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Agri groups decry unabated smuggling Rice, vegetables, pork brought in illegally  By Michelle V. Remo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:20 am | Friday, January 31st, 2014  


INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The government’s failure to curb smuggling has severely hurt legitimate businesses in the agriculture sector in terms of unfair competition from smuggled products, according to a group of farm producers. At the same time, the government has suffered about P64 billion in forgone revenue over the past two years as a result of the rampant smuggling of rice, vegetables, meat and other agricultural products, said the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag). The group placed the forgone revenue at P32 billion in 2012 and at almost the same amount last year. Jayson Cainglet, a spokesman for Sinag, said the group was calling on the government to put more teeth to its antismuggling drive to deal with the adverse impact of smuggling on the economy, particularly the agriculture sector. An umbrella organization of various agricultural groups, Sinag has members from the rice, livestock and poultry, and fisheries subsectors. Rosendo So, a member of Sinag and director of Titan Agricultural Products Inc., said the estimates of government losses from smuggling were based on a comparison of export data released by other countries and the import data reported by the Philippine government. “There has always been a significant disparity between what exporting countries report and our [Philippines’] import figures,” So said in a roundtable discussion with Inquirer reporters and editors on Wednesday night.

Rice smuggling So cited rice, which he said was one of the most commonly smuggled agriculture products. In 2012, exporting countries reported a total of 1.3 million metric tons of rice sold to the Philippines, but government data showed only 600,000 MT were imported that year, Sinag said. Cainglet said Sinag suspected that smuggled rice came mostly from Vietnam, India and China. Of vegetables, the most commonly smuggled were onions, which the group suspects may be coming from Taiwan and China. Cainglet said pork was the most commonly smuggled meat and that this came most likely from the United States, Canada and several European countries. Forgone revenue from smuggling and other problems like tax evasion and inefficiency in tax collection are blamed largely for the government’s budget deficit, which stood at P242 billion in 2012. Other challenges Cainglet said smuggling was compounding the problems of the agriculture sector, which is already facing other challenges, including declining tariffs on imported goods, lack of technology and facilities, and huge subsidies enjoyed by agriculture sectors in countries that export to the Philippines. “Notwithstanding the gains and various plans envisioned for the agriculture sector, several issues have prevented it from fully realizing its goals,” Cainglet said. Sinag has called on the Bureau of Customs (BOC), which has a new leadership, to implement more effective measures against smuggling. The BOC is now headed by Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla, who was appointed late last year to replace Rufino Biazon. Sevilla, a former finance undersecretary, was assigned to head the BOC as the Aquino administration vowed to institute reforms in the bureau, tagged as the most corrupt among line agencies. Cainglet said rampant smuggling of rice, vegetables, meat and other products was dragging growth in the agriculture sector, which employs about a third of the country’s workforce. Link to poverty He echoed observations by economists that the poverty incidence in the country remained significant largely because of the poor performance of the agriculture sector.

Data from the Philippine Statistical Authority showed that growth in the agriculture sector slowed to 1.1 percent in 2013 from an already anemic 2.8 percent in 2012. The agriculture sector’s growth was much slower than the 7.1 percent for services and the 9.5 percent for industry. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan earlier said the Philippines so far had failed to substantially reduce poverty incidence despite the robust growth of its economy because of low agriculture productivity. The Philippine economy grew 6.8 percent in 2012 and 7.2 percent last year, becoming one of the fastest-growing in Asia. The country’s poverty incidence, however, remained one of the highest in the region at 25.2 percent in 2012. Given that the agriculture sector accounts for a third of the country’s estimated 40-million workforce, Balisacan said initiatives that would boost productivity and employment in the sector should be pursued. Balisacan said the government intended to do just that. He said the updated medium-term Philippine Development Plan through 2016, expected to be released next month, would include higher government investments in the agriculture sector. For Sinag, however, development initiatives for the agriculture sector should go hand in hand with strict measures against smuggling. Durian Tan, a member of Sinag, said in the roundtable discussion that the group was hoping that the BOC would be able to implement more effective programs against smuggling under its new leadership. “We don’t know him (Customs Commissioner Sevilla), but hopefully he would be a better performer than the previous commissioners,” she said.   Read more:‐govt‐has‐lost‐p64b‐in‐2‐years‐to‐unchecked‐ smuggling‐of‐food#ixzz2sENoZnTC   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

COA subjects NFA to fraud audit By TJ A. Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:25 am | Friday, January 31st, 2014

Commission on Audit chair Grace Pulido-Tan. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Audit (COA) had begun a “fraud audit” of the National Food Authority (NFA) even before the alleged rice smuggling controversy broke out. At Thursday’s Senate hearing on the pork barrel scandal, COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan said the agency decided to conduct a fraud audit after uncovering “badges of fraud” while reviewing audit reports on the NFA for the past five to seven years. “The initial assessment already points to a scheme that may be fraudulent,” she told the blue ribbon committee. “For example, there could be a possible payroll tabbing or ghost delivery.” Tan said a fraud audit was a kind of a special audit focused on fraud. The fraud audit was not prompted by the rice smuggling controversy, but the audit seemed to jibe with testimonies on rice smuggling at congressional inquiries, according to the COA chair. “We picked up a lot of information, such as the big price differences in the price of importation by dummy cooperatives. Things like that,” she said. Some 50,000 metric tons of rice were being smuggled into the country every week in 2013 but this was stopped in October when a new customs commissioner took over, according to the Bureau of Customs (BOC). The Senate has opened an inquiry into the unabated smuggling of rice into the country. The National Bureau of Investigation was looking into the possible links of David Bangayan, also known as “David Tan,” to rice smuggling.

At last week’s hearing, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Bangayan himself paid farmers’ cooperatives to bid for permits to import rice, offering incentives, and used the cooperatives as fronts to sell and distribute imported rice. Bangayan insisted that he was neither David Tan nor was he involved in rice smuggling. De Lima said two witnesses had come forward and executed affidavits detailing Bangayan’s modus operandi in the importation of rice using a network of farmers’ cooperatives. The witnesses said David Bangayan and David Tan were the same. One witness said Bangayan had recruited the cooperatives to take part in the bidding of rice importation allocations at the NFA. Bangayan paid for the cooperatives’ license fees, bonds, document form fees as required by the NFA and the BOC, and shouldered airfare and accommodation expenses of the cooperatives’ representatives while preparing for the bidding, De Lima said. The other most recent witness also detailed other forms of smuggling—rice shipments were declared as construction materials; an import permit was recycled if a shipment went through the BOC without the permit being stamped “consumed;” and an excess in rice shipment by the government went to warehouses of rice traders, De Lima said. The justice secretary said that once the NBI has built an “airtight case,” it will file charges against certain people for preliminary investigation.

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Bangus supply down by 20% due to cold weather By Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – The supply of milkfish, locally known as bangus has declined by as much as 20 percent due to the cold weather, the city agriculturist said yesterday. Emmy Molina told The STAR the volume of milkfish traded daily here usually reaches five tons, but this has decreased to 3.8 tons since the start of the cold season this month. Dagupan City is known as the bangus capital of the world. “It is not because there is a problem but any milkfish grower would adjust the capacity of his area and his finances. The compensating factor, however, is a higher price because of the few harvest,” she said. Molina said the milkfish eats slowly during cold months so its growth is stunted. She said that in normal times, the harvest of milkfish usually takes three to four months, but now it takes four and a half months.

Rice smuggling rife during my watch–Biazon By Jerry E. Esplanada Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:32 am | Friday, January 31st, 2014

Former Customs chief Ruffy Biazon. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Former Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon does not dispute Deputy Commissioner Agaton Teodoro Uvero’s assertion that rice smuggling was rampant during his term, particularly in 2013. Biazon, however, pointed out the basis for Uvero’s statement was merely “anecdotal evidence.” In a text message to the Inquirer on Thursday, Biazon said: “As a matter of record, the bureau during my time regularly intercepted smuggled rice and we proceeded to file charges against those involved.” Pork barrel scam “Our seizure of smuggled rice by the shipload and even thousands of containers in one count is undeniable material evidence of our efforts against rice smuggling,” Biazon added. Biazon, who resigned after being linked to the P10-billion pork barrel scam, recalled that his “categorical instruction to port collectors was to prioritize their operations against smuggled rice.” “There is no denying that (the campaign against smuggling) is a continuing war that customs is fighting,” he said. Biazon reiterated his call on the current administration at the Bureau of Customs to implement what he called “import data reconciliation,” which requires the documentation of shipments of imported goods at their ports of origin.

“One of the initiatives that were left hanging after my departure (in December) was the implementation of the Containerized Cargo Clearance system, which is similar to the preshipment inspection of the past,” he said. “The current BOC can pursue that initiative of mine to effect reforms in the system and break the modus operandi employed by smugglers for decades,” he said. ‘Told you so’ He said that “relying only on personnel changes to reform customs will not lead to an irreversible, institutionalized and sustainable reform program.” Biazon said he was “glad to see that at the Senate hearing (early this week), Uvero was echoing that as well, consistent with what I’ve been saying all along.” During the Senate hearing, Uvero, who heads the BOC assessment and operations coordinating group, reported that last year some 2,000 container vans packed with 50,000 metric tons of rice were smuggled into the country every week. At the hearing initiated by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara on reforming the graft-ridden customs bureau, Uvero said the massive rice smuggling was stopped last October, when the new BOC leadership appointed by President Aquino began to assume the helm at the agency. Angara is chair of the Senate ways and means committee. Uvero said the top “landing sites” for smuggled rice were the ports of Davao, Cebu and Manila. This practice, however, has been stopped, “based on data,” he added.

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Presidential trust: All Alcala has left GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority administrator Orlan Calayag are busted. They’ve been publicly denying knowing the alleged big-time rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan, aka David Tan. Yet all this time they’ve also been granting him control of million-ton imports of rice. Tons of money too must have changed hands, for Bangayan is not a farmer to qualify for NFA special import quotas. By self-admission, he is a consolidator (financier) of truly qualified farm cooperatives. And what does Malacañang say in light of the documented exposé? The usual: that President Noynoy Aquino continues to trust the duo. Well, so what? It’s not presidential trust that makes an appointee honest. If at all, misplaced presidential trust emboldens the appointee to carry on the racket. That’s what Alcala and Calayag likely will do, until they become too hot for Malacañang to handle. “Presidential trust” are the famous last words to appointees about to leave office. Remember the chief of Customs? Alcala and Calayag signed “performance contracts,” Malacañang adds. Their 2014 work will be judged by their written commitments. So, what could Alcala’s contract state? Is there a rider that he may, for whatever alibi, again put off his sworn Philippine rice self-sufficiency by 2013? Will he finally end the NFA’s rice importing at $100-overprice per ton of the annual 700,000 volume? For that and two other scams Alcala is facing charges of plunder. Is such heinous offense not a minus in his contract? As for Calayag, he never was qualified for food-security chief, which is what the NFA administrator’s duty is. He has had no experience in food production and distribution. He was but Alcala’s gofer in Congress. Thence he immigrated to America, acquired US citizenship, took on odd jobs, and returned when the NFA had a vacancy. After fudging a sworn résumé, he filed for dual Filipino citizenship. (See Gotcha, 23 Oct. 2013.) What did Malacañang say when all that was exposed? Of course, that the President has confidence in Calayag. Verily, the President entrusts the country’s food security to a halfforeigner. Now the Customs reports that 50,000 tons of rice per month was smuggled into the Philippines in 2013. That could only have happened with the collusion of crooks in the NFA, which Alcala and Calayag tightly control. Yet even with that flood of smuggled rice, there was a shortage right

after the midyear “bumper harvest.” While farmers were hurting from farm-gate prices depressed by smuggling, consumers also suffered surging retail rates of P28-P33 a kilo, from the old P22. Presidential trust in Alcala-Calayag can only spell more of the same. *



Ill-conceived was President Aquino’s declaration today, Chinese New Year, as a public holiday. Congress already set the national holidays in a 2007 law. There are already too many in that RA 9492: 16 days a year. That’s 16 days of no-work-no-pay for majority daily-wage earners, while factory owners must pay employees double for the same work. That’s 16 stay-home days for schoolchildren, apart from when there’s storm, flood, or local holiday. Adding yet another dayoff worsens sloth and under-education. What could have egged P-Noy to declare Chinese New Year an official feast? Was it for “holiday economics,” like his predecessor’s bunching of long weekends for people to travel to the countryside and thereby stimulate rural spending? If that was the idea, then P-Noy got it all wrong. Gloria Arroyo didn’t concoct new holidays, but merely moved the observance to Monday or Friday of those that fell in midweek. Maybe P-Noy’s reason was racial tradition (most Filipinos, like him, have Chinese blood) or astronomic (first new moon). If so, what would stop him or any future President from feting other cultures and astro-events as holidays? Indeed, why not make a day-off the Sikh New Year, Mar. 14, both in religious and racial honor. Same with the Zoroastrian New Year, Mar. 21, a religious, racial (Persian), and national (Iran) festival. Why not fete the Thais among us and make Siamese New Year, Apr. 1, a holiday. Or like the Hindus and India, mark the start of spring or the solar cycle as New Year’s. The moveable first spring day is also the New Year for most peoples of the Caucasus. Then there’s the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, celebrated in autumn on the first two days of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. Or the Muslim New Year, Hijri, on the first day of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. Not to forget, the Alexandrine New Year, Aug. 29; the Ethiopian Enkutatash, Sept. 11; and the Gujarati’s Bestu Varas, the first day of the Kartak calendar, sometime Oct. or Nov. *



Epimaco Velasco was a big man literally (6’1”) and figuratively. So his passing last Monday from heart attack is like the felling of a large tree: it leaves a huge hole in the forest canopy. He was 78.

Uncle Epi rose to prominence in the NBI with the killing of the Philippines’ most wanted man, Nardong Putik, in 1971. In 1992 he became the first NBI director to rise from the ranks. Thence he became governor of Cavite (1995), and Secretary of Interior and Local Government (1998). He lies in state starting today at the San Agustin Church, Tanza, Cavite. Cremation on Sunday 9 a.m., then from the ancestral house on Calle Bigti, funeral march at 3 p.m. to the Santa Cruz Cemetery. *



Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM). Gotcha archives on Facebook:, or The STAR website

Antiquated rice mills hurting consumers, says Sinag By Ronnel W. Domingo Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:32 am | Friday, January 31st, 2014 Inefficiencies in rice processing and costs associated with middlemen are the reasons why prices of the staple grain shot up to almost double the farmgate level, according to the umbrella group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag). This means that palay, which farmers sell for P21 to P22 a kilogram, will cost consumers P37 to P40 a kilo once it reaches the retail store in the form of well-milled rice. Jojie Co of the Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations, a member of Sinag, said in a briefing Wednesday night that most rice mills in the country are running at efficiency levels of 60 percent. The rice mills, which he described as a throwback to the 1940s, “turn out only 60 cavans of milled rice” from 100 cavans of palay. “In fact, the milled rice that the Philippines import fills in for the volume lost in the milling process,” he said. According to the Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization or PhilMech, an agency supervised by the Department of Agriculture (DA), laboratory tests show that the best milling facilities can recover 68 to 72 cavans of rice from 100 cavans of palay.

However, of the 25,372 rice mills in the country, 24,420 are single-pass mills that have a recovery rate of 50-55 percent. Based on PhilMech’s post-harvest inventory survey done in 2008, there are only 48 compact rice mills that can recover 60 percent at best, and 904 multi-pass mills with a recovery rate of 65-70 percent. Most rice farmers, Co said, sell individually to middlemen instead of consolidating volumes through cooperatives that sell directly to millers. “There are very few successful cooperatives in the country, and so farmers sell at their own small volumes,” he said, adding that the average rice farm holding is 1.5 hectare to 2 hectares. Co said that, if this is the case, bulk of the difference between farmgate palay prices and retail milled rice prices go to the middle men.

Part of the DA’s efforts to address the situation is to establish modern integrated rice mills, which include warehouses, mechanical dryers and other support facilities. There are still only a few such facilities, the newest one being the P32.2-million rice processing center in Sto. Niùo, South Cotabato.

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NFA ‘badges of fraud’ detected by auditors By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 1:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Amid reports of the resurgence of rice smuggling in the country, the Commission on Audit (COA) has initiated a fraud audit of the National Food Authority (NFA). COA chairman Grace Pulido Tan told the Senate Blue Ribbon committee yesterday that the audit would cover transactions of the NFA in the last five to seven years. Tan said the COA reviewed its audit reports on the NFA for the past few years and saw “some badges of fraud,” prompting the commission to take a closer look at the matter.She said in conducting the fraud audit, the COA took into consideration the current congressional inquiry on the rice smuggling issue. Tan said a fraud audit is a special audit that the agency undertakes once it sees that irregularities might have been committed.She said there were various instances when the irregularities or discrepancies found in the audit of government agencies do not necessarily mean that illegal activities were committed. “Sometimes they are not too familiar with the applicable laws, sometimes they are just a bit lax in the implementation (of laws). But it is a different case when there is a pattern or it appears that it was planned and that’s why we are pursuing a fraud audit in this particular case,” Tan said. She clarified the audit would cover not only the Arroyo administration, but also the current one as the issue on rice smuggling cropped up in recent months.Tan said the COA was able to get a lot of information from the hearings conducted by the Senate and the House committees handling the rice smuggling issue. In 2010, several rice smuggling incidents were reported nationwide such as at Subic Bay Freeport where large rice shipments were seized.NFA officials were questioned including a former tourism official who allegedly brokered for the traders wanting to bring the shipment out. During the latter part of the Arroyo administration, it was alleged the NFA over-imported rice, a lot of which ended up rotting in warehouses.

Aquino meets members of Bangsamoro transition commission By Michael Lim Ubac Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:27 am | Friday, January 31st, 2014

President Aquino: Marching orders. MALACANANG PHOTO BUREAU MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino on Thursday met with members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in Malacañang, sending a clear message that he has given tacit recognition of its authority to draft the Bangsamoro basic law that will be submitted to Congress in May. The 15-member commission led by Mohagher Iqbal paid a courtesy call on Aquino amid clashes between government forces and breakaway rebels of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao province. It was supposed to be only a photo opportunity, but the President used the occasion to make known his marching orders to the BTC members. According to his spokesman Edwin Lacierda, the President met with the BTC members for about 45 minutes and “emphasized the timeline required for the passage of the BBL. “Upon approval of the draft by the President, he will certify the bill urgent [to enable] Congress to enact it into law as early as possible,” Lacierda said in a text message. “The President assured the commission of his support to the passage of the [law].” Those who met with the President were members of the government and MILF peace panels— Iqbal, Melanio Ulama, Asami Tamang, Said Shiek, Fatmawati Salappudin, Akmad Sakkam, Hussein Munoz, Froilyn Mendoza, Raissa Jajurie, Pedrito Eisma, Abdulla Camlian, Talib Benito, Robert Alonto, Ibrahim Ali, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Senen Bacani and Yasmin BusranLao.

“There was one member [of the commission], Johaira, the youngest member, who was not present because her father passed away,” Lacierda said. Also present were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita “Ging” Deles and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. Earlier, Malaysian peace facilitator Abdul Ghafar Tengku Mohamed paid a courtesy call on the President. Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the two incidents—talking peace at the highest levels while engaging in military offensive against rebel forces—were not incongruous. The military offensive against the BIFF followed “accepted rules of engagement,” including protection of human rights by avoiding “indiscriminate use of force,” Coloma said. “What we know, and this was acknowledged also by [the] MILF, is that they themselves pledged to cooperate in the initial operations especially insofar as their determination to prevent BIFF elements from intruding into known MILF communities,” he said.

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PhlPost launches first 3D stamp featuring Year of the Horse By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The first three-dimensional (3D), gold-foiled, embossed stamp featuring the Year of the Horse was released yesterday by the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhlPost) in time for the start of the Chinese New Year. PhlPost Postmaster General Ma. Josefina de la Cruz said the latest stamp is rare in the world. De la Cruz said while some countries have issued gold-foiled stamps and others released embossed stamps, a stamp that combines both features is something new. She said the innovations at the PhlPost aim to renew interest in the philatelic market. “It is saddening that stamps have not been lately recognized. We have to show that Filipinos are skilled in any field. The stamp shows the history and culture of a country. While this is a Chinese New Year we still feel that we could still use this as a vehicle to showcase the Filipino skills and talents,� De la Cruz said. At least 7,000 pieces of the new stamp were printed. It was locally designed but printed in Thailand. The new stamp measures 140 mm x 96 mm. The sizes of the animals printed on it signify the Year of the Snake of 2013 (40 mm x 30 mm), the Year of the Horse of 2014 (51 mm x 40.5 mm) and the Year of Goat for 2015 (40 mm x 30 mm).De la Cruz said this year they would introduce unique stamps such as the scented stamp of former President Cory Aquino to commemorate her 5th death anniversary on Aug. 1. They will be using textile for the national heritage stamp and sand for the watchtower stamp.

KMU files bid to stop PhilHealth from raising premium By Tetch Torres-Tupas 4:37 pm | Thursday, January 30th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Militant group on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to stop the Philippine Health Corporation (PhilHealth) from implementing the increase in the members’ premiums this year. In a 23-page petition, Kilusang Mayo Uno through counsel Remigio Saladero Jr. told the high court to also nullify PhilHealth Circulars 0027-2013, 0025-2013 and 0024-2013 for being unreasonable and inequitable. Under PhilHealth circular 0027-2013, increase in contributions of PhilHealth members employed would only involve those members with a salary range of P8,999.99 and below. On PhilHealth circular 0025-2013, contributions for land-based Filipino overseas workers increased from P1,200 annually to P2,400 while Circular 0024-2013 increased by P600 the annual PhilHealth contributions of members with monthly income of P25,000 and below. “Those with lower salaries have their PhilHealth contributions increased while those with higher salaries, maintain their contribution rates…Surely, there is no equity in such a scheme,” the petitioner said. PhilHealth said the increase is necessary because it will entitle members to in-patient hospital care, out-patient coverage and other special benefit packages under the National Health Insurance Program. “Yet, a look at the records of PhilHealth will show that it can attain these objectives without adopting the drastic increase in its contribution schedules,” the petitioner said. Petitioners noted that in 2012, PhilHealth awarded some P1.5 billion in bonuses and allowances to its top officials and employees.

“This only shows that if only respondent PhilHealth would only use its funds judiciously and would be less capricious in spending its funds, the need for contribution hikes from its members would be obviated,” the petitioner insisted. KMU said the increase will be an added burden to workers as it would mean a reduction in their take-home pay.

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Phl economy grows 7.2%, second fastest in Asia By Donnabelle Gatdula (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines recorded the second biggest economic expansion in Asia with a growth of 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing the year’s gross domestic product (GDP) to 7.2 percent. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, who is also director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said the country remains one of the best performing economies in the Asian region in the fourth quarter of 2013, next to China, which grew by 7.7 percent. He said it was a “remarkable turnout” considering the 2013 target of only six to seven percent given the challenges the country faced, particularly the disasters that struck central and southern Philippines in the fourth quarter. “Indeed, growth could have been better had we not been perturbed by various disasters that hit the country such as the Bohol earthquake, the Zamboanga siege and Typhoon Yolanda,” he said. Balisacan said they are sticking with their projection of 6.5-to 7.5-percent growth for this year. “We are optimistic that the Philippine economy will remain strong in 2014, especially that the outlook on the global economy is becoming more favorable and as the domestic economy remains robust,” he said. He said the 2014 growth projections are consistent with global trends. Higher expectations Balisacan noted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) both have higher growth expectations for the global economy.

The IMF, he said, sees global activity growing by 3.7 percent this year and 3.9 percent in 2015, while the WB projects growth at 3.2 percent this year and 3.4 percent in 2015. The Asian Development Bank sees the region growing at 6.2 percent this year. “With such indications of recovery from the global economic crisis, we believe the Philippine economy, particularly the industry sector, is in a very good position to take advantage of wider export markets, as the government continues to implement reforms to reduce the cost of doing business in the country,” he said. Services and industry sectors The NEDA chief attributed the outstanding performance in 2013 to a stronger supply side as the services and industry sectors continue to be the drivers of economic growth. He said the services sector contributed 3.6 percent of the real GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2013. The industry sector, on the other hand, registered a growth of 2.8 percent and agriculture with 0.1 percent. Manufacturing, trade, finance, and real estate mainly propelled fourth-quarter growth on the supply side. The 6.5-percent expansion of the services sector was driven largely by the strong demand for communications, land and air transportation, and storage and services incidental to transport. Balisacan said increased air traffic in the last quarter of 2013 was a result of additional flights and destination of the country’s leading airlines, number of passengers and cargo for tourism and relief operations after Yolanda. He said the financial sector also came in strong in the fourth quarter with a growth of 9.9 percent. “A stable business environment, a manageable inflation rate of 3.7 percent – leaning towards the low end of the target range – and low interest rates, as well as aid from other countries for those affected by typhoon Yolanda, have induced an increase in financial activity,” he said. He said the 5.4-percent growth in other services was mainly driven by education and services, health and social work and community services. He said tourism also drove the sector’s strong performance. For 2013, tourism gross value added reached P748.3 billion, 15 percent higher than in 2012. In the industry sector, manufacturing served as the frontrunner, posting double-digit growth of 12.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, more than twice the growth it exhibited in the same period of 2012, at 5.5 percent. Chemical and chemical products which grew at triple digit – 124.5 percent in the fourth quarter following another triple digit growth of 133.5 percent in the third quarter– was top performer.

Manufacturing grew significantly by 10.5 percent, maintaining a growth rate of above 9.5 percent since the first quarter of 2013. On the demand side, growth was driven by household consumption, which contributed 4.2 percent and net exports, which contributed 1.6 percent. The export sector also continued to post a positive growth in the fourth quarter at 6.4 percent, lower than the 8.6 percent in the previous year, but still a sign of improvement after its lackluster performance in the first half of 2013. Merchandise exports increased by 6.2 percent mainly due to the strengthening of the global manufacturing sector in line with the recovery of the world economy. Exports of services, on the other hand, grew by seven percent from a negative 0.6 percent growth in the same period last year. Expansion of business process outsourcing firms and the influx of tourist arrivals in the country were the main sources of growth for this expenditure account. Setbacks Meanwhile, construction had the biggest setback in the fourth quarter of 2013, which contracted by 0.8 percent due to stricter rules imposed on real estate lending in compliance with prudential regulations. Government spending also declined by 5.2 percent, down from the 9.5-percent growth recorded in the fourth quarter of 2012 due to lower disbursements in Personnel Services and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures. However, government spending increased by 8.6 percent. Total imports also slowed down by 1.9 percent during the last quarter from eight percent in the same period of the previous year. – With Zinnia dela Peña, Delon Porcalla‐economy‐grows‐7.2‐second‐fastest‐asia             

COA warns gov’t agencies with unliquidated cash advances By Maila Ager 12:54 pm | Thursday, January 30th, 2014 MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) issued an ultimatum on Thursday to government agencies that have not yet liquidated their cash advances, saying appropriate cases will be filed against them in two months.

COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan. FILE PHOTO COA chairperson Maria Grace Pulido-Tan told the Senate blue ribbon committee that some agencies have unliquidated cash advances for the past 10 to 15 years and one agency alone could have around P1 billion unliquidated cash advances. “What we did two years ago, because when I came in, I saw the billions in unliquidated cash advances or cash transfers. So what we did, I said, we better make a final demand on all of these agencies to do something about it. And we even published that in the newspaper,” Tan said at the resumption of the committee’s investigation into the “pork barrel” scam. She said there is a provision of criminal law that when somebody is given a cash advance and he was not able to liquidate it within the prescribed period and within demand, “there is already a presumption in law that that money was malversed.” “So that is what we did. I came out, sabi ko this is going to be a final demand, whoever has cash advances in his hands must liquidate already,” said Tan.

The COA chief said they have a list of individuals and organizations that have not made liquidation and are now going through documents so that they could file appropriate charges against them. “We were able to come up with a list of these individuals and organizations that have not made liquidation and we are now in the process of [selection] so that we can file the appropriate cases through the Office of the Ombudsman,” she said. “We wish that we could be more expeditious, but as chair Herbosa said, we have the same problem. We are not computerized. We are beginning to get computerized but notwithstanding, we are doing our best to address this matter,” Tan said, referring to Teresita Herbosa, chairperson of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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1,829 trees to be killed for road plan By Yolanda Sotelo Inquirer Northern Luzon 9:41 pm | Thursday, January 30th, 2014

TOURISTS on the way to Baguio City were shocked to see trees marked for cutting along the McArthur Highway. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON DAGUPAN CITY—Environmentalists and church groups have petitioned the government to stop the “slaughter” of 1,829 trees that were marked for cutting or earthballing in five towns and a city in Pangasinan province to make way for the expansion of the MacArthur Highway, a major link to northern Luzon. Some of the petitioners were tourists, who saw the trees as they motored up to the summer capital, among them Fr. Robert Reyes, the “running priest.” The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Department (DENR) in November last year issued a special tree cutting permit to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to clear the area for the road expansion project. Widening The trees line the stretch of MacArthur Highway, also known as the Manila North Road, that links the towns of Sison, Pozorrubio, Binalonan, Villasis and Rosales, and Urdaneta City. More than half of the trees had been cut, said Emmanuel Diaz, Pangasinan district engineer. Diaz, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, said the clearing operations would proceed because “it is needed for the road widening.” The trees that have yet to be cut or transferred are in Binalonan and Pozorrubio towns, Diaz said.

He said he has not been apprised about the actual number of trees still left standing, but said among these are narra, acacia and mahogany. Diaz said the 90-day tree cutting permit issued by the DENR would lapse in February. Binalonan Mayor Ramon Guico III said the local government tried to save some of the trees. “We asked [the agencies to spare the] trees near the crossing (junction of MacArthur Highway and the road leading to Manaoag town in Pangasinan), but there was no way to save them. We just replaced them by planting trees in the villages,” he said. Petition of rage Guico said many trees would be cut in the villages of Sta. Maria and Canarvacaan in his town. Reyes was one of many Baguio visitors who called the Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau early this month to express his outrage at the fate of the trees. The priest, who is based in Cagayan Valley region, said he had informed environmental organizations about the trees’ fate, “which has been surrounded by too much silence.” On Jan. 25, an online petition was put up to save the remaining trees in Pangasinan by several groups. “We are enraged that the DENR, the lead government agency tasked to conserve, protect, and rehabilitate the Philippine environment gave its imprimatur for the massive destruction of trees…,” the petition said. “These agencies have glossed over the fact Pangasinan trees lining the national highway have, all these years, helped trap the poisonous greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming and climate change,” it added.

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Bishops ask Noy to extend CARPER until 2016 By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Catholic bishops have asked President Aquino to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) until the end of his term in 2016. CARPER is due to expire on June 30. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, national director of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCPNASSA), said they sent a letter to Aquino last Jan. 27 appealing for a two-year extension of CARPER. “Mr. President, we support the thinking of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that legislation is needed to give CARP two more years to put all the pieces in place to achieve its social reform objective,” read the letter. “These two years coincide with the remaining two years of your administration and will assure a lasting legacy of the centerpiece program of former President Corazon C. Aquino,” it added. Aside from Pabillo, the four-page letter was also signed by Archbishop of Caceres, Camarines Sur Rolando Tria Tirona, CBCP-NASSA board chairman; Archbishop of Palo, Leyte John Du, board treasurer; and members Bishop of Tandag, Surigao del Sur Nereo Odchimar, Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro Antonio Ledesma, Bishop of Cabanatuan Sofronio Bancud, Archbishop of Capiz Jose Advincula, Bishop of Jolo Angelito Lampon, and Bishop of Basilan Martin Jumoad. Lawyer Christian Monsod, co-convenor of Sulong CARPER, CBCP-NASSA executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez, and executive committee representative Sr. Ma. Eden Orlino were the other signatories. NASSA requested to have a dialogue with Aquino, saying it believes that major decisions have to be made and action taken before the deadline on both the strategic direction of CARP and the institutional capability of the government to accomplish these strategies, as well as the administration’s commitments to the farmers. “The nationwide land reform effort is mired in deep uncertainty that strikes at the heart and soul of the entire program,” the CBCP said. NASSA cited four proposed strategic directions that are geared toward real social reform: granting of additional time to complete the issuance of notices of coverage (NOCs) before June 30 this year; and the creation of an independent commission with ample powers to review and

audit the performance and accomplishments of CARP pursuant to the constitutional mandate that it should cover all agricultural lands. NASSA also urged that all unpaid amortizations of farmers be condoned and all future distributions be free; and that the government undertake a massive program of institutionbuilding and funding support for agricultural development and agrarian reform. NASSA also wishes to discuss the fate of the CARP once Aquino steps down in 2016. “Your Excellency, the farmers still recall your administration’s promise to lay the foundations for the success of CARP during your administration and, in particular, to issue all the NOCs by the end of 2013. With the June 14, 2014 deadline only five months away, it is also time to talk about the future of CARP beyond 2016,” read the letter. NASSA reiterated its request for an overhaul of the Department of Agrarian Reform, alleging that Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes “clearly does not fit the role of a transformational leader for the demanding task ahead for CARP.” “There would be no stronger statement that your administration champions the cause of family farmers by sustaining the very program that would give land to the landless, and thus allow the family farm sector to flourish within our country,” read the letter.‐ask‐noy‐extend‐carper‐until‐2016                         

Quarrying in La Union river stopped By Jun Elias (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 SAN FERNANDO, La Union – The Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s regional office has issued an order stopping the illegal quarrying along the Bauang River in Barangay Pudoc, Bauang town. The order was issued after a team of the bureau confirmed that illegal sand extraction was being done along the river. Amalia Menzi, senior science research specialist of the Provincial Mining and Regulatory Board, said the inspection team was sent following a report of illegal quarrying in the area.‐la‐union‐river‐stopped                                 

BSP to keep inflation in check By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said yesterday it is ready to act to ensure inflation is kept manageable and conducive to a robust economic growth. BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. made the comment following the government’s announcement of a faster-than-expected 7.2-percent economic growth last year. “Full year GDP (gross domestic product) at 7.2-percent exceeded market expectations and the government target of six to seven percent,” Tetangco said in a text message to reporters. “Growth above seven-percent reinforces our assessment that the fundamental strength of the economy is intact,” he continued.The economy expanded by 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter, slower than the first three quarters as recent natural calamities put a dent on domestic consumption.However, full-year growth settled at 7.2 percent, an acceleration from the 6.8 percent seen in 2012. The country’s 2013 GDP figure was also among the fastest in Asia. “We will continue to monitor developments, including any ‘noise’ from temporary domestic financial market volatility, and act as appropriate to ensure inflation expectations remain wellanchored,” Tetangco said. The BSP, mandated to keep prices stable and ensure this supports inclusive economic growth, has kept key policy rates steady in 2013.Overnight borrowing and lending rates were kept at record lows of 3.5 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively, as inflation remained benign and economic growth robust. Inflation last year averaged three percent, at the low end of the BSP’s three to five percent target. This year, the central bank forecast the rise in domestic prices to average 4.5 percent, near the upper end of the same target range.

Bank lending up 16.4% By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Bank lending continued to rise in December, supporting the growing economy, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said yesterday. Lending by universal and commercial banks, net of bank placements in the central bank, went up 16.4 percent to P3.777 trillion in December from P3.243 trillion in the same period in 2012. The central bank said the rate was faster than the 14.8 percent in November and 13.6 percent in October. At the same time, the rate was the fastest following the 19.2 percent growth recorded in April 2012. Together with placements in the BSP, lending increased 16.3 percent to P4.048 trillion from P3.48 trillion. “The sustained expansion in bank lending is expected to support the continued positive outlook of the economy for the year ahead,” the central bank said. Loans for production activities which made up more than four-fifths of banks’ total loan portfolio rose 15.3 percent to P3.415 trillion in December. The bulk of the loans were primarily used for real estate (P705.585 billion), manufacturing (P644.923 billion), wholesale and retail trade (P555.017 billion), utilities (P378.397 billion), and financial intermediation (P323.097 billion). At the same time, consumer loans grew 8.3 percent to P278.829 billion in December. Credit card loans climbed 5.7 percent to P156.598 billion, auto loans went up 13.7 percent to P92.778 billion, and other loans increased 6.3 percent to P29.453 billion. “Going forward, the BSP will ensure that credit and liquidity conditions will keep at pace with overall economic growth while remaining consistent with its price and financial stability objectives,” the central bank said.

Glencore to divest Tampakan stake By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 31, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Commodities giant Glencore Xstrata has expressed interest in divesting its majority interest in the beleaguered $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato, its minority project partner Indophil Resources NL reported yesterday. The divestment plan, however, is still subject to discussion and no formal divestment process has commenced. “Glencore Xstrata has advised Indophil of its preference to divest its stake in Tampakan. This is consistent with Glencore’s preference not to develop greenfield projects, said Indophil CEO Richard Laufmann in the report. Indophil holds a “strategic preemptive right” over Glencore Strata’s interest, giving it the right of first refusal in the sale of Glencore Xstrata’s interest in the project. Glencore Xstrata holds a 62.5-percent interest in the the project operator Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) while Indophil holds a 37.5-percent stake. In its report for the quarter ending on Dec. 31, 2013, Indophil said it – along with its partners in the Philippines – remains optimistic that the hindrances to the development of the Tampakan project would be cleared. “While the provincial ban on open pit mining remains, there are positive signs,” said Laufmann. Indophil is currently 30 percent owned by Filipino corporations. These include the Alsons group through funding by BDO Unibank, the SM group, San Miguel Corp. and Philex Mining Corp. In the report, Laufmann said there has been “considerable uncertainty over the future ownership of Tampakan” since April 2013. Glencore Xstrata considers the Tampakan project as a greenfield project as it is not yet in the production stage. While still lacking the proper operating permits, Glencore Xstrata ordered SMI in mid-2013 to implement a revised work plan for the project that entailed a significant reduction in funding for the Tampakan project as well as massive retrenchment of SMI’s workforce. The plan for 2014 now sees total expenditure of less than $10 million with only 60 employees. The project activities would be focused on maintaining local community support and clarifiying with the Philippine government the process and timeline for the remaining approvals required for the Tampakan project.

Indophil said it remains committed to maximizing the value of investment “either by development of Tampakan, 100 percent ownership of SMI or divestment.” “Indophil has advised Glencore Xstrata that it is focused on restoring value to the Tampakan investment. We will work with Glencore Xstrata to assist in meeting objectives for the project, and Indophil remains focused on doing what it can to ensure the project license conditions are not compromised in this process,” Laufmann said in the report. The Tampakan project, which has an intial 17-year mine life, has a start-up milling capacity of 66 million tons per annum and an annual metal production of 450,000 tons of copper and 435,000 ounces of gold over the first five years of operation. An inter agency working group has beenn created within the Mining Industry Coordinatting Council (MICC) to resolve the challenges in the advancement of the project which include the following: conflicting agrarian-reform claims within its tenement; the condition laid down in its Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for perpetual liability for allenvironmental damages resulting directly or indirectly from project operations, the open-pit mining ban in South Cotabato, and the difficulty in securing the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of communities that would be impacted by its operations.‐divest‐tampakan‐stake                             

Batanes veggie farms boom with government intervention Category: Agri‐Commodities   30 Jan 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega   THE  Bureau  of  Agricultural  Research  (BAR)  says  “appropriate”  technologies  applied  in  Batanes’s  farm  sector has boosted productivity in that northern island‐province.  “We studied and analyzed the situation, and finally came up with the best fit interventions in the area,”  a statement quoted Cesar Doroteo V. Hostallero as saying.  Hostallero is senior agriculturist of the Batanes Provincial Local Government Unit.  The BAR noted that farmers in coastal areas of Batanes usually plant plant corn followed by vegetables  and/or vegetable then fallow.  This practice leads “to insufficiency of vegetable supply especially during the months of March to June.”  Coastal  areas  in  Batanes  are  mostly  planted  with  vegetables  and  other  crops  appropriate  for  a  sandy  loam to clay loam type of soil.  The BAR said the insufficiency is “further aggravated” with “the unpredictability of weather conditions  which affect vegetable production.”  “Another major concern is the limited knowledge on appropriate fertilizer sources and their application  leading to soil fertility problems.”  Hence,  Hostallero  said  the  government  implemented  a  project  that  emphasized  integrated  farming  system and organic production to increase the productivity and income of farmers. He added that they  tapped  six  farmer‐cooperators  from  three  sites  in  Chanarian,  Basco;  Sungahan,  Mahatao;  and  Vatang,  Ivana, for the project.  The  BAR  said  the  government  promoted  a  year‐round  vegetable  production  “by  using  appropriate  vegetable varieties and conducted capacity building and technology demonstration on organic vegetable  production technologies, cultural management, and integrated nutrient management.”  The BAR said they recommended the planting on these sites the following vegetables: tomato; eggplant;  sweet pepper; pole sitao; snap beans; ampalaya; cabbage; and, carrots. 

“Based on the results, eggplant was the most profitable crop followed by tomato, snap beans, ampalaya,  cabbage, pole sitao, sweet pepper, and carrots, respectively.”  The  BAR  added  they  also  trained  farmers  on  natural  farming  inputs  including:  fermented  plant  juice;  fermented  fruit  juice;  oriental  herbal  nutrient  for  pest  management;  fish  amino  acid;  effective  microorganisms and the gathering of indigenous microorganisms; and, vermicomposting.  The BAR added they recommended to farmers to use technologies on plot preparation, plant spacing,  trellising and mulching.  The BAR said increased yield was noticeable after these technologies.  “From an average yield of 951 kilograms using [the old] farmers’ practice, it went up to 1,197 kilograms  across the three project sites.”  When  translated  to  income,  from  P9,444  using  the  old  farmers’  practice,  the  project  sites  marked  an  average income of P17,463 with an increment of 84.9 percent, according to the BAR.  “In  addition,  the  proponents  trained  the  farmers  on  how  to  save  their  own  seeds  to  avoid  constant  buying of seeds and to minimize the production cost of the farmers.”‐commodities/26774‐batanes‐veggie‐ farms‐boom‐with‐government‐intervention                       

Farmers ask DOJ chief to probe harassment in Luisita, Tadeco lands Category: Regions   30 Jan 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   HACIENDA  Luisita  farmers  on  Thursday  called  on  the  Department  of  Justice  (DOJ)  to  investigate  the  alleged harassment perpetrated by the Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco) against farmers that occupy  its vast tract of land in Tarlac.  Flor Sibayan, Ambala acting chairman, said tension between the Cojuangco‐Aquino family and farmers  continue to escalate.   On  January  28  she  reported  that  five  farmers  arrested  by  the  police  last  December  for  trying  to  stop  Cojuangco  bulldozers  from  destroying  their  crops  were  now  charged  for  “direct  assault  to  persons  of  authority.”  Those  arrested  and  subsequently  charged  by  police  included  Jose  Baldiviano,  Vicente  Sambu,  Ronald  Sakay, Rod Acosta and Mamerto Mandigma.  “Patung‐patong na pananakot at pandarahas na po ang nararanasan ng mga magbubukid ng Luisita dahil  sa patuloy na pangangamkam ng lupa ng ganid na pamilya Cojuangco‐Aquino,” Sibayan said.  “We call on the Department of Justice [DOJ] to make good their promise of creating a special panel to  look  into  [human]‐rights  violations  against  farmers  in  Hacienda  Luisita.  With  the  fragile  situation  in  Luisita, this DOJ panel must start its work now,” Sibayan said.  During  a  dialogue  with  Justice  Undersecretary  Francisco  Baraan  at  the  DOJ  on  January  16,  dozens  of  farmers signed sworn affidavits accusing the Cojuangcos, their goons and the Tarlac Philippine National  Police (PNP) with grave threat, coercion, damage to property, physical injury, illegal arrest and detention  and other violations.  Asked  for  his  comment  on  the  alleged  harassment  perpetrated  against  farmers  occupying  the  Tadeco  lands, Agrarian Reform  Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said they  have received  no  report of the alleged harassment Tadeco or Hacienda Luisita lands.  “In any case, we will cooperate if the DOJ launches an investigation on this,” he said.‐farmers‐ask‐doj‐chief‐to‐ probe‐harassment‐in‐luisita‐tadeco‐lands 

Zambo Agri official warns prawn farmers by Nonoy E. Lacson  January 31, 2014  

Vitali, Zamboanga City – The Department of Agriculture in this city has warned shrimps and prawns farmers of a possible outbreak of White Spots Syndrome Virus, a deadly virus or infestation in the shrimp and prawn farming industry. Vitali District Field Agricultural Officer Rico Tabal said with the onset of the hot weather condition, MSSV infestation in the shrimp and prawns industry here is very high. Tabal expressed alarm over the emergence of the WSSV which has been detected in some prawn farms in the eastern part of the city. He said the presence of white spots in the head and tail of the infected shrimp is a great manifestation of the virus which has been observed by some farmers in the east district of the city. “Our office is preparing measures to address the possible outbreak of the same infestation in the area,” he added. Tabal said he also cautioned shrimps and prawn farmers here to be always on alert, with the observation their produce should not have a white spot before distributing them to the city main public market for human consumption “We are watching the possible onset of MSSV infestation which is likely to hit the local shrimp and prawn farming industry in this part of the city,” Tabal said.‐agri‐official‐warns‐prawn‐farmers/               

2014 01 31 quedancor daily news monitor