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Who ‘facilitated’ NFA overpriced rice deal? GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am Nail the “facilitator” in the National Food Authority’s overpriced rice import from Vietnam last year. That person – a certain “Buddy R.” – would know who the recipients are of the alleged P457-million kickback. Concerned finance department officials are suggesting the strategy for the Ombudsman to unravel details of the anomaly. Private lawyer Argee Guevara, in a plunder suit against the two highest NFA men, gives numerous leads for investigators to track down Buddy R. The import, P4.1 billion for 205,700 tons of rice, was a government-to-government transaction between the Philippines and Vietnam. Thus, the finance officials say, there was no need for Buddy R. as consultant. The negotiators from both sides are supposed to be experts in grains agriculture, trading, and shipping. Yet in this deal a private businessman was hired as broker for the NFA with its counterpart Vietnam Southern Food Corp. (Vinafood-2). Buddy R.’s presence alone should ring alarm bells, the officials add while requesting anonymity. “Facilitators” in G2G deals serve as conduits for kickbacks, disguised as sales commissions, they explain. Guevara calls Buddy R. the “palusot-ator” who traveled with NFA men to Vietnam and Singapore. Guevara has accused NFA chairman (Agriculture Secretary) Proceso Alcala and administrator Orlan Calayag as masterminds. In the complaint, deputy administrators Dennis Guerrero and Ludovico Jarina are implicated in “cloak-and-dagger” trysts: • On Apr. 1, 2013, Calayag, Guerrero, and Buddy R. went to the Makati Shangri-la Hotel, where officials of Vinafood happened to be billeted. • Weeks later Guerrero and Buddy R. flew to Vietnam, without official clearances to travel on government time and expense. There they secretly met with Vinafood general director Truong Thanh Phong. • Guerrero and Buddy R. proceeded to Singapore, where they billeted themselves at the Hyatt Hotel. Phong and other Vinafood officials also flew to the island-state and checked in at the same hotel. • On May 8, 2013, Guerrero and Buddy R. again flew to Vietnam, there to be joined three days later by Jarina.

The Filipinos made their Vietnamese counterparts recognize the NFA as the sole authorized importer of rice in the Philippines. This was for them an important document, to skirt the rules of the World Trade Organization, to which both countries are signatories. The international body forbade governments, starting 2004, from monopolizing food trading. The Philippines twice was granted extensions of the NFA monopoly, which expired in June 2012. Guevara says the NFA’s G2G with Vietnam was a convenient cover for corruption. It would seem there was no hanky-panky between state officials, he says, but Buddy R.’s role shows otherwise. The NFA paid $459.75 per ton of the Vietnam rice at a time when the going rate was only $360$365 per ton freight-on-board. The accused officials claim to have incurred added costs for trucking and shipping. Guevara retorts that such items already are included in website price quotes. Besides, in real G2Gs between neighboring states, the bureaucrats transact on lower import rates and softer terms. In this case the higher rate was used, to insert the P457-million kickback, Guevara says. The finance officials lament that the government should have earned P2 billion in taxes from the P4.1-billion deal. This, had the NFA let private traders do the importing, for which they would have had to pay 50-percent duty. Guevara says the NFA brass also kept the true figures from Malacañang. This was why President Noynoy Aquino said in his State of the Nation last July that the government imported only 187,000 tons of rice. Yet there was an additional 18,700 tons – unauthorized. In a related development, the Federation of Philippine Industries has given the NBI evidence that alleged rice smuggler David Tan and businessman Davidson T. Bangayan are one and the same. Documents from a court case, in which a Singaporean firm sued Bangayan for fraudulent shipments to India, show that “David Tan” was his alias. FPI chairman Jesus Arranza gave the papers to the NBI, which last week hesitated to arrest Bangayan because of uncertain identity. Tan is said to have bribed Customs officials P6 billion in the past two years to accept the smuggled rice. Bangayan popped up at the office of Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to deny being Tan. In a subsequent television interview Bangayan disavowed any link to rice importing. Yet in the same event his lawyer strived to justify his recent shipment of rice that the Customs bureau has seized. Oddly Bangayan’s name does not appear in the records of the importing firm. Customs insiders claim that accusations against Tan are diversionary. Supposedly a cartel in Southern Tagalog-Bicol regions is using him as decoy while muscling into Central LuzonCagayan.

Rice traders, meanwhile, say there can be no smuggling because the commodity is too visible to slip into the piers. Importers purportedly are willing to pay the 50-percent tariff, but the Customs confiscates their cargo on the NFA’s insistence on its monopoly. *** Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM). Gotcha archives on Facebook:, or The STAR website E-mail:

PH expected to import rice anew to beef up stock By Ronnel W. Domingo Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:46 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014 The Philippines is expected to import more rice in 2014 than previously estimated as the government moves to beef up its buffer stocks. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which keeps tabs on the global market, has raised its projection on Philippines’ importation by 200,000 tons to 1.4 million tons. The United States is among the world’s top exporters of milled rice while the Philippines is one of the world’s top rice importers. The USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) said in its latest outlook report that the revised forecast was based on data from the US Agricultural Office in Manila, which indicates that Malacañang wants to increase its stockpile. The USDA-ERS, in a report issued in December, had also revised upward its projection for the Philippines’ importation by 100,000 tons. Back then, the revision was based on early estimates of losses caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” and government announcements regarding additional imports. Shipments of a 500,000-metric-ton purchase from Vietnam that was arranged following a bidding last December have started to arrive. The latest batch was a cargo of some 500,000 bags that landed last week at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales. Officials at the National Food Authority said full delivery of the 10-million-bag total—at 50 kilos each—is expected not later than February, to ensure that shipments would not distort prices when harvest comes in March and April. The NFA had explained that the purchase was needed because of the release of supplies for relief efforts following destructive typhoons as well as man-made crises like the siege in Zamboanga, which led to the depletion of its buffer stocks. In the days leading to the auction last month, officials said the stockpile had dwindled to just about 10 days’ worth of consumption.

The NFA is mandated to keep at least 15 days’ worth. Further, the increase in the Philippines’ forecast importation partly caused a similar revision in the projection for global trade volume this year. Total volume is now pegged at 40.2 million tons, which is 400,000 tons higher than the previous month’s forecast and 1.9 million tons more than the 2013 volume. On Friday, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reported that domestic palay output reached a new record of 18.44 million metric tons, up 2.3 percent from the 2012 level. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

What do Napoles and David Tan have in common? AS A MATTER OF FACT By Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am googleplus What do Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged ‘pork barrel’ scam mastermind and alleged rice smuggler David Bangayan also known as David Tan have in common? Both used dummy organizations in the conduct of their businesses and both are protected by ‘government officials (a.k.a. ‘political mafias’). The Napoles scandal, the pork barrel scam and PDAF issue have been clearly interrupted by the natural calamities that struck the nation last year. I’m sure the earthquake that hit Bohol, the siege in Zamboanga and Typhoon Yolanda came as a welcome respite for those involved in the crime. Will another typhoon bring these issues even deeper down into oblivion and become just like the other scams still yet to be resolved by the government? I also wonder if the Filipino people will allow this despicable act to be forgotten with the culprits getting off the hook and the ‘power of the purse’ still undefeated? According to a news report, the defense plans to present over 17 witnesses, compared to only one during the hearing for Napoles’ bail petition. The prosecution, meanwhile, has yet to determine its final number of witnesses, but may add more before the first trial on February 18. Both sides have yet to present their full list of witnesses. By the way this trial is only for the illegal detention case. Honestly, I really doubt that the Napoles ‘pork barrel’ issue will ever be addressed properly. First of all, you have way too many politicians entangled in this major mess who will ‘kill’ to protect themselves. This is such a tragedy for the Filipinos who always pray for a miracle to happen. Despite the adversities we have gone through which should actually be a form of spiritual cleansing for our people, our heartless politicians continue to squeeze out the juice from this country. Sanamagan! Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

For instance, you would think the people who run our public hospitals are all honest? Well, think again. They are also corrupt officials trying to make money out of the purchases of medicines and supplies, equipment and the projects of the hospital. No wonder our public hospitals except for a few are not properly maintained. There have been several instances where hospitals have had projects already finalized and when it was time for the down payment, the officers of the hospitals would say that the money for the projects was nowhere to be found. Where did the money go? In many municipalities, private groups and even non-government entities offer solutions to flood control, the garbage problem, energy crisis, agriculture, etc. The problem is that the mayors have a tendency to turn them down especially when such groups do not offer them a good share of the pie. The most common question is “what’s in it for me?” In Metro Manila alone there are rumors that in order to build high rise condominiums you will have to give several units to the mayor, the vice mayor and even other city officials who are involved in the deal. Susmariosep! Politics and personal interests come first before the people’s needs, before the country’s development. This is why the rehabilitation program in Tacloban cannot seem to get off the ground. Let’s see how the rehabilitation czar, Ping Lacson will solve this challenge. P-Noy has signed a supplemental budget of P14.6 billion for disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction programs. To date, international donors have pledged at least P23.7 billion to help the recovery efforts. Will Tacloban get their share of this? By the way, it is not only Tacloban and Samar that have been hit by the typhoon. I wonder how the other places are doing at this time. Cebu, Mindoro, Palawan and Panay Island have also been affected. I understand there are also international organizations helping out not only in the relief operations but also in the rehabilitation process in these areas. Our LGUs should take this opportunity to work and coordinate closely with these organizations to ensure a more sustainable and cost effective rehabilitation and reconstruction program for the people. If only our leaders work for the people and stop their greediness, then the Yolanda victims will surely be able to rebuild their lives again, long before another catastrophe happens. Our attitude should change. We should learn to do things in a better light and with a different mindset. We should evolve into a better and a more cultured race. So, going back to the Napoles issue, who is the brave one? Who will step up and fight for what is right? * * * On a lighter side, I am so happy for Rose “Osang” Fostanes, the Pinoy caregiver who won the XFactor challenge in Israel. I was actually surprise that the song, “My Way”, which we actually laugh about, brought her to victory.

It’s funny to note how this song has become a joke to Pinoys especially in karaoke bars. When friends get a hint that you are about to sing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra, they all chuckle and say don’t sing that song. Someone might shoot you. We seem to be so sick and tired of hearing the song in every corner and nook in town. We have even made it a national joke. But when Osang sang it, we felt her emotions and the energy she created. She surely brought so much hope and glory to our people and to the OFWs who deserve it. While her victory proved to the world how Filipinos are truly talented and admired for their musical prowess, it also cast a spotlight on Israel’s lowly paid foreign workers, including some 40,000 Filipinos. According to data from the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, most overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who arrive in Israel in search of work end up being employed as caregivers. While a large majority is concentrated in the big cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, a considerable number also work in the outlying areas of Beersheva, Netanya, Rehovot and Rishon Lezion. OFWs in different parts of the world suffer in many ways. Some are lucky, some are not. Human trafficking, abusive employers, lack of support system, discrimination, exposure to illegal activities are among the many problems affecting the plight of our OFWs. Yes, this is another issue. One of those problems our government (past and present) cannot resolve. In my opinion, it is a matter of will and they still ain’t got it. No siree!

NBI probing other big-time rice smugglers By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation is investigating other big-time rice smugglers in the country aside from alleged smuggling king Davidson Bangayan, NBI director Virgilio Mendez said yesterday. He said officials of the NBI-National Capital Region and the bureau’s anti-graft division will hold a meeting today to give their progress reports on the rice smuggling probe. “We will have a case briefing tomorrow,” Mendez told The STAR in a phone interview. “We will move forward in our investigation,” he added. Mendez said the NBI-NCR is looking into the alleged smuggling activities of Bangayan. The bureau’s anti-graft division, on the other hand, is in charge of the investigation on the Senate committee report on rice smuggling. The NBI chief said they would be requesting documents from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the National Food Authority (NFA) in an effort to expand their investigation on massive rice smuggling in the country. More evidence vs ‘David Tan’ needed The NBI needs more evidence to prove that Bangayan is the real rice smuggling king “David Tan,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima admitted yesterday.

“The NBI has evidence, but of course the challenge is how to prove it conclusively,” De Lima said. She said she has directed the bureau to gather more evidence – documentary and testimonial – against the alleged rice smuggling king. De Lima also ordered the probers to check the circumstances behind the issuance of NBI clearances to both Bangayan and Tan. “How come NBI clearances were issued to one Davidson Bangayan and one David Tan, who have the same address, by the way, when there is an anti-pilferage case?” she asked. The justice chief disclosed that she received information that Tan has connections in the NBI and had even served as a consultant in the bureau. “This is why I want to disabuse the minds of certain sectors that the NBI cooperated with that David Tan, who is said to be a big-time smuggler with cohorts from within certain agencies, including customs bureau and possibly the NFA. We have to prove them wrong,” she said. Last week, Bangayan surfaced at the NBI to clear his name only to be served an arrest warrant for an electricity pilferage case in Caloocan City. The 33-year-old businessman was released by the NBI because the arrest warrant issued by Caloocan Judge Lorenza Bordios-Paculdo stated that Tan “is not Davidson Bangayan.” But the NBI maintained that Bangayan and Tan are one and the same person. The Bureau of Immigration has placed Bangayan in its lookout bulletin. – With Edu Punay, Edith Regalado

Agri trade deficit narrows 60% in 9 mos By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The country’s agriculture trade deficit narrowed by 60.47 percent in the first nine months of 2013 as export revenues registered double-digit growth and import expenditure decreased. Data released by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) over the weekend showed that in the January to September 2013 period, the agricultural trade deficit fell to $964.47 million from $2.43 billion in the comparable period in 2012. Earnings from agricultural exports during the period reached $4.707 billion, up 28.31 percent from the revenues posted in the same period in 2012. Farm exports accounted for 11.75 percent of the country’s total export earnings for the period. Total expenditure for agricultural imports during the period fell 7.15 percent to $5.67 billion from $6.10 billion in 2012. Farm imports comprise 11.60 percent of the country’s total import expenditure in the first three quarters of 2013. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Trade of agricultural commodities with Japan and European Union registered surpluses of $602.75 million and $309.98 million respectively. Deficits were noted with other trading partners such as Australia, ASEAN, US and other foreign markets. Total earnings from the country’s top 10 agricultural exports grew 30.08 percent to $3.31 billion in the first nine months of 2013 from $2.44 billion in the same period in 2012. Coconut oil remained as the local farm industry’s top dollar-earner, bringing in revenues of $771.26 million albeit a slowdown by 0.86 percent from the same period in 2012. Export earnings for the following farm, commodities posted increases during the period: copra oil cake (174.30 percent), tobacco manufactured (77.21 percent), centrifugal sugar (74.28 percent), fresh banana (58.62 percent), tuna (48.60 percent), seaweeds and carrageenan (32.79 percent), and fertilizer manufactured (11percent), pineapple and pineapple products (4.88 percent). Total expenditure for the country’s top 10 agricultural imports dropped by 10.16 percent. Expenditure for wheat and meslin, the country’s largets import, fell by 11.83 percent. Imports of fertilizer manufactured, urea, coffee, rice and tobacco also fell.

Showing increases, however, were imports of milk and cream, soybean oil/cake meal, bovine meat, and tuna. The Department of Agriculture (DA) is looking for other farm products that could be exported. This ranges from meat, seafood, fruits that could be used for making seasonings and condiments, and grains. In 2013, the Philippines resumed the exportation of premium rice, albeit in small quantities to reintroduce Philippine rice to the world market. The DA is also looking into other opportunities for meat to maximize the country’s animaldisease-free status. The Philippines remains free from bird flu and foot-and-mouth disease in livestock which affected neighboring Asia countries such as China, Taiwan and Thailand.

P18-M rice processing centers up by Joseph T. Jubelag January 19, 2014 General Santos City — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has allocated some P18-million for the establishment of three rice processing centers in South Cotabato. South Cotabato Governor Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the three state-of-the-art rice processing centers (RPC), each costing P6 million, will be established in the towns of Banga and Surallah, and in the city of Koronadal. Fuentes said the RPC projects were committed this year by the DA to the provincial government in a bid to boost production of the local agriculture sector. DA officials led by Secretary Angel Alcala recently turned over a P32 million worth RPC to the local farmers’ cooperative in Barangay Ambalgan, Sto. Niño, South Cotabato. It was learned that a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was entered into between the DA-12, National Food Authority (NFA), local government unit of Sto. Niño, and Fitmus Farm Service Cooperative, where the signatories committed to support the operation of the RPC that will serve as the regional center in the processing, marketing, and purchasing of rice staples in Region 12. Fuentes said the establishment of the rice processing centers in South Cotabato, considered as the rice granary of Central Mindanao, will be of great help to the local rice farmers to boost their production. For her part, DA-12 Director Amalia Datukan said the DA will likewise allocate funds for capability-building training for the local farmers on how to effectively manage the RPCs. She said the DA is also set to rehabilitate the Topland River irrigation system in Koronadal City this year. “The DA is committed to help and strengthen the agriculture sector in Region 12,” Datukan said.

Duterte slams De Lima for failing to sue ‘David Tan’ By Germelina Lacorte Inquirer Mindanao 5:41 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. FILE PHOTO DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte scored Secretary Justice Leila De Lima for failing to build a case around suspected smuggling lord David Tan, which could have easily been done through sworn testimonies from Filipino businessmen who claimed to have known Tan as Davidson Bangayan. “They have the same address, the same company names, they even have the same lawyers and yet, they’re not the same?” Duterte asked during his Sunday television program Gikan sa masa, para sa masa, reacting to the reports that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) released David Bangayan early this week following the government failure to link him to the alleged smuggling lord David Tan. “Stop talking, and start working,” Duterte said addressing Justice Secretary De Lima, who earlier insisted that David Bangayan was a businessman from Davao. “What has the DOJ (Department of Justice) done so far to protect the interest of the national government?” Duterte asked. “The government is losing 1.3 trillion pesos in three years because of smuggling at wala kayong ginawa, mahiya naman kayo (and you’re not doing anything about it, you should be ashamed),” Duterte said.

Duterte said the Department of Justice (DOJ) could have built a case around Tan, instead of making statements prematurely. He said De Lima could have zeroed in on the testimonies of businessmen from the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), get a sworn testimony identifying David Bangayan as the same person as David Tan, as what they have been claiming, and that would have served as sufficient ground for arrest. “But what have you done?” he asked, addressing De Lima. “You failed to build a case because all you wanted was publicity, kung ganun kayo kahina (if you’re that slow)…,” Duterte said, but did not continue. De Lima specialized in election-related cases before being appointed to government posts. She did not have a lot of prosecution cases in her track record. “Why, you just opened your mouth for publicity, I’m telling you to stop talking and start working, you walk your talk and talk your walk,” Duterte said. Bangayan, who appeared before the NBI to clear his name, denied being the alleged rice smuggling lord David Tan. He was arrested for the case of pilferage filed against him by a Singapore businessman in a Calamba court but the NBI had to release him because they failed to build a case. “It doesn’t matter what or how many names he is using,” Duterte said. “What’s important is you establish the person’s identity, his persona, and build a case around him,” he said. He said the corporations and companies were just being used as dummies in the smuggling activities and the national government agencies like the DOJ and the NBI must crack down into the personas behind them. Saying that Davidson Bangayan has been confirmed to have come from Tuguegarao in Luzon, and not from Davao, as De Lima had categorically insisted, Duterte said he saw malice in the De Lima’s statement describing the smuggling lord as a Davao City resident. “I see malice in Secretary De Lima’s statement,” the mayor said. He also said even the petitioner Joseph Ngo in Davao should be made to appear in court to confirm his existence. . He also vowed to keep the local government on the alert against smuggling in Davao, saying that the National Food Authority (NFA) has been authorized to issue import permits, until the repeal of the Agriculture Tariffication Act or Republic Act 1878. :

Davidson Bangayan set to file libel complaint vs FPI chair By Jerry E. Esplanada Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:12 am | Monday, January 20th, 2014

Davidson Bangayan. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Controversial businessman Davidson Bangayan is set to file libel charges this week against Jesus Arranza, chair of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), which groups some 800 business companies in the country. Bangayan, who described himself as a “scrap metal trader, not the David Tan being referred to in the news reports” as the Goliath of rice smuggling in the country, told the Inquirer on Saturday he would “definitely sue (the FPI head) for libel.” The 33-year-old Bangayan assailed what he called an “orchestrated hatchet job” against him and dismissed allegations made by Arranza as “falsehoods.” “They are also unfounded, speculative and preposterous,” said Bangayan. Sought for comment, Arranza said, “It’s (Bangayan’s) right to sue me for libel but it’s also my right to defend myself. In fact, several lawyers have already volunteered their legal services.” He warned that the libel charges would not stop him from exposing further David Tan’s involvement in illegal trading activities. The FPI chair had told reporters David Tan was the “alias of a certain Davidson Tan Bangayan, a Chinese-Filipino from Davao City.” Arranza described Bangayan as a “former scrap metal trader before going into rice smuggling.” : Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

P4-B public infra grant OK’d for typhoon areas By Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am

TANAUAN, Leyte , Philippines – President Aquino has approved the P4-billion grant for the reconstruction of public infrastructure destroyed by Super Typhoon Yolanda here. Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said the President has approved the release of funds for the reconstruction of public markets, civic centers and municipal halls devastated by the typhoon. Roxas told local government officials and residents here yesterday that the funds for the 171 local facilities is an indication of the commitment of the President to help the local government units (LGUs) in Yolanda-ravaged areas to get back on their feet. The funds are in the form of a grant, not a loan, to allow the LGUs to spend their money on other pressing needs, he said. “Public markets, civic centers and municipal halls are the centers of activities of the people for their livelihood, so we want to immediately reconstruct them,” Roxas said. “The LGUs can use their money for other pressing needs while the reconstruction of public markets, civic centers and municipal halls will be shouldered by the national government,” he added. Roxas led local officials with Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Soliman and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chairman Eduardo del Rosario in visiting some of the areas destroyed by Yolanda. The first stop was the Tanauan municipal hall where Mayor Erwin Cinco briefed them on the progress of the rehabilitation effort in the town.

Roxas said the P4 billion for local governments was part of the P40-billion rehabilitation cost as estimated by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for the entire region. Roxas said the public infrastructure to be rebuilt will now be stronger to ensure that they will withstand strong winds and storm surges. A group called Kusog Tacloban (Strong Tacloban) has been formed to monitor the government’s rehabilitation and rebuilding projects in the region. The group was formed following an online petition calling for the accountability of local and foreign donations. Blue and white tarpaulins Roxas and Soliman flew to Tacloban from Manila early yesterday and boarded military helicopters for an aerial survey of Tacloban, Palo and Tanauan. Roxas and Soliman noted the thousands of blue and white tarpaulins dotting the landscape. “We saw the need for permanent shelters (for the evacuees). What we have seen was like polka dots of blue and white tarpaulin. We in the national government are doing everything we can to address their concerns,” he said. For her part, Soliman said the DSWD has enough supply of food for the victims of Yolanda until March. “We have enough food for them until March after which we will assess who among the victims need more assistance and who have their own means of livelihood,” she added. A job fair organized by various recruitment agencies opened in Tacloban to offer overseas employment for the victims displaced by Yolanda. Officials of the May Bukas Foundation said they chose to launch the job fair in Leyte and other provinces in Eastern Visayas to help the victims gain decent and permanent employment to help them rebuild their lives. The Department of Agriculture, on the other hand, distributed rice seeds to allow the crop to be harvested by March. Soliman added they also started distributing relief goods to some 280,000 families that would last for two weeks. She said the increase in the amount of relief goods would allow residents to use their time in planting vegetables or other activities for their livelihood instead of lining up waiting for relief goods.

“About 190,000 food packs have been sent out since the middle of December… so they can use their time in other activities like the cash for work program of DOLE, DA, UN agencies, and NGOs,” she added. During their visit at the Tanauan public market, Soliman and Roxas had a chat with Mary Joy, a vendor of native woven mats, and told her that the DSWD would buy her mats to distribute to the typhoon victims. Soliman said the DSWD has been giving the victims plastic mats. Roxas and Soliman also went to the town of Palo to inspect the conditions of the evacuees. Soliman promised the evacuees to work for their immediate transfer to bigger and more comfortable structures. A mother told Soliman and Roxas that their place is not enough for their family since they have eight children. The peace and order situation in Leyte was much better, according to a police official here. “Peace and order situation here has stabilized and only petty crimes and drunken fights were reported to the police. No major crime incidents involving Yolanda victims, just petty crimes. Those crimes targeting Yolanda victims are no more,” said Chief Superintendent Henry Losanes, Eastern Visayas police director. Losanes said the concern of the local police now is the reconstruction of the damaged police headquarters in the region. “Some police stations now have roofs and the money came from our savings, help from some NGOs and the (Philippine National Police) headquarters. We are trying to make do with what is available,” Losanes said. According to Losanes, they are helping their colleagues who lost their homes to Yolanda. “I have 1,140 policemen whose houses were destroyed, while 1,800 personnel had their houses damaged by Yolanda. We are helping them,” he said. He said 60 other policemen lost their loved ones in the typhoon. “Another officer, the deputy chief of police in Biliran, lost his wife and two children; we are helping them,” Losanes said. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Jaime Laude‐b‐public‐infra‐grant‐okd‐typhoon‐areas    

‘Agaton’ damage reaches over P300M By Frances Mangosing 9:06 am | Monday, January 20th, 2014

AFP FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines — Damages to property caused by tropical depression “Agaton” in Mindanao have reached over P300 million, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said on Monday. The total cost of damage in Northern Mindanao, Davao and Carage is now at P328,814,336,92 with P125,383,750.00 for infrastructure and P203,430,586.92 for agriculture. “Agaton” has claimed at least 40 lives as it triggered floods and landslides. The Davao region, which was steel reeling from the effects of typhoon “Pablo” in 2012, was not spared from the heavy rains. Nearly 120,000 persons have been moved to shelters and 723,000 were affected in parts of Mindanao. Six persons were reported missing. A total of 59 roads and 24 bridges remained impassable, NDRRMC said. Classes and government work were called off on Monday in parts of Mindanao due to “Agaton,” the first tropical cyclone for the year. The government had already provided nearly P60 million worth of assistance to the storm victims. Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Senate to resume probe on power rate hike By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As Congress resumes session today, the Senate will have its hands full as it resumes its inquiry into the controversial power rate hike by the Manila Electric Co (Meralco) and tackles proposals to amend the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), among other issues. Senators are also expected to tackle the issue of post-disaster management procedures and the rice smuggling activities in the country. Highlighting the Senate session today would be the privilege speech of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. where he is expected to break his silence regarding the pork barrel controversy. Revilla was among the three lawmakers, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, implicated in the pork barrel scam.Faced with a low trust rating in recent surveys, Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed to steer the Senate in a better direction that would restore the public’s trust in the institution marred with controversy over alleged pork barrel misuse. Drilon batted for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to encourage active participation in the governance process; and reforms to the current Sandiganbayan Law. Sen. Cynthia Villar would convene on Wednesday the Senate committee on agriculture and food to resume the inquiry over reported rampant rice smuggling in the country. Businessman Davidson Bangayan,who has been identified as being alleged smuggling king David Tan but who has denied involvement in rice smuggling activities, has been invited to shed light on the issue. Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, scheduled the next hearing on power rate issues on Thursday while the members of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 would meet on the same day.‐resume‐probe‐power‐rate‐hike

No funds for Tacloban jobs–UN report By Shiena M. Barrameda Inquirer Southern Luzon 5:11 am | Monday, January 20th, 2014

Tacloban residents, like this family in San Jose district, celebrate Christmas amid the rubble of their homes destroyed by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Efforts to provide livelihood to survivors of Yolanda are getting barely any funds in the ongoing rehabilitation program, particularly in Eastern Visayas, according to a report submitted to a United Nations agency. RICHARD A. REYES NAGA CITY, Philippines—Efforts to provide livelihood to survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda are getting barely any funds in the ongoing rehabilitation program for areas devastated by the storm, particularly in Eastern Visayas, according to a report submitted to a United Nations agency. The report, submitted to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said UN partners noted that only a few livelihood projects were ongoing, benefiting only 5,000 out of 5.9 million workers who lost their sources of income as a result of Yolanda. The livelihood cluster of the UN, according to the report, was targeting 400,000 of these people in its livelihood programs. Most livelihood projects meant to help people get back on their feet, not through doles but through jobs, had received no funding as of Jan. 14, or more than three months after Yolanda struck last Nov. 8, said the report released by UN Coordinator to the Philippines Gemma Cortes on Wednesday. It said only 20 percent of livelihood projects monitored by UN partners had been completed. Aside from failing to give people jobs, the report said rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda-stricken areas were also focused on a shelter program that largely ignores individual efforts to rebuild homes, whether in their original sites or in places away from government-designated no-build zones.

Shelter rehabilitation projects particularly in Eastern Visayas, said the report, were “seriously and disproportionally underfunded.� This resulted in survivors languishing in schools that double as evacuation sites, said the report. In Tacloban City alone, it said, at least 1,020 families were still living in schools. UN partners, said the report, linked poor sanitation and cases of theft of school materials to the continued stay of survivors in schools. The 1,020 families in Tacloban still sheltered in schools were just a fragment of at least 4.1 million families who had lost homes in areas hit by Yolanda, said the report. Low funding It said international organizations, working closely with the Philippine government, blamed low funding for efforts to rebuild homes and limited options to transfer devastated communities to safer locations for the continued displacement of thousands of families. It quoted a report from the UN shelter cluster as saying that only 12 of 33 projects to provide shelters for storm survivors have so far received funding. The report said at least 1.1 million houses had been destroyed by Yolanda in Western and Eastern Visayas. It said the UN shelter cluster had so far provided basic emergency shelter materials to 384,329 households in the two regions while support for individual efforts to rebuild or repair homes would be given to 60,508 households. Quoting the UN Financial Tracking Service, the report said at least $609 million had been poured in for rehabilitation efforts. Another $328 million had been given to the Strategic Response Plan (SRP) aligned with the Philippine government’s Recovery Assistance on Yolanda Plan launched last Dec. 18, the report said. Gaps It said at least 80 international entities, including UN member states, contributed to the SRP. It noted gaps and constraints in shelter and livelihood programs, however. One of these was the failure to use local resources, like fallen coconut trees that could be processed into lumber, according to the report. It also said there was a lack of support for local governments to resume basic government services and restore facilities. This prevented progress, the report said. Many towns in western Leyte, the report said, had not received help to set up emergency shelters, like tents. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Agaton slows down, to linger for 3 to 4 days – Pagasa 6:20 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014

MTSAT ENHANCED-IR Satellite Image 5:32 p.m., 19 January 2014 MANILA, Philippines – Tropical Depression Agaton has slowed down but maintained its strength as it barreled further southwest of Mindanao, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said Sunday. In its 5 p.m. weather bulletin, Pagasa said “Agaton” was plotted at 215 kilometers southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur or at 220 kilometers east of Davao City at 4 p.m. on Sunday. Agaton maintained its strength at 55 kilometers per hour near the center but slowed down at five kilometers per hour as it moved southwest, the bulletin read. In explaining why Agaton remained almost stationary, Pagasa forecaster Gener Quitlong told a radio station that this was due to two high pressure areas in the east and the west. “Because of the two high pressure areas, Agaton can hardly move and would linger over Mindanao for three to four days. We hope that when it makes landfall in Davao it would break up,” he said. Agaton is expected to make landfall in Davao City Monday afternoon, Pagasa said. By Tuesday afternoon, Agaton is set to be 60 kilometers southeast of General Santos City, it added. The tropical depression is expected be out of the Philippine Area of Responsibility or at 205 kilometers southwest of General Santos City Wednesday afternoon, the bulletin read. Signal No. 1 is raised over Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Compostela Valley, Pagasa said. A state of calamity has been declared over affected areas where the total number of casualties has reached at least 41.

House to start plenary debates on antipolitical dynasty bill By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives is expected to start plenary debates on the proposed Anti-Political Dynasty Bill anytime soon as the measure is scheduled to be reported out to the floor when Congress resumes session today.House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales Jr. said the controversial measure, as well as the committee report on ladderized education, would be presented to lawmakers in plenary. “Actually, there are many committee reports (bills approved by House committees) but they are either still being circulated for signature or in the appropriations committee for funding,” Gonzales said in a telephone interview in response to criticisms that both the Senate and the House passed very few laws in 2013.For his part, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday the House would focus on passing laws and exercising their oversight functions despite the abolition of the lawmakers’ pork barrel funds.He said the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund would not diminish their determination and commitment to perform their duties. “The House will continue to function without pork barrel,” Belmonte said. Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga and Gonzales said the chamber would be more scrutinizing of the performance of agencies in the Executive branch. “Lawmakers would be more assertive of their power of the purse by pursuing more detailed and transparent hearings on the budget, which we conduct annually,” Barzaga said. The House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms unanimously approved last year the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill, which seeks to ban the relatives of an incumbent official to the second degree of affinity from running in the same election.The measure, which is a consolidation of three bills, also bans overlap of relatives’ terms in office and allows the Commission on Elections to hold a raffle to decide who in the clan will be permitted to run in the same election in case none of the candidates in the same family agrees to withdraw.‐start‐plenary‐debates‐anti‐political‐ dynasty‐bill

GOCCs urged: Settle bonus issue with COA By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - A Malacañang-attached body has advised some 30 government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) which have been issued notices of disallowance to settle their problems with the Commission on Audit (COA). Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) Chairman Cesar Villanueva particularly directed the state-run Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) to resolve their issues with COA. “We had directed the DBP governing board to resolve the matter with COA,” Villanueva said, referring to the report that the financial institution granted P216.8 million in bonuses in 2012 in violation of GCG’s formula provided for in Memorandum Circular 2012-11. As it turned out, the state-owned bank obtained “approval from the Office of the President” on the compensation framework that provided for a performance-based incentive system. “The records will show that the GCG had in fact confirmed the grant,” Villanueva said. As for Pag-IBIG, COA directed the agency to return the P37.6 million that it paid to its employees who availed themselves of the early retirement incentive plan. Pag-IBIG maintained the early retirement incentive plan was aboveboard. “Pag-IBIG’s management has been instructed to sort out and resolve the matter with COA,” Villanueva said. “Although the ERIP (early retirement incentive package) was granted prior to the constitution of GCG, we do confirm that it may constitute a valid separation package for officers and employees who are affected by a reorganization undertaken by a government policy,” he said. Among the other GOCCs that were also told to thresh things out with COA were the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), and the Veterans Foundation of the Philippines (VFP). No specific amounts have been mentioned in the Sept. 2013 COA report. It was disclosed that none of these agencies have received their notice of disallowances, contrary to what has been reported in media. “The GCG has directed their governing boards to clarify the matter with COA,” Villanueva said.

Villanueva also highlighted the fact that “not a single final notice of disallowance” has been covered in the COA report where it had an accumulated P2.3 billion in government funds that it wanted returned to national coffers. “The GCG required all GOCCs in their 2013 Performance Agreements to submit concrete and time-bound action plans for addressing audit observations from COA in order that fitness of the members of the governing boards may already be evaluated,” he said. Villanueva added that unauthorized grant of salaries, allowances, bonuses and benefits of these GOCCs occurred mostly in the nine-year administration (2001-2010) of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.‐urged‐settle‐bonus‐issue‐coa                                    

National day of prayer Monday By Michael Lim Ubac Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:50 am | Sunday, January 19th, 2014

President Benigno Aquino III. FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The nation takes a pause from its daily grind on Monday to pray. Malacañang exhorted Filipinos of all faiths and persuasions to observe simultaneously at 5 p.m. on Monday a national day of prayer. From Malacañang, President Benigno Aquino III, along with religious leaders, will lead an interfaith gathering with the theme, “One Nation in Prayer (Isang Bansa, Isang Panalangin).” The interfaith prayer meeting gives the nation a moment to take stock of disasters that, according to the President himself, tested the patience of millions of Filipinos but failed to break the Filipino spirit. The national day of prayer gives everyone a chance not only “to remember the lives lost to the tragic incidents of 2013,” but more importantly, “to thank the Almighty for the nation’s strength and resilience, and to seek divine guidance as the country moves forward to rebuild the affected communities,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. To join the President in prayer are representatives of the affected communities of the series of disasters in 2013: Zamboanga standoff, Bohol earthquake and Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” Representatives of various faiths will also offer prayers: Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of the Catholic Church, Police Superintendent Imam Ebra Moxsir of the Imam Council of the Philippines, Commissioner Zenaida Pawid of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Isaias Samson of Iglesia ni Cristo and Bishop Jonel Milan of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.

Also invited to join the prayer at the Malacañang Palace grounds are leaders and members of Congress, government officials and representatives of civil society and various faith groups, said Coloma. According to Palace officials, the prayer gathering is a rare occasion for Filipinos to pray as one nation, thanking God for the resiliency given to survivors of manmade and natural calamities, and the extraordinary response of the world that alleviated the sufferings of the survivors. The event, which will last for 30 to 45 minutes, will be telecast live by TV and radio stations across the country. Singer-composer Ryan Cayabyab and his group will perform musical numbers in between prayers. “We thank the members of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas for their coverage of this event that will enable more Filipinos to participate and join ‘One Nation in Prayer,’” said Coloma. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                          

Oil firms may cut diesel prices By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Oil companies may cut prices of diesel this week albeit by a minimal P0.10 to P0.20 per liter, tracking movements in the global crude market. In an advisory last week, PTT Philippines, an independent oil player and the local subsidiary of Thailand’s biggest oil firm, said fuel prices in the international market remain weak on the back of excessive supply. “But peso depreciation against the dollar following the release of strong economic data from the United States, particularly its retail industry, partially offsets the effect of falling fuel prices,” PTT said. Should oil firms push through with the price cut, it would mark the third consecutive week of price cuts. However, PTT said there would be no movement in gasoline prices, according to the global crude market. Last Monday, oil companies implemented the following downward adjustments: P0.85 per liter for gasoline, P1.10 per liter for kerosene and P0.90 per liter for diesel. According to the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Jan. 13 oil monitoring report, big increases in the US gasoline and distillate inventories have raised expectations of a supply glut. “Expectation of more oil from Libya, where output is back up to 546,000 barrels a day from 250,000 barrels a day. Libya normally produces nearly 1.5 million barrels a day,” the DOE said. The report added that in Asia, the gas, oil and diesel markets were steady amid pockets of demand from Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The report said although there is excess supply in the world market at present, it is expected to tighten next month. “Overall demand in Asia-Pacific was still described as ‘weak’ but supply is expected to tighten next month with some scheduled refinery turnarounds,” the DOE said.‐firms‐may‐cut‐diesel‐prices    

DepEd exec cool to planned shift of school opening By Philippine Daily Inquirer Kristine Felisse Mangunay 7:49 am | Sunday, January 19th, 2014

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—A top official of the Department of Education on Saturday expressed reservations over the proposed shift in the opening of classes from June to September, saying, among others, that the implementation of the K to 12 program has in a way already made the country at par with the calendars of the Association of Southeast Asian nations and those of other non-Asean countries. “One of the things being talked about on the school calendar is correspondence. We have already caught up (with those other countries through) K to 12,” Education Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said in a radio interview. He said that before K to 12, observers would note the “lack of years” a student in the country would need to invest in studying to finish high school. Movement Under K to 12, he said: “(Finishing) high school for example here is equivalent to finishing high school in (those other countries).” He added that what a kindergarten student learned here now was equal to what a kindergarten student in those other countries learned.

Although he acknowledged that changing the academic calendar in college would facilitate the “movement” of university students from the Philippines to Asean countries, Umali said he did not see this as a valid point to be raised by those who want to forward the change in the academic calendar in basic education “so far.” Integration “Is that the same issue that we will face once we have Asean integration—the movement of basic education students to other countries? So far, we don’t see that,” he said. He noted that in the first place, school calendars in the Asean region are already varied, with only “two to three” countries starting their basic education classes in August or September. In Malaysia, for example, he said basic education classes start in January or February, Thailand in May, and Indonesia in July. “So they’re not almost all the same,” he said. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                        

Public warned vs ‘fat burner’ FDA: benefits of slimming underwear not yet proven  By Tina G. Santos  Philippine Daily Inquirer   3:14 am | Monday, January 20th, 2014  

Beware of slimming underwear products that claim to detoxify the body and burn fat. Kenneth Hartigan Go, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acting director general, recently warned consumers against buying Onami slimming underwear that are advertised in print and online. Based on ads, these products reportedly detoxify and burn fat, strengthen the immune system, boost metabolism, increase mental alertness, reduce fatigue and stress, reduce aches and pains and prevent body odors. Go, however, said there were no clinical or scientific studies to back the therapeutic claims, adding that the slimming underwear was not registered with the FDA. The FDA regulates all devices that have therapeutic or health claims. This means that manufacturers or distributors of such products need to apply for a License to Operate as a manufacturer or distributor with the government agency. “These products need to be registered with the FDA to ensure that they meet safety, efficacy and quality standards,” Go said. “Only health products that meet the FDA standards are issued the Certificate of Product Registration. Only health products that are FDA-registered may be offered for sale or use and advertised, among other promotional and marketing activities,” he added. Go instructed manufacturers and distributors of Onami products to remove these from the market as he also asked mall owners and outlets not to sell these in their establishments. Food and drug regulation officers in the field were also directed to seize the slimming underwear and investigate the manufacturer or distributor. According to the FDA official, “peddlers and advertisers claim that the ‘black tourmaline’ embedded in the underwear ‘generates a weak electric current when heated or [when the right amount of] pressure is applied.’” “They also claim that tourmaline produces ‘far infrared rays’ and ‘converts moisture in the air to negative ions,’” he said, adding that the semiprecious gemstone was being advertised as being capable of delivering several health benefits although there were no studies to back these up. Read more:‐warned‐vs‐fat‐burner#ixzz2quDESVpX   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

12 rare baby crocodiles freed in Isabela lake Philippine Daily Inquirer 9:38 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014 SAN MARIANO,Philippines—Seven-year-old Josh Geronimo held a baby Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) here on Saturday and exclaimed, “Oh, it smells good.” Geronimo, a Canadian citizen, said the crocodile did not emit any foul odor or reeked of fishy smell but he complained about the reptile’s scaly body, which he described as spiny. Geronimo was among the guests who witnessed the release of 12 baby Philippine crocodiles into the Dunoy Lake in Barangay (village) Dibuluan in this town in Isabela province on Saturday. Staff members of Mabuwaya Foundation, students from Isabela State University and Leiden University in The Netherlands, and representatives of Zoos Victoria in Australia also joined the event. Mabuwaya Foundation, a conservation organization based in Isabela, was established by Isabela State University and Leiden University to lead Philippine crocodile conservation. Dominic Rodriguez, Mabuwaya Foundation conservation manager, said the initiative to release 12 baby Philippine crocodiles, which measure a foot to a foot-and-a-half long each, would help the endemic species grow in their natural habitat. Merlijn Van Weerd, Mabuwaya Foundation executive director, said the crocodiles were born in the wild in San Mariano but had been raised under the care of the foundation’s trained staff members to increase the chances of their survival. “Now, two years after they were born, they are large enough to withstand the dangers that threaten them, such as predators,” Van Weerd said. In a statement, the foundation said the reptiles’ release would help in the recovery of the wild Philippine crocodile population in San Mariano “and will further increase the importance of [this town] as a hot spot of threatened endemic wildlife.” Research by Mabuwaya Foundation said San Mariano is among the areas with the highest diversity of endemic species in the Philippines. It said the Philippine crocodile is the rarest crocodile species in the world, with its wild population estimated at less than 250 adults. The foundation said the population of this critically endangered species has been limited to southwestern Mindanao and northern Luzon. It is a species different from the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) that is also seen in the Philippines. Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon

Palace to watch Senate rice probe by Genalyn Kabiling January 19, 2014 Malacañang said Sunday it is eager to monitor the upcoming Senate inquiry on the alleged rampant rice smuggling to help boost government efforts against the illegal activity. Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Senate probe will help shed light into the smuggling of rice supposedly perpetrated by a certain David Tan. “Congressional hearings are conducted to help lawmakers craft legislations or laws to strengthen the implementation of the right polices on various issues of national importance,” Coloma said in Filipino during an interview with dzRB. “We hope the hearing would contribute immensely in strengthening the management system and preventing anomalies,” he added. On Wednesday, the Senate committee on agriculture will launch an inquiry into the alleged rampant rice smuggling. Invited to the Senate inquiry are businessman David Bangayan and two other individuals implicated in the smuggling of rice. Bangayan recently appeared before the National Bureau of Investigation to deny allegations he was the David Tan, the alleged mastermind of rice smuggling in the country. While the Senate conducts its own probe, Coloma said law enforcement agencies will sustain the investigation into rice smuggling to bring the culprits to justice. “Since the NBI and the DOJ are already probing the matter, the Senate hearing can help provide additional information to the investigators of the Executive branch,” he added. Coloma also maintained that they respect the independence of the Senate in holding its own inquiry. “We don’t want to preempt or meddle with the responsibilities of our lawmakers,” he said.‐to‐watch‐senate‐rice‐probe/        

Manila Water recycles (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 19, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Manila Water recently spearheaded a company-wide recycling activity dubbed “Junk for Joy Level Up” among employees as part of its overall effort to help preserve the environment. Manila Water operations group director Geodino Carpio said the recycling project promotes the three “Rs” – reduce, reuse and recycle – to protect natural resources and generate funds that would benefit programs of the Manila Water Foundation. “Junk for Joy Level Up” is an environmental effort among employees of Manila Water in which recyclable materials and electronic wastes were collected and given to GAWAD Cooperative and HMR Envirocycle as the company’s select beneficiaries. “This is our second year of our “Junk for Joy” campaign in Manila Water where we collected 12,000 kilograms of recyclables equivalent to P58,000. Our efforts this year surpassed our last year’s recyclables with a total of 8,000 kilograms equivalent to P33, 000,” Carpio added. Through this activity, Manila Water was able to save 162 mature trees from being cut as the company has collected a total of 9,530 kilos of paper. Aside from this, the company also reduced 41 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted and saved 26,500 liters of gasoline through collection of 290 million British thermal unit (MBTU) of energy. Manila Water has also upgraded its recycling campaign with the inclusion of electronic wastes (e-wastes) wherein a total of 666 kilograms of electronic wastes such as batteries, old cartridges among others, were collected by HMR Envirocycle for proper handling. HMR Envirocycle is a DENR-accredited hauler and treater of e-wastes. Carpio further explained that Manila Water included e-wastes since they contain hazardous wastes which pose hazards to health and environment when improperly disposed.


Farmers calm despite ‘frost phenomenon’ by Zaldy Comanda January 19, 2014 La Trinidad, Benguet — The provincial agriculturist advised traders as well as the public that frost, particularly in vegetable farms, is not a threat and not even a cause for panic as it affects only a very small portion. Provincial Agriculturist Lolita Bentres said frost, locally called “andap” in the hinterlands, has long existed and a common phenomenon during the colder season but affecting only very limited areas which farmers have learned how to manage.

FROST-FREE VEGETABLES – In this file photo, a farmer delivers frost-free vegetables harvested from Km 102 in Sinto Bauko in Mountain province to Benguet capital of La Trinidad trading post. Benguet Provincial Agriculturist Lolita Bentres said frost, locally called ‘andap’ in the hinterlands, has long existed and a common phenomenon during the colder season but affecting only very limited areas which farmers have learned how to manage. (Toots Soberano) “Since the start of the year, the temperature dropped and some parcels of vegetable farms in Atok, Kibungan, Kabayan and Mankayan in Benguet are affected by frost bite, but farmers have learned how to manage their farms,” according to Bentres. Of the total production area in the province, less than half a hectare was reported to have been affected. Farmers are wise in securing their crops, Bentres said. They program their production and know the timing of harvesting such that it does not fall during the colder seasons. Those left in the affected farms are the remnants of the major crops earlier harvested, she added.

The Department of Agriculture, headed Regional Director Marilyn Sta. Catalina, recently visited and conducted a dialogue with the farmers affected by the phenomenon. The visit included the delivery of assistance to the farmers in the form of 10 units of power sprayers; 20 rolls of rubber hose; 50 pieces of plastic drums; and 10 rolls of plastic sheets to be used in making rain-shelters. The DA has so far installed a P2.4-million water impounding facility, a greenhouse and several units of power sprayers in Atok, usually the most affected area due to the high elevation. During the meeting, farmers told Sta. Catalina that they are planning to adjust the planting calendar of crops to circumvent annual frost incidence, that occurs during the first quarter of the year. Recently, Governor Nestor Fongwan announced to the public that the supply of vegetables from the different municipalities in the province is more than enough to meet the needs of the consumers despite the reported frost bite in some areas. “The annual phenomenon does not affect the vegetable industry of the region because farmers already know what to do to abate its effect (on) the vegetable plants,” Fongwan explained. Frost bite happens when the temperature drops. The early morning dew that develops and are on the plants freezes due to the cold temperature. These “ice” when struck with the sun ray causes damage on the vegetables. Fongwan said during the vegetative state of the plants, farmers watch the temperature and readies their sprinklers and irrigation system to melt the frost that develops on the vegetables. The temperature of nine degree Celsius was recorded on January 2 at the municipality of Atok, Benguet, an area annually affected by frost, particularly the vegetable plantation sites in Barangay Paoay, at the top of the mountain. Fongwan reported there were cabbage and potato plants affected by frost in the municipalities of Mankayan, Buguias, Kibungan and plantation at the foot of Mt. Pulag in Kabayan.‐calm‐despite‐frost‐phenomenon/        

Aeta group tapped to revive Tarlac forest By Ric Sapnu (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga , Philippines – A group of Aetas will reforest an additional 100 hectares of forestland in Tarlac in line with the government’s National Greening Program (NGP). The New San Martin Multi-Purpose Cooperative has been awarded with another contract to reforest 100 hectares of land in the villages of Gayaman and Anupol in Bamban, said Laurino Macadangdang, chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Tarlac City. Macadangdang said the cooperative, headed by Oscar Dizon, has been a partner of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the last 10 years in reviving at least 5,000 hectares of denuded forest at the border of Tarlac and Pampanga. He said the group has been working the mountains of Bamban in Tarlac, and Sapang Bato, and in areas near the Clark Freeport in Pampanga. Among the trees they planted were the narra, gemelina, molave, tuai, mahogany, kupang, kamagong, and eucalyptus. The group also planted cacao, coffee, bamboo, and mango trees, which they harvest and sell for their livelihood, he said. Nation ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Dizon said his group has done so much that they lost count of the number of trees they have planted. Raymart Dizon, one of the planters, said he gets P2,000 monthly for planting and maintenance work. “The good thing with this project is we get paid for planting the trees, and its produce also benefit us,” he said.‐group‐tapped‐revive‐tarlac‐forest        

Gov’t set to bid out stake in UCPB Bank to boost capitalization by selling sequestered shares  By Doris C. Dumlao  Philippine Daily Inquirer   8:55 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014    

Screen grab from The government is preparing to auction off its controlling stake in United Coconut Planters Bank to allow the bank to structure its recapitalization program and chart its future growth. UCPB chair Menardo Jimenez confirmed that the bank had mandated Standard Chartered to look at the feasibility of privatizing government-sequestered shares in UCPB. Once ready for the auction, Standard Chartered will then draw up the term sheet to invite potential strategic investors. “We have mandated to dispose (the sequestered shares) under a bidding process. Standard Chartered is now doing the study,” Jimenez told the Inquirer on the sidelines of the annual reception for the banking community hosted by Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. Friday night. Asked if the bidding would be held within the year, Jimenez said this would depend on “the result of the findings of Standard Chartered.” “We want it,” Jimenez said, referring to the sale. He said UCPB was like an orphan. “Mahirap walang tatay at nanay (It’s difficult not to have a father and mother),” he explained.

UCPB last year obtained the approval of shareholders to beef up its authorized capital to P40 billion. This will give the bank the leeway to double its capital in line with the Basel 3 capital adequacy ratio framework implemented this year. Based on its financial statement, UCPB’s stockholders equity stood at P20.4 billion as of June 2013. With the increase in capital, which will be incorporated in the prospective bidding guidelines, the new investor will have to put up the necessary amount, Jimenez said. Asked how much stake in UCPB will be privatized, Jimenez said it would be the entire government’s stake—currently held by the Presidential Commission on Good Government. “We will bid out as soon as everything is in order,” he said. The Supreme Court ruled with finality last year that the government owns the shares claimed by businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. in UCPB and that these should be used for the benefit of coconut farmers. According to industry sources, several banks are already looking at UCPB ahead of the prospective privatization through a public bidding. A top banker who used to be employed by UCPB said his new bank would be interested in UCPB because “it has a very good franchise, good deposit base and good customer service feature.” But a key hurdle to the privatization of sequestered shares would be pricing, another banker said. Government financial institutions like the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., which infused additional liquidity to UCPB several years ago, do not have the flexibility to book losses under the auditing rules for state-run corporations. As a result, the banker said, the bank shares may be priced expensively. UCPB’s recapitalization program is backed by the Department of Finance, the Bureau of Treasury, the PDIC, and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). The bank said the recapitalization program would ensure the bank’s longer term competitiveness, viability and growth; allow UCPB’s compliance with BSP regulatory requirements defined under the Basel 3 framework; and allow the bank to retire some of its government obligations. Basel 3 capital adequacy ratio framework introduces a complex package of reforms designed to improve the ability of banks to absorb losses, extend the coverage of financial risks, and require stronger firewalls to withstand periods of stress. Established in 1963, UCPB was the first private Philippine bank to become a universal bank. It obtained its expanded commercial banking license in 1981. As of end June 2013, UCPB had a loan portfolio of P72.5 billion while deposit liabilities amounted to P186 billion. Read more:‐set‐to‐bid‐out‐stake‐in‐ucpb#ixzz2quVc799I   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

BSP extends incentives for rural banks By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:47 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014 Regulators have approved an extension for incentives to encourage countryside banks, with the aim of strengthening the industry by creating bigger and stronger players while allowing weak institutions to make an orderly exit. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced this week the year-long extension of incentives under the Strengthening Program for Rural Banks (SPRB)-Plus, which originally lapsed at the end of last year. The BSP’s Monetary Board last Thursday extended the validity of the program until the end of 2014. “SPRB-Plus aims to strengthen the banking system and to minimize bank closures,” the BSP said in a weekend statement. SPRB-Plus—a modified version of the original SPRB—is a joint project between the BSP and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC), which acts as receiver for shuttered banks. It provides incentives for “white knight” investors to acquire smaller banks and encourage consolidation within the sector that caters to the most sensitive segment of the economy. The previous SPRB rules limited the definition of white knights to rural banks. SPRB-Plus expands this to include bigger thrift, and universal and commercial lenders. Along with the extension, the BSP’s Monetary Board also approved certain changes to the SPRB-Plus rules. This includes the relaxation of the required ownership level of white knights in banks being rescued. From the previous 67 percent, acquiring banks now need to only acquire 60 percent of a smaller bank to be eligible for the SPRB-Plus incentives. Apart from making it easier for mergers to take place, this relaxation also puts the rules in line with the recently passed Rural Banks Act, which allows foreign firms to acquire as much as 60 percent of rural banks in the country. The BSP and PDIC also incorporated incentives for mergers involving banks that were affected by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

The PDIC will now pay for 100 percent of the required additional capital to restore a bank’s operations, if that bank was affected by the recent calamity. Under normal circumstances, the deposit insurer’s financial assistance would be limited to 50 percent. Existing incentives in the SPRB-Plus program include the relaxation of rules for branch expansions, and temporary regulatory relief such as on capitalization requirements, among others. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                    

Probe of cigarette maker’s alleged unfair business practices sought Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:41 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014 A member of the House has called for a congressional probe of the alleged questionable business practices of a manufacturer of cheap cigarettes that may have resulted in the noncollection of at least P4.4 billion in excise taxes last year. Party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz (Abakada), a member of the House independent bloc, named the manufacturer, Mighty Corp., in House Resolution 663 which he authored. In a statement, Dela Cruz said no less than Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, in a memorandum dated Aug. 15, ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs to respond to the “preliminary list of findings” on the alleged anomalous trading and manufacturing activities of Mighty, a Bulacan-based company. “In the same memorandum, Secretary Purisima indicated that the said company might liable for nonpayment of P4.421 billion in excise taxes,” Dela Cruz said. Several lawmakers have filed resolutions calling for a review of the Sin Tax Law which took effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Rep. Paolo Javier has filed the resolution in the House calling for an inquiry while Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a similar measure in the Senate. Congress will resume sessions today following their Yuletide break and both chambers are expected to calendar these resolutions for public hearings. Dela Cruz said an updated report from the DOF on the implementation of the Sin Tax Law indicated, among others, the non-attainment of the benchmarked objectives and possible anomalous transactions and violations by certain manufacturers. In his resolution, Dela Cruz said allegations of technical smuggling and under-declaration of imported tobacco leaf and other raw materials had also been lodged against Mighty. Based on Purisima’s memorandum, it was noted that the price per kilogram of imported Virginia, Burley and Oriental Tobacco of Mighty was posted with the same price level of $0.68 kg. Using 2012 data from the National Tobacco Administration, Purisima noted that Mighty’s import price was much lower that the prices declared by other tobacco importers which range from $3 to $8 per kilo. Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

PH seen growing by 6-7% yearly in next 5 yrs World Bank says increased remittances, infra spending, exports to drive growth  By Paolo G. Montecillo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   8:39 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014  

The Philippine economy is expected to grow between 6 and 7 percent yearly over the next five years due to increased public and private sector investments in health, education and infrastructure. A senior World Bank official on Friday said the improving state of governance in the country would help drive high growth rates in the long term, eventually leading to lower poverty levels and better lives for Filipinos. “The government should just continue what it is doing. Ramp up investments in infrastructure, health and education,” said Rogier van den Brink, lead economist for the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management group in the Philippines. Last week, the World Bank said the Philippine likely grew by 6.9 percent last year or near the top end of the government’s target for 2013. This would make the Philippines the fastestgrowing economy in Southeast Asia, despite the devastation caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” The World Bank said growth would be driven by the continued growth of remittances from migrant workers, increased infrastructure spending and a possible surge in exports amid the recovery of developed markets like the United States. This year, growth is expected to dip slightly to 6.5 percent as the effects of the November typhoon will likely be felt by the entire country. By next year, growth is seen peaking at 7.1 percent due to the “stimulus” effect of reconstruction efforts in the Visayas, the multilateral lender said. In 2016, it said the Philippine economy would grow by 6.5 percent. “For 2016, we basically are projecting our long term growth forecast which is 6 to 7 percent,” van den Brink said. He said this growth range of 6 to 7 percent would persist in the long term or for five more years, although he conceded that making forecasts that far ahead of time was difficult. The official said improvements in governance to curb graft and corruption was key to sustaining the country’s growth momentum. He said cleaning up the government’s image would make the Philippines an even more attractive destination to foreign investors.

He cited a government initiative last week to make 650 government data points from various sectors, ranging from public health data to port collection statistics, available for anyone to download online. “Very few governments have done it. You’re leading the way on it and a lot of people will analyze data now,” he said. “This will improve governance a lot. You’re probably the first country in the region to do this,” he added. Read more:‐seen‐growing‐by‐6‐7‐yearly‐in‐next‐5‐ yrs#ixzz2quYLne57   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                     

SSS sees flat revenue growth for ’13 By Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:32 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014 The Social Security System likely registered a flat growth in net revenues in 2013 as uncertainties in the financial markets resulted in moderate gains in stocks and other portfolio investments. SSS President Emilio de Quiros Jr. said preliminary data indicated that the state-run pension fund manager posted about P36 billion in net revenues last year—roughly the same as that reported in 2012. “We are still waiting for the final figures for 2013, but latest data showed that we posted just about the same [net revenue] last year compared with the previous year,” De Quiros told reporters Friday. He said that, as of November, net revenue of the SSS stood at P35 billion. With November’s figure, the SSS already exceeded its revenue target of P30 billion for the whole of 2013. De Quiros said the SSS deliberately set a conservative target given expectations that financial market volatilities could lead to less-than-sharp gains in investment income. The SSS has about P400 billion in assets, De Quiros reported. Of the amount, anywhere between P320 billion and P330 billion are accounted for by its liquid assets, which are composed of investments in stocks and fixed-income securities. Of its liquid assets, a third is accounted for by investments in stocks. SSS holds various stocks in a wide range of industries, led by financial intermediation and consumer. In 2013, the Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PSEi) was rocked by volatility, breaching the 7,000 mark early in the year to become one of the fastest growing indices in the world, but closing at only 5,889.83 on the last trading day of the year. PSEi’s latest year-end value was only slightly higher than its 2012 close of 5,812.73. De Quiros said the SSS generated P20 billion in investment income from January to November—the same as that generated in 2012. For 2014, De Quiros said, the pension fund has set a net revenue goal of P30 billion. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

BSP unfazed by depreciating peso By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:32 pm | Sunday, January 19th, 2014 The continued weakening of the peso should not surprise investors given uncertainties in global financial markets that have sent most, if not all emerging market currencies down against the surging US dollar. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the country should take solace in the fact that the country’s solid macroecnomic fundamentals should allow the economy to emerge from the current storm unscathed. “The weakening of the peso is not totally unexpected just like regional currencies because there remains uncertainty about the speed and duration of the taper,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said late Friday. “That’s what’s causing the volatility,” he told reporters. He said the BSP would maintain a free-floating policy for the peso, participating in the foreign exchange market only to smoothen out spikes in the currency’s value. His comments came after the peso breached the 45-to-$1 level last week for the first time since 2010 due to the release of positive economic data from the US. Last Friday’s close, 45-to-$1, was 29 centavos weaker week-on-week. A stronger US economy is expected to prompt the US Federal Reserve to accelerate the scaling back of its monthly bond-buying program, which was first introduced in 2009 to prop up the world’s largest economy. Tetangco also noted the ongoing rebalancing in the world economy—a result of improving conditions in advanced nations and slowing growth in emerging markets—has resulted in fund managers re-evaluating their investment portfolios. “But macroeconomic fundamentals of the Philippines remain sound and external liquidity position remains healthy,” he said. He said the country should have no problem posting another balance-of-payments (BOP) surplus this year, which would prop up the peso once volatile conditions die down. The BOP summarizes all transactions between the Philippines and the rest of the world. A surplus means the country earns more dollars than it spends.

“Significantly, that’s due to a current account surplus,” Tetangco said, citing the component in the BOP that accounts for income from remittances, trade, and revenue from the business process outsourcing and tourism industries. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                        

Thai resto group eyes Phl expansion By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Thai restaurant group Mango Tree is expanding its presence in the Philippines to bring its restaurants and cafes to a total of 12 to achieve higher sales by 2015. In an interview, Mango Tree Worldwide chief executive officer Pitaya Phanphensophon said the group wants to increase its presence here to take advantage of the country’s growing economy and attain higher sales. “We want to expand in the Philippines because we think the Philippine economy will still grow much faster,” he said. The economy grew 7.4 percent in the first nine months of 2013, based on the latest data from the National Statistical Coordination Board. Mango Tree holding group Exquisine System Co., Ltd.’s managing director Trevor MacKenzie said in the same event that as the economy grows, the disposable income of Filipinos is also seen to increase, which would encourage them to try new cuisine. The group currently has four restaurants in operation in the Philippines such as the flagship Mango Tree Restaurant in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, two Mango Tree Bistros located in Trinoma in Quezon City and in Greenbelt 5 in Makati City, and the COCA Restaurant in SM Aura in Taguig. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Mango Tree Restaurant and Mango Tree Bistro both serve Thai cuisine, while COCA Restaurant offers Thai-Chinese food. To start its expansion, the group is set open two COCA Cafe outlets with one to be located in SM Jazz in Makati and the other in SM South Mall in Las Pinas City later this month. MacKenzie said the group is currently looking at Cebu, Davao and Baguio as locations for its new outlets. He said the group sees potential in the three locations given the mix of businessmen and tourists there. “Thai food is exotic and we know that Filipinos are used to eating Filipino food so we are careful in choosing the locations,” he said.

He added that the new restaurant or cafe brands to be opened would depend on what is seen suitable for the location. As the group expands its presence in the country, it expects to attain an annual turnover of P300 million by 2015 from the current P150 million.


SL Agritech supplies hybrid rice seeds to Yolanda-hit Leyte (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 19, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An additional 2,000-hectare area will be planted to hybrid rice in Super Typhoon Yolanda-damaged Leyte by SL Agritech Corp (SLAC) even though the donated seeds are still insufficient to restore the provinces 60,000-hectare rice land. In partnership with local government units (LGU), particularly the Leyte provincial agriculture office, SLAC is extending a Plant Now Pay Later (PNPL) program to Leyte rice farmers. “Leyte farmers now do not have the resources. We will provide the needed technical assistance to the farmers who experienced damage to their rice farms from Yolanda ,” said SLAC chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong The Department of Agriculture (DA) and its regional field unit (RFU) in Region 8 are identifying for SLAC the farmers that may avail of the PNPL. The farmers may pay for the seeds upon harvest. Leyte provincial agriculturist Rogelio Portula said while many organizations have donated rice seeds to Leyte province, there is still a need for more seeds and even for technical assistance on rice farming to restore Leyte to its pre-Yolanda condition. “There are more rice seeds needed especially for farmers that have more than two hectares. We are only giving them free seeds for up to two hectares per farmer so that everybody will benefit,” said Portula. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Among the organizations that donated seeds to Leyte are the Food and Agriculture Organization and DA. SLAC hybrid rice specialist Dr. Frisco M. Malabanan said SLAC’s aid to farmers would also focus on technology training since Leyte farmers would not have much difficulty on irrigation.

“The ongoing cropping is the wet season in Leyte, so water is not so much a problem,” said Malabanan. However, Portula said there is a need to clean up some irrigation canals that have been clogged by felled trees, fallen roofings, and other obstructions from the typhoon. Irrigators associations are conducting the repair of these canals. There are 34,000 hectares of irrigated land in Leyte and 23,000 hectares of rainfed land. Portula said the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) seed donation for inbred rice may reach only 22,000 bags. Even with this donation, there would remain 35,000 hectares that need seed financing. “We are thankful for the many donors. But the donations are not enough to fill the requirement for seeds,” Portula said. “Three days after the typhoon, the seeds that had been stocked for planting were milled because there was nothing to eat.” The provincial agriculture office has so far obtained some SL-8H and SL-18H seeds that are expected to help double farmers’ rice yield from around four metric tons (MT) per hectare to eight MT per hectare. SLAC is also looking at entering into Public Private Partnerships (PPP) to beef up support to Leyte. One organic fertilizer producer, Black Water Dragon Agri Venture, is willing to partner with SLAC to provide a whole package of inputs and technical assistance to farmers, according to Portula. The hybrid seeds SL-8H which has tolerance to bacterial leaf blight (BLB) and SL-18H that has more intense resistance to the BLB pest are seen to enhance help to farmers during tge current wet season in Leyte. Malabanan added crop insurance should also be provided to Leyte farmers at present since the wet season exposes them to more risks from the weather. “I think crop insurance is needed there now when it’s very wet,” said Malabanan.


BSP extends strengthening program for RBs By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 20, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 2

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has extended its Strengthening Program For Rural Banks (SPRB) Plus anew to encourage more mergers and acquisitions in the industry. The SPRB Plus, which expired last Dec. 31, would be in place for another year or until Dec. 31, 2014. “We extended it because it’s a good program to continue the cleaning of the banking system. It’s a way to weed out problematic banks,” BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. told reporters. The SPRB Plus dangles incentives to investors for them to rescue problematic rural and thrift banks so as to minimize bank closures. Espenilla explained that the central bank and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) have relaxed some guidelines of the program to encourage more mergers and consolidations in the rural banking industry.

The main amendment in the new SPRB Plus is the relaxation of the required ownership control in a bank to 60 percent, Espenilla said. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Previously, strategic third party investors or white knights should acquire at least 67 percent of the outstanding capital shares of an eligible bank to qualify under the program. Espenilla said the new guideline would align the program with the recently signed Republic Act No. 10574 or An Act Allowing the Infusion of Foreign Equity in the Capital of Rural Banks. The implementing rules and regulations of said law allows for as much as 60 percent foreign-owned equity in rural banks. At the same time, the BSP has also amended the financial assistance component of the program which means it may now be in the form of preferred shares and direct loan, or direct loan only. Previously, the financial assistance component was mandated to be given through preferred shares and direct loan. The preferred shares are meant to lift the problematic bank’s capital, while the direct loan was meant to purchase government securities. The BSP and PDIC in August 2010 introduced the original SPRB with a P5-billion funding. It was meant to encourage mergers and consolidations among rural banks to strengthen the industry. The program was replaced two years later with SPRB Plus, which now include thrift banks as eligible banks that can be rescued. The enhancement of the program also expanded the list of eligible strategic third party investors to include thrift banks, universal and commercial banks, non-bank corporations, and group of companies. Aside from financial assistance, white knights may avail of regulatory reliefs, and branching and other incentives under the program. The BSP said as of end 2013, five merger and consolidation applications involving 10 banks have been approved. Meanwhile, two other applications are in the pipeline.‐extends‐strengthening‐program‐rbs          

Govt links rice smuggling to high cost of production Category: Agri‐Commodities   19 Jan 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent   A LOWER cost in rice production can be a more effective tool to deter rice smuggling, according to the  Philippine  Rice  Research  Institute  (PhilRice),  the  government’s  lead  agency  in  rice  science  and  development.  PhilRice economists Flordeliza Bordey  and Aileen Litonjua said eliminating  the opportunity to smuggle  can reduce, if not stop, rice smuggling.  The prospect of raking in high profits owing to large differences between the world and domestic prices  of rice drives the rampant smuggling in the country, Bordey and Litonjua said in a statement issued on  January 17.  An  attached  agency  of  the  Department  of  Agriculture  (DA),  PhilRice  economists  said  that  since  2000,  domestic prices of rice had been higher by as much as 75 percent compared to world prices.  “Although the gap closed in 2008, price differential widened again to 30 percent in 2012. The huge price  difference  can  be  attributed  mainly  to  rice  trade  policies  of  the  government  and  higher  cost  of  producing rice in the Philippines relative to exporting countries.”  According to PhilRice, the country had applied quantitative restriction on rice as its international trade  policy  since  1995,  which  involves  a  Minimum  Access  Volume,  or  the  amount  of  rice  that  may  be  imported at 40‐percent in‐quota tariff, or the tariff applied on imports within a quota.  A higher tariff of 50 percent is imposed to imported rice beyond this quota. This policy was crafted to  limit the inflow of cheap imported rice, thereby, protecting farmers and market players, the DA agency  said.  “Rice smuggling is only a symptom of a worse disease—the inability to compete,” Bordey and Litonjua  were quoted in the statement as saying.  However, PhilRice studies show that “smuggling tends to be more rampant in markets with high import  duties and quantitative trade restrictions.” 

The country’s  commitment  to  integrate  with  the  Asean  Economic  Community  by  2015  will  eventually  force  the  government  to  reduce  these  trade  barriers.  And  with  this,  the  price  of  domestic  rice  will  be  seen to adjust and follow the world market, and consequently minimize the incentive to smuggle.  “But doing so without enhancing the ability of farmers and other domestic market players to produce  and market rice efficiently could only mean harm to the local rice industry,” the economists said.  According  to  them,  farmers,  to  be  competitive,  “must  implement  strategies  to  reduce  the  cost  of  producing rice, such as mechanizing farm activities, particularly harvesting and threshing.”  The  adoption  of  high‐quality  inbred  and  hybrid  seeds,  and  “PalayCheck,”  a  crop‐management  system,  can  also  further  increase  the  rice  output  per  unit  of  input  and  reduce  production  cost  per  unit,  the  economists added.‐commodities/26207‐govt‐links‐rice‐ smuggling‐to‐high‐cost‐of‐production                               

.. but leftist farmers’ group blames World Trade group Category: Agri‐Commodities   19 Jan 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   LEADERS  of  leftist  Kilusang  Magbubukid  ng  Pilipinas  (KMP)  urge  the  Aquino  administration  to  pull  out  from the World Trade Organization as they blame the WTO for rice smuggling in the country. 

“Our country’s entry to the WTO and adherence to its so‐called free‐trade policies is the main culprit in  the  proliferation  of  smuggling  in  the  country,”  KMP  Chairman  Rafael  Mariano  was  quoted  in  the  statement issued on Friday as saying.  Mariano urged the Senate Committee on Agriculture, headed by Sen. Cynthia Villar, to “dig deeper” into  the illegal activity.  He added that “the lowering up to the complete removal of tariffs is the main target of a so‐called free‐ trade regime under the WTO.”  “The so‐called free trade or a tariff‐less trading system has turned so‐called least developed countries  like the Philippines into a dumping ground of agricultural products,” the peasant leader said.  According to Villar, the free‐trade system has in fact, bred smuggling and corruption.  “Corrupt  government  officials  profit  more  from  direct  bribes  and  protection  money  coming  from  smugglers than in the so‐called free‐trade  system. The government profits more from the seizing and  auctioning of contraband than the rice‐importation policy or in the legal smuggling and sale of import  permits to their favored importers,” Mariano said.  The government’s failure to dismantle rice cartels, smugglers and the policy of rice importation are the  main reasons behind the skyrocketing price of rice, he added. 

“Instead of  protecting  Filipino  farmers  from  the  onslaught  of  the  WTO  and  its  so‐called  free‐trade  regime, the Aquino government aggravated the suffering of farmers by implementing the policy of rice  importation and allowing the proliferation of smuggling in the country,” Mariano said.  Jonathan L. Mayuga‐commodities/26206‐but‐leftist‐ farmers‐group‐blames‐world‐trade‐group                                         

Farmers’ economic potential blocked by land grabbing in Asean Category: Agri‐Commodities   19 Jan 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent   COUNTRIES  able  to  hurdle  social  and  political  tensions  from  land  issues  progress  faster  than  those  hobbled by such unrests especially rooted in inequitable land distribution, activists said on Friday.  On Friday international civil‐society groups, small land holders  and farmers, forest‐based communities  and indigenous groups raised alarm on “a new rush of investments” in farms and forest lands in Asean  that  threatens  food  and  livelihood  security  in  member‐nations  of  the  Association  of  Southeast  Asian  Nations.  “Food security and economic advancement is possible, while respecting  the rights of the  marginalized  groups  in  our  society,”  Maricel  Tolentino  of  the  Asian  NGO  Coalition  for  Agrarian  Reform  and  Rural  Development said.  Tolentino, hence, called on Asean states to implement a coherent and comprehensive policy on land use  and governance.  The call was  followed by an Asian Peoples’ Land Rights Tribunal held in  Manila on January 16 and 17.  Farmers  from  Aurora  province  and  the  Mamanwa  tribal  leaders  in  Agusan  del  Norte  presented  their  complaints against big investors that they said left them without home and their livelihoods threatened.  Similar  land‐grabbing  cases  were  reported  in  Cambodia,  occupying  almost  40,000  hectares  of  agricultural  lands  for  sugar  plantation,  and  in  Indonesia,  where  17,500  hectares  of  forest  lands  were  redirected to palm‐oil plantation.  Mamanwa  indigenous  peoples  are  accusing  private  firm  Mindoro  Resources  Ltd.  in  “dividing  our  otherwise peaceful community.”  Their representatives said during Friday’s forum that the Mamanwa tribe has occupied “for centuries”  areas covering the village of Bunga in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte.  These areas, they said, are now threatened by Mindoro Resources, a company engaged in nickel, gold  and copper‐gold exploration in area. 

“Notwithstanding the  involvement  of  political  families  and  personalities,  and  powerful  financial  institutions and big companies in the cases presented in the tribunal, the interest of rural communities  who are the primary stakeholders of the land should be upheld,” a conference document said.  The BusinessMirror attempted to contact Mindoro Resources but has since failed to do so by January 19.  Another  case  from  the  Philippines  discussed  by  conference  participants  included  the  campuses  of  the  Aurora State College of Technology (Ascot) in Casiguran, Aurora province.  According to a document presented during the conference, Ascot officials have refused to grant the land  of 56 farmers who are beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and have  been cultivating the 105 hectares for over 50 years.  The  land  in  question  is  also  within  the  Aurora  Pacific  Economic  Zone  and  Freeport  Authority  (Apeco)  economic zone, which plans to convert the use of the area from agricultural to industrial.  A case in Cambodia, on the other hand, involved private firms partly owned by a billionaire senator.  The document didn’t say who this lawmaker is but said the property is in Koh Kong, Cambodia.  Approximately,  2,879  people  filed  complaints  against  corporations  that  were  granted  economic  land  concessions for sugar plantations that encroached on their farmlands, and which, among other things,  destroyed their crops, caused damage to their cattle and buffalo, and effectively seized their farmlands,  according to a case brief.  The document also reported on the land of indigenous peoples in Banggai, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia,  which was being developed for palm‐oil plantation.  The  conference  participants  said  the  farmers  are  accusing  the  unnamed  private  company  of  forcibly  taking  17,800  hectares  of  their  land,  displacing  communities  in  32  villages  and  encroaching  on  a  conservation area.  Conference  participants  discussed  a  total  of  four  cases  presented  by  aggrieved  communities  from  Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines.  Tribunal  participants  said  in  a  statement  they  are  calling  on  state  officials  to  end  the  use  of  state  apparatus to promote investments that result to displacement, evictions and other violations of human  rights,  and  conduct  speedy,  impartial  investigations  and  fact‐finding  missions  to  restore  dignity  and  justice to affected communities.  “It  is  the  responsibility  of  the  state  to  uphold  community  rights  and  environmental  concerns  over  industrial interests with respect to land investments,” the document also said. 

The governments  should  shift  from  “development  aggression  to  development  opportunities,”  the  coalition said through the statement.  Tribunal participants also called on investors to recognize the right of local communities, especially the  indigenous peoples, to give or withhold their free prior and informed consent, including their customary  laws  and  rights,  traditional  institutions  and  decision‐making  processes,  and  community  protocols  and  procedures.  Aside  from  Tolentino’s  group  Angoc,  discussants  included  representatives  from  non‐governmental  groups Land Watch Asia and Oxfam and the University of the Philippines. Other discussants were Sen.  Aquilino  Pimentel  Jr.;  Cagayan  de  Oro  Archbishop  Antonio  Ledesma;  members  of  the  Commission  on  Human  Rights;  Commission  of  Right  to  Information;  sociologists;  and  academic  experts  from  Bangladesh, Indonesia.‐commodities/26205‐farmers‐ economic‐potential‐blocked‐by‐land‐grabbing‐in‐asean                                 

Leftist farmers dare Catholic leaders to forward agrarian‐reform agenda Category: Agri‐Commodities   19 Jan 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   LEADERS of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas challenged Catholic bishops gathering for their annual  meeting to push an agrarian‐reform agenda under the government of President Aquino, who belongs to  a clan of landowners.  In a statement on January 19, the KMP reminded the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of  the Philippines (CBCP) of the event called the “Mendiola Massacre.”  That  event  was  marked  by  the  death  of  13  farmers  after  government  anti‐riot  forces  opened  fire  on  demonstrating farmers on January 22, 1987.  President  Aquino’s  mother  and  late  President  Corazon  Aquino  formed  the  Citizens’  Mendiola  Commission, to investigate the incident.  A year later, in 1988, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was passed by Congress and  signed into law.  “Twenty‐seven years ago, our demand for genuine land reform was met by a volley of live bullets by the  government  of  then‐President  Corazon  Aquino.  Worst,  after  the  smoke  cleared,  the  first  Aquino  government  added  insult  to  the  injury  by  enacting  a  pro‐landlord  and  bogus  agrarian‐reform  law  that  strengthened  their  control  over  the  more  than  6,000‐hectare  Hacienda  Luisita,”  KMP  Chairman  Rafael  Mariano was quoted in the statement as saying.  The statement added: “Under the Aquino administration today, the majority of Filipino farmers remain  landless.”  Mariano  cited  the  eviction  of  farmers  and  fencing  of  hundreds  of  hectares  of  lands  in  the  Cojuangco  family‐owned  Tarlac  Development  Corp.  (Tadeco)  in  barangays  Balete  and  Cutcut  inside  Hacienda  Luisita.  “We  hope  our  Catholic  bishops  will  continue  to  take  the  side  of  the  oppressed  and  exploited  toiling  peasants and uphold our cause for genuine land reform,” Mariano said.  The KMP issued the statement a week before the CBCP’s 108th Plenary Assembly from January 25 to 27. 

The group  said  their  members  from  Southern  Tagalog  and  Central  Luzon  will  hold  a  protest  camp  in  front of the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City starting Tuesday. The group said their  members will march to Mendiola Bridge on January 22.  Jonathan L. Mayuga‐commodities/26204‐leftist‐farmers‐ dare‐catholic‐leaders‐to‐forward‐agrarian‐reform‐agenda                                         

Bayer CropScience gives hybrid‐rice seeds to farmers in Leyte, Samar Category: Agri‐Commodities   19 Jan 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega   ALANGALANG, Leyte—Bayer CropScience distributed on Friday to farmers here a portion of its 20 metric  tons of hybrid rice as part of its marketing program.  Executive  of  the  company,  who  sponsored  the  travel  of  reporters  here  from  Manila,  distributed  P7  million worth of rice seeds to more than a thousand farmers in Leyte and Samar, two of the most hardly  hit provinces by Supertyphoon Yolanda.  “This  is  our  way  of  helping  out  farmers  in  Region  8  to  get  back  on  their  feet  after  the  devastation  on  their lives and livelihood,” Bayer CropScience Managing Director Hans‐Joachim Wegfarht said. The faster  the farmers can start planting rice, the better for them, as it will help take their minds away from the  disaster and start rebuilding their lives, Wegfarht added.  The  hybrid  rice  could  give  a  yield  up  to  180  cavans  or  9  metric  tons  (MT)  per  hectare,  said  Bayer  CropScience Head of Seeds Recher Ondap.  Ondap added that the variety has a shorter maturity period. A recipient‐farmer, Arturo B. Zaldarriaga,  told  the  BusinessMirror  he  is  interested  in  the  hybrid‐rice  seeds  from  Bayer  because  his  actual  experience in planting hybrid rice, though with lesser volume per hectare, was around 150 cavans.  “But this is much better yield compared with 70 cavans for inbred variety, and even with the added cost  for hybrid seeds considered, the earnings is still better,” according to Zaldarriaga, who owns 2 hectares  of rice lands.  He said the land is also planted with mung beans, a known nitrogen‐fixing crop, between April and June,  to improve the nutrients of his rice land. Zaldarriaga added that while the dry season is from November  to April, January is normally rainy in Leyte and Samar, which gives the farmers in the region a month of  enough water during the dry season. The remaining months’ need for water is provided by the National  Irrigation Administration, he explained.  Alladin S. Diega‐commodities/26203‐bayer‐ cropscience‐gives‐hybrid‐rice‐seeds‐to‐farmers‐in‐leyte‐samar   

Bill prohibits charges on low‐balance accounts Category: Banking & Finance   19 Jan 2014   Written by Jovee Marie N. dela Cru   A lawmaker has filed a bill prohibiting banks from imposing service charge or any other fees on savings  or current accounts that do not meet the required minimum maintaining balance set by the bank policy.  House  Bill  3162,  filed  by  Rep.  Edgar  Erice  of  the  Second  District  of  Caloocan  City,  seeks  to  protect  depositors  with  very  limited  resources  from  being  penalized  for  having  substantially  lesser  money  on  deposit at the banks.  Under  the  bill,  a  penalty  of  P5  million  and  six  years  imprisonment  or  both  shall  be  imposed  on  banks  violating the provision of this act. Likewise, the bank’s license to operate shall be canceled and shall be  perpetually  disqualified  from  applying  for  the  same.  The  bill  provides  that  the  Bangko  Sentral  ng  Pilipinas,  in  coordination  with  the  Department  of  Finance,  is  directed  to  implement  the  rules  and  regulations of this act.   Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz‐finance/26188‐bill‐prohibits‐ charges‐on‐low‐balance‐accounts                     

Weather disturbances can hurt coral reefs — WWF by Ellalyn De Vera January 19, 2014 Strong typhoons have not only affected the lives of Filipinos but coral reefs have been also immensely affected by weather disturbances. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF-Philippines), storm surges like the ones seen in Tacloban and Manila Bay can pull debris like logs and rocks out to sea smashing the seabed and coral reefs.

A part of the majestic Tubbataha Wall. Even coral beds are being hurt by weather disturbances like super typhoon “Yolanda” which can send logs and huge debris that could hit and destroy the reef, WWF said. (Photo by Lory Tan of WWF) The destruction of coral reefs is a major concern, the WWF said because Filipinos must look to the sea for food and coral reefs form one of the most critical hubs of oceanic productivity. Healthy reefs annually produce 30 to 40 metric tons of seafood per square kilometer. However, only 1 percent of the country’s reefs remain in excellent condition, the result of 60 years of overfishing, pollution and climate change effects like super typhoons, WWF pointed out. Citing the Apo Reef in Occidental Mindoro, it became a no-take zone in 2007, curbing illegal fishing activity. Fish biomass breached 76 tons per square kilometer. Even after full protection though, Apo Reef suffered extensive damage from super typhoon Caloy in 2006.

It is the largest reef park in Asia and the second largest and covers 34 square kilometers and hosts almost 200 coral species. “It looked exactly like a freshly-deforested jungle,” recalled WWF-Philippines Mindoro project manager John Manul after the typhoon. “Giant table corals were uprooted. Broken coral branches were everywhere. Even the distinctive haze that envelopes burnt-out forests was replicated, because even after a week, the water was milky from stirred up sand,” he added. Estimates reveal that 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs are heavily degraded, while about 30 percent are critical and may die in 20 years. Through a business-as-usual scenario, as much as 60 percent of the planet’s reefs may die by 2050, WWF noted. At present, WWF-Philippines is working with coastal communities, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local government units (LGUs) of Sablayan and Cagayancillo, and Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) to protect the country’s most important coral reefs. Launched in 2008, Bright Skies for Every Juan enjoins CEB flyers to take an active part in minimizing the environmental impacts of air travel by making online donations to climate change adaptation projects, for both Apo Reef in Mindoro and the Tubbataha Reefs in Palawan. “We are happy to offer our passengers an opportunity to support WWF-Philippines’ climate adaptation programs for Apo and Tubbataha. With everyone’s help, we can preserve these valuable resources and be part of the solution to climate change,” said CEB President and CEO Lance Gokongwei. Bright Skies for Every Juan is considered a model in the country’s aviation industry for effective platforms to support climate change adaptation. Since 2008, CEB passengers have donated over P25 million to WWF climate adaptation initiatives for the two reefs, funding the procurement of patrol boats, establishing monitoring stations and conducting fish plus coral surveys. “Though reefs have seen through millions of years of storms, the combined effects of climate change, pollution and overfishing might push some over the brink,” explained WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. “However, healthy coral reefs have a way of bouncing back – provided that they are shielded from human impacts. The full range of biodiversity contributes to overall reef resilience. By curtailing illegal fishing and poaching, we shall maximize their chances of recovery,” he said. Palawan’s Tubbataha Reefs, damaged by two ship groundings in January and April 2013, are slowly recovering due to the presence of herbivorous fish like surgeonfish, locally called labahita.

“Their constant grazing keeps algae from taking over the freshly-exposed rock,” noted Filipino coral scientist Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan. “It is because of them that coral larvae will be allowed to resettle on damaged reefs,” he added.‐disturbances‐can‐hurt‐coral‐reefs‐wwf/                                            

DA leads study of Cotabato rice varieties January 19, 2014 8:43 pm  

by James Konstantin Galvez The Department of Agriculture (DA), together with the University of the Philippines-Natural Sciences Research Institute (UP-NSRI), is now conducting a study to examine the genetic diversity of upland rice in Arakan Valley, Cotabato. Initiated by Dr. Juliet Bangi of UP-NSRI, the study seeks to determine the desirable rice gene characteristics through morphogenetic characterization and analysis of the genetic diversity of the indigenous upland rice in Arakan, which is considered as an upland “rice belt” where a number of indigenous variety of the grain are thriving. “Understanding the structure and diversity of indigenous rice is needed by our scientists and researchers in the conservation and preservation of genetic resources that have potential uses for future breeding purposes,” Bangi said. In the study, 14 indigenous upland rice were collected from local farmers. These include Azucena, Dinorado, Malos, Magalitok, Kapalawan, Mubpon, Manisi, Bungulan, Kawilan, Malundiang, Sinulid, Ulipapa, Dabao, and Hinumay. These were subjected to laboratory and greenhouse experiments to characterize their seeds and plant structure—including plant height, number of tillers per plant, number of days to flowering, number of panicles per plant, panicle length, and 1,000-grain weight. Results showed that the indigenous upland rice is highly diverse with desirable characteristics. Among those studied, the tallest plants are the Azucena and Hinumay. Meanwhile, Kawilan had the highest number of tillers per plant as well as the panicles produced, and the Malundiang had the earliest flowering period. Magalitok produced the longest panicle, and Ulipapa and Bungulan had the heaviest 1,000-grain weight. In analyzing the genetic diversity of the rice varieties, the researchers used DNA markers. The study particularly used the simple sequence repeats (SSR), which are also called microsatellites. Among DNA markers, SSRs are found to be the most efficient and cost-effective tool that can detect higher degrees of polymorphisms in rice, the study said. The study also revealed that Malundiang and Ulipapa have 30 percent to 50 percent associated genes that possess the desirable qualities of being early-maturing and having high yield potential. Bungulan, Mubpon, Sinulid, and Mal-os have diverse genes, and are found to have desirable genetic make-ups based on their morphogenetic characteristics.

Bungulan, Manisi, Kapalawan, Magalitok, Sinulid, Mal-os, and Dinorado have varied and narrow genetic distance indicative of having distinct genes. With a dissimilarity index of 3.32, Kawilan and Kapalawan are upland rice with different genes. “These reflect the diversity of the indigenous upland rice in the Arakan Valley Complex based on their genetic makeup, and those that were studied are part of the genetic pool of resources in the locality,” Bangi said. She added that high-yielding varieties with promising potentials may emerge in the future as breeding efforts using indigenous upland rice results in the successful improvement of grain quality, resistance to pests and diseases, and reduction in the maturity period, among others. “If effectively managed and used, they would be substantial in meeting the ever-increasing demand for food as the future unfolds,” the expert said. Rice is and will always remain as one of the most important staple foods among Filipinos. For most of the country, it is the one thing that satisfies and completes our every meal. However, the agriculture sector is continually faced by challenges brought about by factors that hinder rice production. These include climate change as well as the widespread infestation of pests and diseases, among others. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recognizes genetic diversity as the foundation of improving the genes of the crop and has become an integral part of the domestication and cultivation of crops.‐leads‐study‐of‐cotabato‐rice‐varieties/69013/                  

Tobacco agency tapped for outreach program By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am The National Tobacco Administration will be tapped to set in motion an expanded corporate social responsibility program meant to directly benefit tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region and Cagayan Valley.In separate letters to NTA, Mighty Corp. executive vice president Oscar Barrientos asked NTA chief Edgardo Zaragoza to arrange a consultative meeting with the National Federation of Tobacco Growers and Cooperatives (NFTGC) to fine tune the company’s various outreach program for the tobacco farmers.The consultative meeting is set on February 8, 2014 in San Fernando, La Union to be attended by some 200 tobacco farmer leaders. The other official communication is a Letter of Intent formally informing NTA about Mighty Corporation’s commitment to double its purchase of 10-million kilograms of tobacco leaves from Filipino growers in 2014. “This will also include our firm commitment to purchase all tobacco leaves that will not be bought by other cigarette companies,” Barrientos said. A retired judge, Barrientos revealed that Mighty is launching this year a three-pronged assistance program for the tobacco farmers. For the initial phase of its CSR program, the company has allocated P10-million.First, it will be the distribution of 35 irrigations pumps to some 35 farmer associations, 10 mini-tractors in tobacco-growing provinces, tools and farm implements to serve as common-service production equipment to groups of organized tobacco farmers for tobacco farms that have no access to irrigation facilities and small tractors. It will also provide some 20,000 long-sleeve farm shirts to ease the plight of tobacco farmers. Hand in hand with the agricultural production assistance, the company will launch a scholarship program in tandem with NTA in the two regions for the sons and daughters of the tobacco farmers. At present, NTA has en existing scholarship grants to 400 scholars who are provided P5,800 each financial assistance.“Mighty Corporation will initially support NTA’s scholarship grants with 200 new college scholars this coming school year,” Barrientos said. The third component of the social responsibility program is Mighty Corporation’s institutional support for the annual search for outstanding tobacco farmers. The search being done by NTA covers three categories, one for Virginia tobacco growers, another for burley tobacco farmers and a third for native tobacco producers.“Through this program, we want to help farmers reach the global productivity level on tobacco growing while increasing their levels of income,” Barrientos explained.“All of these will be extended as grants, not loans,” Barrientos assured. “We want to partner with NTA and the farmers themselves to make sure the grants will reach the right people.”‐agency‐tapped‐for‐outreach‐ program%281%29/

Palace’s Day of Prayer no damper on protest By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am   FACING two protest movements that will be launched this week, the Palace on Sunday called on the public to joinPresident Benigno Aquino III in a National Day of Prayer and Solidarity today to focus attention on productive actions. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said Filipinos who do not support Aquino are in the minority since in all surveys, the President continues to enjoy wide, although decreasing, approval and trust ratings. “While we are praying, perhaps it is good if Filipinos would focus on what they can contribute to make our republic even stronger,” Coloma said. “Those who do not believe (the President) are in the minority. We respect their opinions... but it is probably better that instead of protesting, they would be recommending concrete suggestions to effect positive change, and rest assured this government will be ready to listen to their sentiments and suggestions,” Coloma added. Militant groups have scheduled a “Blackout Protest” on Jan. 21 to denounce the record-high P8 per kilowatt hour power rate hike of the Manila Electric Co. and the inaction of the Aquino administration to protect the rights of consumers. “Meralco continues to terrorize consumers with threats of power interruptions if higher rates are not implemented. This is unacceptable. Meralco has grown so big and powerful that it thinks it is above the law. It wants us to believe that everyone is at fault except Meralco,” Bayan Muna secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said. Reyes said militant groups will mount a protest rally on Jan. 21 to coincide with the oral arguments of the Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions against the rate hike. “Let us fill up Padre Faura and show consumer outrage against Meralco, the Epira (Electric Power Industry Reform Act) and the do-nothing Aquino government,” Reyes added. The group Anonymous Philippines—known for hacking government websites - has also reportedly set a protest action on Jan. 25. In their Facebook account, however, the group only urged attendees to “bring garbage bags, pick up litter, and bond with other members” from Jan. 25 to Jan. 26 at TM Kalaw and Taft Avenue in Manila.

Aquino will be joined by inter-faith leaders and representatives from calamity-stricken areas in today’s National Day of Prayer and Solidarity at 5 p.m. at the Palace. The event will have the theme “One Nation in Prayer” aimed at “remembering the lives lost to the tragic incidents of 2013, to thank the Almighty for the nation’s strength and resilience, and to seek divine guidance as the country moves forward to rebuild the affected communities.” Religious leaders who would lead the prayers at the Palace include Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Imam Ebra Moxsir of the Imam Council of the Philippines, Commissioner Zenaida Pawid of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, Isaias Samson of Iglesia ni Cristo, and a representative of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. Representatives of affected communities of the Zamboanga standoff, the Bohol earthquake, and the super typhoon Yolanda will also be present, Coloma said. The President, in his New Year’s vin d’honneur toast, said if there was one lesson to be learned from the tragedies, it was that people are “indeed powerless without God.” “Some of you have marveled at the resilience of our nation, a people who’s fate though challenged remain 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,” Aquino said. Last year, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines also set the whole day of Nov. 16 for prayer and fasting, a week after super typhoon Yolanda struck. Tagle called the event a “Day of Lament and Hope: Solidarity in Prayer.” The Office of Vice President Jejomar Binay issued a statement encouraging everyone to join government officials and the clergy in prayer. “Let us all pray for those who perished in the calamities that hit our nation last year and for healing for our beloved Philippines,” the vice president said. “And let us use this day to fervently pray for unity and an end to divisiveness, pettiness and hate. Let us embrace each other as brothers and sisters, united in moving our nation forward,” he added.‐s‐day‐of‐prayer‐no‐damper‐on‐ protest/      

Stop stealing our money now By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am  

THE Aquino administration came to power on the promise that the government would stop stealing our money. President Aquino made this clear in his first State of the Nation Address in July 2010, when he raked officials of the state waterworks agency over the coals over the excessive bonuses that they approved for themselves. More than three years on, however, officials of state-owned corporations continue to brazenly use public funds to reward themselves with undeserved bonuses. In some instances, the President has even come to their defense. This certainly was the case with the Social Security System, where board directors approved bonuses for themselves of about P1 million each—then raised the premiums on the state-run pension fund’s members, without any improvement in service or benefits. But the President could hardly ignore the Commission on Audit (COA) finding that 31 government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) granted unauthorized bonuses and allowances amounting to P2.313 billion in 2012. While his spokesman passed the buck to the Governance Commission on GOCCs (GCG), a Cabinet secretary on Thursday defended the fat bonuses, saying that the officials deserved them. “The President has said that we cannot have a scenario where a laggard employee gets the same pay as those who perform well,” Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras said in a TV interview. “We are trying to create a meritocracy within the government bureaucracy, so we’re addressing the structures, the organizations.”

Almendras made the statement a day after the presidential spokesman begged off from commenting on the COA findings, saying it was up to the GCG to explain questionable bonuses. At the Palace, the GCG chairman, Cesar Villanueva revealed that some organizations such as the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) insisted on granting the bonuses despite the disapproval of the GCG and the COA. Remarkably, Villanueva’s solution to this abuse is to simply wait out the current board directors of these state-owned corporations. “Once we implement the CPCS (Compensation and Position Classification System), the current board members by then will still enjoy the same benefits because of the policy on nondiminution. But once their position becomes vacant, then the new compensation framework will be implemented,” Villanueva said. “The abuse will cease because in the future, the ones who will take their position will now be correctly compensated,” he added. Villanueva and his colleagues at the GCG clearly take the long view. After all, their mandate after the commission’s creation in 2011was to precisely to come up with a CPCS. But Villanueva offered an increasingly popular excuse for being unable to complete that task even after two years. “The CPCS should have been rolled out late last year, but we had to deal with other pressing issues like super typhoon Yolanda,” he said, exhibiting once again the kind of phlegmatic approach that this has been the hallmark of this administration. This will not do. The excessive bonuses are taking money from taxpayers’ pockets and putting it in the hands of officials who have done nothing to improve our lot. We don’t want to be told that this will eventually stop; we want these barnacles to stop stealing our money now.‐stealing‐our‐money‐now‐/            

Pag-IBIG investing in stocks By Othel V. Campos | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am State-owned Pag-IBIG Fund is mulling over investing as much as P5 billion in the local stock market this year to obtain higher yields. Pag-IBIG president and chief executive Darlene Marie Berberabe said the fund was ready to allocate P5 billion from an investible pool of P20 billion earlier earmarked for government securities, pending approval from the Finance Department. “Unlike the GSIS [Government Service Insurance System] and the SSS [Social Security System], we are not a pension fund. Pag-IBIG has the mandate to return a member’s savings after 20 years,” she said, adding the provident fund was also enjoying guarantee from the government. Berberabe said with the fund’s mandate to provide housing needs to members, investments in highly volatile financial instruments such as stocks must have the approval of the government. The Pag-IBIG board in 2013 approved the proposal to go into the local stock market as an alternative investment. About 70 percent of Pag-IBIG’s funds are invested in housing projects. Pag-IBIG is interested to invest mostly in blue-chip issues and will draw up the parameters of its planned investment. Berberabe said the Pag-IBIG would appoint a fund manager to manage the stocks investments once it got regulatory approvals. Pag-IBIG reported a net income of P16.25 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, up from P12.10 billion year-on-year. Pag-IBIG is allowed to allocate 70 percent of total revenues to members in the form of dividends. Pag-IBIG in 2014 will issue as much as P10.03 billion worth of dividends to all members. Pag-IBIG has improved loan collection efforts starting in 2013, including outsourcing of payment collections for delinquent accounts. Pag-IBIG increased its housing loan amount by 100 percent to P6 million in 2013 due to high liquidity from P3 million, and reduced interest rates on calamity loans by half to 5.95 percent from 10.75 percent. The fund since 2010 has implemented innovative programs and has increased its membership by 5.3 percent to 13.5 million at end-2013.

Members’ savings rose in the last three years to P82.3 billion, including voluntary savings of P2.34 billion from non-traditional sectors, while total assets amounted to P345.7 billion by the end of 2013. Service channels were also expanded with more branches in key locations nationwide numbering now to 62 from 38 in 2012. It opened 14 more service channels inside shopping malls for better access and service desks in select local government units and forged collection agreements with leading banks and payment centers to give members the convenience of paying their savings and amortizations.‐ibig‐investing‐in‐stocks/                                  

Tetangco warns banks against complacency in 2014 By Julito G. Rada | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am Economic fundamentals remain strong, but the Bangko Sentral said banks should not be complacent this year, in the face of uncertainties in the global markets. “Clearly, as we begin this new year, we are doing so from a position of strength. Nevertheless, because markets are interconnected and constantly evolving, we must not be complacent,” Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a speech during the annual reception for the banking community on Friday. Tetangco said the banking system remained sound, stable and profitable as the country sustained a strong external position, including healthy gross international reserves. Data showed the GIR hit $84 billion as of end-December 2013, enough to cover one year worth of imports. Foreign portfolio investments in 2013 posted a net inflow of $4.2 billion, surpassing the revised forecast of $3.2 billion made by the Bangko Sentral, on the back of the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals and sustained high growth in the first three quarters. “The BSP contributed to these positive developments, particularly in taming inflation through appropriate monetary policies, while providing support to the real economy,” Tetangco said. He said the strong economic fundamentals were now the norm for the Philippines, with the economy growing consistently in an environment of low and stable inflation.‐warns‐banks‐against‐complacency‐ in‐2014‐/            

‘Parents know best on school opening’ By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am Parents of school children should be consulted on the proposal to change the country’s school calendar to either August or September, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said on Sunday. In a statement, Marcos said high premium should be given to the sentiment of the parents since it’s their children who will be affected by the change of school opening. “Mother knows best. It’s the parents that have all the best of intentions for their kids. That’s why their voice should be heard.” Four prominent universities, namely, University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle University, and University of Santo Tomas, aired preference for the change of the start of the academic calendar from June to either August or September. They argued that the change would align the Philippines’ school calendar with other major universities in the world as well as prepare the country for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community scheduled for 2015. Reports said more educational institutions, including the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, had expressed support to the proposal of the “Big 4” universities. Marcos said formal consultations or discussions should not exclude the parents since their inputs are crucial when it comes to the protection and welfare of the students. “I think it is to the best interest of the stakeholders in the country’s educational system to give importance on what the parents have to say. In the first place, parents are the most concerned sector when it comes to the education of their children. We should, therefore, ask them what their opinion is on the matter,” he said.‐parents‐know‐best‐on‐school‐opening‐/            

Corruption thrives on curbs—Abad By Vito Barcelo | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am The Philippines continues to violate international commitments on rice import restrictions, according to former National Food Authority Administrator Anthony Abad. By imposing trade controls, he NFA unwittingly is also allowing graft and corruption to thrive, Abad said. “The Philippines was already violating its international commitments because the NFA continued to insist on issuing rice permits that are considered a trade barrier,” hesaid. The former NFA chief said that the country’s continued use of quantitative restrictions to limit the importation of rice “was a breeding ground for corruption and inefficiency” that would lead to opportunities for graft as well as spiraling rice prices. “Right now, the Philippines is in violation of its international commitments,” said Abad, a lawyer with Economics and Law degrees from Ateneo De Manila University. Quantitative restrictions allow member-countries of the World Trade Organization to curb the importation of sensitive agricultural products. A “special treatment” provision in the WTO agreement provides for restriction on imports of sensitive agricultural products subject to strict conditions. Based on the “special treatment” provision for rice granted by the WTO, the Philippines was allowed to impose quantitative restrictions on rice and was exempted from rice import liberalization from 1995 to 2005. In January 2004, the country requested an extension of the privilege, and was allowed to continue imposing quantitative restrictions until June 2012. The government has requested another extension from the WTO, but this has yet to be granted, he said. Abad, also the former CEO and president of the Philippine International Trading Corporation and Commissioner at the Tariff Commission, explained that “technically, when you have an agreement that is time-bound, the special treatment clause expires upon the deadline.” An ongoing debate on the government’s interpretation of international trade agreements has been triggered by smuggling charges leveled by the NFA and Department of Agriculture against rice traders who in September last year brought rice into the country without securing import permits from the NFA. Lawyers of rice traders such as Starcraft International Trading Corporation instead wrote NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag in advance to inform him that the said companies were importing rice and in their letter argued that “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.”

According the Starcraft counsel, 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 expired and was no longer necessary. Despite the communications, the said rice shipments were seized and held by the Bureau of Customs upon the prodding of the NFA. In December, RTC courts in Manila, Batangas and Davao issued writs of preliminary injunction that enjoined officials of the BOC and the NFA from requiring Starcraft and other importers to secure NFA import permits for their rice shipments. The courts ordered the lifting of the hold orders on the rice shipments and consequently instructed the BOC to release the said shipments. Abad stressed that it was in the country’s best interests to abide with its international agreements.‐thrives‐on‐curbs‐abad‐/                                

SSS eyes 2016 premium hike amid flak By Jennifer Ambanta | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am THE Social Security System hopes to increase the premiums paid by its members before the term of President Benigno Aquino III ends to extend the pension fund’s actuarial life, SSS president Emmanuel de Quiros said Sunday. “With all of the problems, we really want to do it again before we end our term or at least initiate moves to do that, “ De Quiros said. “We hope the next administration will continue up that road.” The SSS was criticized only recently for announcing it would be collecting higher contributions from its members starting this month. On Jan. 10 the left-leaning group Kilusang Mayo Uno asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the pension fund’s plan. It said the fund would be using the higher premiums it would be collecting to finance the government’s public-private partnership program and not to extend its actuarial life. Instead of issuing such an order, however, the high court on Jan. 14 gave the respondents in the case 10 days to comment on the KMU’s petition before deciding on it. The respondents in the case are Aquino, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and De Quiros. De Quiros said Sunday the SSS expected P6 billion more in collections this year once it increased its members’ premium contributions by 0.6 percent. He said the extra money would be invested in different vehicles to generate more revenue for the system. The SSS now has P400 billion worth of assets, and of that amount P40 billion are in salary loans, P16 billion are in real estate and a smaller amount is in housing loans. Fixed income and equities are between P70 billion and P80 billion. “We are fairly liquid,” De Quiros said. The system’s net income from January to November 2013 stood at P35 billion, slightly better or about the same level as in 2012, he said. “Revenues from investment from January to November 2013 hit P20 billion, almost the same amount recorded in 2012.” De Quiros said the SSS expected its net revenue to hit P30 billion in 2014 as its membership continued to improve and the equity markets were showing opportunities.

“We were doing a little bit of selling towards the end of the year [2013], so now is a good time to buy, De Quiros said. He said the pension fund might favor fixed income in the coming years as the interest rates were starting to pick up for government securities. “The interest rates were coming down but we knew at some point that it was also going to turn around, so right now we’re starting to go long term once rates start to move up,” De Quiros said. The SSS had 30 million member as of the end of 2013, and of those almost a million were Filipinos working abroad and the rest were tricycle drivers, fishermen, farmers, vendors and inmates. De Quiros said the company hoped to increase its foreign membership by 30 percent this year by adding more branches abroad. “We are looking at Japan, California and Canada, “he said.‐eyes‐2016‐premium‐hike‐amid‐flak‐/                            

State firms under fire for ‘legalized plunder’ By Joyce Pangco Panares | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am   A LABOR group on Sunday slammed the “legalized plunder” being committed by the board members of government-owned or controlled corporations through the fat bonuses that they awarded themselves. Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino Metro Manila chairman Gie Relova took exception to the bonuses received by the board of directors of the Philippine Health Insurance Co. or PhilHealth, since most of them are also Cabinet members with Salary Grade 31 amounting to P77,000 a month. In its 2012 annual audit report, the Commission on Audit named PhilHealth as among the 31 GOCCs that released P2.3 billion in bonuses and allowances “without or in excess of legal basis or proper authority.” Of the amount, PhilHealth accounted for P1.65 billion. The PhilHealth board of directors pushed on with the granting of fat bonuses despite getting no clearance from the Governance Commission on GOCCs and a notice of disallowance from the Commission on Audit, GCG chairman Cesar Villanueva said. “The board of directors of PhilHealth are mostly Cabinet members and heads of other agencies and steadfast allies of President (Benigno Aquino III). No wonder the Palace has been defending their self-rewarded bonuses since October last year,” Relova said. Among the PhilHealth board members who also occupy posts either in the Cabinet or in other government corporations are as follows: Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Health Secretary Enrique Ona, Social Security System president, and Government Service Insurance System president Robert Vergara. Relova, however, appealed to COA to make a distinction between “abusive PhilHealth board of directors who gratified themselves with members’ funds” and the regular rank and file employees which according to law may negotiate for more benefits under a collective negotiation agreement. “If the COA decision is followed to the letter, the average state worker shall be left with nothing because they simply live off their salaries in exchange for their labor, whereas the executives can continue living their extravagant lifestyles even if they enforce the CoA order,” he said.

Earlier, PhilHealth president Alexander Padilla said the bonuses were covered by the state company’s charter under Republic Act No. 7875, which he said allowed PhilHealth to determine compensation of its personnel. Padilla has already issued a press statement that he is ready to defend PhilHealth’s allowances and bonuses all the way to the Supreme Court, Villanueva said. Relova said the government must not shy away from accepting Padilla’s challenge, as he urged the Department of Justice to immediately file appropriate criminal and administrative charges against abusive GOCC executives based on the CoA findings. “The COA report is based on the GOCCs’ own reports and documents. It will be sufficient enough to establish a sturdy case based on the prima facie evidence on the repetitive illegal activities of their respective board of directors,” Relova said. He also asked the DoJ to look into possible collusion between GOCC board members and officials from the departments of Finance and Budget. “The sheer number of GOCCs and number of years these illegal activities have been practiced illustrates the extent and depth of legalized plunder by government officials. A lifestyle check is most appropriate now, more than ever,” he said. “Such wide scope and periodical occurrence of illegal releases could only be probable if there are insiders in the Finance And Budget departments,” Relova said. GCG’s Villanueva said to address the perceived abuse in the system, the body will launch a new process, to be called Compensation and Position Classification System (CPCS), that will curb excessive bonuses. “The CPCS should have been rolled out late last year, but we had to deal with other pressing issues like super typhoon Yolanda,” Villanueva said. “Once we implement the CPCS, the current board members by then will still enjoy the same benefits because of the policy on non-diminution. But once their position becomes vacant, then the new compensation framework will be implemented,” Villanueva said. “The abuse will cease because in the future, the ones who will take their position will now be correctly compensated,” he added.‐firms‐under‐fire‐for‐legalized‐plunder‐/      

‘Agaton’ brings woes to 580,000, more rain By AFP | Jan. 20, 2014 at 12:01am THE death toll from the first storm to batter the Philippines this year had climbed to 40, officials said Sunday, as forecasters warned more heavy rain was on its way. Tropical depression “Agaton”—international name “Lingling”—” has wreaked havoc across Mindanao, affecting more than 580,000 people of whom 161,000 have been displaced and moved to evacuation centers.

First storm in 2014. Weather forecaster Rene Paciente points to tropical depression “Agaton” that was spotted east of Davao City on Sunday. Manny Palmero The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council increased the number of dead by three from Friday’s toll as the state weather bureau said further “moderate to heavy” rain was expected over large areas of Mindanao. Public storm warning signals have been hoisted in eight provinces on the island that are expected to be hit by 60-kilometer-per-hour winds over the next 36 hours. “Tropical depression Agaton is expected to bring moderate to occasionally heavy rain and thunderstorms over Bohol, Siquijor, Northern Mindanao and the rest of the Caraga region,” the weather bureau said. Officials said more than 7,000 passengers were stranded on Sunday as the Coast Guard stopped ships from sailing in the ports of Cebu, Dumaguete, Tagbilaran, Maasin, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon and Masbate. Thousands of travelers were also stranded in the different ports and airports in the Caraga region, while thousands of motorists were stranded as a result of landslides and flooding.

Office of Civil Defense regional director Liza Mazo said a landslide had blocked the national highway in Agusan, slowing the emergency response. Roughly 20 storms batter the Philippines every year and many areas on Mindanao’s eastern coast are still recovering from powerful Typhoon Bopha that left 1,900 dead or missing in December 2012. The storm is also expected to bring some heavy rain and thunderstorms to the country’s central region, where millions remain homeless after Super Typhoon Haiyan cut a swathe of destruction in November. Haiyan, one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Philippines, left nearly 8,000 dead and missing after it triggered giant tsunami-like waves that swallowed entire coastal communities.With Florante S. Solmerin and Alvin T. Guanzon‐agaton‐brings‐woes‐to‐580‐000‐more‐rain/                              

COA asked: Treat GOCC execs, workers differently January 19, 2014 10:02 pm   by Jing Villamente Reporter THE Commission on Audit (COA) is being asked to differentiate between the low-paid rank and file employees and executives of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in ordering the returnof benefits to the agency.The COA earlier disallowed the benefits granted to employees and directors of the PhilHealth and 30 other government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), amounting to P2.313 billion. The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, in an emailed statement said, the COA must make an effort to differentiate in handling the executives’ perks and an ordinary clerk’s benefits in its refund order.In COA’s 2012 Annual Report on GOCCs, the audit officials said that these releases were “without or in excess of legal basis or proper authority” The COA said the PhilHealth Board of Directors committed “grave abuse of authority.” “As we applaud the COA for being true to its anti-corruption mandate and standing by its earlier decision to return the illegally released funds, the agency must make a distinction between the abusive Board of Directors which gratified itself with members’ funds and the regular rank and file employees which according to law has the right to benefits and may negotiate for more under a Collective Negotiation Agreement [CAN],” said Gie Relova BMP. “If the COA decision is followed to the letter, the average state worker shall be left with nothing because they simply live off [on] their salaries in exchange for their labor whereas, the executives can continue living their extravagant lifestyles even if they enforce the COA order,” Relova added. The labor leader said that “most of the Board of Directors of PhilHealth are Cabinet members or heads of other agencies and steadfast allies of President Noynoy Aquino. No wonder the Palace has been defending their self-rewarded bonuses since October last year.” “If one digs deeper, they all belong to propertied and landed families with a wide range of corporate interests and landholdings. By far, the board members of PhilHealth are born with a silver spoon unlike the rank and file employees,” he alleged. Among the PhilHealth’s present Board of Directors include: Manuel Roxas 2nd (DILG), Rosalinda Baldoz (DOLE), Dinky Soliman (DSWD), Enrique Ona (DoH), Emilio de Quiros (SSS), Roberto Vergara (GSIS) and former chief peace negotiator Alex Padilla at its Chief Executive Officer.

Despite withholding their names, Relova also slammed several GOCC executives for hiding behind the employees and their legitimate CNAs to excuse themselves from the snowballing public outrage. “These execs must be ashamed of themselves for using the employees’ CNA to justify their caprices when the decision to issue bonuses solely relies on them. Bureaucratic abuse can only emanate from them, not the employees. The special privileges and powers the directors are wielding is the most convincing difference between the bosses that issue directives and the employees that are the receiving end of their members’ gripes,” Relova explained. The group also asked justice department to immediately file appropriate criminal and administrative charges against the abusive GOCC execs based on the documents and findings the COA has already released in its annual report. “The COA report is based on the GOCCs’ own reports and documents, it will be sufficient enough to establish a sturdy case based on the prima facie evidence on the repetitive illegal activities of their respective board of directors.” Republic Act 3091 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act prohibits government officials from “becoming interested directly and indirectly, for personal gain, or having a material interest in any transaction or act requiring the approval of a board, panel or group of which he is a member.” The law further states that, “Interest for personal gain shall be presumed against those public officers responsible for the approval of manifestly unlawful, inequitable, or irregular transaction or acts by the board, panel or group to which they belong.” ΩPenalties include imprisonment for not less than six years and one month or more than fifteen years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the Government of any prohibited interest and unexplained wealth manifestly out of proportion to his salary and other lawful incomeBMP wants the DoJ to investigate the possible collusion of the board members of the GOCCs with some officials of the Departments of Finance, Budget and leaders of the employees union in defrauding the government of billions of pesos. “A lifestyle check is most appropriate now, more than ever,” Relova held. “The sheer number of GOCCs and number of years these illegal activities have been practiced illustrates the extent and depth of “legalized” plunder by government officials. Such wide scope and periodical occurrence of illegal releases could only be probable if there are insiders in the finance and budget departments,” he further said. Relova also recommended to the union officials in the thirty-one GOCCs to immediately hold general membership meetings in their respective unions and explain the events surrounding the negotiations with their administrators and not muddle the issue further. They must be come clean and spill the beans for they are accountable to their dues-paying members and the Filipino public in general as state employees, he advised.‐asked‐treat‐gocc‐execs‐workers‐differently/69068

Beware of frozen processed foods from Japan – FDA January 19, 2014 10:00 pm   FOOD and Drug Administration (FDA) officials are cautioning the public about the possible entry of frozen processed food products from Japan, that had been recalled in that country last December for containing malathion pesticides. The FDA cited the products from Japan-based company, Maruha Nichiro Holdings (MNH), not registered with the Japan FDA, which last year started recalling 6.4 million packages of assorted frozen foods after being proved to contain toxic pesticides. Because of this, the FDA asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to remain vigilant in guarding the “Philippine borders against the illegal entry of unregistered products, including contaminated and substandard food products.”“Only FDA-registered processed food products imported by FDAlicensed food distributors should be allowed entry in the country,” it added. The agency also said that its regulation officers are now checking whether the products may have entered the country illegally and are being sold in groceries and supermarkets. “As per FDA record, neither an FDA-licensed distributor is importing the said products from Japan nor any products is registered with the Philippine FDA,” it said. The FDA said its teams have instructions to “confiscate all unregistered processed food products from Japan in outlets or in possession by individuals.” The Japan’s Health Ministry reportedly confirmed 556 people getting sick after eating Maruha products.The FDA is also going after an unregistered health product, the called slimming underwear. In its Advisory 2014-005, the FDA warned against the “Onami” slimming underwear products that claim to detoxify the body and burn fats. “All consumers are hereby warned against buying the said unregistered product from the market or through online,” FDA head Kenneth Hartigan-Go said. He said the FDA’s monitoring showed the product is being advertised to have benefits as it will detoxify the body and burn fats, strengthen the immune system, boost metabolism, increase mental alertness, reduce fatigue and stress, reduce aches and pains, and prevent body odors. Ritchie A. Horario‐of‐frozen‐processed‐foods‐from‐japan‐fda/69066/ 

P3 million added to assists kidney patients in QC January 19, 2014 8:40 pm   THE Quezon City government, in partnership with the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI), has increased by P3 million the annual provision for medical services and health care assistance to Quezon City residents and city hall employees. Under the amended memorandum of agreement signed by Mayor Herbert Bautista and NKTI executive director Dr. Jose Dante Dator, the annual allocation for the health care program shall be increased from P5 million to P8 million, for a three-year period beginning May 12, 2013, until May 11, 2016, for the purpose of providing quality medical services to the city’s underprivileged constituents. The amended agreement replaces and supersedes the agreement forged between the QC government and NKTI on May 12, 2011, in its entirety.

EcoWaste cautions LGUs vs. smashing illegal gambling machines January 19, 2014 8:39 pm  

AN environmental watchdog has cautioned local government units (LGUs) against smashing illegal gambling machines particularly television (TV) sets as it causes toxic pollution. The EcoWaste Coalition said although it appreciates the move by LGUs in weeding out illegal gambling in their jurisdiction, they should also prevent breaking TV sets of video kareras as this causes toxic pollution. Thony Dizon, EcoWaste Coalition’s project protect coordinator, cited the smashing of 17 video karera gambling machines, including TVs, led by Mayor Jaime Fresnedi of Muntinlupa City after on Monday’s flag ceremony.

MMDA to complete traffic signals upgrade before PNoy’s term ends January 19, 2014 8:38 pm   BEFORE President Benigno Aquino 3rd ends his six-year term, all outdated traffic signals in Metro Manila will be upgraded, according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). MMDA Traffic Engineering head Noemie Recio said from the total 425 traffic signals at key sections in the metropolis, only 85 signals have been upgraded. “Due to limited budget, only 85 traffic signals have been upgraded,” said Recio, over the agency’s radio program on Sunday. The 85 automated traffic signals are now being controlled at the agency’s Command and Control Center, which was recently launched by Aquino. Ritchie A. Horario

Peso can stand shocks – BSP January 19, 2014 8:22 pm  

by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Reporter The country’s sound external liquidity position like the balance of payments (BOP) is a useful buffer to counter external shocks that negatively affect the movement of the peso, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). “The weakening of the peso was not totally unexpected, just like the weakening of the other regional currencies. It’s not totally unexpected because there remains uncertainty about the speed and the duration of the Fed taper,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said during the Annual Reception to the Banking Community. The United States Federal Reserve has announced that it would start to reduce its $85-billion a month quantitative easing (QE) program to $75 billion beginning this January. The Federal Open Market Committee would cut its monthly long-term Treasury on purchases to $40 billion and mortgage-backed securities to $35 billion a month, for a total $10-billion reduction in the US bond-buying program. Tetangco explained that the Fed announcement is causing market volatility and as a result, there has been some global portfolio rebalancing that has led to weakening of the regional currencies, as well as emerging markets currency in general. On January 15, the peso entered the P45 to a dollar territory, its weakest end since September 1, 2010, when it finished P45.08 against the dollar. The local currency further depreciated to P45.12 to a dollar on January 16 and back to P45 to a dollar on January 17. “The macro fundamentals of the Philippines remains sound and external liquidity position remains sound. In fact, we are projecting another BOP surplus this year, and that surplus significantly is due to current account surplus,” Tetangco added. The BOP summarizes the country’s economic transactions with the rest of the world during a period. A surplus arises when inflows are greater than outflows, while a deficit is incurred when outflows of dollars exceed the inflows. Current account is one of the compositions of BOP that includes trade-in-goods and services, income, and current transfers. The BSP said that the BOP will remain in surplus in 2014 at $3 billion, or 0.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on the account of trade deficit that would be brought by the reconstruction requirements in connection to the damages brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

For 2013, the central bank has revised its projections for the BOP to $5.3 billion, or 1.9 percent of the gross domestic product from its earlier projection of $4.4B. Cumulative BOP surplus from January to November 2013 amounted to about $4.67 billion. “It’s good because its shows a real improvement on the external position. The surplus coming out from the real sector [really counts] not just from capital flow. So that also gives us useful buffer against external shocks,” Tetangco said.

BSP, PDIC approve SPRB Plus extension January 19, 2014 8:13 pm  

by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Reporter The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) over the weekend announced the extension of the Strengthening Program for Rural Banks (SPRB) Plus that aims to strengthen the country’s banking system and to minimize bank closures. In a joint statement, BSP and PDIC said that the extension of the program from December 31, 2013, until December 31, 2014, includes certain amendments and enhancement to encourage more mergers, consolidations and acquisition of eligible rural banks and thrift banks by strategic third party investors (STPIs). SPRB Plus is an enhanced version of the original SPRB which was launched in 2010 exclusively for rural banks. Its scope was broadened and enhancements were made under the SPRB Plus such as inclusion of thrift banks, in addition to rural banks, as among the eligible banks as well as the inclusion of thrift banks universal and commercial banks (U/KBs), nonbank corporations and group of companies as eligible STPIs. BSP and PDIC noted that among the approved amendments and enhancements include the relaxation of the required ownership control in an eligible bank by an eligible STPI from at least 67 percent to least 60 percent of the outstanding capital stock of the eligible bank, to align with the provision of BSP Circular 809 on the rules and regulations implementing Republic Act 10574 of the act allowing the infusion of foreign equity in the capital of rural banks. Meanwhile, financial assistance from PDIC may now also be in the form of either a combination of preferred shares and direct loan, or direct loan only. “Furthermore, as support to banks affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda, the amount of the preferred shares component of the PDIC financial assistance is increased from 50 percent to 100 percent of the required additional capital to restore the eligible banks’ capital adequacy ratio to a minimum 10 percent,” the joint statement stated. On the other hand, BSP and PDIC said that as of December 31, 2013, five merger/consolidation applications involving 10 banks have been approved by the PDIC and are being processed by the BSP. BSP and PDIC added that there are two applications for consolidation/acquisition that are in the pipeline.

P143‐B discretionary funds ‘constitutional’ January 19, 2014 8:11 pm   by Kristyn Nika M. Lazo Budget Secretary Florencio Abad rebuffed the view that the P143.8-billion lump sum discretionary funds under the 2014 General Appropriations Act are unconstitutional like the pork barrel, or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Abad questioned the grounds of the petition by former Manila councilor Greco Belgica that the P143.8-billion lump sum discretionary funds, saying that lump sum discretionary funds are recognized by the Constitution. “How can it be unconstitutional? The mere fact that it is a lump sum fund doesn’t make it unconstitutional because the Constitution recognized discretionary funds. In fact, it is clearly set forth in the letter of the Constitution,” Abad said. The budget chief was referring to Belgica’s petition before the Supreme Court saying the P143.8-billion lump sum discretionary funds for the Unprogrammed fund, E-Government fund, Contingent fund and Local Government Support fund should be “declared unconstitutional” like the PDAF. Belgica also said that the four lump sum funds was against the separation of powers provision on the 1987 Constitution. But Abad said that this is not true, adding that the sum funds are far from being the pork barrel money. “It is not pork [because] the total of pork is only P25.4 billion . . . In fact, the court already said that how can a fund be declared as unconstitutional, how can an act be in relation to a fund in the budget considered illegal as far as legislators are concerned?” he added. Abad insisted that the four lump sum discretionary funds were legal, and that it will provide benefits for various national and local government agencies and units. “[The lump sum funds are the] savings that we can procure in bulk. We want to make sure that our [government] systems are also able to talk to each other,” he said. He noted that the Unprogrammed fund is a “standy appropriation approved by the Congress” if budget or money comes in.

He also clarified that the E-Government fund was for the bulk buying of laptops and Internet connection for the whole of the government, with savings up to P750 million a year. “For E-Government fund, instead of every agency buying their own laptop and subscribing to Internet, what we did was that the government was going to buy them in bulk and we will be saving about 40 percent of the cost of a laptop. We will be able to provide every official in the government up to the director and up to secretary with a laptop, and we save P750 million a year,� he added. The aforementioned P143.8-billion appropriations account 8.9 percent of the P2.265-trillion national budget for 2014.

Sereno could violate SC rules through inaction on rate hike January 19, 2014 10:03 pm   by Jomar Canlas Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno is in danger of violating the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court after she failed to inhibit herself from the case involving the latest power rate hike imposed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), in which her mentor is the lawyer. Sereno’s inaction became evident even if her former mentor and law partner, retired SC Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano is counseling Meralco.Under the Internal Rules of the SC or Administrative Matter 10-4-20-SC members of the high tribunal are bound to inhibit themselves from cases being handled by previous partners, mentors or close kin. Rule 8, Section 3C states that “when a member of the division, other than the member in charge of the case, is counsel, partner, or part of a law firm that is counsel to a case before the division, such member shall inhibit himself/herself unless said member is no longer partner or member of the law firm when it was engaged as counsel in the case and the member votes against the client of such firm.”The more vital provision is: “In any event, the mandatory inhibition shall cease after the lapse of ten years from the resignation or withdrawal of the member from the law firm, unless the member personally handled the case when he/she was a partner or member of the law firm.”Feliciano has tapped Sereno in the case of Piatco as his law partner, particularly as documentation lawyer and legal researcher. He also endorsed Sereno when she was still applying as Associate Justice of the high court.Following the said provision, the 10-year ban is still applicable against Sereno since she separated her ties with Feliciano in the Piatco case was just in 2008. Two of the Senior Justices in the SC, inhibit themselves each time their former law office is involved in cases pending before the high court. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio voluntarily inhibits himself in each and every case involving his former law office and law partners under the Carpio Villaraza Cruz Marcelo law office. The same thing also with Associate Justice Arturo Bion who excuses himself whenever the Siguion Reyna law office is involved in a case pending before the SC. Feliciano appeared and attended the preliminary conference set by the high court last Monday. The octogenarian Feliciano appeared at the conference headed by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the ponente of the case.

Death toll from ‘Agaton’ rises to 40, thousands flee January 19, 2014 10:04 pm  by WilliamDepasupil Reporter  One of the many bridges destroyed by the slow‐moving low pressure area turned tropical  depression Agaton in wide areas of Mindanao. Several thousand people were ordered  evacuated to escape landslides and floodwaters. PHOTO BY AL JACINTO  THE death toll from Tropical Depression Agaton rose to 40, 28 flights were cancelled and thousands evacuated to safer grounds after landslides and floods drowned more provinces from the slow-moving first weather disturbance for the year. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported on Sunday that most of the deaths were attributed to landslides and drowning. Of the 40 deaths, 18 each were from Davao and Caraga regions, three in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) and one in Region 9 the Zamboanga Peninsula. Five persons were reported missing in Regions 11 and 9 while the injured persons remains at 65. The damage caused by Tropical Depression Agaton was estimated to P313.78 million including P101.118 million in infrastructure and P212.66 million in agriculture in Regions 10, 11 and Caraga. The NDDRMC said that 123,444 families or 587,115 persons were affected in 635 barangays in 90 municipalities in 15 provinces of Regions 10 (Northern Mindanao), 11 (Davao Region), Caraga and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Of these, 33,388 families or 161,808 persons were displaced and served inside 436 evacuation centers. The NDRRMC also said 7,386 passengers of 39 vessels, 72 rolling cargoes and nine motorbancas were still stranded in the ports of Cebu; Dumaguete; Tagbilaran; Maasin; Cam Sur; Sorsogon; and Masbate as of 6 a.m. on Sunday.It added that 52 roads and 21 bridges were not passable in Regions 8, 10, 11 and Caraga. The NDRRMC said the number of totally damaged houses reached 711 while 1,189 were partially damaged in Regions 5, 10, 11 and Caraga. The disaster agency reported 22 incidents, 14 of which were landslides, and six flooding and flashfloods and two maritime incidents in Regions 8, 9, 10, 11, Caraga and ARMM.

More areas have also been placed under a state of calamity, including Liang, Surigao del Sur; Tago, Surigao del Sur; San Miguel, Surigao del Sur; and Bislig, Surigao del Sur. AT least six provinces remain under storm warning signal as tropical depression Agaton slightly accelerates, causing pre-emptive evacuation in some affected areas. Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) on Sunday said that pre-emptive evacuation of 138 families were enforced in the coastal barangays of Cantilan and Cortes towns and Tandag City, all in Surigao del Sur. The same, he added, was also enforced to residents of Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley where 37 families were evacuated to safer grounds. Caber said the national highway along Barangay Nurcia, Lanuza, Surigao del Sir was rendered not passable to all types of vehicles due to landslide. Eastmincom commander Lt. Gen. Raineir Cruz has instructed all military units in the areas to assist the Municipal Risk Reduction Management Councils, volunteers, local officials and the police for the rescue and relief operations. As of 10 a.m. on Sunday, Agaton was located 205 km southeast of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur or at 230 km east of Davao City with a maximum sustained winds of 55 kph near the center. Under public storm warning signal No.1 were the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Compostela Valley. By Monday morning Agaton is forecast to be at 120 km southeast of Davao City, 60 km of Gen. Santos City by Tuesday and out of the Philippine area of responsibility by Wednesday. A landslide on Sunday cut off the highway linking several towns in Surigao del Sur province in southern Philippines, the army in Zamboanga City said. Eastmincom spokesman Caber said heavy rains the past days softened the soil and eventually eroded causing a massive landslide in Lanuza town. “Army troops were sent to the area to help the Public Works [department] to clear the highway and assist in the evacuation of residents near the area,� he told The Manila Times. A damaged concrete bridge linking Lanao del Norte to Western Mindanao is also hampering the flow of trade in the region and repair could take weeks, probably months before a new bridge is erected. A huge part of the bridge in the village of Napo in Linamon town was broken due to continuous rains and all land travels are impossible. Travellers now have to walk through a muddy and rough terrain before they can take a boat that would bring them to the other side of the village.

“It was really difficult now because the bridge is broken. There is no way to cross the bridge, but through the river down below where a fleet of small wooden boats now operate. We still don’t know how long this would be over,” one security guard at the passenger terminal of the Rural Transit Mindanao said. Traders are now forced to use courier firms to send cargoes from Cagayan de Oro City to Zamboanga City. The Department of Public Works and Highways said it is already working on the damaged bridge and other bridges in Mindanao damaged by the rains. The Manila International Airport Authority said the cancelled flights were: Cebu Pacific fights 5J 381/5J 382 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), 5J 397/5J 398 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), 5J 785/5J 786 (Manila-Butuan-Manila), 5J 383/5J 384 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), 5J 767/5J 768 (ManilaSurigao-Manila), and 5J 787/5J 788 (Manila-Butuan-Manila). PAL Express flights 2P 5967/2P 5968 (Manila-Busuanga-Manila), 2P 869/2P 870 (ManilaCagayan-Manila), 2P 527/2P 528 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), and 2P 967/2P 968 (ManilaButuan-Manila). Another PAL Express flight, 2P 045/2P 046 was also cancelled due to aircraft situation. Zest Air also grounded its flights Z2 304/Z2 305 (Manila-Kalibo-Manila), Z2 304/Z2 305 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila), and Z2 593/Z2 594 (Manila-Cagayan-Manila). With reports from Ritchie Horario, Al Jacinto and Benjie Vergara‐toll‐from‐agaton‐rises‐to‐40‐thousands‐flee/69072/                    

A day to unite nation in prayer January 19, 2014 10:07 pm   by Joel M. Sy Egco Senior Reporter Key personalities from politics, business, civil society and religious groups are expected to attend the National Day of Prayer on Monday called by President Benigno Aquino 3rd at Malacañang. In an interview on Sunday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said even leaders of the opposition such as Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada were invited to the event, but he could not they are attending. “All the country’s leaders are invited . . . The mayors of Metro Manila are all invited too, those who helped their counterparts in Eastern Visayas,” he said. “With the President are the representatives of all affected communities damaged by the Zamboanga standoff, Bohol earthquake, and Typhoon Yolanda . . . Also invited to attend the occasion are the leaders and members of Congress, the government, civil society and those from various faiths” Coloma added. At exactly 5 p.m., the President will lead the entire country in prayer. He will be joined by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Police Supt. Imam Ebra Moxsir of the Imam Council of the Philippines, Commissioner Zenaida Pawid of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples, Isaias Samson of Iglesia ni Cristo, and representatives of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches. “We invite everyone to be one with the President and the nation in prayer wherever they maybe, at home, in the community, offices, places of work, church or places of worship,” Coloma stressed. He said that the event will be aired live by all government networks, while the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) has issued a circular to its members to cover the event. “But the delivery of coverage would be clearly optional and voluntary on their [KBP members] part,” Coloma said. Dubbed “One Nation, One Prayer,” the event aims to “commemorate the lives that were lost in recent calamities, to thank God for granting the country strength and to ask for guidance for a better future.”‐day‐to‐unite‐nation‐in‐prayer/69076/   

Facing blackout protest, Palace vows to fight unjustified power rate hike January 19, 2014 10:12 pm   Malacañang on Sunday reaffirmed the Aquino administration’s stand against unjustified power rate hikes, amid reports that militant groups plan to stage a blackout protest on Tuesday. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the government continue to keep tabs on the issue. “The President and the government will continue to monitor developments on this issue. They remain determined not to allow an unjustified rate adjustment,” Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan. Some groups earlier announced plans to hold a blackout protest on Jan. 21, the day the Supreme Court is to hold oral arguments on the P4.15 per kilowatt hour rate increase imposed by Meralco. Coloma said the government will respect the views of some groups reportedly planning protest actions against the administration. But he said the government is willing to listen to such groups if they have concrete suggestions related to the grievances they will raise. Last week, a fourth petition contesting Meralco’s rate increase was filed before the Supreme Court. The latest petitioner is former Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr. of Iloilo, who wants the Court to rule as unconstitutional the order of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approving the unprecedented rate hike. Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna and several congressmen were the first to challenge the rate increase before the Supreme Court. A second petition was filed by National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore), and a third by another group of lawmakers from the Anakpawis party-list. Syjuco wants the tribunal to make permanent the 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued against Meralco and ERC. He said the Court must also compel Meralco to refund consumers who were already billed last December. Syjuco said the ERC “abused its authority and discretion” in granting the rate hike, and denied Meralco’s end-users due process.

He said the Meralco, ERC, and other respondents Department of Energy (DOE), Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), Sem-Calaca Power Corp, Masinloc Power Partners Co. Ltd., Therma Luzon Inc., San Miguel Energy Corp, South Premiere Power Corp. and Therma Mobile Inc. must be prosecuted “for commission of any market abuse or economic sabotage which brought this highest power rate hike.” The Supreme Court granted Meralco’s plea to include the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) and several power suppliers and generation companies (GenCos) as respondents in the case. PNA and Jomar Canlas‐blackout‐protest‐palace‐vows‐to‐fight‐unjustified‐power‐rate‐ hike/69082/                                

Posted on January 19, 2014 10:43:37 PM

Hunger ‘generally steady’ HUNGER REMAINED “generally steady” as the year ended, the Social Weather Stations (SWS)  said in a new report, although a marked uptick was recorded in the disaster‐hit Visayas region.   Results of a December 11‐16 nationwide survey found 18.1% of the respondents ‐‐ equivalent  to an estimated 3.90 million families ‐‐ claiming to have gone hungry at least once in the past  three months, basically unchanged from September’s 17.9% (est. 3.85 million households).The  fourth quarter result brought the 2013 average to 19.5%, just 0.4 better than 2012’s 19.9%.  Malacañang said it would continue to work on reducing poverty, which would help eliminate  hunger, while an analyst pointed out that strong economic growth was still not being felt by  all.The SWS noted that while the same survey saw an increase in the number of those claiming  to be poor (reported by BusinessWorld last week), rising hunger among the have‐nots was  offset by declines among the rest.It said overall hunger rose by 1.4 points to 24.6% among the  self‐rated poor but fell by 2.2% to 10.3% among the not poor/on the borderline.    A larger 3.9‐point increase to 30.5% was recorded among the food poor, while a 3.3‐point  drop to 9.6% was seen among the not food poor/food borderline.At any one point in time,  hunger among the self‐rated food poor is always greater than hunger among the self‐rated  poor,” the SWS said.    The December survey had 55% of the respondents ‐‐ equivalent to around 11.8 million  households ‐‐ saying they were poor, up five points 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.Both moderate and severe hunger rates were  unchanged in the fourth quarter, the SWS said.Moderate hunger, referring to those who went  hungry “only once” or “a few times” in the last three months, stood at 15.4% of the  respondents from 15.3% three months earlier, equivalent to an estimated 3.3 million  households.The 2013 average moderate hunger rate was 15.9%, 0.3 above 2012’s  15.6%.Severe hunger ‐‐ those who experienced it “often” or “always” ‐‐ hit 2.7% or around  583,000 families from September’s 2.6%.    The 2013 average severe hunger rate of 3.6% was 0.7 below the 2012 average of 4.3%.By  region, overall hunger fell in Mindanao and Balance Luzon, was unchanged in Metro Manila  but picked up in the Visayas, which was hit by an earthquake and a super‐typhoon before the  end of the year.   

Mindanao saw a 2.6‐point decline to 19.7%, equivalent to an estimated 965,000 families. This  brought the full‐year average to 22.1%, down 4.3 points from 2012.A one‐point dip was  recorded in Balance Luzon to 15.7% (est. 1.5 million families), which led to a 2013 average of  18.3% ‐‐ 0.5 above the previous year’s result.Overall hunger stayed at 24.3% in Metro Manila  (711,000 families), where the 2013 average hit 23.5% ‐‐ up 0.6 from 2012.    The Visayas, meanwhile, posted a 6.7‐point increase to 17.5% (726,000 families), which  brought the full‐year result to 16.1% ‐‐ 1.5 points above the 2012 average.Compared to the  previous quarter, moderate hunger fell by four points to 17.3% in Mindanao, taking the 2013  average to 18.8%.    It stayed at 14% in Balance Luzon, slightly better than the full‐year average of 14.6%.Metro  Manila recorded a 0.6‐point rise to 18.3%, just above the 2013 result of 17.8%.Moderate  hunger rose 4.6 points to 14.3% in the Visayas, where the year’s average was 14%.    Severe hunger, meanwhile, fell by one point to 1.7% in Balance Luzon and 0.7 point to 6% in  Metro Manila, but rose 1.9 points to 3.2% in the Visayas and by 1.3 in Mindanao to 2.3%Their  2013 averages, in the same order, were 3.7%, 5.7%, 2.1% and 3.3%.    Asked to comment, Sec. Hermino B. Coloma, Jr., Presidential Communication Operations  Office, said the government’s “priority attention to poverty reduction and social protection  addresses the creation of meaningful job opportunities that will increase household  incomes.”“Hopefully, this will also lessen hunger incidence.”Sociologist Nicole C. Curato of the  University of the Philippines, meanwhile, said: “The survey on hunger corroborates the  government’s own statistics that in spite of the Philippines’ ‘economic growth,’ poverty rates  remain unchanged.“Hunger is an indication of Filipinos’ actual experiences of deprivation,” she  added.  The Dec. 11‐16 SWS survey involved face‐to‐face interviews of 1,550 adults nationwide.The  sampling error margins were ±2.5 for national, ±4 for the Visayas and ±6 for Metro Manila,  Balance Luzon and Mindanao. ‐‐ with a report from Mikhail Franz E. Flores nerally‐steady%E2%80%99&id=82224  

Posted on January 19, 2014 10:43:10 PM By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Reporter

WB exec backs gov’t focus THE GOVERNMENT should remain focused on supporting the development of priority sectors  in order to ensure robust growth, a World Bank official said.    “I think it (the government) should just continue doing what it’s doing in order to achieve its  growth goals. Continue ramping up investments in infrastructure, health, education...,” the  bank’s lead economist for the Philippines, Rogier van den Brink, told reporters at the sidelines  of the central bank’s annual reception for the banking community last Friday.    “Good governance is also very important... boosting governance and accountability, and  competitiveness,” Mr. van den Brink added.    These, he said, will support the achievement of the government’s inclusive development  agenda and continued economic expansion.    In an updated “Global Economic Prospects” report released last week, the World Bank said the  country’s gross domestic product (GDP) likely expanded by 6.9% last year, near the upper end  of the government’s 6‐7% target.    Economic growth was an above‐target 7.4% as of September. The full‐year result ‐‐ to be  announced on Jan. 30 ‐‐ is expected to have been pulled down by natural disasters that hit in  the last months of the year.    The bank also said in the report that growth would likely ease to 6.5% this year, accelerate to  7.1% next year and then slow anew to 6.5% in 2016. The forecasts for 2013 to 2015, previously  bared in December, were revisions from the 7%, 6.7% and 6.8% outlooks, respectively,  announced in October.    The government’s GDP growth targets for this year to 2016 are 6.5‐7.5%, 7‐8% and 7.5‐8.5%,  respectively.    Asked to explain the forecasts, Mr. van den Brink said these took into account both the  positive and negative impacts of super typhoon Yolanda (known internationally as Haiyan),  which battered the central Philippines last November. 

“We think that 2014, it’s a bit of a tough year because of the Yolanda event. But as the  recovery program takes off in 2014, that will basically slowly start to provide a stimulus to the  economy,” he explained.    “That (the stimulus) will really come through in 2015. That’s why you see this little dip in 2014,  and then 2015 going up,” Mr. van den Brink said.    He noted that the bank’s 2016 forecast of 6.5% ‐‐ lower than the government’s 7.5‐8.5% goal ‐‐ reflected its “long term” growth outlook.    “Basically, we’re projecting our long‐term forecast, which is growth of about 6‐7%... and all  things considered, this figure is very good,” the World Bank economist said.‐exec‐backs‐ gov%E2%80%99t‐focus&id=82223                                     

Posted on January 19, 2014 10:42:43 PM

Peso decline not a worry ECONOMIC managers are not worried over the peso’s weakening, which they said was not  unexpected and the impact mitigated by the country’s strong fundamentals.  The peso last week weakened to P45 per US dollar. ‐‐ AFP    “When the peso depreciates a bit, it makes the productive sectors more competitive,  whether it is exporting or import‐substituting,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M.  Balisacan said at the sidelines of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) annual reception for the  banking community last Friday.    Central bank governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., also told reporters that the peso’s drop was  “not totally unexpected, just like the weakening of other regional currencies or other emerging  market currencies for that matter, because there remains uncertainty about the speed and  duration of the [US] Fed’s tapering that is causing market volatility.”    The peso hit P45 per dollar last week as positive US economic data led investors to favor the  greenback. It closed at P45:$1 last Wednesday and weakened further to P45.12 on Thursday ‐‐  the weakest since Aug. 23, 2010’s P45.13 ‐‐ and then recovered slightly on Friday, returning to  P45:$1.    It has depreciated by 1.36% from its P44.395 per dollar close at the end of 2013.    The currency’s fall, Mr. Balisacan said, does not signify a weakening economy.    “Our advantage over countries like Indonesia and India is we have very strong fundamentals.  Our current accounts position is positive ... Our remittances are very strong,” he noted.    The Development Budget Coordination Committee expects the exchange rate to stay within a  range of P41‐44:$1 through 2016.    “If the current rate would persist, then we would have to revisit our assumptions. But our view  is this could be temporary,” Mr. Balisacan said.    “We expected a lot of remittances because of the disasters, and I think the November number  is historically high. That’s likely to continue until December and January. And then you have 

the other sectors, like exports of services and manufactured goods, investments, those will  have offsetting effects,” he noted.    Mr. Tetangco, meanwhile, said: “The macroeconomic fundamentals of the Philippines remains  strong and our external position remains healthy,” which provides enough of a buffer against  external shocks.    “In fact, we are projecting another BoP (balance of payments) surplus this year and that  surplus is due to a current account surplus, which is good because it shows a real  improvement in the position,” he added. ‐‐ Bettina Faye V. Roc and Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio‐decline‐not‐a‐ worry&id=82222   

Posted on January 19, 2014 10:07:02 PM

Congress resumes sessions today CONGRESS RESUMES sessions today after a one‐month break, with the House of  Representatives prioritizing the change on the economic provisions of the Constitution, and  amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), while the Senate plans to  focus on the enactment of the Freedom of Information bill (FoI), and other anti‐corruption  and economic bills.  Will prioritize [amendments to the] EPIRA, and the economic provisions of the Constitution,”  House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. told BusinessWorld in a text message yesterday.He  added the House of Representatives will also prioritize for approval bills that almost made it in  the last Congress.    “Our priorities are basically the bills that almost made it in the last Congress like Land Use,  Maritime Zone, Whistleblowers Act, etc.,” he said.    In a separate text message yesterday, House Deputy Majority Leader and Party‐list Rep.  Sherwin N. Tugna (CIBAC) said: “The committee on energy will continue its inquiry on the  power rate increases.”  Bills filed seeking amendment to the EPIRA will also be tackled. The committee on higher and  technical education will also talk about proposals to change the school calendar,” he said.“We  will also be tackling important pending bills like Freedom of Information and National Land  Use, among others,” he added.    For his part, Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Party‐list Rep. Neri J. Colmenares (Bayan  Muna), in a text message to BusinessWorld yesterday, said: “Aside from the EPIRA  amendments, the probe on power rate hike will continue and the bill on exempting electricity  from VAT will be discussed.”    “We hope that the Anti‐Dynasty bill and our bill to increase SSS [Social Security System]  pensions will also be prioritized,” he said.He added that contrary to the pronouncements of  the leaders of the House of Representatives, the minority is against the move on Charter  change “because it has no relation at all against poverty and corruption and therefore, need  not be prioritized.”    COMMITTEE PRIORITIES  In a text message to BusinessWorld, House committee on ways and means chairman and 

Marikina Rep. Romero S. Quimbo (2nd district) said: “The committee will focus on the Customs  Modernization and Fiscal Incentives bills first, then will tackle tax‐related measures referred to  our committee after.”    For his part, House committee on energy chairman and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V.  Umali, said the committee will push for amendments to the EPIRA, amid the impending power  rate hikes set to be implemented by Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).“We will hear the Meralco  rate hike, and the alleged anomalies in the Estancia, Iloilo oil spill, then, the EPIRA  amendments,” Mr. Umali said in a text message to BusinessWorld yesterday.    He noted that his commitment is to approve the EPIRA amendment bill in the committee level  before the 16th Congress adjourns on 2016.    “My commitment is a consolidated EPIRA amendments bill approved by the committee by end  of second regular session at the latest,” he said, adding that he tasked a small team under the  energy committee to start working on the possible amendments to the current EPIRA.    The House committee on banks and financial intermediaries will focus on the amendment of  the Central Bank Act, among others.    “We will tackle amendments to the Bangko Sentral act, PDIC [Philippine Deposit Insurance  Corp.] Act, and Foreign Banking Act to encourage more foreign banks to operate here and  bring along their clients/investors,” banks and financial intermediaries committee chairman  and Batangas Rep. Nelson P. Collantes (3rd district) told BusinessWorld in a text message  yesterday.    The House committee on justice will focus on the investigation of the Judiciary Development  Fund (JDF) of the Supreme Court (SC), among others.    “The priorities of the committee on justice among others is the investigation of the JDF fund of  the SC,” committee chairman and Iloilo Rep. Neil C. Tupas, Jr. (5th district) told BusinessWorld  in a text message yesterday.    He added that the justice committee will also tackle the following proposed measures:  Enactment of the New Code of Crimes; Criminal Investigation Act; Whistleblowers Act; and  amendment to the current Witness Protection program of the Department of Justice.    The House committee on public information will tackle the 26 non‐FoI bills referred to the 

committee when session resumes today, its chairman, Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge T.  Almonte (1st district), said in a text message to BusinessWorld yesterday.    Likewise, the committee on housing and urban development is set to put under the scrutiny of  a Technical Working Group (TWG) the proposal to include developers of condominium units in  the coverage of those required to build socialized housing, committee chairman Alfred B.  Benitez said in a text message to BusinessWorld.    He noted that at the moment, “only developers of subdivision projects are required to do so  under Section 18 of Republic Act 7279, which is equivalent to 20% of the total project area or  cost.”    “The bill proponents hope that this will increase socialized housing stock in the country,” he  said.    The House committee on public works and highways, for its part, will focus on infrastructure  rehabilitation projects on areas hit by typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) on Nov.  8. It will include on the agenda “the road and bridges and other infrastructure rehabilitation  projects damaged by typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas, plus, the implementation of the 2014  GAA [General Appropriations Act] infrastructure funds,” public works and highways committee  chairman and Benguet Rep. Ronald M. Casalan told BusinessWorld in a text message  yesterday.    ANTI‐CORRUPTION  Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said in a statement yesterday that they will  prioritize the approval of the FoI bill.    Mr. Drilon said senators “are deeply committed to intensify the campaign against corrupt  practices” and will prioritize bills like the FoI bill, “which would enable significant steps in  curbing corruption in Philippine bureaucracy.”    “We will continue the intensive discussions we had before we went on a break with the FoI  bill, which is now in advanced stages of legislation,” he said.    Mr. Drilon said the enactment of the FoI bill into law “will encourage active participation in the  governance process, and will introduce new levels of accountability by increased public  scrutiny.”   

He added that the Senate are already working on Senate Bill (SB) 470, which seeks to  introduce reforms to the current Sandiganbayan Law, in order to “expedite the disposition of  numerous ongoing cases bogged‐down in the anti‐graft court.”Aside from anti‐corruption  measures, Mr. Drilon also noted that the Senate will tackle measures which would sustain the  country’s economic growth, along with legislation that would capacitate the “adequate  protection of our national interests.”    “We have been also striving toward the immediate passage of SB 2043, which will establish  the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) as the sole administrative agency responsible for  the implementation of the International Convention of the Standards of Training, Certification,  and Watchkeeping of the country’s seafarers. The measure would allow us to avoid a  European Union ban that could possibly capsize the local maritime industry,” Mr. Drilon said.    Mr. Drilon said the Senators are also expected to act on SB 2046, or the Go Negosyo Act  introduced by Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” A. Aquino IV.    The proposed measure aims to promote the national development of micro, small and  medium enterprises as a potential tool towards reducing the country’s poverty rate.  Mr. Drilon said the Senate will “strongly consider” SB 819 being pushed by Senator Antonio V.  Trillanes IV.    The bill aims to create a fully independent national agency similar to the United States’ Federal  Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) to address the natural and man‐made disasters  that regularly hit the country. ‐‐ Imee Charlee C. Delavin‐resumes‐ sessions‐today&id=82204   

Posted on January 19, 2014 10:06:22 PM

Storm, massive fish kill affect Mati City MATI CITY ‐‐ Fishermen in this city are at a quandary where and when they would get their  next income after the rains brought by low pressure area, now tropical depression Agaton  (international name: Lingling), as well as a massive fish kill in the area, has made fishing  almost impossible. The stench of rotting fish along Barangay Dahican, Sitio Maitom, Kinhason  2 in Mati City is enough to get one’s attention. The shoreline, which used to be home to  seashells, corals and drift woods, has become a deathbed for hundreds of small fish species.    “When it rains non‐stop in this area we usually see dead fishes floating but this is the first  time I saw so many of them dead,” said fisherman Leonardo Bacor in the local dialect.  Mr. Bacor, who has spent most of his 57 years along these shores, was among those who first  saw thousands of dead fishes floating along the Dahican River. Thousands of dead fishes have  also been seen in nearby Sitio Guang‐Guang.    He said it has been raining non‐stop for almost a week now and with almost a ton of fish  floating dead along the river most of the fishermen in the area like him have not been able to  go fishing this week.    “The other fishermen who went out in the sea were able to get very small fishes and in very  small quantities after the fish kill,” he added.    While he owns his boat, Mr. Bacor has become frustrated with what is happening considering  that he has seven children to feed, two are now in college. He said they have not yet heard or  has received any support from the local government.  Without other options for livelihood, Mr. Bacor and the other fishermen in the area gathered  the small fishes washed ashore by the tide and left them to dry under the sun for bulad (dried  fish).    His wife Felicisima, said they had no choice but to eat the dried fish, which her husband made  out of the dead fishes washed ashore by the tide. “We don’t have banana or other crops to  eat so the only option we have now is to eat the fish,” she added.    Rebecca Purgatoryo, a 54‐year‐old fish vendor, spent most of the days last week chatting with  Felicisima and the other housewives in their area since she does not have anything to sell.She  said she used to bring up to 30 kilograms of fish to sell everyday but with the fish kill, she has  nothing. The fishermen said the people who know about the fish kill are wary about buying  fishes in Mati’s wet markets nowadays for fear that these might be contaminated with  chemicals.    Most of the residents in the area where the fish kill happened have been suffering from fever 

and gastrointestinal problems. They claim even their water sources might have been affected  by whatever it is that caused the fish kill.    Most of the residents source their water from deep wells. “We are not sure what caused the  fish kill but we have already sent a fish sample to the laboratory to test for possible pesticide  or other content,” said Fatma M. Idris, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic  Resources (BFAR‐11).    Ms. Idris, who personally went to Sitio Maitom to check on the reported fish kill, said it is best  to have the samples tested for content to put all doubts and rumors to rest as to what really  caused the fish kill. BFAR‐11’s technical people also went to the area to get more water  samples for laboratory testing.    The city government of Mati has already created a task force to focus on the fish kill. Mayor  Carlo Luis P. Rabat said he wants to clarify that they did not give any order for the cessation of  fishing in the area despite the incident. However, he asked the fishermen to bury the dead  fishes in safe areas.    “If they make dried fishes out of the dead ones, then that might prove unhealthy and  dangerous to health,” he said. Officials from the BFAR’s field office in Mati said there was zero  visibility underwater in the areas where the fish kill happened. They also reported low water  salinity and low oxygen levels in the water.    Mr. Rabat was concerned about the period of recovery after the fish kill but Ms. Idris said it  will depend on how long the area is cleared of the dead fishes first. “We have to remove all  the dead fishes in the area and the waters before we can conduct a thorough cleanup,” BFAR  field staff Archie Samson said. ‐‐ Carmencita A. Carillo,‐massive‐fish‐kill‐ affect‐Mati‐City&id=82202     

Posted on January 19, 2014 10:10:27 PM

Organic farming groups warn against GMOs DAVAO CITY ‐‐ Groups promoting environment protection and organic farming in this city  warned that genetically modified crops should not be grown near organic farms since the risk  of contamination is high.    Ann V. Fuertes, executive director of environmental group Interface Development  Interventions (IDIS), said indications of such danger are based on initial findings by the local  Greenpeace chapter, reporting late last year on the contamination of local white corn with the  genetically modified Bt‐corn variety planted in Bukidnon and Sultan Kudarat.    “This development should alarm not only Davao City but also other local government units in  Mindanao, which have local ordinances on organic agriculture, because this can undermine  the integrity of our organic farming initiatives,” Ms. Fuertes said.    Because of this discovery, Lee Aruelo, local leader of Third World Network, an international  organization involved in environment issues, called for the enactment of a Ban‐GMO  (genetically modified organism) ordinance to complement Davao City’s existing Organic  Agriculture Law.    Ms. Fuertes said such a measure would assure that the local organic food initiative will be  sustained, benefitting Davao’s small organic farmers.    “Unless the whole city is declared a GM‐free zone, Davao’s organic zones will be at a  continued risk of contamination by GM seeds being sold to farmers in the area. We’ve already  made some significant strides in implementing our organic agriculture ordinance,” she said.  “We can’t let the specter of GMO contamination undo what we have accomplished so far.”    During a forum organized by IDIS and Third World Network here last week, the potential  dangers of GMOs to Davao’s growing organic movement were taken up.    Mr. Aruelo said that GMO contamination is a legitimate concern since gene transfer is a  natural process that cannot be stopped.    “Whether through environmental or physical factors, nature will always find a way to 

distribute its genes in an open environment. So, in the case of GMOs growing near organic  zones, genetic contamination will most certainly occur,” Mr. Aruelo said. ‐‐ Maya M. Padillo‐farming‐ groups‐warn‐against‐GMOs&id=82210     

Posted on January 19, 2014 10:10:51 PM

DTI opens e-payment facility THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) will launch its electronic payment facility today  to speed up the business registration process, the agency said in a statement over the  weekend.    “The Department of Trade and Industry will launch the electronic payment (e‐payment)  facility that will handle GCash and BancNet online payment for business name registration  through the Enhanced Business Name Registration System and the Philippine Business Registry  System,” the statement read.    The launch will be held at the DTI office in Makati City and will be attended by Trade Secretary  Gregory L. Domingo, Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado, National Competitiveness Council Co‐ Chairman Guillermo M. Luz and private sector representatives.    The e‐payment facility is seen as one way to fast‐track business registration in the country.  This, according to the government, will boost the country’s ranking in the annual World Bank  and International Finance Corp.’s Doing Business report, which tracks changes in regulations  applied to domestic small‐ and medium‐sized companies.    From 138th place, the Philippines moved up 30 spots to be the 108th of 189 economies this  year.    The top 10 positions were occupied, in descending order, by Singapore, Hong Kong, New  Zealand, United States, Denmark, Malaysia, South Korea, Georgia, Norway and the United  Kingdom.    The Philippines aims to be in the top third of the ranking by 2016. ‐‐ Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag‐opens‐e‐ payment‐facility&id=82211       

‘HOT AREAS’ NG CHILD PORNO,  TINUTUTUKAN  Nina Bernard Taguinod, Dindo Matining at Noel Abuel  Tinututukan na ng mga awtoridad ang apat na lugar sa bansa na pugad umano ng mga sindikato ng child pornography bilang bahagi ng ikinasang giyera ng national government laban sa nasabing grupo. Tinukoy ni Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. ang mga lugar tulad ng Angeles sa Pampanga; Cagayan de Oro; Mandaue, Cebu at ilang lugar sa Metro Manila. “Sa kasalukuyan tumututok sa mga pinaghihinalaang pugad ng cyber pornography sa Metro Manila, Angeles City, Cagayan de Oro City, at lalawigan ng Cebu,” ani Coloma kung saan nangunguna umano rito ang anti-transnational and cyber crimes division ng Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) ng Philippine National Police (PNP). Sinabi ni Coloma na walang sisinuhin sa nasabing kampanya at pananagutin ang mga mapapatunayang kasabwat ng sindikatong bumibiktima sa mga kabataan sa mga nabanggit na lugar. Mga magulang kinalampag Pinaalalahanan rin ni Coloma ang mga magulang ng mga kabataan na ginagamit ng sindikato sa kanilang operasyon para sa kanilang mga parokyano mula sa Australia, United Kingdon (UK) at Estados Unidos.

Ang mga larawan ng nasirang tulay sa  Compostela Valley province na ipinasa sa  Abante ng Eastern Mindanao Command. (Al  Jacinto) 

“Sa atin pong mga batas, pinapahalagahan ang responsibilidad ng mga magulang at ang papel na ginagampanan ng pamilya at tahanan, komunidad, simbahan, at pamahalaan,” ani Coloma.

TRO sa Cybercrime Law, armas ng sindikato Sa opinyon naman ni Sen. Edgardo Angara, isa

sa nagagamit na alas ng sindikato sa child sex/pornography sa internet ay ang umiiral na temporary restraining order (TRO) na ibinaba ng Korte Suprema laban sa bagong batas na ipinasa ng Kongreso, ang Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 o Republic Act (RA) 10175. Kung hindi agad na dedesisyunan ng Korte Suprema ang TRO, pinangangambahang lalo pang lalawak ang krimen lalo na sa lumalalang problema ng child pornography sa bansa. “Hot spot na tayo sa child pornography. Dapat maging definite ang desisyon, lalo kasing lalawak ‘yang children pornography and children bullying,” sambit pa ng senador, isa sa mga author ng nasabing batas. RH Law ang ugat -- Simbahan Pero ang Simbahang Katolika ay naniniwalang ang Reproductive Health (RH) Law ang ugat ng lahat ng uri ng kahalayan at makamundong mga krimen, pati na ang mga pambababoy na ginagawa sa internet laban sa mga bata.                                            

Blackout protest suportado  (BT) Hindi kinontra ng palasyo ng Malacañang ang ikinasang “blackout” protest ng mga militanteng grupo sa Martes para sa mataas na presyo ng kuryente sa bansa na lalo pang lumobo dahil sa generation charge na siningil ng Manila Electric Company (Meralco) noong Disyembre. Sa briefing kahapon, hindi nagpahayag ng pagtutol si Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Sec. Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. sa nasabing protesta na pangungunahan ng Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) sa Enero 21, Martes. Nabatid na ang protesta ay binansagang “Pambansang pagkondena” sa Meralco na unang nagbabala na magkakaroon ng rotating brownout kapag nagpatuloy ang Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) ng Korte Suprema sa generation charge na kanilang siningil sa kanilang mga consumers noong Disyembre.                                      

PROTEKTOR NI ‘DAVID TAN’ WALANG  KAWALA  (Bernard Taguinod) Hindi lamang si ‘David Tan’ na itinurong “rice smuggling king” ang dapat umanong panagutin sa pagpatay sa kita ng mga magsasaka sa bansa, kundi maging ang mga taong gobyerno na nagbibigay dito ng proteksyon. Ayon kay Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr., hinihintay ng palasyo ng Malacañang ang resulta ng isinasagawang imbestigasyon ng Department of Justice (DOJ) at National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) sa umano’y rice smuggling activities ni Tan. Isang Davidson Bangayan ang lumutang na sa DOJ subalit itinatanggi nito na siya ang hinahanap na ‘David Tan’ na nasa likod umano ng rice smuggling sa bansa na lalo pang nagpapahirap sa mga lokal na magsasaka sa bansa. Isa umano sa mga layon ng imbestigasyon ng NBI at DOJ ay alamin kung sino ang mga tumutulong kay Tan at inaantay na lamang umano ng palasyo ang pormal na report ukol dito. “Hinihintay po natin ang patuloy na pagkalap ng impormasyon at paggawa ng pag-aaral at paggawa ng karampatang aksyon kung kinakailangan hinggil sa prosekusyon, pag-usig, at pagpapanagot sa lahat po ng mga tao na sangkot diumano sa mga anomalya hinggil sa pagpasok ng bigas sa ating bansa,” ayon kay Coloma. Ginawa ni Coloma ang nasabing pahayag dahil sa mga ulat na maraming protektor umano sa NBI, Bureau of Customs (BOC) at maging sa National Food Authority (NFA) si Tan kaya hindi ito tumitigil sa kanyang smuggling activities. Umaasa rin si Coloma na makakatulong sa NBI at DOJ ang mga isasagawang imbestigasyon ng Senado kay Tan para mapalakas pa ang kaso at mabigyan ng katarungan ang mga magsasaka sa bansa. Bukod kasi aniya sa kapakanan ng mga magsasaka sa bansa ang nakataya sa rice smuggling ay nawawalan din ng buwis ang national government kung totoo ang aktibidad ni Tan.

Double job kay Lacson, ayaw ng Malacañang (Bernard Taguinod) Ayaw ng palasyo ng Malacañang na mawala sa pokus si Presidential Assistant on Recovery and Rehabilitation (PARR) Sec. Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson sa rehabilitation effort ng gobyerno sa Yolanda calamity areas. Ito ang deretsang pahayag ni Presidential Communication Operation Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. matapos imungkahi ni Sen. Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III na italaga rin bilang “anti-drug czar” si Lacson. Ginawa ni Sotto ang mungkahi matapos mabuko na nasa bansa na ang kinatatakutang Mexican drug cartel, patunay ang pagkakabuwag sa kanilang laboratoryo sa isang rancho sa Lipa City na pinapaupahan umano ng pamilyang Leviste. “‘Yan pong ibinigay sa kanya (Lacson) na pananagutan at responsibilidad, ‘yan po ay pinagtutuunan niya ng pansin. Mainam siguro kung hindi mawalan ng pokus at doon na lang mag-sentro ang kanyang atensyon,” ani Coloma.

Bigtime tax evaders, trabahuhin!  (Boyet Jadulco) Sa paniniwalang malambot ang gobyerno sa bigtime tax evader, pinaiimbestigahan ng dalawang progresibong kongresista sa Kamara ang Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) kaugnay ng mga hinahawakan nilang kontrobersyal na tax evasion case ng malalaking korporasyon at indibiduwal sa bansa. Nanindigan si Gabriela partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan na kung gusto ng BIR na patunayan ang kanilang “impartiality and fairness” sa mga tax evasion case, dapat nilang seryosohin ang tax evasion case na isinampa laban sa may-ari ng Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. at Asia Brewery Inc. na si Lucio Tan. Sa House Resolution No. 623 na inihain nina Ilagan at Gabriela partylist Rep. Emmi de Jesus, hiniling din nila sa House committee on good government and public accountability na pasadahan ang 189 tax evasion cases na inakyat ni BIR Commissioner Kim Henares sa Department of Justice (DOJ). “As of September with much publicity, the agency has not even responded to the DOJ’s endorsement of this one complaint that has been file repeatedly since two decades ago,” diin ni De Jesus.

Palace: Day of prayer, Edsa II on same day ‘mere coincidence’ Written by Paul Atienza Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00   The Palace dismissed claims that President Aquino had revived the observance of Edsa 2 through the National Day of Prayer as it insisted that both occasions falling on the same day today was a mere coincidence despite critics’ assertion that Aquino could have chosen a less controversial day for his nationwide call to prayer. Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the event has no relation with the anniversary of Edsa People Power II. “The choice of date on national day of prayer has nothing to do with (Edsa II anniversary),” Coloma said. Coloma added even the past administration of former President Gloria Arroyo had not celebrated the 2001 event. Critics have said that Aquino through the instigation of his supporters who launched Edsa II is embarking on an effort to revamp the image of the discredited power grab. “It was not marked in the history of our nation. It was not celebrated. It was only coincidental,” Coloma said. Coloma said that former President and now Manila City mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay were also invited to the event to be held at Malacañang. Edsa II is considered by many as a consummated military takeover disguised as a popular revolt that ousted Estrada and catapulted then Vice President Gloria Arroyo to the presidency in 2001. Clearly, there is no connection between the day of prayer and Edsa II. The date of the prayer was purely coincidental,” Coloma said. Coloma said President Aquino will lead the nation in offering prayers today for the victims of last year’s tragedies. These include the failed Zamboanga City siege in September, the magnitude-7.2 quake in Central Visayas in October, and super typhoon Yolanda in November. Coloma said different religious groups as well as victims of the three tragedies will be represented in Monday’s prayer at the Palace. National and local government officials as well as victims and survivors of the recent calamities are also invited to the event, he added. Also, Coloma said Monday’s event will seek divine intervention for the problems facing the country. “The event will be both a solemn commemoration of the tragedies of 2013 as well as a time of thanksgiving,” Malacanang said in a statement.

Aquino’s message would be aired from Malacañan Palace as well as the messages of other representatives of different faiths. Aquino would also be accompanied by top government leaders, stakeholders from civil society in the prayer, “to draw strength and determination in order to press on with our collective hope for our country as one united people.” “The tragic events of 2013 have been trying times for the Filipino people, testing resolve and determination for a stable, peaceful, and prosperous future,” according to a Palace statement. “In the preambles of past Constitutions and the present-day 1987 Constitution, the following were implored in order to establish a government promoting general welfare, to conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation: the Sovereign Lawgiver of the Universe (the 1899 Malolos Constitution), Divine Providence (the 1935 to 1973 Constitutions), and Almighty God (the 1987 Constitution),” the Palace briefer said. Malacañang said that:”It is in light of this that the Presidents of the Philippines have, in the past, declared national days of thanksgiving, prayer, and remembrance.” Malacanang said former President Sergio Osmeña issued the first proclamation of a national day of prayer on August 21, 1945, to commemorate the unconditional surrender of Japan. Malacanang said during the American period, the Philippines, being an American colony and part of the territory of the United States, celebrated the holiday annually in November. American Governors-General would issue proclamations for this holiday, which encompassed the whole country and celebrated by Filipinos. When the Philippine Commonwealth was established in 1935, President Manuel Quezon continued the practice by issuing proclamations making American Thanksgiving Day a National Holiday. After the Second World War, the Thanksgiving Day tradition was continued by means of a special public holiday through 1951 to 1965 from Presidents Magsaysay to Marcos. Upon the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos on Sept. 23, 1972, Thanksgiving Day was moved to Sept. 21, the date indicated by Proclamation 1081, 1972, although martial law was declared on September 23, 1972. The yearly event was terminated after the 1986 Edsa Revolution, Malacañang said. In recent history, President Gloria Arroyo issued four proclamations of national days of prayer from 2005 to 2008, all on Sept. 12 of each year.

Marcos wants parents consultation on plan to change school opening Written by  Angie M. Rosales   Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00   Another senator urged caution on education in considering the proposed transfer of school calendar to August or September, saying that parents should be consulted first before any concrete plans are adopted. Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. yesterday said in a statement that high premium should be given to the sentiment of the parents since it’s their children who will be affected by the change of school opening. “I think it is to the best interest of the stakeholders in the country’s educational system to give importance on what the parents have to say. In the first place, parents are the most concerned sector when it comes to the education of their children. We should, therefore, ask them what their opinion is on the matter,” he said. Formal consultations or discussions should not exclude the parents since their inputs are crucial when it comes to the protection and welfare of the students, the senator said. Prior to Marcos, the chairman of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture Sen. Pia Cayetano called on officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to carefully weigh in the proposal calling for the resetting of the school calendar, saying that it’s effect on the country’s education system should be the main consideration. “The solution is not as simple as resetting the school calendar for the sake of compliance,” she said. Cayetano was reacting on reports where the country’s top four universities — the University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University — are said to be on the forefront of the proposal on the change of the academic year. The said universities argued that the change would align the Philippines’ school calendar with other major universities in the world as well as prepare the country for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community scheduled for 2015. Reports said more educational institutions, including the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, had expressed support to the proposal of the “Big 4” universities. “Mother knows best. The parents should be consulted regarding this matter. It’s the parents that have all the best of intentions for their kids. That’s why their voice should be heard,” said Marcos.

DA conducts research on indigenous upland rice Written by  Tribune   Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00   By Alvin Murcia Rice production is now the biggest challenge of the agriculture sector because of the advent of climate change plus some natural calamities that hinder bounty harvest. Because the country is a rice eating community as it is the most important foods among Filipinos. Without rice, the meal could not be considered as a satisfying one thus the sector is continually faced by challenges brought about by factors that hinder rice production. These include the inevitable occurrences and effects of climate change, as well as the widespread infestation of pests and diseases, among many other unfavorable conditions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations recognizes genetic diversity as the foundation of improving the genes of the crop and has become an integral part in the domestication and cultivation of crops. Genetic diversity is essential in maintaining the richness of biodiversity as the two are regarded as dependent of each other, such as changes that occur in genetic diversity will also affect biological diversity, and vice versa. With these challenges, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is currently focusing itself to an upland rice belt called Arakan Valley in Cotabato where a number of indigenous upland rice are thriving. The Bureau of Agricultural Research has initiated a study with Dr. Juliet Bangi of the University of the Philippines-Natural Sciences Research Institute (UP-NSRI) in cooperation with the local government unit of Arakan through the Municipal Agriculture Office, Manobo Lumadnong Panaghiusa of Arakan, Cotabato, and Searice, a non-government organization helping the Manobo tribal community in Arakan Valley Complex. The study seeks to determine the desirable rice gene characteristics through morphogenetic characterization and analysis of the genetic diversity of the indigenous upland rice in the valley. The study wanted to understand the structure and diversity of indigenous rice is needed by our scientists and researchers in the conservation and preservation of genetic resources that have potential uses for future breeding purposes. At least 14 indigenous upland rice were collected from local farmers that include Azucena, Dinorado, Mal-os, Magalitok, Kapalawan, Mubpon, Manisi, Bungulan, Kawilan, Malundiang, Sinulid, Ulipapa, Dabao and Hinumay. They were subjected under laboratory and greenhouse experiments to characterize their seeds and plant structure. These include plant height, number of tillers per plant, number of days to flowering, number of panicles per plant, panicle length, and 1,000-grain weight. The study showed that the indigenous upland rice is highly diverse with desirable characteristics.

Tallest among the crops are the Azucena and Hinumay, while Kawilan had the highest number of tillers per plant as well as the panicles produced, and the Malundiang had the earliest flowering period. The longest panicle was produced by Magalitok, and Ulipapa and Bungulan had the heaviest 1,000-grain weight. One of the most powerful tools used by scientists is through DNA markers when they conducted their study. Scientists used the simple sequence repeats (SSR) which are also called microsatellites. Among the DNA markers, SSRs are found to be the most efficient and cost-effective tool that can detect higher degree of polymorphisms in rice. The study revealed that Malundiang and Ulipapa have 30 to 50 percent associated genes that possess the desirable qualities of being early-maturing and having high yield potential. Bungulan, Mubpon, Sinulid and Mal-os have diverse genes and are found to have desirable genetic makeup based from their morphogenetic characteristics. These reflect the diversity of the indigenous upland rice in the Arakan Valley Complex based on their genetic makeup, and those that were studied are part of the genetic pool of resources in the locality. High-yielding varieties with promising potentials may emerge in the future as breeding efforts using our indigenous upland rice result in the successful improvement of grain quality, resistance to pests and diseases, and reduction in the maturity period, among many others.

Thousands of Hong Kong domestic helpers rally for ‘tortured’ maid Written by  Tribune   Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00   HONG KONG — Thousands of domestic helpers, including overseas Filipino workers, took to the streets of Hong Kong yesterday to demand justice for an Indonesian maid allegedly tortured by her employers, the second such rally in a week. Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, 22, was reportedly left unable to walk following eight months of abuse in the southern Chinese city and was admitted to an Indonesian hospital in critical condition last week after returning home. Protesters including maids, rights activists and migrant group members marched through the commercial area of Wanchai, many brandishing the Indonesian national flag and chanting slogans including “Justice for Erwiana.” They handed a petition to Hong Kong Police Commissioner Tsang Wai-hun urging faster progress in the case before marching to the city’s government headquarters. “We want the investigation to speed up and we demand the Hong Kong government to stop abuses on domestic helpers in Hong Kong,” Eni Lestari, chairman of the International Migrants Alliance and rally spokesman, told reporters at the protest. The allegations have renewed concern about the treatment of domestic helpers in the former British colony following a spate of similar abuse cases and recent criticism by rights groups. Hong Kong police had at first categorized the alleged torture as a miscellaneous case but last week launched a criminal investigation after an outcry by domestic helpers in the city. On Friday authorities said investigators will travel to Indonesia to speak to Sulistyaningsih, who remains in hospital in Sragen on the main island of Java. “Without this kind of protest the case of Erwiana will never go to the public or go to the court. There will be no justice,” Lestari said, adding that two other maids have since come forward alleging abuse at the hands of the same employer. The agency that employed Erwiana has said they were unaware of her injuries until they were notified by their corresponding agency in Indonesia. Organizers claimed around 5,000 people participated in the rally, a sharp increase in numbers from a similar march on Thursday which drew several dozen protesters. Hong Kong police were not immediately available for comment on Sunday. The semi-autonomous Chinese city is home to nearly 300,000 maids from mainly Southeast Asian countries — predominantly Indonesia and the Philippines — and criticism from rights groups over their treatment is growing. A Hong Kong couple were jailed in September for attacks on their Indonesian domestic helper, which included burning her with an iron and beatings with a bike chain. Amnesty International in November condemned the “slavery-like” conditions faced by thousands of Indonesian women who work in the Asian financial hub as domestic staff and accused authorities of “inexcusable” inaction.

It found that Indonesians were exploited by recruitment and placement agencies who seize their documents and charge them excessive fees, with false promises of high salaries and good working conditions. Domestic helpers in Hong Kong are paid about HK$4,000 ($515) a month. AFP


Solon: Weaker peso boon to booming BPO industry Written by  Tribune   Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00   The peso’s over 10-percent fall against the US dollar is not only a boon to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families here, it will also enable the booming business process outsourcing (BPO) industry to produce more jobs at a faster rate in the months ahead, House Assistant Majority Leader and Cebu Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. said. “Like exporters, BPO firms here get paid in dollars by their corporate clients overseas, but spend in pesos for their Philippine operations, such as the wages of their staff and office rent,” Gullas said.“On account of the peso’s depreciation versus the US currency, BPO players here now have greater peso spending power that they may use to expand their business and hire extra staff,” Gullas pointed out. A significantly weaker peso means that BPO firms stand to receive more pesos to spend for every dollar that they earn, just like OFWs. The peso closed at 45.00 to a dollar on Friday, its lowest level in more than three years. The local currency is now down 10.48 percent compared to its monthly average of 40.73 to a dollar in January 2013. Gullas estimates that BPO companies on average create one full-time job for every $10,000 that they spend to enlarge their highly labor-intensive, information technology (IT)-enabled business support activities.Gullas is author of a bill that seeks to reinforce the English proficiency of the nation’s future labor force participants by reinstating the world’s working language and language of technology as the medium of instruction in all school levels. He is also vice chairman of the House committee on higher and technical education. A large supply of college-educated, fluent English-speaking professionals has been a key growth driver of the BPO sector, which is projected to fully employ some 1.3 million Filipinos and generate up to $27 billion in annual revenues by 2016. Gullas’s home province of Cebu is an outsourcing hub that now has 25 fully functional IT parks, plus 12 more being developed, providing plenty of office spaces and advanced connectivity to new BPO firms. BPO firms in Central Visayas — mostly in Cebu and partly in Negros Oriental — already employ over 100,000 full-time workers, and yielded $516 million in revenues in 2012. The country’s BPO and IT-enabled services industry encompasses contact center services; back offices; medical, legal and other data transcription; animation; software development; engineering design; and digital content.According to the IT and Business Processing Association of the Philippines, the industry is expected to add some 372,000 new jobs from 2014 to 2016.

23 foreign firms to operate in RP Written by  Tribune   Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00   Twenty-three foreign companies will be setting up operations in the Philippines as an offshoot of their inbound business missions here during the past few years, according to Department of Trade and Industry-Trade and Investment Promotion Group (DTI-TIPG) Undersecretary Ponciano Manalo Jr. ”We have 23 companies that would have set up operations in the various sectors as realized investments from the inbound missions,” Manalo said. He added that the investments will be in the sectors of information technology-business process management (IT-BPM), manufacturing, telecommunications, and construction that will generate almost 3,000 jobs. He said that the business missions of other countries in the Philippines are the results of DTI’s effort in promoting the country’s business climate through outbound missions. In 2013, DTI conducted 15 outbound business missions and will continue to do at least 15 up to 20 missions this year, Manalo said. The DTI is keen to further get investments, particularly on suppliers of big companies which already set up their manufacturing facilities here in order to grow the local supply chain. Moreover, aside from attracting investments in the manufacturing sector, DTI will now promote the local game development industry in the offshore market. ”For my part, what I want to develop and I want to look at this year is the whole area of software development and game development. I believe that game development is something that we do so much here,” the Trade undersecretary said. He added that DTI is eager to entice and invite global players in the game development industry to participate in the local market in order to grow and develop its domestic industry. Likewise, the government will continue its effort to promote the business process management ndustry, particularly the healthcare information management sector. ”And of course our business process management, since it provides a lot of jobs. I would like to feature this year in the whole area of health care information. It’s an opportunity as you know the United States, there’s a big healthcare, new healthcare law. There ae a lot of opportunities if we are able to provide data management and data analytics for them from our part,” Manalo added. PNA‐foreign‐firms‐to‐operate‐in‐rp           

DA CRITIC FLAYED OVER ‘DAVID TAN’ Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Paul M. Gutierrez  

THE president of an umbrella group of  stakeholders in the agriculture sector criticized individuals who have branded David Tan, the  so‐called smuggling king of the Philippines, as a “phantom” created by a “rice cartel” involving  top officials at the Department of Agriculture.    Specifically, Rosendo So, president of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG),  directed his criticisms at lawyer and Sanlakas party‐list president, Argee Guevarra.    “Where was this lawyer when we in the agriculture sector were fighting against smuggling?    “What was he doing when farmers suffered from the influx of smuggled rice, onions and other  agricultural products?    “Why was he not making noise when we bared the P32 billion in foregone revenues in  agriculture products because of smuggling?” So asked.    “And now that the DA has unmasked the identity of Tan, now that the National Food Authority  (NFA) has stopped issuing importation permits to cooperatives that were proven to have  colluded with smugglers, Guevarra is saying there is no David Tan, and that the NFA must  allow unregulated rice importation,” So said.   

Sinag, he added, is also backing efforts of the government, through the Department of Justice,  Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs, to unmask and prosecute David Tan  and other unscrupulous traders behind the rice smuggling cartel.    So said Davidson Tan Bangayan, who allegedly goes by the alias “David Tan,” should also be  invited to attend the Senate inquiry into rice smuggling activities scheduled this Wednesday.    Guevarra last week claimed that Tan is a “fictitious” person purportedly created by DA  Secretary Proceso Alcala to divert public attention from a rice cartel operated by the “Quezon  Mafia,” of which the DA chief was the alleged “godfather.”    “If Guevarra does not know David Tan, he should not equate it with Tan being a fictitious  character. Maybe we should look if he (Guevarra) has ties with smugglers,” So added.    “This David Tan is wreaking havoc on our agriculture sector. We reiterate our call for the DA to  be furnished the inward shipment manifest to prevent the entry of smuggled products,” he  added.    Based on their information, So said that Tan’s group is behind 80 percent of smuggling in the  country while another alleged smuggler, David Lim, has taken charge of the remaining 20  percent.    He also lashed out at Guevarra for allegedly claiming that the quantitative restriction (QR) on  imported rice had already been lifted in 2012, and that the NFA’s government‐to‐government  (G2G) importation only served to allow kickbacks for agriculture and customs officials.    “I cannot understand how a supposedly militant lawyer can be so anti‐farmer.    “Does Guevarra want to kill our domestic farmers by promoting private sector importation of  rice?    “I think he wants our market to be flooded with imported rice so that hundreds of thousands  of farmers across the country would lose their jobs,” So averred.    Reached for a reaction, Guevarra pointed out that So is “friend” of Alcala who has been acting  as his “spokesman” on a host of issues hounding the agriculture department.    “This is now a contest between the ‘new’ rice cartel and the ‘old’ rice cartel,” the lawyer said, 

adding that Alcala previously admitted of meeting David Tan as early two years ago but  disclosed the incident only recently. “Bakit ngayon lang ito ibinulgar ni Secretary Alcala,” the  lawyer asked.    In an effort to prevent the unregulated entry of imported rice, So noted that the DA has  already appealed to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for an extension of the QR on rice  importation.    Under the WTO agreement, importations within the 350,000 metric tons MAV (minimum  access volume) are slapped with a 40 percent duty and those beyond, 50 percent.    Alcala has ruled that the QR is still being observed, thus making all shipments without an  import permit illegal.    “All rice imports must have a permit from the NFA. If these arrive without an import permit,  these must be seized,” Alcala declared.     Paul M. Gutierrez‐da‐critic‐flayed‐over‐david‐ tan                                 

Senate to push FoI bill Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Bernadette E. Tamayo   AFTER a month-long break, the Senate resumes session today with a set of measures in its priority list to be tackled that would promote government transparency, eliminate corruption and bolster the country’s economic performance. Senate President Franklin Drilon said the senators “are deeply committed to intensify the campaign against corrupt practices” and will prioritize bills like the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI), “which would enable significant steps in curbing corruption in Philippine bureaucracy.” “We will continue the intensive discussions we had before we went on a break with the FoI bill, which is now in advanced stages of legislation,” Drilon said. The enactment of the FoI bill into law “will encourage active participation in the governance process and will introduce new levels of accountability by increasing public scrutiny.” He said senators are already working on Senate Bill No. 470, which seeks to introduce reforms to the current Sandiganbayan Law, in order to “expedite the disposition of numerous ongoing cases bogged-down in the anti-graft court. The Upper Chamber will also tackle other measures which would sustain the country’s economic growth, along with legislation that would capacitate the “adequate protection of our national interests.” “We have been also striving towards the immediate passage of Senate Bill No. 2043, which will establish the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) as the sole administrative agency responsible for the implementation of the International Convention of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping of the country’s seafarers. The measure would allow us to avoid a European Union ban that could possibly capsize the local maritime industry,” he said. They are also expected to act on SBN 2046, or the “Go Negosyo Act of 2013” filed by Sen. Bam Aquino, which would promote the national development of micro, small and medium enterprises as a potential tool towards reducing the country’s poverty rate. Drilon said the Senate will “strongly consider” SBN 819 being pushed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV that aims to create a fully independent national agency similar to the United State’s Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) to address the natural and man-made disasters that would hit the country.‐stories/65610‐senate‐to‐push‐foi‐bill 

Marcos: Consult parents regarding change of school opening Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Marlon Purificacion   SENATOR Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. said parents should be consulted on the proposal to change the start of the country’s school calendar to either August or September. In a statement, Marcos said high premium should be given to the sentiment of the parents since their children will be the ones affected by the change of school opening. “Mothers know best. The parents should be consulted regarding this matter. The parents that have all the best of intentions for their kids. That’s why their voice should be heard,” Marcos said. Earlier, four prominent universities, namely University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle University and University of Santo Tomas, aired preference for the change of the start of the academic calendar from June to August or September. They argued that the change would align the Philippines’ school calendar with other major universities in the world as well as prepare the country for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Community scheduled in 2015. Reports said more educational institutions, including the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, had expressed support to the proposal of the “Big 4” universities. Marcos said formal consultations or discussions should not exclude the parents since their inputs are crucial when it comes to the protection and welfare of the students. “I think it is to the best interest of the stakeholders in the country’s educational system to give importance to what the parents have to say. In the first place, parents are the most concerned sector when it comes to the education of their children. We should, therefore, ask them what their opinion is on the matter,” he said.‐marcos‐consult‐parents‐ regarding‐change‐of‐school‐opening       

U.S. senator to visit Manila Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Cristina Lee‐Pisco  

The Philippines expressed hope that the visit to Manila this week of Sen. Marco Rubio will further convince Washington to commit to a long-term involvement in the rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. expressed this hope after meeting on Friday with Senator Rubio, a ranking member of the Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His visit, which will focus on defense and economic cooperation and regional issues, also intends to find out how U.S. assistance related to Yolanda is being utilized.‐us‐senator‐to‐visit‐manila                                          

24 top ‘teaching’ colleges revealed Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco  

THE chairman of the House committee on higher and technical education yesterday disclosed the names of 24 leading teaching colleges in the country. Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo credited the educational institutions based on the exceptional performance of their graduates in the last two licensure examinations for elementary and high school instructors given in March and September 2013. For high school teachers, Romulo named the following: University of the Philippines–Diliman (91.66%); Saint Louis University-Baguio (90.88%); University of San Carlos–Cebu (90.16%); University of Santo Tomas (89.59%); Philippine Normal University–Manila (89.43%); Philippine Normal University–Agusan (88.83%); University of Southeastern PhilippinesTagum (88.00%); Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (84.06%); Bohol Island State University–Tagbilaran (82.89%); Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Taguig (82.26%); Davao Oriental State College of Science & Technology (82.18%); Xavier University-Cagayan de Oro (81.71%); and Technological University of the Philippines–Cavite (80.65%). For elementary school teachers, he cited University of Santo Tomas (100.00%); Bohol Island State University–Tagbilaran (95.95%); West Visayas State University–La Paz (94.76%); Xavier University-Cagayan de Oro (93.16%); Philippine Normal University–Manila (91.34%); Talisay City College-Cebu (90.24%); Southern Iloilo Polytechnic College (86.27%); Saint Louis University-Baguio (84.91%); Western Visayas College of Science & Technology-La Paz (82.31%); Bohol Island State University–Bilar (81.13%); and Cebu Technological University– Argao (80.72%). Citing Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) statistics, Romulo said the 24 schools were the only ones “with 50 or more examinees and with at least 80 percent of their examinees passing” the last two licensure tests for elementary and high school teachers. “Again, we are making this list public to enable consumers of teaching education –- prospective teachers and their parents –- to make a sound choice as to where they will most likely get the best value for their hard earned tuition money,” Romulo said in a statement.‐24‐top‐teaching‐colleges‐ revealed      

Blackout protest downplayed Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Efren Montano   Malacañang downplayed a blackout protest slated to be staged tomorrow by militant groups even as it reaffirmed yesterday the Aquino administration’s stand against unjustified power rate hikes. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. also said President Benigno S. Aquino III and the government continue to keep tabs on the issue. “Patuloy ang pagsusubaybay ng Pangulo at ng pamahalaan sa isyung ito at patuloy ang determinasyon huwag pairalin ang hindi makatuwirang singil sa kuryente,” Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan. Some groups earlier announced plans to hold a blackout protest tomorrow, the day the Supreme Court is to hold oral arguments on the rate adjustments. Meanwhile, Coloma said the government will respect the views of some groups reportedly planning to stage a protest actions against the administration even calling for Aquino to step down from office.‐blackout‐protest‐downplayed                            

Laws protect kids Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Efren Montano   The government has solid legal basis in fulfilling its commitment to protect children from exploitation, by child pornography syndicates. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr.said yesterday this includes the 1987 Constitution and international treaties signed by the Philippines. “Ang commitment ng bansang Pilipinas sa pagkalinga at pagbibigay proteksyon sa mga bata ay matagal nang naitakda sa ating Konstitusyon sa pagtalima natin sa mga pamantayan ng United Nations at iba pang pandaigdigang organisasyon at sa mga pambansang batas na naipasa ng ating Kongreso,” Coloma said on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan. He cited Act No. 1670, the first child welfare-related law, which was passed on July 8, 1907. Also, he said the country has a Child and Youth Welfare Code that became law in 1974. The Philippines also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children in 1990, he added. “Sa atin pong mga batas, pinapahalagahan ang responsibilidad ng mga magulang at ang papel na ginagampanan ng pamilya at tahanan, komunidad, simbahan, at ng pamahalaan,” Coloma said. He added the protection extends to all children, including dependents, those that are neglected, and those with disabilities. Coloma added the government has set up an Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) headed by the Vice President, with the Department of Justice as the lead agency.‐laws‐protect‐kids           

DPWH defers closure of major CamSur bridge Published : Monday, January 20, 2014 00:00   Written by : Sonny Sales   NAGA City -- The closure of the San Jose Bridge along the Maharlika Highway in Pili, Camarines Sur, for the construction of new four-lane span has been deferred by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) CamSur 2nd Engineering District Office. The project should have been secheduled for completion from nine to one year. DPWH 2nd Engineering district head Engr. Sulpicio Gonzales said they have moved the date for closing the bridge to this day, from the supposed closure last Jan. 15 schedule to give time for an extensive public advisory on the start of the demolition. According to Gonzales, more billboards notifying the public on the start of the construction have been installed near the bridge approaches, including directional signs in several alternate roads, where heavy haulers will be re-routed. Bridge project engineer Ceasar Moral Jr. said the new San Jose bridge will be the first four-lane bridge in Bicol with a width of 16.84 meters, including sidewalks and a length of 65.25 linear meters. Phases 1 and 2 of the 50-year-old P60-million San Jose Bridge will be supervised by the DPWH district office while the final phase (phase 3) of the construction will be implemented by the DPWH regional office.‐dpwh‐defers‐closure‐of‐ major‐camsur‐bridge                     

2014 01 20 quedancor daily news monitor  
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