing, UA&P economist Victor Abola said inflation could accelerate to an average of 4 percent this year. Official inflation figure for 2013 will be released by the National Statistics Office Tuesday. But based on estimates by the central bank, inflation likely averaged at 2.9 percent last year. Abola said inflation would accelerate this year due to a host of factors, including the peso’s depreciation, the improvement of the global economy, sustained growth of household consumption, and post-calamity reconstruction spending. But even if inflation were to average 4 percent, it would still be within the government’s official target range of 3 to 5 percent. “Domestic demand is seen to remain intact and will be boosted by a likely depreciation of the peso,” Abola said.

Inflation throughout 2013 hovered mostly below 3 percent—which is at the low end of the government’s official target—on account of favorable supply aided by higher manufacturing output. Anemic global demand, caused by lingering economic problems in industrialized countries, also caused inflation to stay modest last year. But this year, adjustments in factors affecting domestic prices are expected to speed up inflation. For instance, if the peso were to depreciate further, the cost of imports and overall domestic prices would rise. The peso hovered at around 42.45:$1 in 2013. This year, it is expected to average between 43 and 46 against the US dollar, based on estimates by FMIC and UA&P. Another factor that is seen to boost inflation is spending on post-calamity reconstruction activities. The government’s reconstruction plan for areas affected by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” is valued at P360.8 billion, of which at least P100 billion will be spent this year. Improving global economic conditions, led by the recovery of advanced economies, may also boost demand for goods and services. The US economy, for instance, is projected to grow by 2.6 percent this year from an estimated 1.6 percent in 2013. The euro zone may also expand by 1 percent this year, after it suffered a contraction estimated at 0.4 percent in 2013. Michelle V. Remo Read more:‐expected‐to‐raise‐key‐interest‐rate‐in‐ 2014#ixzz2pg1HGwf4   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook             

Govt still counting dead since ‘Yolanda’ By Florante S. Solmerin | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:01am ALMOST two months after the strongest typhoon of 2013 hit Eastern Visayas on Nov. 8, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council continued to tally dead bodies even as they try to account for almost 2,000 still missing. NDRRMC executive director Eduardo del Rosario said their count stayed at 6,166 with 1,785 still missing and they are still awaiting additional fatality reports from provincial disaster councils. “Posible na tumaas pa ‘yan (It’s possible that that will still increase)... We’re just waiting for [additional] reports from Region 8,” del Rosario said, explaining that they were only awaiting additional reports and did not stop counting. Del Rosario reiterated that the NDRRMC only relies on the reports of provincial disaster councils which in turn had to wait for death certificates to be issued before deaths are reported for inclusion in the official death count. Del Rosario again made the explanation to ease suspicions that the disaster agency was fudging the death count so as not to embarrass President Benigno Simeon Aquino III who publicly doubted the large numbers of fatalities immediately after the disaster. The President said in an interview with journalist Christian Amanpour that the reports were exaggerated and the death toll was “more realistically” around 2,000 and 2,500. Eastern Visayas regional police director Chief Superintendent Elmer Soria gave an initial death toll estimate of 10,000. He was relieved shortly after. Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas also weighed in on the death count controversy and said the government will only count as “dead” those cadavers that had been identified although they were already decomposing in government processing centers. On Jan. 4, bodies of still unidentified victims were finally buried in Tacloban City with Health Secretary Enrique Ona in attendance.‐still‐counting‐dead‐since‐yolanda‐/      

Recto: Reveal ‘vows’ of agencies in budget By Macon Ramos‐Araneta | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:01am   Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said on Monday that he would ask the Budget department to publicize the “promissory notes” agencies have issued in exchange for receiving taxpayer’s money now that the 2014 budget has been signed into law. He said that among the “performance guarantees” embedded in the national budget are “the maximum seven minute response time of firemen to distress calls and a 25 percent increase in the number of police patrols.” He said the most important feature of the P2.268 trillion spending measure is not the scrapping of the Special Allotment Release Order as fund release document but “the matching of countable outputs with every peso received.” “Spending is now linked to performance benchmarks. The peso sign now comes with a performance guarantee. And these guarantees are part and parcel of the budget,” he said. He described the 2014 national budget, which President Aquino signed as Republic Act 10633 last Dec. 20, as “having gone micro by detailing what an agency must deliver.” He cited as an example the “written vow” of the Philippine National Police to pursue with earnest the minimum 629,258 crime investigations it will conduct this year and to “increase by 25 percent its number of foot and mobile patrols.” “In the case of the Bureau of Fire Protection, its budget says it will have a five-to-seven-minute response time to 87 percent of the 5,185 distress calls it expects to get in 2014, Recto said. One particular interest to Metro Manilans, Recto said, is if the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be able to deliver on its promise of an average travel speed of 29 kilometers per hour on the 197 kilometers of roads under its jurisdiction. The MMDA has also pledged a maximum 15-minute response time to 90 percent of traffic obstruction. The MMDA has a budget P2.65 billion for 2014, or a P1.2 billion increase from last year’s P1.48 billion. The senator noted that the beauty of requiring these “promissory notes” is that “big ticket items get itemized.” “In the case of the Department of Public Works and Highways, its budget says 1,022 gravel roads will be paved, while 605 kilometers of national roads will be built. The Department of Agriculture has also indicated that it will repair 1,500 kilometers of farm roads,” he further said.

Another major recipient of funds for 2014, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, has attached a menu of targets to its budget. In addition to the beneficiaries of its “mega P62.6 billion” cash transfer program, it will be serving meals to 2,568,811 schoolchildren next year. The Education Department,meanwhile, has pledged an 84 percent National Achievement Test passing rate for 12.56 million secondary school students. Over at the Department of Health (DOH), the hospitals it directly operates have pegged a target of 106,000 surgeries. The DOH has a budget of P80.8 billion for 2014, or almost a P30 billion jump from what it got last year. Another government hospital, the Philippine Heart Center, has promised a three percent mortality rate from cardiac surgeries. Even defense agencies are not exempted from revealing what is expected of them. “The Army has given the assurance that 90 percent of its 176 tactical battalions can be made combat-ready within one hour upon receipt of orders from higher authorities,” he said.‐reveal‐vows‐of‐agencies‐in‐budget/                          

Schools reopen but many fail to return By AFP | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:01am   TACLOBAN CITY—Schools reopened Monday for the first time in the badly damaged towns in the Visayas since one of the world’s strongest storms ever to hit land killed thousands two months ago. But at the San Jose Central School in San Jose village in this city, only 25 percent of the total school population of around 4,000 returned to class as many of the pupils died when super typhoon Yolanda—international name Haiyan—struck on Nov. 8 last year.

Back to (temporary) school. Teachers and pupils  attend a flag ceremony at the San Jose Central  School in San Jose Village in Tacloban City on  Monday, two months after super typhoon Yolanda  devastated the Visayas on Nov. 8. Only 25 percent  of the school’s population of around 4,000 returned  to class as many pupils died during the typhoon’s  onslaught. Rodne Galicha   Crowding into makeshift classrooms built from tarpaulins and plywood, the children—many of them still traumatized—sat quietly as teachers tried to engage them in friendly banter. Mothers refused to leave the tents despite the appeals from teachers to let the children slowly resume their daily routine, an AFP reporter said. “Only about 50 percent of our school’s nearly 1,000 pupils are back,” lamented principal Maria Evelyn Encina in the seaside village of San Roque near Tacloban, where giant tsunami-like waves triggered by Haiyan wiped out entire neighborhoods. She said at least nine students had been among the dead, although the fate of many others and their families remained unknown.

“They could be in evacuation centers or taken in by their relatives in the mass evacuation that followed,” Encina said. “But we can’t know for sure. We just want to let them know wherever they are that we are here waiting for them.” What passes for a community learning center now are desks under a white tent donated by relief organizations. It sits about 50 meters from the sea, in an area that the government has officially dubbed a “permanent danger zone”, the principal said. “We need a more permanent structure in the longer term, but in the meantime this will suffice,” Encina said. Yolanda cut a swathe of destruction when it struck, bringing powerful winds that topped 315 kilometers an hour. The typhoon triggered giant storm surges that swamped large areas, leaving nearly 8,000 dead or missing and nearly 30,000 others injured. The storm also displaced four million people, 1.7 million of them children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund. The agency along with other groups is leading a campaign to help some 550,000 children, teachers and day care workers return to schools. “UNICEF’s objective is to ensure that children affected by typhoon Yolanda return to quality learning as soon as possible,” said the group’s officer in charge in the Philippines, Angela Kearney. By re-establishing a daily routine, UNICEF says, it hopes to transform schools into “safe spaces” that provide some sense of normality. It said that with children back in school, parents would also have more time to rebuild their ruined homes. But with memories of the surging, towering waves still fresh, mother of six Milet Labrado, 42, was not taking any chances. “The school is just too near the sea, and we survived by clinging to each other,” she said, while anxiously watching her youngest, a six-year-old boy, mingle with his classmates. “I still see my neighbors being taken away by the waves in my dreams everyday,” Labrado said. “I am not yet prepared to leave my boy and entrust him to anyone.”

The reopening of classes on Monday elated Elmer Eclipse, a parent in Tacloban City. Eclipse, who accompanied his daughter to the Santo Niño SPED Center in downtown Tacloban, said normality was slowly returning to the city. “The pupils had their homework today,” Eclipse said. He said although the children at the center spent only half a day in class because some of the teachers had yet to report, he was happy because his daughter was with her classmates again. The call to reopen classes on Monday was supported by Mayor Alfred Romualdez and the city’s other officials. City administrator Tecson John Lim and other education officials went around distributing schools supplies and inspecting facilities. The Philippine Red Cross, the UNICEF and other organizations helped put up prefabricated buildings and tents to serve as temporary classrooms. Michael Regis, a school principal in Palo, Leyte, said he hoped the government would soon start rebuilding the damaged areas for the sake of the students. The government has said it needs P4 billion to replace the more than 4,500 classrooms destroyed by Yolanda. With Ronald O. Reyes‐reopen‐but‐many‐fail‐to‐return/                        

BFAR issues red tide alert By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:01am The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has raised the red tide warning on shellfish collected over the coastal areas of Bataan and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, officials said. BFAR Director Asis Perez warned the public of shellfish and “alamang” gathered at Dumanguillas Bay in Zamboanga del Sur and Bataan coasta waters, including Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal. “Shellfish collected in these areas are positive for paralytic poison or red tide,” Perez said. BFAR lifted the red tide alert in Murcielagos Bay in Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental and said fish, squids, shrimps and crabs are safe provided they are fresh and washed thoroughly na dinternal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking. Perez declared as safe areas free from red tide the coastal waters of Cavite, Las Pinas, Paranaque, Navotas, Bulacan, Bolinao, Anda, Alaminos City, Wawa, Bani in Pangasinan, Masinloc Bay in Zambales, Milagros and Mandaon towns in Masbate. He said other safe areas include Sorsogon; Puerto Princesa and Taytay in Palawan; Capiz; Bacolod, Negros Occidental; Surigao del Sur; and Camiguin.‐issues‐red‐tide‐alert/                    

Treasury bill rates increase sharply By Jennifer Ambanta | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:02am   Treasury bill rates jumped in the first auction of the year, as the market anticipated a higher inflation rate in December. The Treasury said Monday the yield on the benchmark 91-day government debt papers climbed to 0.693 percent from the near zero interest rate of 0.001 percent recorded in the last auction in October. Tenders reached P4.945 billion, with the government accepting just P3.385 billion. National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said interest rates were starting to climb because investors were looking for yields. “Given the inflationary expectations, that is the market reaction,” she said. Meanwhile, the government rejected bids for the 182-day securities due to unreasonable bid rates. “Given the rates in the 182-day, it is out of line with the secondary market,” De Leon said. Rates for the 364-day bills surged to 1.079 percent from 0.278 percent in October. Tenders amounted to P3.560 billion, with the government accepting just P2.010 billion. De Leon said the government could still shun domestic borrowings because it was in no hurry to do so. “So far, the government has a very healthy balance sheet,”she said. “We accepted bids also to supply the market with papers, “she added. De Leon said the government had not decided on foreign borrowings and inflation-linked bonds overseas. “Nothing is certain for now, we have to monitor the market conditions very closely,” De Leon said. The government plans to borrow more from the domestic market. It plans to secure 92 percent of its financing requirements from the domestic market and 8 percent from foreign sources.‐bill‐rates‐increase‐sharply/     

Special deposit account funds decline to P1.35t By Julito G. Rada | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:02am Funds invested in the special deposit account facility of the Bangko Sentral fell P60 billion, 20 days after the regulator phased out the investment management accounts in the facility on Nov. 30. Latest data from the Bangko Sentral showed as of Dec. 20, SDA funds dropped to P1.353 trillion from P1.413 trillion in the previous week. Total funds at the facility peaked to P2.2 trillion in the middle of April 2013. IMAs, including agency accounts, will have no access to the facility starting this year. The Bangko Sentral earlier issued an order, saying only funds in trust accounts and unit investment trust funds would be allowed access to the SDA facility starting Jan. 1, 2014. The Bangko Sentral reduced all SDA placements not consistent with Memorandum 2013-021 by 30 percent on July 31, 2013 while the balance was phased out by Nov. 30. Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the measure on SDA aimed to keep the original intent of the facility, which was to use it as a monetary policy instrument and not an investment instrument. The Bangko Sentral reduced the interest rates on SDA three times last year by 0.50 percentage point each, bringing the rates to 2 percent across all tenors. The Bangko Sentral earlier said the operational adjustments in the SDA facility contributed to the increase in domestic liquidity in September. Money supply in the financial system grew by 31 percent to P6.2 trillion as of end-September, from P4.7 trillion a year ago, driven by the sustained expansion in credits to the domestic economy.‐deposit‐account‐funds‐decline‐to‐p1‐ 35t/        

BSP eyes amending Al-Amanah charter By Julito G. Rada | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:02am The Bangko Sentral cited the need to amend the charter of Al-Amanah Islamic Bank to encourage more players in the country’s Islamic finance. “Right now, the law recognizes Al Amanah as the only Islamic bank in the Philippines… So if you want to promote Islamic banking, you have to amend [the charter] to encourage more banks to go into Islamic finance,” Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. told reporters in an interview. Tetangco said there were groups that were setting their sights on Islamic banking and that the Bangko Sentral was willing to work with them in drafting the amendments. “There are groups that are interested in pushing Islamic banking in the Philippines. So we can work with those groups,” he said. Tetangco, however, said a thorough study was needed to see what Islamic banking model could work in the Philippines. “In other countries, Islamic banking can also be undertaken by different models. One model is Islamic banking to be undertaken by western-style institutions. Only they have to have Islamic banking units… because there are specific practices from Islamic banking that are consistent with Shariah law. That is one model,” Tetangco said. He said another model could be the stand-alone Islamic banking. Al-Amanah Islamic Bank has been up for privatization since 2008. Tetangco said while there were some interested parties, the Bangko Sentral has been waiting for concrete information from these parties. Al-Amanah traces its roots to the Philippine Amanah Bank, which was established by late President Ferdinand Marcos in 1973 with an initial capital of P100 million. Its charter originally allowed it to open in the provinces of Basilan, Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Palawan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte and Sur because of the large Muslim population.‐eyes‐amending‐al‐amanah‐charter/      

DOJ eyes bigger fish behind SARO scam By Rey E. Requejo | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:01am   THE Justice Department said Monday it is not ruling out the possibility that someone higher than the so-called “supremo” is behind the syndicate that falsified special allotment release orders (SAROs) in the Department of Budget and Management. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) were pursuing this angle, apart from the possible involvement of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.De Lima earlier said Relampagos was among those being investigated because some of his staff, including his secretary, driver and janitor, had been implicated as members of the syndicate.“The investigators are particularly interested in Undersecretary Relampagos,” she said.De Lima also disclosed that the DBM official has already submitted a statement with the NBI, explaining his side of the SARO controversy. She declined to divulge the contents of his statement. However, a source at the NBI who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that Relampagos merely denied any involvement in the scam. De Lima said Relampagos would most likely be invited for questioning. The Palace said it would wait until the Justice Department concludes its investigation before taking any action. Earlier, it said it would not suspend Relampagos while the probe was ongoing. “At this point we will just await result of investigation. It is still in progress,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said. “What is the right thing to do now is to allow the evidence to point the direction of the inquiry,” Coloma added. The Manila Standard tried to reach Budget Secretary Florencio Abad repeatedly but he did not take calls and did not reply to text messages. NBI probers have already verified that the SAROs for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan provinces involving projects worth P161 million and P77 million, respectively, were falsified. De Lima said the initial probe showed that DBM personnel led by a certain “supremo” -- who apparently is a woman -- and the staff of several congressmen were involved in the racket. De Lima also said that evidence pointed to a consultant of Aklan Rep. Teodoro Haresco as source of the two fake SAROs. Before being elected congressional representative, Haresco was 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. De Lima gave the NBI until end of this month to complete its investigation and submit its report. The fake SAROs were discovered in November at the height of the pork barrel mess involving businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles who allegedly used non-existent foundations to divert Priority Development Assistance Funds and Malampaya Funds with the help of several lawmakers and implementing government agencies. Leaders at the House of Representatives said they would not conduct their own investigation into the fake SAROs and leave it to the Justice Department. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., AKO-Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, 1-BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III, in separate interviews with Manila Standard, said they see no need for a congressional investigation. “Let the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] continue its investigation,” Belmonte said. Batocabe agreed, saying a congressional investigation would only duplicate the Justice Department efforts. Bello added that it would be moot and academic to put up measures to safeguard the integrity of SAROs since the Budget Department has already discarded the use of the documents. But ABAKA party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz insisted that Congress should conduct its own probe. “Definitely, Congress should investigate this and not leave everything to the NBI and DOJ,” Dela Cruz said, even as he urged his colleagues to act on his pending resolutions on fake SAROs. “I have filed two resolutions long ago on DBM practices including the fake SAROs. In fact the latest is in the COA [Commission on Audit] report on the 1,358 missing fake unregistered and double numbered SAROs which put into question 42,398 DBM-issued SAROs with a face value of P1.942 trillion,” Dela Cruz said. He said the fake SAROs were “the biggest scam” that should not be left to the executive branch to investigate. But Belmonte said he doubted if SAROs can again be falsified since they have been abolished under the 2014 national budget. -- With Maricel V. Cruz and Joyce Pangco Panares‐eyes‐bigger‐fish‐behind‐saro‐scam/  

Housing for storm survivors not done by 2016 By Joel E. Zurbano | Jan. 07, 2014 at 12:01am   PUBLIC Works officials admitted Monday the construction of permanent housing for families rendered homeless by super typhoon Yolanda will not be done by 2016, when President Benigno Aquino III leaves office. In a press briefing, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson promised his department would do it best, but said realistically, the permanent shelter program will not be completed in two years. “We’re not saying everything will be done in two years. We’re telling you it can’t, with the scale of devastation there,” he said. Singson said the government is looking for areas where they can build permanent housing. Another agency official, who declined to be named, seconded Singson. “The problem is where will we construct the (permanent) houses? We can’t put the houses anywhere. It should be government property,” the official said. “If there is available government land, we have to develop it and of course, there are too many houses to be built, and that is not an easy task to do. Even if there is a budget, it will be hard to do because there’s no land,” the official added. “One thing is for sure, we can’t do it in two years.” Local government officials or non-government organizations can help identify areas where the department can build permanent shelters, the official said. President Benigno Aquino III earlier tapped Singson to hasten the construction of temporary bunk houses and permanent shelters. The agency has completed the construction of more than 150 bunk houses which will serve as temporary shelter of more than 3,300 affected families. On Monday, Singson said he would resign if allegations of overpricing in the construction of the bunkhouses were proven true. “It is not overpriced. If it is overpriced, the following day I will submit my resignation to President Aquino,” Singson said. “There might be a possibility that some of the contractors may have not followed the specifications, and therefore we call them [but] those are two different problems: overpricing and under specification,” he said.

Presidential assistant on rehabilitation and recovery Secretary Panfilo Lacson said he received reports of alleged kickbacks ranging from 30 percent to 35 percent in the construction of bunkhouses. “I’m looking at a possible collusion between some favored contractors and politicians including a reported 30 to 35 percent kickback involved,” said Lacson, who already tapped the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to help him in the probe. But Singson said he does not know where the reports are coming from since the contractors have not been paid yet. He said the government entered into a general agreement with the contractors who volunteered to construct the bunkhouses, but these companies will not be paid unless they complied with the specifications set by the Department of Public Works and Highways. “We have not paid any of the contractors yet up to this point because we only asked them on a voluntary basis to mobilize as quickly as possible. So two things can happen: If the contractors did not follow the specifications that we gave them, they will not be paid unless they correct or rectify or retrofit to meet our standards,” Singson said. “Now, in some instances, I imagine rather than retrofitting—because most of them have already mobilized—they will probably just donate some of these units rather than spend for retrofitting,” he added. Singson said allegations of overpricing were probably caused by “local politics” in Eastern Samar, but he did not elaborate. “There is politics involved, that much I can tell you,” he said. Singson said he will go to Tacloban Tuesday to inspect the bunkhouses being built. He said contractors have also been advised to follow the recommendations of some international organizations, including the United Nations, regarding security, ventilation, sewerage systems and cramped spaces. With Joyce P. Pañares‐for‐storm‐survivors‐not‐done‐by‐ 2016/      

Align Philippine Customs administration with global standards January 7, 2014 9:39 am   To achieve efficiency and negate opportunities for corruption, there is a need to modernize and upgrade the country’s customs administration in consonance with international standards, a lawmaker today stressed. Rep. Raneo E. Abu (2nd District, Batangas) is author of HB 3339 or the proposed “Customs Modernization Act (CMA) of 2013” which seeks to align customs administration with the guidelines set under the World Customs Convention (WCO) of which the Philippines is a member. “WCO-member states, including the Philippines, have all adopted the Revised Kyoto Convention (RKC),” Rep. Abu said. The RKC, Abu explained, is an update of the Kyoto Convention which simplified and harmonized the customs procedures due to factors such as the pervading globalization and the rapid transformation of international trade patterns and advances in information technology. The RKC was created to respond to the needs of providing a balance between customs functions of control and revenue collection and that of trade facilitation, Abu said. “The proposed Act seeks to give teeth to the intents of RKC by promoting the professionalism of customs administration even as it reduces the susceptibility of businesses and citizens to corrupt customs practices,” the Batangas lawmaker added. As a WCO member, the Philippines has already acceded to the RKC when the Senate passed Senate Resolution No. 220 entitled “Resolution Concurring with the Ratification of the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (as amended)” in February 2010, the author recalled. Abu pointed out that the country stands to gain enormous benefits and advantages like the other WCO states in terms of cost reduction of clearing customs in member states. Likewise, there is also the reduction in delays of getting the export-goods in because of unanimity in customs administration among member states. “Our exporting community does not have to learn as many separate sets of customs procedures as there are many importing countries in the world,” Abu further pointed out. One of the many salient sections of HB 3339 provides that “Customs shall apply information and communications technology to enhance customs control and support a cost-effective and

efficient customs operations geared towards a paperless customs environment using internationally accepted standards.” Among other penalty provisions, HB 3339 provides that any (responsible) person who fails to keep all the records of importations and/or books of accounts, business and computer systems and all customs commercial data in the manner prescribed in the proposed Act shall be punished with a fine of not less than P200,000.00 but not more than P300,000.00 and/or imprisonment of not less than two (2) years and one (1) day but not more than six (6) years. The said penalty shall also be imposed against importers brokers who deny an authorized customs officers full and free access to such records, books of accounts, business and computer systems, and all customs commercial data including payment records. “This is without prejudice to the administrative sanctions that the Bureau of Customs may impose against the contumacious importers under existing laws and regulations including the authority to hold delivery or release of their imported articles,” Abut said. HB 3339 contains the provision that mandates the Bureau of Customs “shall ensure that all information of general application pertaining to customs, including revisions or amendments thereto, shall be available to the general public.” HB 3339 has been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo (2nd District, Marikina City) for appropriate consideration. PNA‐philippine‐customs‐administration‐with‐global‐ standards/65716/                    

PAGASA cautions vs. “rough” waters in Luzon, Visayas January 7, 2014 9:36 am   The government’s weather agency warned about sailing in waters off the eastern seaboards of southern Luzon and the Visayas, expecting “rough to very rough” sea conditions with waves 3.4to 4.5-meter high due to strong to gale force winds from the prevailing northeast monsoon or ‘hanging amihan.’ ”Fishing boats and other small seacraft are advised not to venture out into the sea while larger sea vessels are alerted against big waves,” PAGASA said in its 5:00 a.m. gale warning issued Tuesday. PAGASA expects 52 kph to 63 kph winds in the eastern seaboards covering the Camarines provinces, Catanduanes province, and the eastern coast of Albay, Sorsogon and Quezon provinces including Polillo Island as well as Samar and Leyte provinces. Cloudy skies with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms are forecast in the areas, PAGASA added. The northeast monsoon associated with cloudiness and rains is already affecting Luzon, PAGASA noted. PAGASA added ’amihan’ affects the country’s eastern portions from October to late March. PNA‐cautions‐vs‐rough‐waters‐in‐luzon‐visayas/65714/                 

Cloudiness, rains still forecast for PH January 7, 2014 9:34 am   The government’s weather agency forecast cloudiness and some rain in the country within the next 24 hours (until 5:00 a.m. Wednesday) and urged caution in sailing due to expected moderate to rough waters in Luzon and Visayas. ”The Visayas and Mindanao will experience cloudy skies with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms,” the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said in its 5:00 a.m. 24-hour weather forecast released Tuesday. PAGASA attributed such expected conditions to the trough of a low pressure area that is affecting Mindanao. ”Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains,” PAGASA continued. The northeast monsoon or ‘amihan’ wind associated with cloudiness and rains is already affecting Luzon, PAGASA noted. ’Amihan’ affects the country’s eastern portions from October to late March. ”Moderate to strong winds blowing from the northeast will prevail over the eastern sections of Southern Luzon and the Visayas and the coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough,” as PAGASA further reminded the public to take precaution when sailing. In other areas of the country, PAGASA said winds will be “light to moderate” coming from the northeast with slight to moderate seas. PNA‐rains‐still‐forecast‐for‐ph/65712/               

Expect colder days ahead: PAGASA January 7, 2014 9:24 am   The government’s weather agency is reminding people in Luzon to prepare for colder weather, as the temperature in Luzon is expected to further dip in the coming days due to the northeast monsoon or ‘hanging amihan’ that is already affecting the island. ”The northeast monsoon that peaks in January and February already prevails in Luzon so expect temperature in the evening and at dawn to be colder,” said weatherman Fernando Cada of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). He noted available historical PAGASA data indicate lowest average temperature of 21°C can be expected in Metro Manila. ”We’re not expecting such temperature to dip lower than that,” he said. PAGASA, however, added that temperature in the mountain resort of Baguio City can drop to 11°C. Starting over Siberia as cold, dry air mass, PAGASA said the northeast monsoon gathers moisture as it travels across the Pacific Ocean. PAGASA said the northeast monsoon affects the country’s eastern portions from October to late March. ’Amihan’ is characterized by “widespread” cloudiness with rains or showers, PAGASA noted. PNA‐colder‐days‐ahead‐pagasa/65710/               

DOH lists 3 ‘triggers’ in resurgence of measles January 6, 2014 10:02 pm   by GHIO ONG CORRESPONDENT Health Secretary Enrique Ona vaccinates a child against measles at the Welfareville Compound in Mandaluyong City. PNA The exodus of people from typhoon-ravaged areas, the limited access to health services in poor areas and the reluctance of some parents to have their children vaccinated are being cited by the Department of Health (DOH) as having set off the surge in measles cases in Metro Manila. Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the migration could be a contributing factor to the outbreak. “The numbers started to rise in September last year,” Ona said. So far, three measles-related deaths have been reported in Metro Manila—one each in Caloocan, Malabon, Muntinlupa. The DOH said that last year’s measles cases jumped to 417 from the 45 reported in 2012. Most of the patients came from the cities of Las Piñas, Malabon, Muntinlupa, Quezon, Pasay, Taguig, Manila, Caloocan, Parañaque, Makati and Valenzuela. Only the cities of Muntinlupa and Malabon had one confirmed deaths each. Health Undersecretary Janet Garin said the spike in measles cases was also triggered by the earthquake in Bohol in October and the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda in Visayas in November, which exposed affected residents to the disease. Garin said some parents refused to let their children be given anti-measles vaccine shots at health centers. She noted that areas where measles cases were reported were the same places where dengue and Chikungunya outbreaks were reported. To control the measles outbreak, the DOH plans to vaccinate all children in outbreak areas. The agency is targeting a 95 percent immunization coverage not only in Metro Manila but in all cities, municipalities and provinces.

In a meeting Monday, health officials in Metro Manila admitted that some areas in the country were only up to 85-percent immunized, and there areas with a “very alarming” 45-percent rate. Only 6 percent of the available measles vaccine was administered to children last year. The Philippines aims to be measles-free by 2017, which means that for every one million Filipinos, there should only be one laboratory-confirmed case. Health officials said the law requires two doses of measles vaccines for children once they reach nine months and 12 to 15 months.‐lists‐3‐triggers‐in‐resurgence‐of‐measles/65667/                                  

Nazarene procession to last 12 hours January 6, 2014 10:01 pm   by ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ REPORTER OFFICIALS of Quiapo church and the City of Manila are expecting this year’s traslacion, or the annual procession in honor of the Black Nazarene, to last 11 to 12 hours because it will not pass through McArthur Bridge like last year. Monsignor Clemente Ignacio of Quiapo Church on Tuesday said they considered the suggestion of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) not to make the procession pass through MacArthur Bridge because of structural defects. The procession will instead pass through Jones Bridge, he said. Ignacio admitted that officials will have difficulty guiding devotees who have gotten used to the old route. Eduardo V. Santos, OIC Assistant Division Chief of the maintenance division of the DPWH said there was no problem with the MacArthur bridge but that the government wants to ensure the safety of the devotees. Manila vice Mayor Isko Moreno said the city engineering will install steel barricades and deploy personnel to guide Nazarene devotees in coordination with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). MMDA Chairman Francisco Tolentino said his office will deploy the same people who were sent to Eastern Visayas for relief and rescue after Super Typhoon Yolanda. He said 4,000 policemen will be deployed. Fr. Ric Valencia Jr., parochial vicar, said more people are expected to join the procession this year because of the series of calamities that hit the country in 2013. “We have indicators. We saw how people increased last Christmas, New Year and then again last First Friday and this is because we went through several tragedies and calamities,” he said. Church officials said the “Andas” [carriage] carrying the image of the Black Nazarene has been strengthened to avoid any accidents like last year when its tire disentangled. The city of Manila is seeking to make the annual procession of The Black Nazarene as an “international pilgrimage of the saint,” beginning this year.

“As you can see it is not just one city celebrating. We are making it an international annual event and besides it has long been accredited by the Department of Tourism as spiritual tourism,” Liz Villaseñor, chief of the Manila Tourism and Cultural Affairs, said. She said that this is the first time that the feast of The Black Nazarene will be declared as an international event.‐procession‐to‐last‐12‐hours/65661/                                      

Search for new Army chief starts January 6, 2014 10:00 pm   by WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL THE search is on for a new commanding general of the Philippine Army, according to military chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista. Bautista on Monday disclosed that the senior leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now on the process of evaluating the most qualified candidates for the top Army post. Topping the list is Maj. Gen. Pio Catapang, chief of the Northern Luzon Command. The process starts with the Board of Senior Officers, which submits its recommendations subject to review by the Board of Generals. The search for new Army chief is necessitated by the coming retirement of Army chief Maj. Gen. Noel Coballes, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on February 7. Catapang downplayed reports that he could be the next Army chief, saying that his focus is on his present assignment. Catapang, a member of Philippine Military Academy “Dimalupic” Class of 1981, assumed his Nolcom chief on July 5, 2013. He was the former commander of the 703rd Infantry Brigade before he became chief of the 7th Infantry Division.‐for‐new‐army‐chief‐starts/65659/                 

Govt agencies set clocks to PH standard time January 6, 2014 9:58 pm   by CANDICE MONIQUE O. BRILLON Government offices simultaneously synchronized their clocks to Philippine Standard Time (PhST) on Monday. Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo said that PhST aims at improving the ‘Filipino Time’ attitude and increase productivity and effectiveness in the country. “Time is a great equalizer. Punctuality will lead to discipline and motivated Filipinos,” Montejo said. National government agencies, State universities and Colleges, government-owned and controlled corporation, local governments and government televisions and radio stations are required to synchronize their clocks to PhST from Pagasa’s Time Service Unit at least once a month. A government employee or officer will be administratively liable if he fails to calibrate time devices in PhST. “PhST is a tool to change the negative culture of Filipinos in respect with time management. In the next 10 years upon implementation, there will be positive changes when it comes to punctuality among Filiinos,” Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, author of the Philippine Standard Time law, said. “Time is a great equalizer. Whether you are poor or rich, you only have 60 minutes in an hour. Filipinos should have one mindset when it comes to being on time. Enough of the ‘Filipino time’ tradition,” he added.‐agencies‐set‐clocks‐to‐ph‐standard‐time/65651/         

Rumored GMA-Erap-Ramos troika betrays Aquino trait January 6, 2014 9:55 pm   by JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA REPORTER THE opposition on Monday criticized Malacañang for an attempt to cast in bad light the decision of former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Fidel Ramos to visit and check on the condition of former President Gloria Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in December. Rep. Toby Tiangco, secretary general of the United Nationalist Alliance was referring to rumors about an alleged alliance being formed between Estrada, Ramos and Arroyo for 2016. Tiangco expressed belief that the Malacañang has all the reasons to concoct such rumor because the gestures of Estrada and Ramos has shown President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s lack of compassion toward others, including Arroyo. “It has shown how vindictive this administration is, that is why they are looking for ways to cover it up and spreading alliance rumors is one of them,” Tiangco said in a telephone interview as he denied the supposed alliance of the three former leaders. Aside from Estrada and Ramos, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, a vocal critic of Arroyo, also visited the former leader, as well as Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus Is Lord Movement. Communication secretary Herminio Coloma, in an earlier statement said that the president has no plans to visit Arroyo and that such move is not the priority of the president. Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, on the other hand said that the president has more important things to be worried about instead of the alleged political alliance of the three former chief executives of the country. According to Trillanes, Aquino should be more concerned of the public reaction to the rising costs of commodities and services, which his administration has been ignoring. Trillanes said that the increasing public dismay of the Aquino-led administration could make him vulnerable. “Because a public furor or dismay on the way he’s governing may render him politically vulnerable to concessions or mass actions that may be taken advantage of by interest groups,” Trillanes said.

He added it is important for the president to come up with a concrete solution that will address the continuous increase on the prices of commodities. Among the issues that need to be addressed is the power rate hikes which according to Trillanes can be remedied by the government though various means. Trillanes said that government could use the proceeds from Malampaya Gas Project to subsidize the impending increase since the move is energy-related.‐gma‐erap‐ramos‐troika‐betrays‐aquino‐trait/65647/                                    

Frost damage on crops negligible; profiteering traders warned January 6, 2014 9:53 pm   by JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday warned unscrupulous traders who are taking advantage of the reported frost incidence in Northern Luzon, and selling their vegetable products way above prevailing market prices. In a press conference, Jenny Remoquillo, director of the DA’s High Value Crop Development Program, said that they are now coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry for possible sanctions against traders caught overpricing vegetable products. “Based on the result of our monitoring team, there should not be any increase in the prices of vegetables from Benguet as damage due to frost remained negligible,” Remoquilo said. 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). She also noted that the recent uptick in prices of vegetable at the start of the year was a result of increased demand as people go back to Metro Manila after the long holiday. “It’s an issue of supply and demand as people go back from their vacation. But it should not be drastic . . . about P1 increase is enough,” the official said. The director said that they are now coordinating with alternative suppliers of upland vegetable from Nueva Vizcaya, Laguna and Quezon provinces to keep prices stable. To address frosting in Benguet, Remoquillo said that they are now mobilizing all resources to address frosting on vegetables in three-affected barangay of Benguet, adding that they expect no further incident until cold weather dissipate by February. To date, only three hectares of cultivation areas for semi-temperate vegetables (such as cabbage, lettuce, carrots, potatoes, beans and pechay) in Barangay Paoay, Atok and Barangay Madaymen in Kibungan town were affected by the frost. “Of the total affected areas, only a fourth of a hectare was totally damaged. The value of damage was placed at P335,000,” she said. “The damage remain minimal considering that Paoay has 633 hectares, while Madaymen has 97 hectares dedicated for vegetable cultivation,” she added.

Meanwhile, Remoquillo said that they have already positioned short- and long-term interventions, noting that they have earmarked P5-million grant to be released by the DACordillera Administrative Region for the procurement of equipment and installation of new irrigation system. “This week, we will also deliver 10 units of power sprayers, 50 plastic drums, and plastic sheets that would be used to repair damaged rain shelters. The equipment will arrive this week to help farmers prevent reoccurrence of frosting,” she said. A team of engineers will also design a so-called step-up irrigation system that would improve water supply in upland areas as part of the long-term solution to frosting, which has become an annual incident, Remoquillo noted. At present, vegetable farmers are still using small community reservoirs for their water supply.‐damage‐on‐crops‐negligible‐profiteering‐traders‐ warned/65639/                              

HOUSE OPEN TO MOVE SCHOOL CALENDAR January 6, 2014 9:51 pm   by JHOANNA BALLARAN The House of Representatives is open to the suggestion of moving the opening of classes to August or September, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Monday. Belmonte said the House is “open to listening to the arguments” to examine the benefits and disadvantages of changing the school calendar from June to March to September to May. House Bill 104 filed by Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla of Cavite seeks to change the opening of classes because of heavy rains and typhoons that usually lash the country from June to September. Once the proposed measure is approved, it will apply to all public and private educational institutions from elementary to tertiary level.

BSP seen retaining policy January 6, 2014 9:34 pm   by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO REPORTER The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) may retain its policy rate settings despite a higher inflation rate projection this year, Metrobank Group’s investment banking arm said on Monday. In an economic briefing dubbed as “FMIC Philippines 2014: Resiliency Amidst Uncertainty,” First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC) said that the inflation rate for 2014 may rise up to 4 percent on the account of the impact of recent weather disturbances. “Inflation rate, because of the recent effects of the disruptions in terms of supply chain may rise to about 3.8 percent to 4 percent,” Dr. Victor Abola, economist at the University of Asian and the Pacific, said. He added that the inflation rate environment will remain manageable as it will still be at the 3percent to 5-percent target band of the central bank. “We don’t foresee the BSP changing the policy rates for the year,” FMIC Senior Vice President Reynaldo Montalbo Jr. said. The firm also said that the inflation rate is likely to continue its upward movement in the early part of the year, but is anticipated to decelerate before the year ends. Montalbo noted that if the inflation rate would rise beyond 1 percent, then the BSP is seen adjust its policy rates that will have an effect on local interest rates. “In the first half [of 2014], we see interest rates going higher but on the second half, once we see the impact of the US economic recovery and the [Fed] tapering then we see interest rates falling,” he said. For his part, FMIC President Roberto Juanchito Dispo said that once the inflation rate goes beyond 4 percent, the BSP is seen to adjust policy rates by 25 basis points (bps) to 50 bps. “The BSP is now operating in the interest rate corridor situation. Wherein the higher end of the interest rate is the policy rate which is 3.5 percent and the de facto core of the policy rate is the SDA [special deposit account] rate which is 2 percent,” he said. On the other hand, Abola said that the BSP will look for signs that inflation will normalize below 4 percent, adding, “If BSP sees that, it will delay any rate hike either in the SDA or the policy rate for the second semester.”

The economist also noted that inflation is not likely to be major concern because of the softening crude oil prices, which is projected at $95 a barrel, and better rice output in the first half of 2014. Peso-dollar rate Meanwhile, FMIC also said that the Philippine peso this year may average between P43 and P46 a dollar. In terms of remittances, the firm said that growth rate is seen at 6 percent to 7 percent as demand for overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) will be sustained this year. FMIC added that OFWs will send more money to their families, particularly to those affected by the natural disasters in Central Philippines.

Registration and renewal of business name January 6, 2014 9:28 pm   Dear DTI Consumer Power, I am currently working on the documentary requirements needed to open my own business. I know that one of which is a certificate of business name registration. What do I need to present to register the name of my nail salon? Does it take too long to get a certificate? Paola, Pasig Dear Paola, For any business to become a success, it has to be identified. Aside from the nature of a business, its name will set it apart from the rest. For single proprietorships, they are required to apply for business name with the DTI. While for partnerships, corporations and cooperatives, they are to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Here are some of the important things to know about business name registration: 1. What are the documentary requirements in business name registration? • Filled-out application form with at least three proposed business names; and • Original copy of identification card/document. 2. What identification cards are acceptable for business name registration? Original copy of any of the following is acceptable for presentation to the DTI Field Office concerned: • Passport • Valid Driver’s License • Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) ID • National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Clearance • Police Clearance • Postal ID • Voter’s ID

• Government System Insurance System (GSIS) Unified Multi-Purpose ID • Social Security System (SSS) ID • Tax Identification Number (TIN) ID • Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) ID • Seaman’s Book • Government Office and GOCC-issued ID (e.g. AFP, HDMF, PhilHealth) • Integrated Bar of the Philippines ID • Senior Citizen ID • Person With Disability (PWD) ID 3. How much does one pay for the business name registration? The registration fee varies depending on the territorial scope of your business name. The fees are as follows: • P200 for barangay only registration • P500 for city/municipality only registration • P1,000 for regional only registration • P2,000 for national registration In addition, a P15 documentary stamp tax is also assessed once the business name registration is approved and a certificate is issued. 4. What is territorial scope/applicability of a business name registration? Territorial scope/applicability of business name registration refers to an area within which the applicant’s right to use the registered business name shall be confined. It may be within a barangay, a city or municipality, a region, or nationwide in coverage. 5. How do I get my business name registered? You can register a business name through the Philippine Business Registry (PBR) via URL address This is a web-based system that facilitates business registrationrelated transactions by integrating all agencies involved in business registration, such as the

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Social Security System (SSS), Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), local government units (LGUs) and other permit/license-issuing agencies. PBR applications for sole proprietorship may be done through DTI offices nationwide. The application process includes the following steps: a. The applicant fills out the PBR application form and submits to DTI teller for encoding. b. Applicant’s taxpayer identification number (TIN) is required to proceed since PBR number (PBN) is based on the TIN. If there’s an existing TIN, PBR will validate against records. If there’s no TIN yet, PBR will generate for the client. c. The applicant pays for the BN registration at the Cashier, and presents the receipt to the teller. d. The teller submits application to SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG, then prints and hands over business name certificate, copy of BN application form and official receipt. e. The teller provides the employer’s registration numbers (ERNs) from SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG through a filled out application form. An e-mail notification indicating the ERNs issued by these agencies can also be retrieved by an applicant in his/her email account. f. Applicant may proceed to the said agencies to get certificate or employer’s ID. Just present the PBR-generated ERNs. 6. How long is the validity of my business name registration? The BN registration is valid for five years from the date of issuance, unless voluntarily revoked or cancelled prior its expiration. 7. When is the renewal period of a business name? Renewal of registration should be made within six months immediately following its expiration date. For further queries on business name registration and renewal, consumers may contact DTI Direct 751-3330 or 0917-8343330. ***

The Department of Trade and Industry welcomes all inquiries, complaints, comments and suggestions from consumers. Call DTI Direct at 751.3330 from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visit the DTI website


Posted on January 06, 2014 10:02:17 PM

Oil firms reduce diesel, kerosene prices LOWER FUEL prices will welcome motorists starting today as oil companies implemented the  first rollback for the year ‐‐ a break from several consecutive price increases since November  last year ‐‐ to track movements in the international oil market.  Petron Corp., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., PTT Philippines     Corp., SEAOIL Philippines, Inc. and Phoenix Petroleum  Philippines, Inc. yesterday announced price cuts of 25 centavos  per liter on kerosene and 45 centavos per liter on diesel effective 12:01 a.m. today.    Meanwhile, Eastern Petroleum Corp. implemented a higher rollback of 60 centavos per liter on  diesel.    Gasoline prices were unchanged.    Phoenix Petroleum said in its advisory that the lower prices “reflect the softening in the price of  refined petroleum products in the international market.”    Meanwhile, Eastern Petroleum Chief Executive Fernando L. Martinez said in a text message that  lower fuel prices can be attributed to “oversupply” of petroleum in the world market.    Other oil firms have yet to announce price adjustments.    This adjustment followed hefty price increases of P1.14 per liter on gasoline, 75 centavos per  liter on diesel and 60 centavos per liter on kerosene implemented by oil companies on Dec. 31.    Prices of Dubai crude ‐‐ the benchmark used by most of Asia ‐‐ are at $103.77 per barrel  yesterday from $107.34 per barrel last week.    Meanwhile, as of Jan. 3, international prices of diesel are at $124 per barrel, from $127 per  barrel the previous week.    Prices of gasoline are at $119 per barrel this week, from $121 per barrel last week.    Latest data from the Energy department’s Web site showed gasoline was worth between  P48.75 per liter to P54.90 per liter, while diesel prices ranged from P41.90 per liter to P46.15 

per liter.    Last week, cooking gas dealers also implemented price cuts on their liquefied petroleum gas  (LPG) products. Petron ‐‐ the largest dealer of LPG in the country ‐‐ reduced the prices of Gasul  and Fiesta Gas brands by P7.65 per kilogram. It also cut the prices of its Xtend auto LPG brand  by P4.27 per liter.    Total Philippines, Inc. also cut the prices of its LPG cylinder products by P6.75 per kilogram. ‐‐  Claire‐Ann Marie C. Feliciano‐firms‐reduce‐diesel,‐ kerosene‐prices&id=81598                               

Posted on January 06, 2014 10:00:52 PM

Aquino to bare priorities this Friday PRESIDENT Benigno S. C. Aquino III will announce his priorities and expectations this 2014  during the traditional New Year’s reception scheduled on Friday, a Palace official yesterday  said.  “At the end of the week, there will also be the traditional New     Year’s reception for Philippine officialdom and the Diplomatic  Corps, known as the Vin D’Honneur. This is the President’s first  opportunity to communicate his priorities and expectations, as well as his hopes, for the  coming year,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing.    On Wednesday, Mr. Aquino will attend the launch of the new Metropolitan Manila  Development Authority traffic signal system and command and control center.    The President, also on Wednesday, will attend the presentation of credentials by non‐resident  ambassadors. “This meeting embodies government’s desire to further build on our  relationships with the international community, towards creating more mutually beneficial  opportunities in the year ahead,” Mr. Lacierda said.    “All of these cap what will be a busy week for President Aquino, as he touches base with  members of his Cabinet to ensure that the momentum of 2013 is carried over into the New  Year, in which several significant objectives are due to be realized within the first quarter,” he  said.    “Among these are the transition from relief to recovery and reconstruction for areas affected  by Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), as well as the signing of the annex on  normalization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamaro,” he added.    The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have said last month that the fourth  and final annex of the comprehensive peace agreement will be completed this month.    “The parties are confident that they will finish the annex on normalization and an addendum on  the matter of Bangsamoro Waters in order to complete the comprehensive peace agreement  between the government and the MILF in January 2014,” the panels said in a statement last  Dec. 8.   

“In 2014, we will also be working closely with the Transition Commission and Congress to  ensure the smooth passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” the parties have earlier said.    The panels have so far signed the transitional modalities, wealth‐sharing annex and the power‐ sharing annex.    Mr. Lacierda said the Aquino administration shares the optimism and hope of Filipinos.    “Above all, we share their drive to hit the ground running, and to realize within this year the  majority of our dreams for the nation ‐‐ a just and final peace, the building back better of  resilient communities, and inclusive, meaningful progress for all,” he said. ‐‐ Kathryn Mae P.  Tubadeza‐to‐bare‐priorities‐ this‐Friday&id=81595                               

Posted on January 06, 2014 10:07:30 PM

Davao farmers eye world chocolate market DAVAO CITY ‐‐ Cacao farmers in the Davao Region are dreaming big, hoping to break into the  international chocolate bar market.  Cacao Fruits ‐‐ Carmencita A. Carillo  “Our chocolate bars were warmly accepted in Manila,     especially at the Duty Free Shops, so we decided that it is now  time to introduce it to the foreign market,” Charita P.  Puentespina, president of Malagos Agricultural Ventures Corp. (Malagos Agri‐Ventures) said.    The company is starting the year off by joining the San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Show, the  largest food and beverage trade show in the United States’ West Coast, scheduled Jan. 19‐21.    Malagos Agri‐Ventures’ 65% dark chocolate bar, sold at P120/bar in the Philippines, has already  received an 8.3/10 rating from New‐York‐based premium chocolate reviewer C‐Spot, even  before the bar’s debut in the foreign market.    “This chocolate bar consists of pure chocolate liqueur with butterfat, compared with most  chocolate products in the market which are compounds and contain sugar and other  ingredients,” Ms. Puentespina said.    This early, Malagos Agri‐Ventures is already taking inquiries from Europe for its chocolate bars.  The company produces up to 900 bars daily in its production house in Malagos, Calinan, Davao.    The bars are distributed in all the company’s outlets here and in Manila.    While the Puentespinas own 27 hectares planted with cacao, they are working with 50 farmers  who own up to 100 hectares planted with cacao, to continuously export and supply fermented  dry beans to Mars, Inc. ‐‐ producer of chocolate sweets such as M&M’s, Snickers and Milky  Way.    Ms. Puentespina said that Mars wants all the cacao beans it can get; her group is looking at  shipping up to 100,000 metric tons of beans to the US‐based company by 2020. 

According to the Malagos Agri‐Ventures chief, the peak season for cacao harvest is from  October to January, when the growers can get up to 60% of their expected total harvest from  the trees. The trees tend to produce fewer fruits during the rest of the year.    Ms. Puentespina said that the company is able to produce, on the average, around 2,300 tons  of dried beans per year, but it is looking to improve productivity.    All beans from Malagos are fermented, solar‐dried and sorted based on international  standards. The company has an indoor solar dryer to ensure that the beans are not  contaminated by odor and dirt. It also takes pride in its high‐tech ball mill, which can grind  cacao beans to up to 25 microns, making possible the production of high‐quality chocolates.    Mars is not the only firm which has relied on Davao’s cacao beans for years. Askinosie  Chocolate, based in Missouri, also gets its cacao beans from the city. Owner Shawn Askinosie  has even visited Malagos to formalize partnerships with the local farmers, giving birth to several  chocolate bars now sold globally and branded for their Davao origin. The Davao White  Chocolate Nibble Bar, in particular, was later named one of the Ten Best Chocolate Bars in the  World by The Times of London.    Another local firm that has entered the global chocolate market is Tsokolate de San Isidro, Inc.  (CSI), which is 30% owned by farmers’ cooperatives in San Isidro, Davao del Norte.    “Our ready‐to‐eat chocolate bars are still under product development but will be commercially  available soon,” said Dante R. Muyco, CSI marketing director. The company has made its  Sikwate chocolate bar available for product testing during trade fairs, including the Davao  Agricultural Trade Expo held last October.    In the meantime, the company ships raw chocolate. Mr. Muyco said CSI produces up to 10,000  metric tons of tablea pure cacao beans, and 80% of these go to Manila. But, the firm has also  been exporting up to 300 MT of cacao beans to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and  Malaysia annually since 2009.    Notably, CSI obtained a Sustainable Agriculture Network Standard and Rainforest Alliance  certification for environment protection, economic viability and social protection. So far, it is  the only rainforest‐certified cacao group in the country.    CSI started its operations in 2004 after San Isidro was paired with cacao for the Department of 

Trade and Industry’s One‐Town‐One‐Product program. San Isidro has almost 4,000 hectares  planted with cacao, making tablea production the main source of livelihood of its residents.    The company consists of six farmers’ cooperatives with up to 500 farmer‐members.  “Cooperatives are the key to uplifting the lives of small farmer‐holders, and this has been  proven with CSI,” Mr. Muyco said.    The challenge for them now is increasing farms’ productivity, so they can produce at least two  kilograms of dried cacao beans per tree, compared with the present industry production of 400  g/tree.    The global cacao market needs up to 90,000 tons of cacao every year. ‐‐ C.A. Carillo‐farmers‐eye‐ world‐chocolate‐market&id=81607                               

Posted on January 06, 2014 09:36:34 PM

P100‐B fund raising in the works FIRST METRO Investment Corp. (FMIC) is arranging more than P100 billion worth of fund  raising for this year, a senior company official said yesterday, underscoring the country’s  healthy debt market.TRADERS are shown celebrating the first trading day of the year in Makati  City in this photo taken last Jan. 2. ‐‐ JLCSpeaking to reporters on the sidelines of an FMIC‐ sponsored economic briefing in Makati City, Justino R. Ocampo, head of the firm’s investment  banking group, said his company was working on P60 billion worth of project financing, P50  billion worth of bond issuances and P15‐30 billion worth of initial public offerings (IPOs) all  expected to be executed this year.    Mr. Ocampo said three energy firms have tapped FMIC for project financing given “the need  for higher [power] capacity.” He would not identify the companies.“For the bond issuance, we  are involved in FDC, PLDT, JG Summit and MNTC,” Mr. Ocampo said referring to firms, which  last year announced plans to tap the debt market.Filinvest Development Corp. (FDC) late last  month secured the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) approval for the sale of P10  billion worth of fixed‐rate bonds. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) last month  said it had filed with SEC an application to sell P10 billion worth of fixed‐rate bonds, with  oversubscription option of up to P5 billion. JG Summit Holdings, Inc. last November announced  that it would sell up to P30 billion worth of retail bonds ‐‐ including P10 billion for  overallotment ‐‐ to partly fund the P72‐billion acquisition of San Miguel Group’s 27% stake in  Manila Electric Co. Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) in the same month announced that it  would be raising P7 billion from to finance tollway projects. PLDT, JG Summit, and MNTC have  yet to secure SEC approval.Mr. Ocampo also said FMIC has been “working on a few” IPOs of  companies involved in consumer and property sectors. The IPOs, worth P5‐10 billion each,  could reach an aggregate value of as much as P30 billion. He would not elaborate on the  number and identity of firms planning to go public.Last year, FMIC was involved in a number of  equity and bond offerings.    FMIC was one of the underwriters of the Philippine Business Bank’s and Asia United Bank  Corp.’s P3.2‐billion and P7.6‐billion IPOs, respectively.    The investment bank also acted as joint or sole issue manager for the bond issuances of Ayala  Land, Inc. worth P6 billion; Filinvest Land, Inc. (P7 billion); Rockwell Land Corp. (P5 billion);  Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (P8 billion); and Manila Electric Co. (P18.5 billion), among others. ‐ ‐ Cliff Harvey C. Venzon‐B‐fund‐raising‐ in‐the‐works&id=81589   

Posted on January 06, 2014 08:28:30 PM

BDO sets 2014 dividends BDO Unibank, Inc. (BDO) will pay its shareholders a 30‐centavo cash dividend each quarter this  year.    In a disclosure yesterday, BDO said its “board of directors of BDO Unibank, Inc., at its regular  board meeting last… Jan. 4… approved the declaration of cash dividends on the bank’s common  shares of P0.30 per share as of end of each quarter in 2014, or a total of P1.20…”    The bank currently has 3,580,875,328 outstanding common shares.    Record and payment dates will be announced after BDO secures central bank approval.    BDO said the funds will be sourced from its “surplus profits.”    Its shares gained P1.35 or 1.92% to end P71.80 apiece yesterday from P70.45 each last Friday.‐sets‐2014‐ dividends&id=81581                     

SINGSON READY TO QUIT BUT WON’ Published : Tuesday, January 07, 2014 00:00 Written by : Efren Montano

PUBLIC Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson will resign if the bunkhouses being built for survivors of super typhoon “Yolanda” are overpriced as critics have claimed. “It is not overpriced. If it is overpriced, the following day I will submit my resignation to President Aquino,” Singson told Palace reporters in his briefing yesterday in Malacañang, belying reports of cost irregularity in the construction of 222 bunkhouses in typhoon-hit areas. But Singson admitted that some of the structures might be “under specifications” -- meaning that contractors did not build the structures according to specifications provided by the Department of Public Works and Highways. He said some of the contractors might be using thinner GI sheets for the roofs of the bunkhouses. The DPWH chief said the prices of the bunkhouses were cut by 13%-15% after contractors were told to cut their overhead and profit margins. He also noted that none of the contractors who are building the shelters have been paid so far.

“We have not paid any of the contractors yet up to this point. We only ask them on a voluntary basis to mobilize as quickly as possible. Two things can happen, if the contractor did not follow the specifications we gave them they will not be paid unless they correct or rectify to meet our standards. They should retrofit to meet our standards or they will not be paid.” Singson said he had talked with rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson who revealed possible corruption in the Yolanda reconstruction effort in Samar. “Yes, it is in a particular municipality in Samar. There is politics involved, that much I can tell you. That is why I am going there tomorrow. I can tell you, kung substandard yun, hindi sila mababayaran. Wala pa kaming binabayaran,” he said. At least 500,000 houses were damaged or completely destroyed in more than a dozen towns in Leyte and Eastern Samar, according to the DPWH chief.Singson said that at least P14 million is being allocated for the construction of the bunkhouses. Singson said the bunkhouses were originally designed to have 24 units measuring 8.64 square meters each. However, he said DPWH had to increase the size of the units to 17.28 square meters per family because international agencies noted that the original 1-unit design was too small.The government official said he is pushing the contractors to use prefabricated housing materials to build the bunkhouses so that the structures can be reused. He also said some of the contractors involved in the reconstruction effort are based in Regions 3, 4A and 13. Singson said they initially aimed to accommodate up to 6,000 families in the bunkhouses by end-January, but because of the reconfiguration of the bunkhouses, they had to reduce the number of families that can be accommodated. But he also pointed out there is no guarantee the DPWH can complete the construction of bunkhouses in the last two-and-a-half years of President Benigno Aquino’s term. “We are doing our best to do what we can do in two-and-a-half years. I cannot claim we can finish the shelter program in two years,” he said.‐singson‐ready‐to‐quit‐but‐wont    

Ex-finance head in hot water for P1.5M estafa Published : Tuesday, January 07, 2014 00:00

A FORMER finance head of an engineers’ organization has been charged before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly stealing more than P1.5 million from the organization’s bank accounts. Charged with qualified theft through falsification of commercial documents was Florante Andrada, former finance department head of the Institute of Integrated Electrical Engineers of the Philippines Inc. (IIEE), and resident of Blk 13, Lot 19 Tierracon Homes, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. The case stemmed from the complaints of Engr. Gregorio Cayetano, IIEE national president, who claimed that the respondent had encashed P1,503,3000 from the IIEE’s Metrobank and Banco de Oro bank accounts on several occasions from August to September 2013 by using falsified checks. In his eight-page complaint-affidavit, Cayetano narrated that Andrada was hired as acting Finance Department head on March 19, 2013 and became regular head on Sept. 21, 2013. Starting April 2013, the organization gave to the respondent the custody of its Metrobank and BDO checkbooks, among other checkbooks, and only allowed IIEE’s finance assistant, Emee Formoso-Sulit, access to some of the checkbooks which were currently used by IIEE. All of IIEE’s cash or check disbursements are supported by disbursement vouchers duly signed and approved by Sulit, the respondent, IIEE’s Executive Director Ramon Ayaton and any of the two authorized branch signatories of IIEE.

On Dec. 6, 2013, Andrada filed a leave of work, the day when Sulit received bank statements and cancelled checks for September and October 2013, respectively from Metrobank and BDO. Sulit noticed that there were five checks that were supposedly drawn and signed by Engr. Christina Cabaraban and Engr. Florigo Varona, IIEE’s vice president for external affairs and national secretary, respectively, with Andrada as payee. It was later found out that the checks, with an aggregate amount of P244,000, were falsified by the respondent as Engrs. Cabaraban and Varona both denied having signed such checks. Sulit also found out that Andrada had falsified more checks and was able to encash all the falsified checks amounting to P1,259,200. An entrapment operation was conducted on Dec. 10, 2013 against Andrada when he tried to encash three more falsified checks at the BDO branch in E. Rodriguez Avenue, QC, where he was arrested. Andrada was charged with attempted qualified theft through falsification of commercial documents before the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 104. Records further showed that Andrada sent two email messages to IIEE National Treasurer, Engr. Angel de Vera admitting and apologizing for stealing the organization’s money. He also promised to pay P200,000 this month. Cory Martinez‐ex‐finance‐head‐in‐hot‐water‐ for‐p15m‐estafa       

Batangas vice gov called to DoJ drug raid hearing Published : Tuesday, January 07, 2014 00:00 GOVERNMENT prosecutors summoned Batangas Vice Governor Marc Leviste to help in their investigation into a drug syndicate allegedly linked to the notorious Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel. In a subpoena sent to the provincial capitol, the Department of Justice required Leviste to appear in a hearing on Thursday. His father Conrad and uncle, former Gov. Antonio Leviste, were earlier summoned by the DoJ in connection with the drug raid on their family’s ranch in Lipa City that yielded three suspects and P420 million worth of shabu. Asst. State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera clarified that the Levistes are not considered respondents in the drug charges and would only stand as “plain witnesses” to help investigators “determine ownership of the property and lease thereof.” “A subpoena is a compulsory process. Everyone who appears in hearing – whether complainant, respondent or witness - may be subject to questioning, this being a preliminary investigation,” the prosecutor explained.Earlier, the vice governor and his father denied that they own the ranch where the suspects were arrested and the illegal drugs were seized. “We categorically deny that drugs were found at a Leviste ranch,” they said in a statement.Hector Lawas‐batangas‐vice‐gov‐called‐to‐doj‐ drug‐raid‐hearing     

PNoy nagpakita na (Bernard Taguinod) Matapos ang unang limang araw sa 2014, nagkaroon na ng kauna-unahang public appearance si Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III at nagsimula na rin ang mga pulong sa Palasyo ng Malacañang. “After a year of challenges -- challenges endured by the Filipino people, displaying solidarity and compassion above all, the official year begins this week with two events,” pahayag ni Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda sa press briefing kahapon. Unang hinarap ni Aquino ang mga non-resident ambassador mula sa Botswana, Ethiopia, Lithuania, Portugal, Samoa, Sudan, Zambia at Surinam na nagbigay ng kanilang credentials sa Pangulo. “As the first public engagement of President Aquino, who is both Head of State and Head of Government, this meeting embodies government’s desire to further build on our relationships with the international community, towards creating more mutually-beneficial opportunities in the year ahead,” paliwanag ni Lacierda. Sa darating na weekend, gaganapin naman ang tradisyunal na Vin D’ Honneur sa hanay ng Diplomatic Corps, kung saan gagamitin umano ni Aquino ang pagkakataon para maiparating sa lahat ng mga diplomat ang mga prayoridad at aasahan sa bansa ngayong taon. Magiging Guest of Honor naman si Aquino anumang araw ngayon sa paglulunsad ng Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) ng kanilang Traffic Signal System Command and Control Center. Kabilang na umano sa mga ito ang transisyon mula relief tungo sa recovery at rehabilitation sa mga lugar na sinalanta ng super typhoon Yolanda at paglagda sa Normalization Annex ng Framework Agreement sa Bangsamoro.


Scholars ipinasasagot sa CHED (Boyet Jadulco) Hiniling kahapon ng isang mambabatas sa Commission on Higher Education (CHED) na sagutin ang gastos ng ilang libong scholar ng mga mambabatas na nag-aaral sa mga pribadong paaralan. Iginiit ito ni Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao matapos maisabatas ang P2.265 trilyong national budget ng pamahalaan ngayong taon, kung saan naglaan ang Kongreso ng P4 bilyon bilang financial assistance sa 300,000 scholar na nag-aaral sa 113 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). Isiniksik ng mga mambabatas ang P4 bilyon sa CHED matapos buwagin ang Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) . Sinabi ni Aggabao na kuntento na siya sa ginawang hakbang ng Kamara para maipagpatuloy ang pagtustos sa pag-aaral ng kanilang scholars bunga ng pagbasura ng PDAF, subalit ang pinoproblema niya ay ang mga scholar na nag-aaral sa mga pribadong eskwelahan. “I am partly satisfied. However, we still need to address the finances of our scholarship grantees enrolled in private schools. I am hoping CHED could also fund their matriculation fees from the additional funding it received from the PDAF we scuttled. This is a problem we need to solve very soon,” giit ng kongresista. “In my district, I have around a thousand scholars. At P2,500 each, the tuition fees would amount easily to P 2.5 million per semester,” paglalahad ng mambabatas. Ang pondo para sa mga scholar ng mambabatas ay nagawan ng paraan nang isalang sa conference committee hearing ang P2.265 trilyong budget bago ito nilagdaan ni Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III.


Palasyo ‘di raw naninisi (Bernard Taguinod) Itinanggi ng Palasyo ng Malacañang na naging tampulan ni sisi ni Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III si dating Pangulo at ngayo’y Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “Walang batayan ang paratang,” pahayag ni Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. kahapon. Ginawa ni Coloma ang pahayag bilang reaksyon sa obserbasyon ni retired Lingayen Arcbishop Oscar Cruz na laging sinisisi ni Aquino si Arroyo na ngayon ay naka-hospital arrest sa Veterans Memorial Medical Center sa kasong plunder. Sa mga nagdaang pahayag ni Aquino, lumalabas na lagi nitong sinisisi ang nakaraang administrasyon sa problemang kinakaharap ng bansa ngayon bagay na hindi nakalusot sa obserbasyon ni Cruz. Sinabi ni Coloma na walang personal na galit si Aquino kay Arroyo at kaya umano ito nakakulong ay base sa ebidensyang nakalap ng mga prosecutors sa kasalanang nagawa umano ng nakaraang gobyerno sa taumbayan. “Walang personal na usapin. Batay sa ebidensya ang paghahain ng kaso,” ayon pa kay Coloma. Unang nakulong si Arroyo sa kasong election sabotage sa unang bahagi ng administrasyon ni Aquino makaraang may lumutang na ebidensya na minaniobra diumano ng dating Pangulo ang eleksyon noong 2007 senatorial elections. Bagama’t pinayagang makapagpiyansa ay umarangkada naman ang kasong plunder matapos matuklasan ang P366 milyong pondo ng Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) na iligal umanong ginamit.


Enrile: No evidence to prove


Ponce-Enrile regarding the alleged kickbacks and misuse of his pork funds, a black ops said to have been engineered by the members of the Liberal Party in their bid to destroy electoral threats from the political opposition won’t likely flourish, unless the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, a former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and an appointee of President Aquino, proves herself again to be not only politically partisan but also ignorant of the law as well as rules on evidence. However, talk has it that the Office of the Ombudsman has already concluded, even before the counter affidavits of the implicated senators were submitted, that the three senators will be charged with plunder with the case elevated before the Sandiganbayan. Finally breaking his silence over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam, Senate Minority Leader Enrile quashed all the charges being thrown at him by the so-called whistleblowers of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, saying that not a single piece of evidence could link him to the purported misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more commonly known as pork barrel. Enrile strongly denied links with the alleged brains of the

pork scam, detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoes, saying that he has not ever met her “socially or otherwise.” The minority leader likewise said he does not personally know any of the government officials accused as well for being supposedly involved in the transactions made by Napoles and her group. In his counter-affidavit submitted recently to the Office of the Ombudsman on the plunder complaint sought by the Department of Justice (DoJ), the senator vehemently denied all the allegations made by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the whistleblowers’ lawyer, Levito Baligod. In his reply, Enrile disputed the theory that he “may” have induced the agencies or the NGOs into misusing his PDAF allocation as the documents yielded by his accusers, supposedly, establishing his alleged involvement or that of his staff were, as admitted by the government’s own witnesses - the whistleblowers Merlina Sunas and Benhur Luy - all forged and fabricated. Neither he nor his staff, as the whistleblowers testified, has been to the office of Janet LimNapoles, Enrile said, further underscoring the fact that he “has never been to a single social affair of Napoles.” In his reply-affidavit, the senator said there is not a piece of evidence, much less proof, to establish even the suspicion of conspiracy in a fair mind. Enrile added that there is no testimonial or documentary evidence showing that he received any commissions or kickbacks. He categorically denied receiving “a centavo of ill-gotten wealth.” He pointed out the fact that all of the whistleblowers had admitted and testified to, was that they never saw him receive any amount from Napoles, much less 50 percent of the PDAF fund involved, as alleged by one whistleblower. Enrile noted that Luy himself has sworn that he merely put down in his accounting ledger whatever Napoles instructed him to put down and further confessed that he has no personal knowledge of these alleged transactions supposedly with the senator. Moreover, the source documents of any alleged payoffs to anyone were shredded and

destroyed by Luy’s group, as Luy himself had admitted previously, Enrile said. The senator categorically stated that the charges against him are absolutely baseless and it would be ridiculous for the government to be charged for obeying the law. In availing of his yearly pork barrel allocation, Enrile emphasized that the only role he or his office played in the whole process was to identify specific projects to be funded under his PDAF allocation, as requested by the officials of the local government units involved. And such procedure is required by current laws and regulations and was being practiced by all legislators, charged or not, he stressed. Despite the public impressions to the contrary, it was solely the implementing agency that in fact actually designated the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the purpose of implementing and executing the projects involved. Citing the Supreme Court, Enrile noted that “from the regulation of fund releases, the implementation of payment schedules and up to the actual spending of the funds…” the Executive takes full control of the system, then asked: “Should not that power also come with full responsibility and accountability?” Enrile noted that even Commission on Audit (CoA) itself declared and admitted that the implementing agencies cannot “relegate this duty to the legislator.” He further emphasized that contrary to news reports and to the urban legend being spread by his political critics, the government’s own evidence shows he never personally endorsed any NGO involved in the reported PDAF scam, whether connected to Napoles or not, to any implementing agency. Enrile made an appeal in his affidavit saying that he has been wildly accused and prejudged by several quarters and would simply ask that every fair minded person judge the case solely on its merits, and not on their personal like or dislike of him. While he respects the old adage that everyone, including his critics, is “entitled to their own opinions”, he does not believe, however, that this gives them the freedom to create their own “facts,” he said. Three senators, including Enrile have been implicated in the so-called P10 billion pork scam of

Napoles. CoA chairman Grace Pulido-Tan, in an unprecedented press conference, named the three senators, Enirle, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla, Jr, while excluding all the others, especially the allies of Aquino and the Liberal Party senators. It was later found that the CoA report of Tan audited the special allotment release orders (SAROs) of the three political opposition senators 100 percent, while the other senator allies— especially then senator now president Benigno Aquino and Interior secetary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, whose SAROs were not audited at all, making it appear that only the three opposition senators were linked to the pork scandal and obtained alleged kickbacks from Napoles. Neither were the other senators and congressmen who are all allies of Aquino and the Liberal Party audited. The excuse given by Tan for her biased audit report was that the Department of Budget and Management, now headed by an LP and close political adviser of Aquino, Butch Abad, did not submit the SAROs of the allies, even when the SAROs of the opposition senators were intact. In a Senate hearing on the alleged pork barrel scam, the administration allies, namely Senators Teofisto Guingona and Alan Cayetano, made it appear that the three senators were guilty of having pocketed some 50 percent in kickbacks from Napoles. Enrile’s nemesis, Sen. Miriam Santiago, even went to the extent of accusing Enrile of being the mastermind of the pork barrel scam, despite the clear absence of evidence to substantiate her charges. The whistleblowers, Ben Hur Luy and the batch of whisleblowers of De Lima, while saying that the three senators had gotten kickbacks from their PDAF and alleged ghost projects, also admitted that they had forged and falsified the documents, dealing with the government agencies in getting the funds.‐no‐evidence‐to‐prove‐pork‐plunder       

Noy attack dog or fiscalizer? NUP vows to make noises in House •

Written by Charlie V. Manalo

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 00:00

With Congress now virtually “pork-less” after the Supreme Court (SC) declared the lawmakers’ Priority Develop-ment Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional, members of the National Unity Party (NUP) have been advised to play a more active role in the lower chamber. This was revealed to a select group of reporters by a lawmaker who was present during the NUP Christmas Party late last year when party chairman, Antipolo City First District Rep. Roberto “Robbie” Puno asked his colleagues to exert extra efforts to make their presence strongly felt in the House of Representatives. “Remember, we are now living in a pork-less environment,” the source quoted Puno as telling his partymates during the occasion. “Whereas before we could afford to be flower vases inside the plenary, now it’s different. We have to make noises to make our presence felt,” Puno added. The NUP is composed mostly of former members of the defunct Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino or Kampi, the party which launched the presidential bid of former

President, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. When asked to qualify what Puno meant by “making noises,” the source said it could be defined both ways. “First, we could define making noises to mean taking a more active role in the furtherance of Palace-induced actions whether explicit or otherwise just like one of the NUP stalwarts (Rep. Elpidio Bargaza) has been doing with regard to threat of impeaching the Supreme Court (SC) justices,” said the source. “Or second, we could define it as playing the role of fiscalizer or even countering the Palace-induced actions,” added the source. “We have to remind them we are only their allies and not partymates and as such we are not bound by their actions.” The NUP is part of the Liberal Party-led coalition in the lower chamber. But whichever way they do it, the source said the move could actually benefit them as Malacañang could take cognizance that as allies, they have still their needs to be taken care of. “It’s just like how you treat a dog. To silence a barking dog, you just have to feed him, right?” the source said.‐attack‐dog‐or‐fiscalizer‐nup‐vows‐to‐make‐noises‐ in‐house                    

2014 01 07 quedancor daily news monitor  
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