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Banana peduncle turns into valuable product Category: Agri-Commodities 09 Jan 2014 Written by PNA INITIALLY underutilized and left to waste, the banana peduncle is now considered as an agricultural innovation with various potentials that can significantly improve farming, health and income, a report from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) revealed on Thursday. Dr. Mary Ann Tavanlar, researcher from the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Biotech) that is based at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, said various value-added products could be made utilizing the fiber and juice found in the banana peduncle. “The peduncle, which holds the banana bunch, is mainly composed of fiber and juice. Various products were developed from this lowly material using readily available equipment and simple technologies,” she said. These include paper products, dietary fiber, calcium and potassium-fortified sports drinks, and fertilizer products among others, Tavanlar said. She noted that the Philippines generate approximately 2.3 million metric tons of banana peduncle a year, which were mainly utilized as compost or just put to waste. “Instead of being left to rot in the field, the peduncle can now be utilized and thereby can generate additional income to small-holder farmers,” Tavanlar said. Solving the issue of transforming waste banana peduncle into useful value-added products was the result of a BAR-funded research project—titled, “Banana Peduncle: To Waste or Not To Waste”—that was spearheaded by Tavanlar. It was implemented by Biotech in collaboration with Unifrutti Corp., Forest Products Research and Development Institute-Department of Science and Technology, and Fiber Industry Development of the Authority of the Department of Agriculture. In the terminal report submitted by the project proponents, among the use of the fiber is to utilize it as pulp to make paper products and composite fiber boards, including resin-bonded and cement-bonded peduncle boards. Subsequent testing of the resultant products for their endurance, elasticity and absorption have yielded encouraging results, the report stated.

The fiber was also processed into powdered banana peduncle (PBP) as a source of dietary fiber to make peduncle fiber-enriched meat products, such as burgers, frankfurters and re-structured ham. As a result, these meat products have higher fiber content, better moisture retention and higher cooking yields than the meat products without PBP. Also, the production cost of meat products fortified with PBP is lower than that of the meat products without PBP due to the lesser amount of meat in the formulation. Meanwhile, the juice was utilized in the preparation of a ready-to-drink calamansi juice fortified with potassium and sodium. Most commercial sports drinks contain potassium and sodium to prevent dehydration and to maintain electrolyte levels. From research made by the proponents, it was found that samples of sports drinks in the market contain sodium and potassium ranging from 24.8 mg to 48.3 mg/100 mL, and 11.7 mg to 19.5 mg/100 mL, respectively. In comparison, pure peduncle juice contained up to 455.2 mg and 425.8 mg/100 mL sodium and potassium levels, respectively. The said calcium and potassium levels were about 30 times higher than in the commercial sports drinks, the project report said. The peduncle juice can also be used as a potassium supplement fertilizer in hydroponics—the method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water without soil—that can improve the quality of salad vegetables, such as lettuce, chives and arugula. It was also found to be an effective liquid potassium fertilizer in banana and other high-value commodities, such as pechay, kale, parsley, carrots, okra, eggplant and tomato. PNA‐commodities/25639‐banana‐peduncle‐turns‐ into‐valuable‐product             

Coconut trees damaged by ‘Yolanda’ to be replaced–PCA Category: Agri-Commodities 09 Jan 2014 Written by PNA PALO, Leyte—The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) assured farmers here that they will replace all damaged coconut trees along Supertyphoon Yolanda’s path to ensure pre-typhoon production levels in the next 10 years. PCA Administrator Euclides G. Forbes said the storm is an opportunity for affected areas to improve the coconut industry. “All uprooted and partially damaged trees will be replaced with better varieties to further improve the industry than what it was before Yolanda,” said Forbes, who was here recently to lead the ceremonial turnover of seedlings. Initially, the PCA has 5 million seedlings ready for distribution and planting early this year. The PCA has signed a deal with some schools in the mass production of high yielding varieties—Tacunan, Dwarf and Baybay Tall, in the bid to fast-track replanting. In Eastern Visayas 400,000 seedlings will be produced by the Visayas State University; 50,000 by the Southern Leyte State University; and 40,000 by the University of Eastern Philippines. The PCA has set aside P2.8 billion this year to rehabilitate the country’s coconut industry badly damaged by Yolanda. The budget is from the national government’s calamity fund and on top of the regular funding of the PCA for 2014. The funding will be mainly used for seedling production, intercropping and cash-for-work for some of the 440,000 affected farmers in the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, Quezon, Guimaras, Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Cebu. Earlier, the PCA asked for a P3.9-billion fund to rehabilitate the coconut sector in regions hit by Yolanda. The rehabilitation will be fully implemented within three years, but it will take up to 10 years to completely restore the production. Some 16.1 million trees planted to 161,419 hectares were either uprooted or sheared by the storm with no chance of recovery.

There are about 28 million partially damaged trees planted to 280,098 hectares. These trees are expected to bear fruit again after three to five years. PCA estimated a damage cost of P17.6 billion. Eastern Visayas—the second top coconut producing region in the country, has 33.82 million affected trees, 15.04 million were categorized as totally damaged, 9.06 million severely damaged, 4.98 million slightly damaged and 4.84 million moderately damaged. The total damage cost was recorded at P16.6 billion. The region has 72.75 million thriving coconut trees with an annual average yield of one billion nuts. PNA

Govt says Norway minister gives farm inputs in Samar Category: Agri-Commodities 09 Jan 2014 Written by PNA BASEY, Samar—Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende on Wednesday led the turnover of certified seeds to rice farmers in this municipality which was hard hit by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan). The Norwegian government is the major donor in the distribution of rice seeds facilitated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. “I know that for you it means so much that you are able to start again with rice production. This is important for your life and in lots of your income for building a strong and independent life in the future,” he said before farmer-beneficiaries at the Can-abay village. FAO allotted 1,914 bags of certified seeds to Basey, one of the worst-hit towns based on the assessment done by the Department of Agriculture (DA). The input benefited some 2,012 rice farmers. Based on DA data, some 2,500 rice farmers of Basey were affected by the typhoon that caused damage to some 2,000 hectares of standing crops. The provision of certified seeds will ensure that farmers will have yield higher than 85 percent. “This is also a sign of our commitment, not only when the cameras are there in the beginning of the catastrophe, but we are also here when we are rebuilding the country and they need rice for planting,” he added, hoping that farmers would be able to rebuild their lives. The foreign minister after the ceremonial turnover also made a walkabout tour of rice fields in Tingib village and interacted with beneficiary farmers. Prior to his Basey, Samar, visit, the minister also visited Tacloban City and the hospital that is being run by the International Committee of the Red Cross supported by the Norwegian government. PNA

Duterte to CHR chief: Shut up By Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   1  19 googleplus0  0  

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mayor Rodrigo Duterte yesterday said Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Loretta Ann Rosales better close her mouth and not talk about what is ethical or unethical when it comes to fighting rice smuggling in the country. “What ethics are you talking about? Go tell that to the smugglers. Tell the smugglers they are unethical for causing the government to lose billions in taxes,” Duterte told Rosales. The CHR chief earlier criticized Duterte for being unethical and “unbecoming of a public official” in declaring war against rice smugglers by using lethal force. “If you do not stop smuggling rice into my city, I will kill you,” said Duterte, whose help was reportedly sought by President Aquino. But Rosales said Duterte’s role is to ensure good governance and not to kill people. The CHR said it would send Duterte a formal letter to counter his sentiments. Marc Titus Cebreros, chief of the CHR information and communication division, echoed Rosales’ statement that Duterte’s warning is unethical, although it is not a human rights violation in itself. “It’s unbecoming of a public official like him. It gives the impression that we are not living under a government of laws,” said Cebreros. He added that the CHR letter to Duterte aims to make the mayor know that there is something wrong with his statement. Duterte’s office said it has not yet received the letter. Willing to go to jail Duterte also hit back at Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. for saying that no one is above the law, still in connection with the warning that he issued against rice smugglers. Coloma said law enforcement agencies should step up the campaign against smuggling of rice and other goods without resorting to illegal means. But Duterte said he does not mind going to jail for killing rice smugglers for as long as the interest of local farmers is protected.

BOC warned vs release of seized smuggled rice By Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

ROSALES, Pangasinan, Philippines – The peasant coalition Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) threatened to file a suit against the Bureau of Customs (BOC) if the agency releases seized rice that have no import permits. Rosendo So, Sinag president, told The STAR yesterday that the BOC should stand firm and stop the release of seized imported rice amid reports that smugglers are resorting to court actions to prevent Customs authorities from implementing the seizure of shipments. He said if the BOC gives in to pressure, it would set a bad precedent and many culprits would repeat the wrong procedure because they could get away with it anyway. Jesse Dellosa, BOC deputy commissioner for intelligence, said they noticed the shift in strategy of rice smugglers in the past months. So said rice importers should first apply for import permits from the National Food Authority (NFA), which is the proper procedure. “It should not be that when the shipment is already here then you apply (for permits). That is wrong,” So added. Dellosa said at least P725 million worth of smuggled rice had been seized since September from 1,936 shipping containers. These entered the country through the ports of Manila, Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Batangas. The BOC should not release the shipment because it involves illegal entry, So said. He said when seizure had been made, the owners said they could get import permit from the NFA and they set an appointment with the agency. But the NFA refused to issue the permit, he added. Lawyer Argee Guevarra, who earlier exposed the alleged anomaly in the NFA’s rice importation, had urged the government to run after a certain “Buddy R” and not the fictional rice smuggler “David Tan.” Guevarra said Buddy R is a trader engaged with the Department of Agriculture who manages the kickbacks in connection with government-to-government (G2G) deals. He said Buddy R is engaged in buying NFA properties at a very cheap price and selling or leasing the same at a higher cost.

“This Buddy R is the government’s David Tan in rice smuggling who is in charge of determining and distributing kickbacks from G2G scheme. He went to Singapore to receive kickbacks in relation to the April 2013 G2G rice importation from Vietnam,” Guevarra claimed. He said this trader was among those he already charged before the office of the Ombudsman last month. He urged the Department of Justice to run after Buddy R who, industry sources revealed, is a businessman surnamed “Roa.” Last November, he said Roa raked in huge kickbacks from the importation of 500,000 metric tons of rice at a price of $462 per metric ton. “Buddy R is a real person while David Tan is a product of fiction, a bogeyman or a phantom created to cow legitimate rice traders who oppose the G2G scheme. I will ask the DOJ to investigate this person to know his dealings and identify his handlers, including (Agriculture Secretary Proceso) Alcala and a congressman from Mindanao,“ Guevarra stressed. Last Wednesday, Guevarra said that exposure of David Tan is part of a grand scheme to divert the public’s attention from the real culprits in rice smuggling. He previously filed a complaint against DA and NFA officials before the justice department and a separate plunder case against the same officials before the Office of the Ombudsman. “Again, I say the witch hunt for a certain David Tan is obviously part of a grand plot to instill fear among legitimate rice traders who can be accused of being Tan himself. Buddy R is a real person while Tan is a fictional character created to ensure Alcala et al‘s absolute control of the industry,” Guevarra pointed out. – With Edu Punay

Budget for ‘AAA’ abattoirs diverted January 9, 2014 7:51 pm by Fermin Diaz (Conclusion) Editor’s Note: The third part of this four-part series discussed how the government handled an outbreak of the ebola virus in a pig farm in Bulacan, and allegedly did not help Mindanao hog raisers in exporting meat to Singapore. It is also part of the article that was adjudged 2013 Agriculture Story of the Year during the BrightLeaf Agriculture Journalism Awards held in December last year. It was originally published in Livestock and Meat Business (LaMB) Magazine by the author. Perhaps one of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) most disturbing sign of insincerity toward hog and meat industry players was the agency’s failure to put up, as promised, two Triple A abattoirs north and south of Manila in 2012. This in spite of repeated pronouncements made by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala himself that his department had the money to build the facilities. Budgeted at P180 million (an amount no one from the department could explain how it was arrived at), the two meat establishments would have played a vital role in boosting chances of local hog raisers to export pork to its Asian neighbors ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) economic integration in 2015. Putting up these facilities is also considered top priority given that the Philippines critically lacks “AAA” accredited slaughterhouses required for the export trade. Properly managed, they could even churn out manufacturing grade pork cuts for local meat processors, thus reducing the country’s heavy reliance on imported pig meat products and providing solution to hog farmers’ perennial complaints regarding meat smuggling, industry sources said. As the money to build the two facilities was placed under the care of the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS), livestock officials were mobilized to look for suitable local government units (LGUs) and private agribusiness entities with whom DA can collaborate in building and operating the structures. Sources said that the group of Edwin Chen, president of Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc. and managing director of Bounty Fresh Foods Inc., offered to partner with government in operating one of the facilities under terms yet to be agreed upon by all parties. Another private sector participant who reportedly expressed interest in running one of the units was the San Pablo, Laguna-based 3J Foods Corp. owned by the Agoncillo family.

But for undisclosed reasons, Alcala and livestock officials put the project on hold for weeks until the DA chief was reminded by his subordinates that the unspent “Triple A” funds with NMIS had to be released before the end of 2012, otherwise it would be reverted to the National Treasury. In the last quarter of 2012, the Agriculture secretary decided to divert a large chunk of the funds for a different purpose. He opted to grant a total of P130 million to 13 LGUs for their use to put up “AA” slaughterhouses in their respective areas, to the dismay of swine industry players. “We were willing to build and operate the ‘Triple A’ abattoir Alcala was talking about. Our group was even invited to help draft a road map for the swine sector. Now, we see that DA is not really sincere in its commitment to help the hog industry in its export drive,” Chen, visibly disappointed, told this writer on learning that the project was scrapped. DA officials said that while it was “unfortunate” the project implementation of the two slaughterhouses “had to be deferred,” they indicated a promise, which some consider a vague one, by saying they have “included the budget for the project in the department’s 2014 budgetary proposal.” In an e-mailed letter sent to LaMB Magazine, Alcala’s chief aide, Emerson Palad, also said that the project originally was supposed to be undertaken in two phases. But he claimed that the first one—where the Livestock Development Council (LBC) was supposed to identify the recipients and location for the project—did not turn out well due to various reasons. “At the onset, the availability of a sizeable property proximal to Metro Manila became a problem to proponents due to increasing value of land,” Palad said. “Secondly, the interest of the key players to participate was not evident in their actions,” he added. Beneficiary provinces With the original “Triple A” money realigned to build “AA” abattoirs, the LGUs that benefited from the fund diversion include Tuao in Cagayan, Agoncillo in Batangas, Bansud in Oriental Mindoro, Odiongan in Romblon, Santa Cruz in Marinduque, Pres. Roxas City in Capiz, San Joaquin in Iloilo, and Mati and Tagum in Davao. Also included are the municipalities of Lucban, Real, Tagkawayan and Tiaong—all in Quezon province. Critics said that the criteria by which Alcala used in deciding to grant P10 million to each of the 13 beneficiary LGUs raises questions, considering that it runs inconsistent with existing rules. They cite, in particular, a memorandum circular pertaining to guidelines on LGUs’ meat establishment improvement program jointly crafted and approved by the DA, Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG), and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which Alcala apparently ignored. For one, they point out that the money to construct the “AA” abattoirs had been released by DA without requiring the beneficiaries to provide their own counterpart fund, thus disregarding the

joint DA-DILG-DBM circular which clearly stipulates that LGUs should provide counterpart funds for such projects. They also claim politics, more than anything else, motivated Alcala to choose which among LGUs shall be granted the dole out. Of the 13 slaughterhouses to be constructed by the grant, they noted that four will be erected in Quezon—Alcala’s home province and where his family has lots of political stake to protect. Quezon province is where his son Irwin is gunning for a provincial post and who went up against incumbent Gov. David Suarez in the May 2013 elections. Alcala’s camp denies such allegation. “The choice on which LGUs should be granted assistance for the construction of their slaughterhouses was mainly on the requests received from various local chief executives or by way of Sangguniang Bayan resolutions,” Palad, with the rank of undersecretary, said in his email. “This show of interest is vital in the selection process as it is the LGU which will eventually operate and maintain the facility. If they ask for it, the DA takes it as a positive proof that the LGU is willing to take on the responsibility for its upkeep,” he added. In light of past and current developments, much has yet to be done in fostering and advancing public-private sector cooperation in the animal industry. A greater level of openness and transparency is also needed from both government and industry in formulating and implementing key projects and programs to move the sector forward. What is evident is there is a disconnect between the bureaucracy and key industry players in the way they view and handle issues of profound significance and impact to the feed-to-food supply chain. The big fuss over CP Foods merely reflects this disconnect. Unless the two sides collaborate and genuinely cooperate with each other and come to terms in a real, meaningful way, the domestic poultry and hog industries will continue to lag behind and remain uncompetitive. This translates to lower productivity, inefficiency and higher cost of meat products, making them less affordable to consumers, thus becoming a food security concern for the entire country. Meanwhile, with Asean economic integration just looming around the corner and where trade barriers are now significantly dismantled, all foreign agribusiness players have to do is come over to the Philippines and put up shop and grab opportunities as they arise. They would smartly understand that there really is more fun in the Philippines.

Farmers take over irrigation project By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:00am  

National Irrigation Administration chief Claro Maranan has turned over part of the Ceboza Communal Irrigation Project in Region 9 to the Badagoy Irrigators Association Inc., 2012 Agri Pinoy awardee. Also officiating at the rites last December 29 were Regional Irrigation Manager Julius Maquiling, Magsaysay town Mayor Arthur Davin, Badagoy Irrigators president Exiquel Elentorio, Irrigation Management Officer Manny Reñeses and association members. The facility built for P30,240,000 consisting of dams, canals and canal structures will increase the area served to about 2,800 hectares of farmland in Davao del Sur for the benefit of some 1,200 planters. In his speech, Maranan told farmers and barangay officials that the agency was lining up aquaculture to boost livelihood in coordination with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources alongside hydro power generation. Maranan formed and led a task force last December 27-30 to follow through rehabilitation projects in the region hit by Typhoon Pablo in December 2012.

Swift action on fertilizer case urged by Leonard Postrado  January 9, 2014  

Recently-declared Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco has called on the Sandiganbayan to, once and for all, proceed with the arraignment of Marinduque Gov. Carmencita Reyes in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam in 2004 during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Velasco made the call a day after Reyes asked the Sandiganbayan to defer the court proceedings and her arraignment for graft while the petition for review of the case remains pending with the Supreme Court (SC). Velasco, together with several Marinduqueños, asked for the speedy resolution of two Sandiganbayan cases filed against Reyes – the illegal use of public funds/malversation and the violation of section 3(e) of R.A. 30l9 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices. He lamented that Governor Reyes had not yet been arraigned up until now since the cases were filed before Sandiganbayan on March 18, 2011. In response, the camp of Gov. Reyes insisted that the Sandiganbayan should not proceed with the arraignment of the embattled governor since there remains an unresolved petition for review before the Supreme Court. Lawyer Marie Fe V. Galvez-Garcia, Reyes’ legal counsel, questioned the validity of the indictment before the High Court. “…(I)n order not to render the petition filed by the accused moot and academic, the deferment of the proceedings against herein accused is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court. This motion is not intended to delay the proceedings in this case but is reluctantly sought solely on the basis of the aforementioned reason,” Garcia said.

Norway adds $8‐million aid by Restituto A. Cayubit  January 9, 2014  

Basey, Samar — Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs minister Børge Brende visited this town Wednesday to distribute rice seeds to local farmers and announce that his government is adding $8 million to Norway’s total aid intended for local farmers’ recovery of farming livelihood here. The amount brings to $43 million Norway’s total aid to super-typhoon Yolanda victims here, making it the third biggest donor country after the United Kingdom and the United States, to commit financial help for typhoon victims. “Seed is a symbol of recovery, and I know how much it means to replant before it’s too late,: Brende said. He disclosed that the project funded by his government in Basey is in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and the Department of Agriculture (DA). Brende expressed his appreciation for the success of the project funded by his government and lauded UNFAO and the DA’s office in Region VIII (DA-8) for its work in helping rice farmers in this town and the provision of seeds as replacement crops lost to the typhoon. “It is important for us in Norway to show our solidarity with the typhoon-affected people of the Philippines. We were present just after the disaster struck and will follow the early recovery closely to ensure affected communities can build back better,” the Norwegian foreign minister said. During his visit, Brende visited ricelands and spoke with farmers in Basey’s Barangay Can-abay. Mr. Rajendra Aryal, acting FAO country representative in the Philippines, said that the Norwegian-funded project in Basey enabled local farmers to plant in the current planting season which started last December, 2013. Director Antonio Gerundio, regional DA-8 director said there are were 1,914 bags of rice seeds distributed to 2012 farmers in this town. Each farmer received from one-half to one full bag of rice seeds depending on the area they plant. He also said each bag of rice seeds is good for one hectare area of ricelands. Gerundio also said the seeds planted this December and January planting season will be harvested in March and April. “This support has been timely, enabling farmers to go back to their fields and produce their own food,” he said.


‘Buddy R’ tagged in rice import scam Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:34 am | Friday, January 10th, 2014  


INQUIRER FILE PHOTO DAVAO CITY—Amid reports about a David Tan being behind massive rice smuggling in the country and the search for who he really is, a militant organization that had been alleging widespread corruption in rice importation by the government said a bagman is operating in the agriculture department delivering rice import contracts to private traders and hundreds of millions of pesos in kickbacks to officials. The bagman, according to lawyer Argee Guevarra, president of the group Sanlakas, is “Buddy R.” Guevarra issued the statement amid the controversy over a David Tan allegedly controlling the smuggling of rice into the country, including in this port where two shipments of rice are currently on hold on suspicion of smuggling. Kickbacks from imports According to the Sanlakas statement, Buddy R “manages kickbacks” generated from the importation by the National Food Authority (NFA) of rice. The NFA imports rice as buffer stock after reports showed that the government is not likely to be able to meet its rice production targets this year. Buddy R, according to the Sanlakas statement, is a trader that corners contracts from the agriculture department to import rice and delivers commissions to officials involved in the rice importation deals.

“Besides being involved in the illicit rice scheme, he is engaged in buying NFA properties at a very cheap price and selling or leasing the same at a higher cost,” said Guevarra in the Sanlakas statement.

Guevarra said this Buddy R “went to Singapore to receive kickbacks” on behalf of a top agriculture official. The commissions were for the April 2013 deal between the Philippine and Vietnamese governments for the importation by the Philippines of rice from Vietnam. Overpriced In November alone, Guevarra said Buddy R raked in “huge kickbacks from the importation of 500,000 MT of rice at a price of $462 per MT.” The importation, according to the Sanlakas statement, is overpriced by up to P400 million. “Buddy R is one of the respondents in the plunder case I filed against Alcala and NFA administrator Orlan Calayag. This Buddy R is the government’s ‘David Tan’ in rice smuggling who is in charge of determining and distributing kickbacks from rice importation,” said Guevarra. “The witch hunt for a certain David Tan is obviously part of a grand plot to instill fear among legitimate rice traders who can be accused of being Tan,” said Guevarra. “Buddy R is a real person while Tan is a fictional character,” he said. Real person Guevarra urged the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to “run after Buddy R” instead of “wasting time in going after a ghost.” “Buddy R is a real person while David Tan is a product of fiction, a bogeyman or a phantom created to cow legitimate rice traders,” he said. “I will ask the DOJ to investigate this person to know his dealings and identify his handlers,” Guevarra said. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of this city has come under fire from the Commission on Human Rights for saying he would kill smugglers who operate in his city. Human Rights Commissioner Etta Rosales said the statements made by Duterte were unethical. Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao   Read more:‐r‐tagged‐in‐rice‐import‐scam#ixzz2pxjkIM3c   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook   

Harassment of farmers in Quezon continuing By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.  Inquirer Southern Luzon   12:29 am | Friday, January 10th, 2014  

LUCENA CITY—Farmers of San Andres, Quezon, continue to suffer harassment and violence in pursuit of their struggle to own land under the government’s agrarian reform program, an official of a nongovernment organization said. Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungan Panlipunan (Katarungan), cited the arrest on Dec. 29, 2013 of Diolito Milliones, one of the 16 farmers who have been receiving death threats, on charges of coconut robbery. A report from San Andres police station, a copy of which was obtained from the Quezon police headquarters in Camp Nakar here, said Milliones was arrested for the “illegal harvest” of 200 pieces of coconuts worth P1,600 from the farm of Edwin Ausa. Geronimo said the charges against Milliones were “concocted” by the person suspected of being behind the wave of threats and harassment against farmer leaders in San Andres. He identified Ausa as owner of big tracts of land in San Andres. Immediately after Milliones’ arrest, Geronimo said San Andres police raided the houses of three other farmer leaders—Randy Fuentes, Edito Ejorcados and Nelson Fuentes—on suspicion they were keeping illegal firearms but police found nothing.

Geronimo said he doubted whether police were sincere in investigating the harassment of and threats against the farmers. “It seems the police themselves have joined the harassment,” he said. Senior Supt. Ronaldo Genaro Ylagan, Quezon police provincial director, said members of the task force he formed to investigate the harassment of farmers are still investigating. Ylagan said farmers, however, refuse to cooperate with police. Geronimo said some of farmers have gone into hiding for fear for their and their families’ safety. The farmers, all members of the Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP) and residents of the adjacent villages of Tala and Camplora in San Andres, have been receiving death threats after KMBP leader Elisa Tulid was shot and killed while she and her husband were walking home on Oct. 19, 2013. She was dead on the spot while her husband survived the attack.

KMBP said more than 50 farmers have been charged in court with qualified theft by their landlords. Most of the farmers have gone into hiding because they can’t afford to pay P60,000 each in bail for their freedom.   Read more:‐of‐farmers‐in‐quezon‐ continuing#ixzz2pxk9nwVH   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                         

Legazpi named 2013 rice achiever   January 9, 2014  

The City Government of Legazpi is to receive a plaque of recognition and a cash award of P1 million this January in Malacañang as one of the winners of the National Agri-Pinoy Rice Achiever Award of the Department of Agriculture (DA). In 2012, the city’s agriculture office posted a total rice production of 8,059.65 metric tons (MT) while in 2013, it had a total production of 8,915.56 (MT), an increase of 855.91 MT or 10.61 percent. Despite the city’s smaller rice area compared to other localities of the region, Legazpi contributed 4.35 percent of rice production to the provincial government of Albay. The increased production of Legazpi City was due to greater farmer participation working 2,123.76 hectares, which exceeded the 980-hectare target of the city government. Other factors were the agricultural modernization and farm mechanization program and the strong of the city administration. The city government plans to set up additional irrigation systems in the three agricultural villages of the city. The city’s agriculture office will continue to conduct seminars for the city’s farmers. The other winning local government units (LGUs) are Polangui in Albay and Castilla in Sorsogon, which will also receive the same incentives. Albay and Camarines Sur LGUs will receive P5 million and a plaque of recognition. All the LGU winners achieved their rice production goals, increased the farmers’ income, and made proper use of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) allocated for the rice sufficiency program. We congratulate the Department of Agriculture, headed by Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, its National Rice Program headed by its Coordinator, Assistant Secretary Dante S. Delima, Department of Agriculture-Bicol headed by Regional Executive Director Abelardo R. Bragas, the City Government of Legazpi headed by Mayor Noel E. Rosal, and its Office of the City Agriculturist headed by Jesus J. Kallos, in their continued efforts in achieving national rice selfsufficiency for the people of our Republic of the Philippines. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!

DENR to restrict use of lead on consumer products by Ellalyn De Vera  January 9, 2014  

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will strengthen its control on the use of lead and its compounds in the local production of consumer products, as well as its importation, sale, distribution and disposal with the issuance of a chemical control order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds. “The Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds is a result of numerous consultations with various stakeholders with the intention of reducing unreasonable risks and injuries to people as a result of their exposure to the chemical as well its negative impact on the environment,” DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said. He also said the order was in support of the global action for the elimination of lead in paints. According to Paje, lead is a heavy metal and highly toxic that exposure to it or ingestion can severely damage the nervous system. The chemical can also affect the development of children as well as the cardiovascular, reproductive and immune systems; impair the kidneys; and could also cause hearing loss and tooth decay. The CCO for lead, contained in DENR Administrative Order No. 2013-24, strictly prohibits the use of lead and lead compounds in the local manufacture of packaging for food and drink, toys, school supplies, cosmetics, water pipes and other consumer products. It also reiterates the ban on the use lead as fuel additive. “With the CCO, existing prohibitions by other agencies of the government governing the use of lead and lead compounds in various consumer products are further strengthened,” he said. The order has also set the standard content of lead for locally produced paints at 90 parts per million (ppm), as well as the timeframe for the strict implementation of the standard which starts in 2016 for paints intended for architectural, decorative, household applications while paints for industrial applications, starts in 2019. “The reason for setting the implementation phase for paints is to enable our paint industry to shift to lead-free production. There is now a global action for the elimination of lead in paints, and certainly this CCO is our way of showing our oneness with this advocacy,” Paje pointed out.

The DENR chief added that the new regulation on lead is consistent with Republic Act No. 6969, otherwise known as the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, as it also addresses the transport and treatment of lead-containing wastes prior to disposal. RA 6969 was issued by the government in response to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. Persons or entities involved in importation, manufacture, distribution, use, recycling, treatment, storage and disposal of lead and lead compounds, whether newly involved or with existing compliance certificates, are required to register with the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). Applicants are also required to provide a Safety Data Sheet to ensure the environmentally-sound management of the chemicals. To ensure proper implementation of the new policy, the DENR will conduct capability building and continuous consultations and discussions with its partner agencies under the Departments of Health, Trade and Industry, and Finance; as well as the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, the Ecological Waste Coalition, and International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) Philippines.

P’sinan town celebrates Eggplant Festival today By Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

VILLASIS, Pangasinan, Philippines – It’s pinakbet galore here today as the town celebrates its annual Talong (Eggplant) Festival with a cook-off of the Ilocano vegetable dish. Now on its ninth year, the festival highlights the town’s most popular agricultural produce, the eggplant, with the 21 barangays whipping up their own versions of the pinakbet. Mayor Libradita Abrenica, whose husband, former mayor Nato Abrenica, started the festival during his term, said the municipal government is giving each barangay 30 kilos of eggplant, 10 kilos each of ampalaya (bitter gourd) and tomatoes, two kilos of sili, and four kilos of okra (lady’s finger) to cook pinakbet. It’s up to the barangays to add other ingredients such as longganisa, bagnet (crispy pork belly) or prawns, she said. After the judging, residents can partake of the pinakbet dishes “until supply lasts,” the mayor said. Municipal agriculturist Cornelio Atchuela said the town remains as the top eggplant producer in Pangasinan and Region 1 with a production of 4,100 metric tons last year. Eggplants are grown in 410 hectares of land. Atchuela said the town is able to sustain its good production of eggplants with different technologies like the use of organic fertilizers and soil conditioner, use of a hybrid variety, right timing for irrigation, and correct practices on pest and disease management. Eggplant-producing barangays include Piaz, Caramutan, Lipay, Barangobong, Puelay, Amamperez, and San Blas with some 700 farmers raising the vegetable. Yesterday, elementary and high school students took part in a new contest, Villasis Heritage on a Canvas, where they made drawings of their perception of their town.

Duterte stands by 'kill' statement, tells CHR to 'shut up' By Camille Diola ( | Updated January 9, 2014 ‐ 3:55pm 

  Combined photos show Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (right) and workers loading subsidized rice  for the market in Davao City. Isabel Esterman, Keith Bacongco 

MANILA, Philippines - Telling the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to "shut up," Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said that someone should be willing to kill criminals and go to prison for rice smuggling to be stopped. In an interview posted by the Davao City Information Office late Wednesday, Duterte dismissed the CHR's criticism that his pronouncements against criminals in his city are "unethical" and "unbecoming." "Alam mo sa totoo lang, kung walang Pilipino na papatay para sa taong bayan, sa mga farmers, at takot mamatay, walang mangyayari sa bayan na ito ... We have to defend the Filipino farmer," Duterte said.

"Ano'ng unethical? Talagang gagawin ko! Can you point out to me [what] law [says] that I cannot threaten criminals? Shut up!" he said. WATCH: If no Filipino kills for country, nothing will happen -Duterte The mayor then rephrased his earlier statement, where he threatened to kill smugglers. "O sige, ibahin ko: Kayong mga smugglers, 'wag kayong mag-smuggle para hindi kayo mamatay. Is that acceptable to them?" Duterte said. He also reacted to Palace officials who said that Davao City should not project to be above the law. "That's not their problem, that's mine. If I take the law into my own hands, I'd kill somebody, I'm going to answer for that ... The problem is the Customs and the smuggled rice," Duterte explained. The passionate official expressed frustration at a supposed Davao-based cartel of 26 cooperatives cornering supplies of rice from the National Food Authority. Read previous stories: Duterte to rice smugglers: I will kill you | CHR: Duterte's warning vs rice smugglers unethical "No amount of government threats or prosecution ang makakapaghinto nitong smuggling. This has been going on and its controlled by a few men ... Walang nakakapag-hinto n'yan. And we are willing to go to prison for the Filipino farmer, actually. I'm old and it'll only be a few years (before) I leave," he said. Repeating his earlier warnings to those behind large-scale smuggling activities, Duterte said he is open to be thrown to jail for the protection of farmers. "Sinabi ko papatayin ko talaga kayo. Hindi ako nagbibiro. We [are] losing billions and billions of pesos and reducing the Filipino farmer to poverty," the mayor said. A certain David Lim and a David Tan are said to be masterminding the illegal activities in Davao, but he believes the names are "fictitious" as of the moment.


Mighty Corp. to buy more tobacco from local farmers   January 9, 2014  

Mighty Corporation (MC), one of the country’s local producers of low-priced cigarettes, yesterday announced it will buy 10 million kilograms of tobacco products worth millions of pesos from farmers in Northern Luzon and elsewhere in the country. In an official letter of intent he sent to National Tobacco Administrator Edgardo D. Zaragoza, MC Executive Vice President Oscar P. Barrientos said it is buying tobacco from farmers 100 percent more than the five million kilograms his firm bought in 2013. “This is to assure our tobacco farmers of our willingness to help in response to the published report of the market leader in the tobacco industry to lessen production this year,” Barrientos, a retired regional trial court judge, said. The letter of intent, in effect, debunked critics’ allegations that MC has been importing raw materials from foreign countries at low prices and therefore it is no longer buying tobacco from local farmers. Barrientos said their critics have been resorting to a disinformation campaign using convoluted data in an effort to undermine Mighty’s tremendous increase of its market shares. MC’s market shares surged to almost 20 percent of the low-priced cigarette brands last year from three percent the previous year, resulting to the payment P8.2 billion in excise taxes. According to Barrientos, their market shares shot up after the government effectively implemented Republic Act 10352, otherwise known as the Sin Tax Law that leveled the playing field in the multibillion-peso tobacco industry which was controlled by Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco. The new law that took 14 years to pass and certified as urgent by President Aquino III caused a tremendous migration of smokers from the expensive premium and subpremium brands to low-priced cigarettes. It also resulted to some smokers, because of economic reason, to simply quit the vice and thus validated health authorities estimate that the sin tax law would result to the decrease of the number of smokers in the country. Before the end of 2013, total tax collection by the BIR hit an all time increase of P91.6 billion from P60.4 billion in 2012. Taxes from cigarettes represented 61.6 percent or almost two thirds of all sin tax collection for 11 months of 2013.

Mighty Corp., then a minor player with a measly three percent of the market share with only P500 million in excise tax payments before the sin tax law took effect in 2012, contributed P8.2 billion in tax payments in 2013, discrediting its critics that it had allegedly committed technical smuggling and tax evasion.‐corp‐to‐buy‐more‐tobacco‐from‐local‐farmers/                                         

Luzon Newsbits for January 10,2014   January 9, 2014  

Vegetable Supply, Prices Still Stable URDANETA CITY, Pangasinan — The well-known trading center of vegetables in the north, called “Bagsakan Market” in this city, has a sufficient supply of vegetables despite reports of frost damaging crops in Benguet, the city administrator said yesterday. City Administrator Rufino Ronaldo San Juan VI said the supply of vegetables from Benguet has been the same as before and that wholesale prices are also stable. Earlier, Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan already stated that there is no shortage of highland vegetables as a result of the frost. “About 30%-40% of vegetables at the Bagsakan Market comes from Baguio City while the rest are agricultural products grown in Urdaneta and Pangasipnan,” he said. (Liezle Basa Inigo) ‘Kronos’ Safe ROSARIO, Cavite — “Kronos” the eagle was turned over the other day by the municipal government of Rosario to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB) in Quezon City. The rare eagle, a Brahminy Kite with scientific name “haliastur indus,” was rescued by four fishermen after it crashed into high seas off this town around 10 a.m. last Monday. They gave it the name Kronos which, in Greek mythology, is a powerful Titan. The eagle is about a foot in body size, has a wingspan of 36 inches, and weighs nearly 0.7 of a kilogram. Mayor Jose “Nonong” Ricafrente, his aide Sid Luna Samaniego and a fishermen’s group turned it over to the PAWB. (Anthony Giron) Batangas Publishers BATANGAS CITY — The very first association of publishers in Batangas province was organized Wednesday at the Batangas Police Provincial Office (PPO) headquarters in Barangay Alangilan, here. Named Publishers Association of Batangas (PAB), membership was limited to weekly newspapers in the province. Its main objectives are to unify and steer camaraderie among publications that are mainly dependent on local government, legislative, and court advertisements. Elected as charter PAB officers were Rosa Cecilia Aclan of Sun Star People’s Courier, president; Billy Andal, Batangas Monday Times, vice president; Lourdes delos Reyes, Headlines News Today, secretary; Videl Roaring, Ang Pantas Ng Batangas, treasurer; and Mely Manalo, Dyaryo Veritas, auditor. (Vicky Aclan Florendo) Fishermen Caught UNISAN, Quezon — Authorities have arrested three of 11 suspected illegal fishermen in a sea patrolling operation off Barangay Punta, this town, police reported yesterday. Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Genaro Ylagan, Quezon Police Provincial Office (PPO) director, said that the suspects were allegedly caught in the act of employing the illegal method of fishing called “taksay” on board a fishing vessel operated by one Ariel Gariando. Bantay Dagat

operatives arrested William Torres Ortiz, Mateo Tumulak and Harold Viban aboard the fishing vessel, while eight others jumped into the water and swam in different directions to elude arrest. (Danny J. Estacio) Bishop Forbids ‘Sacla’ In Wake IMUS, Cavite — The Catholic Church forbade the operation of “sacla” (Spanish card game), as well as other forms of gambling, in wakes. Most Rev. Reynaldo G. Evangelista, bishop of Imus (Cavite) Diocese, said this yesterday as he cited that the issue on the operation of ”sacla” or any illegal gambling games is a concern that have to be resolved and addressed by the concerned, especially the civil authority. Evangelista said that “sacla” and other forms of illegal gambling are prohibited by law and therefore should not be allowed to operate. “Definitely, we (the Catholic Church) are rejecting “sacla” and other gambling in wakes,” Evangelista said. (Anthony Giron)

Govt deficit within 2% of GDP Category: Top News 09 Jan 2014 Written by David Cagahastian THE government registered a budget surplus of P1 billion in November 2013 despite the disbursements for relief and rehabilitation in the Visayas, as revenue collection reached P165 billion in November. The surplus put the current budget deficit at P111.5 billion from January to November 2013, well within the government’s target to keep the budget deficit at a maximum of P173.2 billion, or 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said the increased fiscal space would allow the government to allocate more resources for infrastructure projects and welfare programs in the provinces devastated by Supertyphoon Yolanda. “This is an example of how our economic strength translated directly to resiliency in service of our affected countrymen,” he said. The finance department reported that the expenditures of the government from January to November 2013 increased by 9 percent, from figures during the same period in 2012. The percentage represented by interest payments in the total expenditures, however, has been declining, indicating that the government was spending more on infrastructure and welfare programs. From January to November 2013, interest payments represented 17.7 percent of the total disbursements, down from the 18.4-percent share of interest payments in the total disbursements for the same period in 2012. The department attributed the November budget surplus to the P165-billion revenue collection, the second highest monthly revenue that was registered in 2013, next to the P190-billion collection last April. The total revenue collection from January to November 2013 was P1.566 trillion, which was an 11-percent increase from the total revenue collection for the same period in 2012. The collections of both the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs gained double-digit year-on-year growth rates in November 2013. The BIR collection of P126.5 billion for the month reflected a 14-percent increase over the collection for the same month in 2012. Amid ongoing Customs reform initiatives, BOC collections amounted to P28.2 billion, a 19percent growth over 2012. The Bureau of theTreasury also exceeded its program collection over the January-to-November period by 44 percent, raking in P75.5 billion.

Meralco warns of blackouts By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - Rotating blackouts loom in the summer months as a Supreme Court (SC) freeze order on the electricity rate hike is threatening to disrupt the overall power supply chain, the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) warned yesterday. Meralco, the country’s largest power distributor, voiced its warning in its 230-page “consolidated comment with counter-petition” on the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the SC on Dec. 23 on the firm’s record increase in December generation charges. The high court’s issuance of the TRO was in response to consolidated petitions filed by militant groups and concerned individuals against Meralco’s planned rate adjustment. “With the TRO in place, it will not be far-fetched to imagine that some generation companies might altogether refuse to sell electricity to Meralco or decide to sell to Meralco only such amount of electricity as is commensurate to the resulting rate of P5.6673 per kilowatt-hour (kwh),” Meralco said. “Either way, the insufficient power supply will result in rotating blackout, particularly during the summer months, which historically drive up the demand for electricity.” The power distributor said the High Tribunal’s keeping the TRO without requiring generation and transmission companies to rein in their rates “would prejudice not only Meralco but the entire electricity supply chain, including ultimately the public as well.” Meralco also raised the possibility of some unpaid power producers refusing to sell electricity to the company because of the TRO. In its counter-petition, Meralco said it had received demand letters from National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the country’s transmission highway operator, and other power producers.

Citing the higher cost of power purchased from suppliers, Meralco announced late last year a P3.44 per kwh increase in generation charge to P9.10. The adjustment would have translated to P4.15 per kwh hike in electricity rates in December billings had the SC not issued the TRO. The original generation charge is P5.6673 per kwh. The generation charge is the cost of power purchased by Meralco for the previous month’s supply. It is the biggest component of electricity cost, accounting for 65 percent. “As it stands, Meralco is enjoined from collecting from the public the increase in the generation charges amounting to P8.9 billion while the generation companies and NGCP may insist on collecting their full billings already,” it said. NGCP alone was demanding payment of more than P111 million from Meralco. AES Masinloc wanted immediate payment of more than P436 million for power supplied to Meralco while San Miguel Energy Corp. and South Premiere Power Corp. were demanding P8 million and P856 million, respectively. Meralco explained that it had to collect higher generation charges because it was compelled to source supply from the more expensive Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) due to the scheduled maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas plant and the forced shutdown of other plants. “The spikes are isolated, non-recurring and primarily the result of an abnormal confluence of simultaneous and overlapping forced or unscheduled outages, including extended and scheduled shutdowns of major power plants leading to extraordinary high WESM prices,” Meralco said in its petition. It noted that generation cost was relatively stable before November. “There was adequate supply that was enough to keep prices at manageable levels. In fact, prior to the Malampaya and other power plants’ shutdowns, the October 2013 generation charge, covering the September 2013 supply month, cost went as low as P4.68 per kwh,” Meralco told the SC. By not being able to bill the December 2013 increase in generation cost and other pass-through charges, Meralco said it was exposed to great financial risk. “Moreover, because of Meralco’s constraints to pay the outstanding and succeeding bills beyond the P5.6673 per kwh price because of this Honorable Court’s TRO, Meralco will, in the succeeding months, effectively be unable to buy power if the result will cause the pass-through generation charge to exceed the P5.6673 per kwh,” it said. “In the same manner, it is highly possible that the generation companies would no longer sell power to Meralco if the result will cause the pass-through generation charge to exceed P5.6673 per kwh rate as Meralco would be legally constrained to purchase power at market price.” Oral arguments on the petitions against the rate hike are set on Jan. 21.

With the TRO in place, Meralco has instructed its 5.3 million customers to set aside its December 2013 billing and instead pay the amount equivalent to their November 2013 bill or whichever is lower. The January generation charge, meanwhile, is pegged at P5.67 per kwh in deference to the TRO although actual generation charge has risen to P10.23 per kwh, according to officials. “The preliminary billings from the power suppliers and WESM indicate the January 2014 generation charge translates to P10.23 per kwh,” Meralco said. “The reason for the increase is still the Malampaya shutdown which crossed two billing periods, coupled with the scheduled, extended and forced outages of generation plants in December,” said Larry Fernandez, Meralco head of utility economics. He said the company would wait for instructions from the SC and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on how to collect the January generation charge in excess of P5.67 per kwh. Gov’t told to answer charges The government cannot avoid legal questions on the P4.15 per kwh increase on power rates that Meralco wanted to impose, the SC said yesterday. In a five-page order, the high tribunal denied the plea of the Department of Energy (DOE) and ERC for them to be excused from answering petitions questioning the legality of the power rate hike. The SC ordered the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to submit by personal service their comment on or before Jan. 17. The OSG was also ordered to attend the preliminary conference of parties on Jan. 13, in preparation for the oral arguments on Jan. 21. In a motion filed Wednesday, the OSG told the high tribunal that the DOE and ERC were not required to answer the petitions filed by the militant groups led by Bayan Muna party-list and consumer groups led by the National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) as they were merely impleaded as nominal parties. The SC rejected the OSG’s arguments and reiterated its earlier order requiring the energy regulators to explain their approval of the record-high power rate hike. In the same order, the petitioners were directed to amend their petitions in order to include more respondents. The high court wanted the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), operator of electricity trading floor WESM, and power suppliers SEM-Calaca Power Corp., Masinloc Power Partners

Corp., Therma Luzon Inc., San Miguel Energy Corp., South Premier Power Corp. and Therma Mobile Inc. impleaded as parties in the case. The SC said the petitioners failed to implead the PEMC when they alleged that “a very high ceiling price was revealed, at P62/kwh sold at WESM, while normally the price is way below this on the average in the spot market.” It said the power producers were not impleaded when they had been accused of collusion with ERC “in their profiteering activities.” Records show that the power producers supplied Meralco in November last year when the generation costs increased. Meralco filed its answer to the petition on Wednesday. In a 129-page comment, Meralco asked the high court to lift the temporary restraining order it issued last month stopping the implementation of the power rate hike for 60 days. It also sought the inclusion of PEMC and the power suppliers as respondents in the case – a prayer already granted by the court yesterday. Meralco said it did not violate the people’s rights to due process as alleged by the petitioners. “Contrary to petitioners’ contentions, the automatic adjustment scheme as implemented by the AGRA (Automatic Adjustment of Generation Rate) rules and EPIRA IRR (Electric Power Industry Reform Act implementing rules and regulations) amendment comply with the requirement of due process,” it stressed. It said the Agra rules and the EPIRA IRR amendment provide that automatic adjustments are always subject to post-verification process by the ERC. The ERC, which apparently filed its comment also on Wednesday, expressed disagreement with the OSG’s claims that it did not need to answer the petition. ERC chair Zenaida Ducut said the issues raised in the petition are constitutional in nature and delved on the adjustment mechanism utilized by the commission in approving generation cost. ERC has denied it committed abuse of discretion when it approved Meralco’s request for power rate hike, as it claimed it had the legal basis to do so. Petitioners alleged that their right to due process was violated when the ERC approved the price adjustment without public hearings. They questioned the ERC’s approval of the power rate hike on Dec. 9, or just four days after Meralco submitted its proposal.

Nasecore urged the high court to order the creation of a committee to be headed by the Commission on Audit as head, that would conduct an automatic audit on electricity rate adjustments imposed by Meralco since 2004. The committee, Nasecore said, should determine the amount that Meralco should refund consumers for the alleged illegal rate increases. Include power producers in TRO — Bayan Meanwhile, Bayan Muna said it would ask the high tribunal to include power producers in the TRO it issued against Meralco. “They are the real culprits behind all these increases,” Rep. Neri Colmenares said, adding Bayan Muna welcomes the SC decision requiring DOE and ERC to explain why they allowed the rate adjustments, and dismissing the request of the OSG to exclude the two state agencies from the case. – Edu Punay, Jess Diaz, Christina Mendez

YEARENDER: DENR intensifies campaign to save wildlife species By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  Lolong, the world’s largest captive crocodile, died of pneumonia and cardiac failure in February last year. 

MANILA, Philippines - The year 2013 saw the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)’s ramp up efforts to save the country’s wildlife species and protected areas. Among the incidents that made headlines last year was the death of Lolong, the world’s largest crocodile in captivity. The reptile died on Feb. 10 due to late-stage pneumonia and cardiac failure. Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) director Theresa Mundita Lim said fungus infected Lolong’s lungs and stress aggravated the problem after the reptile was captured in Agusan Marsh in 2011. “Findings indicate that there could have been a chronic infection that may have been aggravated by stress,” Lim said. “Even before Lolong’s capture, it was already not feeling well, and taking the crocodile from its natural habitat to a new home made its condition worse,” she added. It was in 2012 when the Guinness World Records proclaimed Lolong, which measured 20.24 feet long and weighed 1,075 kilograms, as the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity. The reptile was subjected to necropsy at the University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Veterinary Medicine. Lim noted that Lolong’s death could lead to a better understanding of the condition of crocodiles in the wild and how to better manage them in captivity. A study could also help determine the state of the Agusan Marsh to possibly improve its condition for the benefit of the wildlife in it and the communities that depend on its resources.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said “Lolong’s death would serve as an important reference as we review management and husbandry practices and ensure that we provide the appropriate environment for all animals in captivity.” “Just like humans, animals have certain physiological and environmental needs that should be met so that they would be capable of adapting well to different types of stress brought about by any change in environment,” Paje added. Smuggled elephant tusks Four months after Lolong’s death, the DENR was faced with the task of destroying at least five tons of smuggled elephant tusks using a road roller inside the PAWB compound in Quezon City. Paje said the move was a reaffirmation of the country’s commitment to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), an international treaty promulgated in 1973 to regulate commercial trade in certain wildlife species, including the critically endangered elephants. “Despite the high price of raw ivory in the black market, the government had no choice but to destroy them as a strong indignation for the killing of hundreds of elephants by poachers who were after their precious tusks,” Paje said. Lim said 60 kilos of the ivory tusks would be used for education purposes. The DENR also organized the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory (POGI) to ensure that ivory smuggling into the country is properly investigated. Apart from the DENR, members of POGI include the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Customs, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Police Office, and the Criminal Investigation Detection Group. Dead wildlifeconfiscated in Tondo The DENR also issued a stern warning against poachers of wildlife species, following the confiscation by authorities of a large number of dead wildlife species during a raid in a house in Tondo, Manila in July. The raiding team, headed by DENR Undersecretary and POGI head Ernesto Adobo Jr., recovered 78 Palawan hill mynas, 12 blue-naped parrots and five juvenile Indo-Pacific saltwater crocodiles, all dead. Only 14 Philippine forest and pond turtles were retrieved alive. Criminal charges were filed against the suspected owners and their possible cohorts.

“What’s particularly alarming about this poaching incident is that there were reports that most of these endangered animals were intentionally killed to avoid detection by authorities and such act carries a higher penalty,” Paje said. Under Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, illegal trade of endangered species is penalized by a fine of P200,000 and a jail term of two years, while the killing of endangered animals carries the penalty of imprisonment of six years and a fine of P500,000. Natural parks awarded Meanwhile, to showcase success stories in protected area management, the DENR awarded seven natural parks last October. The Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon; Taal Volcano Protected Landscape, which straddles 13 towns and three cities across the provinces of Batangas and Cavite in Southern Luzon; Apo Island Protected Landscape/Seascape off Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental; Northern Luzon’s Mt. Pulag National Park; Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape in Laguna and Quezon provinces; Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in Palawan, and the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park also in Palawan were given recognition. Paje said the awards were presented to protected area managers and staff for their “impressive efforts, initiatives and innovative practices” in the management of protected areas. The move will provide incentives for the people managing protected areas. “This way, we raise the bar on effective management practices, heighten awareness on the value of our protected areas and therefore advocate for their support from other sectors,” he added. Likewise, the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve in Los Baños, Laguna has been declared as the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Park. This developed after environment ministers from the 10 member-states of the regional group approved the nomination of Makiling as a natural park during the 14th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held last September in Indonesia. Paje said Makiling was recognized for its high conservation importance and being named one of the country’s 18 centers of plant diversity and 32 key ecotourism sites. “With its hot springs, gardens and scenery, it has been a prime ecotourism destination, given its proximity to Metro Manila. So the wonder is that, for all its wear and tear, the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve continues to thrive as a habitat for biodiversity, well enough to qualify as an ASEAN Heritage Park,” Paje said.

The Mount Makiling Forest Reserve joins four other ASEAN Heritage Parks in the Philippines: the Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park. Philippine eagle dies Members of the Davao-based Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) found a dead male Philippine Eagle on Mount Lumot in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental last Oct. 11. The DENR said the eagle’s death came barely two months after it was released back into the wild following a two-year rehabilitation. PAWB said the eagle was identified as Minalwang, which the PEF released into Mount Balatukan Range Natural Park in Gingoog City last Aug. 15. The PEF had been alerted after the satellite transmitter attached to the eagle to track its movements had stopped sending feedback. “This is another blow for us, especially for our conservation program where we have been trying so hard to perpetuate the existence of our Haring Ibon,” Lim said. The majestic Philippine Eagle is considered a critically endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. There are about 500 pairs of Philippine Eagles in the wild, and less than 50 – including those that have been bred in captivity or are being rehabilitated – are in the custody of the PEF and the DENR. The Philippine Eagles and other wildlife are protected under Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. Under this law, a person who kills a wildlife species can be imprisoned from six to 12 years and fined from P100,000 to P1 million. Lim said investigation is still ongoing though an initial report said infection could have been the cause of the eagle’s death. Rebuilding typhoon-ravaged environment The DENR also bared its plan to help in rebuilding Eastern Visayas, which was ravaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November. The plan involves restoration of mangrove and beach forests along 380 kilometers of coastline in Eastern Visayas, including Leyte and all other portions damaged by Yolanda. The move is expected to protect communities against the devastating effects of future storms.

A massive tree-planting activity under the government’s National Greening Program may take place in coastal areas in Tacloban City and Dulag town in Leyte; municipalities of Guiuan, Llorente and Balangiga in Eastern Samar; and the town of Basey in Samar to provide livelihood to residents and allow them to take part in building a “green wall” against storm surges. The DENR and its Mines and Geosciences Bureau also inspected the affected areas. The DENR said it would have to enforce a “no-build zone” with a 40-meter easement in coastal communities in the entire seaboard of Eastern Visayas affected by the super typhoon. Paje stressed the tragedy caused by Yolanda underscores the need to revive the region’s degraded coastal forests to make its coastlines less vulnerable to extreme weather events.

Government bans use of lead in packaging Category: Economy 09 Jan 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga THE government is strengthening control on the use of lead and lead compounds in the local production of consumer products, as well as its importation, sale, distribution and disposal. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued a chemical-control order (CCO), which effectively bans the use of the toxic chemical in the local production of food packaging. The order also strictly regulates its use on paints, toys and other consumer products. The CCO for lead was contained in DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje. “The chemical control order for lead and lead compounds is a result of numerous consultations with various stakeholders with the intention of reducing unreasonable risks and injuries to people as a result of their exposure to the chemical, as well as its negative impact on the environment,” Paje said. According to Paje, the order also supports the global action for the elimination of lead in paints. Lead is a heavy metal and highly toxic substance that exposure to it or ingestion can severely damage the nervous system. The chemical can also affect the development of children, as well as the cardiovascular, reproductive and immune systems; impair the kidneys; and could also cause hearing loss and tooth decay. The CCO for lead and lead compound specifically prohibits the use of the toxic chemical in the local manufacture of packaging for food and drink, toys, school supplies, cosmetics, water pipes and other consumer products. It also reiterates the ban on the use of lead as fuel additive. “With the CCO, existing prohibitions by other agencies of the government governing the use of lead and lead compounds in various consumer products are further strengthened,” he said. The order has also set the standard content of lead for locally produced paints at 90 parts per million, as well as the timeframe for the strict implementation of the standard, which starts in 2016 for paints intended for architectural, decorative and household applications, while paints for industrial applications starts in 2019. According to Paje, the reason for setting the implementation phase for paints is to enable our paint industry to shift to lead-free production. He said there is now a global action for the elimination of lead in paints.

Paje added that the new regulation on lead is consistent with Republic Act (RA) 6969, otherwise known as the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990. He noted that the order addresses the transport and treatment of lead-containing waste prior to disposal. RA 6969 was issued by the government in response to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. “Since lead is a toxic substance, the regulation covers not only the production process, but starts at the importation of the chemical to transport, recycling and even up to disposal of leadcontaining waste. Thus, the order also covers not only the manufacturers or industrial users, but also the importers, distributors, recyclers, as well as the waste service providers like the transporters, waste treaters and disposers,” Paje explained. Persons or entities involved in importation, manufacture, distribution, use, recycling, treatment, storage and disposal of lead and lead compounds, whether newly involved or with existing compliance certificates, are now required to register with the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau. Applicants are also required to provide a Safety Data Sheet to ensure the environmentally sound management of the chemicals. The order details requirements for labeling, manufacturing and training, storage, transport, treatment and disposal of lead and lead-containing materials. To ensure proper implementation of the new policy, the DENR will conduct capability building and continuous consultations and discussions with its partner-agencies under the departments of Health, Trade and Industry, and Finance; as well as the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, the Ecological Waste Coalition, and International POPs Elimination Network Philippines, Paje said. The order also tasks the EMB to lead the development of standards or threshold limits relative to the other existing uses of lead, and to monitor compliance with these standards. Violators of the order shall be subject to administrative and criminal sanctions under the provisions of RA 6969, Paje said.

Government’s 4PS still fraught with irregularities – COA By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - The government’s cash dole-out scheme for the poor was still fraught with irregularities under the current administration, particularly in the release of funds through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a Commission on Audit (COA) report showed. In a 2012 report, state auditors said double entries in the database or payroll of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for 2012 totaling P17.4 million resulted in excess transfer of payroll funds and in overpayment of grants of P8.7 million. Records showed duplication of names of 4,443 household beneficiaries for the payroll period of January to August 2012. The scheme is also known as Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program. The previous Arroyo administration, widely maligned for high level corruption, initiated the CCT program. “Double entries in the payroll were confirmed by the regional auditors through the submitted regional validation reports and copies of acknowledgement receipts from the audit teams to confirm double payment of grants,” the COA report said. “The existence of double entries in the payroll resulted in the continuous downloading and accumulation of payroll grants if not refunded,” state auditors added, noting that such findings were raised as early as 2011. The COA report said an audit team in Barangay Pagsangahan in San Francisco, Quezon was even able to find a 4Ps beneficiary who presented two IDs with different numbers. State auditors said the problem, if not addressed immediately, would affect the integrity and reliability of DSWD database, which is also used as reference for other government povertyalleviation programs.

The same COA report also revealed that grants and service fees of P50.1 million were paid to 7,782 households that were not on the list of validated and registered beneficiaries of the National Household Targeting Office. State auditors said such findings “may be considered irregular and further resulting (in) additional cost to the government in the distribution of CCT.” “Analysis of the unlisted beneficiaries in the database showed that the sequence of the numbers is within the assigned numbers for a particular local government unit identified as area for selection of poor households, thus may have been issued without proper authority,” the COA report read. State auditors said further scrutiny revealed that most of the unlisted beneficiaries had been in the 4Ps system since it began in 2008. But the DSWD informed the audit team that 7,762 of the beneficiaries had been accounted for and put on active status. The COA report said concerned officials should explain the deletion and reactivation of some 4Ps beneficiaries as well as the inclusion of names with doubtful data. – With Rainier Allan Ronda

DOH confident of wiping out measles by 2017 By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 


MANILA, Philippines - Measles cases may be on the rise in Metro Manila and the provinces, but the Department of Health (DOH) remains confident it can meet the target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate the disease in the Western Pacific by 2017. DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said the DOH and local health authorities have been stepping up vaccination efforts. “(Health) Secretary Enrique Ona prioritizes the elimination of measles as set by the WHO by 2017,” Tayag said. He said the DOH had set earlier targets – 1998 and 2008 – to eliminate measles in the country, but failed to meet them. Tayag noted that for the country to be considered measles-free, there should only be one laboratory-confirmed case per one million people. “The vaccination coverage per congressional district should not be less than 95 percent if you want to control it, if you don’t want to have outbreaks,” he added. “Measles-free does not mean zero case.” Tayag said the DOH is targeting the vaccination of some two million babies aged nine months to one year. He said the DOH would also spearhead a house-to-house mass immunization campaign to cover all children below five years old in September. The DOH has allotted around P500 million to P800 million for the vaccination campaign that would also include the giving of oral polio vaccine and Vitamin A supplement.

The DOH recorded a total of 1,724 measles cases from Jan. 1 to Dec. 14, 2013, a majority of them in Metro Manila. “That means we already exceeded the limit. It should be one case per million but we have 17 cases per million. So we are 17 times higher,” Tayag said. Citing WHO records, DOH consultant Willie Ong said several countries also experienced measles outbreak last year. He said the United States had 184 cases, Pakistan had more than 25,000; the Netherlands had 1,162 cases; Georgia, 5,369; France, 497; Italy 23; Spain, 255; Romania, 3,658; United Kingdom, 3,013 and Australia, 30. Measles cases in Isabela, Bataan, Wstern Visayas Meanwhile, at least 17 suspected measles cases in Isabela and 10 in Bataan are being monitored. Isabela provincial health officer Rosarita Mariano told The STAR the victims in the towns of Cabagan, Benito Soliven and San Mariano and the capital city of Ilagan show measles symptoms such as fever, soar throat and skin rashes. Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy III has ordered a mass vaccination of children. Rosanna Buccahan, Bataan provincial health officer, said 10 children who are confined in a public hospital and various rural health units in the province are not yet confirmed measles cases as they are still awaiting laboratory test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. She reminded mothers with nine-month old babies to bring them to health centers for measles vaccination. The DOH is also monitoring rising measles cases in Western Visayas, with 240 confirmed cases recorded as of Jan. 7. Of the number, 193 cases or 85 percent are in Aklan; Negros Occidental has 18 cases; Capiz, 14; Iloilo, eight; Antique, four, and Guimaras, three. – With Raymund Catindig, Ric Sapnu, Danny Dangcalan

LPA to enter Phl this afternoon By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  10 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - Heavy rains are expected over some parts of the country beginning tomorrow morning after a low-pressure area enters the Philippine area of responsibility this afternoon. Rene Paciente, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) weather forecasting chief, said the low-pressure area, to be codenamed Agaton, is likely to intensify into a tropical depression within 24 hours. “The weather disturbance was forecast to make landfall over Mindanao on Saturday afternoon or evening,” he said. Paciente warned residents of Southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao against possible flashfloods and landslides. Paciente said international weather prediction models used by PAGASA showed different forecasts for the approaching cyclone as of yesterday afternoon. “There are models which show that it will remain stationary over the sea,” he said. “Others show it will make landfall over Mindanao on Saturday afternoon and move upward (north) before crossing other parts of the region, eastern Visayas and southern Luzon (Bicol).” Paciente said after crossing Mindanao, the Visayas and southern Luzon, the disturbance will return to the eastern side of the country and is expected to dissipate. “There are numerical models which show that it will only reach tropical depression category while other forecasts show it will further intensify into a storm or even a typhoon,” he said. Paciente said the disturbance’s erratic movement was due to the tail-end of a cold front affecting the country. Agaton is not expected to be as powerful as Super Typhoon Yolanda, he added. Paciente said Metro Manila residents can also expect light to moderate rains this weekend. Coldest in Baguio Paciente said PAGASA recorded the coldest temperature in Baguio City yesterday at 11.5 degrees Celsius.

Yesterday’s temperature surpassed the previous lowest temperature in the area last Jan. 1 at 11.8 degrees Celsius. In Metro Manila, the temperature yesterday dipped to 19.9 degrees Celsius at around 5 a.m. The coldest temperature in the metropolis was recorded last Jan. 1 at 19.2 degrees Celsius. Temperatures will continue to drop in the coming weeks as the northeast monsoon peaks, weather forecasters said.

Above-norm capital adequacy helps shield banking system from risks Category: Banking & Finance 09 Jan 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma THE country’s large banks and the capital they hold should be strong enough to weather unexpected losses arising during times of financial stress, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said on Thursday. Latest data from the central bank show the banks’ capital adequacy ratio or CAR, a measure of the banks’ eligible capital against their risk-weighted assets or RWA, stood at 17.89 percent on a solo basis and at 19.24 percent on consolidated as at end-June last year. This was an improvement from the previous quarter’s CAR of universal and commercial banks which then stood at 17.75 percent on solo basis and at 18.89 percent on consolidated basis. This was also well above the country’s minimum CAR requirement of 10 percent. And it was also twice the minimum international CAR requirement of 8 percent. The growth in the big banks’ CAR was largely attributed to the aacelerating pace of qualifying capital as measured against RWA. This was a result of the profitable operations of banks from April to June last year. The sale of additional common stocks likewise contributed to the growth of the banks’ capital. Bianca Cuaresma

DND verifying reports on China’s fishing rules By Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of National Defense said yesterday it is ready to enforce the country’s maritime laws in the wake of reports that China is imposing fishing regulations in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). “The defense establishment is ready to assist in enforcing the maritime rules in the Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” said defense department spokesman Peter Galvez. “We will enforce (measures to protect) our resources,” he added. Galvez was asked to comment on reports that China is now requiring foreign fishermen to seek its permission to operate in the West Philippine Sea, the subject of a territorial row in the region. The Chinese policy reportedly took effect last month and covered two million hectares of the area, which is rich in oil and maritime resources. The Philippine government, however, is still validating the reports about the new fishing regulation. “We will have to verify statements regarding these alleged fishing rules by China,” Galvez said. The defense official, nevertheless, stressed that all countries “are free to enforce fishing rules within their own EEZ.” Reports about the fishing regulation came two months after China imposed an air defense zone over waters separating China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The policy requires all aircraft to identify themselves and to report their flight plans to Chinese authorities while flying through the zone. The zone, which spans 1,000 kilometers from north to south, drew flak from several countries that view it as an infringement on the freedom of flight in international airspace. China is claiming almost the entire West Philippine Sea through its so-called nine-dash line that covers more than 100 islets, atolls and reefs. China’s claims overlap with separate claims of the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam. Last January, the Philippines challenged China’s claims before an international tribunal of the United Nations.

The Philippines said China’s nine-dash line is exaggerated and contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The country has also called on China to desist from unlawful activities that violate its sovereign rights and jurisdiction. China has ignored the Philippines’ protests and insisted that the dispute be settled through bilateral negotiations. Chinese vessels even intensified illegal fishing and patrols in areas that are well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile EEZ. The lack of military capability, however, has prevented the Philippine government from repelling the intruders.‐verifying‐reports‐chinas‐fishing‐rules                               

GSIS extends housing loan restructuring program deadline by Chino Leyco  January 9, 2014  

State-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has extended the deadline of its housing loan restructuring program by another six months instead of December last year. In a statement, the pension fund for government workers said borrowers — whose accounts are current or up-to-date — have now until June 30 this year to apply for the program. The program is also open to borrowers whose deeds of conditional sale were cancelled but are not yet sold; and whose accounts are under foreclosure. Buyers of rights and heirs of deceased borrowers who meet the eligibility criteria are also qualified to apply under the program. However, borrowers whose properties were auctioned and who were already issued a certificate of sheriff sale are no longer qualified. Under the program, GSIS will condone all unpaid penalties and surcharges and grant extended payment terms to qualified applicants. By restructuring, the auction of the properties under the foreclosable Real Estate Loan accounts may be postponed and the cancellation of the Deed of Conditional Sale (DCS) accounts that have not yet been sold may be withdrawn. An incentive also awaits borrowers who intend to pay their arrears in full. Those with arrearages of not more than six months will get 100 percent discount on unpaid interest, penalties and surcharges. While accounts with arrearages of more than six months will get discounts based on their payment history. In addition, members with current accounts may benefit from lower monthly amortizations through longer payment periods.‐extends‐housing‐loan‐restructuring‐program‐deadline/     

ADB, StanChart open $800‐M SME window By Donnabelle L. Gatdula (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - Multilateral lender Asian Development Bank (ADB) and British financial giant Standard Chartered Bank are teaming up to provide more than $800 million in financing for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Asia. The supply chain financing in Asia will be the first partnership of its kind under ADB’s recently launched Supply Chain Finance (SCF) program. Specifically, the agreement will finance more than $800 million in supply chain transactions, most of which will be directed through SMEs that are supplying large companies with materials for intermediate and final production, as well as retail sales. Under the agreement, ADB and Standard Chartered will share the risk in the transactions. This will in turn support the development of intra-Asia supply chains as well as supply chains between Asia and other regions of the world. “Market gaps for supply chain finance impede economic growth and job creation, so it’s imperative that ADB get into this space,” ADB head of Trade Finance Steven Beck said. “ADB is very pleased to sign this agreement with Standard Chartered to close market gaps in support of SME development and job creation in developing Asia,” he said. Backed by its AAA credit rating, ADB’s SCF program complements its successful Trade Finance Program (TFP). While ADB’s TFP fills market gaps by providing guarantees and loans to banks, the SCF program will take commercial corporate risk and improve liquidity within the supply chains. “We are delighted to be partnering with ADB for its first supply chain risk-sharing program. This partnership is a testament to our strength in financing trade and our commitment to supporting

trade flows – the lifeblood of the global economy,” said Joshua Cohen, Standard Chartered global head of liability and RWA management. As part of the Clinton Global Initiative, Standard Chartered has also pledged to increase SME lending by approximately 45 percent in its footprint markets of Asia, Africa and the Middle East over the next five years.‐stanchart‐open‐800‐m‐sme‐window                                         

Phl banks remain well capitalized By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 


MANILA, Philippines - Big banks remained well-capitalized as of June last year, indicating they have sufficient funds to service loans and act as a buffer against economic shocks. Bangko Sentral ng PIlipinas (BSP) data showed universal and commercial banks’ capital adequacy ratio (CAR) stood at 17.98 percent on solo basis and 19.24 percent on consolidated basis as of the first half of 2013. The figures are both an improvement from the CAR of 17.75 percent on solo basis and 18.89 percent on consolidated basis recorded in March last year. These are also well-above the BSP’s mandated 10-percent requirement for banks and the international standard of eight percent. Moreover, the BSP noted Tier 1 or high quality capital stood at 16.46 percent on solo basis and 16.75 percent on consolidated basis as of June last year. “The sustained strength of the industry’s CARs resulted from the faster growth pace of qualifying capital vis-a-vis that of RWA (risk-weighted assets),” the central bank said. The BSP recounted the qualifying capital of banks went up 1.18 percent to P861.7 billion in endJune last year on solo basis, and increased by 2.09 percent to P1.025 trillion on a consolidated basis. “[This is] due to profitable operations of banks in the second quarter of 2013 as well as the issuances of additional common stocks,” the BSP said. The central bank said that despite a growth in total assets to P7.709 trillion from P7.272 trillion, the RWA of banks went down as a result of the country’s credit upgrade to investment grade last year.

RWA of big banks slightly dipped by 0.12 percent to P4.792 trillion on solo basis and by 0.2 percent to P5.324 trillion on consolidated basis. “The industry’s CAR figures indicate( big banks) continued efforts to maintain robust capitalization,” the BSP said. “A strong capital position promotes financial stability by providing individual banks and the industry with an adequate buffer against unexpected losses that may arise during times of stress,” it said.‐banks‐remain‐well‐capitalized                                       

PORK ROW Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 Written by : Jester Manalastas

NAME names. Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga thus challenged Sen. Francis Escudero who earlier stated that some members of the House of Representatives realigned their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to selected local government units (LGUs). Barzaga said the senator should identify these lawmakers while Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab should confirm or deny this. Escudero and Ungab are chairmen of the finance committees of the Senate and House respectively. Barzaga said that in the spirit of respect and fairness, Escudero should identify those lawmakers he is referring. Earlier, Escudero defended Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, saying that there is nothing wrong if the latter realigned his P100 million 2014 PDAF to Manila, where his father Joseph Estrada is mayor. Escudero said that there were also some congressmen who transferred their allocations – through amendments in the P2.265 trillion national budget for 2014 – “in areas where their allies are.”

“As a leader of the National Unity Party (NUP) who was always part of the leadership discussion of the 2014 budget, I know very well that the PDAF will be removed from the budget and realigned to social services,” Barzaga said. During the budget deliberation, members of the House have agreed to let go of their 2014 PDAF amounting to P24.5 billion but instead entrusted the fund to at least six government agencies that provide basic services to the people like Department of Health (DoH), Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). He said it was never discussed let alone agreed to give pork to chosen LGUs. “There is no agreement that PDAF can be realigned to LGUs. It’s only now that I’ve learned that it was done,” he said. Barzaga said Escudero should clarify his statement since the congressman’s constituents might expect social services from his PDAF when he was not among those who used the fund as financial assistance to LGUs. “My wife (Jenny) is the city mayor of Dasmariñas and our constituents, with this statement of Sen. Chiz Escudero, might have the impression that my PDAF was realigned to Dasmariñas City and my constituents might expect some social benefits coming from my PDAF where in fact there is none,” he added.‐pork‐row                

Hundreds hurt in procession of Black Nazarene Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 MILLIONS of barefoot devotees packed the streets of the Philippine capital Manila Thursday for one of the world’s biggest Catholic parades, honoring a statue of Jesus Christ they believe has miraculous powers. Braving the suffocating heat, pilgrims clambered over one another to touch the Black Nazarene during the ebony-hued wooden statue’s slow procession from Manila’s main park to a historic church. ”This has been a family tradition for years, and the Nazarene has given us many blessings over the years,” housewife Josephine Manalastas told AFP after she and her 80-year-old mother survived being trampled by the surging crowd. Mother and daughter were taken to an ambulance nearby for treatment after a section of the crowd at the park stampeded over a steel barrier protecting the statue’s carriage. Medical staff said they were uninjured. Large numbers of police were mustered to help maintain order along the sixkilometre (four-mile) route, but organisers said at least 300 devotees were injured, and one person suffered a potentially fatal stroke. Schools declared a holiday and police estimated hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had turned up by sunrise. Hours later, church organisers said this year’s crowd had outnumbered the estimated nine million who attended last year, although the number could not be independently verified. As the procession got underway, devotees climbed on each other’s shoulders to kiss the statue or wipe it with white towels and handkerchiefs. Others fought over a pair of thick lengths of rope that the pilgrims used to pull the carriage. In scenes reminiscent of a rock concert mosh pit, one determined woman surfed the crowd to reach the icon, only to fall back afterwards and be swallowed up by the massive sea of humanity. AFP‐stories/65027‐hundreds‐hurt‐in‐procession‐ of‐black‐nazarene  

9 ‘Euro Generals’ rapped Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco

THE Office of the Ombudsman yesterday filed criminal charges before Sandiganbayan against the nine so-called “Euro Generals” six years after the scandal broke out. Based on nine separate charges, former police comptroller Eliseo dela Paz faced five counts of graft and three counts of illegal use of public fund, together with eight other uniformed officials. Dela Paz, police chief superintendent Orlando Pestaño, police senior superintendent Tomas Rentoy III, and police superintendent Samuel Rodriguez were slapped with four graft and three illegal use of public fund cases. In the case of police director Romeo Ricardo, he was facing two counts of graft, while police deputy director generals Emmanuel Carta and Ismael Rafanan and police directors German Doria and Jaime Caringal are now facing one graft case each. The controversy stemmed from the 105,000 euros intercepted from Dela Paz at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on October 11, 2008 while attending the 77th Interpol General Assembly in St. Petersburg. Government prosecutors said the P10 million was sourced from the confidential and intelligence funds of the Philippine National Police (PNP).‐stories/65025‐9‐euro‐generals‐rapped            

Blackouts coming Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 Written by : Hector Lawas THE Manila Electric Company yesterday warned of rotating blackouts in its area of coverage specifically in Metro Manila if the 60-day temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court last December 23 will not be lifted. In a 129-page comment to the petitions, Meralco stressed that if the TRO will not be lifted, it faces the great risk of not being able to purchase all the electricity needed for the succeeding months, which may force generation companies to stop supplying electricity to the company. “The transmission company may stop transmitting if Meralco is unable to pay for the transmission charges. The entire power industry may come to screeching halt. One can readily imagine the dire consequences to the economy and security of the country should this happen, as there will surely be rotating blackouts through Meralco’s franchise area,” it said. It also argued that the petioners failed to substantiate their allegation that there was a collusion between the Energy Regulatory Commission and the power producers. The power firm noted that its distribution charges did not actually increase in the billing month of December 2013 as the increase in electricity charge for the same period was accounted for by increases in certain “pass-through” charges such as generation charge, transmission charge, system loss and taxes. “Meralco did not and does not derive a single centavo of profit from any of these charges. Accordingly, it cannot be made to finance or’ advance the payment of these ‘pass-through’ charges unless it can recover these charges with certainty from its customers,” the power firm said. “Indeed, any prolonged prohibition against the collection of the pass-through charges would have disastrous effects not only on Meralco but also on the entire Philippine power industry, electricity consumers, and ultimately, the national economy,” it added.

Aside from the general allegations of collusion, Meralco said the petitioners failed to attribute particular wrongful acts that it committed in increasing its rates. This is because, according to Meralco, the increased billings complained of do not involve any increase in its distribution charges, which is the only item in an electricity bill that it stands to benefit from. “There is simply no motivation, reason or purpose for Meralco to be involved in any alleged collusion relating to generation charges,” it said. It also argued that the issue of collusion falls within the jurisdiction of the ERC, thus, the filing of the petitions alleging a collusion is premature which should warrant its dimissal. Meralco also claimed that since the TRO was issued, it was left with no other option but to shoulder the generation, transmission and other pass-through charges.‐stories/65022‐blackouts‐coming                          

SC rebuffs gov't on power rates suit Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 Written by : Hector Lawas The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the government must answer legal questions on the Manila Electric Company (Meralco)’s P4.15 per kilowatthour power rate increase. The SC junked the plea of the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to be excused from answering petitions questioning the legality of the power rate hike. Instead, the SC directed the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to submit by personal service their comment on or before Jan. 17. The OSG was also ordered to attend the preliminary conference of parties on Jan. 13 for the oral arguments on the case set on Jan. 21. In a motion last Wednesday, the OSG told the SC that DoE and ERC are not required to answer the petitions filed by a group of militants led by Bayan Muna party-list and consumer groups led by National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) since they were sued merely as nominal parties. But the SC disagreed, reiterating its earlier order requiring the energy regulators to explain the legality of their approval of the record-high power rate increase. In the same order issued by authority of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno while the SC is in recess, petitioners were also directed to amend their petitions to include more respondents. The SC has issued a temporary restraining order stopping the implementation of the rate hike for 60 days.‐stories/65018‐sc‐rebuffs‐govt‐on‐power‐ rates‐suit      

Senators press bunkhouses probe Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 Written by : Bernadette Tamayo AT least three senators have called for an investigation into the reported “sub-standard and overpriced” bunkhouses built for survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas region to give them a more decent temporary shelter instead of living in tents. Senators Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Miriam Defensor-Santiago yesterday filed separate resolutions seeking an inquiry into the controversy amid the “pledge” of Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson that he will resign if the allegation is true. Sen.JV Ejercito had earlier pressed for a public hearing into the reports that each bunkhouse costs around P1 million which some sectors claimed is overpriced by almost P800,000. Marcos filed Senate Resolution No. 439 directing the Senate Committee on Public Works to probe, in aid of legislation, the alleged questionable construction of bunkhouses in Tacloban. He sought the inquiry “to institute corrective measures to ensure the safety and security of those displaced by the catastrophe.” “It is crucial to look into these issues to make sure that the victims of Yolanda will no longer be victimized further by corruption and abuses perpetrated by the callous culprits who take advantage of the desolate condition in the affected areas,” Marcos said. Santiago filed Senate Resolution No. 436 seeking a Senate investigation on reports that some 203 bunkhouses being developed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Leyte and Eastern Samar allegedly do not comply with internationally recognized standards and best practices. “This controversy multiplies the suffering of our countrymen in the typhoonaffected areas, as they faced devastation from a natural disaster and the evils of corruption,” she said. Santiago called for the inquiry to include potential overpricing and other unscrupulous acts concerning disaster relief operations. “The national government owes local and international typhoon relief donors

transparency and accountability, and therefore must ensure that the typhoon victims should receive relief by observing internationally recognized standards and best practices,” she said. Santiago previously filed another resolution seeking to establish protocols and standards for disaster relief operations by local government units in cooperation with nongovernment organizations, responding to reports that relief operations for the victims of the Visayas earthquake last October have been hampered by alleged politicking by local government officials and political aspirants. “The natural disasters last year and the PDAF scandal exposé are undeniable wake-up calls for the nation to step up government efficiency, transparency, and accountability. Relevant laws such as the Government Procurement Reform Act should be amended based on the national experience with these tragedies,” she said. Yolanda’s devastation reportedly displaced more than 200,000 families — affecting over one million people — and destroyed more than 500,000 houses in Region VII alone. This prompted the government to set up the bunkhouses made of galvanized iron sheets, plywood and cement, to serve as temporary shelters for families rendered homeless by Yolanda.‐stories/65009‐senators‐press‐bunkhouses‐ probe                  

Don’t blame Yolanda survivors – Sen. Binay Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 HEALTH officials should not blame parents as well as survivors of super typhoon “Yolanda” for the measles outbreak in Metro Manila and other parts of the country. Sen. Nancy Binay stressed this point as she deplored the previous pronouncements of some Department of Health officials blaming parents and survivors from typhoon-ravaged areas for the reported spread of measles in the National Capital Region (NCR). “Instead of blaming parents and survivors of super typhoon Yolanda for the measles outbreak, the DoH should act now to stem any epidemic,” Binay said. The DoH should also assess the apparent failure of the government’s anti-measles campaign over the past years, she said. “For DoH to blame people outside the organization is bothering when they have the mandate to abate, control and monitor public health. If the DoH had the capability to conduct a door-to-door campaign for the first round of the measles immunization shots, “then they have the capability to do it one more time,” she said. “A government agency has the resources it needs to ensure its objectives are met. Kung isinisisi ng DoH sa mga magulang ang pagkabigo o pagbagsak ng programa, ganito rin ba ang gagawin nila sa ibang nakalinyang programa tulad ng implementasyon ng RH (Reproductive Health) Law,” Binay said. She noted that free vaccinations are supposed to be given to children between six and 48 months old and are given in two doses of MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) jab. Bernadette E. Tamayo‐dont‐blame‐yolanda‐survivors‐‐ sen‐binay        

Did PNoy take a dig at Makati mayor? Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00 Written by : Efren Montano WAS it a glimpse of fireworks in the presidential elections in 2016? Political pundits viewed President Benigno Aquino’s remarks at the launch Wednesday of the high-tech traffic control system dubbed “Hermes” of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) as a swipe at Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Junjun Binay, son of Vice President Jejomar Binay, over the now infamous Dasmagate incident. Mayor Binay was guest at the special event. The November 30 “Dasmagate” was an incident recorded by closed circuit television cameras involving four security guards of Makati’s exclusive Dasmarinas Village who barred Binay’s convoy from passing through a restricted gate. The young Binay later said he “did not feel alluded to.” Binay and his sister, Sen. Nancy Binay, figured in the incident. Although Aquino made no direct reference to the “Dasmagate” towards the end of his speech, the President called on local officials as well as motorists and commuters to exercise self discipline and avoid being bullies on the road as he reminded them of his “no wang-wang(siren)” policy, which the President announced when he assumed office, and of how he has continued to eschew the privilege of having his way cleared through Metro Manila’s often traffic-choked streets. “Kahit may pribilehiyo po tayong maging prayoridad sa daan, pinipili ko pa ring hindi gumamit ng wang-wang “ the President said. The President insisted that no one has the license to let the siren mentality prevail and to be king of the road. He stressed that he, too, gets stuck in traffic and, therefore, includes an allowance for this when he has to travel on the road. “Tulad ninyo, ang ibig-sabihin din po sa akin ng green ay ‘go,’ at ang red ay ‘stop,’ at hindi ‘go faster’ “ he said.

He appealed for traffic discipline “kahit pa minsan, natutukso tayo — dahil na rin siguro sa init ng ulo o sa inip sa kalsada — huwag sana natin itong gawing dahilan upang baluktutin ang batas, o lusutan ang sistema” even as he bared that at times he is tempted to make traffic apprehensions himself. “Even if I have the privilege to be a priority on the road, I choose not to use a siren. If we can obey the rules, then let all of us do so,” he said,pointing out that officials should not wait to be caught on cameras and face punishment before they learn to follow the law.‐did‐pnoy‐take‐a‐dig‐at‐makati‐ mayor                                  

The wringer and the law Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00

We accept and welcome as conditions to which we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few; and the law of competition between these as being not only beneficial but essential for the future progress of the race. – Andrew Carnegie Pressed on all sides, a small Bulacan-based tobacco firm is hanging tough and latching on to the law against hostile economic forces and state regulatory agencies increasingly being brought to bear on its thriving business. For instance, aside from facing a string of possible tax-evasion and technical-smuggling cases, Mighty Corp. could also be charged with allegedly violating the country’s anti-dumping laws. At least two groups of tobacco farmers have pressed the Department of Agriculture and the Tariff Commission to investigate MC for alleged dumping practices, based on reports that the company imported tobacco leaf in 2011 and 2012 for only $0.68 per kilo (equivalent to only P29.24). But speaking through its vice president, retired Judge Oscar P. Barrientos, MC promptly chided parties calling for such an investigation without a clear understanding of the law itself. Reminding MC critics that “ignorance of the law excuses no one,” Barrientos said the anti-dumping law (Republic Act 8752) requires that “simple assertion, unsubstantiated by relevant evidence, cannot be considered to meet the requirements of the law,” under Letter “b”, Section 301 of theantidumping law. The law is not a recourse for trial by publicity, he also stressed.

The MC counsel said the anti-dumping act ( Section 2) “declared the policy of the State to protect domestic enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices. Towards this end, substantive and procedural remedies available to domestic enterprises shall be strengthened and made responsive to recent developments in world trade”. Farmers groups noted that tobacco rejects in the local market are even priced higher at P43 per kilo, yet MC was able to import leaf from various locations in Brazil, Indonesia, and India at almost half this rate. The Banayoyo Reforestation and Tobacco Growers Credit Cooperative in Ilocos Sur and the Samahan ng Magtatabako ng Kanlurang Mindoro claimed MC’s import practices are glaring violations of RA 8752 or the Anti-Dumping Act of 1999 because its leaf prices were allegedly way below the mandated government floor rates for Virginia and burley tobacco for 2011 and 2012. Franciso Gamboa, president of the BRTGCC, said 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. But Barrientos said: “Gamboa should understand that there are specific requirements for initiating an investigation for anti-dumping, and these are, among others, “evidence of a) dumping, b), injury, and c) causal link between the dumped imports and the alleged injury; and upon receipt of a properly documented application and before proceeding to initiate an investigation, the secretary (of Agriculture) shall notify the government of the exporting country about the impending anti-dumping investigation”. “Further,” he said, “the law requires that domestic producers supporting the application must have at least 25-percent interest of the total production.” He added: “If in special circumstances, the Secretary decides to initiate an investigation, without having received a written application by or on behalf of a domestic industry for the initiation of such investigation, he shall proceed only if he has sufficient evidence of dumping, injury, and a causal link to justify the initiation of an investigation.” “The secretary shall require the petitioner to post a bond in such reasonable amount as to answer for any and all damages which the importer may sustain by reason of the filing of a frivolous petition,” he said Enacted in 1999, the law says: “Dumping occurs when foreign producers sell

their products to an importer in the domestic market at prices lower than in their own national markets, or at prices below cost of production, the sale or importation of which injures or threatens to injure a domestic industry producing like or comparable products or retards the establishment of a potential industry.” Thus, it is a form of price discrimination between two national markets, he said. The TC website specifies that “a dumping protest may cover any specific kind or class of a foreign product which is being imported, sold or is likely to be sold, into the Philippines at a price less than its normal value, the importation or sale of which might injure, or retard the establishment of, or is likely to injure an industry producing like products in the Philippines”. But even without tobacco farmers complaining, industry observers said government authorities should have seen the red flags. MC’s price undercutting is so obvious, they insisted, amazed at how this has escaped the prying eyes of the BoC and the BIR. Even without comparing its s import value for tobacco leaf with local prices, state investigators, they added, should have asked how the company has managed to come up with a flat rate for its leaf imports, regardless of its point of origin, whether it came from a nearby Asian republic or a faraway South American country. But the firm asserted that there’s nothing wrong with its import declarations, and that these now have a “presumption of regularity” after being accepted and approved by Customs authorities. MC’s statements and general denials are were, however, unacceptable to local tobacco farmers who said they now face a future of being driven out of business if the company is allowed to continue its allegedly questionable trade schemes. The farmers brushed aside assurances that MC would “buy more next year” from them, according to Gamboa. Besides tobacco leaf, the firm also imports acetate tow, the raw material used for cigarette filter. But then again, every local cigarette maker imports this product because it is not available locally, not even from third-party suppliers.

The cheapest tow imported in 2011 and 2012 was at $5.26 per kilo. MC was able to procure acetate tow overseas at a price of $0.30 per kilo, regardless of origin. The Post Entry Audit Group of the BoC, in a letter to MC last Oct. 21, 2013, asked the company to respond to the charges that it had allegedly grossly undervalued its imports within a period of 15 days. Gamboa noted that the 15-day deadline has long lapsed and that they now expect results from the BoC’s investigating team. But nothing has been heard about the outcome of the BoC probe, he added.‐the‐wringer‐and‐the‐law                                

More of a breaker than a builder Published : Friday, January 10, 2014 00:00

PRESIDENT Aquino has to build more highways in the country to tell investors their goods and services are going to move faster in the Philippines. The chief executive has to spend more on infrastructure as many economic experts believe that doing so would sustain the country’s economic growth. Investing on roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects not only creates jobs but it also promotes trade to boost business activity. But many of these big ticket projects are under the Public Private Partnership or PPP program which has been inexplicably ignored by Malacañang even though its implementation was promised by the President earlier in his term. And in the event the President changes his mind and decides to finally implement PPP, he’s got only three years left in the Palace and such would not be enough time to do the job. Aquino used his first three years in power smashing his political foes to hide the present administration’s incompetence and ended up with nothing to improve the lives of poor Filipinos. We could have been better off these days had our leader chose to be a builder rather than a breaker. AWESOME TPLEx!

Trying to make up for the shortcomings of the government is the private sector which is doing a good job on infrastructure in the north. The Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway or TPLEx will be extended to Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. But this will be done in “due time,” according to San Miguel Corp., one of the owners of TPLEx. But even if such is just in the offing, one can already wonder how easy reaching the far north would be the moment TPLEx is stretched that way. TPLEx was opened to motorists in November last year but the newest expressway that starts immediately at the end of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressay or SCTEx in Sta. Ines, Tarlac was completed only up to Gerona, Tarlac. But even then, the initial phase of the project is already giving motorists bound for Baguio or La Union the needed comfort by cutting travel time by 40 minutes. Just think of the greater comfort when TPLEx reaches Pangasinan, La Union and later Laoag City. That would be truly awesome! And we’re not yet talking about the economic benefits that each town in the north would get from this wonder highway.‐more‐of‐a‐breaker‐than‐a‐builder                  

Ikahiya ang korapsyon! (Noel Abuel) Ginamit ng liderato ng Simbahang ƒ Katoliko ang traslacion ng kapistahan ng Poong Itim na Nazareno para ipanawagan sa libu-libong dumagsang mga deboto na ikahiya ang korapsyon at pagnanakaw sa bansa. Ito ang naging sentro ng homiliya ni Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle matapos pangunahan ang misa bago simulan ang traslacion para sa kapistahan ng Nazareno. Giit nito, dapat na ipakita ang pagmamahal kay Hesus sa pamamagitan ng pagdarasal, pagsunod at pagsaksi sa Kanyang mga kabutihan. Iginiit din ng Cardinal na hindi dapat ikahiya ng tao ang Panginoon sa halip ay ipahayag sa buong mundo ang pagmamahal ni Hesus. Ang dapat aniyang ikahiya ng mga tao ay ang korapsyon at pagnanakaw. Hindi naman kinalimutan ni Cardinal Tagle na ipaalala sa mga deboto na huwag magsawa sa pagtulong sa mga kababayan na sinalanta ng mga nagdaang kalamidad sa bansa. http://www.abante‐                

Mahiya naman kayo! KAYE DACER Kung madadaanan ƒ n’yo ang mga parking spaces. Me makikita kayong slots na para sa me kapansanan o persons with disabilities.

Inilalagay ‘yun para sa kanila sa pagsunod na din sa batas na nakapaloob sa Magna Carta ng mga taong me kapansanan. Ngunit bakit parang balewala sa ibang tao ang pagsunod sa mga bagay na ito kagaya na lamang ang simpleng parking slot na para sa kanila ay tahasang ginagamit at hindi sinusunod ng mga taong wala namang kapansanan.

Ilang beses na akong personal na nakakasaksi ng paggamit ng wala namang diperensya sa kanilang katawan at ang masama pa ay pinapayagan lamang ng ilang nagbabantay sa paggamit nito. Me ilan din akong mga nakausap na nangyayari sa kanila ang ganitong insidente na minsan ay nagkakaroon ng problema sa mga parking slot para sa kanila lalo na noong nakaraang panahon ng Kapaskuhan.

Wala silang mahanap na parking slot para sa kanila at nabanggit pa nila na ang pinakamasakit nilang nasasaksihan ay ang pumaparada ay wala namang problema sa kanyang katawan. Ang tahasang paglabag dito ay ‘di lamang ang pagsuway sa batas kundi maituturing na ding isang ugaling di maganda ng isang tao na ‘di susunod dito.

Ginawa ito para sa mas malayang paggalaw ng isang tao na me kapansanan ngunit bakit me mga taong ‘di marunong mahiya na gumagamit nito na wala namang kapansanan sa kanyang katawan. Nakalagay sa batas ang isang barrier-free environment para sa kanila na ang ibig sabihin ay malayang paggalaw ng isang tao na me kapansanan sa publiko o pribado mang establisyimento na mababasa sa BP 344 o Accessibility Law. Isa pang nakikita din nila ang minsang kawalan ng respeto sa kanila ng iba. Sana daw ay mapalawig ang batas na para sa kanila at mas maunawaan ng mga taong wala namang kapansanan na bagama’t gusto nilang mamuhay ng normal ay magkaroon naman daw ng

suporta sa kanila para magawa nila ito sa pagsunod na lamang sa mga batas na nagpoprotekta sa kanila. Isa din sa aking napansin tuwing ako ay manonood ng sine ay ang kawalan ng rampa ng mga movie houses para sa pagpili ng mauupuan sana nila na hindi naman ganoon kalapit sa screen. Napapansin ko kasi na ‘yun lamang unahan ang tanging kaya nilang maupuan na wala na halos umuupo dahil nga sa una ay nakakahilo dahil sa sobrang lapit sa screen at dahil na din walang ibang paraan para sila ay makapamili ng upuan sa medyo mataas na bahagi dahil sa kanilang wheelchair.

Sana ay maisip nilang maglagay ng upuan na medyo malayo sa screen para sa mas maayos nilang panonood. Espasyo na maaaring makaakyat at mailagay ang kanilang wheelchair. At isa pa ding napapansin natin ang kawalan ng ilang news program na me sign language inset na sana ay ipagtibay ng batas para sa mas malinaw nilang pangunawa sa mga nangyayari sa ating mga kapaligiran.

Lahat ng ito ay dapat gawin at irespeto ng mga normal na tao na nasa gobyerno man o wala, at sana lang ay iwasan nating gumamit ng mga bagay na nakalaan para sa kanilang mas malayang paggalaw. Mahiya naman kayo! http://www.abante‐                     

No proof, no probable cause for plunder—Jinggoy • •

Written by Tribune Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00

ESTRADA FILES COUNTER-AFFIDAVIT There is no probable cause for charging him for plunder, in the absence of proof to substantiate allegations of the senator being involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) better known as the P10-billion pork barrel scam nor is there any evidence of his having received any kickbacks. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada yesterday formally refuted all the numerous allegations thrown at him by the so-called whistle-blowers, their lawyer, Levito Baligod, and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) who, in their filed complaint, indicted Estrada and two other senators on the alleged pork barrel scam and his supposed connivance with the alleged brains, Janet Lim Napoles, in her non-government organizations (NGOs) questionable transactions. The senator, who is one of the three senators charged with plunder at the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Napoles, countered the charges against him, saying that the charges were based on second-hand information, hearsay, malicious suspicion and speculations. Estrada made a categorical declaration in his counter-affidavit submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman, saying that he did not receive any amount either from Napoles herself or from any of the purported fake non-government organizations supposedly under her control.

In maintaining his innocence on the charges leveled against him on his supposed ties with Napoles, Estrada stressed in his sworn statement that he “did not amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth” and has no participation or knowledge in the transfer of any amounts forming part of his PDAF allocation to anyone other than the legally intended beneficiaries thereof. “I believe that these (allegations) are nothing more than a high-level political ploy to undermine the opposition of which I am part in light of the coming 2016 national elections,” the senator said in his reply on the charges filed against him by the NBI and Baligod in relation to his alleged involvement in the so-called pork barrel scam. It is believed that Estrada, along with two others who are seen by President Aquino and his Liberal Party officials a non-ally, is being targeted by Aquino and the LPs as they are opposition leaders and carry clout with their voters. The LPs, in a bid to achieve political longevity after Aquino’s term in 2016 ends, want to kill off all the opposing forces to stay on in Malacañang. However, their presidential and vice presidential bets are generally seen as weak candidates and can only win due to automated electoral fraud through the Malacañang adjunct, the Commission on Elections and the Smartmatic fraud-filled Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) pre-programmed automated vote shaving, as proved in the 2013 senatorial elections where a clear 60-30-10 vote pattern in every precinct, region and province, which is an arithmetical impossibility. The presidential aunt, Margarita Cojuangco herself bared this electoral fraud of 2013, even stating that her nephew, the president, knew of the fraud and even gave a military general P30 million to clean up the fraud. There are also questions on the election of Aquino himself in the 2010 presidential elections as some 8 million votes are still unaccounted for by the Comelec. Estrada’s submission of his reply-affidavit came some two days after Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, who is also being accused of the same charges before the Ombudsman, asserted his innocence and quashed any merits on claims of the

whistleblowers, saying that not a single piece of evidence could link him on the purported misuse of his PDAF, more commonly known as pork barrel. Estrada echoed the same, adding that the charges leveled against him are not supported by hard facts and evidence, but merely by bare allegations of secondhand information, hearsay, malicious suspicion and speculations. He pointed out that whistleblowers themselves, who serve as witnesses for the complainant, confessed under oath in one of the Senate inquiries of their extensive falsification of documents and forgery of signatures. The senator further noted that the government witnesses even explicitly admitted in various instances that they have no personal knowledge of the supposed transaction between him and Napoles. As a duly-elected legislator, Estrada reiterated that he does not have a hand in the implementation of the projects under the PDAF, and that his participation is limited to identifying a project from a menu of projects for funding as provided by law. Estrada also noted how the Commission on Audit (CoA), in its special audit report on the PDAF clearly stated that it is the implementing agency’s responsibility to look into the feasibility of the project proposals and the qualifications of the NGOs proposed to be involved in the projects. “Had there been any objections or problem with respect to the endorsements made for the NGOs, I should have received word from the implementing agency or the CoA which conducts post-audits of the projects. I received none,” he said. His endorsements of certain NGOs from a limited list of duly and previously accredited NGOs were “recommendatory at best” with the choice of NGO still left to the implementing agency, Estrada stressed. “These endorsements merely reflected the choice of intended project beneficiaries and were based on the willingness of the NGO to undertake the chosen project, and subject to compliance with existing accounting and auditing rules and regulations,” the senator stated in his counter affidavit.

Estrada also defended his former appointments secretary Pauline Labayen, who is among those accused of plunder, saying there is no probable cause either to hold her for plunder. “At no time did I instruct or persuade any of my staff to commit and participate in any illegal act, specifically in any irregular and unlawful transaction involving my PDAF allocation, nor did I order or influence them to receive any commission, kickbacks or rebates from Napoles, Benhur Luy, and their associates,” he claimed. On Sept. 16, the NBI and the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed plunder and other charges in the Office of the Ombudsman against 38 individuals, including Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., former Representatives Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, Edgar Valdez, Rodolfo Plaza, Samuel Dangwa and Constantino Jaraula and their senior staff, department heads and other agency officials for the misuse of the PDAF. In the first filing of charges in connection with the alleged diversion of P10 billion in PDAF funds to dummy aid organizations and ghost projects to obtain kickbacks aside from Estrada, Enrile and Revilla were Jessica Lucila Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff; Richard Cambe, Revilla’s senior staff member; Ruby Tuason, Labayen, Jose Sumalpong, Lanete’s chief of staff; Jeanette de la Cruz, Lanete’s district staff member; Erwin Dangwa, former congressman Dangwa’s chief of staff; and Carlos Lozada, Dangwa’s staff member. The former heads of government corporations charged were Alan Javellana, former president of National Agribusiness Corp.; Gondelina Amata, president of National Livelihood Development Corp.; Antonio Ortiz, former director general of Technology Resource Center (TRC); Dennis Cunanan, former deputy director general and now director general of TRC; and Salvador Salacup, former head of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp.  

By Angie M. Rosales and Alvin Murcia‐proof‐no‐probable‐cause‐for‐plunder‐jinggoy  

Tagle takes on scourge of nature, corrupt execs in Nazarene feast • •

Written by Pat C. Santos Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00

The annual Catholic cult parade of the Black Nazarene took on a deeper meaning yesterday after Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle related it to the recent string of disasters in the country and the culture of corruption in government. Tagle asked the Filipino faithful to shun the widespread graft and corruption hounding the State in addressing millions of devotees who flocked at the Quirino Grandstand yesterday. Millions of barefoot devotees packed one of the world’s biggest Catholic parades honoring an ancient statue of Jesus Christ they believe has miraculous powers. Chanting “Viva, Viva Senor Nazareno! (Long Live Mister Nazarene)”, frenzied pilgrims climbed over one another in the suffocating heat to touch the Black Nazarene during the ebony-hued wooden statue’s slow procession. Tagle, in his opening mass for the Feast of the Black Nazarene, urged thousands of

devotees to be proud in professing their faith and devotion to Christ while exhorting them to bury in shame immoral acts, apparently referring to recent issues involving the anomalous use of public funds. “My brothers and sisters, let us not be ashamed to proclaim to the world that we are loved by Christ and that we love Him,” Tagle said in the vernacular. “I find it very puzzling on why acts that we should be ashamed of are being committed with pride. For instance, we are now unashamed to steal when we are supposed to be ashamed of it,” he said in Filipino. In his homily, Tagle challenged the laity to express their faith and devotion through three distinct ways: praying, following, and witnessing Christ in their day-to-day living. According to him, praying is tantamount to expressing one’s love and always remembering the Lord who has saved his people from distress. “We, Filipinos have a beautiful remark about praying. We always say that ‘We never forget to call on the Lord’ and it is in this regard that we can refer to prayer as a means of not forgetting the presence of the Divine in our lives,” he said. Tagle said that those who truly remember the Lord must also remember fellow individuals who are in need of great help, following the recent calamities that struck the nation. “If we truly pray, if we are truly united with the Lord, we will not forget our brothers and sisters,” he said, urging the faithful to remember Filipinos who were devastated by Typhoon Pablo, Typhoon Santi, and the Zamboanga stand-off. Tagle also reminded Filipinos of the sufferings of the victims of recent devastation wrought by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that jolted Bohol last Oct. 15 and Super Typhoon Yolanda, which left thousands dead as it struck Central Visayas last Nov. 8. “We might be forgetting about Bohol. And up until when would we remember our brothers and sisters who suffered the wrath of Yolanda?,” Tagle said. “Those who do not forget the Lord will also not forget them,” he added. The prelate said that treading the path of Christ does not simply mean following his

footsteps, but also letting his lessons and examples become the life standards followed by the faithful. “We cannot follow Christ if our minds are always filled with the greed for money, more so, if we can swindle and abuse our brothers and sisters,” he said. “Those who truly think of Christ will never do anything that Christ would not do. In this occasion, we should ask ourselves: ‘Are we truly becoming closer to Christ? Are we following His examples?” he said. Tagle urged the faithful to become a witness of Christ through reflecting in their words and acts that the Lord is true and present among them. “I hope that our attitude and being would reflect Christ as our model, not that we are only good in speaking but our actions reflect otherwise,” he said. “That should not be the case. We have to really manifest that Christ is alive, especially in our relationship with others,” he added. Tagle said the devotion showed by thousands of Filipinos to the Black Nazarene is an expression of God’s love for His people. “Why do we become very emotional in expressing our devotion to the Black Nazarene?…Each of us may have our own answer to this question…but it all boils down to one thing—this is an expression of how God loves us. The Black Nazarene carried our burden simply because of love,” he said. Tagle said that the laity faithfully expresses their devotion and gratitude to the Black Nazarene as a response to this “unconditional” love. “We respond through our devotion, and this explains why there are thousands of Black Nazarene devotees,” he said. “We respond to Christ’s carrying of our burden by carrying His burden as well. This is how Christ has loved us and our devotion is a manifestation of this love,” he said. “Love for love—the love that Christ gave us is also returned with nothing else but love,” Tagle said. Following the Holy Mass was the traditional procession involving the transfer of the

Black Nazarene image from the Quirino Grandstand back to the Quiapo Church. Millions of devotees are expected to join the procession. “This has been a family tradition for years, and the Nazarene has given us many blessings over the years,” housewife Josephine Manalastas told AFP after she and her 80-year-old mother were pulled out by medics from beneath the surging crowd. They were taken to an ambulance for treatment after a section of the crowd stampeded over a steel barrier protecting the statue’s carriage, shortly before the parade began at Manila’s largest park in the morning. Medics said the two were uninjured. But by mid-afternoon police said 879 people had been treated for various injuries as the life-sized, 406-year-old icon was borne towards its home in a central Manila church. Church organizers said one person suffered a stroke.Large numbers of police were mustered to help maintain order along the sixkilometer route, but the procession was crawling so slowly that just over a third of the distance had been covered as dusk fell. As of midday, organizers said this year’s crowd outnumbered the estimated 9 million who attended last year, although the number could not be independently verified. Devotees climbed on each other’s shoulders to kiss the statue or wipe it with white towels and handkerchiefs. Others fought over a pair of thick lengths of rope that the pilgrims used to pull the carriage. In scenes reminiscent of a rock concert mosh pit, one determined woman surfed the crowd to reach the icon, only to fall back and sink into the sea of humanity afterwards. More than 80 percent of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Catholic, a legacy of four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, making it Asia’s main bastion of the faith. The country is deeply religious, but yesterday’s march through Manila’s old quarter represents one of its more extreme forms of veneration. With AFP‐takes‐on‐scourge‐of‐nature‐corrupt‐execs‐in‐ nazarene‐feast  

No breach in Estrada’s realigned PDAF — solons •

Written by Angie M. Rosales

Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00

at least three administration senators rallied behind Sen. Jinggoy Estrada yesterday in his decision to realign his pork barrel allocations after the Supreme Court (SC) declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional as they insisted on the regularity of the process. Estrada realigned his P200-million pork barrel allocation for this year to local government units (LGUs) that included the city of Manila, where his father, former President Joseph Estrada, is now the mayor. Some media outfits identified with the Aquino administration came out with stories assailing Estrada and relating that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is inclined to impound the allocation, citing a veto issued by President Aquino on the realigned funds. Senate finance committee chairman Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero led his colleagues in defending the realignments made by Estrada in the form of “amendments” while the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) was still pending before Congress late last year. “That is legal. I was one of those who approved of it,” Escudero said, citing his capacity as chairman of the finance panel that handled the appropriations measure in the upper chamber. Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also does not see anything wrong with the realigning of the PDAF to various government agencies.

Coloma said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad would not withhold the release of the allotted budget intended for the senators. Coloma said he asked Abad about the allegations of impounding the release of realigned funds. “I asked the answer of Secretary Abad on this. He said: “I never made any statement that the appropriation will be withheld,” Coloma said. Coloma said Abad also explained that everything was according to the rules of the appropriation which was an amendment to the submitted proposal of the Executive. “It was an amendment introduced during the process of Senate deliberations. The governing principle here is that the amount will be automatically released but will require, rather, will not be automatically released as it will require a special budget request,” Coloma said. Escudero even explained that Estrada did not create a new item in introducing his amendments, merely augmenting the allocations under the provision called Assistance to LGU (ALGU) and even specified which among the LGUs will be funded with P100 million or half of the appropriated PDAF under his name. In further emphasizing its legality, the senator pointed out that last year’s ruling of the Supreme Court declaring the unconstitutionality of the remaining PDAF allocation of lawmakers merely clipped the powers of senators and congressmen to interfere or intervene “after the budget is enacted.” “By way of an amendment, that by itself is not a violaton to the decision of the SC and it certainly does not make it pork,” Escudero said. Neophyte Sen. Bam Aquino seconded Escudero’s assertion. “So technically that’s not PDAF,” he said. Aquino is among 15 senators who decided to heed the call of Escudero and Senate President Franklin Drilon to “delete” the provision of their respective PDAF allocation in this year’s budget, bringing down the 2014 GAA by P3 billion the original figures the President’s budget presented before the two Houses of Congress.

Estrada, for his part, remains steadfast in his position on the amendments he made reiterating that it cannot even be considered an “insertion” while also highlighting the fact that the amount is not intended for Mayor Estrada, his father. “I did not give it to Mayor Estrada, I gave it to the people of Manila....Just because my father is the mayor or Manila, they would put malice into it? Remember, I did not give it to him, I gave it to the people of Manila, for them to benefit from my amendment, from my realignment...So what’s wrong with that?” he said in a phone-patched interview with reporters. “That is too much. They’re imputing malice into it,” he lamented. Considering that it’s not part part of the automatic appropriations in the budget, the Executive can “impound” the release of the said amount, a matter that was also noted by Senate President Ralph Recto. Estrada admitted that he had been cautioned by Escudero on the possibility of his move being given political color, yet, he insisted that he did it to help augment the budget of the city of Manila which was left by the previous mayor in deep financial mess. “That was my own initiative. My father did not have an inkling about it. I did not even tell him about it,” he said, adding that it will be up to LGUs that were given additional appropriations on how to dispense the funds. “As far as I know, now that the President has already signed the budget (into law), whatever is in the GAA should be followed. If they plan to impound it, well I cannot do anything about it. As far as I’m concerned, it went through the process. The chairman of finance committee wrote me a letter regarding my amendments and as a senator, as a legislator that is within our powers to do so, to amend and to review the budget, it is not as if it was a clandestine move. It went through the legislative process. And it was approved by the Senate plenary in the bicam (bicameral conference committee level) and ratified by both Houses,” he said. “Our duty, our power is to review and recommend any realignments in the budget because the power of the purse belongs to Congress. And it was approved, it went

through the legislative process. There’s no insertion involved here,” Estrada added. While agreeing to the fact that the matter of the release of the funds is already beyond his authority, Estrada called on the Executive to not to consider impounding the amount in the light of the controversy stirred by news reports. “I’m appealing to them not to impound it and I hope that they know the financial status of the Manila local government. It is deep in debts from the previous administration,” he said. “In the utiliziation of the financial assistance on the amendments I made, to be given to the city of Manila, I think it is expected to be transparent and open to public scrutiny. And the allocations that I amended in their favor is expected to benefit the whole sector or the masses as the city – the city that has one of the highest poverty incidence in the country,” Estrada added. Estrada said as a former mayor of San Juan City, he knows LGUs are the direct service providers to its contituents and assistance from the national government would be most welcome. “And it will definitely redound to the benefit of the people,” he said. Estrada expressed concern on the possibility of the other LGUs being affected by the possible impounding of the funds.  

Paul Atienza, Gerry Baldo‐breach‐in‐estrada‐s‐realigned‐pdaf‐solons              

CoA bares duplication of CCT beneficiaries • •

Written by Tribune Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00

With the Commission on Audit (CoA) report that found too many irregularities in the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer handled by Social Services Secretary Cora-zon “Dinky” Soliman, including double entries of beneficiaries as well as ghost beneficiaries, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus renewed calls for Congress leaders to urgently review the controversial “poverty alleviation” measure, known as the CCT. House Resolution 332, which directs the Committee on Poverty Alleviation to conduct inquiries on the CCT, was filed last year by De Jesus. Thirteen other lawmakers signed on, including Minority Floor Leader Rep. Ronaldo Zamora. The 2012 the CoA report stated that P50.15 million was granted to 7,782 families whose names do not match the list of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)’s List of Validated and Registered Household Beneficiaries of the National Household Targeting Office (NHTO). “This may be considered irregular, further resulting in additional cost to the government

in the distribution of Conditional Cash Transfers,” she said. quoting the CoA audit report. “This CoA report is ample proof that Congress should review President Aquino’s dubious flagship poverty program,” De Jesus said. De Jesus maintains that the national women’s movement has consistently documented many irregularities in the 4Ps or the CCT implementation and their ill effects on women and families, dispelling the claims by government that it has improved the situation of the poor. The Gabriela solon hopes that the inquiry will finally bring to light how 4Ps is potentially a drain on the national coffers, and the budget can better be spent on creating jobsgenerating industries and health care. The CCT budget for 2014 has been increased to more than P60 billion, despite the many years of CoA audit showing that irregularities show up yearly, with hundreds of millions and even billions still unaccounted for by Soliman, who always claims, through her press releases, that these monies have been liquidated and accounted for but that the CCT report on unaccounted founds came after the CoA findings were bared. However, the succeeding CoA audits continue to find the same irregularities being committed and which the DSWD always claims are accounted, and that irregularities have been corrected, continue to belie her press releases. The CoA, in its 2012 audit of the CCT again questioned the social services agency over irregularities in the implementation of the CCT, which holds tens of billions of pesos. CoA bared that the CCT audit payroll spanning the period of January to August 2012 amounting to P18,683,963,000 had clear “duplication of names for 4,443 beneficiaries for grants totaling P17.435,700, plus an additional service charge of P184,140.00.” In belying Soliman and her agency’s claim of their having cleaned up the list of double and ghost beneficiaries after the CoA report of 2011 and claimed to have delisted them, it now appears that, based on the 2012 audit, the double entries reported in the 2011 audit report were still included in the 2012 findings.

CoA, in its audit report, said the overpayments due to double entries paid to the beneficiaries through cash cards amounted to P3,113,500. Possible overpayment through over the counter transactions amounted to P5604350. Soliman was quoted as saying that “data forwarded by CoA included 6,082 households. In the print version, it was only around 4,000+ households but was actually 6,082 in the electronic copy sent to DSWD. Soliman was also quoted as saying that the supposedly 7,782 missing household beneficiaries of the CCT have already been accounted for with the CoA, which is what she claims yearly after CoA audit reports finding irregularities in the program implementation come out, but which irregularities are being repeated by the DSWD in succeeding CoA reports.‐bares‐duplication‐of‐cct‐beneficiaries                          

Aquino ally lambasts BIR chief over lechon tax raps •

Written by Charlie V. Manalo

Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00

A businessman-supporter of President Aquino yesterday lashed out at Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares for allegedly harassing even businesses who have been religiously paying their taxes. In the Web site of Market Manila, the owner of Zubuchon, a lechon (roasted pig) eaterybased in Cebu, scored Henares for placing a full-page ad in one the country’s national newpapers, entitled “Do the Top Lechon Places Pay their Taxes?” saying the ad was obviously meant to shame companies, including lechon suppliers into paying more taxes, as it insinuated they were not paying their taxes. The owner of one of the leading purveyors of lechon in the country who used the handle “Market Man,” in the Web site, acknowledged that Zubuchon, which started in 2009 with its first restaurant with just 28 seats, had risen to one of the top lechon players in the country today with more than P60 million in sales for 2013. “On these sales, we paid (and yes, I looked up the monthly and quarterly BIR documents on file in our office) a total of P7.2 million in VAT output tax, got credit for P3.1 million in value added tax input tax, and paid a net VAT of P4.1 million, with December still unreported,” Market Man stated in his post. “Our income tax for the full year of 2013 (we haven’t done a total report or audit yet though the first three quarters have already been fully paid) will be in the same neighborhood perhaps the largest lechon purveyor listed in the BIR article for 2012 or over 14 times larger than our meager net profits for 2012. And that largest purveyor has been around for 25 plus years, and according to government reports, slaughters some

five to seven times more pigs than we do on a monthly/annual basis,” he added. In his post, Market Man recalled that they even donated a number of lechons when Aquino and Mar Roxas visited Cebu way back in January 2010 to raise funds for their candidacies only to end up being treated shabbily by the BIR. “How bloody ironic, our office crew cooked and donated almost a dozen lechons to Noynoy’s visit to Cebu in January 2010 to raise campaign funds during his presidential election, well before we even had a restaurant, I now wonder if I was supposed to pay a donor’s tax on that or were the folks who organized the event supposed to pay that and did they pay that?” Market Man said. “Shouldn’t the BIR check on all the taxes due if any, on those types of fundraising activities? If you want a daang matuwid (straight path), then make sure your government lieutenants charged with collecting all taxes do their jobs in a fair, factual and comprehensive manner, is all I can ask for. I don’t expect any special treatment, but neither do I expect our company to be publicly shamed, when the truth is, this administration needs at least 5-10,000 similar small entrepreneurial ventures with purpose and passion to provide real solid and reliable growth instead of blindly exporting millions of our countrymen so that other countries gain from having most of our driven, intelligent, risk-taking and hard-working citizens,” he stressed. “No wonder so many people just choose to migrate and live elsewhere if they can,” he mused. Zubuchon’s owner added the BIR’s listing in its ad is so malicious as it placed them as one of the country’s leading lechon suppliers when in fact it places a distant sixth place in Cebu as per terms of the number of pigs slaughtered.‐ally‐lambasts‐bir‐chief‐over‐lechon‐tax‐raps       

Stiff competition among RP banks seen this year • •

Written by Ed Velasco Friday, 10 January 2014 00:00

The Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP) said yesterday stiff competition in corporate, investment and consumer banking among the 34 members of the BAP will resume this year as banks will grapple for bigger margin due to additional capital for Basel 3. This is the forecast of the head of the organization of 34 universal and commercial banks in the Philippines. BAP president Lorenzo Tan said aside from the banking operations mentioned above, banks will also concentrate more on lending to small and medium enterprises and feebased services to get bigger margins. “Focus of banks will be on corporate, consumer, SME lending, fee-based services in asset management and private banking,” Tan told The Daily Tribune. Of the 34 members of the BAP, more than half are concentrating on corporate and private banking to have comfortable margins. Corporate banking involves lending to big firms that usually runs to hundreds of millions of pesos. Smaller banks, or those classified as thrift and savings banks, concentrate more on consumer banking. Consumer banking includes salary, housing and car loans. Tan’s bank, the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), has been a reliable partner of SMEs as early as the 80s. It was during those years that RCBC lent capital for starting businessmen and firms

such as Lucio Co and Suy Sing. Tan is the president and chief executive officer of the bank. “We want to grow with our clients. As they climb the stairs of success, we want to accompany them,” the BAP president said in an earlier interview. RCBC has just completed selling its 65 percent stake in Bankard. Proceeds from the sale of Bankard will generate the Yuchengco-owned bank over P730 million for its common equity tier 1 capital.‐competition‐among‐rp‐banks‐seen‐this‐year                                

Meralco hikes bill by P8/kwh By Alena Mae S. Flores | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am Malacañang sets info blitz to blunt public uproar THE Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) on Thursday bared a staggering P8 per kilowatt-hour increase in its generation charges, but said this would not be felt yet because of the Supreme Court’s 60-day restraining order that prevented it from charging the new rates. Anticipating a public uproar over the new rate increases, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the Presidential Communications Operations Office to mount a public information campaign to explain to consumers how the deregulated power industry operates. Businesses have already warned that the power rate hikes would hurt industries and thousands of small- and medium-scale enterprises. A well-placed source said the possible “unusual reaction” of the public was discussed during Thursday’s Cabinet meeting. But when Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma was asked about it, he declined to give details on the President’s order. “I still have to study it, keeping in mind the welfare of the general public,” he said. In a separate interview, however, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed the order. “We need to anticipate the reaction of the public. When Meralco announced the P4.15 per kilowatt hour, the negative reaction was already huge. How much more with this new hike announcement,” Abad said. Abad said Coloma was tasked to “explain better” how the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or Epira works, and what the government is doing to cushion the impact of the electric rate hikes on consumers. The P4.15 per kilowatt hour increase is the highest in the country’s history since Epira took effect. Earlier, Meralco sought to raise its charges by P4.15 per kWh in December, because it had to pay more for power in the wake of the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas field. But Meralco said the total impact of the shutdown of Malampaya and other power plants raised generation costs by P3.44 per kWh in December and P4.56 per kWh in January – for a staggering P8 increase.

As in its previous bid to raise rates, Meralco said it was willing to stagger the increase over several months. “We are sensitive to our consumers situation and plight of customers. Like what we did in December when we proposed to stagger [the increase], perhaps that will be an option that may be taken moving forward but we need to wait for position of the SC,” Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) also assured consumers that any increases in electricity rates would be staggered and would have “minimal impact.” ERC executive director Francis Juan said if the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of the power rate hike is lifted and the increases are upheld—P4.15 per kilowatt hour (kwh) in December and P4 per kwh in January—Meralco cannot automatically recover these and will still need the approval of the regulator. Juan said the commission would take into consideration the plight of consumers. The ERC echoed the Energy Department worries that if Meralco is unable to collect the “correct amount” to pay its suppiers for a prolonged period, investments in power generation might be jeopardized. Meralco head for utility economics Lawrence Fernandez said the January generation cost went up by an all-time high of P4.56 per kWh as more power plants went on scheduled and unscheduled shutdowns in December than in November. The P4.56 per kWh generation cost increase for December will be on top of the P3.44 per kWh generation cost for November (excluding taxes and other charges of P.071 per kWh). “The reason for the increase is still the Malampaya shutdown, which crossed two billing periods coupled with the scheduled, extended and forced outages of generation plants in December,” Fernandez said. The Meralco official said he could not yet say how much transmission, system loss and tax charges would go up as a result of the increase in generation charges. “We still don’t have the rest of the adjustments for January,” Fernandez said. Zaldarriaga said the generation charge for the January bill would have soared to P10.23 per kWh had Meralco not decided to peg the generation charge to P5.67 per kWh. “For the January billing, Meralco will bill the generation rate of P5.67 per kWh in deference to the Supreme Court TRO. However, the preliminary billings from the power suppliers and WESM indicate the Janury 2014 generation charge translates to P10.23 per kWh,” Zaldarriaga said.

The December generation rate would have been at P9.10 per kWh had the Supreme Court not issued a temporary restraining order, prompting Meralco to implement the November generation charge of P5.67 per kWh for the December billing. Meralco said that average electricity charges at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, the country’s trading floor of electricity, went up to P36.0846 per kWh in December from P33.2160 per kWh in November. Fernandez said the new price cap at the WESM was not yet implemented in the January billing. Meralco sourced about 14 percent of its requirements from the WESM in the December supply month, 44.04 percent from its independent power producers, 41.76 percent through power supply agreements and only 0.12 percent from renewable energy. Average electricity rates of Meralco’s independent power producers also went up by P0.11 per kWh to P6.4696 per kwh in January from P6.3538 per kWh. Fernandez said that since Meralco maintained the generation charge at P5.67 per kWh, it “will address the balance of the uncollected pass through generation charge for both December and January billing as may be directed by the Supreme Court and or ERC,” he said. He said Meralco has advised the ERC and the Energy Department on the preliminary generation cost of P10.23 per kWh for January. Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla warned Meralco against carrying out the increase while the TRO is effective. Zaldarriaga said Meralco remains unsure on how long they will not be able to collect the new rates. “For February 2014 billing period, we are currently monitoring the situation. At the moment, the situation looks to be stabilizing with Malampaya back online including other generation plants who were on unscheduled, extended, or forced outage. We will have to wait for the actual invoices and billings of our power suppliers,” he said. Fernandez welcomed the Supreme Court decision directing the power producers and the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. to submit their comments to the court. “We think it will help everybody to fully understand and have the complete picture,” he said. The power producers have yet to comment on the petition against the rate hike. In a press briefing at the Palace, Coloma said the government will protect the interest of the public from unfair market forces.

“The President is aware of his duty to take care of the general welfare of the public. In the ultimate analysis, he is the Chief Executive responsible for the welfare of the citizenry, and we regard this matter as a significant issue involving the citizen’s welfare,” Coloma said. “So we will do what is possible in order to protect the welfare of the citizens in this matter,” he added. During Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Abad said the President also tasked the Energy, Finance and Justice departments “to look at what options are available for the government to mitigate the impact on consumers and then look at accusations of collusion and predatory pricing.” Petilla said the Palace will finalize the possible use of the Malampaya Fund and the President’s Social Fund to address the power hike. He said, however, that it appeared that the Malampaya Fund could not be used to subsidize the rate increases. Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Sergio Ortiz-Luis said exporters would be particularly vulnerable to the power rate hikes. “They work on very tight margins because they focus more on volume. The residential sector is another story to tell,” Ortiz-Luis said. The local business group urged the government to use the Malampaya Fund to cover the impending power rate hike “to protect consumers from paying exorbitant fees that will add to their daily burden.” The chamber’s president, Miguel Varela, said consumers should not be left to bear the brunt of the rate hikes. Labor groups denounced the new rate hike sought by Meralco and accused it and the ERC of price manipulation. Anakpawis and the Kilusang Mayo Uno said the latest power rate hike was unjust. “While we are dealing with continuing increases in the price of other basic commodities, Meralco further insults us with a rate hike,” Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglunsod said. The KMU condemned Meralco’s plan to hike electricity rates, saying this would add another burden to workers already suffering from low wages. – With Joyce P. Pañares and Vito Barcelo‐hikes‐bill‐by‐p8‐kwh/     

Tagle hits shameless corruption of officials By Vito Barcelo | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am MANILA Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle slammed the widespread corruption in government and exhorted the Catholic faithful to shun all forms of corruption and show Christian examples in their daily lives.

Mass for the icon. Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle leads the Mass for the Black Nazarene at the Quirino Grandstand before its procession toward the Quiapo Church. Danny Pata “I find it very puzzling why acts that we should be ashamed of are being committed with pride,” Tagle said during his homily at the Luneta in a mass celebrated before the procession of the Black Nazarene. “For instance, we are now unashamed to steal when we are supposed to be ashamed of it,” Tagle said. “Yoong pagnanakaw hindi na ikinahihiya. Yoon ang dapat ikahiya! (We’re no longer ashamed to steal. That’s what we should be ashamed of!)” Doing nothing to stop corruption might lead to the perception that it is acceptable, usual and normal in Philippine politics, Tagle said, criticizing the government for the misuse of public funds. But the Palace said the government remains “vigilant in eradicating corruption.”

“We join the faithful and the devotees in celebrating the feast of the Black Nazarene. The annual event is one of the strongest manifestations of our faith,” Palace spokesman Sec. Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement. “We affirm the call of Cardinal Tagle that as Christians, we should exercise our faith and manifest our love of God both in thought and in deed,” he said. “We are one with the Filipino people and the entire Catholic community in praying and working for the rehabilitation of calamity areas while remaining vigilant in eradicating corruption and institutionalizing reforms,” Coloma said. During the mass, the cardinal reiterated previous remarks during a homily at a church in Paco, that the government must think about the plight of the nation and not just about enriching themselves at the expense of the country’s coffers. He urged Filipinos to express love and loyalty to the country by acting against corruption and striving to restore the integrity of the Filipino people.

1,495 hurt as millions parade Black Nazarene By AFP | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am MILLIONS of barefoot devotees packed the streets of Manila on Thursday for one of the world’s biggest Catholic parades, honoring a statue of Jesus Christ they believe has miraculous powers.

Frenzy. Devotees climb on each other’s shoulders to kiss the statue of the Black Nazarene or to wipe it with white towels and handkerchiefs. Danny Pata Braving the suffocating heat, the pilgrims clambered over one another to touch the Black Nazarene during the ebony-hued wooden statue’s slow procession from the Rizal Park to the historic Quiapo Church.Police said 1,495 people were injured, eight others were victimized by pickpockets and snatchers, and one suffered a potentially fatal stroke as of six pm. Hours later, the parade organizers said this year’s crowd had outnumbered the estimated nine million who attended last year, although the number could not be independently verified. “This has been a family tradition for years, and the Nazarene has given us many blessings over the years,” housewife Josephine Manalastas told AFP after she and her 80-year-old mother survived being trampled by the surging crowd.Mother and daughter were taken to an ambulance nearby for treatment after a section of the crowd at the park stampeded over a steel barrier protecting the statue’s carriage. Medical staff said they were uninjured.Large numbers of police were mustered to help maintain order along the six-kilometer route.Schools declared a holiday and police estimated hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had turned up by sunrise. As the procession got under way, the devotees climbed on each other’s shoulders to kiss the statue or wipe it with white towels and handkerchiefs.Others fought over a pair of thick lengths of rope that the pilgrims used to pull the carriage.In scenes reminiscent of a rock concert mosh pit, one determined woman surfed the crowd to reach the icon, only to fall back afterwards and be swallowed up by the massive sea of humanity.

For heavily pregnant housewife Kaye Morales, 32, the procession was her way of thanking God after her teenage son survived being pinned under a collapsing glass wall at a shopping mall last year. Morales, who is seven months pregnant, traveled to Manila from a nearby town and queued for hours to kiss the feet of the statue. More than 80 percent of the Philippines’ 100- million people are Catholic, a legacy of four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, making it Asia’s bastion of the faith. The country is deeply religious, but Thursday’s march through Manila’s old quarter—the biggest religious event in the country—is an extreme form of veneration. The life-sized statue was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, decades after the start of colonial rule. It was believed to have acquired its color after it was partially burned when the galleon carrying it caught fire. Many Filipinos believe the icon is miraculous, and that by joining the procession, barefoot as a mark of humility, their prayers will be answered. Manila laborer Wilson Faculto said he and his wife of 15 years had failed to have a child. But after first joining the annual procession five years ago, they were given a baby in December. “A woman we didn’t know gave us her baby for adoption and walked away,” Faculto said, cradling the two-month-old in his arms. “This boy is our Nazarene miracle.” The Faculto clan camped out in the park for two days to be among the first to touch the statue. They slept on the grass, ignoring the foul smell from the overflowing portable toilets nearby. Retired Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said the faithful should express their own devotion in a quiet and very humane way, with charity for others and without disturbing others. He said fanaticism had no place in the image of Christ, and that was the message the Church had been telling the people. “We still have a long way to go and there are many things to purify even in religious matters because there are excesses,” Rosales said. With Francisco Tuyay and Vito Barcelo

Govt vows to protect sea territory By Francisco Tuyay | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am The government on Thursday vowed to protect the country’s territorial sovereignty from foreign intrusion amid reports that China has issued a “no permit, no fishing” rule for foreign fishermen in the highly-disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The new ruling, which is aimed to bolster China’s claim over the disputed islands, reportedly was issued by the Hainan provincial government and took effect on January 1. Under the new regulation, all foreign fishing vessels would be required to seek permission from the Hainan authorities before they are allowed to fish and explore maritime resources in the disputed islands. Beijing’s latest directive comes at the heels of its declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in November over islands in the East China Sea, a move that angered Japan and South Korea and which drew criticism from the United States. Japan, South Korea and the US later sent planes over Beijing’s ADIZ in defying Beijing’s declaration. The country’s defense department said the Philippines is ready to meet any intrusion within its territory. “The defense establishment is ready to assist in enforcing the maritime rules in the Philippine exclusive economic zone,” said Defense Department spokesman Peter Paul Galvez. “We will enforce the protection of our resources,” he added. Galvez, however, said the DND is still trying to confirm China’s new directive on fishing in the disputed islandz. “We will have to verify statements regarding these alleged fishing rules by China. Nonetheless, all countries are free to enforce fishing rules within their EEZ,” said Galvez. The Foreign Affairs Department echoed the DND’s sentiment. “We are verifying the news with our embassies in Beijing and Hanoi” Hernandez said. Competing claims to the South China Sea, a vital waterway believed to be home to huge gas and oil deposits, have sparked occasional violence and now regarded as a potential trigger for regional conflict.

Since April last year, the Philippines and China have been embroiled in a territorial dispute over the Kalayaan Islands Group or the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea and the Bajo de Masinloc or the Panatag Shoal in Zambales. The Foreign Affairs Department later brought the dispute before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas, a move which Beijing rejected. As this developed, Kalayaan Island Group Eugenio Bito-onon said China’s new fishing rules over territories in the South China Sea could hasten the arbitration that the government field in challenging China’s claim before the Itlos. Bito-onon said they are not afraid of China’s new fishing rules but acknowledged that the new ruling could rachet up the tension in the area. “Imposible at mahirap ipatupad ‘yan (China’s new fishing rules). Marami kasi ang islets at reefs occupied and populated by different countries in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Pero tataas na naman ang tension kapag nagkaganun,” the mayor said. (It’s almost impossible to implement that (fishing rules) because there’s just too many islets and reefs occupied and populated by different countries in the West Philippine Sea). “Sa isang banda, that might hasten the resolution of territorial conflict between our government and China. Attention-getter kasi ang move na ‘yan ng China,” he added. The KIG is a munipality of Palawan located within the WPS. The town comprises two islets and seven reefs. The center of political government is located within the Pagasa Island. It has a current population of less than 500 civilians, excluding military and police and Coast Guard personnel deployed in the island. The island has a runway that can accommodate big aircrafts such as a military C-130 cargo plane. With Florante Solmerin and Sara Susanne Fabunan

Palace sees no violation in realigned priority fund By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am MALACAÑANG claims the 2014 budget is “pork-less,” but on Thursday it said it saw nothing wrong in the realignment of the senators’ now- unconstitutional P200-million Priority Development Assistance Fund to their chosen beneficiaries. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said the realignment was not violative of the Supreme Court ruling declaring the PDAF, also known as pork barrel funds, unconstitutional. “That re-alignment was an amendment to the General Appropriations Act submitted by the Executive,” Coloma said. “It was an amendment introduced during the process of Senate deliberations. By procedure, it is not covered by the overall principle of budget as release document, which governs about 90 percent of the budget. “The governing principle here is that the amount will not be automatically released as it will require a special budget request.” One of the lawmakers who re-aligned his PDAF was Senator Jinggoy Estrada who allocated half of it, or P100 million, to the city of Manila where his father is the sitting mayor. Estrada said there was no discrimination against family in the allocation of the senators’ pork barrel, but Senator Antonio Trillanes IV disagreed and said he should be questioned over it. “He gave P100 million to his own father; that’s the problem,” Trillanes said. “In my case I gave it to my scholars. That’s different.” An Aquino ally on Thursday demanded that Senator Francis Escudero, the Senate’s finance committee chairman, identify the other lawmakers who realigned their PDAF and donated the money to local government units. Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. made the call after Escudero defended Estrada, saying some congressmen had also transferred their allocations “in the areas where their allies are.” Barzaga also pressed the Health, Labor and Social Welfare Departments and the Commission on Higher Education to issue guidelines and mechanisms on how the members of the public could avail themselves of their previous social benefits, including medical assistance, scholarships and skills training provided under the PDAF that the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.

“Until now there are no clear rules and regulations and our constituents are inquiring,” Barzaga said. Rep. Rodel Batocabe agreed with Barzaga, saying the public should be informed about how and where they could avail themselves of social services. “Until now we don’t know what to tell our constituents because there are no guidelines,” Batocabe said. Senator Ralph Recto said it was of public record that he requested that the P200-million PDAF earmarked for his office be realigned to the Calamity Fund so it could be used to help the victims of super typhoon “Yolanda.” “When faced with the choice of deducting the amount from the budget or giving it to the victims of the most powerful storm in history, I had no qualms in choosing the homeless victims of that calamity,” Recto said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Maricel V. Cruz

PNoy orders ‘double time’ in carrying out rehab plan By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday ordered concerned agencies to work double time to hasten the implementation of the government’s recovery and rehabilitation program in areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

Cabinet meeting. President Benigno Aquino III leads the members of his official family in prayer before presiding over a meeting in Malacañang on the rehabilitation of the areas devastated by super typhoon “Yolanda.” Malacañang Photo Bureau At the same time, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad asked Cabinet members to submit recommendations on the re-alignment of department and agency budgets “for the purpose of addressing the effects of Yolanda and other natural calamities that arose during the last quarter of the year and were not considered in the preparation of the 2014 budget.” Abad added that department and agency heads should look at projects that can be deferred so that the budget can be re-aligned for reconstruction. “We will have a meeting on budget execution next week. We will inform all agencies that they need to submit an assessment on the items and amounts can be deferred for the calamities,” Abad said. The 2014 budget included the following funds for the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in areas hit by recent calamities: P13 billion calamity fund, up from last year’s P7.5 billion; P20 billion rehabilitation construction program; and P80 billion for construction projects under the unprogrammed fund.

Aquino earlier asked Abad on the possibility of extending financial assistance to national government employees affected by the super typhoon. He also directed Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Public Works chief Rogelio Singson to spearhead the P4 billion rebuilding of local government facilities including town halls, public markets, and civic centers. Presidential assistant for recovery and rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson, for his part, called for faster clearing operations of the debris in Tacloban City to ensure that rebuilding efforts can proceed unimpeded and to minimize citizen’s exposure to health and safety hazards. Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said there are 30 shredders available for immediate shipment to Tacloban City, while the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has brought up the possibility of redeploying its rescue battalion to the disaster-stricken area. Paje reported that his department has already completed the mapping of Yolanda-affected areas where the government would implement a 40-meter no-build zone. The President directed the DENR and the DILG to coordinate with the Department of Tourism in addressing specific concerns pertaining to the rebuilding of tourism facilities along the coastlines, such as the Jetty port in Palompon, Leyte which generates significant tourism revenues. Singson, on the other hand, reported that 832 school sites in the Yolanda-affected areas had already been cleared for rebuilding, but the public works department is still awaiting the proposed design of the Japan International Cooperation Agency for “disaster-resilient school facilities� which will be available by the end of the month. Health Secretary Enrique Ona, meanwhile, said the department is monitoring and checking the spread of chikungunya - a mosquito-borne disease resulting in body pains that is considered less dangerous than dengue. Ona said massive fogging operations are being conducted in Yolanda-affected areas. With Macon R. Araneta

Seedling bank shuttered again By Rio N. Araja | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am Authorities on Thursday cordoned off the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc. on Quezon Avenue corner Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Quezon City amid plans to develop the sevenhectare property.

Tenants of Manila Seedling Bank troop to Quezon City Hall to protest their planned eviction in this January 3, 2013 file photo. MANNY PALMERO Dr. Victor Endriga, former city administrator and now senior consultant of the city’s special project committee, said there would be no other choice but to wall up the premises after the expiration of the January 17 deadline for 82 stall owners to stop operations. “We allowed the stalls to reopen, giving them a six-month extension, then a Quezon City court issued a temporary restraining order to give a commercial stall owner, one Mrs. Fuentespina, until Jan. 17 to sell her products,” he told Manila Standard. Endriga ordered the Manila Seedling’s gates padlocked for the third time, and fielded staff from the QC Department of Public Order and Safety, private security guards along with police to cordon off the property. “We can no longer extend beyond that date,” he said. In July 2012, Endriga as city administrator took over the Manila Seedling for non-payment of P58 million in real property taxes from 2000 to 2010. Last December, he ordered the compound closed and issued notices of eviction to the stall occupants before announcing his resignation.

The city government had offered a portion of the Quezon Memorial Circle to commercial plant traders as transfer site. On Sept. 11, 2013, Isagani Verzosa, chief of the city’s Department of Building Official, ordered the foundation management to comply with provisions of the National Building Code and its implementing rules and regulations, after it was found out that the foundation had no permit and a certificate of occupancy since its construction in 1977. The first notice of violation was served by the city’s department of building official on June 17, 2013.

Duterte hits back at critics By Yas Ocampo | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am DAVAO CITY, Davao del Sur—Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday hit back at critics, who questioned his ethics as a government official when he threatened to kill rice smugglers operating in the city. “Anong unethical. Talagang gawin ko,” Duterte said, reacting to criticism from a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) official, who described his “I will kill you” statement as unbecoming and unethical. Duterte issued the threats to smugglers during his weekly show Gikan sa Mara, Para sa Masa last January 5. He claimed the smugglers not only rob the government of revenues, they also take away food from the mouth of the poor. CHR Information Officer Marc Cebreros said he was preparing a letter to Duterte to raise the issue about ethics in government service. “It’s unbecoming of a public official like him. It gives the impression we are not living under a government of laws,” Cebreros said. But Duterte said he was willing to go to prison if needed to protect the farmers whose products were being smuggled. “I’m old. Papatayin ko talaga kayo (smugglers). We’re losing billions and billions of pesos and the farmers are reduced to poverty,” he said. “If I take the law into my own hands, it’s not their problem. It’s mine. I’ll answer for that. The problem is the customs and the smuggled rice.” Duterte challenged the CHR to come up with a solution and offer protection to the farmers, and he sneered at the commission’s past record such as their inability to do anything, not even a statement, in denouncing the illegal use of pork barrel funds. Asked if he was willing to retract or amend his statement, Duterte said: “Sige, ibahin ko. Kayong mga smugglers, huwag kayong mag smuggle para hinde kayo mamamatay,” “Is that acceptable to them?” he asked.

PhilHealth beefs up care package By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:01am Philhealth has beefed up its benefit package for disease prevention and early detection to meet the growing health care needs of its members especially the poor. PhilHealth President and chief executive Alex Padilla said the agency has re-introduced its Primary Care Benefit Package under a new brand called TSeKaP or Tamang Serbisyong Kalusugang Pampamilya. TSeKaP aims to make the said benefit package more endearing to its beneficiaries which include indigent and sponsored members, members of organized groups, and land-based OFWs. Padilla said PhilHealth extended the said benefit to employees of the Department of Education last year as part of a pilot test. “Gone are the days when PhilHealth is just remembered when one is sick because our TSeKaP package is here to encourage entitled members and their qualified dependents to avoid getting sick or to even arrest sicknesses early,” he said. According to Padilla, disease prevention and early detection saves money, and strengthens the gate-keeping function of primary care facilities which allows tertiary hospitals to maximize their resources on complicated cases. TSeKaP covers prevention, early detection of diseases and even interventions for healthy living. It includes consultations, visual inspection with acetic acid, regular blood pressure monitoring, and periodical breast examination. It includes health promotion like education on breastfeeding, counseling on lifestyle modification and smoking cessation. Diagnostics such as complete blood count, urinalysis, fecalysis, sputum microscopy, fasting blood sugar, Lipid profile and chest X-ray are available upon the recommendation of the physician. “TSeKaP even provides medicines for asthma, acute gastroenteritis with no or mild dehydration, pneumonia, and urinary tract infection” Padilla said. Qualified beneficiaries can avail of these services at their designated rural health units, health centers or at outpatient departments of government hospitals nearest them in the case of DepEd employees. Land-based OFWs have the option to choose their TSeKaP providers.

Beneficiaries should enlist themselves with TSeKaP providers and be assigned to a primary care physician to enjoy the services within the validity period as indicated in their PhilHealth cards or Member Data Record in the case of land-based OFWs. The said benefit was first introduced in 2000 to provide adequate access to quality outpatient services and has undergone several enhancements until its re-introduction as TSeKaP to help encourage usage especially among the poor.

Farmers take over irrigation project By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:00am National Irrigation Administration chief Claro Maranan has turned over part of the Ceboza Communal Irrigation Project in Region 9 to the Badagoy Irrigators Association Inc., 2012 Agri Pinoy awardee. Also officiating at the rites last December 29 were Regional Irrigation Manager Julius Maquiling, Magsaysay town Mayor Arthur Davin, Badagoy Irrigators president Exiquel Elentorio, Irrigation Management Officer Manny Re単eses and association members. The facility built for P30,240,000 consisting of dams, canals and canal structures will increase the area served to about 2,800 hectares of farmland in Davao del Sur for the benefit of some 1,200 planters. In his speech, Maranan told farmers and barangay officials that the agency was lining up aquaculture to boost livelihood in coordination with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources alongside hydro power generation. Maranan formed and led a task force last December 27-30 to follow through rehabilitation projects in the region hit by Typhoon Pablo in December 2012.

Advanced review on Remedial Law By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 10, 2014 at 12:00am Great Minds Bar Review Services is inviting all law graduating students, graduates and refreshers to attend a lecture series of Bar reviewer, Dean Willard B. Riano in his advanced and comprehensive review in Remedial Law in Malate, Manila. Dean Riano, recognized as “Master of the Vivid and Simplified Lecture,” will hold a lecture every Sunday, from January 26 to March 2, to prepare reviewees to hurdle the seemingly most difficult Bar subject. The lectures are scheduled ahead of the regular Bar review season around April, to allow reviewees to focus on the subject matter, which accounts for the highest rate (20 percent) of all Bar subjects. Each participant will have handouts prepared by Dean Riano during the six-day lecture. Riano is a lecturer in Civil Procedure, Evidence, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Special Contracts, and Commercial Laws. He authored the most widely read Remedial Law books such as “Fundamentals of Civil Procedure,” “Evidence (A Restatement for the Bar),” “Civil Procedure (A Restatement for the Bar),” and “Evidence (The Bar Lecture Series).” For details, contact 09178692560, 09173493987 and 09324837047, or visit Mariners Home Annex, 1970 P. Hidalgo Lim St., Malate.

High electricity costs root of our backwardness January 9, 2014 9:57 pm   by Rigoberto Tiglao Columnist Workers doing some maintenance check up on some electricity meters in Quezon City on Sunday. File Photo Forget all the talk that corruption, flawed institutions, even a damaged culture explain our continued backwardness, our falling every year behind our neighbors in Southeast Asia despite the tens of billions of OFW dollars flowing into our country every year. The single most important reason — which is also why I have devoted several columns to the issue — why our businesses remain uncompetitive, why industries have been moving out from our country is our high cost of power. It’s the biggest expense for industrial firms, accounting for as much as a fourth of their costs, and industry, we have to remember, still make up the backbone of a strong economic base. Because of high power costs, even foreign companies, which have been here for decades, have moved out to other countries in Southeast Asia, and especially to China. The only “industry” we could be competitive in is skilled-labor intensive business processing and possibly tourism. Based on Meralco’s tariffs (using residential rates of 200 kilowatt hours per month consumption) which averaged 24 US cents per kilowatt hour in 2013, the price we pay for our electricity, believe it or not, is the fifth highest in the world. If our electricity prices were the criterion for membership, we are in the league of the richest countries in Europe, and our rates are even a bit higher than Japan (Kansai region), 24 US cents, and Singapore, 23 cents. How can we convince foreign investors to build industries here, when the costs of power in our competitors in the neighborhood, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, are just fractions of ours? No wonder even Filipino Chinese tycoons are moving out of the country to put up their factories in China, where electricity rates are nearly a third of ours. Have you noticed that even shampoos and toothpaste are now made in Thailand and Indonesia? Electricity in Thailand costs nearly half that of ours, while that in Indonesia is only a fifth of ours! Our high electricity prices are such a paramount concern for our country, that there must be some sort of national summit to determine what to do about it. But President Aquino is totally unconcerned about it, with his spokeswoman Abigail Valte facetiously, like a juvenile, dismissing the issue as something government has “no magic wand to wave on.”

Why our high power costs? It is a saga of how our elites have, in good and bad times, squeezed our society for profits. Probably the “original sin,” as one insightful investment banker put it, involves the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. With the 1973 oil global crisis nearly throwing a monkey wrench into his plans for a lifetime dictatorship, Marcos was determined to put up a nuclear power plant, and he totally relied on such a plant to supply the country’s electricity demand in the 1970s. When it was finished in 1984, it cost $2.3 billion, four times the original estimates, and allegations of a massive overprice by a Marcos crony had been one of the hottest allegations of the anti-dictatorship movement. But it was his successor Corazon Aquino who made it an albatross around the Philippine neck that’s been a major reason for our high power rates. With the April 1986 Chernobyl disaster used as a horror story, and since the anti-nuclear activists here were in the anti-dictatorship movement, Aquino ordered the plant mothballed — even as several experts gave the go-signal for its operation. She did not work to have replacements for its 620 megawatt capacity put into place. Following the advice of her pro-big business Cabinet officials, Aquino did not seek a condonation of the US private and government loans used to finance the plant. While the US was packaging Cory as a saint of democracy, its officials quietly told her that if she repudiates the nuclear-plant loans, the country would not only be a pariah in the global financial community, but that the US would not lift a finger to stop the attempts to topple her. “Hindi tayo balasusbas sa mga utang natin,” Cory then boasted. It was twenty-one years later, in 2007, that the Philippines made its final payment on the loan. It spent P120 billion in principal and interest charges for the plant that never produced a single kilowatt of electricity. This was P120 billion that could have been used to finance the building of a dozen conventional power plants to supply the country’s electricity demand throughout the 90s. While the loans were later on transferred to the national government, these were carried for many years in the books of the state-owned National Power Corp. (NPC) — putting it yearly in the red, which prevented it from borrowing to finance new power plants. As a result, demand outstripped supply throughout Cory’s watch, and long hours of brownouts became routine in the country, discouraging foreign investments. Cory’s successor President Fidel Ramos had a bright idea: Have private companies go into power generation to supply the electricity, reversing the Marcos policy of having solely the NPC to build and operate power plants. After all, the NPC — because of its payments for the nuclear power plant loans — was technically bankrupt, and therefore could not borrow from the market to finance the building of new plants. Great idea, but our corporate elite in effect blackmailed Ramos, justifying their action on grounds that they would have to be assured of profits before they go into that business.

Thus were instituted what got euphemistically called “take-or-pay” arrangements with the “independent power producers.” These arrangements were in reality a capitalist dream of a riskfree business: The NPC committed to buy the power generation capacities of these private generators, even if NPC doesn’t need any electricity, i.e., when demand falls, and therefore the generators would not have to spend money to produce electricity. It seemed a good deal until the 1997 financial crisis hit us. It slowed down the economy, and therefore demand for electricity. Another euphemism was invented: “stranded costs,” or the power NPC bought from the private power generators, which it couldn’t sell to utilities. By 2010, these costs — “stranded” in the NPC’s books, and no way to recover it unless raising future tariffs — had ballooned to P80 billion. After shedding off the nuclear plant debt-albatross, the NPC was again deep in the red because of these stranded costs. For various reasons, including the fact that there was a privatization rage in developed countries at that period, which our US-educated technocrats aped, we junked the policy — as continued in China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, all of which have electricity tariff much lower than hours — of a government- controlled power industry. Capitalism — private sector funds and expertise — would take care of this public good that is affordable electricity. A so-called market for power was set up, the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), which I’ve explained in the last two columns is a charade, and far from being a “spot” market because most of the transactions are bilateral deals. Private companies build and operate the generators; the power is transmitted by a private company (the National Grid Corp., a joint venture of a Henry Sy scion and a Chinese firm) to private companies (the biggest of which is Meralco), which distributes the electricity to the final users. Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the market to the rescue. Capitalism was supposed to bring down electricity rates. Right. We have a power industry controlled by the country’s big business. Indeed, it has been such a profitable business that one of South Asia’s biggest tycoons, Indonesian Anthony Salim, in 2010 bought, through several firms he owns, into the biggest electric distribution company to control it, Meralco. The distribution firm has become one of Salim’s biggest money earner, its core net income rising from P2.6 billion in 2008 to P16 billion in 2012, and a forecasted P17 billion last year. Meanwhile, power prices have steadily gone up since the private sector came to control it. Filipinos now have the highest electricity bills in Asia, and the fifth most expensive in the world.

DOH measles information campaign flawed: Poe January 9, 2014 9:49 pm   by Jefferson Antiporda Reporter Fewer children got free measles vaccine and booster shots last year because the government failed to convince their parents to have them immunized, a senator said on Thursday. Sen. Grace Poe, a member of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said the Department of Health (DOH) needs to step up its information campaign to persuade parents to have their children vaccinated. Poe said disappointing outcome of the government’s vaccination program may have something to do with the lack of an effective information drive. “The very low immunization percentage last year and the continuing decline in the compliance rate for measles vaccine shows that the government needs to let the parents know that the government is providing free immunization,” Poe said in a text message to The Manila Times. The Times reported that only 6 percent of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines were given to children in 2013, citing data from the DOH. This is because some parents failed to bring their children for their needed vaccination shots being given for free by the local health centers. The DOH last year has allotted at least P1.9 billion to immunize children under one year old against BCG (Bacillus Calmette Guarine), DPT (Diptheria Pertussis Tetanus), OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine), Hepatitis B, Measles, Tetanus Toxoid, Measles-Rubella, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and rotavirus. Aside from the measles shots for children under one-year-old, the DOH also provides booster shots for 12 to 15 month-old children. But the Health department has acknowledged that it used only 45 percent of the total available booster shots last year. Poe said the government’s immunization program will not be effective if the public does not know it exists. “We need an extensive information campaign on the importance of immunization so that parents will not take it for granted,” she said.

At a press briefing on Thursday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the DOH is doing every thing possible to prevent the spread of measles. Coloma said the increase in measles cases is also being experienced in other countries like Pakistan and parts of the United States. The Times has learned that measles cases continue to rise in the Cordillera Region, Pangasinan, Region 4A and Albay in Luzon as well as in Western Visayas. The DOH earlier declared an outbreak of the disease in nine cities in Metro Manila. With a report from Catehrine S. Valente

DENR bans lead use in consumer products January 9, 2014 9:42 pm   by James Konstantin Galvez Reporter The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has banned the use of lead in local production of food packaging, paints, toys, and other consumer products. In a statement, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that the government is strengthening its control on the use of lead and its compounds in the local production of consumer products, as well as its importation, sale, distribution and disposal following the issuance of a Chemical Control Order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds. “The CCO for Lead and Lead Compounds is a result of numerous consultations with various stakeholders with the intention of reducing unreasonable risks and injuries to people as a result of their exposure to the chemical as well its negative impact on the environment,” Paje said. He added the order was in support of the global action for the elimination of lead in paints. Lead is a heavy metal and highly toxic that exposure to it or ingestion can severely damage the nervous system. The chemical can also affect the development of children as well as the cardiovascular, reproductive and immune systems; impair the kidneys; and could also cause hearing loss and tooth decay. The CCO for lead strictly prohibits the use of lead and lead compounds in the local manufacture of packaging for food and drink, toys, school supplies, cosmetics, water pipes and other consumer products. It also reiterates the ban on the use of lead as fuel additive. “With the CCO, existing prohibitions by other agencies of the government governing the use of lead and lead compounds in various consumer products are further strengthened,” he said. The order has also set the standard content of lead for locally produced paints at 90 parts per million (ppm), as well as the timeframe for the strict implementation of the standard which starts in 2016 for paints intended for architectural, decorative, household applications while paints for industrial applications, starts in 2019. “The reason for setting the implementation phase for paints is to enable our paint industry to shift to lead-free production. There is now a global action for the elimination of lead in paints, and certainly this CCO is our way of showing our oneness with this advocacy,” Paje said.

The DENR chief added that the new regulation on lead is consistent with Republic Act No. 6969, otherwise known as the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, as it also addresses the transport and treatment of lead-containing wastes prior to disposal. RA 6969 was issued by the government in response to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. “Since lead is a toxic substance, the regulation covers not only the production process, but starts at the importation of the chemical to transport, recycling and even up to disposal of leadcontaining wastes,” Paje said. “Thus, the order also covers not only the manufacturers or industrial users but also the importers, distributors, recyclers, as well as the waste service providers like the transporters, waste treaters and disposers,” he added. As such, the DENR chief said that persons or entities involved in importation, manufacture, distribution, use, recycling, treatment, storage and disposal of lead and lead compounds, whether newly involved or with existing compliance certificates, are required to register with the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau. Applicants are also required to provide a Safety Data Sheet to ensure the environmentally sound management of the chemicals. The DAO details requirements for labeling, manufacturing and training, storage, transport, treatment and disposal of lead and lead-containing materials. To ensure proper implementation of the new policy, the DENR will conduct capability building and continuous consultations and discussions with its partner agencies under the Departments of Health, Trade and Industry, and Finance; as well as the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, the Ecological Waste Coalition, and International POPs Elimination Network Philippines. The order also tasks the EMB to lead the development of standards or threshold limits relative to the other existing uses of lead, and to monitor compliance with these standards. Violators shall be subject to administrative and criminal sanctions relative to RA 6969 provisions.

House urged to probe cash transfer program January 9, 2014 9:40 pm   by Jhoanna Ballaran Following the Commission on Audit (COA)’s report on the alleged anomalies on Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)’s conditional cash transfer program (CCT), a lawmaker renewed calls for Congress to urgently review the poverty alleviation measure. Gabriela Women’s Party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus, author of House Resolution 332 that directs the Committee on Poverty Alleviation to conduct inquiries on the program, pressed the House of Representative to probe the latest report of corruption. The measure was filed last year where at least 13 lawmakers signed, including House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora“This COA report is ample proof that Congress should review President Aquino’s dubious flagship poverty program,” De Jesus said. In the 2012 COA report, there was at least P50.15 million granted to 7,782 families whose names do not match the list of DSWD’s List of Validated and Registered Household Beneficiaries of the National Household Targeting Office (NHTO). There are also reports that there are double entries in DSWD’s list of beneficiaries. De Jesus maintained that the national women’s movement has consistently documented many irregularities in CCT, also known as the Pantawid Pamilya Program (4P’s) implementation and their ill effects on women and families, dispelling the claims by government that it has improved the situation of the poor.Meanwhile, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap backed the Gabriela solon’s inquiry into the alleged anomaly. “Since its inception in 2008, the CCT has been prone to irregularities and corruption,” Hicap said. “The ‘dole-out oriented’ CCT program is getting the biggest chunk of the DSWD’s annual national budget. The DSWD must account and explain how it is spending the budget. We must also know the program’s impact on the livelihood and well-being of its beneficiaries.” For 2014, 4P’s has a budget of P62,614,247,297 to cover children aged 15 to 18. The CCT program expects to cover 4,309,769 households under the regular CCT and Expanded CCT while 131,963 households for the Modified CCT.

Manila gets P52m for flood control, drainage January 9, 2014 9:38 pm   by Llanesca T. Panti Reporter The City of Manila, headed by Mayor Joseph Estrada, got P52 million or the lion’s share of the P271-million budget for flood control and drainage projects under the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)’s 2014 budget. Based on the P2.265-trillion budget for 2014, the capital of Manila was also awarded with the most number of flood control and drainage improvement projects with 18. A far second is Quezon City with P 37.5 million for 11 projects. The cities of Makati, Marikina and Parañaque have six projects each with Makati and Marikina getting P19.5 million, respectively, while Caloocan cornered P18 million for four projects. Parañaque, for its part, ended up with P17.5 million for six projects. Closely following is Taguig with P15 million for four projects.Las Piñas, on the other hand, was allotted P11.5 million for five projects. Taguig has been earmarked with P10 million for four projects, while Muntinlupa got P9.5 million also for four projects.Pasay was also granted P9.5 million, but the amount was only good for three projects.Rounding up the list are the six cities which got P9 million each, namely Malabon, Navotas, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Pateros and Pasig. Of the 15 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila, five are headed by members of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) chaired by President Benigno Aquino 3rd. The LP mayors are: Herbert Bautista of Quezon City, Del de Guzman of Marikina, Antolin Oreta of Malabon, Edwin Olivarez of Parañaque and Jaime Fresnedi of Muntinlupa. The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) headed by Vice President Jejomar Binay and the Nacionalista Party (NP) of former Sen. and real estate magnate Manuel Villar Jr. also have five Metro Manila mayors.UNA has Estrada of Manila, John Reynald Tiangco of Navotas, Junjun Binay of Makati, Oscar Malapitan of Caloocan, and Guia Gomez of San Juan, while the NP has Antonio Calixto of Pasay, Vergel Aguilar of Las Piñas, Lani Cayetano of Taguig, Joey Medina of Pateros and Maribel Eusebio of Pasig. Valenzuela is headed by Mayor Rex Gatchalian of the Nationalist People’s Coalition headed by the President’s uncle, business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

GSIS EXTENDS HOUSING LOAN RESTRUCTURING January 9, 2014 7:57 pm   by RITCHIE A. HORARIO THE Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) on Thursday extended its housing loan restructuring program. Members of the GSIS who did not meet the December 31, 2013 application deadline for the housing loan restructuring program may still apply until June 30, 2014 after its extension. According to GSIS, the program is open to borrowers whose accounts are current or up-to-date, whose deeds of conditional sale were cancelled but which are not yet sold and whose accounts are under foreclosure.

PCA to plant high-yield coco trees in Visayas January 9, 2014 7:52 pm   The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has set aside P2.8 billion to replace all damaged coconut trees along Super Typhoon Yolanda’s path to ensure pre-typhoon production levels in the next 10 years. More than that, PCA Administrator Euclides Forbes said the storm was an opportunity for affected areas to improve the coconut industry. “All uprooted and partially damaged trees will be replaced with better varieties to further improve the industry than what it was before Yolanda,” said Forbes who was here recently to lead the ceremonial turnover of seedlings. Initially, the PCA has five million seedlings ready for distribution and planting early this year. The PCA has signed a deal with some schools for the mass production of high yielding varieties—Tacunan, Dwarf and Baybay Tall, in the bid to fast track replanting. In Eastern Visayas, 400,000 seedlings will be produced by the Visayas State University, 50,000 by the Southern Leyte State University and 40,000 by the University of Eastern Philippines. The PCA has set aside P2.8 billion this year to rehabilitate the country’s coconut industry badly damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda. The budget is from the national government’s calamity fund and on top of the regular funding of the PCA for 2014. PNA

DUTERTE WILLING TO GO TO JAIL IF HE CAN KILL RICE SMUGGLERS January 9, 2014 7:50 pm   DAVAO CITY: Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he is very much willing to go to prison if he could kill rice smugglers just to protect and defend Filipino farmers. Duterte reacted to the statement of Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. who cautioned him not to take the law into his hands. “We must not resort to extralegal methods,” Coloma was quoted as saying. PNA

GSIS raises P566 nilliom from property auction January 9, 2014 7:45 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo State-run Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) raised more than P566 million following the sale of two of its prime pieces of property in Metro Manila. In a statement, GSIS said that its pieces of property that went through the auction process in December were the Philcomcen building in Ortigas, and Cul Transit in Quezon City. “The results are overwhelming. We were able to sell them at rates way beyond our asking price through a transparent bidding process,” said Robert Vergara, GSIS president and general manager. The insurer said that the Philcomcen building in Ortigas with a book value of only P234 million was sold to Filinvest Land Inc. with a bid of P771.5 million. Cul Transit in Quezon City, with a book value of only P50 million, was sold to Global 360 Development Corp. who bidded P78 million for the 2,076-square meter property. Furthermore, the GSIS said that along with Philcomcen, and Cul Transit, other acquired assets that were put on the sale block in November 2013, included Polymedic 1 and 2 in Mandaluyong City as well as LA’O and the former Jai Alai in Manila. Nine bidders, including real estate developers, submitted offers for the six pieces of property. Vergara said that his was the perfect time to dispose the assets given the real estate property boom in the country. “Our efforts to level the playing field for buyers of our properties have paid off,” he said, adding that milestone bodes well for auctions that the GSIS will be holding in the future. Vergara further said that, “this will positively impact on the financial standing of the institution.” Based on unaudited figures, the total assets of GSIS for the first 11 months of 2013 stood at P784.1 billion, up by 8 percent from the P726 billion posted in 2012.

ADB, Standard Chartered partner to support SMEs January 9, 2014 7:44 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Manila-based lender Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Standard Chartered Bank have entered into a partnership to support the supply chain financing of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Asia.In a statement, Standard Chartered said that this is the first agreement of its kind under ADB’s recently launched Supply Chain Finance (SCF) program, which is expected to finance more than $800 million in supply chain transactions. It added that most of the transactions under the SCF program will be directed through SMEs that are supplying large companies with materials for intermediate and final production, as well as retail sales.Under the agreement, ADB and Standard Chartered will share the risk in the transactions that will in turn support the development of intra Asia supply chains, as well as supply chains between Asia and other regions of the world. Steven Beck, ADB head of Trade Finance, said that market gaps for supply chain finance impede economic growth and job creation, “so it’s imperative that ADB get into this space.” “ADB is very pleased to sign this agreement with Standard Chartered to close market gaps in support of SME development and job creation in developing Asia,” Beck added. The ADB’s SCF program, which has an “AAA” credit rating, complements its successful Trade Finance Program (TFP).While ADB’s TFP fills market gaps by providing guarantees and loans to banks, the SCF program will take commercial corporate risk and improve liquidity within the supply chains.“We are delighted to be partnering with ADB for its first supply chain risk-sharing program. This partnership is a testament to our strength in financing trade and our commitment to supporting trade flows—the lifeblood of the global economy,” said Joshua Cohen, global head, Liability and RWA Management at Standard Chartered. As part of the Clinton Global Initiative, Standard Chartered said that it has also pledged to increase SME lending by approximately 45 percent in its footprint markets of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East over the next five years. “Today’s announcement builds on its commitment to offer continued flow of credit to SMEs, a sector that’s vital to fuelling economic growth across the bank’s footprint markets,” the private bank said.

Manila Water unit borrows P833M January 9, 2014 7:44 pm   by Madelaine B. Miraflor A unit of Ayala-led Manila Water Co. Inc. has borrowed as much as P833 million from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to finance its capital expenditure intended to fulfill its service obligations and expansion plans. A disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Thursday showed that Laguna AAA Water Corp. (LAWC), a subsidiary of Manila Water, signed a Third Omnibus Loan and Security Agreement amounting to P833 million, with the DBP through the Philippine Water Revolving Fund. The proceeds of the loan, according to Manila Water, will be used to finance the additional capital expenditures of Laguna Water to fulfill its service obligations and expansion plans in the province of Laguna. A week ago, Laguna Water fully took over for P625 million the utility that supplies water for the entire Laguna Technopark. Manila Water previously told the local bourse that Laguna Water signed an asset purchase agreement with Laguna Technopark Inc. (LTI) for the acquisition of the water reticulation system of Laguna Technopark. The transaction, according to Manila Water, is for the purchase and acquisition of certain assets in order to exclusively operate the water and sewerage system in the Laguna Technopark, and to provide water and sewerage services to people within and outside the industrial park, including areas to be covered by the expansion of Laguna Technopark in the future. Through the transaction, the Manila Water group of companies will become the exclusive water service provider of the biggest and largest international manufacturers in the Asian region, the disclosure added.

German firms see PH as prime investment site January 9, 2014 7:39 pm   by Kristyn Nika M. Lazo The German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GPCCI) said on Thursday that there are increasing German companies that would want to establish business and investments in the country, citing the rising competitiveness and business environment of the Philippines. Brenda Baylon, GPCCI business development manager, said in a press briefing that the German companies would want to enter the country as business confidence in the Philippines was reportedly increasing in the second half of 2013, mainly the rise of investment grade ratings given to the country. Baylon said that the Philippines has a growing reputation in the global economic scene, thus attracting the German firms. ”Also the nickname other countries gave to us like ‘Rising Star of Asia,’ ‘Tiger Economy of Asia’ helped us to gain interests from investors,” she said. Baylon added that the chamber receives a number of investment inquiries to the country on a daily basis, which are mostly investments for the construction of substations, transmission lines, power plants, civil engineering, infrastructure design, electronics, information technology, and manufacturing sectors among others. The GCCPI official said that the chamber targets to raise investments from previous records, as first quarter investments in 2012 and 2013 reached 32.2 million euros, while 2010 to 2011 recorded 34.9 million euros of investments. For the start of 2014, Baylon mentioned that a large-scale German manufacturing firm is entering the country, which would generate 2,000 jobs once its facilities are fully operational, to be located at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority area in Southern Luzon. Though the company name remains confidential, Baylon said that it would be the first German investment for the year. The GPCCI is an organization serving as the intermediary between German and Philippine businesses. At present, the chamber has 208 German member-companies from the 38 firms in 2008.

With soaring energy, oil prices, inflation, what awaits the economy in 2014? January 9, 2014 7:38 pm   by Ej Lopez ECONSENSE Ej Lopez A few years back, my former student in Economics who joined the ranks of overseas Filipino workers was in a quandary because of his professional thoughts regarding his earnings as an OFW. Though the income remains fixed at a certain point as far as his host country is concerned, this remains variable in the home country, just like any worker of his nature. It is very technical for an ordinary person to even realize that the income varies according to how the dollar values to the peso. OFWs who work abroad are presumed to send their income in the country to support their family. More often than not, OFWs receiv their income in the form of foreign currency (generally in US dollars), then remitted locally. Therefore, local take home pay varies according to how much is the value of the currency (dollar) at the time of the remittance. In theory, it is extremely favorable for them that the dollar has a higher value than the peso to enjoy a better life rather than a higher peso value. In such case, recipient families enjoy bigger purchasing power, because income increases despite not exerting an effort. Currently, the value of the local peso has continuously devalued against the dollar, a local condition that is rarely seen the past decade. This phenomenon can be viewed positively by some local economic stakeholders like the exporters, OFWs, and international business but not the national government, because of the increased cost of doing business in the country. But if you are economically literate like my former student, you think of the bigger picture which is the resulting effect of a accelerated dollar and its grim effect to the nation. On one hand, this can be viewed positively since an appreciation of the dollar could basically connote an increased business activity in the United States, which for a considerable number of years was deep in economic crisis. The situation can be viewed as more positively inclined than the other way around. The US economy dictates the tempo of world economy, therefore it may signal the start of a more robust economic activity. The US is practically any country’s biggest trading partner. Therefore a progressive US economy in more ways is beneficial to the rest of the world.Locally, the start of the year saw a decline of the local indicators, which practically will most likely define what is at stake as far as the year 2014 is concerned. On the average, inflation rate hit a high 4 percent, a snag never before experienced in the two years. Therefore, all efforts exerted by authorities to control this nagging problem that will surely hit the ordinary “Juan Dela Cruz” this year has gone in vain. This came as an offshoot of what seem to be an unabated increase in the price of industrial commodities like oil, energy and other raw materials.

These seem to be the direction that the local economy will take at some point in this Year of the Horse. It will be characterized by fast-phased movements of several indicators that will outline our economic trail. Sadly, unemployment remains stagnant at more than 6 percent in the past year, and seems will remain as such for the coming year. Higher inflation inevitably results to soaring interest rates, which predictably will put a halt to local investment because of the expensive cost of borrowing. This will further be aggravated by the amount of budget that is needed by the government for the current fiscal year, which stands at P2.264 trillion. More often than not, government funds will not suffice the amount required for the budget because of liquidity problem. But the government in its effort to provide service to citizens has no other recourse but to resort to local and international borrowings. In such case, the government competes with the private sector in terms of borrowings, a case of “David and Goliath.” As a result, interest rates are raised. However, the materiality of promises and pledges that were generated by the goodwill of the President’s state visits can save the day for the Philippine economy. This could negate all negative vibes created last year, and possibly could reverberate for this year and create positive outlook for 2014. The disastrous event that transpired in Eastern Visayas, though great in regional magnitude, is a minor factor to the economic condition of the country for this year. In fact, the rehabilitation as well as infrastructure efforts to be undertaken by the government will create economic movements in that region of the country. With the enormous amount of money on hand to rehabilitate and bring back a semblance of normalcy (approximately P320 billion), is enough to provide jobs and business opportunities to around 12 million people directly and indirectly affected by the typhoon onslaught, at least in the next four years. The current year is crucial to our economy as far as Pnoy’s leadership is concerned. The past two to three years of economic development still saw traces of former President Gloria Arroyo’s remnants of economic acumen. That is one legacy we cannot take away from the former president. Despite allegations of massive corruption in her regime, she left the country with a sound economic fundamentals and this has been enjoyed by PNoy’s rule until a year or two after Arroyo’s term. But currently and at least in the middle of PNoy’s term; 2014 up to 2016, the end of his term, whatever will be the accomplishments of the Philippine economy will solely be to his own credit. The most that an ordinary “Juan Dela Cruz” can do is to be vigilant and supportive of whoever is in charge of our economic welfare. For after all, this is the only country we have and therefore should rear it . . .

Posted on January 09, 2014 10:51:08 PM

Barefoot hordes attend massive Black Nazarene parade MANILA ‐‐ Millions of barefoot devotees packed the Philippine capital’s streets yesterday for  one of the world’s biggest Catholic parades, honoring an ancient statue of Jesus Christ they  believe has miraculous powers.  Chanting “Viva, Viva Señor Nazareno! (Long Live Mister     Nazarene)”, frenzied pilgrims climbed over one another in the  suffocating heat to touch the Black Nazarene during the ebony‐ hued wooden statue’s slow procession around Manila.    “This has been a family tradition for years, and the Nazarene has given us many blessings over  the years,” housewife Josephine Manalastas told AFP after she and her 80‐year‐old mother  were pulled out by medics from beneath the surging crowd.    They were taken to an ambulance for treatment after a section of the crowd stampeded over a  steel barrier protecting the statue’s carriage, shortly before the parade began at Manila’s  largest park in the morning.    Medics said the two were uninjured. But by mid‐afternoon police said 879 people had been  treated for various injuries as the life‐sized, 406‐year‐old icon was borne towards its home in a  central Manila church.    Church organizers said one person suffered a stroke.    Large numbers of police were mustered to help maintain order along the six‐kilometer route,  but the procession was crawling so slowly that just over a third of the distance had been  covered as dusk fell.    As of midday, organizers said this year’s crowd outnumbered the estimated nine million who  attended last year, although the number could not be independently verified.    Devotees climbed on each other’s shoulders to kiss the statue or wipe it with white towels and  handkerchiefs.   

Others fought over a pair of thick lengths of rope that the pilgrims used to pull the carriage.    In scenes reminiscent of a rock concert mosh pit, one determined woman surfed the crowd to  reach the icon, only to fall back and sink into the sea of humanity afterwards.    More than 80% of the Philippines’ 100 million people are Catholic, a legacy of four centuries of  Spanish colonial rule, making it Asia’s main bastion of the faith.    The country is deeply religious, but yesterday’s march through Manila’s old quarter ‐‐ the  biggest religious event in the country ‐‐ represents one of its more extreme forms of  veneration.    The Philippines also ceremonially crucifies more than a dozen devotees every Good Friday.    TYPHOON PRAYERS  Cloaked in a maroon robe and crowned with thorns while bearing a cross, the Nazarene statue  was first brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, decades after the start  of Spain’s rule.    It was believed to have acquired its dark color after it was partially burnt when the galleon  carrying it caught fire.    The image also survived fires that engulfed Quiapo Church in 1791 and 1929, the great  earthquakes of 1645 and 1863, and the 1945 bombing of Manila during World War II.    Many Filipinos believe the icon is miraculous and that by joining the procession, barefoot as a  mark of humility, their prayers will be answered. Manila laborer Wilson Faculto said he and his  childless wife of 15 years were gifted with a baby last December, five years after they began  joining the annual procession.    “A woman we didn’t know gave us her baby for adoption, and walked away,” he said, cradling  the two‐month‐old in his arms.    “This boy is our Nazarene miracle.”    The Faculto clan camped out in the park two days before the parade, sleeping on the grass and  ignoring the foul smell from overflowing portable toilets nearby.   

In a daybreak mass at the park, Manila’s archbishop, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, asked the  pilgrims to pray for the victims of super‐typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), which  pummelled the country in November, leaving more than 6,000 dead or missing.    “Those who do not forget God also do not forget his fellow man,” he said.    “Let us not be ashamed to proclaim our love for Jesus,” the Cardinal added.    The message was not lost on security guard Efren Delantar, who lost relatives to the typhoon.    “They are no longer with us, but we are asking for special intercession for them,” he said.    “I know that wish has been granted. They are all in heaven,” he added.    Yolanda cut a swathe of destruction when it struck on Nov. 8, bringing powerful winds that  topped 315 kilometers an hour.    It also triggered giant storm surges which swamped large areas in Central Philippines.    Yolanda also displaced four million people, 1.7 million of them children, based on an earlier  report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). ‐‐ AFP

Posted on January 09, 2014 10:17:52 PM

German group to explore business prospects DELEGATES of the German Asia‐Pacific Business Association are expected to arrive this quarter  to scope prospects for a possible trade mission in the third quarter, a German‐Philippine  Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (GPCCI) official said yesterday.  Brenda I. Baylon ‐‐    GPCCI Business Development Manager Brenda I. Baylon said in a briefing that more German  companies are looking into investing opportunities in the Philippines, owing to the country’s  stronger economy and fiscal reforms.    “Representatives from the association would like to come in the first quarter this year to try to  gain an insight about business opportunities in the Philippines,” Ms. Baylon said.    “We have received interest in the following industries: energy, food, pharmaceuticals,  engineering supply, [and] IT‐related medical systems,” she explained.    Two Germany‐based companies are also expected to build manufacturing centers for  automotive parts and industrial lubricants sometime this year.    Ms. Baylon said that she could not divulge the names of the German firms but said that the  companies have already established their names in their respective industries.    “The one which supplies vehicle parts will come in the first quarter. It is in the process of  incorporation in the Philippines,” Ms. Baylon explained.    The vehicle parts supplier’s hub will be “positioned south of Metro Manila, in one of the  investment promotion agency locations.”    The industrial lubricant firm, meanwhile, is in the process of completing regulatory  requirements to avail incentives from the government.    The Trade department hopes to attract more foreign investors to the country by providing  incentives for projects registered with investment promotion agencies such as the Philippine 

Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Board of Investments.    Incentives available for foreign firms include income tax holidays and duty‐free importation of  capital equipment.    This month, PEZA said, will see four trade missions ‐‐ one from the United States, two from  Japan and one from South Korea ‐‐ in the country.    Last year, the Philippines hosted a number of trade and investment missions from the US, the  United Kingdom, China, Japan, Switzerland, and Germany, among others. Companies that  participated in these visits were said to be interested in investing in the Philippines’ energy,  retail, information technology and business process outsourcing, agriculture, banking, and  automotive sectors.    Investments from Germany reached €32.2 million in the first quarter of fiscal year 2012‐2013,  already close to the €34.9‐million investment made for the entire 2010‐2011 fiscal year.    Trade volume reached €3.8 billion in 2012, preliminary data from the German Embassy in the  Philippines showed.    In the 11 months to November, investment pledges registered with PEZA rose 15.29% to 626  projects from the 543 recorded in the same period a year ago.    These translated to investments worth P210.932 billion, up 72.16% from last year’s P122.518  billion.    In 2012, PEZA booked investments worth P311.9 billion. ‐‐ Lorenz Christoffer S. Marasigan

Posted on January 09, 2014 10:16:26 PM

Bill filed in House to regulate eggs TO ENSURE the safety of eggs for consumption, a bill seeking to regulate the sale and  distribution of locally produced eggs has been filed at the House of Representatives.  Residents buy eggs from a vendor in Tacloban City, Leyte, on Jan. 7, two months after the city  was struck by typhoon Yolanda. A bill seeks to regulate the sale of eggs for consumption with  proper grades and shelf life indicators. ‐‐ AFP    House Bill (HB) No. 3363 was filed on Nov. 18, 2013 by Nueva Ecija First District Representative  Estrellita B. Suansing “to regulate the grading, packing, marking, inspection and expiration of  eggs for domestic and international market”.    “This bill specifically aims to protect the consuming public, particularly the egg industry through  the policy of grading, packing, marking and inspection of eggs,” Ms. Suansing said in the  explanatory note of the bill.    She added that determining the shelf life of food and other basic commodities is very important  to ensure safety in the consumption of those commodities.    Ms. Suansing, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, added that  “bacterial contaminants are ever‐present, and food left not eaten for some time may be  affected by these, making it dangerous to eat as it may lead to food poisoning”.    She also said that the Food and Drug Administration Act (Republic Act No. 9711) and the  Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394) have no provisions on egg regulation.    In filing the bill, Ms. Suansing cited Canada and the United States, where there are laws to  regulate eggs.    “The proposed bill provides that the DoH (Department of Health), in consultation with the FDA  (Food and Drug Administration), shall establish a system of rules and regulations whereby eggs  produced for commercial purposes in the domestic and international fields shall be graded  according to its quality, size and freshness,” the explanatory note said.    Eggs will be labelled accordingly with Phil. A, Phil. B, Phil. C, and Phil. Premium, the bill said.   

Under the proposed measure, expiration dates will be posted “on every box, tray and container  of eggs”, based on the shelf life after purchase and the inspection of eggs for commercial use by  an inspector duly certified by the FDA.    The bill also specified that an egg has a good quality “if it has no foul odor or mold, has not  been in an incubator and [is] not contaminated”.    HB 3363 states that no person shall market eggs as food in the domestic and international  market “unless these are prepared in accordance with this Act; are not contaminated; are  edible; and have meet all other requirements of the FDA and DoH”.    Eggs that are deemed rejects or are contaminated as duly certified by the inspectors may be  marketed as animal food instead, the bill said.    HB 3363, if passed, will establish a Regulatory Enforcement Unit (REU), under the DoH and FDA,  for egg trade.    The FDA was not immediately available for comment.    The bill noted that any official or employee who would knowingly release false or misleading  information concerning the grading of eggs would be punished with six months’ imprisonment  and a fine of not more than P20,000.    Likewise, any employee or official who intentionally allows the grading of eggs or posting of  expiration dates in a place other than the government‐registered egg station shall face a one‐ year jail term and a fine of not more than P20,000. ‐‐ I.C.C. Delavin   r

Posted on January 09, 2014 10:15:44 PM

Manual filing, payment for stamp tax TAXPAYERS must file and pay their documentary stamp tax returns and get their stamps  manually while the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) electronic DST (eDST) system is  temporarily unavailable due to “technical problems.”    In a memorandum posted on the agency’s Web site, BIR Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto‐Henares  advised all eDST users on the temporary procedures to be followed while remedial works are  undertaken to restore the facility.    “The electronic documentary stamp tax system shall be temporarily disabled due to the  technical problems being encountered at present,” Ms. Jacinto‐Henares said.    “Pending the restoration of thereof, all eDST system users are hereby advised to adopt the  constructive stamping procedures prescribed under Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 1‐2010  dated Jan. 4, 2010.”    The constructive stamping procedures under the mentioned circular differ among kinds of  taxpayers.    For example, for universal and commercial banks, the process involves filing and paying through  an electronic fund transfer instruction system for processing by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas  (BSP).    These firms will affix to the taxable document, which it will stamp with “DST PAID,” the BSP’s  transmittal for the approved transaction and other documents as well as their DST return and  proof of payment.    Other taxpayers requiring DSTs must manually file with authorized agent banks their respective  DST declarations or returns and pay the tax due on the stamp within five days after the close of  the month when the taxable documents were made, signed, issued, accepted, or transferred.  They will likewise stamp the documents and will need to attach proof of filing and payment of  the DST.    Ms. Jacinto‐Henares said that in adopting the alternative procedures for the DST stamping,  eDST users will not be able to tap their respective account balances. The eDST system provides  for an online payment facility. 

“Hence, a separate documentary stamp tax declaration or return will have to be filed and the  tax due thereon shall be paid by all concerned eDST users,” she said in the memorandum.    “Moreover, the summary of the detailed transactions covered by such DST payment and  constructive stamping procedures shall be transmitted to the BIR, thru e‐mail, at on the day immediately after the day of filing and payment of the DST,”  the BIR chief added.    These constructive stamping procedures shall be observed until further notice, she said.    Lilia C. Guillermo, BIR Deputy Commissioner for Information Systems, reported in a separate  memorandum that since Jan. 2, there have been reports from users of the eDST system on  technical difficulties with the facility.    Ms. Guillermo noted that BIR personnel are currently working to restore the system  immediately. ‐‐ Bettina Faye V. Roc,payment-for-stamp-tax&id=81795

Posted on January 09, 2014 10:15:20 PM

‘Firm’ prospects seen for economy THE PHILIPPINE economy is expected to stay robust, fuelled by strong domestic demand, the  Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said.  A man shops in a store in the Nestlé headquarters in Makati, in this April 15, 2009 photo.  Consumer sentiment is one factor expected to buoy up the economy. ‐‐ BW File Photo    “While global economic conditions could be challenging, prospects for domestic activity are  expected to stay firm,” highlights of the Monetary Board’s Dec. 12 policy meeting released  yesterday read.    The economy will be “supported by buoyant domestic demand as well as favorable consumer  and business sentiment.”    “Moreover, as credit expands in lock‐step with output growth, the economy’s improved  absorptive capacity will likewise be sustained, thus mitigating inflation pressures,” the policy‐ making body said.    The Philippine economy grew by 7.4% in the nine months ending September, driven by the  services sector. The result was faster than the government’s 6‐7% growth goal for 2013.    The MB noted that “the BSP continues to pay close attention to the evolving economic growth  and liquidity dynamics and their implications on price and financial stability.”    Domestic liquidity, which has been posting double‐digit spikes, surged by 36.5% in November  from a year ago, reaching P6.7 trillion.    It beat the 32.5% annual growth seen in October, the fastest since December 2002, central  bank data show.    Meanwhile, inflation ‐‐ which accelerated to a two‐year high in December ‐‐ is projected to  settle within the government’s 3‐5% target range this year and 2‐4% goal next year.    “The latest baseline forecasts continue to indicate within‐target inflation for 2014‐2015,” the  MB said.   

It noted that the “latest average baseline inflation forecasts are higher for 2014 and 2015  compared to the previous forecast round due mainly to the increase in oil prices and the  estimated impact of higher power rates in the Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) franchise area as  well as the likely impact of typhoons Yolanda and Santi.”    Inflation settled at 3% last year, hitting the low‐end of the central bank’s target for 2013 and  going higher than its 2.9% forecast. The rise in consumer prices is projected to average 4.5%  this year and 3.2% next year.    The MB said inflation is seen to rise in the “near term,” noting that spikes in consumer prices  will be “transitory” and will not “cause a significant deviation from the target.”    Moving forward, the policy‐making body said: “Risks to future inflation remain slightly skewed  to the upside. Potential increases in food prices and utility rates due to some supply‐related  concerns alongside the likelihood of stronger‐than‐anticipated liquidity growth could result in  higher inflation than current forecasts suggest.”    “The downside risk to inflation emanates from lingering uncertainties on global economic  activity and their impact on commodity prices,” it added. ‐‐ Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio E2%80%99-prospects-seen-for-economy&id=81794

Posted on January 09, 2014 10:56:30 PM

State pension fund raises P850M from property sale THE GOVERNMENT Service Insurance System (GSIS) has raised a total of about P850 million  from the sale of two prime properties in Metro Manila, the state‐owned pension fund said in a  statement posted on its Web site yesterday.    The Philcomcen Building in Ortigas Center, which had a book value of P234 million, was sold to  the Filinvest Land, Inc. for P771.5 million, while the 2,076‐square‐meter Cul Transit Terminal in  Quezon City, which had a book value of P50 million, was sold to Global 360 Development Corp.  for P78 million.“The results are overwhelming,” GSIS President and General Manager Robert G.  Vergara was quoted in the statement as saying.    “We were able to sell them at rates way beyond our asking price through a transparent bidding  process.”Other auction details were not immediately available.    GSIS, in November last year, put on the auction block some of its other assets, including  Polymedic Apartments 1 and 2 in Mandaluyong City, as well as the LA’O property and the  former Jai Alai Building in Manila.Nine bidders, including real estate developers submitted  offers for the six properties, the statement read.    Mr. Vergara said it was the perfect time to dispose the assets given the real estate property  boom in the country.    “Our efforts to level the playing field for buyers of our properties have paid off,” he said.    “This milestone bodes well for auctions that we will be holding in the future,” Mr. Vergara went  on, adding “this will positively impact on the financial standing of the institution.”    Based on unaudited figures, total assets of GSIS stood at P784.1 billion as of end‐November last  year, up by 8% from the P726 billion the year before. ‐‐ Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio Posted on January 09, 2014 11:14:35 PM

By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Reporter

Monetary Board approves bank merger SY‐LED China Banking Corp. (China Bank) has secured regulatory approval for its plan to acquire  Planters Development Bank (Plantersbank).  “The Board of Directors of the bank noted this afternoon     (yesterday) the Monetary Board’s (MB) approval in principle on  13 December 2013 of the merger between  PlantersDevelopment Bank with either China Banking Corp. or China Bank Savings, Inc. within  three years from date of the said approval,” China Bank said in a disclosure.    The first stage of the acquisition, it said, will be the acquisition of 84.77% of Plantersbank’s  subscribed capital stock via a share purchase agreement, “subject to certain requirements,  including the execution of relevant documents and approval of regulatory offices.”    China Bank said the 84.77% it would be purchasing was composed of 67.13% held by the  Tambunting families and 17.67% held by Dutch development bank FMO (The Netherlands  Development Finance Company).Plantersbank is a privately‐owned development bank. Jesus P.  Tambunting, a former ambassador to the United Kingdom, is its current chairman and CEO.    Upon MB approval and execution of the share purchase deal, China Bank said it intended to  complete the acquisition via a voluntary tender offer for the remaining 15.23% of  Plantersbank’s outstanding capital stock.The offer will be “at substantially the same terms and  conditions as indicated in the Share Purchase Agreement.”China Bank announced its plan to  buy Plantersbank last Sept. 18, 2013, saying that the deal would strengthen its presence in the  small and medium enterprise market.Plantersbank is the country’s largest private development  bank with assets of over P52.7 billion as of May 2013, a loan portfolio of P33 billion, deposits of  P43.6 billion and a nationwide network of 78 branches.China Bank, meanwhile, had total assets  of P359.03 billion and gross loans of P210.61 billion as of September 2013. Its consolidated net  income jumped 25% to P3.93 billion compared to the same nine‐month period in 2012.The Sy‐ led bank’s shares finished at P 60.20 apiece yesterday, gaining 10 centavos or 0.17%. Posted on January 09, 2014 11:14:06 PM

Typhoon rebuilding may cost higher than estimated THE COST of typhoon reconstruction this year could reach P138 billion, more than 50% higher  than initially estimated, as the Philippines seeks to build back better and put in safeguards for  future disasters, a Cabinet official yesterday said.  The total cost of a four‐year reconstruction effort may also end  up steeper than the current estimate of P361 billion, Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said.    Super typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms to make landfall anywhere, reduced almost  everything in its path to rubble when it swept ashore in the central Philippines on Nov. 8, killing  at least 6,190 people, leaving 1,785 missing and four million either homeless or with damaged  homes.    “The plan was 90 billion [pesos] for the year, but I think it will be more,” Mr. Abad told Reuters  in his Manila office, adding typhoon‐related spending would reach P138 billion.    “I don’t think they (reconstruction planners) have factored in the need to introduce resiliency.  So that will be 10‐30% more.”    Apart from the immediate need for temporary shelter, providing jobs and restoring water,  health and sanitation services, the government underestimated other costs, including that of  identifying and documenting the dead before they are buried.    “There is an international standard for doing it, before you bury them, that wasn’t factored in.  That’s a lot of money already,” Mr. Abad said, adding the government could adequately finance  a higher post‐typhoon spending bill this year.    Manila has set aside P54 billion for the rebuilding effort from a supplemental budget passed  late last year, this year’s national budget, savings, calamity and other funds. At least P80 billion  more would come from concessional loans offered by the World Bank, Asian Development  Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.    “We can fund it. The question is can we absorb it? That is why we have to start early,” Mr. Abad  said.    Going forward, the Philippines, which is hit by an average 20 typhoons a year, is considering not 

only building typhoon‐resilient structures but also permanent evacuation centers equipped  with generators and supplies ‐‐ an initiative that wasn’t part of initial plans.    The government is also considering major infrastructure projects in the central Philippines, such  as relocating the coastal airport in Tacloban, the city that bore the brunt of the storm.    The reconstruction effort will ensure the country hits the midpoint to higher end of its 6.5‐7.5%  growth target this year, Mr. Abad said, adding growth in 2013 was likely to be near the top end  of the government’s 6‐7% goal.    That view is shared by economists, with Citibank forecasting growth of 7.3% this year. Local  investment bank First Metro Investment Corp. has said it projects growth 2014 at 7‐7.5%,  buoyed by strong domestic demand and rehabilitation in disaster‐hit areas. ‐‐ Reuters

Posted on January 09, 2014 11:15:36 PM By Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio, Reporter

Gov’t launches global bond offering THE PHILIPPINES yesterday launched a 10‐year dollar bond offering, its first in over a year.    The government has planned $1 billion in commercial foreign  borrowings for this year. ‐‐ AFP     “The bond sale is part of the government’s continuing liability  management program,” National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon  said, noting that it includes a “debt exchange” allowing holders of short‐tenored ROPs to  exchange these for the 10‐year bonds.Funds raised could also be used to buy back government  securities carrying high rates, Ms. de Leon added.    She said the issue size was a “benchmark volume,” which means at least $500 million could be  raised. The government could increase this to $1 billion give its planned commercial foreign  borrowings this year.The bonds due in 2024 carry an indicative rate of 4.5%.    Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered Bank were tapped as joint global coordinators for  the transaction and would also be joint book runners with ANZ, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P.  Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s both gave the dollar  bonds a “BBB‐” rating.“The bonds will constitute the direct, unconditional and unsecured  general obligations of the sovereign, and will rank at least equally with all other unsecured and  unsubordinated external debt of the Philippines,” S&P said.“The proposed debt issue is backed  by the full faith and credit of the Philippines,” it added.Fitch raised the Philippines to  investment grade in March and S&P followed suit in May. Both hold a “BBB‐” rating with a  stable outlook.The government abandoned offshore markets last year as it aimed to increase  the domestic component of its debt to reduce its exposure to volatility abroad. It also took  advantage of high domestic liquidity.The country last tapped offshore markets in 2012 when it  raised $1.5 billion from the sale of 25‐year dollar bonds and $750 million from the issuance of  10.5‐year global peso notes.    The government borrows from domestic and external markets to fund its fiscal deficit, which hit  P242.8 billion in 2012, below a P279.1‐billion ceiling.

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