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Agriculture official named by Benhur Luy back on the job By Gil Cabacungan  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:05 am | Monday, January 13th, 2014  

Ophelia Agawin: Back at the DA. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Ophelia Agawin, identified by whistle-blower Benhur Luy as alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles’ conduit in the Department of Agriculture (DA) under the Arroyo and Aquino administrations, is back at her job as assistant secretary at the DA despite lingering questions on her role in the scam. Agawin, the public accountant also at the heart of an alleged P432-million fertilizer fund scam engineered by then Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante in 2003, went on leave last October to give way to the DA’s investigation into the department funds she channeled to bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) allegedly controlled by Napoles. Agawin claimed, however, that she went on leave to take care of a sick parent. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said Agawin could not be suspended for her alleged ties to Napoles since she has not been named in the two sets of charges filed by the Department of Justice and National Bureau of Investigation with the Ombudsman in the pork scam case. Plunder charges Both Agawin and Alcala, however, have been charged with plunder in a case filed by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Agawin was a treasurer and director of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) from 2006 to 2010. Based on a Commission on Audit (COA) report, ZREC was used as a conduit for the release of P282-million in pork barrel funds of Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. and former APEC party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez and former Buhay party-list Rep. Rene Velarde. In his September 2013 affidavit to the NBI, Luy said that Agawin received 10 percent in commissions from the pork barrel funds that went through ZREC. Agriculture Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup, who was ZREC president from 2006 to 2010, was the only ZREC official named in the pork barrel scam case. Salacup, who has been on leave since October, has filed a counter-affidavit with the Ombudsman claiming that he had no contact or ties with Napoles as Luy and other whistle-blowers had only mentioned Agawin as Napoles’ broker in ZREC. Salacup also said his role in the transactions were only “ministerial” as the pork funds were pushed for by former Agriculture Undersecretary Berni C. Fondevilla and former Assistant Secretary Eduardo Nolasco. Dealings continued Despite the alarm raised by the COA on ZREC’s failure to liquidate the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) during her watch, Agawin apparently continued her business dealings with Napoles, as reported by Luy. In November 2012, Agawin took charge of the paper work for Alcala’s order reprogramming P174.381 million in idle funds (from 2011 to 2012) from the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards to the organic agriculture-related projects of local government units. The funds were to be disposed of by Alcala’s province mate and Agawin’s boss, Undersecretary Antonio Fleta, who signed most of the agreements with the NGOs. Alcala said his department would release its audit of the funds soon. In Luy’s testimony, he claimed that these organic farming projects were among the last transactions he concluded with Agawin before he and Napoles had a falling out. Napoles held Luy in detention because she suspected him of making the same deals with other operators. During this period, Agawin was also in charge of vetting the NGOs accredited by the DA for its fund releases, which was the reason Napoles’ NGOs were able to obtain government funds in the Aquino administration. Read more:‐official‐named‐by‐benhur‐luy‐back‐on‐the‐ job#ixzz2qFgLFWoV   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

‘Help coco farmers by returning levy’ By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.  Inquirer Southern Luzon   7:40 am | Monday, January 13th, 2014  

INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON FILE PHOTO LUCENA CITY, Philippines—If the government wants to hasten the recovery of the coconut farmers in the typhoon-devastated areas of the Visayas, President Aquino should return the multibillion-peso coconut levy fund to its “real owners,” according to the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the claimants’ movement Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (Claim). “We challenge Aquino to immediately certify as urgent House Bill No. 1327 to hasten the recovery of the small coconut farmers in Yolanda-hit areas,” KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said in a statement on Saturday. Marbella said it had been more than two months since Supertyphoon “Yolanda” hit the central Philippines but the small coconut farmers had yet to receive rehabilitation funds from the Aquino administration. He said the small coconut farmers in typhoon-hit provinces were among the biggest contributors to the coco levy fund that is now estimated to be more than P70 billion. Keep a close eye Over the weekend, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Euclides Forbes said the agency’s rehabilitation plan was in place and an initial fund of P2.8 billion had been received by the PCA from Malacañang.

Forbes said the fund would be used to help coconut farmers in Leyte and Samar provinces (Eastern Visayas), on Panay Island (Western Visayas) and in northern Cebu and Bantayan Island (Central Visayas) that were hit by Yolanda. Marbella, who is also Claim’s national coordinator, told the PCA they would keep a close eye on the P2.8 billion rehabilitation fund for the coconut farmers. Damage to the coconut industry wrought by the typhoon was placed at P16.6 billion, with at least 15 million coconut trees toppled or uprooted when the monster storm smashed through the three Visayan regions on Nov. 8. Marbella said that in returning the coco levy fund to the small coconut farmers, they could use their own money for their benefit and recovery. HB 1327, or the Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Fund authored by Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap, provides that the coco levy fund be used exclusively for the benefit of genuine small coconut farmers. Marbella explained that HB 1327 was the “legislative counterpart” of the small coconut farmers’ proposal for the “cash distribution of the recovered funds.” It seeks to provide cash and other social benefits that include pension, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity and educational assistance for the farmers. The bill also seeks to finance socioeconomic projects focusing on livelihood programs and small and medium-scale coconut enterprises to be initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations. It also seeks to help finance the development of high-quality coconuts and the improvement of local coconut production. Read more:‐coco‐farmers‐by‐returning‐levy#ixzz2qFfmkyya   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook           

NBI hit over failure to arrest 4 rice smugglers By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  23 googleplus0  0  

Photo shows the scanned passport of Davidson Bangayan, who has been tagged by business groups as  David Tan, the Davao City trader allegedly responsible for massive rice smuggling in the country. 

MANILA, Philippines - A business leader has accused the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of failing to go after four big-time rice smugglers identified in a Senate investigation on rice smuggling last year. A Senate joint committee had recommended that David Tan, a certain Danny Ngo, Danilo Garcia (head of a rice dealers’ association in southern Metro Manila) and Willy Sy (owner of Montevallo Enterprises, allegedly a bogus cooperative) be prosecuted for corruption; violation of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, and Republic Act No. 1956, which amended Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code on monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade. In a phone interview with The STAR, Jesus Arranza, Federation of Philippine Industries president, said the country’s primary law enforcement agency was in the best position to unmask David Tan whom he recently exposed could be Davidson Bangayan, who has already been charged for various anomalous transactions. “We don’t know what they have done so far,” he said. NBI officials were present during the series of hearings on rice smuggling in the Senate last year, he added.

Aranza said then Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile issued an order to the NBI to go after the big-time rice smugglers and pursue the leads into their identities and whereabouts. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

“By the way, I attended all the hearings,” he said. “I saw the NBI was present in those hearings, too.” Arranza said “David Tan” was apparently an alias of a certain Davidson Tan Bangayan, a Chinese-Filipino from Davao City. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte himself is tracking down David Tan and has vowed to prosecute him, he added. Lawyer Virgilio Mendez, NBI deputy director for regional operations and services, said the NBI has confirmed that DT and Davidson Bangayan are one and the same person. Arranza said Davidson Tan Bangayan was a scrap metal trader from Davao City before going into rice smuggling. A “high probability” exists that the David Tan mentioned in a series of rice smuggling reports and Davidson Tan Bangayan are one and the same person, he added. Arranza said FPI earlier received a complaint from a Singapore firm against a local firm led by David Tan for failing to fulfill a contract to supply 230 containers of scrap metal for delivery to India. It was later found that Tan had instead shipped used tires, he added. Arranza said the Singaporean firm named Davidson Bangayan aka David Tan as respondent in a civil case in the Calamba City Regional Trial Court on July 13, 2005. FPI is following up the case, he added. The NBI must unmask the real identities of David Tan and Davidson Tan Bangayan, whether they are one and the same person, Arranza said. The NBI has been pursuing the investigation of the big-time rice smugglers, especially David Tan. Mendez said any development in the investigation was monitored and disseminated by the Department of Justice. “And we have detailed and documented report about this subject. DT for short,” he said.

The NBI had taken action on the Senate’s order to pursue the leads on the big-time rice smugglers, he added. A former Bureau of Customs (BOC) official has accused David Tan of being the point man of rice smugglers two years ago to centralize smuggling transactions. A 43-page report signed by senators on Feb. 6 said: “The committees found that there is sufficient basis to conclude that financiers are behind the anomalous transactions, and the testimony and documents obtained in the hearings establish without a doubt that these financiers exist and have employed dummies to rig the bidding process. “It is now the task of the Ombudsman, Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation to pursue, beginning with Mr. Danilo Garcia, Mr. Willy Sy, a certain ‘Danny Ngo’ and ‘David Tan.’ These financiers and their accomplices must be unmasked and if warranted, the necessary charges should be filed against them.” Firm denies allegation of smuggling An import firm has denied government allegations of rice smuggling. In a statement, Starcraft International Trading Corp. said it did not attempt to deceive authorities about the goods they were importing, and, in fact, informed them in advance about the shipment. “On the contrary, they were ready and willing to pay the proper tariffs, in this case the requisite 50 percent duties,” read the statement. “Where have you seen smugglers ready to pay the right duties? Smugglers exert effort to evade such duties so they can increase their profits; no such thing was done here.” Starcraft lawyer Benito Salazar dismissed the allegations as a “vilification campaign” led by officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Food Authority (NFA) that “unfairly sullied the name of individuals and enterprises who just want to make an honest living.” In a letter dated September 2013, his clients told NFA administrator Orlan Calayag that existing policy requiring importers to secure import permits to bring rice into the country was inconsistent with international agreements, he added. “The issuance by NFA of an import permit is classified as discretionary import permit” and that this was considered “a form of Quantitative Import Restriction,” lawyers of Starcraft said. The expiration of the quantitative restrictions in June 2012 meant that the right of the Philippines, including the NFA, to impose Quantitative Restrictions (including the issuance of NFA import permits) had already elapsed and was no longer necessary. Salazar said lawyers at the BOC agreed with his clients’ position on the matter.

An endorsement was made in September last year to Port of Manila District Collector Rogel Gatchalian and signed by BOC Legal Service Director Simplicio Domingo II, he added. Domingo said the special treatment that the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) granted the Philippines to impose quantitative restriction on the importation of rice by way of import licensing and/or import quotas already expired on June 30, 2012. They were aware that the DA was still in the process of seeking an extension of the restrictions, he added. Salazar said the DA and NFA are misleading Duterte on the issue. “We laud Mayor Duterte for his no-nonsense battle against crime, but in this case no crime was committed, so my clients are not criminals,” he said. “So the threats issued by the good mayor are unnecessary.” Salazar the NFA is also misleading their colleagues in Customs about the controversy. – With Edu Punay, Edith Regalado

Government promotes Destileria Limtuaco calamansi liquor Category: Agri-Commodities 12 Jan 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is helping in the international promotion and marketing of liquor that uses indigenous citrus fruit manufactured by Southeast Asia’s oldest distillery. A DA executive said promoting a newly-launched product of the Destileria Limtuaco & Co. Inc. also helps local calamansi farmers and a group helping the indigenous Mangyan peoples. DA-Agribusiness Marketing Assistance Service (DA-AMAS) director Dax Gazmin linked Distileria Limtuaco with the Mindoro calamansi farmers and the Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development (TMCLD). Gazmin said they are promoting Destileria Limtuaco’s Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, a vodkabased specialty liquor made with calamansi rinds through a process similar to the production of limoncello. The TMCLD is an organization of Mangyan tribesmen from oriental Mindoro who produces by hand Citrofortunella microcarp concentrates without damaging fruit’s rinds or peel. The local liquor company purchases the rinds equivalent at an average price of the whole fruits, Destileria Limtuaco president Olivia Limpe-Aw told reporters on Friday. She, however, declined to say how much they are paying for the product. In a separate interview, a calamansi farmer from Nueva Ecija told BusinessMirror that during oversupply, their crop can go down to as low as a hundred pesos a sack. A sack can be sold at P800 during months with too much or too little rain. In its third quarter report of 2013, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) said that calamansi production at 91.89 thousand metric tons (MT) dropped by 2.7 percent from 2012 production level of 94.43 thousand MT. The drop in production, according to BAS, an attached agency of DA, were due to the decrease in bearing trees in Caraga region and less area harvested in Davao area due to insufficient rain, and the cutting of senile trees and shifting to rambutan, lanzones, mangosteen and banana in MIMAROPA region. MIMAROPA, which includes Mindoro, remained the top producer of calamansi during the period accounting for 72.5 percent of the national output, according to BAS. Calamansi is slowly gaining international recognition with its citrus flavor, somewhere between orange and lime.

Enhanced gene-modified corn for livestock soon in the market Category: Agri-Commodities 12 Jan 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega MORE genetically-modified (GM) products with nutrition enhancement and medical uses will be available in the market up to 2017, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). “There are (GM crops with) input and output traits in the pipeline,” Randy A. Hautea, ISAAA Global Coordinator, was quoted in a document received on Sunday as saying. Hautea said these products would include vaccines and enzyme-rich corn that result to environment-friendly hog raising. GM crops that have the beneficial input traits will benefit farmers in higher yield and profit and reduced exposure to health risks such as pesticide sprays, the report titled “Crop Biotechnology: Impact and Future Prospects for Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture,” said. “These include those with resistance to pests and diseases and drought and tolerance to salt, cold, and herbicide,” the paper released January 11 said. The first in the pipeline is the high phytase corn, which is expected to be soon commercialized in China after its biosafety approval in 2009. Phytase enhancement in corn for feed through GM reduces the release to the environment of potentially-damaging phosphorus. It will decrease inorganic phosphate supplementation in animals, the paper said. “Phytase decreases the excretion of organic phosphorus in feces by 40 percent, thus largely reducing phosphate pollution,” GM phytase corn developer Origin Agritech Ltd. said in the document. In a separate statement, UN Food and Agriculture Organization said that animals will directly absorb more phosphate from their feed, adding that in China, annual fecal phosphorus from animals totals 2.5 million tons. This, however, has led to serious environmental problem, the United Nations’s FAO said.

The GM corn should reduce phosphorus pollution caused by animal waste and excess fertilizer use, the ISAAA document said, noting that phytic acid in animal manure is a major source of phosphate pollution. “The challenge is to produce enough food over the next four decades to meet expected requirement of over nine billion people on less land area, water, and nutrients,� Hautea said. The need for GM products will even become pressing amid climate disturbances. Climate change is worsening hunger threats as it may adversely affect health and productivity of crops, livestock, and fisheries. Alladin S. Diega

Japanese farm-marketing scheme eyed to increase Benguet farm production Category: Agri-Commodities 12 Jan 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent A MUNICIPALITY in Benguet would be using a Japanese marketing system to boost its agricultural production, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA). The municipal government of Tublay plans to put in place a marketing method closely-knitted with the crop production system of vegetables, produced in a given period. A marketing strategy introduced by the Japanese called consumer delivery system of marketing will be employed, which involves looking for a market with pre-determined commodity preference and deliver orders directly to consumers by schedule. “This is a pilot project that, hopefully, could convince more farmers [into using],� DACordillera Administrative Region director Marilyn Sta. Catalina told BusinessMIrror in a text message. Under the system, no physical stalls would be put up. In its place is a scheduled delivery system. Physical infrastructure is only limited to a packing and marketing center, which will serve as depot to consolidate vegetable produce for marketing located at the municipal hall premises. The project will be initially piloted in Sitio Mamuyod, Brgy. Ambassador, but will be eventually adopted municipal-wide, Sta. Catalina said. The center, which is nearing completion, is funded by the DA-CAR and the municipal government, she added.

Floods, landslides hit Mindanao By Edith Regalado and Ben Serrano (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   7  100 googleplus0  0  

DAVAO CITY , Philippines – Five persons were reported missing in Agusan del Norte after continuous rains brought by a low-pressure area for the past days caused floods and landslides in the province and other parts of Southern Mindanao where residents were evacuated to safer ground. According to the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), close to 500 families fled their homes over the weekend after overflowing rivers closed roads and flooded thousands of houses in some parts of the region. The Agusan del Norte Provincial Disaster Risk Management said that five persons were reported missing in Carmen, Agusan del Norte. The missing were not immediately identified. Members of the Carmen police and the 29th Infantry Battalion of the Army launched search and rescue operations for the missing residents in Barangay Tagcatong after a landslide occurred in the village following heavy rains since Friday. More than 800 residents were evacuated from their flooded villages in Bislig City and San Miguel, Surigao del Sur. Landslides and floods have also closed portions of the national highway in Barobo and Tagbina towns in Surigao del Sur. All flights were cancelled while travel by all types of sea vessels were suspended in the Caraga region particularly in Butuan and Surigao cities. However, there was no report of casualties due to the floods in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley but residents in certain areas in Davao City were also evacuated.

Preemptive evacuation was also implemented in villages considered to be prone to floods and landslides. OCD reported that in Davao del Norte, the areas affected were the towns of Asuncion, Sitio Canatan, Poblacion Napungas, Do単a Andrea, Camansa, Liguyan, and Buan, while in Compostela Valley, affected were Monkayo, Mt. Diwata, Laak, Nabunturan, Magsaysay, Purok Magading 12, Purok 5 in New Visayas in Montevista, Compostela town, and New Bataan. Roads in El Salvador, New Corella and Asuncion in Davao del Norte were also closed due to landslides in Davao del Norte. The San Roque, New Bataan, Limbo, Compostela Valley, and Asuncion rivers overflowed. The OCD reported that several roads and bridges in Compostela Valley were not passable to all types of vehicles as of Sunday morning due to flooding. Several roads in Compostela Valley were also closed to traffic including Barangay Binuangan in Maco town, Sitio Pagsilaan in Andap, New Bataan; barangays Tamia, Mangayon and Ngan of Compostela town, and the national highway in Poblacion Monkayo. Bridges that were closed in Compostela Valley were the Coco Bridge at Mayo River in Andap, New Bataan; and the bridge at Manat River in Montevista. Flashfloods were reported in areas located along Manat River in Montevista town that included Purok 8 in barangays Magsaysay and Magading and Purok 7 in Barangay Basak in Nabunturan town, and Sitio Looban and Crossing Mendoza in Barangay Kingking in Pantukan. Low-pressure area Weather division chief Robert Sawi of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the low-pressure area (LPA) was spotted in the vicinity of Surigao del Sur as of 4 p.m. yesterday City. "Although it has a slim chance of intensifying into a cyclone, the LPA is expected to bring more rains over Visayas and the Bicol region today (Monday) until Wednesday," Sawi said. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has already categorized the system as a tropical depression. State weathermen said the cold weather in the country prevents the LPA from intensifying into a cyclone. As of 11 a.m., the LPA was spotted at 190 kilometers east of General Santos City. In an advisory, PAGASA said cloudy skies with moderate to heavy rains and thunderstorms will prevail over Mindanao, especially Caraga region and Compostela Valley, Leyte and Samar

provinces, Negros provinces, Cebu and Bohol in the next 24 hours, which may trigger flashfloods and landslides. "Residents are advised to take all the necessary precautionary measures," it said. PAGASA also warned against big waves in northern and eastern Luzon, Visayas, Caraga, Misamis provinces, Zamboanga del Norte, Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur due to the surge of the northeast monsoon. "Small seacraft and fishing vessels are advised not to venture out to sea due to the big waves generated by this weather system," PAGASA said. The agency said Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon would be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated light rains. Meanwhile, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported that a magnitude 4.5 earthquake rocked parts of Surigao del Sur yesterday but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties, state seismologists said. Phivolcs said the tremor occurred at 10:20 a.m. with its epicenter traced about 24 kilometers southeast of Tandag, Surigao del Sur. The quake was felt at Intensity 3 in Tandag and Intensity 2 in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur. Phivolcs said it was not expecting major damage and aftershocks from the quake. A magnitude 3.4 quake also hit Labrador, Pangasinan yesterday but it was unfelt, Phivolcs said. Science Secretary Mario Montejo called on residents and local officials in the Visayas and Mindanao to brace for more heavy rains until Monday or Tuesday. "Let us learn from typhoon Yolanda. It is necessary for everyone to prepare and take caution whenever warned about hazards like flashfloods and landslides to achieve our target of zero casualties and minimal damage. Let us always be vigilant," Montejo said. He advised all concerned to keep monitoring updates from PAGASA, as he ordered the weather bureau to issue a regular advisory on the LPA every six hours until threat is finally ruled out. Citing the latest data from PAGASA, he said the LPA is likely to stay stationary over the Visayas and Mindanao, which may bring more rains until Monday or Tuesday in some areas like Caraga, Compostela Valley, Eastern Visayas and Bicol. -With Helen Flores, Rainier Allan Ronda, Alexis Romero, Ben Serrano

BSP: Liquidity level easing Category: Top News 12 Jan 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma THE supply level of money circulating within the economy started to go down last month, and this trend is expected to continue in the next months as the fine-tuning measures of one of the central bank’s monetary instruments was completed in November, a central bank official said. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor for the Monetary Stability Sector Diwa C. Guinigundo said the growth in domestic liquidity (M3) was likely to have “slowed down” in December, with the completion of the latest mandate on special deposits accounts (SDA). The slowdown, Guinigundo said, would continue through the first quarter of the year. But he declined to specify the level that the M3 is projected to drop, citing “unforeseen developments” in the economy that may affect money supply. The latest data from the BSP noted that the M3 growth in November sent up by 36.5 percent to reach P6.7 trillion. This was the highest liquidity growth the country has recorded. This has been attributed to adjustments made by the central bank on the SDA facility. The BSP reduced the SDA rates down to 2 percent last year and also banned all investmentmanagement accounts in the monetary authority’s special low-risk and high-yielding facility in May. This pushed about P800 billion out of the central bank’s vault and into the country’s cash stream. A continuously fast-growing domestic liquidity could cause upward pressures in the country’s inflation rate. The law requires the BSP to submit an explanation to the Philippine president each time the liquidity growth in the country exceeds 15 percent. Guinigundo said the explanation would soon be made public by the central bank.

DTI eyes tougher set of investment criteria Category: Top News 12 Jan 2014 Written by Catherine Pillas WORKING for a leaner and more distinct Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) for 2014, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) might consider a tougher set of criteria on which economic activities would make it into this year’s list. “We have a generic listing right now of activities, which cites, for example, ‘agriculture and fishery.’ That covers [the production] of all agricultural products. This time, it can be locationspecific, or specific products might be identified instead of generic products,” said Lucita P. Reyes, executive director of the Industry Development Group of the Board of Investments. Reyes said the factors cited are being considered by the DTI on top of the four other criteria in drafting the annual investment list. The extent of entitlement to incentives given to each preferred activity in the IPP is usually based on the project’s net value added, job generation, multiplier effect and measured capacity. The trade official emphasized the importance of providing incentives only where it is needed. “Let’s say, in infrastructure, if you want to build bridges, you have to consider the location where the bridges are needed and why incentives must be given in that area,” she said. Reyes said the industry road maps identify development gaps in a particular industry and this also plays a role in identifying “priority areas.” She cited as an example the road map for the copper industry, which sees a gap in the development of wire rods despaite the fact that the country exports copper concentrates, the primary resource for making wire rods. “In the particular example of developing wire rods, we may list that as a preferred activity because it is specific,” Reyes said. In light of these considerations, an official set of criteria has to be agreed upon and determined now that the regulatory framework for the 2014 IPP has been complete, Reyes said. The Philippine IPP, whose 2014 version is scheduled for release during the first quarter, identifies industries that are entitled to government fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. Fiscal incentives offered for preferred activities include income-tax holidays (ITH) and duty-free importation of capital equipment; non-fiscal incentives include work visas for foreign personnel.

For the mining sector, whose ITH privilege was revoked in the 2013 plan, the trade official said it would still be included in future IPPs unless the Philippine Mining Act is amended to remove the provision that makes it mandatory to be included in the list. Also being considered is the proposal to make the IPP similar to the Philippine Development Plan format in that it may be applicable for a number of years but subject to an annual review.

Lawmaker: No House PDAF for LGUs By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   1  1 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - No member of the House of Representatives has allocated his or her outlawed Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as financial assistance to any local government unit, House leaders said yesterday. Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman, said he and his colleagues had agreed to realign their funds to executive agencies that implement projects in their respective districts and deliver services to their constituents. He said these agencies are the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Labor and Employment, Health (DOH), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and Commission on Higher Education. Giving financial assistance to any LGU was not part of the agreement from the start, he added. Ungab was reacting to reports attributed to Sen. Francis Escudero that there were certain House members who allocated their funds “in areas where their allies are.” Escudero supposedly made the statement in defending beleaguered colleague Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who allocated P100 million of his P200-million PDAF to Manila, where his father, former President Joseph Estrada, is mayor. Estrada split the remaining P100 million between Caloocan City, whose mayor is a member of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance, to which the Estradas belong, and Lal-lo town in Cagayan province, where another UNA leader, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, comes from. The PDAF, which the Supreme Court (SC) has struck down as unconstitutional, allocated P70 million for each House member and P200 million for each senator.

The SC decision came after President Aquino had submitted to Congress his 2014 budget proposal, which still included the annual P25.4-billion PDAF. The House, except for three to four members, and nine senators opted to realign their funds. Fifteen senators gave up their allocations. Ungab said it was their agreement that P24 million out of every House member’s P70-million allocation should be given to the DPWH for various infrastructure projects in their districts, which should be itemized in the national budget. He said the remaining P46 million was allotted to social services, like health and education. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite said giving financial assistance to LGUs was not included in the agreement because House members might be suspected of manipulating and controlling the use of the funds, which the SC has banned. “That suspicion cannot be avoided if you give funds to a city or town where you come from, or where your relative is mayor, like in my case (his wife Jenny is Dasmariñas mayor),” he said.

Oil firms announce another price cut By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   4  11 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - Oil companies yesterday announced another round of oil price adjustment, marking the second consecutive week of price cuts. Effective today the price per liter of gasoline is cheaper by 85 centavos, kerosene by P1.10 and diesel by 90 centavos. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. was the first to announce the rollback, followed by Petron Corp., the country’s biggest oil refiner. Independent oil players also issued similar advisories. “The following rollbacks will be implemented effective 12:01 a.m. of Jan. 13: Gasoline by P0.85 per liter, kerosene by P1.10 per liter and diesel by P0.90 per liter. This reflects movements in the international oil market,” Petron and Seaoil Philippines said in separate statements. Based on the Jan. 8 oil monitoring report of the Department of Energy (DOE), crude prices decreased by about $2 to $3 a barrel last week, as labor unrest in Libya was resolved. “Libyan El Sharara oil field with 330,000 barrel per day is expected to resume normal output early this month, which would soften demand. Labor unrest has disrupted Libyan oil exports, cutting crude supplies to Europe and boosting global oil prices,” the DOE report said. The energy department said oil production in Libya has plunged to about 250,000 barrels a day from nearly 1.5 million, amid demand from armed protesters for a more regional autonomy and greater say over the distribution of oil revenues. Other factors include the slowdown in Chinese manufacturing growth and the improving economy in the US.

“While a reading above 50 indicates growth, the recent data on HSBC China Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index that fell to 50.5 in December from 50.8 in November is also weighing on the market,� the report said. With the latest price cut, diesel prices now range from P40.85 to P45.70 per liter and gasoline at P49.15 to P55.45 per liter.

SPECIAL REPORT: Why power rates will continue to increase (First of two parts) By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Electricity consumers rejoiced when the Supreme Court issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the record power rate increase of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) in its December bill. In reality, there’s no cause for rejoicing. A bigger problem is brewing in the country’s energy sector, given rising power demand and the lack of power plants. While the public lauded the high court’s move, the TRO merely postponed the inevitable. At some point, Meralco will still have to pay the power generators for the power it bought and supplied to consumers for the November supply month. It’s only a matter of when. Furthermore, the situation may arise again in the summer months when demand is higher. As it is, Meralco said that the January 2014 generation charge – which comprises 65 percent of the total electricity bill – has risen to P10.23 per kilowatt-hour although the power distributor is constrained to peg this month’s generation charge at just P5.67 per kwh in deference to the TRO issued by the Supreme Court last Dec. 23. Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga has said the power distributor is still waiting for guidelines from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), the power regulator and the high court on how to collect the balance for the January generation charge. To sum it up, Meralco still needs to collect – when the dispute on high power prices is resolved – a total of P7.99 per kwh broken down as follows: P3.44 per kwh representing the balance for the

December 2013 generation charge of P9.10 per kwh and P4.56 per kwh representing the balance for the January 2014 generation charge of P10.23 per kwh. The high court issued the TRO acting on the petition filed by militant groups after Meralco announced a record increase in generation charge of P3.44 per kwh last month. The increase stemmed from higher power costs as a result of the month-long shutdown of the Malampaya gas field in offshore Palawan from Nov. 11 to Dec. 10. This prompted three power plants sourcing gas from Malampaya to utilize the more expensive liquid fuel. The three plants sourcing power from Malampaya are the 1,200-megawatt Ilijan combined cycle natural gas plant owned by Kepco Philippines Corp. and the 1,000-MW Sta. Rita and 500-MW San Lorenzo natural gas facilities owned by First Gen Corp. of the Lopez group. Unplanned outages by several other power plants also tightened supply, jacking up prices at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), the country’s trading floor for electricity, where Meralco also sources its power requirements. Contributing factors Indeed, the problem goes beyond Meralco even as militant groups are underscoring the power distributor’s alleged corporate greed. The problem, observers say, stems from a host of reasons including a flawed law, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, which promised to bring down power rates and regulators that do not have enough teeth. Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla recently said one solution is to have new power capacity installed by 2017, which means construction must start now. “The problem really is that we need more generation capacity,” Petilla said in an interview. He said that demand for power is on the rise on the back of a growing economy. “It’s really challenging because of the high growth rate and the government cannot go into power generation,” Petilla said, referring to the provision in the EPIRA that bars the government from going into power generation. Ernesto Pantangco, a senior officer of Lopez-led First Gen Corp., a power generation company and a former president of the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association, said in April last year that there is a four to five percent growth in energy demand annually. He warned that without enough capacity, there would be shortage in 2015 and 2016.

“If we don’t have new builts coming in the Luzon area, let’s say we need to place about a thousand MW capacity every 3 years, we are headed toward a shortage again in 2015 and 2016,” he said in an interview with “The government doesn’t care where the power is coming, so long as we have sufficient supply generated from cost-effective sources,” he said. Furthermore, he said that the Luzon grid would need something like 1,000 MW for every three years to meet the growing demand. Permanent solution Meralco, too, stressed the need for a more permanent solution to high power costs. “The government should offer a permanent solution that would benefit both the electric power industry and the consumers. From 2001 to 2013, the peak demand of electricity increased by 2,659 MW while the increase in installed capacity contributed by additional power plant during the same period only amounted to 652 MW. This kind of situation results in scarcity in the supply of electricity. The increasing demand in the market without the corresponding increase in the supply will inevitably result in price increases,” it said. Meralco added that the increase in generation charge is indeed but a symptom of and a signal for more basic underlying issues that need to be addressed. “First, the Luzon grid needs the early completion and commissioning of new, highly efficient, highly reliable base load mid mire and/or peaking plants. Most of the country’s existing power plants were built prior to the turn of the century and even as they have been refurbished to the credit of the generation companies, their efficiency and reliability are challenged,” it said. Meralco said from 2001 to 2013, the Luzon peak demand has grown by 2,659 megawatt or 47 percent from 5,646 MW to 8,300 MW. Yet, no new major base load plant has been constructed and added to the Luzon grid other than the coal-fired plant of GN Power in Mariveles, Bataan, with a reported installed capacity of 652 MW and current dependable capacity of 495 MW. Accordingly, demand has outgrown new base load capacity addition by around 2,000 MW over this period. “The Luzon grid peak demand registered on May 8, 2013 is 8,300 MW. The reported aggregate dependable capacity is only 11,466 MW. However, 19 percent of this dependable capacity is hydroelectric plants, large and small, which are highly subject to the vagaries of weather and rainfall patterns; 15 percent are more costly oil-fired plants; 24 percent are the gas-fired plants fueled by Malampaya gas which cannot continue to operate during Malampaya shutdown unless more costly liquid fuel is used,” Meralco said. This renders the Luzon grid, including the Meralco franchise area, susceptible not only to the risks of increase and spiking generation charge but also to the risk of lack of power supply to meet the growing demand during peak hours.

“Second, the country needs to accelerate exploration, development and production of indigenous fuels for our power plants – natural gas and oil, geothermal and hydro, in addition to the development of cost competitive renewables,” Meralco said in its comments submitted to the Supreme Court in response to the TRO. Committed capacity According to the latest data from the Department of Energy (DOE) dated Dec. 13, the total committed capacity for Luzon from 2014 to 2016 is roughly 1,467.40 MW, comprising coal, natural gas, geothermal and biomass projects. For coal, these are the 135-MW coal fired power plant of South Luzon Thermal Energy Corp. in Calaca, Batangas set for commissioning in May 2014 (first phase); the 300-MW Southwest Luzon Power Generation Corp. set for commissioning in November 2015; the 135-MW South Luzon phase targeted for November 2015 (phase two) and the 82-MW Anda Power Corp. Circulating Fluidized Bed Coal Fired Power Plant of Anda Power Corp., Pampanga set for commissioning in March 2016. For natural gas, there is the planned 600-MW Combined Cycle Gas Fired Power Plant of Energy World Corp, slated at 200 MW per year from 2014 to 2016 and the 100-MW San Gabriel First Gen Corp. slated this year. For geothermal projects, there is the 20-MW Maibarara Geothermal Power Project slated for commissioning in March 2014 and the 67.5-MW Phase 1 Pililla Wind Power Project by Alternergy Wind One Corp. in September 2014. Biomass projects, meanwhile, include the 9.9- megawatt San Jose City Power Corp. in San Jose, Nueva Ecija and the 20-MW Isabela Biomass Energy Corp., both set for March 2015. Whether or not these committed power plants would actually be online as scheduled remains to be seen. In the meantime, consumers are keeping their fingers crossed that there would be no power outages in the coming years and that electricity would not come at such a high price. (To be continued)

Face‐off at SC today on power rate increase By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) will face the groups questioning its controversial P4.15 per kilowatt-hour rate increase before the Supreme Court (SC) today. In preliminary conference at 2 p.m., the parties will discuss and agree on issues to be debated on in the oral arguments on Jan. 21. The SC justice in charge of the case will facilitate the conference. After the meeting, the high court is set to come up with guidelines outlining the procedural and substantial issues to be tackled by both sides during the oral arguments. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, on the other hand, said his department is preparing contingency measures to avert power outages in the franchise areas of Meralco. Petilla said the DOE is looking at various ways on how to ensure the fuel supply of unpaid power producers. “The game plan we have is we’re looking into which particular companies are going to have problems then the way I look at it, it’s going to be the oil-based companies, the diesel plants. We’re now going to get in touch with them. We’re also looking at various ways of actually giving them the fuel if we can just in case the issues between Meralco and the generators are not resolved,” Petilla said in an interview on ANC over the weekend. Meralco has warned that power outages loom in the summer months – when demand is higher – as a result of the 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on its record increase of P3.44 per kilowatt-hour generation rate hike last December. The high court prevented Meralco from collecting the December generation charge of P9.10 per kwh even through a staggered scheme and instead ordered the power distributor to peg this at P5.67 per kwh.

Meralco has asked the high court to dismiss the petition filed by militant groups and lift the 60day TRO it issued. Petilla said as far as power supply is concerned, the situation is not alarming at this point. He noted, however, the danger of the bills piling up in case the SC allows Meralco to collect the actual December 2013 and the January 2014 generation charges. “We will try to make sure that there’s a way to make some mitigation here so as not to charge consumers in one go,” Petilla said. He stressed that it would be the SC and the ERC that will decide while DOE can make a recommendation. “We have to look at what’s best... cushioning the impact is what we’re looking at here,” Petilla said. “The preliminary billings from the power suppliers and WESM (wholesale electricity spot market) indicate the January 2014 generation charge translates to P10.23 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,” said Larry Fernandez, Meralco head of utility economics. Power players The two petitions were filed last month by Bayan Muna party-list and consumer groups led by National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) assailing the legality of the rate hike implemented by Meralco. Meralco, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the DOE were originally named respondents. But in a whereas order last week, the high court ordered petitioners to amend their petition and include the power firms accused of collusion in simultaneously increasing generation rates, which was used by Meralco to justify the increase. In its comment with counter-petition filed last week, Meralco also asked the high court to include as respondents other stakeholders in the industry - Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), operator of electricity trading flood Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), and transmission firm National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP). The high court immediately granted the plea and named respondents PEMC, NGCP, First Gas Power Corp., South Premiere Power Corp., San Miguel Energy Corp., Masinloc Power Partners Co. Ltd., Quezon Power (Phils.) Ltd. Co., Therma Luzon Inc., Sem-Calaca Power Corp., FGP Corp.,1590 Energy Corp., AP Renewables, Inc., Bac-Man Energy Development Corp./Bac-Man Geothermal, Inc., First Gen Hydro Power Corp., GNPower Mariveles Coal Plant, Ltd. Co.,

PANASIA Energy Holdings Inc., Power Sector Assets & Liabilities Management Corp., SN Aboitiz Power, Strategic Power Development Corp., Trans-Asia Power Generation Corp. and Vivant Sta. Clara Northern Renewables Generation Corp. Records showed the power producers supplied Meralco in November last year when the generation costs increased. The new respondents were also directed to attend today’s conference. The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), for its part, filed a motion last Jan. 8 - the deadline for filing of comments for respondents - seeking to be excused from answering the petitions. The OSG argued the DOE and ERC were not required to do so being nominal parties. This was contrary to ERC’s position, which filed its own comment before the SC justifying its approval of Meralco’s rate hike. The SC junked OSG’s plea and directed it to attend the preliminary conference and submit the required comment by personal service by Friday. In a 129-page comment filed through lawyers that included retired SC Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Meralco defended its record-high rate hike. In a nutshell, Meralco argued there was no violation of the constitutional right to due process as alleged by petitioners. “Contrary to petitioners’ contentions, the automatic adjustment mechanism as implemented by the AGRA (Automatic Adjustment of Generation Rate) rules and EPIRA IRR (Electric Power Industry Reform Act - implementing rules and regulations) amendment, which were promulgated by the ERC and DOE, respectively, in the exercise of their quasi-legislative functions, faithfully comply with the requirements of due process,” it stressed. Meralco pointed out that AGRA rules and the EPIRA’s implementing rules and regulations provided “all automatic adjustments are always subject to post-verification process by the ERC.” Meralco also rebutted the prayer of petitioners to refund the rate adjustments, calling it “baseless, legally infirm and contrary to the doctrine of operative fact.” Meralco said it merely collected the generation charge and other pass through charges for the relevant power firms as well as for the national and local government concerned. Meralco said petitioners also failed to prove their allegation that it colluded with the power firms for the assailed adjustment.

On procedural ground, Meralco argued the petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies, violated doctrine of primary jurisdiction and failed to bring the action against real parties in interest. Lastly, it warned of possible power interruption as a result of the legal actions against the increase. ERC, in its comment, said the issues raised in the petitions are constitutional in nature and delved on the adjustment mechanism utilized by the commission in approving generation cost. “An adverse decision thereon will have an impact on the ERC’s determination and current processes and affect consumers at large who are the ultimate payers of the generation charges pertaining to the electricity consumed,” read the commission’s 71-page comment filed through lawyer Francis Saturnino Juan. ERC has denied there was grave abuse of direction on its part when it approved Meralco’s request for power rate hike, saying it had the legal basis to do so. It noted that under Section 43 of the AGRA rules, distribution utilities such as Meralco are authorized to automatically reflect their generation cost for a particular supply month in the subsequent month’s billing. Petitioners alleged their constitutional right to due process was violated when ERC approved the price adjustment without conducting public hearings. They questioned why the ERC, which is under the DOE, approved the rate increase last Dec. 9 or just four days after Meralco submitted its proposal, citing lack of notice and hearings. The groups said the public was also not duly informed about the adjustment since there was no publication. Nasecore, in its petition, also urged the high court to order the creation of a committee, with the Commission on Audit to lead and conduct an automatic audit on electricity rate adjustments imposed by Meralco since 2004. This committee, they explained, should determine the amount of refund Meralco should pay consumers for these alleged illegal rate increases, according to petitioners. – Iris Gonzales

Phl opens hard‐to‐fill jobs to foreign workers By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  26 googleplus1  2  

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines, one of the world’s largest exporters of labor, is now turning to foreign workers to address inadequacies in a number of professions. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said yesterday the government is allowing the entry of foreigners to at least 15 occupations suffering from skills shortage. In an interview, Baldoz said that based on a study conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)’s Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES), there is a need “to liberalize the labor market and allow entry of foreign workers with the required skills so we can fill up those hard to fill occupations due to shortage.” Among the skills in the occupational shortage list are architect, chemical engineer, chemist, environmental planner, fisheries technologist, geologist, guidance counselor, licensed librarian, medical technologist, sanitary engineer, computer numerical control machinist, assembly technician, test technician, pilot and aircraft mechanic. Baldoz said the list was derived from a series of survey and consultations with concerned stakeholders. “From a potential of 40 identified hard-to-fill occupations, the list has been trimmed down to 15 occupations with each occupation defined by a standard qualification,” she added. The DOLE chief explained that an occupation can be considered to be experiencing shortage when there is a high demand for the position but there are very few applicants, or when there are few qualified applicants compared to the number of available jobs. “This is common in occupations which are numerically small within the total workforce, but the function is central to company operations such as pilot and geologist,” Baldoz said. “Since there is a shortage, these occupations can be opened potentially to foreign skilled workers,” she added. Baldoz said foreign experts who would apply for the listed occupations would be exempted from fee and other requirements in line with the country’s labor market test. But she said the DOLE would also assist the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to encourage students to take up the listed needed skills. “So up to a certain point when the shortage has already been addressed, we can go back to normal and hire local workers.” She also said that the CHED is already undertaking measures to produce the required skills, while other government agencies are offering scholarships.

Meanwhile, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which has a much bigger budget for this year, has set a two million target in its training programs. TESDA director general Joel Villanueva said that with his agency’s P5.11-billion budget, TESDA target could even get higher to provide more young people access to technical vocational education and training (TVET). In 2013, TESDA targeted 1.8 million enrollees under its various skills training programs offered in training institutions, enterprises and communities.

Malacañang shrugs off new US warning vs travel to Mindanao • •

Details Category: Nation 12 Jan 2014 Written by Butch Fernandez MALACAÑANG shrugged off reports that the US State Department last week issued a new travel advisory warning American citizens against risks of “terrorist and insurgent activities” in traveling to southern Philippine islands. “That [US travel advisory] is not for us, it is for their citizens,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said on Sunday. Interviewed over State-run Radyo ng Bayan, Coloma did not dispute the basis for issuing the negative travel advisory that is likely to scare off potential visitors from other countries. Instead, Coloma readily conceded that the US State Department, or any other country, has the right to issue advisories to their citizens the basis for which “only they understand.” Having said that, Coloma added there is no need for Manila to comment on a decision that it nevertheless respects. At the same time, the Palace official confirmed that the government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), was seeking official clarification from Beijing about a new Chinese law requiring registry of foreign fishermen. “First, we are asking for a formal clarification on the reported new rules. But even while we are waiting for it, our [DFA] already made a clear stand that such restrictions are unacceptable to us because in our view, the area covered by the rules is part of our exclusive economic zone and, therefore, cannot be part of any foreign restrictions,” Coloma added. Butch Fernandez

Heavy rains in Visayas, Mindanao to continue ( | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 9:00am 

MTSAT ENHANCED‐IR Satellite Image as of 7:32 a.m. 

MANILA, Philippines - The low pressure area (LPA) in the south will continue to bring moderate to heavy rains in Mindanao and in major parts of Visayas for the next 24 hours, the state weather bureau said Monday. In its public weather forecast, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the LPA was located in the vicinity of Surigao del Sur. The agency said Mindanao, Eastern and Central Visayas will experience cloudy skies with moderate to heavy rains and thunderstorms which may trigger flashfloods and landslides. The Bicol region, Mimaropa and the rest of Visayas will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and thunderstorms while Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will be cloudy with isolated rains. The weather bureau said in a rainfall advisory issued at 7 a.m. that moderate to occasional heavy rains that may continue for two to three hours are affecting portions of Surigao del Norte,

Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan de Sur, Davao Oriental, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. "Flooding is threatening in low-lying areas and landslides in mountainous areas," PAGASA said. Nation ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

In an interview over radio dzMM, PAGASA weather forecaster Samuel Duran said the LPA maintained its location and the rains may continue until January 15. He said the LPA can still intensify into a tropical cyclone, which will then be named "Agaton." At least two men were reported missing and more than 2,400 people were evacuated over the weekend after two days of rains flooded low-lying villages and set off minor landslides in the southeastern part of the country. The men went missing while separately crossing rivers in the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte, said Liza Mazo, a regional disaster-response official. She said heavy rains set off flooding in four provinces and on an island in the region, prompting army troops, police and local authorities to evacuate more than 2,400 villagers. Many of those evacuated were in Butuan city, where the Agusan River threatened to overflow and inundate 15 low-lying villages, Mazo said. Forecasters have said that the LPA has dumped rains in the remote region since Saturday, but they expect the weather to improve in about two days. The stormy weather has also brought sporadic rains in the provinces in the Visayas where Typhoon "Yolanda" left more than 6,100 people dead and nearly 1,800 others missing in November. The monster typhoon displaced about four million people and thousands continue to live in tents as the government scrambles to build temporary shelters. -with the Associated Press

Mining body asks Palace to stop black sand extraction By Charlie Lagasca (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines – The Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) passed a resolution last week asking Malacañang to stop all black sand mining operations in the country. A Palace official, who asked not to be named, said the MICC, which approved the resolution last Wednesday, cited the adverse effects of black sand mining to coastal communities and the ecosystem. The MMIC, co-chaired by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, is under the Office of the President. The council, according to the Palace official, is recommending to the President to stop black sand mining operations whose permits were issued either by local government units or the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. “We expect that the President would come out with a decision within the month. He is seriously considering the (MICC) recommendation,” the official said. Besides Cagayan province and the Ilocos region, black sand mining is also reportedly rampant in Zambales and parts of the Visayas. Nation ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

A rich resource along the country’s coastlines, black sand or magnetite is used as an additive in the manufacturing of concrete and steel products, magnets, paint, ink, paper, jewelry and cosmetics, making it a lucrative commodity in foreign markets such as in China and Taiwan. Companies extracting black sand in Cagayan are reportedly owned or being run or financed mostly by Chinese and Taiwanese nationals.

Rotating brownouts far from happening–DOE Category: Economy 12 Jan 2014 Written by Lenie Lectura A MID the warning issued by Manila Electric Co. (Merlaco), Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla assured the public that rotating brownouts are far from happening because power producers are “responsible players.” “If we would have a brownout it’s not because we don’t have supply here. We are not talking about lack of supply here but it’s more of a commercial issue between Meralco and power producers. Meralco is saying ‘I can’t collect so I won’t pay you,’ while generators are saying ‘we’ve spent for this already. You have to pay for this and we’ve billed you.’ I don’t think we would go to that extent of saying that we will all have brownouts because I’m not getting paid. I think the generators are responsible players in the industry,” Petilla said. The Supreme Court (SC) temporarily prevented Meralco from collecting the generation charge of P4.15 per kilowatt hour (kWh) reflected in the December billing of consumers. The said generation charge represents the cost of power purchased by Meralco from power generators for the month of November. It is the biggest component of electricity cost, accounting for 65 percent. If Meralco will not be able to collect from consumers, it also cannot pay what it owes to the power producers. The country’s largest distribution firm said it has received demand letters from them and from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) for P111 million worth of unpaid power transmitted. In its comment submitted to the SC, Meralco said San Miguel Energy Corp., for instance, is demanding the utility firm to pay P8 million for the power delivered. AES Masinloc, meanwhile, asked Meralco to immediately pay P436 million. South Premier Power Corp. wants to be paid P856 million. Meralco explained that if it is unable to collect the increased charges from the consumers, it then faces “the great risk of not being able to purchase all the electricity needed for the succeeding months, especially if abnormal or extraordinary supply-versus-demand conditions continue.” Eventually, it said, blackouts will do occur. “While the TRO is effective, Meralco is at an undue, ever-present, and constant risk and threat of being required to pay the full amount of the increase in generation and transmission charges or of being denied continued access to electric supply and transmission under its PSAs [power supply agreements], the WESM [Wholesale Electricity Spot Market] and the relevant ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) regulations,” it added. Petilla said Meralco has started to pay power suppliers, the NGCP and the operator of WESM in installments. “I am confident that the generators, even if they are not paid in full at this point,

don’t want to cause any brownouts. The generators see Meralco as a long-term client. Meralco sees generators a long-term supplier. It’s a long-term relationship that they have,” Petilla stressed. But the energy chief is worried in the case of smaller power plants that could run out of fuel to power up their facility just because Meralco failed to pay the operators of these power facilities. “What I am afraid of is if there are some smaller companies who do not have money to buy fuel anymore because they didn’t get paid. That’s my biggest fear. I’m just not sure which power plants are in danger of running out of fuel,” Petilla said. To avert this, the Department of Energy (DOE) will conduct an inventory. Petilla said the agency must identify which particular companies are going to have problems. “The way I look at it, it’s going to be the oil-based companies, the diesel plants. We’re now going to get in touch with them and ask them ‘what is your inventory position? How long are you going to be ready for summer?’ So, that’s what we’re looking at. We’re also looking at various ways of actually giving them the fuel if in case the issue between Meralco and the generators are not resolved between them.” Petilla stressed that there is enough supply of electricity for this year. The DOE just has to make sure that all power plants are up and running. “I don’t see any reason why we would have a problem in 2014 at this point. Except for outages that are scheduled but there’s also an allowance.” If and when the TRO is lifted, Petilla assured the public that his agency will not allow Meralco to collect in full the generation charge for the succeeding months. “We will try to make sure that there’s some mitigation here so as not to charge consumers in one go. It’s the decision of the ERC, but we can always make a recommendation, which is to stagger it for as long as possible. Cushioning the impact is what were looking at here,” he said. The January generation charge still stands at P5.67 per kWh in deference to the TRO although the actual generation charge has risen to P10.23 per kWh. Meralco awaits instructions from the SC and the ERC on how to collect the full amount of P10.23 per kWh.

‘Sin’ tax law hurting workers of top tobacco manufacturer Category: Economy 12 Jan 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga WORKERS in the biggest tobacco company in the Philippines are complaining that they are already suffering heavily in the first year of implementation of the “sin” tax law. They said Republic Act 10351, or the “Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012,” was signed into law with the intent to restructure the excise-tax collections of the government on alcohol and tobacco products. However, in the second year of implementation of the gradual increment of taxes, low-priced cigarette brands are now charged a P17 excise tax from P12 last year. Meanwhile, high-priced brands bear a P27 excise tax from P25 last year. By 2017 a P30 unitary tax shall be imposed on all machine-prepared tobacco products and will increase 4 percent annually after that. The workers’ union of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) claims that they are the ones bearing the full weight of what they called a “fundamentally unjust law,” because, according to them, it “is a pass-on imposition and it jeopardizes jobs, livelihoods and ultimately, the entire local tobacco industry.” “The Aquino administration is in seventh heaven for accomplishing beyond their tax-revenue targets and the capitalists are also elated for their sustained takings despite the excise-tax increase, as the ordinary wage earners are diligently bearing the cross and are the ones neglected to the extent of being sacrificed in the altar of profit,” said Rodelito Atienza, president of the PMFTC labor union. Tensions grew between the company and its labor union in the last week of 2013 after the management delayed the release of the plant’s production plan for 2014. This made workers worry that the management was planning to shut down operations after it informed the union a week earlier that the company’s market share has plunged significantly. The management of the tobacco giant initially wanted a five-month shutdown of its operations from January up to May 2014 after the company failed to hit its expected sales in the last quarter of 2013. The union refused by citing provisions in their collective bargaining agreement, pushing the company to adjust their plans. Still, the workers claim the management’s final offer was still a “heavy price to pay for simply being diligent and productive.”

“When the company implemented a stock buildup scheme, forcing us to go beyond the eight-houra-day work load for several months, we cooperated, toiled hard and yet, in the end, we are the ones suffering the brunt for the company’s dismal production schemes and far-out projections. We are the last to benefit and yet the first to sacrifice,� Atienza said. Atienza said they will continue urging the company to soften the impacts to their already stressed budget since the company has commenced the lessening of work days till the month of May.

Senator to probe govt support for power sector • •

Details Category: Economy 12 Jan 2014 Written by Mia M. Gonzalez THE chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship said on Sunday that he is set to conduct an inquiry on the level of government support for potential investors in the power sector. Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said in a press statement that his planned inquiry will determine if the government is giving enough support for potential players in the power sector amid fears of a power shortage in the country. “I intend to investigate this to make sure that new players who want to engage in putting up power plants are given the right support by the government,” Aquino said. The neophyte senator made the statement following the warning of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) of possible rotating brownouts and a power shortage after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the imposition of its power rate hike. Aquino said one way to avert a power shortage and ensure steady, less expensive power supply was to entice more players power in the sector. “If we have more generating plants, even if four of five shut down, the market should be able to sustain our energy needs,” he said. Aquino said, however, that while many firms have expressed interest in venturing in the power sector "they are dismayed by the slow and tedious process of getting a permit to operate."

Tesda seeks to train 2 million Filipino youth in 2014 • •

Details Category: Economy 12 Jan 2014 Written by Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco / Correspondent THE Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) has committed to cover more young people in its technical vocational education and training (TVET) as the development of new programs that are focused on communities gets under way in 2014. Secretary Joel Villanueva, Tesda director-general, said the agency targets to train close to two million youth and others that are seeking employment this year. He, however, said the figure could get higher. "We want our Filipino youth to have competencies and life skills that could be their assets in pursuing economic opportunities. It is essential that they get the right kind of education," Villanueva said. Villanueva also announced the creation of new skills development programs this year to expand the youth's access to TVET, especially those in far-flung communities. One of the programs is the Special Training for Employment that would assist graduates in finding jobs after completing the training and getting the certification. For this, Tesda targets a total of 74,947 trainees. For 2014, Tesda, in partnership with technical vocational institutions, enterprises, local government units and other national government agencies, aims to have a total of 1.97 million trainees, higher than last year’s 1.8-million goal. The increase in this year’s target was a result of the bigger 2014 budget of Tesda at P5.117 billion. Villanueva said Tesda will also deploy more mobile-training laboratories to far-flung communities starting 2015 with an initial plan of 44 mobile schools. The priority provinces of mobile training laboratories are Lanao del Sur, Eastern Samar, Apayao, Maguindanao, Davao Oriental, Ifugao, Zamboanga del Norte, Masbate, Saranggani, North Cotabato and Northern Samar. For the agency's Training for Work Scholarship Program (TSWP), scholarships would be made available for key sectors such as agri-fishery, manufacturing, tourism, information technology/business process management, infrastructure/housing and logistics and other priority sectors.

This year, Villanueva said Tesda also aims to provide the competency assessment and certification program to a total of 940,964 graduates. "We want to go beyond this and expand our services to more youth, especially those who need educational assistance, and we are laser-focused in achieving the goal," Villanueva said. As of November 2013, a total of 859,889 students received the certificate after passing the assessment. "We are very optimistic in achieving more in 2014 as we start operating under a new structure," Villanueva said. The Department of Budget and Management has approved the proposed rationalization plan of the agency and the new structure will be in operation early this year. Some existing offices were expanded to strengthen Tesda's planning and programming capability as well as to improve its existing teaching technologies and service delivery.

BSP seeks P150‐B add’l capital By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  1  

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is seeking an additional capital of P150-billion to make it more effective in performing its mandate of keeping domestic prices stable and supportive of economic growth. “We have been saying that the economy has grown many times over since 1993 and the financial system has also since grown but the capitalization has only been completed this year,” BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said. Republic Act 7653 or The New Central Bank Act of 1993 mandated a recapitalization of P50 billion for the BSP but the government only completed the infusion this year. The central bank received the additional capital in four tranches: P10 billion in 1996, another P10 billion in 2011, P20 billion in 2012, and the remaining P10 billion last week. The additional capital helps the central bank perform its mandate of ensuring price and financial stability that is conducive to a sustainable economic growth.

Guinigundo explained that the additional P150 billion capital is being asked under the proposed charter amendments to RA 7653 and such may be transferred by the government through various methods. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

“The first approach is to do it through government securities ... that can provide us with additional collateral for open market operations,” Guinigundo said. The second approach is by sourcing funds from the national budget, while another is a mixture of the first two, he said. Guinigundo noted that if the government decides to infuse the P150 billion through the issuance of government securities, such a scenario may benefit both parties. “If we have enough securities to collateralize our borrowings from the market then we would be able to deliver our mandate to keep prices stable. If prices are kept stable interest rates will continue to be low and stable,” Guinigundo said. “If interest rates are low and stable the cost of government borrowings will also come down,” he continued. Moreover, Guinigundo said the central bank may assess if the Special Deposit Account facility — a tool used to mop up excess liquidity in the system — is still needed once the national government gives the BSP government securities. “It’s possible that SDA may be reviewed and finally give way to open market operations... Remember that we had to resort to SDA because we don’t have enough government securities to support open market operations,” he explained. At present, there is still no formulation on how the additional capital will be infused to the BSP and if the lawmakers will approve the amount being sought for by the central bank. “There is a cost to promoting stability in the economy. We have to absorb those capital flows and ensure that levels of domestic liquidity are consistent with price stability and sustain economic growth,” Guinigundo said. The BSP narrowed its net loss to P21.55 billion as of October 2013 from P78.43 billion in the same period in 2012, latest data showed. The improvement in its bottomline is due to less interest payments made on the central bank’s SDA following a 150-basis-point cut on the facility’s interest rates in early 2013.

BSP: Peso to move within 41‐44:$1 this year (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   1  0 googleplus0  3  

MANILA, Philippines - The government has widened the range for its peso assumption this year, a government source said. This means the peso is now expected to average between 41 and 44 to a dollar this year from the earlier assumption of 41 to 43 per dollar, the source said. “Higher income, higher growth will trigger higher imports especially for construction requirements,” the source said. The increase in imports is seen to weaken the peso as residents buy more dollars to pay for the shipments from abroad. Merchandise imports are forecast to expand by six percent this year from 2013 levels. The value of imports last year is expected to have risen by two percent from 2012. The range of the peso assumption was stretched due to uncertainties that remain in the global economy.

Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

The peso finished at 44.71 to $1 on Friday, weaker than the 44.68:$1 close the previous day. The currency depreciated by 7.35 percent to close at 44.395:$1 at the end of last year from 41.05 at the end of 2012. Traders said the peso’s movement early this year will still be determined by market sentiment toward the US Federal Reserve’s scaling back of monthly asset purchases. The Fed on Dec. 18 announced a modest $10-billion cut in its monthly asset purchases to $75 billion starting this month. The Fed said it may implement further reductions in the stimulus this year, depending on the upcoming US economic data.

Phl seeks duty‐free entry for Visayas products By Pia Lee‐Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is seeking duty-free access of certain products produced from areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Central Visayas as part of the government’s efforts to spur the recovery and rehabilitation of the affected communities. Philippine৲Ambassador to Washington Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. announced the plan in his remarks at a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the role of the US government and military, the private sector and non-government organizations in responding to the devastation. “Similar to what the United States did following the Haiti earthquake, the Philippines is looking at possible trade preference for products from Haiyan-affected areas,” Cuisia said. However, he said the Philippines is looking at arrangements that would allow duty-free access for a limited period of time for a limited number of products coming from the affected areas, mostly in the Central Visayas. In his presentation, Cuisia expressed his appreciation to the US government and the American people for the generous assistance extended to the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. The typhoon, one of strongest in recorded history, killed 6,183 people dead, affected 2.6 million families and displaced 930,000 others. Another 28,626 people were injured and 1,785 people remain missing. It also left more than $12.9 million in damages. According to Cuisia, the total US assistance package from the US government is estimated at around $85 million and covered food aid, shelter materials, clean water, and hygiene education and supplies for affected families as well as protection for vulnerable populations.

MGB denies petition of Greenstone By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has denied the petition of Greenstone Resources Corp. to lift the suspension order on the milling and mining operations in its Siana Gold project in Surigao del Norte. Mines bureau director Leo Jasareno said the joint validating team of the MGB and the Environmental Management Bureau has determined that the necessary remedial measures for the mine’s compromised tailings storage facility no. 4 have not been completed. The MGB suspended the mine’s milling operations on June 6 last year after a tension crack was found along the embankment of the tailings pond. “In concurrence with the team’s recommendation, the MGB rules that the suspension order can be lifted only if a new tailings storage facility is constructed,” Jasareno said. “With the milling operation suspended, the mining operation of Greenstone is effectively suspended as well,” he added. Greenstone has been informed of the decision in a letter dated Jan. 6, 2014. “Indeed, we are cognizant of the impact of the suspension order to investment, employment and the communities. However, environment protection will always be paramount, especially when risks are not adequately addressed,” Jasareno said. The Siana gold project, which was commissioned last year, is expected to produce a minimum of 849,000 ounces of gold at a cash cost of $400 per ounce over a 10-year life.

Indonesia imposes ban on unprocessed ore export By Associated Press (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  1  

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An Indonesian law banning the export of unprocessed minerals took effect Sunday, with the government aiming to boost local operations and create more jobs and mining companies warning of losses and layoffs. Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed the decree after a meeting of Cabinet members late Saturday. It followed days of intense negotiations involving government officials, entrepreneurs and experts to explore ways to minimize the impact of the ban. Ministry of Finance ordered customs officials in seaports across the country to supervise all export activities to make sure no ores are shipped out beginning Sunday. Rajasa did not mention any exemptions, but said the decision took into account concerns about preventing mass layoffs, promoting regional economic development and enabling local mining companies to continue operating. He added that a number of regulations will be issued by ministries regarding the implementation. The ban is mandated by the Mining Law passed by Parliament in 2009, which included a provision that mineral ores must be processed at smelters in Indonesia starting Jan. 12, 2014. Mining companies, including PT Freeport Indonesia and PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara, have warned that they will have to lay off thousands of workers if the law was imposed without exemptions. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

“If the ban on export is imposed on Jan. 12, Freeport will only be able to process 40 percent of its production,” said Daisy Primayanti, a spokeswoman for Freeport Indonesia, which operates a giant US-owned mine in Indonesia’s Papua Province. “One of the impacts is a reduction in the number of employees.” Minister of Mines and Energy Jero Wacik said that government departments will soon issue regulations detailing provisions of the ban, including export tax rates and the minimum level of concentrate allowed for exports. The ministry has proposed a three-year exemption that would allow companies to export unprocessed minerals until 2017 provided they make a commitment to build their smelters in Indonesia. It was intended to protect hundreds of small mining companies from going out of business.

Minister of Industry M.S. Hidayat said that companies are still allowed to export concentrates of certain purification level until 2017, but they have to pay an export tax. “We will impose the progressive export tax, which means the higher the purification level, the lower export tax,” Hidayat said. Marius Toime, a partner at the international law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said that the law might cause other problems because it would reduce revenues from export taxes, which in turn may result in a widening current account deficit for the government. “This deficit, combined with the legal uncertainty around the ban’s ramifications, has already undermined investor confidence,” Toime said. He added that it is not economically feasible for small Indonesian mining companies to develop refining capacity. The government has estimated that the ban will cut government revenue by about 10 trillion rupiah ($833 million) this year due to declines in export taxes and royalties.

Subsidies to gov’t firms up 46% By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 13, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - Subsidies granted by the national government to state-owned companies jumped by more than 46 percent in the first 11 months of the year, a big part of which went to healthcare, housing and electrification. Data from the Department of Finance showed that the government extended a total of P39.07 billion from January to November in subsidies to state-owned firms compared with only P26.67 billion a year ago. The biggest beneficiary for the period was the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth), which received P11.975 billion or third of the total for the substantial subsidies granted to Philhealth were used to provide health care services to more than 10 million indigent families across the country. The second biggest recipient was the National Housing Authority which received P8.25 billion. Additional funding support was given to NHA for the relocation of informal settlers living in disaster-prone areas, particularly near waterways in Metro Manila. The third top recipient was the National Electrification Administration, which is tasked to provide electricity throughout the country. It received P5.88 billion during the 11-month period. The two other state-owned firms that made up the top five beneficiaries of subsidies were the National Food Authority (P2 billion) and Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (P1.88 billion). Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

Other state-owned firms that received more than P1 billion in subsidies were the National Irrigation Administration (P1.51 billion), National Kidney and Transplant Institute (P1.29 billion), and Philippine Coconut Authority (P1.1 billion). In November alone, subsidies to government-run corporations reached P3.17 billion, down 48.8 percent year on year. The increase in subsidies partly contributed to the hike in the government’s aggregate expenditures during the period. The Finance department reported last week that government expenditures amounted to P1.68 trillion or an increase of nine percent from the 2012 level. The hike was largely driven by higher spending on infrastructure as part of the Aquino Administration’s efforts to further pump prime the economy to sustain inclusive and sustainable growth.

Ignore Hainan fisheries law — lawmakers by Charissa Luci  January 12, 2014  

Lawmakers said on January 12, the new fisheries law issued by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress, requiring foreign vessels to seek permission from Chinese regional authorities before fishing or surveying in a large portion of the disputed West Philippine Sea, should be ignored. Albay Rep. Al Francis Bichara, chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, said the Hainan fisheries law deserves no attention and should be rejected by the Philippines.


‘Talong’ fest shows how best to cook ‘pinakbet’ Philippine Daily Inquirer   8:28 pm | Sunday, January 12th, 2014  

VILLASIS, Pangasinan – How does one cook the most delectable “pinakbet?” Residents of this eggplant-producing town in eastern Pangasinan province have once again shown the many ways of cooking this popular Ilocano dish. On Friday, the town’s 21 villages sent their best cooks to the town hall grounds to participate in the annual “Pinakbet sa Kawa,” a competition requiring participants to cook huge servings of pinakbet in large vats. The event was one of the highlights of this year’s Talong (Eggplant) Festival. This town, called the “vegetable bowl” of Pangasinan, is the province’s leading producer of eggplants. “There is no secret ingredient in cooking a delicious pinakbet,” said Sonia Pascua, head cook of a team from Barangay (village) Lomboy. “It’s all in the way you cook it.” Pinakbet or “pakbet” is cooked with eggplant, okra, ampalaya, green pepper and tomato steamed in “bagoong” (salted fish paste). For the contest, each participating village was given 30 kilograms of eggplant, 10 kg of ampalaya and tomato, 2 kg of green pepper and 4 kg of okra for the dish. The participants were allowed to add their own ingredients to produce their versions of pinakbet. For a tastier pinakbet, Pascua said she added “patani” seeds, “malunggay,” “kamote” and pork. Barangay San Blas village head Marlon Olivar, an eggplant grower, used the round greenish eggplant variety instead of the long violet variety commonly grown in the town.

“This makes a better pinakbet,” he said. His team added a piece of fried pork to the vegetable mix. Another team used squid instead of meat. Amante Reyes, founder of United Ilocandia, a civic action group here, said pinakbet was best if only the four basic vegetable ingredients were used.

“You don’t cook it with water. You let the water from the eggplants and tomatoes cook it in slow fire and you’ll see, it really tastes good,” said Reyes. He cooks pinakbet for his family four times a week. “Of course, you should not overcook it,” he said. “What they are cooking now here is the modified pinakbet … Or maybe pinakbet with a twist.” Susan Costales, a council member of Barangay San Nicolas, said cooking a delicious pinakbet also needed “the right attitude.” “You should smile as you put in the ampalaya so the pinakbet will not have a bitter taste,” she said. “A delicious pinakbet is not produced by adding meat or other ingredients. It’s in the way you cook it. If you put cooking into your heart, then everything you cook will be good,” she added. Willy Balbin-Michaels, a returning resident from Hawaii and one of the competition’s three judges, said a competing team in 2013 mixed the dish with “longganisa,” a locally home-made sausage-like meat product. Mayor Libradita Abrenica said he was happy with the enthusiasm of residents here who took part in the celebration. “We want to promote our talong industry. We want to arrive at the best pinakbet recipe,” he said. Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon Read more:‐fest‐shows‐how‐best‐to‐cook‐ pinakbet#ixzz2qFmNaqJU   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

When micro means big (Second of two parts) by Ignacio Bunye  January 12, 2014  

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has been tracking the growth of microfinance in the recent years, at least in so far as the banking system is concerned. It is important to note, however, that there are also private and non-government institutions offering microfinance, so there may actually be more Filipinos in rural and far-flung areas that are able to access and benefit from microfinance products and services. What we are certain about is that the industry continues to grow, and its products have gone beyond just credit and savings. Some microfinance groups also offer housing and house repair microfinance loans, health-related microfinance loans, and microinsurance. This January, we are actually celebrating the National Microinsurance Month, an official event that has been observed since 2007. Following the same logic behind microsavings and microcredit, it offers affordable insurance – with smaller premium than the usual insurance products out there – to low-income individuals, so that their losses are covered in times of death or emergency. It was first introduced around 2005, the National Strategy and Regulatory Framework for Microinsurance were finally signed and issued in 2010. Although it is the Insurance Commission and not the BSP, that is the main government agency overseeing microinsurance activity, the BSP is still active in creating policy and regulation on microinsurance, at least for institutions under its jurisdiction, such as rural, cooperative, and thrift banks. In his speech at the 2013 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards (CMA) Awarding Ceremonies last December, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. emphasized to the various microfinance stakeholders in audience the importance of having insurance protection. He said that microinsurance can protect the hard-earned gains of microentrepreneurs, especially amid destructive natural calamities that occur in the country, like the recent super typhoon. Indeed, in trying times, for people with less or none at all, microfinance and all related microproducts and services can do wonders. That’s when we can say that micro is big. Note: My book, Central Banking for Every Juan and Maria is now available in main branches of Fully Booked, Power Books, National Book Store, and University of the Philippines Press.

BSP caps 2014 foreign borrowing by Lee C. Chipongian  January 12, 2014  

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is limiting the country’s foreign borrowing this year at $5 billion to ensure size of external debt stays within manageable levels. This is the second consecutive year that the central bank has capped foreign loans ceiling at this level. In 2012 the borrowing cap was at $8.5 billion, in 2011 it was higher at $10 billion and the highest was $12 billion in 2010. The limit covers both the government or public sector and the corporate or private sector foreign borrowing. Sources said the Monetary Board – BSP’s policy-making arm – has approved to keep the $5billion ceiling for 2014. The report to the Monetary Board indicated that the 2014 ceiling is still consistent with maintaining “healthy external debt ratios” and ensuring sustainability of the country’s debt management program. The BSP also noted that public and private sector’s foreign borrowing plans seem to still favor sourcing their financing requirements from the domestic market despite the sovereign’s improved investment grade status. Late last week the government raised $1.5 billion from the international bonds market. For the rest of the year, both the government and corporate sectors have indicated intentions to source funding locally. The central bank, which regularly reviews the effectiveness of imposing annual ceilings on foreign loans and its impact on controlling the size of Philippine debt, implemented higher limits in 2010 and 2011 as there was a need at that time for more foreign currency denominated loans to finance the government’s public-private partnership (PPP) program at the time. The Monetary Board has given banks and financial institutions until December 2016 a separate single borrower’s limit of 25 percent of the net worth of the lending bank to corporations undertaking PPP-eligible projects in a bid to open a wider venue of funding sources for the private sector. Of the $5 billion borrowing cap, while the public sector has the bigger share of the allowable external loans, any amount unutilized by the government would be made available for use by private corporations. The BSP has an ongoing review of its foreign borrowing policy in the context of its ceilings on medium and long-term loans. After a board resolution in 2011, the BSP assessed the

effectiveness of implementing a ceiling on the foreign loans of both the public and private sectors. As of end-September 2013, the Philippines’ total outstanding external debt amounted to $59.1 billion, 4.3 percent lower than end-September 2012’s $61.7 billion. By BSP definition, external debt refers to all types of borrowings by Philippine residents from non-residents that are approved/registered by the BSP.

Destileria to export calamansi liqueur by Melody M. Aguiba  January 12, 2014  

Philippines’ oldest distillery Destileria Limtuaco & Co. (DLC) will be exporting Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, its third homegrown liqueur to hit the US market and whose production will generate livelihood for the calamansi farming Mangyans of Oriental Mindoro. The calamansi liqueur, to be exported within the year, will be in addition to two DLC wine exports to the US — Paradise mango rum liqueur and Amadeo coffee liqueur.

“We’re sure it will be within the year. We’re just complying with the standard size of 750 ml (milliliter) bottle so we can export,” said DLC President Olivia Limpe-Aw in an interview. Aside from the US, more destinations are eyed for the Manille Liqueur de Calamansi. Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the Manille Liqueur de Calamansi will be exhibited this year in several international fairs. These are the International Green Week Berlin, world’s biggest fair food fair, Natural Expo West in Anaheim, California; Salone Del Gusto in Turin, Italy; and BIMP-EAGA Consumer Sale in Davao. “It’s a great product that deserves to be promoted. What’s great about it is it helps the IP (indigenous people) Mangyan from Oriental Mindoro each time you buy it,” said Puyat. The calamansi product is also making use of a supposedly waste material from calamansi juice production. In a process similar to Italy’s known Limoncello, the calamansi liqueur is produced using calamansi rinds. Limoncello, said to be second most popular liqueur in Italy, makes use of lemon zest or peels without the pith (soft tissue in plants) coming mainly from Sorrento lemons. “Before, you just throw the calamansi peel away. Now you earn income from it,” said Puyat.

DA Agriculture Marketing Assistance Service Director Dax Gazmin has linked DLC to Oriental Mindoro’s Tugdaan Mangyan tribesmen. The partnership will be supporting the operation of the Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development (TMCLD). One of TMCLD’s products is a calamansi concentrate made through a hand pressing process that does not damage the calamansi rinds. “Destileria Limtuaco purchases these rinds at a price equivalent to the price of the whole fruit. The Mangyans are able to double their income,” said DLC. Proceeds of the income from the calamansi liqueur finances the Mangyan center which educates children of more than 20 tribes in Mindoro. The center also aims to preserve the Mangyan culture. Limpe-Aw said the production of Manille Liquer de Calamansi is also supporting a kind of a One Town One Product or OTOP program on promotions and marketing of calamansi of the Mindoro provinces. “The Philippine Rural Development Program of DA identifies priority commodities of each province and aligns resources and all interventions such as improving farm-to-market roads, provision of logistical support, consolidation of areas that would reduce trade barriers for farmers. This will give rise to emergence of other enterprises,” said DLC. The calamansi liqueur is already available in Landmark, Kultura at SM, Family Mart, Walter Mart, Robinson’s, Fisher Mall, among others. It is in a bottle of 480 ml and in miniature bottles meant for gift-giving.

Chiz clarifies pork realignment, explains scrutiny By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am SENATOR Francis “Chiz” Escudero sees nothing wrong with Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s realigned allocation, adding that the matter is under scrutiny only because of the need to clarify the pork barrel issue. “I will go straight to the point —all the complaints and criticisms on Senator Estrada was only because there was an issue filed against him. When these are all removed, I suppose, they will not be complaining,” said Escudero in an interview over radio DZBB last Sunday. Escudero reiterated that there was nothing wrong in Estrada’s allocation of his pork barrel allotment to the city of Manila. He said the majority of the Senate ruled that each senator can decide where he or she intends to allot the originally proposed P200 Priority Development Assistance Fund under the 2014 National Expenditures Program. “I asked everyone. I told them to put into writing what we have agreed during the caucus. We even said there might be some resistance, but it’s their own decision,” Escudero said. When he talked to Estrada about his plan to allocate P100 to Manila, Escudero said he was informed that Manila city government is in dire need. To prove that the allocation to local government units had been a practice in the Senate, Escudero noted that majority of the PDAF of Senator Lito Lapid went to his home province in Pampanga. “That for Senator Cayetano has been going to Taguig, explained Escudero. He said the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the PDAF did not prohibit lawmakers from re-allocating their outlawed pork barrel.

He said lawmakers can still realign their PDAF to the ALGU without violating the Supreme Court decision. He said the realignment would not be a circumvention because the legislators “still can’t intervene.” He pointed out that ALGU was a lump-sum item in the budget that had no specifications and guidelines. Estrada was the only senator who realigned his pork allocation to local governments. The remaining P100 of the allocation was shared by LGUs of Caloocan City and Cagayan, each receiving P50 million. The eight other senators who have opted to realign their pork allotment gave it to various government projects. Five of the eight senators, Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, Ralph Recto, Miriam DefensorSantiago and Joseph Victor Ejercito earmarked their pork allocations to calamity fund, while three others—Senators Bong Revilla, Lito Lapid and Antonio Trillanes III had theirs moved to hospitals, universities, public works projects. Being a former navy officer, Trillanes also had his allocations going to the police and military organizations.‐clarifies‐pork‐realignment‐explains‐scrutiny/                  

No need for extra powers — PNoy By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Sunday said he does not need emergency powers to address the looming P8 per kilowatt-hour increase in power rates and the lack of mass transit systems in the capital and neighboring provinces. The President, who earlier ordered an information blitz on what the government is doing to blunt the public uproar over the highest power rate hike in history, would rather focus his attention on looking for ways to mitigate its impact on consumers, his spokesman said. “That has not been discussed by the President with his Cabinet,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said when asked if the Palace sees the need for emergency powers. “Right now, the President’s focus is his directive for the continued search for concrete measures to ease the burden of the public because of the very high increase in power rates,” Coloma added. While Meralco’s rate increase has been stopped by the Supreme Court with a 60-day temporary restraining order, the power distributor has warned of rotational brownouts in Metro Manila if it is unable to collect the higher rates. Commuters also face the possibility of fare increases by as much as P14 for the MRT-3 and LRT-Lines 1 and 2. Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, an ally and member of the President’s Liberal Party, said “people are getting impatient” and feeling “hopeless” because of the two problems. “Congress should study the possibility of granting President Aquino emergency power to deal with two catastrophic problems confronting our country today – the rising cost of power and the lack of mass transit in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces,” Evardone said. “We cannot afford a business-as-usual approach in dealing with these twin mega problems. It has been proven that palliative solutions to these problems have very little impact,” he added. Evardone said the emergency powers should be limited in scope and with a time frame of at most a year. But Coloma said the government would rather successfully broker a deal between Meralco and power producers to avert the threat of power outages. “It is important for industry stakeholders to cooperate with the government. It is important for the players in the power industry to act in a manner consistent with the public welfare as their business is imbued with public interest,” Coloma said.

During Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Aquino tasked the departments of Energy, Finance and Justice to look at what options are available for the government to mitigate the impact on consumers and then look at the accusations of collusion and predatory pricing. In the House, lawmakers opposed Evardone’s call for emergency powers. Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list and Silvestre Bello III of 1BAP party-list rejected the proposal. Bello said emergency powers “have no place in a normal and democratic society.” “The fact that President Aquino is not asking for extraordinary powers is a clear proof that he can handle the situation,” Bello told the Manila Standard in a text message, saying Aquino had enough power to address the country’s problems. Earlier, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Congress would only grant emergency powers if the President would ask for them. Colmenares and Zarate dismissed Evardone’s proposal as “deceptive move” aimed at achieving “an evil agenda.” “It plays into the ploy of the power cartel to divert public attention from the real issue, which is the unprecedented and illegal power rate hike imposed by Meralco and its cabal of suppliers,” Colmenares said. “This concocted scheme is no different during the situation when then President Fidel V. Ramos was granted emergency powers but the same were used instead to the allow the entry of favored independent power producers (IPP) to construct power plants within 24 months. Ramos also approved onerous supply contracts that guaranteed the government would buy whatever power the IPPs produced, forcing consumers to pay for electricity they did not even use,” Colmenares said. He said that the consistent threats of the power players of a huge power rate hike and rotating brownouts did not constitute an emergency. “Meralco and the IPPs colluded to create artificial power shortages through simultaneous power plant shutdowns. The real problem is the greed for profits of these power generators and suppliers,” Colmenares said. “Corrupt public officials will once again have a field day with overpriced contracts and sweetheart deals if we give Malacanang emergency powers. The President has enough powers at his disposal to address the problems faced by our country. What are sorely lacking now under the Aquino administration are political will, competence and genuine empathy for our suffering people,” he added. Zarate said that it is highly suspicious that the proposal to give President Aquino emergency powers was floated at time when Meralco and the power generators are threatening consumers with blackouts.

“We have to be watchful of the schemes and ploys of this power cartel as it appears that they will take advantage of the consumers by whatever means,” Zarate said. At the same time, administration lawmakers rejected a proposal for a takeover of Meralco, saying everybody should wait for the Supreme Court’s final decision on the rate hike. They were reacting to a statement by Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon that the government should be prepared to take over power utilities to ensure affordable electricity. “If Meralco and the power generators cannot deliver affordable power rates to the public, all power utilities should now be taken over by the state for its operations,” Ridon, a member of the House committee on energy, said. With Maricel V. Cruz‐need‐for‐extra‐powers‐pnoy/                                  

BoI set to remove miners’ income tax holiday By Othel V. Campos | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am The Board of Investments plans to reduce the fiscal incentives enjoyed by mining companies, especially the income-tax holiday, under the 2014 Investment Priorities Plan. “The mining bill says that mining activities or mining companies should be listed in the IPP. They need to have access to duty-free importation of capital equipment. That’s as far as we can give. We’re not offering them income tax holidays. We suppose they don’t need them, anyway,” BoI governor Lucita Reyes said in an interview over the weekend. Mining companies were among the sectors that qualified for incentives, except for income tax holiday under the 2013 IPP. Reyes said while the law stated that mining activities should be included in the annual IPP, the BoI had the power to limit those fiscal incentives. “We don’t have to grant ITH, [as] duty-free importation [of capital equipment] is already enough. That’s one of the incentives provided under the BoI law,” she said. The Trade Department plans to release the new IPP in the first quarter of 2014, or once it is approved by President Benigno Aquino III. The department said earlier a framework had been drafted and the criteria for choosing industries included in the IPP were already in the works, while the agency was waiting for the recommendation of an external consultant. Reyes said the new IPP would be “a lot different” from previous plans. “They are planning to extend the implementation of the IPP to three years subject to annual review much like the Philippine Development Plan,” she said. Trade Undersecretary Adrian Cristobal said the 2014 plan would be more rigorous not only because of the proposal to lengthen its implementation, but also because all the industry roadmaps would be incorporated to answer for the need to plug in supply gaps to attract and promote investments.‐set‐to‐remove‐miners‐income‐tax‐holiday/      

Yao calls for revival of ‘Buy Pinoy’ drive By Othel V. Campos | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am Newly-elected Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. president Alfredo Yao called for the revival of the “Buy Pinoy” strategy to prepare local industries for Asean’s integration into a single economic community by 2015. “My advocacy is with the Asean integration by 2015. I don’t think many of our local industries are prepared to face the regional challenge. What I want is for them to strengthen themselves and for consumers to help our industries grow by patronizing our products,” he said over the weekend. He noted that with barely two years into the process of integration, the only thing the chamber can do to increase the competitiveness of Filipino businesses was to engage consumers into supporting the strategy of buying locally-made products. The pitch to buy Filipino-made products has long since been introduced, gaining popularity in the early years but failing to sustain it. “We as Filipino stakeholders should do something drastic if we are to survive the integration. It might be a little expensive at first or a little less quality compared to other countries’ products, but these are the sacrifices we have to make, otherwise we’ll expire in the process” Yao said. The integration aims to make local manufacturers more efficient and create more employment for consumers to afford local, quality consumer goods. Yao stressed the “Buy Pinoy” battle cry was not only for consumer products but for tourism as well. He encouraged local tourists to first check out domestic destinations before travelling abroad. Yao said the money spent by local tourists would help improve Philippine tourism, including the services sector.‐calls‐for‐revival‐of‐buy‐pinoy‐drive/      

Aquino and his critics By Francisco S. Tatad | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am

Asked what he would like to have upon coming to the throne, Solomon, the wisest of kings, asked the Lord for the gift of a “listening heart.” He valued wisdom above everything else. In sharp contrast, asked what his New Year’s resolution would be, President B. S. Aquino III said he had resolved to “stop listening to his critics,” whether they be in the media, in civil society, in the Church, or in active politics. He would stand for nothing that was not obsequious. This does not bode well for democracy, truth or justice. The best and the worst government cannot do without a fair supply of legitimate and high-minded critics. Without them, government could lose all sense of accountability, become absolutist, and start doing everything illegal and immoral without fear of being made to pay for it. This is dangerous for everyone, beginning with the government itself. In 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated after being in power for 74 years. This was because it could not, among other things, tolerate intellectual and moral dissent. It turned its critics and dissenters, mostly great writers, artists and intellectuals, into dissidents, and sent them to the gulag to be permanently silenced. Upon the other hand, several countries allowed their peoples to publicly air their grievances during the “Arab Spring” and brought forth new democracies. In our country, the height of the communist insurgency, supported and encouraged by certain rabble-rousing politicians, prompted Ferdinand Marcos to proclaim martial law in 1972. Among other things, it closed down the freewheeling and licentious press. When the media were allowed to operate again, many, if not most, rabid critics of the administration became rabid supporters of the new authoritarian government.

Most people in government welcomed it. They no longer had to put up with so much negative criticism. But as information secretary at the time, I was sufficiently alarmed that I had to ask the newspaper editors and publishers to suspend the writing of columns for a while just to clear the air of so much worthless panegyrics, enable the media to discover their authentic role in the new environment and the public to breathe in more freely the objective change that was taking place. That fact is not generally known to the public, not even to those who have inveighed so much against the dark side of that period without an ounce of added understanding or knowledge. But I tried to explain to the editors, publishers and columnists at the time (led by the “dean” of Filipino columnists, the irrepressible Teodoro F. Valencia of “Over a Cup of Coffee” fame) that the government needed to be told about the things that were not working well or that were not being done at all, more than it needed to drown in “unnecessary and incompetent praise” even for its obvious mistakes. In the best and the worst of times, moral and intellectual rectitude in politics is best kept alive by an honest and responsible scrutiny and criticism of official actions and policies. Criticism does not necessarily mean adverse or negative opinion all the time. In-depth analysis of a particular subject could bring out its hidden colors, flavors, features and qualities which otherwise would be missed by the casual reader without such analysis. That is always a service in art, literature, and politics, and a sensible political leader should try to benefit from it. Nobody could blame Aquino for being unhappy about his negative press reviews. But the worst possible punishment is to be ignored. He may continue to imagine himself sitting at the center of the universe; he may continue to believe that by carving out a piece of Mindanao for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and by becoming an active motor mouth against China in the Asia Pacific, he could yet win the Nobel Peace Prize. But for as long as his critics spell his name right, he remains in the game—down but not out. But the moment nobody notices him anymore, then he is definitely out. Aquino’s major mistake is to regard the business of governance as a sheer propaganda game, in which the objective is to be able to claim a high trust rating manufactured by the propaganda fraudsters who have been cooking without any compunction all those

fudged surveys. This is like telling those who have been sleeping on the sidewalks and under the bridges without any food in their stomach or clothes on their back how much the GDP has grown, and how the ratings agencies have upgraded the economy with the world’s highest electricity rates to investment grade. The correct reply to the critics is superior performance that will speak more than words. Aquino should derive inspiration from Abraham Lincoln when he said: “If I were to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.” Rather than tell the nation what he proposes to do, or what he has done or is doing, Aquino should simply perform beyond all expectations so that at the end of the day his people would be the ones to tell the world what he has done for them. If he only spends his time working rather than trying to build up himself and his late parents in our mythology as heroes, he might stand a better chance of hearing the world wonder, as Cato the Elder once put it, why he had no statue than why he had one. Aquino cannot afford to forget that, as Laozi put it in c. 500 BC, “the best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects.” Given everything the nation has seen and heard, he cannot blame the people for their dim view of his hypothetical leadership. He should try to overcome their murky view of his role, as faithfully recorded by his critics, by providing helpful facts and figures on what he has done in office, not by trying to banish the critics from their legitimate existence or by pretending they did not exist. He may have long lost sight of the natural link between moral principles and politics, but he cannot fail to recognize that most of his critics are committed to maintaining that relationship. It is indispensable to the continued functioning of the Christian society upon which the secular Philippine state rests. In her book “Statecraft,” HarperCollins, London, 2002, Margaret Thatcher argues that pure Realpolitik, which means politics based on calculations of power and the national

interest alone rather than on moral principles, is a concept which blurs at the edges the more closely it is examined. Statecraft can be practiced successfully only when pursued with moral principles, she writes. Even Bismarck, the most famous practitioner of Realpolitik, had to observe some moral principles, although the Iron Chancellor once famously said that “conducting policy with principles would be like walking along a narrow forest path while carrying a long pole between one’s teeth.” It would seem that Aquino feels the same way about critics. It is not an original trait or thought, though; it appears to be something genetic. Although his father, the late former Senator Benigno S. Aquino, had made a distinguished career of criticizing the Marcos government, his mother, who succeeded Marcos, also despised critics. “I hate unsolicited advice,” the late Cory Aquino famously declared. When her Vice President (Salvador “Doy” Laurel) began to become critical of her policies, she ended all civil communication with him and called him a “maggot” (bangaw). The same happened when her Defense Secretary (Juan Ponce Enrile) turned critical, she called him a “great kibitzer” (Dakilang Miron), before sacking him from the government he had led to bring about. After one interview with Cory in Manila, the New York Times executive editor A. M. Rosenthal, accompanied by the foreign editor Warren Hoge, and the Asian correspondent Seth Mydans, dismissed her as an “empty-headed housewife, a dazed and vacant woman,” (George P. Shultz’s Turmoil and Triumph, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1993). Then she was subjected to six coup attempts from 1986 to 2002, which she survived with the help of the US. Despite all this, she was less criticized in the media during her six and a half years than her son, the incumbent president, has been in the last year of the past three years. The son’s quote seems much more arresting than his late mother’s. Some newspapers quoted Aquino as saying he would now stop listening to his “detractors ” (rather than “critics”). If that was what he really said, then there would be nothing to fault in his statement. For that word is not the same as the other. The critic’s job is to criticize

something or someone pursuant to a legitimate public interest. The detractor, on the other hand, unnecessarily reveals another person’s private faults without a just public motive. For instance, while a critic may legitimately disclose a public official’s flawed work habits, he would be committing pure detraction if he revealed that the man did not always not wash before going to bed, and still sucked his thumb in his sleep. No detractor has the right to expose the private faults of any private person or public individual. But a public official has every duty to listen to his critics. Aquino does not have to agree with anything he hears or reads, but he cannot treat honest and legitimate criticism with contempt. This is an essential part of the democratic process, especially as it relates to the free press. Therefore, for Aquino to declare that he will henceforth no longer listen to any critic is to declare that he will have the last word on everything without allowing the slightest debate. It is to terminate the public conversation that is indispensable to the governing process. Lincoln’s view of criticism should serve as an excellent model for others to follow. But Aquino cannot adopt Lincoln’s words as his own, mainly because he is not known to work nearly half as hard as the average hired hand. Former Senator Joker Arroyo, Cory Aquino’s first executive secretary, once insulted student governments as a class by comparing the Aquino government to a student government. This is where the problem lies. The government does not seem to have the basic competence for anything at all, and that is not saying enough. Aquino sought and got to the presidency without anything that slightly resembled a track record, without a known work ethic, without a piece of paper that said he was in good mental health, without anything that looked like a program of government. He got there solely on the basis of a great media spin about his being the illustrious son of illustrious parents, whom the nation had chosen to hold with some affection, without examining their real records. His biggest accomplishments include talking about a straight and narrow path (Daang Matuwid) while pursuing the very opposite. He has bribed Congress to impeach and

remove a sitting Supreme Court Chief Justice and railroad a foreign-dictated antiCatholic Reproductive Health Law, and he has jailed her immediate predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on a faulty non-bailable charge while protecting his own cohorts and sycophants from their own crimes. Even as he rails against his critics, Aquino has succeeded in getting the social and traditional media to be outraged about his small offenses but not about his major crimes. His online pictures with Janet Lim Napoles, with her daughter and the rest of her family have enraged the public, but not the fact that he bribed the members of Congress with the people’s money to impeach and remove the Chief Justice and railroad an unjust, unconstitutional and dangerous RH Law. These are criminal and impeachable crimes, which have resulted in the destruction of our tripartite system of government, threaten to destroy the institution of the family, the strong Catholic culture of the Philippines, and the separation of Church and State, and render Aquino unfit to stay one minute longer in office. But it is he who had the gall and gumption to say he would stop listening to the critics.‐and‐his‐critics/                      

The President’s low expectations By Alvin Capino | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am

The comment of a known supporter of President Benigno Aquino III that the problem with this government is that it has such low expectations hits the problem on the head. It also provides an explanation why the second Aquino administration, which started with such promise, is grossly underperforming. The “low expectation” comment was in reaction to the President’s description of his Cabinet as “hardworking” and “dedicated” and that one of his New Year’s resolutions is “to give them a little bit more breathing room because all of our government officials who actually do everything, out of love of country, might get burned out.” If someone who supports the President finds that his assessment that his Cabinet is overworked ridiculous, what more those who do not? President Aquino believes his people are overworked, but doing very well. That’s his mindset. He truly believes that he has a Cabinet that is performing beyond expectation despite, among others, a crime wave that makes people afraid even in their homes, a failed free immunization program that should have made measles epidemic as problems of the past, the worst performance ever in the Asean Games and the highest electricity and water rates for the whole of Asia. Don’t say anything bad about his administration, or else you will be classified as one of those who have made a living out of criticizing the President. Mr. Aquino said that another New Year’s Resolution is to ignore his critics who he said are hopeless. With such low expectations and his announced policy to ignore criticism against him and his officials, it is no wonder that the President is continuing to say that the Philippines has become a foreign investment destination despite facts to the contrary. Instead of being the darling of foreign investors, the Philippines ranked only fifth among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as far as foreign direct investments (FDI) are concerned. According to former Budget Secretary and Economics professor Benjamin Diokno, in terms of FDI inflows from 2010 to 2012, Singapore ($161 billion) ranked first, followed by Indonesia ($52.4 billion), Malaysia ($35 billion) Thailand ($28.8 billion) and the Philippines at 5th place with $5.9 billion FDI.

Diokno said that for the first three quarters of 2013, Singapore is still ranked no. 1 and the Philippines is still in fifth place. If you listen to the administration drumbeaters, aside from foreign investment, tourism is another bright spot for the Aquino administration. The Department of Tourism announced that a total of 3,867,386 tourists visited the Philippines in the first 10 months of 2013 representing an 11.9 percent increase over 2012 arrivals. The tourist arrivals from January to October, according to the DOT, represented 70.32 percent of the targeted 5.5 million arrivals for 2013. The figures of DOT look good until you compare them with the tourism arrivals of Thailand. In 2013, despite political unrest, Thailand registered a record-breaking 26.74 million tourist arrivals. DOT might reason out that the various calamities like typhoons and earthquakes affected tourism arrivals, but Thailand has also experienced health scares and global recessions as well as riots and political instability. Still, its tourism industry has continued to prosper. The low expectations and poor standards followed by administration officials is exemplified by the defense made by presidential spokesman Secretary Edwin Lacierda to justify the muchcriticized bunkhouses built by the government for the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda. Lacierda says that while it’s true the bunkhouses/temporary shelters do not meet international standards, it followed Philippine standards and the standards of the Aquino administration. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson was already doing well explaining the issue about the bunkhouses, saying that if the family that will use the bunkhouses has many members, then they can use two rooms. The division of the rooms can be easily dismantled so the size of the room is not an issue. On the accusations that the bunkhouses were under specification, Singson made it clear that no payment has been made yet to the contractors and if their inspection proves that the materials used did not meet specifications, the contractor would not be paid. The Public Works Secretary also stressed that Philippine government funds have been allocated for the construction of the bunkhouses and there is no foreign grant or aid involved. Singson’s explanation was sufficient but Lacierda made the issue bigger by declaring, as one newspaper headline said, “No need to follow int’l standards on bunkhouses, says Palace”. That was so unnecessary and made the issue bigger. What Lacierda’s statement did was to underscore the low expectations and poor standards used by this administration to measure performance.‐president‐s‐low‐expectations/      

Go home and plant camote By Pastor Apollo Quiboloy | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am

If in grade school you were repeatedly advised by your teacher to “go home and plant camote,” perhaps it’s time to heed it. I was in Manila last month and when boiled camote was the merienda served in a meeting, I asked the host how much the root crop which was once the food of the broke and the gastronomic symbol of lean times cost. His answer almost floored me. Sixty pesos a kilo.

At that price, camote has

clambered up the social rungs, from a cupboard pariah to one that’s sporting posh credentials. Ask any Filipino who has clawed his way out of poverty, and chances are he’ll confess that the lowest point in his life was when his family subsisted on camote for days. In this land , “salad days” refers to the time when viand was steamed camote tops. Read the memoirs of anyone who was marooned in Manila during the Japanese occupation , and most probably he’ll describe the day he sank to the abyss when he had nothing to eat but camote. A distant aunt, a self-proclaimed magna cum laude in kitchenomics, shares the secret that she was able to feed her brood of 10 by mixing diced camote with rice, which , in reality, is a ploy she shares with millions of homemakers who, like her, daily battled large appetites with a small budget. So go ahead, capitalize on camote’s rising price and upwardly mobile social status, and start planting it, either in industrial scale for the market, or in your yard for your meal.

Replace that carpet of inedible bermuda grass with a patch of expensive greens. To paraphrase a wit, it doesn’t mean that because bermuda grass looks more beautiful than camote leaves —it will also make a better soup I say expensive because sixty pesos is twice the price of a kilo of rice, whether locally grown or smuggled. Using the legal daily wage metric, a minimum wageworker has to work two hours to be able to buy a kilo of camote. Clearly, camote is no longer plebian’s fare, and is beginning to look more at home on the patrician’s table. Like the banana, it has overtaken rice in the price index. The tables are now turned. What was once relegated as a rice extender is now a class of its own. This is probably to the chagrin of the Elliptical Circle farmers of the Department of Agriculture who not so long ago, in a policy paper, crowned camote as the rice substitute. In their blueprint, achieving rice self-sufficiency requires a little help from the lowly camote, by exhorting the “unli” rice-loving citizens of the kanin republic to sub camote for rice. But economics has cancelled camote as a cheap replacement staple. Instead of bucking the trend, the best thing to do for DA now is to shift part of the megabillions it spends for rice production to camote growing. I asked a DA official in Mindanao if there’s money in the DA budget dedicated for camote growing . He says there is none. There are funds earmarked for fibers like cotton but none for the mighty camote which led a friend to wonder if DA watercoolers are spiked with hallucinogenic pesticides. Aside from price, there are other factors which make camote-growing a profitable proposition. Foremost of which is that it’s not inputs-heavy, fertilizer-reliant or labor-intensive. Unlike rice, camote doesn’t have a drinking problem. It is a scrappy crop that can get by with little water. It is reportedly one crop NASA had studied to have the potential to grow on Mars.

You don’t need to build a dam to grow camote. In contrast, to grow a kilo of rice, you’ll need from 4,000 to 5,000 liters of water. In fact, it can grow anywhere, even on center islands in the urban jungle, which makes meritorious the suggestion to replace roadside ornamental plants which government buys as fast as they wilt with camote. Camote planting is also not back-breaking work compared to rice growing. For rice, to plow one hectare of land (for city slickers that’s 100 meters by 100 meters), a farmer will have to walk 60 kilometers. That’s one marathon plus half. And walk is too facile a term to use in describing trudging through thigh-deep sticky mud with a heavy iron plow on one hand and the reins on a one-ton carabao on the other. Furthermore, to plant rice on one hectare of land, a farmer has to bend forward 250,000 times to pierce a fistful of seedlings into the soft soil—a punishing routine absent in camote growing. A rice farmer has to do other things which a camote farmer is exempt from like weeding , fertilizing, watering his plot, and when the grains ripen, guarding them from attacks from the air, from divebombing mayas, and from the ground, from burrowing rats. From then on, he has to scythe the palay stalk by stalk; thresh, winnow and bag the grains; carry them to the nearest road where they will be dried while obstructing car traffic before they are milled. This a drill alien to camote farmers. And on the nutritional scale , camote beats rice . A tale of the tapes provided by Dr. Philip Chua showed that cup-per-cup, camote has about 20 times more calcium than rice, and contains 30 percent more Omega 3 and 6. It also has about 50 times more potassium.

For one thing, rice has no vitamins A, B-6, C, D, K, and Riboflavin, which sweet potato does, the good doctor says. It also has 5 times more fiber and 7 times more folate, compared to rice. And here’s the clincher : Best of all, nobody smuggles camote into the country aboard ships as big as shopping malls.‐home‐and‐plant‐camote/                                      

Shake your head at Mr. Senator By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 11, 2014 at 12:01am

Senator Jinggoy Estrada is an interesting study on how leaders handle government funds. He is totally protective of the P200 million pork barrel fund under his discretion. The funds are intended to serve the interest of politicians, but he has proven himself to be an exception. Estrada diverted his P200 million pork barrel funds to local governments after the Supreme Court outlawed it. Half of the P200 million was re-aligned to Manila where his father, Joseph Estrada, is mayor. Other senators placed their pork barrel allocations to hospitals, schools and public works. After he was charged of plunder for allegedly receiving kickbacks from pork barrel funds funneled to non-existent non-government organizations, Estrada could not be faulted for his decision. He insisted the re-alignment was legal. But Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the re-alignment was subject to “conditional implementation” and he raised questions that could snag its release. Abad cited President Aquino’s message to Congress in which he said the re-alignment “may not be consistent with the objectives and prioritization of the Local Government Support Fund.” Senator Francis Escudero said members of the House of Representatives also placed their pork barrel on local government units of their choice. But Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga challenged Escudero to name those congressmen. If Barzaga could prove that no congressman channeled his or her pork barrel to local government units, it means Estrada is the sole member of Congress who diverted money to local governments. And since it is the City of Manila involved here, the transfer was from one Estrada to another Estrada. Several congressmen said they were surprised to learn of the re-alignment because they were told by their leaders in the House of Representatives that realignment was not allowed. “I am a member of the House Appropriations Committee and our chairman told us we could not allocate our (pork barrel) to our respective local government units,” Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice said.

The issue also triggered an exchange of pointed words between Estrada and Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who described Estrada’s decision as “reckless.” Trillanes said Estrada should have been more circumspect because of his record. “He knew he was under fire, and yet he was still reckless in his allocation,” Trillanes said. Estrada shot back: “I’m not meddling with his decisions. He shouldn’t meddle with mine.” Looking at the huge amount of pork barrel fund in the budget, and the manner that politicians are fighting over it, many people are raising their hands in despair. Looking at the manner Estrada handled public funds, many people are shaking their heads.‐your‐head‐at‐mr‐senator/                                  

Revisiting the VAWC law By Rita Linda V. Jimeno | Jan. 13, 2014 at 12:01am

There is a growing ugly trend in the practice of family law that tends to abuse the remedy of a court-issued protection order, resulting in injustice. Although the Law on Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (RA 9262), commonly called the VAWC law, was crafted to provide abused women and children a remedy to shield and protect them against further abuse either physically, psychologically or economically, many women, obviously upon advice by their lawyers, have been using this remedy more as an instrument of abuse against their husbands or male partners. Very often, a protection order is used as a tool to punish a man by depriving him of access to his children. All too often, women seeking a protection order are motivated by vindictiveness, sometimes even greed. Not too many cases falling under the law on violence against women and their children really involve a woman who is seeing protection because her life and limb are genuinely under threat by a husband, an ex-husband, a present or former male partner. More often, the VAWC cases clogging family courts involve a wife seeking a protection order against her husband when the real bottom issue between them is a mere marital dispute or personality clash. For example, a protection order is often sought to punish a husband who committed an act of infidelity, or to pressure him to give a higher amount of support, or to deprive him completely from enjoyment of community properties or assets. At the outset, when a petition under the VAWC law (RA 9262) is filed, what a court issues—if it finds reasonable grounds—is a temporary protection order. Its validity from issuance is 30 days but it is thereafter automatically issued every 30 days until there is

a change in the circumstances of the woman or child in whose favor it was issued or until it is converted into a permanent protection order. What does a protection order consist of and how is it abused? A temporary protection order prohibits the husband or former partner of a woman to stay away from her and often, their children too, within a distance specified by the court. It also prevents him from calling, texting or trying to communicate with her and their children, annoying or harassing her in any way. It is abused in the sense that women who have been scorned by their husbands or partners, or who have had a fight with them, often get back by obtaining a temporary protection order preventing their husbands or male partners not only from seeing them and contacting them but from having any access to their common children as well. In such cases, children are suddenly without a father, not knowing why because he cannot even explain to them. In one case for instance, the wife left the family home after a quarrel with her husband, taking their two children with her. She then went to her parents’ home. When the husband was consistently refused entry into his in-laws’ house and when his parents’ attempts to mediate between them failed, he filed a complaint seeking shared custody of their children to whom he was very attached. After hearings, the court eventually ordered the wife to let the children spend weekends with their father. The judge saw for herself how the two children embraced and clung to their father when they saw him in court. Unfortunately, the wife, to thwart the court order, quickly obtained a temporary protection order from another court. Thus, when the man went to the place of residence of the woman to pick up his children based on the first court’s order, he was not allowed entry into the subdivision and the guards presented him with the protection order. Years have passed and to date, the father has not been able to see or talk to his children. The slow movement of cases in court and the ability of lawyers to abuse certain remedies even when they are not appropriate or fair have deprived many a father of their children’s company and love. In another case, a Filipina who was living abroad with her foreign husband left him with her three kids in tow when she learned that her husband was having an affair with another woman. Back in the Philippines, she obtained a temporary protection order for

herself and her children. She also filed a criminal case against her husband for alleged psychological abuse. When the husband came to the Philippines, he found that he was not allowed to see or talk to her or their children. He was also served a subpoena involving a criminal complaint under VAWC filed against him by his wife forcing him to immediately leave for fear of not being able to depart and go back to his home country where his job was. In a yet another disturbing case, the wife obtained a protection order for herself and her children against her husband while he was away on a business trip abroad. When he came back, he had no home to go to as he was refused entry into their village. He stayed with a friend the evening he arrived. On the following day, he sought the help of some common friends to act as intermediaries between him and his wife to mend their marriage. She refused. She told their common friends that he had taken her for granted, neglected her and that this was a form of psychological abuse. She then took over the operation of the businesses established and formerly ran by her husband without any preparation or training for it. The protection order she obtained prevented him from going near their business offices because she claimed in her petition that she went there everyday. What was most unjust for him was that it was he who invested in their businesses using inherited money; it was he who exclusively raised the money to purchase their posh home and all its contents by borrowing from his mother. Now, he had no home, no work, no source of income and no access to the children he loved. For all its good intentions, the law on anti-violence against women and their children has been used as an instrument of injustice—a consequence not contemplated by it. The saddest of all is that children who are caught between their parents’ skirmishes have often become the biggest losers. They lose a father who is a necessary anchor for their balanced upbringing.‐the‐vawc‐law/      

Rising in Bohol: Quake-proof houses January 12, 2014 10:17 pm by ROSE DE LA CRUZ

An artist’s design of Habitat for Humanity houses for earthquake-prone areas like Bohol. The design makes use of environment-friendly bamboo and cement meshed in steel bars. Its frame is made of lightweight steel. Its walls and flooring are a combination of bamboo mesh and wire mesh with cement overlay. It is earthquake proof. These are the main features of the prototype of the house Habitat for Humanity Philippines has been teaching people in Bohol province to build. In October, a 7.2-magnitude tremor left thousands of Boholanos homeless. Many still live in tent cities. Habitat for Humanity is rushing the construction of the houses for the quake victims this year. The houses are being built by their future occupants so that they could better appreciate their homes and take better care of them. Habitat volunteers assist the locals put up the houses, allowing for closer supervision and tighter quality control. During the building process, Habitat is able to impart the proper values of responsibility and caring to the future home recipients while enlightening them on the urgency of using environmentally friendly technologies, designs and materials.

Habitat has come up with four designs for houses in earthquake-prone areas like Bohol. The prototypes are gender-sensitive: they have two bedrooms with indicative costs of P70,000 and P75,000 from the ground; P80,000 slightly elevated and P10, 000 with bigger area. The roofs are not the traditional flat GI sheets, but are slightly inclined downward and the windows are wide pullout bamboo mesh with wire mesh supported by a thin long piece of lumber. Steel frames are preferred over coco lumber because only 400 board feet of steel is required per house, compared to 250 board feet of coco lumber. Besides, the quality and size of coconut trunks is not consistent. The bamboo for the walls and floors come from bamboo plantations and are cheaper and environmentally friendly, compared with plywood (made from hardwood species). Besides, bamboo does not peel off. Each house has a floor area of 20 square meters made from lightweight steel framing system with the flooring made from concrete/purlins with bamboo slats, the roof with GI and corrugated roofing. The exterior walls are treated bamboo (sigkat) or cement plastered; the toilet and bath are the pail flush type toilet bowls. Plumbing is wastewater line and windows are wooden/aluminum or jalousie frame or smoke glass. In Loon, Bohol, the indicative cost of a house funded by donations form the Union Bank of the Philippines is P120,000 and the half concrete cladding design is P75,000. In addition, there will be row houses and resettlement houses for the informal settlers. Funding for the housing comes from local and foreign donors, many of them celebrities who have generously given their time, money and connections to raise funds for such an undertaking. Just recently, Habitat for Humanity Philippines and Union Bank of the Philippines partnered to build houses in Barangay Catagbacan in Loon. The bank donated P10 million to the earthquake victims there.

As Habitat for Housing Philippines Managing Director/CEO Charlie Ayco said: “Habitat brings communities together and brings hope. We can dream that everyone in Bohol has a decent place to live in or we can start building that dream now. We are very grateful that Bohol has not been forgotten in spite of the other disasters that have come after.” “Let us rebuild lives not only in Tacloban, Samar, Cebu, but let us not forget our kababayans in Zamboanga and Bohol,” Ayco added. The donation will cover 70 families with core housing units made of bamboo and cement—a combination that Habitat developed and was first used in Cagayan de Oro. Another 100 families will benefit from the Shelter Repair Kits to repair their partially damaged homes.‐in‐bohol‐quake‐proof‐houses/67313/                            

Oil companies reduce prices January 12, 2014 10:16 pm by RUBEN D. MANAHAN 4TH PILIPINAS Shell and Phoenix Petroleum said on Sunday they are cutting prices of petroleum products across-the-board effective Monday. In their respective text advisories Sunday, Pilipinas Shell and Phoenix Petroleum Philippines said that they would cut the prices of diesel by P0.90 a liter and gasoline by P0.85 a liter. Pilipinas Shell added that it would cut by P1.10 a liter the price of kerosene. The decrease in pump price of Pilipinas Shell would be Monday shortly after midnight while for Phoenix, it would be at 6 a.m. also on Monday. Phoenix said the price movements reflect the continued decline in the prices of refined petroleum products in the world market. Other oil firms have yet to make their announcements. The said adjustment would be the third for the month of January. On January 7, Pilipinas Shell decreased the price of its diesel by P0.45 a liter and kerosene by P0.25 while retaining the price of its gasoline products. The announced rollback welcomed the New Year. Before that, Petron Philippines on January 1 implemented a P7.65 a kilogram price rollback on liquefied petroleum gas after having an across-the-board price hike on New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile, they would also cut by P5.34 a kilogram LPG prices in Cebu and Bohol to align prices. Besides the LPG price drop, Petron would also slash P4.27 a liter its AutoLPG nationwide and decrease by P2.98 a liter in Bohol and Cebu at the same time.‐companies‐reduce‐prices/67307/  

Diokno: Senate fund realignments in order January 12, 2014 10:15 pm by JOEL M. SY EGCO ECONOMIST and former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he finds nothing wrong or irregular with the realignment of funds by some senators prior to the enactment of the 2014 General Appropriations Act. “Strictly speaking, the role of Congress is to cut, not increase, the budget as prepared and proposed by the president. By tradition, what Congress has done was to propose amendments to the president’s budget, by reprioritizing some spending items, provided that the total president’s budget is not exceeded,” Diokno told The Manila Times. He was reacting to criticisms hurled against nine senators who realigned their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to government agencies. The PDAF system was previously outlawed by the Supreme Court (SC). Those who realigned what used to be their “pork barrel” funds were Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Antonio Trillanes 4th who realigned P200 million to government agencies. On the other hand, Senators Ralph Recto, Allan and Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Joseph Victor Ejercito transferred their PDAF to the Calamity Fund. Contrary to some sectors’ assertion that the move was at the very least unauthorized, Diokno, an expert in budget matters, explained that what the lawmakers did was not against the High Tribunal’s ruling. “For as long as these adjustments are done during the budget authorization phase of the budget process, then it’s compliant with the recent Supreme Court ruling on the pork barrel. The SC ruled that it is unconstitutional for legislators to participate in the execution of the budget,” the University of the Philippines professor stressed.

The Court deemed as unconstitutional the practice of lawmakers under the pork barrel system “to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post-enactment stages of the budget execution, such as but not limited to the areas of project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment unrelated to the power of congressional oversight.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Francis Escudero earlier noted that did not commit any “post-enactment intervention” and that “from Day One, I said we will respect the individual decision of each senator on the PDAF.” Escudero recalled that during their caucus on the matter they unanimously agreed to respect the individual decision of each senator on his/her PDAF. The issue got worse when it was found out that Estrada assigned P100 million to the City of Manila, where his father, former president Joseph Estrada, is currently mayor. Besides Manila, Estrada realigned his “pork” to Caloocan City and Lal-lo town in Cagayan province with P50 million each. Escudero defended the move, saying there was no “insertion” and that it was an “amendment” by the young Estrada. “This is very transparent. We did not hide anything in the budget. This is an amendment by Jinggoy,” Escudero said. Diokno served as Estrada’s budget chief from 1998 to 2001. He agreed with Escudero as he stressed that the realignments were done when the budget measure was still being discussed by Congress. “What Senator Jinggoy Estrada has done proposing to assign the P200 million to Manila Caloocan and [Lal-lo town], and which was subsequently accepted by the bicameral conference committee and finally approved by both Houses of Congress is in order,” he stressed. “I assume he did not specify how the funds will be used and how they will be implemented,” Diokno added explaining that had Estrada “dictated” how the funds would be spent then that would violate the SC decision.

He further said that the P100 million for Manila will be treated as the city’s additional income and only the city council can authorize its release. “The correct procedure is that the grant to the LGU will be treated as additional income and will have to form part of the revenues of the LGU concerned. The local chief executive will then propose a supplemental budget to the local council for its authorization,” Diokno emphasized.‐senate‐fund‐realignments‐in‐order/67305/                                   

National Day of Prayer on January 20 January 12, 2014 10:13 pm by CATHERINE S. VALENTE President Benigno Aquino 3rd will lead the nation in prayer for a “more progressive future,” a Malacañang official said. Presidential Communications Secretary Hermnio Coloma Jr. called on the public to join the “National Day of Prayer and Solidarity”, which will be held on January 20 in Malacañang. “The National Day of Prayer and Solidarity with the theme ‘One Nation in Prayer’ is going to be held in accordance with the Filipino people’s recognition of the guidance of Divine Providence in our forward movement towards a more progressive future,” Coloma said. Citing the President’s message in the New Year Vin D’Honneur, Coloma noted the country’s resilience despite the many challenges it faced. “Some of you have marveled at the resilience of our nation, a people whose faith, though challenged, remained constant and only deepened. Our unbreakable spirit and ability to recover find root in our firm belief in a benevolent God who has the perfect plan for all of us,” he said “These tragedies tell us that, despite all our efforts, we are indeed powerless without God,” Coloma added.‐day‐of‐prayer‐on‐january‐20/67297/      

How do you solve a problem like Aquino? January 12, 2014 10:03 pm by RICARDO SALUDO First of three parts When somebody [said] Daang Matuwid, formerly I was also clapping my hands but whenever I hear Daang Matuwid now, come on, let’s be real. Sometimes I say: ‘Ang matuwid na daan tungo sa kanal.’ [The Straight Path leads to the sewer.] That is terrible, but I find it harder and harder to trust the President’s intention. — Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz Let’s all get real, especially those still cheering every move and missive by the Palace and the administration. Some do so out of sincere if misinformed or blind admiration, others act out of political expediency and personal gain, especially those whose sycophancy quickly turned from outgoing to incoming leader back in 2010. As it surely would when Malacañang’s occupant changes again in 2016. But in these last 30 months of the incumbent administration, it is high time and in the overarching national interest, at least for those who do care for our sole republic, to remove any blinders, especially those put on by fawning media and politicians, and, as the good archbishop said, get real about Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino 3rd. In particular, the nation and its leaders and key sectors must open their eyes to his major failings, willfully downplayed, totally missed or even defended by mainstream media. Perhaps also too subtle for most citizens to notice, these pernicious qualities have spawned governance tendencies which threaten long-term fundamental damage to Philippine democracy, rule of law, development, and social welfare. One leading columnist wrote that Aquino could go down as the second-best president ever. Consider the following failings, to be discussed through the week, and go figure: a) Aquino disregarded and even undermined established statutes and institutions.

b) He practiced highly partisan governance, especially in anti-corruption efforts. c) His combative, fault-finding approach (rather than problem-solving) created difficulties in addressing issues and crises. These failings may not affect opinion polls much, and could even boost them with help from politicized media, but their effects are already creeping across the government. If they are not stopped, their impact on the culture of both politics and governance will be immensely adverse. The lawless presidency First of these PNoy failings, for which he remains utterly unrepentant, is the sweeping disregard for democratically enacted laws and established institutions. This trait was seen early on in his first Executive Order back in 2010 and the Palace insistence on its constitutionality despite a 10-5 Supreme Court decision declaring EO 1 unconstitutional. The order violated the principle of equal protection under the law by singling out one administration for investigation by the Philippine Truth Commission it created. The High Court ruling suggested that the EO could clear this bar by simply expanding the PTC’s explicit scope. In short, adding an ‘s’ at the end of the commission’s mandate covering “the past administration.” Former appeals judge Magdangal Elma, appointed Palace legal adviser, who had served in the Presidential Commission on Good Governance created by the president’s mother Corazon, urged that the PCGG be used to do the PTC’s job. Also created by the first Executive Order issued by the first Aquino president, the PCGG is empowered to undertake any probe the Chief Executive may order. No dice. Aquino did not bother with those perfectly legal solutions. Instead, he unleashed the first of his many diatribes against the Supreme Court. The issue was put to rest only after Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez quit after being impeached by the House of Representatives in the first use of pork barrel releases to unseat a constitutionally independent official. With his chosen Ombudsman ready and willing to target the Arroyo administration, Aquino found no need for the PTC.

Malacañang above all Other open disdain and even disregard for law followed, prompting close Aquino family friend and veteran lawyer Senator Joker Arroyo to deplore shoddy work by Palace lawyers, which got three other early EOs haled to the High Court. But that well-meaning and much-deserved criticism fell on deaf ears: Aquino did not care much for legalities. He went his merry way ordering the Department of Justice to withdraw the Oakwood Mutiny case in 2010, after six years in court and despite nationally televised evidence. With presidential approval, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima also desisted in appealing the junking of the Dacer-Corbito double-murder case against then fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson. Thus, Aquino added two allies in the Senate, including amnestied mutineer Antonio Trillanes 4th. The biggest affront to the rule of law came in November 2011, when the administration went against a Supreme Court decision voiding de Lima’s travel ban on former president Gloria Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel. Even staunch Aquino ally and her mother’s former Justice secretary Senator Franklin Drilon found reason to caution against the willful disregard of the nation’s highest judicial authority. But Aquino did not care to take orders from the Corona court. He lambasted it weeks later at the Criminal Justice Summit hosted by the Palace. Soon after, the President launched his unprecendented campaign to oust the Chief Justice, reprising the pork barrel inducements which ousted Ombudsman Gutierrez. ‘Pork Barrel King’ Aquino bristled at online posts calling him “Pork Barrel King.” Sadly for him, the label befits his rule in several ways. In his annual General Appropriations Acts since the 2011 GAA, the Priotity Development Assistance Fund disbursed with the assent of legislators, trebled from the past administration, topping P20 billion a year. As widely believed and attested by legislators themselves, the Palace used PDAF releases to get administration measures passed and Gutierrez and Corona impeached. Thus, President Aquino’s own kingly clout in enacting laws and taking down perceived adversaries was built on pork barrel.

The Internet label itself was coined in reference to hundreds of billions of pesos in public funds which the President disburses without specific allocations enacted by Congress. Those monies include the Malampaya offshore gas royalties, the Presidential Social Fund, and most recently, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Last November, the Supreme Court rightly declared PDAF unconstitutional and set restrictions on Malampaya and PSF use. This month and next, it must further rein in President Aquino’s lawless ways by trashing the DAP, which circumvents the budget law by taking funds from GAA allocations, then spending the billions of pesos in false savings on programs and projects never even proposed in Congress. President Aquino has assaulted the rule of law and the independence of co-equal branches of government. It’s time to get legal with him.‐do‐you‐solve‐a‐problem‐like‐aquino/67277/                             

Where are our taxes going? January 12, 2014 9:58 pm by TITA C. VALDERAMA When we salaried workers get hold of our pay slips, we usually frown on the amounts deducted particularly on withheld income tax. And we can’t do anything about it because income tax, premiums for Social Security System (SSS) or Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF or Pag-IBIG) are automatic deductions by law. There is no way to escape or avoid paying. These are already deducted even before we even get hold of our salaries. When we go to doctors, lawyers, accountants, architects, designers, couturiers and other professionals, we also pay them value-added tax in addition to their service fees that are often outrageously unreasonable unless we have good referrals or connections to them. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) knows quite well that most professionals and business establishments are not paying the right amount of taxes, and many companies are not remitting the taxes they deduct automatically from employees. Is BIR doing enough to collect the deficiencies? Filing of one case a week and shaming those who don’t pay enough don’t seem to be working. I hear so many complaints that the filing of cases serves as a tool used by revenue examiners and assessors to blackmail companies who won’t settle with their computation, which includes an amount “for the boys” that are sometimes bigger than what will appear in the official receipt. When we go to hospitals, buy drugs, and other medical needs, we pay taxes.

When we eat in restaurants, buy groceries, and other necessities for our daily needs, we also pay VAT. Income, service and value-added taxes are squeezing us ordinary employees dry. But are these taxes remitted to the government? If yes, how is the government using the money? Don’t we deserve efficient service when we go the city hall to pay real estate taxes, apply for permits, secure residence certificate? We also pay when we do these things, right? But why do we still have to wait in long queues to pay the government more money? If we don’t pay, we get penalized and we have to pay more. Then we come across politicians who benefit from millions of pesos in dubious transactions with the likes of Janet Lim-Napoles moving around like kings and princes, still enjoying the perks and privileges funded out of the tax monies squeezed from ordinary mortals. We read stories like the Philippine National Police (PNP) spending P21 million this year to hire security guards to man the gates of its headquarters in Camp Crame and its offices and residences of senior officers inside the compound. Isn’t this an insult to the police organization that its national headquarters will be secured by private security guards? Are security guards better trained than police officers to be entrusted to secure the PNP headquarters? Who owns the security agency chosen to get the contract? Also last week, reports came out that the BIR would train its eyes on lechon (roasted pig) sellers. If the figures released were correct, it’s quite unsettling to learn that the popular Mila’s lechon paid only P5, 099 in taxes for 2012. That amount is perhaps just equivalent to the monthly deduction of a mid-ranked employee. The same reports said lechon sellers Three Little Pigs and Rico’s Lechon filed income tax returns but paid zero taxes. Other sellers Elars Lechon, Jiro’s Lechon, Sabroso Lechon, Cris Native Lechon, Aling Loring’s and Hecky’s Lechon, had no record of income tax returns filed with the BIR.

Lesser known lechon sellers CnT Lechon based in Cebu was tagged as the top taxpayer, with P465, 270 in taxes paid for 2012. Ulcing’s Lechon is the second top taxpayer, with P123, 255 paid, followed by PingPing’s Lechon with P93, 456 and Charlie’s Pritchon with P67, 282 paid for 2012. It would be less painful to see a third of our monthly salaries going to income taxes (plus more in indirect taxes for services and goods we buy), if we get better service when transacting with government offices, if we see shenanigans in government suffering in jail, if we see government programs working well for the taxpayers. In some road construction sites, we see billboards that say, “This is where your taxes are going.” But the constructions are moving too slowly because the lowly workers are not paid correctly while the contractors can afford to shower connections in government with expensive gifts. The way I see it, our taxes are going to wasteful government spending. Our taxes are hardly working for us ordinary mortals. And we are not in a position to call a tax boycott. #‐are‐our‐taxes‐going/67270/                      

Quezon constructor, a ‘king maker’ January 12, 2014 9:57 pm by ERWIN TULFO Erwin Tulfo Rumors has been circulating in Quezon province these days that a certain constructor from Mulanay town has already been preparing his local bets for the 2016 election this early. A certain Domingo Garcia, a known big time constructor in the province, is also reported to be deeply involved in local politics from the provincial all the way down to the baranggay level. The same story says that most, if not all, of Garcia’s political bets have won by landslides or run uncontested since their opponents surprisingly withdrew from the race at the last minute. Here’s how he operates according to my moles in Quezon: Once Domingo sees that his bet will most likely lose to his opponent, a meeting is arranged between him and the winnable candidate at a famous nightclub or ktv bar in Quezon City. Once there, this big time constructor reportedly orders booze and women for his guest or guests before asking them how much will it cost for them not to run in the upcoming race. The same source said so far all of those whom Domingo allegedly spoke to did back out from the race eventually in exchange for several millions of pesos. Not only Domingo’s invited guests happy that night for they allegedly go home with them oodles of money, but also the female guest relations officers or GROs in that room, particularly his partner, for they reportedly get hefty sums in tips from Domingo. I wonder if his wife and conservative church knows about this?

Aside from being a “king maker.” Domingo is said to be building an empire in the province by allegedly buying a radio station and a local newspaper company, not including yet the construction of several buildings for commercial purposes. Well, that’s another story for the next issue, folks. *** Bidding anomalies in DPWH Bicol Region? Public Works Sec. Rogelio Singson should start looking into reports that biddings in the regional and district offices of DPWH in the Bicol Region are being rigged and full of anomalies. A Manila Times reader sent me an e-mail Friday, in reaction to my column about a favored lady contractor in the area, claiming anomalies in DPWH biddings in the region, and requesting that officials of the said agency there and members of its bids and awards committee (BAC) be subjected to a lifestyle check. The same letter confirmed that a certain Susan Burce, and not Zusan Durce as reported, corners almost all juicy contracts of the said agency. Burce, it says, was a casual employee of a lawmaker before. She is now considered a multi-millionaire and owns one of the biggest construction firms in Bicol, the Sanro Construction. The letter sender, who calls himself Disgusted Taxpayer, wants to have a certain Atty. Oliver Rodulfo investigated and subjected to a lifestyle check for allegedly calling the shots in rigging the bidding in DPWH Region 5. “Bidding in this office is a farce, they are just rotating the winning bidder which is already a cartel.” the letter says. It adds that BAC members “are almost millionaires even if they are just casual employees.” I hope Sec. Singson will immediately look into this complaint. *** BIR now looking at Sanro’s tax payments Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares vowed to look into the income tax

payments of Bicol constructor Susan Burce following reports that she has cornered all the juicy projects of the DPWH and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in the region over the years and may have failed to declare her correct income. Henares explained that constructors should pay their taxes based on the total amount of projects they were awarded for that tax year less the expenses incurred for the projects, not including of course the “SOPs” or bribes. Sources within the DPWH and NIA said Burce, through her company, Sanro Construction, surprisingly have been awarded most of the hundred million peso projects of the said agencies during the past few years. Suspicions by fellow constructors that Burce may not have been paying the right taxes after she reportedly turned into an instant multi-millionaire in a few years time after being an ordinary casual employee of a legislator. The BIR should really go after constructors. It will surely make billions in revenues from them.‐constructor‐a‐king‐maker/67268/                       

Posted on January 12, 2014 10:59:17 PM

Poverty up as year ended LAST YEAR ENDED with more Filipino families considering themselvesmahirap, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in a new report. A Dec. 11-16 nationwide survey had 55% of the respondents -- equivalent to an estimated 11.8 million households -- saying they were poor, up from 50% three months earlier. The poll also had 41% -- an estimated 8.8 million households -- claiming to be poor in terms of food, four points above the September result. The rise in both self-rated poverty and food poverty was “roughly due to increases in all areas except Mindanao,” the SWS said. “Both self-rated poverty and self-rated food poverty rose from the previous quarter, and are above their four-quarter averages for 2013,” it added. The full year results, however, were not markedly different from 2012’s. Self-rated poverty averaged 52% last year, unchanged from 2012, while self-rated food poverty hit 39%, two points down. MINDANAO THE EXCEPTION By region, Metro Manila saw a two-point increase in self-rated poverty to 46%, bringing its 2013 average to 43%, also two points up compared to the previous year. It rose by eight points in Balance Luzon to 50%, which led to a full-year result of 48% -- six points above the 2012 average. The rise in the Visayas was slightly lower -- six points to 68% -- which pushed the 2013 average two points higher from the prior year to 63%. Mindanao, on the other hand, saw a two-point decrease to 59%, bringing the region’s average to 55%, 12 points below the 2012 result.

Self-rated food poverty, meanwhile, rose by three points in Metro Manila to 32%. This gave the metropolis a 29% average for the year, two points up from 2012. Six-point gains were recorded in both the Visayas (to 52%) and Balance Luzon (to 36%), which respectively led to full-year averages of 47% and 33%. The Visayas result was two points lower compared to last year, while that for Balance Luzon represented a three-point increase. Self-rated poverty stayed at 47% in Mindanao, leading to a 2013 average of 44% -- down 12 points from 2012. BELT-TIGHTENING The self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly budget that poor households need in order not to consider themselves poor, remained sluggish despite inflation, the SWS said. “This indicates that poor families have been lowering their living standards, i.e., belt- tightening,” it said. The median poverty threshold rose to P10,000 in Mindanao, fell to P12,000 in Metro Manila and P9,000 in Balance Luzon, and remained at P10,000 in the Visayas, the SWS said. The median self-rated food poverty threshold, meanwhile, fell to P6,000 in Metro Manila and P4,500 in Balance Luzon, and stayed at P5,000 in the Visayas and P4,000 in Mindanao. The median thresholds -- the amount that would satisfy the poorer half of poor households -- “have been surpassed in the past for all areas,” the SWS noted. PRIORITY PROGRAMS Sought for comment, Secretary Herminio “Sonny” B. Coloma, Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said, “We will continue to implement poverty reduction and social protection programs.”

These programs, he added, “enjoy the highest priority in the 2014 national budget.” Political analyst Ramon C. Casiple, meanwhile, said the poll findings indicated that “economic growth has not reached the poor.” There was no immediate correlation to the two natural disasters that struck the country in the fourth quarter of last year -- a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the island of Bohol on Oct. 15 and super typhoon Yolanda which devastated parts of the central Philippines on Nov. 8. The fourth-quarter survey involved face-to-face interviews of 1,550 adult Filipinos nationwide who were asked, with regard to both poverty and food poverty, to choose whether their families were poor, not poor or “on the line”. They were then asked on how much money would be required for their households not to be considered poor. The sampling error margins used were ±2.5% for national, ±4% for the Visayas and ±6% for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon and Mindanao percentages.‐up‐as‐year‐ ended&id=81896                  

Posted on January 12, 2014 10:58:42 PM by Bettina Faye V. Roc, Reporter

P2.606-trillion budget for 2015 NEXT

YEAR’S national budget has been capped at P2.606 trillion as the government looks to invest more to support continued economic growth and rebuild areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda. National Budget Memorandum (NBM) 119, dated Dec. 27, 2013, details the priorities framework along with macroeconomic assumptions and fiscal targets to be adopted. NBM 120 dated Jan. 6, meanwhile, contains the budget call, signaling the formal start of the 2015 budget preparation process. The proposed P2.606-trillion ceiling for 2015 is 15% or P342 billion more than the P2.265 trillion approved for this year. Next year’s expenditure plan will support a targeted gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7-8%, up from 2014’s 6.5-7.5%. Growth last year is expected to have fallen within the 6-7% goal, with Yolanda’s impact expected to have pulled down the above-target 7.4% achieved as of the third quarter. Full-year data is scheduled to be released on Jan. 30. The 2015 spending plan -- the penultimate for President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s administration -- will continue to focus on key areas essential to the goal of achieving rapid growth and inclusive development, Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said in the December budget memorandum. “[I]nclusive development goes beyond the objective of poverty reduction. It seeks the equalization of opportunities so that the majority of the country’s labor force, poor and middle class alike, is able to participate and benefit from the historically high economic growth rates accomplished in recent

years,” Mr. Abad said. “Hence, the inclusiveness development framework seeks answers to questions like: How do we get our poor out of poverty permanently? How do we manage the country’s higher growth rates so that it makes a larger dent on poverty and unemployment? How do we keep the economic growth high as this is necessary for poverty reduction?” The framework for the budget’s preparation zeroes in on strategies that will generate quality employment and livelihood hewing to the Philippine Development Plan: good governance and anti-corruption, sustaining the growth momentum, making growth inclusive and managing disaster risk. Programs to be prioritized next year include the continued expansion of the government’s social services, housing, education, and healthcare initiatives, as well as the development of infrastructure and industries such as agriculture and manufacturing. “In the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda and the massive destruction it wrought on Regions 4-8, 6, 7 and 8, the pressure on the government’s institutional capacity and resource allocation has multiplied significantly,” Mr. Abad noted. “The challenge is twofold: implementing the recovery and reconstruction of the affected areas in such a way as to plan and build back better and safer in a phased, flexible and outcome driven manner within constrained resources; and pursuing climate change adaptation measures and disaster risk reduction more systematically in order to anticipate and prepare for extreme climate phenomena and avoid the extent of destruction which happened under Typhoon Yolanda.” In order to accommodate the government’s P361-billion Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) plan within budgetary constraints, Mr. Abad noted the possibility of reprogramming existing budgets. “This may require the cancellation or deferment of activities and projects which are either no longer urgent or can be postponed or best left to the private sector. It also calls for the immediate upgrading of building codes,

engineering designs, building specifications and costs for infrastructures to consider the new standards to be issued by the Department of Public Works and Highways,” he added. “Lastly, it calls for the urgent embedding of the climate change and disaster reduction consideration in all planning, programming, and implementation activities as required under RA (Republic Act) 9729 or the Climate Change Act.” Revenue collections are projected to reach P2.337 trillion next year, 15.8% more than this year’s program, to be supported by “the impact of tax administration improvements” in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC). This will translate to a 16.2% revenue-to-GDP ratio, up from this year’s 15.5%. This will be anchored on improved BIR tax effort of 11.9%, up from 11.2%, and the BoC at 3.2% from this year’s programmed 3.1%. The projected increase in revenues will allow disbursements to stretch to P2.663 trillion next year, higher than the P2.284 trillion programmed under the 2014 budget. This is equivalent to an expenditure-to-GDP ratio of 18.2%, up from this year’s 17.5%. The budget deficit will continue to be capped at 2% of GDP in line with the administration’s fiscal consolidation commitment. In nominal terms, next year’s shortfall will settle at P285.3 billion, higher than this year’s P266.2 billion. The government is also eyeing a gross financing mix of 89:11 next year in favor of domestic sources. For this year, it wants to borrow 15% of its funding requirements from foreign sources and 85% from local creditors. “Despite the destruction wrought by typhoon Yolanda and the other recent disasters in some regions of the country and the nascent state of the global recovery, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) in its meeting last December 18, 2013 agreed that the country’s economic targets remain attainable,” Mr. Abad also noted.

The assumptions detailed in the issuance showed that the GDP is still expected to expand by 7.5-8.5% by 2016 as previously targeted. Inflation, meanwhile, is expected to settle within a lower range of 2-4% for 2015 and 2016 from the 3-5% target this year. The DBCC is also assuming a peso-dollar exchange rate of P41-44 per US dollar for this year through 2016. This is a wider range compared to the P4143 per dollar assumption adopted for last year’s budget. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said the range was adjusted “because there is still uncertainty,” particularly about the cost of the reconstruction activities for Yolanda-affected areas. The lower end of the range, Mr. Guinigundo explained, takes into account “sustained surpluses in the balance of payments and current accounts.” The higher end, meanwhile, considers the expected volatility of financial markets resulting from the US Federal Reserve’s winding-down of its massive stimulus program. Trade growth targets were likewise revised. Imports and exports are now both expected to grow by 6% this year. Last November, the DBCC said it expected imports of goods to grow by a reduced 5%, and exports, by 6%, this year. The annual growth rates for both were previously seen at 14%. For 2015 and 2016, meanwhile, imports expected to growth by 7% and 9%, and exports by 8% and 10%, respectively. This compares to the Philippine Development Plan targets of 9% for imports and 16% for exports in the next two years.‐trillion‐budget‐ for‐2015&id=81895         

More money for CCT despite adverse CoA reports — Palace • •

Written by Paul Atienza Monday, 13 January 2014 00:00

Despite findings of ghost beneficiaries of the conditional


transfer (CCT) program which the Commission on Audit

(CoA) has reported in successive years since President Aquino took power, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the dole-out scheme will continue and even expanded in terms of budget allocations during the remaining years of Aquino’s term. The so-called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under Secretary Dinky Soliman will have a budget of P63 billion this year from last year’s P45 billion.

“There is a continuing implementation of the CCT program which is part of 4Ps that is one of the flagship programs of the ng Aquino administration,” Coloma said. Coloma said the Aquino administration has given priority for the 4Ps in this year’s budget in its effort to provide welfare for the bigger number of people in need. “That’s why we improve the implementation of this (appropriation) law,” Coloma said. Coloma said the budget for CCT this year will cover almost 4 million target families who are supposedly the poorest in the social scale. He said the DSWD has been improving its systems to establish the correct identity of the poorest families. Coloma also said that the identity system has began its biometrics to insure the integrity of beneficiaries receiving the dole outs. Partylist Representatives Emmi de Jesus cited findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) that over P50 million in CCT were issued to “ghost” beneficiaries. “This COA report is ample proof that Congress should review President Aquino’s dubious flagship poverty program,” De Jesus said. In the 2012 Consolidated Audit Report on Official Development Assistance Programs and Projects, the state auditors found that the DSWD allegedly gave P50.15 million to 7,782 non-existent household beneficiaries. Aside from this, DSWD also has yet to account for P3.18 billion in unliquidated funds from 2008 to 2012 under the CCT program. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said that to uphold Aquino’s agenda of inclusive and sustainable growth, the budget office (DBM) has increased the proposed budget for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) from P44 billion this year to P62.6 billion in 2014, supporting the Administration’s bid to expand the 4Ps program and lower the dropout rate among the country’s poorest high school students. Abad said the budget for 4Ps is part of the P78.7-billion budget under the DSWD for 2014.

Of the total 4Ps budget proposed for 2014, P48.3 billion will support the regular CCT program, accounting for 4.3 million of the poorest households nationwide, with up to P1,400 allotted for each family, abad said. Abad added that the entire 4Ps budget, however, will also fund the expanded CCT program with another P12.3 billion. This will cover around 10.2 million children aged 15-18—also belonging to the 4.3 million households under regular CCT, with a P500 monthly cash grant to support them until they finish high school. Meanwhile, another P2 billion under the proposed 4Ps budget will support the Modified CCT program, which will be used to benefit 7,007 homeless street families nationwide, as well as 8,956 itinerant indigenous-people families in urban areas—those without permanent homes and who live from place to place, in addition to 116,000 indigenouspeople families across the country. As of June 2013, the CCT has been implemented in all 1,627 cities and municipalities in 79 provinces in all 17 regions. There are 3.9 million registered households in the program, with 1.6 million from Luzon, 1.4 from Mindanao, and 801,293 from Visayas. “From a broader perspective, the expanded CCT program is also the Administration’s own strategic investment in the country’s human capital, so that the poorest of Filipinos are empowered to take control of their socio-economic conditions and become active contributors to the country’s growth,” Abad said.‐money‐for‐cct‐despite‐adverse‐coa‐reports‐palace          

Too much holidays bad for business? • •

Written by Ed Velasco Monday, 13 January 2014 00:00

employers in the Philippines warned that the passage of several proposed bills in Congress seeking additional non-working holidays and paid leaves can do the country, the industry, and the labor force more harm than good. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines, in a formal position issued to Malacañang, Senate and select private institutions, said the law already mandates a total of 18 national non-working days. Of these, there are 10 regular holidays, seven special (non-working days) and one special holiday (for all schools). Another three Muslim holidays are observed in Muslim provinces and cities in Mindanao. In addition, salary and wage workers are entitled to paid individual leaves, including paternity and maternity leaves, solo parent leave, battered women leave, and gynecological leave. Tallying up all of these — national holidays, special non-working days, paid leaves, and rest days — on a yearly basis, Ecop said male workers are left with 276 working days or 9.2 months, while female workers’ may have to work for either 153 or 135 days, or 5.1 or 4.5 months. The business group stressed that the number of working days in a year correlates to the level of national labor productivity, which in turn is a key factor in a country’s competitiveness. “It is sad to say that for the past several years, Philippine labor productivity has stagnated as also the lowest in the region,” the paper claimed, citing statistics on labor

productivity among Asian countries from 2006 to 2010 from the National Wages and Productivity Commission. Moreover, based on figures from the World Competitiveness Yearbooks, the World Competitiveness Scoreboard for Asian countries from 2006 to 2013 shows that “Philippine competitiveness continues to rank as one of the lowest in the region,” Ecop said. Among the national holidays being pushed in both houses of Congress include May 5 as National Farmers and Fisherfolk Day, Dec. 25 to 31, Jan. 1 as Paskong Pinoy Day, and July 27 as Iglesia ni Cristo Day. Additional leaves sought include 120 days of maternity leave plus additional and optional 60 days, seven days of family leave, three days of leave to attend to schoolrelated activities, one-month leave for women undergoing major internal surgery, two days parental care leave for each minor child, and additional 10 days leave for victims of domestic violence. There are also proposed bills calling for special non-working holidays in particular areas, such as foundation and charter days for some provinces, cities or municipalities, flash flood memorial day, feast days for patron saints, and commemoration days to honor heroes and heroines in their hometowns. The association warned that any further reduction in the number of working days “would have an adverse impact not only on productivity but also on (the) cost of doing business.” Employers who operate on such holidays will have to shell out an additional 30 percent of premium pay over and above the regular wage of workers for the first eight hours of work. Published in Business‐much‐holidays‐bad‐for‐business    

Pasay reclamation project ‘unripe’ — Castelo • •

Written by Tribune Monday, 13 January 2014 00:00

Unsettled safety and legal issues hounding the P44.5-billion reclamation project in Pasay are making Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo believe it is still not ripe for implementation even though it was already awarded to SM. According to Castelo, chairman of the Committee on Metro Manila Development, the project can’t proceed without addressing first the problems on the perceived irregularities in the bidding process and the threat the project poses to environment. Owing to this, there should be more careful study on the project before it is built, Castelo said. Castelo made the pronouncements after the Pasay City government awarded the project to SM despite complaints against it. The lawmaker likewise said the city government of Pasay has no absolute power to approve a project of that magnitude because such authority belongs to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) headed by President Aquino based on Executive Order 146. And before it can be approved, research and recommendations from the Philippine Reclamation Authority are required, matters that were absent before the project was awarded, Castelo said. “As head of the country and chairman of Neda, President Aquino should intervene in this very important matter by making sure that the project went through the right process and is accordance with the priorities of the national government,” he said. Castelo supported findings made by experts marine geologists Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo and

Dr. Jiovanni Tapang of the University of the Philippines that the project is prone to storm surges, ground subsidence, and liquefaction that can mean possible loss of livelihood, marine resources and thousands of people’s lives.‐reclamation‐project‐unripe‐castelo                                        

Paggamit ng PDAF ng 9 na senador tutukan (Dindo Matining) Para hindi maulit ang katiwalian sa ƒ maling paggamit ng Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), ginarantiya ng Senado na kanilang tututukan ang paggamit ng pondo. Ayon kay Senador Francis Escudero, chairman ng Senate finance committee, titiyakin nilang walang proyektong mapupunta sa mga non-government organizations (NGOs) tulad ng ginagawa sa mga nagdaang taon. “Wala doon sa mga identified projects ng mga senador na may NGOs na mag-iimplement ng mga projects,” pahayag ni Escudero sa panayam sa radyo kahapon. Sa ipinasang General Appropriations Act ng 2014, sinabi ng senador na naglagay sila ng probisyon kung saan magre-report ang mga ahensya ng gobyerno kung saan nagamit ang nasabing pondo. “Inistriktuhan namin ang probisyon na nagsasabing kailangang i-report kada item sa COA, sa Kongreso, sa Senado, at i-post sa kanilang website,” sabi ni Escudero. “Ang availment and utilization ng lahat ng pondo sa department na kabilang na at nakaitemized iyong mga PDAF allocations or realignments as originally proposed ng mga mambabatas kabilang ang mga kongresista,” dagdag nito. Sinabi pa ni Escudero, na inistriktuhan din nila ang mga probisyon kaugnay sa paggamit ng NGO kung saan niliwanag nila ang accountability ng mga ito. Matatandaan na siyam na senador lamang ang gumamit ng kanilang PDAF ngayong taong ito kung saan ang iba ay inilaan sa local government units, calamity fund at sa mga pangunahing ahensya ng gobyerno. http://www.abante‐

Malacañang ayaw mangako sa hirit na P125 wage hike (Bernard Taguinod) Ayaw magbigay ng “commitment” ang ƒ Palasyo ng Malacañang sa P125 acrossthe-board wage increase na muling binuhay ng labor sector sa gitna ng pagtaas ng serbisyo publiko at presyo ng mga bilihin. Sa halip, ipinasa ni Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. ang panukalang ito ng mga manggagawa sa mga regional wage board. “Meron po tayong umiiral na proseso na kinakailangang ihain ito sa mga regional wage board na naitatag para sa pagtutuos kung kinakailangan ang pagdadagdag ng sweldo o ‘yung pag-adjust sa minimum wage,” pahayag ni Coloma. Ang nasabing panukala ay unang ihinain ni dating Anakpawis party-list Rep. Crispin Beltran noong 13th Congress subalit hindi ito nakakaabot sa botohan sa plenaryo ng Kamara hanggang sa kinamatayan na ito ng nasabing mambabatas. Muli itong binuhay ng mga manggagawa sa bansa dahil noong Disyembre ay tumaas ng 8% ang inflation rate o tumaas ang presyo ng mga bilihin kung saan itinuturong dahilan ang pagtaas ng singil sa kuryente at langis sa bansa. Gayunpaman, hindi umano pipigilan ng Malacañang ang panukalang dagdag sahod.



Maraming naeengganyong mag-ehersisyo ang retired dance instructor na si ‘Kuya’ sa Roxas Boulevard kapag araw na walang pasok. Sa konting barya o kahit walang iabot ang mga nakikisabay ay okey lang sa kanya dahil isa na rin itong paraan para makatulong daw siya sa Mahigpit na tinutulan ng tatlong progresibong pagpapalaganap ng pagkongresista ang panukala na pagkalooban ng eehersisyo. (Weeli Clamor) emergency power ng Kongreso si Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III dahil sa hinala na pakulo lamang ito ng kartel sa power industry. Nanindigan sina Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares at Carlos Zarate na walang basehan ang suhestyon ni Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone na pagkalooban ng special power si Pangulong Aquino. “Bayan Muna will oppose this deceptive move because it is baseless and has an evil agenda. It plays into the ploy of the power cartel to divert public attention from the real issue which is the unprecedented and illegal power rate hike imposed by Meralco and its cabal of suppliers,” diin ni Colmenares. Aniya, noong pinagkalooban ng emergency power ng Kongreso ang administrasyon ni dating Pangulong Fidel V. Ramos upang solusyunan ang power crisis sa Metro Manila at karatig-lalawigan, dito ipinanganak ang mga independent power producers (IPPs) na nabigyan ng “sweetheart deal” ng Ramos administration kung saan magbabayad ang

electricity consumers kahit ‘di nila nagamit ang kuryente. “Corrupt public officials will once again have a field day with overpriced contracts and sweetheart deals if we give Malacañang emergency powers. The President has enough powers in his disposal to address the problems faced by our country. What are sorely lacking now under the Aquino administration are political will, competence and genuine empathy for our suffering people,” diin ng kongresista. Kumbinsido rin si Zarate na ang power cartel ang may pakana sa paglutang ng panukala sa emergency power kay PNoy dahil nataon ito sa ibinigay na babala ng Meralco at power producers ng rotating blackouts kung hindi mababayaran ang karagdagang P4.15 per kWh na sinisingil nila sa mga consumer, subalit napatigil dahil sa temporary restraining order na pinalabas ng Supreme Court. “Lahat ng ito ay pakana at pakulo ng power cartel to greedily rake in more profits. Kumbaga pera-pera lang ‘yan,” patutsada ni Zarate. Mahigpit din na tinututulan ni ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio ang panukala na pagkalooban ng emergency powers si Pangulong Aquino, sa pagsasabing wala namang “emergency situation” tulad ng blackouts. “Such outages are highly unlikely. There is no emergency. The current situation has been brought about by profit-hungry energy corporations in a privatized environment using their market power to drive power rates to unprecedented levels, with government regulators failing to intervene,” paliwanag pa ni Tinio.



Makatarungan ba ang premium hikes sa SSS at PhilHealth? EDITORIAL Hindi napapanahon ang pagpapatupad ƒ ng premium hike ng Social Security System (SSS) at Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) sa pagpasok ng taong 2014. Simula ngayong buwan ay itinaas ng SSS ang monthly premium rate nito mula 10.4 porsiyento ay ginawang 11 porsiyento ng buwanang sahod ng mga miyembro. Sinabayan ng PhilHealth ang pagtataas ng SSS na nagpatupad din ng annual premium rate na P2,400 sa mga individually paying members na may buwanang sahod na P25,000 pababa at P3,600 sa mga sumasahod ng P25,000 pataas. Ang pagtataas ng singil sa kontribusyon ay agad na inalmahan ng mga manggagawa sa bansa sa pangunguna ng Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) at nakatakdang tumakbo sa Korte Suprema para ipaawat ang paniningil. Kasabay ng pagpapatigil sa implementasyon ng dagdagsingil sa kontribusyon ay inakusahan din ang grupo ang hakbang bilang isang anti-worker at anti-people dahil mistula umano nitong ini-extort ang pinaghirapan ng mga miyembro gayong kitang-kita ang pagpapasarap sa buhay ng mga namumuno ng ahensya. Para sa amin, wala talaga sa timing ang pagtataas ng singil sa kontribusyon ng mga miyembro ng SSS at PhilHealth sapagkat sariwa pa sa isipan ng publiko higit lalo ng mga miyembro ang naglalakihang bonus na tinanggap ng mga opisyal ng SSS at PhilHealth. Katulad ng mga labor group na KMU, wala kaming nakikitang dahilan para magtaas ng singil sa kontribusyon ngayong panahon bukod pa sa marami pa tayong mga kababayan ang hindi pa nakakabangon mula sa pagkakalugmok dahil sa pinsalang hatid ng super

bagyong Yolanda. Higit sa lahat, wala tayong nakikitang malaking pagbabago sa serbisyo ng SSS at PhilHealth para katigan ang hinihirit nitong dagdag-singil sa kontribusyon. http://www.abante‐                                    


Published : Thursday, January 09, 2014 00:00 Written by : Alfred Dalizon

A SPECIAL police investigating team has been formed to look into alleged anomalies surrounding the construction of temporary bunkhouses in areas ravaged by monster typhoon Yolanda that killed over 6,000 and left nearly 2,000 others still missing and presumed dead as of yesterday. According to Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Chief Superintendent Benjamin B. Magalong, PNP chief Director General Alan LM Purisima has acceded to the request of Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson’ for the CIDG to help him investigate the alleged anomaly. Magalong said a six-man team composed of investigators from the CIDG national headquartersand the regional office has been created to look into the issue. He however said they don’t have a timeline to finish their investigation. The CIDG director refused to say if they will question any local politician or other personalities.Lacson earlier said he had asked the PNP-CIDG to help investigate the alleged anomalies surrounding the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts of the Aquino administration. He said he will wait for the outcome of the investigation before making a recommendation to the President.‐pnp‐joins‐shelter‐anomalies‐ probe  

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

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga thus challenged Sen. Francis Escudero who earlier stated that some members of the House of Representatives realigned their PriorityDevelopment 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 agenciesthat provide basic services to the people like Department of Health (DoH), Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Social Welfareand 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


Probe sin tax law violators! Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00 Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco ANOTHER lawmaker yesterday pressed the House committee on ways and means to investigate the alleged violations of Republic Act (RA) No. 10351, otherwise known as Restructuring The Excise Tax on Alcohol and Tobacco Products of 2012, by some manufacturers of sin products. Abakada partylist Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of the House independent bloc, also asked Finance Sec. Cesar Purisima to make public the results of their inquiry on alleged anomalies in the business operations of some cigarette manufacturers which could violate the revised Sin Tax Law. “No less than Finance Sec. Cesar Purisima in a memorandum dated August 15, 2013 to Undersecretary Jeremias Paul, BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) Commissioner Kim Henares and Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, who has since resigned, ordered the said officials to respond to the preliminary list of findings of anomalies on the trading and manufacturing activities of Mighty Corporation, a cigarette manufacturer,” dela Cruz stressed in his HouseResolution (HR) No. 663. “In the same memorandum Secretary Purisima indicated that the said company may be liable for non-payment of P4.421 billion in excise taxes. Whereas, allegations of technical smuggling and under declaration of imported tobacco leaf and other raw materials have also been (hurled) against Mighty Corporation,” dela Cruz added. Earlier, House Assistant Majority Leader and Antique Rep. Paolo Javier filed HR No. 425 asking the House committee on ways and means to look into the alleged fraudulent reporting of volumes of tobacco and cigarette withdrawals or importations committed by unscrupulous entities which have resulted in undervaluation or misdeclaration of these products and grossly incorrect excise taxes paid to the government. In an interview, dela Cruz said “the DoF should come out with an updated report in the first year performance of the revised Sin Tax Law. They owe it to the public to show whether the benchmarked objectives of the law have been attained or not and no tax evasion and technical smuggling have been

spawned by its passage.” But Mighty Corporation denied all the allegations of non-payment of excise tax and technical smuggling. Dela Cruz underscored the importance of the inquiry after the DoF made “an updated report on the implementation of the revised Sin Tax Law indicating, among others, the non-attainment of the benchmarked objectives of the said law and possible anomalous transactions and violations by certain manufacturers.” “Reports have also been made about the possible non-compliance with the provisions of the revised ‘sin tax’ law by other manufacturers as well and the non-attainment of the bechmarked objectives of the said law thus bringing into question the very wisdom of having unduly tinkered with it in the first place,” the resolution said. “Now, therefore, be it resolved as it is hereby resolved that the House committee on ways and means be directed to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the alleged violations of the revised ‘sin tax’ law by certain manufacturers as well as the reported non-attainment of the benchmarked objectives of the said law,” it added. Javier said questions arose as to how certain cigarette brands can be sold at such low prices despite the tax increases, and whether the government is maximizing the tax revenues when there are reports of massive downtrading from high-priced to low-priced brands. Javier filed the resolution after Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles during a hearing conducted by the House committee on ways and means chaired by Marikina City Rep. Romero “Miro” Quimbo last October 22, 2013 called the attention of the BIR and the BOC about a news report that one company imported seven million kilos of tobacco but paid only $4.786 million compared to another company that imported one million kilos of tobacco but paid more for $4.9 million.‐stories/65206‐probe‐sin‐tax‐law‐violators        

Oil prices slashed Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00 Written by : Edd Reyes

LOCAL oil firms extended their rollback run for a second consecutive week as pump prices were reduced anew over the weekend. Announcing price cuts of P0.85 per liter on premium and unleadead gasoline, diesel by P0.90 per liter and P1.10 per liter on kerosene were major oil players Petron Corporation, Pilipinas Shell,Chevron Corporation and independent player Seaoil. Maji Macuja of Petron and Ina Soriano of Pilipinas Shell in their separate price advisories sent Sunday said the rollbacks would take effect at 12:01 a.m. today, Monday. So far, the oil companies have slashed prices two times after a series of price increases last December. Other oil companies have yet to announce their price adjustment but sources said they will likely to follow suit. Macuja said that the movements in the international market paved the way for the latest decrease.‐stories/65191‐oil‐prices‐slashed          

40 DFA personnel undergo TIP training Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00 Written by : Cristina Lee-Pisco To better equip foreign service personnel the necessary knowledge in addressing the problem and helping the victims of trafficking in persons or TIP, the Department of Foreign Affairs required some 40 personnel from various government agencies to undergo training before their deployment to the Philippine missions abroad. The DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs and the Foreign Service Institute, through technical assistance from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, conducted a training course on TIP for Philippine foreign service personnel. Those who participated in the training were staff of the OUMWA who coordinate assistance to TIP victims, as well as other personnel from the DFA, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of National Defense, Department of Labor and Employment and other agencies who will soon be deployed at various Philippine Embassies and Consulates abroad.DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Jesus I. Yabes opened the proceedings by emphasizing that the participants have an important duty in protecting Filipinos from being victimized by TIP, as well as in assisting Filipino TIP victims abroad. UNODC Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officers Ms. Rachelle Gershuni and Ms. Morgane Nicot, along with OUMWA Special Assistant Mr. Renato Villa, trained the participants on understanding the key TIP concepts and the existing legal frameworks in the Philippines and in other countries, as well as on how to properly assist TIP victims. This training is part of the DFA’s continuing program to update the capacity of the Philippineforeign service in protecting the rights of overseas Filipinos, and assisting Filipinos in distress abroad. The Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Vienna assisted in securing technical assistance from the UNODC for this training.‐40‐dfa‐personnel‐undergo‐tip‐ training  

Traders lose P1B from port congestion Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00 Written by : Paul M. Gutierrez Small traders and customs brokers doing business at the waterfront are appealing to trade and finance officials and the Bureau of Customs to solve the overcrowding or congestion at the country’s container ports which has resulted in new levy being imposed by shipping companies. Due to the overcrowding of container vans, mainly at the Manila International Container Port and the Port of Manila, shipping lines since last month have been collecting “port congestionsurcharge” between $100 to $120 for every 20-footer van and $200 to $250 for 40-footer van. The questionable fee has also been variously described by the shipping lines as “emergency recovery surcharge” or “operation recovery cost surcharge.” During the holiday season in 2012, shipping lines also unilaterally imposed a $200 and $100 “peak season surcharge” for every 40-footer van and 20footer van, respectively, shipped to the Philippines. Prior to this, traders and brokers also had to pay an additional $100 as “container imbalance charge” collected by shipping companies. At the time, shipping lines cited the alleged lack of port equipment and imbalance in the volume of the country’s export and import trade as basis. This time, the shipping companies are allegedly citing the over 3,000 container vans of goods covered by alert orders issued by the BoC on suspicion of smuggling. Traders and brokers interviewed said as things stand at the moment, losses this year would reach P1 billion arising from the port congestion charge being collected by the shipping lines. “And not only that. Even trucking companies have also jacked up their charge by about 100 percent. From a minimum of P5,000 per trip, trucking companies are now asking for P10,000 per trip,” they added. At a press conference last week, Customs commissioner John Philip Sevilla

admitted the portcongestion, noting that because of suspected smuggled rice alone, the BoC has been already holding the release of 1,937 container vans.‐traders‐lose‐p1b‐from‐port‐ congestion                                          

Davao solon promotes bicycle for good health, less traffic Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00 Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco

THE cheap and simple bicycle may just be the key to promote public health, reduce the growingproblems of traffic, energy costs and pollution in the country, especially in Metro Manila and other urban centers nationwide, a Mindanao congressman said Sunday. “With over a billion people to take care of, China did just that. The government encouraged the use of bicycles which greatly reduced the use of oil-based energy, pollution, and helped improve public health, and, of course, lessen the noisy traffic jam,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles pointed out.Nograles said the government should come up with the needed mechanics, including incentives to bicycle-riders, even local bicycle manufacturers and employers who provide bicycle-friendly facilities, to encourage government and private workers to use bicycles as their primary mode of transport. “The use of bicycles does not prejudice efforts to the search for cheaper and environmentfriendly alternative energy sources now being espoused globally by most nations through government institutions and people’s and private organizations in an attempt to fight air pollution and promote public health,” Nograles stressed. “The bicycle is one of the simple human inventions that could be effective form of transportation, especially in densely populated areas like Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City where the volume of motor vehicles using carbon energy flood the streets causing entangled traffic flow – a really great waste of energy,” Nograles noted. Nograles said the government should study the grant of tax incentives to bicycle-riding workers and even manufacturers to encourage its use, adding that authorities should also study re-routing of traffic to give the bicycle-riding public safe routes.‐davao‐solon‐promotes‐bicycle‐ for‐good‐health‐less‐traffic    

Sino si 'Domingo Garcia'? Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00

USAP-USAPAN ngayon sa lalawigan ng Quezon ang tungkol sa isang kontraktor na bukod sa pagiging bigtime na “constructor” ay nag-aalaga rin ng mga lokal na pulitiko sa lugar. Ayon sa kuwento, bagama’t dalawang taon pa bago ang susunod na halalan, naghahanda na itong isang nagngangalang “Domingo Garcia,” na tubong Mulanay, Quezon, ng kanyang mga kandidato ngayon pa lang mula sa pagka-gobernador hanggang sa mga mayor at konsehal ng bayan. Balita rin na lahat ng “manok” o kandidato ni Ginoong Garcia ay hindi natatalo sa halalan dahil kadalasan ay nala-landslide nito ang kalaban o ’di kaya’y nakapagtatakang umaatras na lang ang kalaban. Kuwento ng mga taga-Mulanay, kung malakas daw talaga ang kalaban ng kandidato ni Garcia, ipinapatawag ng naturang kontraktor ang nasabing kalabang kandidato para sa isang meeting o pagpupulong sa Maynila. Sa isa umanong sikat na KTV bar sa Quezon City nagaganap ang sinasabing miting sa pagitan niGarcia at ng kalabang kandidato para

pag-usapan kung puwede itong umatras na lang kapalit umano ng malaking halaga. Pero bago pa man daw ang usapan, ayon sa mga makakating labi sa Quezon, kinukunan na kaagad ng ka-table na GRO ni “Tata Domeng” ang kanyang bisita o mga bisita kasabay ng order ng mga alak o inumin. At kapag lasing na ang mga kausap, dito na aalukin umano ni “Tata Domeng” ng milyones ang kandidato para umatras na at ’wag nang labanan ang kanyang “manok.” Kuwento ng ilang waiter ng sikat na KTV bar sa Quezon Avenue, masayang-masayang umuuwi ang mga ka-meeting ni Garcia bitbit ang kanya-kanyang paperbag. Pati din daw ang mga GRO, bukod sa lasing at busog na paglabas sa VIP room ay makwarta na rin at inaasahang hindi muna papasok ng ilang araw sa trabaho. Naku... kung totoo ang tsismis na ito, tiyak magwawala ang misis ni Tata Domeng at ang simbahang kinaaaniban nito! “Patay kang matanda ka!”...hehehe *** BAC CHAIRMAN NG DPWH-5, DAPAT IMBESTIGAHAN Dapat kaagad silipin ni Pubic Works Secretary Rogelio Singson ang mga desisyon sa pag-award ng proyekto ng DPWH sa Bicol region kung may pinapaboran nga ba ito? Ilang e-mail na kasi ang natatanggap ng inyong lingkod hinggil sa reklamo laban kay DPWH Region 5 Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Chairman Oliver Rodulfo sa pagpabor nito lagi sa iisang

construction firm doon. Ang nasabing kumpanya ay ang Sanro Construction, na pag-aari ng isang Susan Burce, na sinasabing laging nakakakuha ng malalaking proyekto ng DPWH na hindi bababa sa P100 milyon kada kontrata. Ayon sa letter sender, na nagpakilala lamang na Disgusted Taxpayer, bali-balita daw sa mga kontratista sa Bicol na malaki umano magbigay ng “SOP” o lagay itong Sanro kung kaya’t lagi itong nananalo sa bidding ng DPWH. At dahil daw “very generous” umano itong si Misis Burce, paborito raw ito ng mga opisyal hindi lang ng DPWH kundi maging ng Department of Agriculture (DA) at National IrrigationAdministration (NIA) sa Bicol region. Nais daw sana ng mga constructor doon na ilipat na lang itong si Rodulfo sa main office sa Maynila para naman daw maging patas na ang bidding at may pagkakataon na silang manalo din. Tiyak kapag nabasa o nakarating ito kay Sec. Singson, malamang ay mautal sa pagpapaliwanag itong si Rodulfo sa kanyang bossing.‐sino‐si‐domingo‐garcia                

May depensa ba sa kasong ‘bigamy’? Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00

Dear Chief Acosta, Magandang araw po! Nais ko lang po malaman kung meron po bang depensa sa kasong bigamy? Dear Dora, Ang kasong kriminal na bigamy ay binibigyang-kahulugan sa Artikulo 349 ng Revised Penal Code (RPC) na nagsasaad ng ganito: Art. 349. Bigamy -- The penalty of prision mayor shall be imposed upon any person who shall contract a second or subsequent marriage before the former marriage has been legally dissolved, or before the absent spouse has been declared presumptively dead by means of a judgment rendered in the proper proceedings. Upang ang akusado ay masabing tunay na may-sala sa kasong bigamy, kailangang mapatunayan “beyond reasonable doubt” ang bawat elemento ng nasabing krimen. Ito ay sa dahilang ang Section 14(2), Article III ng 1987 Philippine Constitutionay itinuturing na inosente ang isang akusado hanggang mapatunayang nagkasala ito. Ayon sa Korte Suprema (Teves v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 188775, 24 August 2011), ang mga elemento ng krimeng bigamy ay ang mga sumusunod: 1.That the offender has been legally married; 2.That the marriage has not been legally dissolved or, in case his or her spouse is absent, the absent spouse could not yet be presumed dead according to the Civil Code;

3.That he contracts a second or subsequent marriage; and 4.That the second or subsequent marriage has all the essential requisites for validity. Samakatuwid, kung isa o higit pa sa mga nasabing elemento ng bigamy ay hindi mapatunayan, hindi maaaring masabi na may sala ang nasasakdal. Halimbawa, kung ang akusado ay nakakuha ng judicial declaration na ang nauna nitong kasal ay walang bisa bago pa ito nagpakasal sa ikalawang pagkakataon, hindi masasabing guilty ng bigamy ito (Mercado v. Tan, G.R. No. 137110, 01 August 2000) dahil wala ang ikalawang elemento ng nasabing krimen. Nawa ay malinaw naming nasagot ang inyong mga katanungan. Gayunpaman, binibigyang-linaw po namin na ang mga payong nakasaad sa liham na ito ay base lamang sa mga impormasyong nilalaman ng inyong liham. Maaaring may ibang legal na opinyon na mas angkop dito kung may importanteng detalye na hindi ninyo nabanggit sa inyong liham.‐may‐depensa‐ba‐sa‐kasong‐bigamy                           

Ang Philippine standard ba ay substandard? Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00

NASISIRA ang imbakan ko ng logic sa tuwing maririnig ko ang klase ng pangangatwiran ni Pangulong Aquino at ng mga taong nakapaligid sa kanila. Noong unang ipatupad ng Meralco ang pagtaas ng mahigit apat na pisobawat kilowatt hour, ang pahayag nila sa Palasyo ay makatwiran naman iyon. Nang sumipa ang publiko sa kanilang sablay na pahayag, bumawi naman pero binigwasan ang bayan ng palusot na wala silang magagawa dito. Short of saying, bahala na kayo sa buhay n’yo! Sa pagpasabog naman ng overpriced at substandard na bunkhouses para sa mga biktima ng Bagyong Yolanda, may sariling depensa ang gobyerno. Payag daw silang imbestigahan ito pero nanindigan silang hindi naman kailangang sumunod sainternational standard ang ginagawang bunkhouses para sa mga dinaluyong ng kalamidad. Ganoon ba iyon, ang tingin pala ng gobyerno, para sa kanila, ang ibig sabihin ng Philippinestandard ay substandard? Lumapit-lapit nga kayo rito para maiumpog ko kayo sa matitigas na muscles ko sa braso!

*** Palaging biktima ng misinterpretation si Korina Sanchez sa maraming pagkakataon. Ang tingin palagi ng iba ay masungit at suplada si Korina. Kaya noong mabalita ang pagtatapos ng programa niya sa DZMM, may mga naglabas ng negatibong komento laban sa kanya. Ang inisip agad ng iba ay sinibak gayong ang katotohanan ay nagmamasteral o nagpapakadalubhasa sa Ateneo de Manila. Pero ang totoo, kung mayroon mang totoong tao sa broadcast industry, isa na siguro si Korina. Kilala natin siyang personal at maraming taong malalapit sa kanya ang makapagpapatunay na mali ang mga akusasyon sa kanya. Posibleng nagsimula ang tsismis na suplada si Korina dahil sa klase ng kilos niya kapag nasa mga taping siya ng kanyang mga show. Sa tingin ko, mga dating staff niya ang unang nagpakalat ng “kasungitan” ni Miss K dahil palagi silang napapagalitan. Propesyunal si Korina at totoong metikulusa sa kanyang trabaho kaya kapag eengot-engot ka, makakatikim ka ng kanyang pagkasupladang malaYolanda! Wala tayong nakikitang masama rito dahil sa estado niya sa media, hindi puwede ang substandard na script o research materials. Kapag nakilala n’yo si Korina up close and personal, madidiskubre n’yong mas mabuting tao pa rin siya kung ikukumpara sa ibang personalidad na iniidolo n’yo. *** Totoo ba ang nakarating na balita sa atin na magre-resign na si Arnold Clavio sa mga programa niya sa DZBB at GMA 7? Nagkakamali kayo kung iniisip n’yong lilipat si Igan sa TV 5 or ABS-CBN kaya aalis sa Siyete.

Ayon sa ating source, paghahandaan na ni Igan ang kanyang pagtakbo bilang senador sa 2016 kaya malamang ay middle of this year or late this year ay maghinay-hinay na siya sa radyo at telebisyon. Kaibigan natin itong si Igan kaya alam kong panalo ang publiko kung mapupunta siya sa Senado. Ang kagandahan lang sa timing ni Igan, mapapatunayan niyang mas naging agresibo siyang kumandidato kahit nawalan na ng poder sa pork barrel ang mga senador at kongresista. Hinog na hinog si Igan para maging lingkod-bayan dahil sobrang haba na ng panahong siya’y tumutulong sa tao. Kung wala nang atrasan ito, isa ako sa kakampanya para kay Igan dahil madali itong lapitan at palaging nakangiti kaya hindi naiilang lumapit sa kanya ang mga kababayan natin.                             

Old Paco train station Published : Monday, January 13, 2014 00:00 Written by : Ike C. Gutierrez POSTMORTEM -- ’DI maaaring ’di tumaas ang aking blood pressure tuwing mapapadaan ako ngayon sa ginibang gusali ng Old Paco Train Station sa Maynila. Pinamamayanan ng nagtataasang kogon. Tambak ng kung anu-anong basura at dumi ng tao at hayop. At hithitan ng shabu ng mga batang addict sa paligid. ’Di ko matandaan kung kelan giniba ang station. At hanggang ngayon ay pinabayaang nakatiwangwang. Nakatindig na lang ay tatlong haligi. Mula sa kalye tila kubeta ang baho. Maraming iniwang alaala sa aking kabataan ang station. Sakay ng PNR train mula sa San Pablo, Laguna, dito kami bumababa ng aking pumanaw na tatay patungo sa bahay ng aking pumanaw na ring Tiya Luz sa Dart, Paco. Dekada 50s at 60s. Payapang panahon. Maluwag na pamumuhay. ’Pag uuwi sa San Pablo, dito rin kami sumasakay. Malinis at makintab ang sahig ng station kahit kalat ang vendors. Laging on-time ang dating ng train. Bihirang maatrasado. Ang alis at datingng train ay nagsisilbi din naming orasan. Nuong ako’y nanliligaw sa aking maybahay, dito ko siya hinahatid patungong Bicol. Bitbit- bitbit ko ang kanyang mga gamit bilang panunuyo. ’Di naglaon huminto ang biyahing Bicol. Nabangkarote ang PNR. At giniba ang station. Nanglumo ako sa nangyari sa isang cultural heritage kagaya ng station. Indikasyon ito ng ating kalaspatangan sa ating kultura at kasaysayan. ’Di lamang ang Old Paco Train Station ang naging biktima. Ehemplo din ang old Jai-Alai sa Taft Ave. Isang napakamasaysayang istruktura na nilapastangan din. Ngayon ay nanatiling nakatiwangwang. Gayon din ang Metropolitan Theater sa Plaza Lawton.

Ang Old Paco Train Station ay alaala ng aking masayang kabataan. Ang alaalang ito ay alaala na lang. *** SAMUT-SAMOT Ayon kay Metro Manila Film Festival Chair Jessie Ejercito, tumabo ng P900-M gross sales ang festival nitong nakaraang taon. Record-breaking performance ito. Top grosser ay ang “My Little Bossings.” Kulelat ang “10,000 Hours” tungkol sa pag- escape sa batas ng isang datingsenador. Mabibigyan ng malaking tulong ang Mowelfund, isang foundation na itinatag ni Mayor Joseph E. Estrada para sa disabled at retiradong movie actors. Nagpasalamat si Ejercito sa mga tumangkilik ng festival. Sang-ayon ako sa pagpapatuloy ng festival. ’Yun lang sana’y tumaas ang uri ng mga pelikulang inilalahok dito. ’Wag naman sanang slapsticks o movies tungkol sa kabaklaan o celebration ng violence at krimen. Nilangaw din ang “Pedro Calungsod.” Indikasyon ito na ayaw ng masa ang mga religious films kagaya ng nakaraang festivals. Binabati namin si Ejercito. Isa siyang tapat at mahusay na alagad ng sining. Mabuhay! *** Walang pinag-usapang pulitika ang dalawang dating Pangulong Erap at GMA. Saksi ako dito. Pleasantries at recollection of their San Juan days ang naging tanging paksa nila. Sino ang naglulubid ng balita na magkakaroon sila ng political alliance para sa 2016? Kathang isip lamang ito ng isang taong mahilig sa publicity. Kinagat naman ng media. Tigilan na sana ang tokes. Unfair to both Erap and GMA. *** Mariing itinanggi si Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone na ’di siya sangkot sa overpricing isyu ng bunkhouses para sa Typhoon Yolanda victims. Naniniwala ako sa ngayon kahit maraming bulung-bulungan sa di-umano’y ’di pagka-straight ni Evardone sa ibang government projects. Sana’y mahalukay ni Rehab Czar Ping Lacson ang puno’t dulo ng anomalya. Nakakahiyang isyu. Mawawalan ng gana ang local at foreign donors. Ano ba tayo, lahat ay gustong pagkakuwartahan? ***

Binabati ko ang aking college classmate at top-caliber Business Mirror columnist Butch del Castillo sa kanyang nakaraang kaarawan. Batch ’62 kami ni Butch sa Lyceum Journalism graduates. At tunay na magkaibigan. Napakahusay niyang manunulat. Mula sa Manila Times, lumipat siya sa maraming pahayagan. Naging business editor siya ng Manila Standard sa mahabang panahon. Ka-batch namin ni Butch si Cong. Satur Ocampo at People’s Journal top columnist Willie Baun. Ang Lyceum School of Journalism ay marami nang naiambag na graduates sa journalism profession. Ilan sa kanila ay si Deo Macalma at Rey Briones, Roger Velasco at Myrna Santos. *** Enero pa lang ay hitik na ng bunga ang mayabong na punong mangga sa tagiliran ng aming bahay sa Pasig. Tuwing umaga pinuputakti ng mga ibon ang mga nahihinog na bunga. Dati-rati Mayo ito bumubulaklak at namumunga. Palaga’y ko ay epekto na rin ito ng climate change. Kumakailan napabalitang may flooding sa Saudi Arabia. Papaano nangyari ito sa isang disyerto? Nakakapangilabot ang epekto ng climate change sa susunod na henerasyon. *** Wala nang isang libong araw ang PNoy administration sa pamahalaan. Ngayon pa man, 2016 na ang pinag-uusapan. Lumalabas na “lame duck” na politically si PNoy. At ang bayan ay naghihintay pa ng kanyang performace. What’s the real score? Ang totoo ay scoreless ang administrasyong ito. Maliban sa campaign vs graft and corruption, walang solid performance sa ekonomiya at pag-ahon ng mamamayan sa kahirapan. Kahirapan pa rin ang kadenang gumagapos sa leeg ng mahihirap. Na parami nang parami. May aasahan ba tayo sa papalit na leader sa 2016? Malabo ang aking pag-asa.‐old‐paco‐train‐station        

2014 01 13 quedancor daily news monitor  
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