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Brokers, rice traders warned vs absence at Senate hearing By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Brokers and rice traders will face contempt charges if they fail to show up at the Senate committee on agriculture and food hearings on rice smuggling after being issued summons. Committee chairman Sen. Cynthia Villar was referring to broker Eleonor Rodriguez, who assisted in the documentation of Albay rice shipment cooperatives; Leah Echevaria, broker Elizabeth Faustino, and businessman David Lim and his wife Judyline Lim. “We have subpoenaed all of them,” Villar said. “If they don’t attend, they can be cited for contempt and ordered arrested. We have discussed that the committee must issue a warning first before the four (others) can be arrested if they fail to attend.” Faustino was the “consolidator” of the late Nixon Kua, a former journalist who reportedly got involved in rice trading. She had links with farmers’ cooperatives identified as Formosa MultiPurpose Cooperative (MPC) (Ricardo Gatuz Jr.); Riverview Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Juanito Evangelista); Ugnayang Magsasaka sa Kaunlaran MPC (Felix Villena Sr.); GPI San Miguel MPC (Alfredo Cruz); Sitio Muzon Farmers MPC (Ronaldo Valdez) and Sta. Cecilia MPC (Zenaida Abanio). Echeveria was the attorney-in-fact for 21 cooperatives that filed a civil case against the National Food Authority (NFA) with Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 217. Records at the committee on agriculture and food showed that Echeveria filed Civil Case No. Q12-71913, where Judge Arenas ordered a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, then NFA administrator Angelito Banayo and Assistant Administrator Cordero. Senate records showed that the TRO prevented and restrained the NFA and DA officials from delaying or holding the release of import permits/memorandum of undertaking, imposing penalties, forfeiting the performance security bonds/deposits, canceling the authority to import under the Tax Expenditure Subsidy, among others. The Lim couple is engaged in businesses ranging from rice trading, trucking and commodities. Mr. Lim attended one of the earlier Senate hearings, but he told the committee that his wife handled their businesses. The couple failed to attend the last public hearing.

Villar said yesterday the committee on agriculture and food is deferring a petition for the cancellation of the passport of Davidson Bangayan pending the filing of perjury charges before a competent court. “As advised by our legal counsel, we have to go through the process,” she said. “But we have filed the perjury complaint.On the issue of cancellation of passport, there should be a case filed before it is recommended for cancelation. There is a legal process in the cancelation of passport and we will go through that.” Villar said Senate lawyers are still consolidating the criminal cases against Bangayan to determine if these can be used to bolster the Senate’s plan to seek the cancelation of his passport. The committee will also gather records of the electricity pilferage case against Bangayan before a Caloocan City court. The Senate will resume public hearings on Feb. 24. – With Teddy Molina

5-year extension of CARP sought By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 10, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Two Mindanao lawmakers have filed a bill seeking to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) by five years. Land acquisition and distribution as provided under Republic Act 6657 will expire on June 30 this year. Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother Maximo, who represents the partylist group Abante Mindanao, filed the CARP extension bill. They said the program aims to give land to landless farmers and farm workers, promote social justice and move the nation toward a sound rural development and industrialization with due regard to the rights of the landowners to just compensation. “However, 25 years after the enactment of the law, there are still numerous landless farmers all over the country and the goals for which the law was passed have yet to be met. For instance, for 2012, the target of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) was to process 180,000 hectares of land, but they were only able to process 32,403.90 hectares,” the Rodriguezes said. “DAR also targeted to have 17,254 hectares of land placed under leasehold agreements in 2012, but they were only able to have 7,724 hectares. Also, there are 20,144 pending cases in DAR, and as of June 2012, only 7,903 were resolved. When it comes to Agrarian Legal Assistance cases, the target was to have the 1,390 cases submitted for resolution but only 268 were submitted,” they said. The lawmakers pointed out these figures show DAR has still much work to do, which makes it necessary to extend the life of the CARP law. Agrarian Reform Secretary Gil delos Reyes told the House committee on agrarian reform last week that there is a balance of 790,000 hectares of agricultural land to be distributed. Delos Reyes said 26,000 landowners are affected and they would soon be issued notices of coverage. He said the owners have the option to retain up to seven hectares of their land. He said one problem they are facing is the loss of some land titles and the difficulty of reconstructing them. One large landholding that is now being distributed is the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, formerly owned by the Cojuangcos, who are relatives of President Aquino. The Luisita case had reached the Supreme Court, which had ordered that it be farmed out among tenant farmers at 1989 land values. A party-list congressman has claimed the Cojuangcos have been overpaid by P167 million, on top of the P304-million value of their property.

Senate defers petition to cancel Davidson Bangayan's passport By Christina Mendez ( | Updated February 11, 2014 - 5:23pm 3 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate committee on agriculture and food is deferring the filing of a petition for the cancelation of passport against businessman Davidson Bangayan alias David Tan pending the formal elevation of perjury charges before a competent court, Sen. Cynthia Villar said Tuesday. “As advised by our legal counsel, we have to go through the process. But we have filed the perjury complaint. On the issue of cancellation of passport, there should be a case filed before it is recommended for cancellation. There is a legal process in the cancelation of passport and we will go through that,” Villar said. Villar, who heads the Senate committee on agriculture and food, added that the Senate lawyers are still consolidating the criminal cases filed against Bangayan to determine if these can be used to bolster the Senate’s plan to seek for the cancelation of his passport. The committee will also gather records of the pilferage case before the Caloocan City court, which the Justice Department and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) used as basis of the warrant of arrest filed against Bangayan. The Senate will resume its public hearings on Feb. 24. Villar warned that contempt charges will be slapped against other resource persons subpoenaed by the committee but would continue not to show up in the upcoming hearings. “We have subpoenaed all of them. If they don’t attend, they can be cited for contempt and ordered arrested. We have discussed that the committee must issue a warning first before the four (others) can be arrested if they fail to attend,” Villar said. The senator referred to Eleonor Rodriguez, a broker and the one who assisted in the documentation of Albay rice shipment cooperatives; one Leah Echevaria, Elizabeth Faustino, and couple David and Judyline Lim.

Faustino was the 'consolidator' of the late Nixon Kua, a former journalist who reportedly got involved in rice trading. She had links with farmers’ cooperatives identified as Formosa MultiPurpose Cooperative (MPC) (Ricardo R. Gatuz Jr.); Riverview Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Juanito Evangelista); Ugnayang Magsasaka sa Kaunlaran MPC (Felix Villena Sr.); GPI San Miguel MPC (Alfredo Cruz); Sitio Muzon Farmers MPC (Ronaldo S. Valdez) and Sta. Cecilia MPC (Zenaida Abanio). Echeveria was the attorney-in-fact for 21 cooperatives that filed a civil case against National Food Authority (NFA) with Branch 217 of the RTC, Quezon City. Records of the Senate committee also showed that Echeveria filed Civil Case No. Q-12-71913, where Judge Arenas ordered a Temporary Restraining Order against Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala, NFA administrator Angelito Banayo and Asst. Admin. Cordero. Senate records revealed that the TRO prevented and restrained the NFA and DA officials from delaying or holding the release of import permits/memorandum of undertaking, imposing penalties, forfeiting the Performance Security Bonds/Deposits, cancelling the authority to import under the Tax Expenditure Subsidy, among others. The Lim couple is engaged in businesses ranging from rice traiding, trucking and commodities. Mr. Lim attended one of the earlier hearings but he mentioned before the committee that his wife dealt with their business, prompting the Senate to summon Mrs. Judyline Lim. The couple failed to attend the last public hearing.

Rice farming – high tariffs, smuggling and protectionist domestic policies CROSSROADS (Toward Philippine Economic and Social Progress) By Gerardo P. Sicat (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 1 Last week, I made the point that smuggling, corruption and protectionist policies are almost the same thing. Where one of these activities is prevalent, chances are it is because the other two elements are also there as partners in misconduct. “Economic winners in a corrupt world.” I should add that all three also make for below par economic performance for a country. Competitiveness and economic efficiency are often sacrificed when excessive protection is given in the guise of good intentions. The “winners from protectionism” are producers who can exclude market competition with government help. In today’s WTO-world, unreasonable tariffs on imports of competing products are the remaining weapons of protectionism. “Smugglers” make huge profits when high tariffs are in place. The differences in import and domestic prices make smuggling an attractive activity in spite of the risk of being caught. Smugglers manage this risk by buying off corrupt Customs personnel or coddling by politicians. If the justice system is not corrupted or corruptible, catching the corrupt is easier. This is like a chicken and egg rigmarole. What is the record of the country’s justice system? And what is the record of the Customs authorities? The answer could be depressing. True reformers remove the cause of the problem. “Consumers are losers.” The losers in this corrupted world are consumers. Consumers are those who buy the goods at retail, the end-users. They could also include industries that use the protected products as inputs in production. Government also lose billions in uncollected duties and taxes But ultimately, it is the end-consumers, you and me, who are the most adversely affected! Consumers are numerically more in numbers than producers. Protectionist policies favor the few producers while sacrificing many consumers.

Consumers get the short end: a litany of wrongs including high prices, unstable supplies of goods, and poor quality of produced items in the home market. Average-income consumers may not feel the pinch. Sometimes seemingly small price differences do not rock the average consumption budget. That is not the case, however, among the poor whose budgets are of course very limited. What might be a simple pinch to the average budget is a knockout punch to the very poor. “Severe long term impact on all.” We have lessons in our experience that demonstrate for severe pain even on producers when we consider the longer run. The overall economy becomes uncompetitive. The protected activities are perennially dependent on state support of the protection policies. And also, the government expends and dissipates resources going after smugglers than focus on important problems. Producers lose their incentives to become innovative or to survive through competition unless their protective cover is removed. The resources of the country are spent on the wrong industries. Take the case of the textile and garment industries in the country. Because of the persistently high protection rates for textile producers in the past, we spent too much time monitoring smuggling. The textile industrialists became victims of high costs in the end. The result: our textile industry became very weak and lost out. And our garments industry today is still highly dependent on imported textiles. “Rice smuggling will continue.” The fact that low cost producers of rice in Southeast Asia can produce rice at a large advantage should be seen in another light: we can buy cheaper food for our people. The gains will be for the people, the consumers. Even as ASEAN becomes one free trade area in 2015, rice has been excluded because it is considered by our government as a “sensitive” good. By this exceptionalism, rice is “tarified” at 35 percent of value of rice imports by the special provisions of the ASEAN trade in goods agreement, a concession for our country. This means that ASEAN producers have “minimum access” to Philippine domestic supplies at that agreed rate after 2015. Of course, the country could obtain more rice at tarified rate for all suppliers. The tarified rate for rice under the WTO agreement is 50 percent of value. Under WTO rules, the extended time for allowing the import quotas expired on June 5, 2005. With these powerful tariff incentives written in stone, all would-be smugglers are fully informed. Even then, the powerful Philippine rice lobby is goading the government to continue the rice import quotas which have been the cause of smuggling in recent years. They want to risk even a

court case being filed against the country in the WTO if only to continue the past practice of import quotas. “Food security in terms of rice.” Buying cheaper rice from other countries as a means to guarantee food security should be a boon to the domestic economy even as we produce rice in the country. We should balance a wise import policy for rice with domestic production program that helps our domestic farmers to produce rice. Such a program includes higher investments in agricultural infrastructure, government price support and credit, and technical extension. Under this framework, rice farmers of high quality rice and high productivity can find niche markets even for export. (Remember the early 1980s when we met all our domestic needs through concerted government efforts with rice farmers?) Shorn of high protection, however, our land, labor, and entrepreneurial resources used in agriculture will find better use if they engaged in activities that earn them good economic returns. “Food security” is the only good argument for pushing self-sufficiency in rice production. Food security means having the food produced by us and having that food available when we want it. It is a guarantee against being too dependent on foreign supplies. ASEAN, however, under free trade rules could be an additional assurance of food security for us. Malaysia and Indonesia import some part of their rice needs. Thus, they keep food security as well while they support domestic production of the staple. Hong Kong and Singapore – two highly successful regional economies – never had to produce rice to feed their millions of residents. By allowing free trade in rice, they obtain the rice that their population need and eat. My email is: Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary:

NBI recommends raps vs solon, 4 others over fake SAROs By Camille Diola ( | Updated February 11, 2014 - 1:31pm

Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco, Jr. MANILA, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Tuesday recommended to the Department of Justice (DOJ) the filing of criminal complaints against a congressman and four others over the alleged falsification of release orders from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The congressman recommended to be charged with falsification of public documents was Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. The four other individuals were Emmanuel Raza, member of Zamboanga Rep. Lilia MacrohonNuno's staff; Elvie Rafael, driver of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; Mary Ann Castillo, consultant for Haresco and DBM employee Bhernie Beltran. Castillo, meanwhile, was also recommended to be charged with obstruction of justice for withholding evidence from the fact-finding committee. The five accused allegedly scam funneled P161 million for a project in Cagayan and P77 million for another project in Aklan using fake special allotment release orders. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had said that evidence pointed to Castillo as the source of the two fake SAROs for Cagayan and Aklan projects.

Relampagos, who was earlier tagged in the investigation, was cleared from the - with report from Edu Punay

Gov’t justifies approval of Meralco rate hike By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) defended before the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday its approval of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco)’s P4.15 per kilowatt-hour power rate increase. The state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) could have violated the rules of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), the DOE said. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla told the high court PSALM could have engaged in anticompetitive behavior in offering the Malaya power plant capacity without transmitting power. On questioning of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, Petilla said under the rules, the “open breaker” status was illegal and anti-competitive behavior. During oral arguments, Assistant Solicitor General Vida San Vicente asked the SC to dismiss the petitions assailing the record-high rate hike for being premature. “Petitioners did not avail of the proper remedy,” she said. “It is respectfully submitted that petitioners should have contested before the ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) the automatic adjustment of the November 2013 generation cost under section 43 of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act).” San Vicente said petitioners failed to exhaust available administrative remedy with the ERC, which has jurisdiction over all cases contesting rates, fees and penalties imposed on cases involving disputes between and among participants in the energy sector. The DOE and ERC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in approving the rate hike without publication of the adjustment in generation cost, she added.

San Vicente said the requirement of publication under Section 4 (e) Rule 3 of EPIRA Law does not apply, as exemption is provided by the Automatic Adjustment of Generation Rate (AGRA) rules. “Under the AGRA rules, the adjusted generation cost was automatically computed using a prescribed formula without need of ERC verification and confirmation,” she said. San Vicente rejected allegations that the DOE had violated due process, as a review of the supply contract and the determination of generation cost went through an evaluation process through notice and hearing. “The safeguard is a rate fixing process, hence due process is observed,” she said. San Vicente said the SC need not rule on the constitutionality of Sections 6 and 29 of the EPIRA Law. “To declare said provisions unconstitutional would be tantamount to coming up of a policy direction on the matter,” she said “The assailed provisions of Section 6 and 29 constitute a policy determination of Congress, which the courts cannot overturn without offending the Constitution.“ During interpellation, the justices grilled ERC executive director Francis Saturnino Juan over the agency’s approval of the rate hike. Justice Leonen asked the ERC official why the ERC didn’t find anything strange with the high generation cost. Juan replied: “When the Dec. 5 letter was issued, there was no indication of irregularity,” adding that it had no reason to suspect anything wrong since “there was reported sufficient capacity.” Therma Mobile Inc. (TMO) backed Meralco’s claim that they did not benefit from the rate hike. It paid at contract price regardless of bid price, TMO added. It only followed the nomination method “to comply with the must offer rule, observe technical limits of the plant and use the plant on peak hours,” the firm said. The first oral argument was held last Jan. 21 with petitioners Bayan Muna and consumer group National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) presenting their case. The second oral argument was held last Feb. 4 with Meralco facing the SC.‐justifies‐approval‐meralco‐rate‐hike    

‘Oil smuggling rampant again’ By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 10, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Oil smuggling has become rampant again starting in the third quarter of 2013 after a significant reduction in the first half of the year, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. country chairman and president Edgar Chua said. “Last year there was significant improvement, but in the third quarter, medyo bumalik (it came back). We suspect people anticipated the revamp in the Bureau of Customs (BOC),” Chua told reporters last Friday. The BOC, the agency tasked to curb smuggling, experienced a major revamp of all Customs collectors and ranking officers, which culminated in the resignation of Ruffy Biazon as commissioner in December. Chua said Shell experienced a sharp decline in sales, as a result of the resurgence of oil smuggling activities. He, however, declined to provide specific figures. He expressed optimism that under the new leadership of newly appointed Commissioner John Sevilla, Customs would put in place a more permanent solution to the problem. “We’re very optimistic under the new leadership. Because even if you put good people, you need to support it with changes in the procedures and systems,” he said. Chua also did not identify which companies are behind the resurgence in oil smuggling. Oil industry sources said those with pending cases may still be engaged in the practice since there has been no prosecution yet. “It’s hard to identify or name names but just look at the existing cases. They have not been resolved,” one source said.

The BOC has previously filed smuggling cases against independent oil players Jetti Petroleum, Phoenix Petroleum and even Shell itself. For their part, companies with smuggling cases said accusations of smuggling whether in the past or at present are unfair. “If the statement points a finger at those who have pending cases, then this is nothing but a reckless and baseless accusation where competitors are made convenient excuses to acts they have no participation and knowledge in,” said Raymond Zorrilla, Phoenix Petroleum vice president for external affairs. An oil industry source who also declined to be named said there must be prosecution. “The best way to discourage it is to have prosecution. Otherwise, it would appear as just hearsay,” the source told The STAR. Oil companies estimate that P20 billion to P30 billion are lost to oil smuggling every year. Among the smuggling schemes employed by unscrupulous oil traders is the entry of finished products in special economic zones such as in Subic and Bataan and selling them in the domestic market tax-free. In early January, the Criminal Investigation Group in Northern Mindanao intercepted an alleged attempt to smuggle crude oil in Misamis Oriental by unidentified men aboard a motorized vessel with about 1,000 liters of crude oil. The big three in the local petroleum industry – Shell, Petron Corp. and Chevron Philippines – have all been complaining about rampant smuggling. Chua said that addressing the problem could significantly level the playing field for both big and small petroleum players. In all, he said Shell is very bullish on the Philippine economy. Oil smuggling has been a problem for many years now. In 2011, for instance, oil demand reached 106.9 million barrels but BOC data only recorded 67.6 million barrels of oil or a discrepancy of 39.3 million barrels that entered the country through smuggling.


Aide recounts ‘pork’ scams since ’90s (2) GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am 1 47 googleplus0 3 Continued from Monday is this précis of a 2007 series on senators’ pork-barrel scams. Source “Jason” narrated his sordid tasks as consultant for several senators since the 1990s. The senators are described, not identified. Who they were in 1992 to 2007 are listed in the link: The full texts of the three Gotcha installments — 7, 9, and 11 May 2007 — can be accessed in the archives below. More details on the pork barrel of the 1990s-2000s in my book, “Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government,” available at all National Bookstore and Powerbooks branches. *



Dear Mr. Bondoc, To continue, I left my miserable life with that senator after x months. Years later a friend invited me to work for a senatorial candidate, now deceased. He won; I was absorbed into his staff. My new boss was brilliant and kind, giving us financial assistance from his own pocket and sharing his food. Our chief of staff was the opposite. She collected receipts of even our personal expenses, have these certified as official business, and pocketed the reimbursements. Our enterprising project officer took a cut from all the projects. She endorsed contractors to DPWH district engineers and regional directors. She got 50-percent kickbacks on mahogany seeds from the DA, children’s coloring books, barangay seminars, infrastructure projects, livelihood training (cattle raising). When the boss died, another friend gave me “consultancy” work. Trained by my first boss to deal with government officials, I became friends with Cabinet secretaries, U-Secs, and bureau directors. I worked simultaneously for four senators, preparing and following up project proposals with the agencies. I’d buy fruits, noodles or cakes for my contacts to speed up the paperwork. I got to meet my employers’ favorite contractors/suppliers. Every time we got the SAROs they’d all be waiting at the senators’ offices or at (nearby hotel). They’d give boxes carefully gift-wrapped. I always wondered why, since it’s not the senators’ birthdays. I later learned it was kickbacks from projects. It was always a son or daughter who would receive the money.

Lots of times I encountered two or three contractors for the same project. It turned out that the three children of (name of senator) were competing with each other in bagging the big-funded projects. Mrs. L from Cagayan Valley once confided that in 1998 she gave a cash advance of half a million pesos to that legislator’s daughter, now active in (name of an anti-Charter Change group). But she wasn’t given any project, only promises. Another friend, from (name of big construction firm), also gave an advance to this same lady. Again, no projects. The siblings were always nag-uunahan, to the point that they’d have their father sign documents, and then they’d hurry over to the DBM with their lists. Once I was asked by one daughter to follow up some papers at the DBM. It turned out that the son had arrived there earlier and got the SARO. A big-time supplier, Nilda R., would deliver money to the house of Senator (name) at (subdivision), Quezon City. She dealt in textbooks, distributed by DECS, funded by the pork barrel of whichever senator. She often treated the celebrity-wife to Hong Kong trips. I met Nilda while following up papers at the DBM, where suppliers usually hang out waiting for release of SAROs and NCAs. She gave away 50 percent of the allocated amount of the project. So if the fund is P10 million, she would give P5 million to that celebrity-turned-senator. A supplier of medicines especially to the Armed Forces was able to break into the circle of two senators, both former (profession). She befriended me and was soon offering me rides to my daily visits to DBM or DPWH. Little did I realize she wanted to meet all my contacts. She got big projects for the V. Luna Hospital, and the senators’ medical missions. She also gave 50percent “rebate” upon release of the SAROs. During one such mission we noticed that the medicines looked discolored. One of our staff commented that they were fakes. No wonder she was able to give that big a cut to the bosses — and the wives. Oh yes, she also treated (names of two senators’ spouses) to Hong Kong. A son of one of my employers introduced me to this big contractor from Isabela, who did most of the senators’ projects. One time I was instructed to hand over the newly released SARO to the contractor and his wife. They had big boxes, the size of beer cases, inside the Ford Expedition. Inside the boxes were tons of cash, in P1,000-bills. I’d never seen so much money in my life. We went straight to the home of one senator, a former (high rank), in (subdivision), Alabang. They turned over the boxes. Then they offered me a ride home. We stopped at the house of the son of another senator in (subdivision along EDSA), Quezon City. They delivered another box of money. A good friend handling the projects of another celebrity from (Luzon province) confided to me. All the projects were being handled by the construction company of the senator’s celebrity-sister. She cornered everything, left nothing for small contractors, not even scraps. She and the senator also got kickbacks from foreign-assisted projects, since the senator headed the committee overseeing those.

Access the files at DBM, and you will see why these legislators gave more of their pork barrels for medicines, computers, textbooks, farm-to-market roads, dredging, irrigation, solar driers, seedlings, livelihood projects especially cattle raising, street markers, reflector studs, etc. That’s where kickbacks were easy. Till next time, Jason *



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


Fair weather seen in most parts of Phl By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Fair weather is expected to prevail over most parts of the country for the rest of the week, state meteorologists said yesterday. In its five-day weather outlook, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the northeast monsoon will bring cloudy skies with light rains over some parts of Cagayan Valley and Cordillera Administrative Region today. PAGASA said isolated light rains will be experienced over some areas of the Ilocos region and Central Luzon. Metro Manila and the rest of the archipelago, particularly the eastern sections of Visayas and Mindanao, will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. On Thursday and Friday, Eastern Visayas and the Caraga and Davao regions will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms. Some areas in Cagayan Valley will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains. Metro Manila and the rest of the country will have generally fair weather, apart from isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. During the weekend, the easterlies will be the dominant weather system that will prevail over the archipelago, PAGASA said. The eastern sections of Mindanao will be cloudy with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms. Metro Manila and the rest of the country will continue to experience good weather conditions with chances of afternoon isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. “Most parts of the country will continue to experience slightly warmer daytime temperatures,” PAGASA said.‐weather‐seen‐most‐parts‐phl        

Abad welcomes NBI report on fake Saros By Kristine Angeli Sabillo 4:40 pm | Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Tuesday said it welcomes the National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) report on those accused of creating fake Special Allotment Release Orders (Saros). “We welcome the submission – finally – of the report, particularly the findings with respect to the perpetrators of the scam,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told media in a text message. The NBI on Tuesday recommended to the Department of Justice (DOJ) the filing of criminal cases against Aklan Representative Teodorico Haresco Jr.; Emmanuel Raza, congressional staff of Congresswoman Lilia Macrohon-Nuno of Zamboanga City; Elvie Rafael, driver of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; Bhernie C. Beltran from the Department of Budget and Management; and Mary Ann V. Castillo, a consultant from Haresco’s office. However, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, who was also among those tagged in the scam, was not included in the report. Abad said their agency will study the report and “determine the culpability/extent of involvement of DBM personnel in the so-called Saro scam.” “We will take appropriate action thereafter,” he said. Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook  

Aquino kin do not deserve single centavo over Hacienda Luisita – militants By Nestor Corrales 3:56 pm | Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Workers load newly harvested sugarcane stalks in Barangay Mabilog in Concepcion town, Tarlac province. The area is part of Hacienda Luisita. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – A militant group on Tuesday assailed the “excessive greed” of President Benigno Aquino III’s kin for claiming that they were “underpaid” for the Hacienda Luisita lands acquired by the government. “President Aquino’s relatives’ claim that they were underpaid over Hacienda Luisita smacks of excessive greed. In the first place, the Cojuangcos do not deserve a single centavo over Hacienda Luisita,” said Kilusan ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson Rafael Mariano. The KMP issued the statement after Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) complained before the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (Darab) that it was “underpaid” and that the amount of P471-million paid to them by the government was “certainly inadequate.” Mariano, however, insisted that HLI still need to pay the farmworkers P1.3 billion. “It is totally revolting” that the Cojuangcos still have the gall to claim that they were underpaid when in fact the lands in Hacienda Luisita remains undistributed,” he said. He added that the President and his family have “perfected the art of milking cash” from the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), citing that the president’s family continues to bastardize the Supreme Court decision.

He maintained that the Cojuangcos still owe the farm workers a total of P1.33 billion for their illegal sale of the 200 hectares of land in 1996, the Luisita Industrial Park, and the 80.51-hectare lot for the anomalous Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. On Monday, the company owned by relatives of President Aquino has complained to the Darab that it was underpaid for Hacienda Luisita lands acquired by the government for agrarian reform in Tarlac province.

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China eyes poultry consolidation as bird flu cuts consumption Category: Agri‐Commodities   11 Feb 2014   Written by Bloomberg News   CHINA will encourage consolidation in its fragmented poultry industry to prevent livestock diseases from  recurring as the outbreak of the bird‐flu virus H7N9 reduces demand and causes losses.  Small farms and live‐poultry markets scattered around the country made it easier for the virus to spread  among humans and birds, the Ministry of Health said on its official microblog on February 10. The H7N9  strain incurred 20 billion yuan ($3.3 billion) in losses to the local chicken sector last month as consumers  avoided poultry products, the China Animal Agriculture Association said on February 7.  China’s poultry‐feed use may fall by as much as 30 percent in February from January, the Shanghai JC  Intelligence  Co.  estimates.  Softer  consumption  from  the  top  user  of  soybeans,  used  in  food  and  feed,  may  weigh  on  the  oilseed  in  Chicago  that  outperformed  corn  in  the  past  year  amid  robust  Chinese  demand.  Many  of  China’s  poultry  producers,  which  employ  more  than  70  million  people,  went  out  of  business amid lost sales, the Beijing‐based group said.  “Everyone  is  watching  closely  how  the  events  unfold  as  the  bird  flu  affects  everything  from  food  inflation  to  raw  material  prices,”  said  Monica  Tu,  an  analyst  at  Shanghai  JC  Intelligence  Co.  “So  far  there’s no sign of sustained human‐to‐human transmission, but we do notice an increasing number of  cases this year compared with last year.”  The  spread  of  the  H7N9  virus  among  poultry  in  live  bird  markets  in  China’s  Guangxi  province  has  increased the risk that it will spread to other neighboring countries, posing an increased human health  risk, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said in a statement on February 5.  Neighboring countries  HONG  Kong,  which  neighbors  the  southern  Chinese  province  of  Guangdong,  said  on  January  27  it  will  ban live chicken sales for 21 days and cull about 20,000 birds after a sample imported from the mainland  tested positive for H7N9.  Vietnam last week asked cities and provinces to step up measures to prevent and fight H7N9 and other  bird‐flu strains, according to the Ministry of Health. There were two deaths caused by the H5N1 virus in  January 2014, with no reported H7N9 cases so far, the ministry said. 

South Korea  on  February  10  said  its  poultry  demand  tumbled  by  as  much  as  70  percent  since  the  outbreak of the H5N8 virus last month with 3.2 million chickens and ducks at 154 farms culled so far.  The country said on February 11 it found a new suspected case of the H5N8 virus. The country hasn’t  reported any cases of the H7N9 strain, which has caused deaths in people in China.  Soybeans for March delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade were little  changed at $13.25 a bushel at  4:24 p.m. in Beijing, down 6.5 percent in the past 12 months, while corn for delivery in the same month  traded at $4.43 a bushel, down 37 percent.  Bloomberg News‐commodities/27404‐china‐eyes‐ poultry‐consolidation‐as‐bird‐flu‐cuts‐consumption                               

300 beneficiaries installed in Luisita Category: Nation   11 Feb 2014   Written by Jonathan Mayuga   MORE than 300 beneficiaries have been installed in four barangays in Hacienda Luisita, the former sugar  estate of the Cojuangco‐Aquino family in Tarlac, as part of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program  Extension  with  Reform  (CARPer),  an  official  of  the  Department  of  Agrarian  Reform  (DAR)  said  on  Tuesday.  Agrarian Reform Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said the farmers were installed two  weeks  ago  in  barangays  Mapalacsiao  and  Cutcut  in  Tarlac  City,  Barangay  Parang  in  Concepcion  and  Barangay Motrico in La Paz more than two weeks ago.  More beneficiaries for Hacienda Luisita will be installed this week, he said.  “We did this small scale for the meantime and without fanfare or media coverage because we wanted to  test the process in order to see how we can improve on it in preparation for the massive installation to  be done shortly,” he said.  In  addition,  Parungao  said  that  around  1,500  farm  lots  have  been  marked  with  boundary  markers,  or  mojons so far.  The official earlier said around 10 teams of surveyors from FF Cruz and Co. are working double time to  place the monuments within the 4,009‐hectare lands distributed by the DAR to the 6,212 beneficiaries.  The DAR officials, who have been the subject of attacks by some quarters, including Catholic bishops and  agrarian‐reform  advocates,  for  alleged  lackluster  performance  in  distributing  lands,  earlier  explained  that  the  lands  left  for  distribution  under  Republic  Act  9700,  or  the  CARPer  law,  are  mostly  private  agricultural lands, some of which are considered “problematic” because of missing land titles or records  in the Registry of Deeds, or conflicting land classification.  They also denied allegations that the family of President Aquino received more than what it should for  the total 4,335 hectares acquired by the DAR in compliance with a Supreme Court order mandating the  agency  to  immediately  distribute  land  to  qualified  farmer‐beneficiaries  in  lieu  of  the  failed  stock‐ distribution option implemented by Hacienda Luisita since 1989 until its revocation by the Presidential  Agrarian Reform Council in 2005. 

Agrarian Reform Undersecretary for Operations Jose Z. Grageda also belied that the agency is padding  accomplishment  reports  to  make  it  appear  that  the  agency  is  living  up  to  the  public’s  expectation  in  terms of land acquisition and distribution.  Farmers belonging to the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance, led by Jaime Tadeo, spokesman for the group,  criticized  the  DAR  for  including  the  4,009‐hectare  Hacienda  Luisita  in  its  2013  LAD  accomplishment  report because the farmer‐beneficiaries have not yet been installed in their CARP‐awarded lands.  The group, which is supporting calls to extend CARP beyond June 30, 2014, is demanding for an overhaul  of the agency, starting with the removal from office of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes.  The  group,  sources  said,  is  lobbying  for  the  appointment  of  an  undersecretary  in  the  National  Anti‐ Poverty Commission.‐300‐beneficiaries‐installed‐in‐ luisita                           

Haresco denies involvement in fake Saros 2:29 pm | Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 MANILA, Philippines – Aklan representative Teodorico Haresco Jr. denied involvement in the fake special allotment release order (Saro) scam, saying he was singled out in the investigation. “I don’t understand why of the five of the 32 (accused), I am the one being called the originator‐Haresco.jpgof Saro,” Haresco told reporters in a press briefing Tuesday. “Sana dinamay na lang lahat, para masaya (It would have been better if everyone was involved),” added Haresco, a known ally of former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The former partylist lawmaker made the statement after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recommended criminal charges against Haresco and four others over the fake Saro scam. A Saro is a budget document authorizing a government agency to release funds for projects. Haresco was charged with falsification of Saro. He went on to say that he was the victim, especially after he received two Saros in October 2013 and January 2014, the first one fake and the second genuine. Both Saros refer to a P10 million construction of a farm-to-market road in Barangay (village) Oquendo in the municipality of Balete in Aklan. “I am requesting for a reinvestigation because how can a genuine come up and a fake come up in advance?” Haresco said. “If I falsified Saros, why is there a genuine one?” he added. Haresco said his office was not capable of faking Saros, especially as it was composed of working students from the University of the Philippines. “How can we be the originator of fake Saros when we have no capability at all?” Haresco said. The Saro scam supposedly involved forging signatures of budget department officials with the use of a photocopying machine. These fake Saros could be used to convince contractors to advance cash for a project. The scam prompted the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to junk the Saro system of budget releases seen as a gateway for unscrupulous transactions. Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Elementary, High school will still have June opening of classes—DepEd By Nestor Corrales 1:39 pm | Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Elementary and secondary schools in the country will not follow some universities that have decided to shift their school calendars, a Department of Education (DepEd) official said Tuesday. “The opening of classes will still be in June because we have not seen any compelling reason to make the shift from June to September,” said DepEd assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali in an interview over Inquirer Radio 990AM. Umali said proponents of the transition of the school calendar argued that this would synchronize the schedule of Philippine schools with other Asian countries. He said, however, that school calendars in the Asian region are varied, with only two to three countries starting their basic education classes in August or September. He cited that in Malaysia, basic education classes start in January while Thailand has May and July for Indonesia. He said in a study made by the DepEd that 13 out of 16 regions in the country expressed reservations over the proposed shift in the opening of classes to September instead of June. Umali said recent data showed that typhoons did not only visit the country in June but also in other months, citing Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) that devastated the Visayas in November. The University of Santo Tomas announced Tuesday that it was shifting its opening of classes to July while the University of the Philippines (UP) system and the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) said it would start classes in August. : Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

US says new farm law to boost food aid abroad By Mary Clare Jalonick (Associated Press) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 8:15am 0 0 googleplus0 0 WASHINGTON — U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah says changes to the way the United States distributes food aid could help feed 800,000 more people abroad, many of them Syrian refugees. The changes come in a wide-ranging farm law signed by President Barack Obama last week and a bipartisan budget agreement that also became law earlier this year. The bills together would allow the United States to make a small increase in the amount of international food aid that is given out as cash or vouchers. Currently, most food aid is grown in the United States and shipped to developing countries, an approach the Obama administration says is inefficient. Shah said the need for emergency food aid is high right now, especially with a humanitarian crisis in Syria that has caused millions to flee their homes. "We feel it's a critically urgent time to be as efficient and effective as possible," Shah said in an interview with The Associated Press. The new laws would make it easier for the government to buy food closer to where it's needed and also would allocate more money toward that local procurement. One way that works is to give recipients cash vouchers for food. Shah says this gets food to people much quicker than shipping raw commodities, which has been the traditional model for food aid. For example, he says USAID will use some of the extra funds to give vouchers to Syrian refugees — including tens of thousands of children — who are now living in cities in Lebanon and Jordan. "We can't truck them a bag of wheat," Shah says. "Most of them shop in stores." He says the resources may also be directed to help with crises in South Sudan and the Central African Republic. USAID has also been working to help people affected by the massive Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November. "All around the world we are trying to stretch already limited resources," Shah said. Many food aid groups have long argued that buying food abroad would be quicker, less expensive and more beneficial to local farmers than the current method that benefits U.S. farmers and shippers. The Obama administration in April proposed shifting almost half of the

international food aid money to more flexible accounts that allow for cash purchases abroad, saying such a move would be more efficient. Congress rejected that proposal, but made some modest changes toward the administration's goals: The farm bill would allow the government to use up to 20 percent of food aid funds for cash purchases abroad, including food aid and administrative costs. Allowing more of those local purchases with cash would also help reduce the process of what is called "monetization," or selling the shipped commodities once they arrive overseas to finance development projects. A 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office found monetization cost the U.S. an extra $219 million over a three year period, money that could have been used for other development projects. The full Obama administration proposal was a tough sell to farm-state lawmakers who oversee agriculture spending and the farm bill and have been reluctant to shift money away from American farmers who ship their commodities abroad. Farm and shipping groups launched strong campaigns against the proposal, lining up opposition in both the House and Senate. Supporters of the program say it is a public relations tool for the United States. "Bags of U.S.-grown food bearing the U.S. flag and stamped as "From the American People" serve as ambassadors of our nation's goodwill, which can help to address the root causes of instability," several farm and shipping groups wrote in a letter last year to Obama. But the administration has argued that buying food locally is often the only practical option in war-torn countries where trucking in large amounts of food is not safe and shipping U.S. food can often take several weeks.‐says‐new‐farm‐law‐boost‐food‐aid‐abroad                  

Closure of LPG plant in Batangas may raise fuel prices, solons warn 1:22 pm | Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – The closure of a liquefied gas petroleum facility in Batangas may raise fuel prices, lawmakers warned Tuesday. LPG Marketers Association (LPGMA) Partylist Representative Arnel Ty said on that the closure of the Tabangao plant would cut the LPG supply in the south. This would mean the supply for the south would have to be sourced from the north, an additional cost in logistics that would be imposed on consumers, Ty added. Shell Philippines had announced that they would decommission the 30-year-old LPG facility in Batangas, which supplies 65 percent of Luzon’s LPG supply. Manila Rep. Rosenda Ocampo hit Shell Philippines for just closing down the facility without consideration for the consumers. “How can you justify the closure of your plant and leave the consumers to fend for themselves?” she said. For his part, Shell Philippines vice president for communications Roberto Kanapi said they decommissioned the plant as it would take huge costs to upgrade the decades-old facility. “We just decommissioned it because it would take substantial costs to upgrade it,” Kanapi said. Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Filing of annual info return optional under new BIR rule By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Internal Revenue has issued a new regulation, making the filing of the annual information return (AIR), which asks for information on taxpayers’ extra income, optional this year. Politicians and local business groups have criticized the BIR for issuing rules that are in direct violation of the constitution and the bank secrecy laws, among others. They have long been objecting to this requirement which makes the filing of supplemental information report (SIR) as part of the annual income tax return (ITR) mandatory. These additional information includes passive income, gains from sale/exchange of real properties, properties received through gifts, bequests, and devises, income from other sources other than those reported in the ITR and payment to heirs in the case of estates and trust. These are income that are either tax-exempt or have already been subjected to final tax. According to the local business community, the imposition of the SIR is not a valid requirement and in fact, is even contrary to the provisions of the Tax Code. Apart from the additional burden to taxpayers, the disclosure requirement also violates an individual’s right to privacy, the private businesses said. Local businesses said the needed information is already available in the BIR and can be culled from the reports/ITRs submitted by taxpayers. The BIR, however, argued that the additional disclosure requirement should give taxpayers the opportunity to explain their sources of income without being subjected to audit by the government’s main tax collection agency.

Individual income tax filers using forms no. 1700 and 1701 are, however, required to file supplemental information. BIR form 1700 is for taxpayers who earn purely from compensation while 1701 is for the selfemployed. Thus, taxpayers are advised to demand from their payors and properly document their form 2307 and other pieces of evidence for final taxes withheld. Likewise, taxpayers should properly receipt and book their tax-exempt income, the BIR said. In any returns filed with the BIR, individual taxpayers are given the option to use either their community tax certificate, passport or driver’s license.‐annual‐info‐return‐optional‐under‐new‐ bir‐rule                                

Aklan solon linked to fake Saro syndicate By Christine O. Avendaño, Leila B. Salaverria Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:34 am | Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

The National Bureau of Investigation recommends the filing of criminal charges against Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., the driver of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and three others who were allegedly behind the fake special allotment release order scam. FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., the driver of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and three others were behind the fake special allotment release order (Saro) scam, according to the National Bureau of Investigation, which recommended the filing of criminal charges against them. A Saro is a document issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that allows the release of lump-sum funds, such as those from a senator’s or a congressman’s pork barrel, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The release of a Saro paves the way for the issuance of a notice of cash allocation (NCA), which in turn triggers the release of the funds. (The Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional last December.) Relampagos, who was also investigated by the NBI for possible involvement in the fake Saro scam, was not among those recommended to be charged in the NBI’s Jan. 29 report to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. The report was released to the media Tuesday. De Lima said there was “no evidence or sufficient evidence yet” against Relampagos. Syndicate in DBM “That’s why the (NBI) team also recommends further investigation with the end view of identifying others who may be part of a well-entrenched syndicate engaged in Saro peddling and similar insidious schemes,” the justice secretary said in a text message to reporters.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad vowed to “take appropriate action” against his personnel implicated in the case. But Abad said his agency would first “need to thoroughly review the [NBI] report and determine the culpability/extent of involvement of DBM personnel in the so-called Saro scam.” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the NBI findings were “part of our continuing effort to curb corruption and establish higher standards of public accountability.” “Those who persist in carrying out decadent practices in the bureaucracy are served notice to shape up or ship out,” he told reporters. Findings challenged Haresco on Tuesday challenged the NBI findings that he was criminally liable for a fake Saro, saying that he or his office has no capability to produce such a document and that he would have no use for a bogus order anyway. He said he was “flabbergasted” by the NBI’s findings, especially since his staff had acted as complainants in the NBI in connection with the spurious documents. Haresco said the NBI should reinvestigate the matter even as he disclosed that he had received another Saro last month that concerned the same project covered by the fake Saro, although this time, the latest document was confirmed to be original. “I’m asking the NBI to reinvestigate because how can it be that my office can be an originator of fake Saros when we have no capability at all. We don’t know how the Saro document [is produced]. We have an idea but we don’t know the code number, the signatories, the serial number or bar code,” Haresco said in a press briefing. He said a fake Saro would serve no purpose for him. “What will it benefit me if I have an advance notice? What will I get out of it except to announce [it] prior to the construction of the project?” De Lima said the NBI report focused on the agency’s investigation of two fake Saros for Region 2 (Cagayan Valley) and Region 6 (Eastern Visayas), which were peddled to certain congressional staff members. The probe was conducted at the request of the DBM. Falsification Besides Haresco, recommended to be charged in the Department of Justice were Emmanuel Raza, a staff member of Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuno; Elvie Rafael, driver of Relampagos; Bhernie Beltran, an alleged DBM employee; and Mary Ann Castillo, a consultant of Haresco.

Except for Castillo, the rest were recommended to be charged with falsification of public documents. Castillo was recommended to be charged with obstruction of justice. Raza, Rafael and Beltran were also recommended to be charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. Rafael was recommended to be administratively charged with grave misconduct. Modus operandi The Saro gang’s modus operandi is to photocopy advance copies of the Saros and turn them over to their contacts in the congressional offices where signatures are superimposed to make the documents appear genuine. The congressional contact then shows the copy of the Saro to the local executive where the project is located. The local executive then shows the fake Saro to a contractor who will then advance at least 20 percent of the project cost.

The contractor will then be awarded the project and get paid upon the issuance of the NCA. Operations in Congress In the course of its investigation, the NBI unearthed the involvement of a “well-entrenched syndicate” within the DBM, the operations of which extend to the halls of Congress, De Lima said. “(S)ome DBM employees, who requested anonymity, hinted [at] the involvement of some other employees and a high-ranking official in Saro peddling,” she quoted the report as saying. “Hence, further and deeper investigation is warranted,” the justice secretary said. The NBI investigated Relampagos after a janitor and a driver in his office were said to be members of the Saro gang. The investigation covered Saros issued in Cagayan Valley worth P161 million and in Western Visayas worth P77 million. Farm-to-market projects When the scam was uncovered in October last year, the DBM quickly canceled 12 Saros covering P875 million worth of farm-to-market projects, the funds for which had yet to be released. The Saros also had not been signed by the authorized signatory, then Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor.

The NBI report said that according to Relampagos’ affidavit, the budget undersecretary did not recommend the request for the release of funds on the farm-to-market-roads of the Department of Agriculture in October last year because it lacked a network plan. But copies of unreleased and unsigned Saros for the farm-to-market road projects surfaced in mid-October last year when inquiries into these were made at the DA regional field office in Tuguegarao City. Raza was implicated after it was found out that he had given a copy of a fake Saro and its attachments to a staff member of Rep. Aline Vargas-Alonso. Raza told probers he had gotten a folder containing a photocopy of the listing of farm-to-market road projects from Rafael, a Relampagos driver, and Beltran, a DBM employee. Both men offered no evidence to refute Raza’s claims. Haresco letter Haresco was implicated because he sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Oct. 21, 2013, to which a Saro that was determined to be fake was attached. The document was among a series of Saro that the DBM had canceled. Because of this, the NBI team said that “the legal presumption that the person who presented a falsified document is deemed to be the author, if he stands to benefit therefrom arises.” “The requirement of gain or benefit was satisfied because Cong[ressman] Haresco Jr., would surely take the credit if the project mentioned in the Saro would be implemented considering that his district was its beneficiary,” the report said. Haresco consultant It was discovered that the fake Saro was endorsed by Haresco’s consultant, Castillo, who claimed it came from someone she was not familiar with. But investigators said Castillo had hesitated to provide more information about the person who gave the fake Saro to her. She left her job after her contract ended last Dec. 31. She gave a notarized affidavit instead of being interviewed by the NBI. All this prompted the NBI team to conclude that she did not want to identify the source of the Saro and to cooperate with the probers. The NBI team said the premature disclosure and/or unauthorized release of the Saro was due to a lack of internal control system in the DBM. This lack of control led to the printing of Saros despite deficiency in the documentary requirements, especially the network plan; improper handling of documents; and improper use of non-DBM employees in the delivery of documents.

Because of the scam, the DBM announced in early January the scrapping of the Saro system. Abad said departments and agencies would no longer need to get Saros to obligate funds because the General Appropriations Act had become the government’s “official budget release document.”—With a report from Christian V. Esguerra

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BSP extends relief to banks affected by Agaton By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has extended regulatory and rediscounting relief to banks affected by tropical depression Agaton, which struck Mindanao last month. In a statement, the central bank said the measures will relieve banks’ financial burden. Banks qualified for the relief measures are those located in the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Davao Oriental. Those in North Cotabato, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Maguindanao are also eligible for the relief package. Tropical depression Agaton, which hit the country on Jan. 17, left 70 people dead and destroyed P567-million worth of infrastructure and agriculture crops. Under the BSP’s regulatory and relief measures, thrift, rural, and cooperative banks may exclude the existing loans of borrowers in affected areas from the computation of past due ratios, and also decrease the general loan loss provision to one percent from five percent for restructured loans. The same banks may also be exempted from penalties on legal reserves deficiencies, and on delays in the submission of supervisory reports. The BSP will also extend a moratorium on their monthly payments due to the central bank. Banks will also be allowed to book allowance for probable losses on a staggered basis over a maximum of five years for credit extended to clients affected by the typhoon. The central bank also said banks may extend financial assistance to their officers and employees affected by the calamity. Meanwhile, rediscounting banks are given a 60-day grace period to settle outstanding obligations as of Jan. 17. They may also restructure with the BSP current loans of affected borrowers. “These measures will be in effect for a defined period and covered by additional specific and other prudential conditions,” the BSP noted.

Earlier, the BSP extended the same relief package to banks affected by typhoons Yolanda, Labuyo, Maring, and Santi, the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Central Visayas, and the southwest monsoon that hit the country last year. The BSP has also granted the same measures following typhoons Sendong, Pedring, Mina and Juaning in 2011, and typhoons Helen, Gener, and Pablo, and tropical depression Quinta in 2012.                                      

Focus pork scam probe on Philforest– Belmonte By Leila B. Salaverria Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:31 am | Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 MANILA, Philippines—Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest) should be the focus of investigation in the alleged diversion to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) of P100 million worth of pork barrel funds, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Tuesday. Belmonte told reporters that authorities should investigate the Commission on Audit (COA) report that found that Philforest had released the funds to eight NGOs that were either illequipped for the projects given to them or could not be found in their addresses. But Belmonte also gave the benefit of the doubt to claims that allocations—ranging from P210,000 to P13.45 million—under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) went to these organizations. “The appropriate authorities should investigate, but I think a lot of the congressmen were in good faith. The IA (implementing agency) should of course be the center of the investigation,” Belmonte said. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad washed his hands of any culpability in the alleged scam. “How a project is implemented,” he said in a text message to the Inquirer on Tuesday, “is wholly up to the implementing agency, or Philforest in this case.” Members of the House of Representatives have an annual allocation of P70 million under the PDAF, which was augmented after the creation in 2011 of the DAP, an impounding mechanism for government savings purportedly used to pump prime the economy. The COA has said that the PDAF- and DAP-funded projects coursed through Philforest should have been awarded to NGOs through mandatory bidding instead of being contracted out. The P100 million came from 22 lawmakers consisting of two senators and 20 House members, mostly from party-list groups. Umali recollection In an earlier phone interview, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, one of those mentioned in the COA report, said he remembered choosing an NGO to implement his project upon the prodding of Philforest, which has a list of its accredited groups.

“My recollection is we were made to choose from among those groups,” Umali said. He surmised that this was the procedure because Philforest was a small agency that was unable to handle all of the lawmakers’ projects. But he also said that the project he funded under Philforest was implemented. The main beneficiary of the funds, which the COA said amounted to P13.5 million, was his Unified Tree of Life Program that intended to plant 12,012,012 trees.

So far, some 3 million trees have been planted in his district, he said. The program, launched on Dec. 12, 2012, continues up to today, he added. Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco, who was Kasangga party-list representative in 2012, also said Tuesday that the implementers of his projects came from the Philforest list. Haresco said that his small office had nothing to do with accrediting these groups. The P1.05 million he coursed through Philforest was for the reforestation of areas devastated by Tropical Storm “Sendong” in 2011, he added. Tañada denial Former Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III denied allegations that P7 million of his PDAF funds went to a “ghost project” and asserted that Philforest implemented in 2012 the planting of trees in the Maulawin Watershed. According to Tañada, he and local officials of the municipality of Guinayangan, Quezon province, along with residents, farmers, and students were present when the project was implemented to provide livelihood projects and produce fruit-bearing trees. The project also involved planting propagules to rehabilitate the mangrove area in Guinayangan, he added. “I am willing to cooperate with the COA to help clarify questions they may have on this matter,” he said. The other lawmakers whose funds Philforest released to supposedly questionable NGOs were Senators Gregorio Honasan II and Lito Lapid, and Representatives Raymond Democrito Mendoza, Fatima Dimaporo, Isidro Q. Lico, Antonio Alvarez, Michael Angelo C. Rivera, Salvador P. Cabaluna III, Rodolfo G. Valencia, Jose S. Aquino II, Ponciano D. Payuyo, Hadjiman Hataman-Sulliman, Joel Roy R. Duavit, Nelson Dayanghirang, Nicanor M. Briones, Jose Benjamin Benaldo, Maria Isabelle G. Climaco, Yevgeny Vicente B. Emano and Robert Raymund Estrella. There has been greater scrutiny on the role of NGOs in implementing public projects following disclosures that P10 billion in pork barrel funds ended in kickbacks and phantom projects.— With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan

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St Augustine renews talks with EMB By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - US-based miner St. Augustine Copper and Gold Ltd. (SAGC), the contractor for the proposed $2 billion copper-gold mine in Pantukan, Campostela Valley, has resumed engagement with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) for obtaining an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the project SAGC country manager Clyde Gillespie said the company has held initial meetings with the EMB for the resumption of the approvals process for its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which is required to secure the ECC. An ECC guarantees that the project will not harm the environment. SAGC submitted an intial draft of it EIS in February 2012 which the EMB reviewed and gave comments on. The review process was stalled for about two years as SAGC completes the technical requirements set by the EMB and partly because of the ongoing intra-corporate dispute with its Philippine partner Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor), the holder of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) for the tenement. “We’ve had initial meetings with the EMB to get the process restarted and we’ve been doing some drilling at the site to get some information for geohazard survey which is needed as part of the EIS. We are working closely with the EMB,” said Gillespie. “They (EMB) have conducted an intial review of the first draft of our EIS and have given us comments (on technical matters) and the partnership issues that have held us. Now we have an updated version that is almost ready to go back to them,” he added. The project’s biggest hurdle remains the ownership dispute within Nadecor between two boards headed by Conrado Calalang and Jose Ricafort. Nadecor is currently controlled by the Calalang faction which is actively engaged with SAGC. A group of mainority shareholders led by Jose Ricafort is challenging the legitimacy of the board headed by Calalang. A Court of Appeals decision dated Feb. 18, 2013, upheld the legality of the election of the current board composed of Roberto R. Romulo (chairman), Conrado T.Calalang (president), Leocadio Nitorreda (COO and general counsel), Alfredo I. Ayala, Juan Kevin G. Belmonte, John Engle and Peter Mutuc. Representatives of St. Augustine, Tom Henderson and Kee Ming Chi were also elected to the Board.

The Ricafort faction is appealing the case before the Supreme Court. “For now, the Court of Appeals decision still stands,” said Gillespie. While the current board has repeatedly expressed confidence that the ongoing corporate dispute would be resolved soon, the ownership dispute remains a huge factor in getting through the permitting process.

“The (King King) project has already done several technical scoping, but there are still concerns that need to be resolved. “The EIS process really takes time because we are looking at several areas that can be affected (by operations) such as land, air, and water. But it is a proponent-diven activity so the completion of the study is up to the proponents,” said lawyer Mike Matias, chief of the EMB Environmental Impact Assessment Division. “The ownership issues will be a factor in the granting of the ECC because we have to determine in the ECC who will be liable if there will be a mishap. But for the meantime, we are focusing on the technical aspect of the study. But the ownership issue will also be discussed at our level,” he added. Gillespie said that to fulfill the technical requirements of the EMB, SAGC has commenced with the geotechnical drilling on the site to gather information on surface conditions needed for the geohazard survey.

“We understand that one of the biggest issues in Pantukan is landslide. The geohazard survey helps us understand the conditions in landslide-prone areas as we design facilities to accommodate such conditions,” said Gillespie. He said that for now, SAGC and Nadecor are keeping the original production target in 2015. After hurdling the ECC, the proponents have to get approval from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for the project’s Declaration of Mining Project Feasibility (DMPF), a document containing an assessment on the commercial viability of deposits. Securing the DMPF is the final step to commencement of operations. The King King copper-gold project is expected to produce 3.1 billion pounds of copper and 5.43 million ounces of gold over its 22-year mine life.‐augustine‐renews‐talks‐emb

Nutri-Asia sees exportsdoubling in 5 years (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Food company Nutri-Asia Inc. (NAI), one of the first local companies to go global, expects to double its exports in the next five years and maintain its position as one of the leading condiments exporters in the country. The growth in exports will come from the Middle East and North America, which both host large numbers of Filipinos. In 2013, NAI exports rose by 20 percent over 2012 levels. “We are well on track against our targets to double the business,” said Richard Rebollido, the company’s international business manager. Nutri-Asia produces the popular brands Datu Puti, UFC, Mang Tomas, Jufran and Papa, Golden Fiesta and Hapi Fiesta for products like vinegar, soy sauce, spaghetti and lechon sauces, cooking oil, banana catsup, among others. Most of these products comprise the core of its export business, but the company’s lineup now also includes sweet preserves and Asian noodles. The company’s exports have grown steadily since its first shipment in 1991. But in the past four years, sales became more brisk as mainstream stores in the United States, Canada and in the Middle East started to carry its products, Rebollido added. Nutri-Asia products can now be found on the shelves of Safeway, Wal-Mart and Albertsons in the US; and Sobey’s and Loblaws in Canada; Tesco in the U.K; and Carrefour and Hyper Panda and Lulu’s in the Middle East. Its other export markets include Asia-Pacific countries with a big overseas Filipino population such as Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Australia, New Zealand and Micronesia. In Europe, it exports to Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden, among others. The Middle East, which hosts about 2.4 million Filipino OFWs, has shown strong numbers with export values up by 40 percent in 2013 compared to the year-ago level. Nutri-Asia is also boosting its presence in the US where it recently re-launched certain product lines such as sauces in promotional events like adobo festivals and sampling activities. In the Philippines, the company has carved a niche in the condiments and sauces market. It is the first and only branded local condiments company that is certified by global institutions for its compliance with systems and best practices that make sure its products are safe and clean.‐asia‐sees‐exportsdoubling‐5‐years

RFM posts banner year with P805-M profit By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Food and beverage firm RFM Corp. posted a banner year in 2013 due to strong turnover of high-margin products and reduced expenses, a development seen to continue this year. In a regulatory filing, the maker of Selecta ice cream and Fiesta pasta said its earnings jumped 18 percent to P805 million last year from P682 million the previous period. RFM president and CEO Jose A. Concepcion III attributed the income growth to better margins in its core businesses, higher sales of high-margin products and reduced overhead expenses. This offset the 6.69-percent drop in sales revenues to P10.3 billion from P10.99 billion a year ago as it unloaded its meat business to the Century Pacific group. “The lower commodity input costs in the early part of the year and managed operating expenses helped in bringing our cost levels down,” Concepcion said. “Stronger consumer spending was also felt in some categories, especially in our Sunkist beverage and Selecta milk,” he added. Fiesta pasta cemented its market leadership position with a 35-percent market share from 29 percent a few months earlier while core brand Selecta ice cream also recorded growth in more product categories late last year. Last month, RFM strengthened its foothold in the pasta segment with the acquisition of the Royal brand and pasta business of Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever Group for P2.1 billion. RFM’s share in the pasta market is now expected to improve to more than 50 percent. “Fiesta and Royal brands lead other brands in offering spaghetti, macaroni, and pasta-and-sauce bundles that provide more convenient easy-to-prepare pasta meals,” RFM said. RFM targets another banner year, banking on the growth momentum in the previous years and market innovations. “We remain confident in the market leadership and strength of our power brands Selecta and Fiesta, and now with Royal,” Concepcion said. “We expect a stronger topline growth of over 20 percent as we pursue more innovations that excite the Filipino consumers, supported by relevant marketing campaigns,” he added. Aside from pasta, RFM is also the firm behind White King cake and sauce mixes, and Sunkist beverage.

Banks shun BSP’s rediscounting facility Lenders turn to cheaper funds from other sources  By Paolo G. Montecillo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:38 am | Wednesday, February 12th, 2014  

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines’ major banks have completely abandoned the central bank’s rediscounting facility as they sought cheaper funds from other sources in the country’s cash-rich financial sector. Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed universal commercial banks had no rediscounting loans at all in January. Loans taken out by smaller thrift and rural banks also fell to P36 million or 99.2 percent less than the P4.32 billion in rediscounted loans they tapped in the same month last year. “Universal and commercial banks did not (avail themselves of rediscounting loans) during the period because the banking system was generally liquid,” BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said. Rediscounted loans are bank receivables that are sold to the central bank for extra funds that can subsequently be lent out to businesses and individual borrowers. The Bangko Sentral’s rediscounting facility ensures that, in times of tightness in credit, banks still have funds to lend to productive sectors of the economy. However, the amount of loans banks get from the rediscounting facility has been falling steadily since last year due to the availability of cheap cash in the financial system.

Money supply or M3 rose by a record 36.5 percent in November last year as a ban on nonpooled funds being parked in the central bank’s special deposit account (SDA) window took effect. Banks were forced to withdraw the affected funds, most of which were transferred to time deposits and invested in government securities and other low-risk papers. Guinigundo said that apart from the exit of funds from SDAs providing more than enough liquidity to keep banks solvent, recent changes in rules for the rediscounting window might have contributed to the decline in rediscounted loans. “Following the restructuring of the rediscounting windows with accompanying increase in rates, (banks) are probably turning to other funding sources that charge lower rates,” he told the Inquirer.

Under previous rules, rediscounting loan rates were pegged at the BSP’s benchmark overnight borrowing rate, which now stands at a record low of 3.5 percent. Old rules also set the BSP’s rediscounting budget at P20 billion. New rules passed in the second half of last year turned the rediscounting facility into an openvolume window, allowing banks to borrow as much as they want. This change, however, came with an increase in rates. For major banks, loan rates are now based on the BSP’s overnight lending rate, which is higher than the borrowing rate at 5.5 percent, with a corresponding premium depending on the maturity. Previous records showed that the country’s banking system had P17.96 billion in outstanding rediscounting loans at the end of last year. This was 61.4 percent lower year on year. Read more:‐shun‐bsps‐rediscounting‐facility#ixzz2t4jQmKwv   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                 

Plant bureau revises import permits issuance rules by Charissa Luci  February 12, 2014 (updated)  

The Bureau of Plant Industry of the Agriculture department on Tuesday assured that it is “on the process” of revising its guidelines on the issuance of import permits after being chided by the lawmakers for its biased issuance of permits to certain garlic and onion importers. BPI Director Clarito Barron made the assurance before the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability probe into the alleged P200-million scam in his bureau concerning the importation of onions and garlic in the country. “Magkakaroon kami ng revisions sa policy ng pag-issue ng import permits. [We will have a revision of policies on issuing import permits.] We are already on the process of revising our guidelines on the issuance of import permits,” he told the panel. Lilibeth Valenzuela, president of the Philippine Vegetable Importers Inc. claimed that the BPI is favoring 25 importers who have been given “bulk” import permits, including Leah Cruz, president of the Vegetable Importers and Exporters Association. Barron meanwhile denied Valenzuela’s claim saying that the permits were given equally. He said eight accredited cooperatives have been given import permits so far. Barron told the panel that Valenzuela has been given import permits and there was an instance that she “recycled” the import permits issued to her in 2012 according to a BPI document. COOP-NATCOO party-list Rep. Crescente Paez asked the BPI to implement a clear policy in issuing permits. Lawmakers expressed concern about the issuance of fake import imports as well as the existence of dummy corporations which monopolize the importation of garlic and onions. The House investigation stemmed from the filing of House Resolution No. 341 filed by Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. last September. Barzaga branded Cruz as BPI’s Janet Lim-Napoles for monopolizing the importation of garlic and onion by using several dummy corporations owned by her maids, drivers and other employees, making her earn P200 million from such scheme.‐bureau‐revises‐import‐permits‐issuance‐rules/

Fishpond‐reliant Pampanga town given P20 million for infrastructure Category: Regions   11 Feb 2014   Written by Joey Pavia   SASMUAN, Pampanga—Gov. Lilia Pineda on Tuesday disclosed the local government has pumped nearly  P20 million to Sasmuan, one of the smallest towns of Pampanga in terms of land area, population and  annual budget.  Pineda disclosed this during a visit to the fourth‐class municipality.  Sasmuan,  to  note,  is  the  second  rural  town  the  local  government  executive  visited  after  Lubao  in  January.  In her speech, Pineda said the local government had infused about P19.47 million worth of projects in  2012  and  2013  to  the  town  of  35,000.  This  means  the  government  has  been  spending  about  P811,416.67 a month for infrastructure projects for Sasmuan.  Most  of  the  projects,  she  said,  are  the  improvement  of  roads,  anti‐flood  projects  and  construction  of  schools  in  Malusac,  Santa  Lucia,  San  Pedro,  Santo  Tomas,  San  Nicolas  II,  Sebitanan  and  Mabuanbuan  barangays.  The P2.063‐million multipurpose covered court in Mabuanbuan, one of the coastal villages of Sasmuan,  is set to be awarded to the winning bidder, Pineda added.  Pineda added the local government is set to establish extension campuses of the Don Honorio Ventura  Technical State University in Barangay Santa Catalina, Lubao and Guagua Community College to cater to  poor students of Sasmuan, Lubao and Guagua towns. The three towns are beside each other and part of  the province’s second district.  Sasmuan,  which  is  at  the  southern  portion  of  Lubao,  projected  a  budget  of  P64,178,433.97  for  2014,  according  to  municipal  treasurer  Lolita  Songco.  Its  Internal  Revenue  Allotment  is  P57,637,566,  she  added.  Songco  provided  documents  that  said  Sasmuan’s  other  sources  of  income  are  tax  revenue  (P2,511,466.57) and nontax revenue (3,336,825.94). 

One of the first to be affected by floods during the annual rainy season, Sasmuan has some 4,000 land  area, Mayor Nardo Velasco said. He added that only 2 percent of the total area, or 80 hectares, is land  and the remaining are man‐made waterways and natural rivers.  Pia Sambat, head of municipal social welfare office, said at least 90 percent of the Sasmuan’s population  relies on the operations of fishponds and fishing as their means of major livelihood.  Pineda  pledged  to  improve  the  equipment  and  medical  services  at  the  Escolastica  Romero  District  Hospital in Lubao, which is about five minutes away by land from Sasmuan’s town proper.‐fishpond‐reliant‐pampanga‐ town‐given‐p20‐million‐for‐infrastructure                                     

Happy Valentine’s for typhoon-hit fishermen February 11, 2014  

Tacloban City, Leyte — Fisherfolk in this city’s Barangays 70 and 80 whose lives were upended by super typhoon Yolanda in November last year will have a happy Valentine’s Day this Friday, Feb. 14, when the private sector non-government organization Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC), along with a foreign group starts distributing new wooded and fiberglass boats to beneficiaries in the two villages. Barangay 70 beneficiaries who will be receiving wooden bancas have been asked to form an organization as the donated boats will not be distributed individually but to an organized group of fishermen. In exchange, a set amount will be collected from the sales generated by the beneficiaries’ daily catch. The amount collected will be utilized to finance the building of additional boats to be given to another fishermen organization. “This will give them a sense of responsibility,” said Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin who has been coordinating with the project’s fishermen-beneficiaries. Yaokasin said that giving the typhoon-affected fishermen equipment is better than just giving them fish to eat. By giving them a chance to regain their means of livelihood, the beneficiaries “will not remain depended on the government and will serve as a big help to their community as they can help provide food for their neighbors,” he added. Yaokasin also said that the recipients will also be taught how to build boats using a new technology. An initial 20 wooden bancas will be released on Feb. 14 to the Barangay 70 fishermenbeneficiaries. Meanwhile 25 fiberglass fishing boas will be released by the same private sector NGO, NVC, to fishermen-beneficiaries in Barangay 88. This initiative, Yaokasin said, will not only provide livelihood but will help protect the environment.

The use of fiberglass in the making of boats means the cutting of lesser trees, making the entire process more environment-friendly. Also fiberglass boats are lighter compared to wooden ones, has a longer life-span and consumes less fuel.‐valentines‐for‐typhoon‐hit‐fishermen/                                            

President meets Cabinet to discuss jobs, social protection by Madel Sabater ‐ Namit  February 11, 2014  

Manila, Philippines – President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday met his Cabinet to discuss job generation and social protection, a Palace official said yesterday. Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Herminio Coloma Jr. said among topics expected to be discussed in the Cabinet meeting were the Action Plan for Poverty Reduction and the Strategic Framework of Human Development and Poverty Reduction.

WHAT’S SHOWING ON THE LAPTOP? — Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Social Welfare and Development Corazon Juliano-Soliman, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General Joel Villanueva and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima all appear to be amused by what is being shown on the laptop before the start of the Cabinet Meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacañang yesterday. (Richard Vinas) He said discussion on job challenges would be led by the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).Social protection or protecting the poor and vulnerable would be presented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Health (DOH), and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). Meanwhile, cross-cutting concerns and support for human development and poverty was to be presented by the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).A special presentation on fish settlement in typhoon “Yolanda” hit areas was to be presented by the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).According to Coloma, the Aquino administration is focusing on creating more jobs in the manufacturing sector as well as in other highly remunerative sectors.‐meets‐cabinet‐to‐discuss‐jobs‐social‐protection/

Philippine banks remain stable – S&P by Lee C. Chipongian  February 11, 2014  

The country’s strong economic performance which most expect will be sustained this year augurs well for the general banking outlook for 2014, international credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said in a report released yesterday. S&P continued to assess Philippine banks’ sufficient capital base and adequate liquidity — both strong factors that support the domestic banking system’s stable condition.

The Philippines is one of four regional economies that S$P have positive banking sector outlook, the others being Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand. Generally though, S&P warned that Southeast Asian banks will “face tougher operation conditions” this year. “(This is) because of lower economic growth prospects and tighter credit conditions.” For the local banks, however, with the economy continuing to exhibit resilience amid a still uncertain global economic recovery, the strong gross domestic product output performance will support financial sector growth. “The healthy domestic economy signals a good year for banks,” said S&P in its banking outlook report. The government forecasts GDP will growth 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent this year. “Our view of the banking systems of Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines is one of stability,” noted S&P. “While we expect some deterioration in banks’ financial performance in 2014, particularly for those in Indonesia, our ratings already factor in this weakening. We believe the healthy funding and liquidity profiles and adequate capitalization of most rated banks in these countries have put them in a position of strength going into 2014.” Based on the report, S&P expects Singapore banks will remain fundamentally strong which should enable banks to “ride out testing times”. Malaysia banks and Indonesian banks however face a tougher time of it, especially Indonesia with its weak rupiah and an increasing interest rates which could “expose credit vulnerabilities.”‐banks‐remain‐stable‐sp/  

Solon faces Saro raps By Rey E. Requejo | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am NBI links four more to DBM syndicate THE National Bureau of Investigation has recommended criminal charges be filed against Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., and four others for their alleged role in the release of fake special allotment release orders (SAROs) for projects to build farm-to-market roads. In a report to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the NBI also said that it discovered a wellentrenched syndicate operating in the Department of Budget and Management that was involved in the proliferation of fake SAROs. The bureau said, however, that it needed to gather more evidence before acting against the syndicate. Haresco cried foul, saying he was singled out among 32 lawmakers who were accused of benefiting from the fake SAROs. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad welcomed the NBI report, but said the investigation into the fake SAROs should not end there. The NBI initially filed criminal charges against Haresco for falsification of public documents; Emmanuel Raza, a congressional staff of Rep. Lilia Macruhon-Nuno of Zamboanga City for falsification of public documents, violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; Elvie Rafael, driver of DBM Undersecretary Mario Relampagos for falsification of public documents, violation of the anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials; and Mary Ann Castillo, a consultant in the office of Haresco, for obstruction of justice. De Lima said the NBI has yet to gather sufficient evidence to recommend the filing of charges against Relampagos, who was among those investigated. The NBI recommended further investigation into the well-entrenched syndicate to determine who were its members, De Lima said. On Sept. 24, 2013, the Budget Department received a request from Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for SAROs worth P879.86 million to build farm-to-market roads, chargeable against the General Appropriations Act. In the absence of a network plan as required under the national budget, Relampagos attached a note addressed to DBM Director Teresita Salud saying “not recommending.�

The documents and the SAROs remained in the DBM until Oct. 22, 2013. NBI investigators, however, found that Amado Arao, a staff of Cagayan-District II Rep. Aline Vargas-Alfonso, hand-carried a photocopy of the SARO to the Agriculture Department’s regional field unit in Tuguegarao City. The amount authorized was P161.6 million, and the document bore the signature of then DBM Assistant Secretary Luz Cantor. Arao admitted that it was e-mailed to him by Abraham Pelonio, the chief of staff of the congresswoman. Pelonio told the NBI that the document was handed to him by Jose Badong, a supervising legislative officer of the committee on appropriations in the House of Representatives on Oct. 16, 2013. Badong said he received the copy of the SARO and its attachments from Raza. Raza claimed that he got the folder containing the photocopy of the listing of the farm-to-market road projects for 2013 for Region II from Rafael and Beltran. The NBI investigators said Rafael and Beltran offered no evidence to contradict Raza’s allegations. With respect to the falsified SARO for Region VI from the office of Haresco, the NBI team was informed by Haresco’s chief of staff Norman Tayag that it was endorsed by Castillo. The NBI team noted that Castillo claimed that the SARO was left by a person whom she did not know. It added that Castillo refused to further cooperate with the NBI’s investigation. However, the NBI noted that based on the records, Alcala received from Haresco a letter dated Oct. 21, 2013 with a copy of the cancelled SARO attached to it. Tayag later admitted that the office of the congressman prepared the subject letter and sent it to the DA. “The team observed that considering that the SARO was attached and referred to in a letter signed by congressman Haresco Jr., and sent to the DA secretary, the legal presumption that the person who presented a falsified document is deemed to be the author, if he stands to benefit therefrom, arises,” the NBI said in its recommendation. “The requirement of gain or benefit was satisfied because Haresco... would surely take the credit if the project mentioned in the SARO would be implemented considering that his district was its beneficiary,” it added.

The copy of the cancelled SARO, which was attached to the letter of Haresco, dated Oct. 21, 2013, bore the purported signature of Cantor. “Haresco is a public officer who is in the position to have access to SAROs concerning his district as part of his public functions. It appears that he took advantage of his official position and caused it to appear that Asec. Luz Cantor signed SARO numbered BMB-E-13-0017726 when in truth and in fact, she did not,” the NBI said. The Justice Department is expected to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether or not there is a probable cause to indict the respondents before the trial court. At a press conference, Haresco said he was flabbergasted by the charges against him and demanded that the NBI re-investigate the case. “I am the victim here. I was the one who requested for the investigation at the NBI, and yet I am the one being charged here,” Haresco said. Haresco said he received two SAROs, one in October 2013, which he said was fake, and a second on Jan. 19, 2014, which he said was genuine. They were mailed to him from the DBM and the regional office of the Agriculture Department, respectively. He said the NBI should also look into the genuine copy of the SARO. “Amongst other congressmen and persons accused, I do not know why I am the one being singled out,” Haresco said. He said the NBI never invited him for questioning, and only talked to his staff on three occasions. An NBI source would neither confirm nor deny Haresco’s claim that there were 32 lawmakers involved. In a text message, Abad said: “We welcome the submission -- finally -- of the (NBI) report.” Abad, however, stressed that the ongoing investigation should not end with the submission of the report. – With Maricel V. Cruz, Macon Ramos-Araneta, PNA‐faces‐saro‐raps‐/        

Farmers storm Palace over land reform By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am RESTIVE farmers stormed Malacañang Palace and breached its perimeter security to demand the genuine implementation of land reform and denounce the allegedly “excessive greed” of the Aquino family. Wearing shirts saying “Lupang Pangako Nasaan Na [Where is the promised land?]”, the farmers staged a lightning rally across the New Executive Building and demanded the extension of the land reform law and the removal of Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes.

Relaxed inside, tense outside. The members of President Benigno Aquino III’s Cabinet relax inside Malacañang before convening a meeting while outside, members of the Presidential Security Group confront a group of farmers who converged in front of the New Executive Building to demand the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Malacañang Photo Bureau and Danny Pata

“[The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program] is a government social justice program designed to emancipate the toiling farmers from bondage of the land they do not own and removed them from the yoke of poverty,” said Alberto Jayme, president of the land reform group Task Force Mapalad. Jayme noted that the country’s agrarian reform law was signed into law by President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino, 26 years ago in 1988 but it has only covered a fourth of its original inventory. “Its implementation has been all the way sluggish, leaving a huge backlog of landholdings being subjected to land acquisition and distribution,” Jayme added. Task Force Mapalad president Alberto Jayme said Aquino promised two years ago that he will speed up land distribution, but the Department of Agrarian Reform has lagged in its implementation. According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, the DAR has provided notices of coverage to only 314,422 hectares of land when it had an inventory of 1.2 million hectares from July 2010 to June 2013. “We demand CARP continuity. We call on President Aquino to make a firm stand in favor of the farmer-beneficiaries and order a full blown land acquisition and distribution program even beyond the June 2014 deadline. “The [Department of Agrarian Reform] has refused to follow direct orders from President Aquino to expedite the process of land distribution to farmers. DAR Secretary (Virgilio de los Reyes) is useless and should be replaced,” Jayme said. The farmers cited as an example the implementation of land reform on Negros island where the DAR managed to issue Certificates of Land Ownership Awards covering only 6,000 hectares of the 18,005 hectares it promised to distribute for 2013. “The records speak for themselves. It is very obvious that the DAR is sleeping on its job in implementing CARP,” he added. The farmers cited as an example the implementation of land reform on Negros island where the DAR managed to issue Certificates of Land Ownership Awards covering only 6,000 hectares of the 18,005 hectares it promised to distribute for 2013. “The records speak for themselves. It is very obvious that the DAR is sleeping on its job in implementing CARP,” he added. The farmers also echoed the farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas which denounced the “excessive greed” of Aquino’s family in claiming that they were “underpaid” for the Hacienda Luisita sugar estate.

“President Aquino’s relatives’ claim that they were underpaid over Hacienda Luisita smacks of excessive greed,” said KMP chairman Rafael Mariano. “In the first place, the Cojuangcos [the President’s maternal kin] do not deserve a single centavo over Hacienda Luisita,” Mariano added.‐storm‐palace‐over‐land‐reform/                                        

Labor takes Aquino to task for job lack By Vito Barcelo | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am Labor groups on Tuesday blamed the Aquino administration for the rising unemployment, saying that bad government policies, zero investments and lack of infrastructure are worsening the jobless rate. They gained the sympathy of Senate President Franklin Drilon who said that only a few families benefit from the economic boom. “The number of jobless and those who lost their earnings are still growing,” Drilon said. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines says the administration must continue to attract job-creating investments, build new roads, bridges, sea and air ports, and lower electricity rate if it wants to curb the unemployment rate. Compounding these problems are tax issues and the slow dispensation of judicial cases, said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines. Renato Magtubo, chairman of Partido Magtnggawa, said: “It is really sad to see the unemployment numbers rising but we are more troubled with the fact that after more than three years in office, the Aquino administration has yet to understand the root cause of this chronic problem. And it’s not about the weather.” Drilon saw an immediate threat from the government’s inaction on some of its global commitments. “Our seafarers might be fired from their jobs and would be sent home due to our failure to follow the maritime administration in the country.” The number of unemployed Filipinos, according to the SWS, swelled to more than 12.1 million in 2013. Malacanang, however, meekly “understood” it as an outcome of Yolanda, the Bohol earthquake and the Zamboanga siege, the labor groups said. The group said that while climate change is now becoming the biggest threat especially to most vulnerable countries like the Philippines, bad policies remain the biggest obstacle to the country’s development, more so in the midst of worsening climate crisis. Magtubo said these factors are exacerbated by other recurring problems such as severe natural and man-made calamities that forces factories to fold up and retrench workers, prevalent practice of graft and corruption, entry of illegal foreign workers that takes away jobs meant for local workforce, and fragile security situation. “With the current status, the quality of performance of executive actors vis-à-vis the estimated 1 million graduates next month, we don’t see any significant improvement in the unemployment

figures in the next first and second quarter of the year,” he said adding: “this is the challenge primarily to President Aquino and his entire cabinet and those appointed in the executive positions. The unemployment situation is one of the sum measurements of the effectiveness of those in the government. The major role of those in government is to work harder to create the environment whereby its citizens can find sustainable, decent jobs,” Seno said. With Macon Araneta‐takes‐aquino‐to‐task‐for‐job‐lack/                                      

PH, China twit US general for views By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am The Philippines and China appeared to have found a common ground in taking issue against the commander of the United States air forces in the Pacific, who over the past few days, had criticized both Beijing and Manila on matters related to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Malacañang shrugged off a statement made by US General Herbert Carlisle, who said that President Benigno Aquino III’s comments on overlapping territorial claims with China were “not helpful” in resolving the maritime dispute. “It is understandable for a military commander to adopt a viewpoint that is different from a head of state’s perspective,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said. “He (US Gen. Herbert Carlisle) can say what he likes but the President has the national interest in mind. The President needs to say what he needs to say at the right time,” Coloma added. Beijing, however, took a more combative stance, as it slammed Carlisle for his “irresponsible remarks” after the US general warned that it would be provocative if Beijing declared an air defense zone over the South China Sea. Beijing had set up an “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) over waters in November on islands also being contested by Tokyo, prompting condemnation by Washington. Amid concerns Beijing may do the same to assert territorial claims in the South China Sea, Carlisle said that such a step would be “very provocative”. China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying hit back, saying that “setting up an air defence identification zone is a reasonable right for any sovereign state to exercise. “Relevant officials should reflect carefully on what standing they have to make any irresponsible remarks about China’s exercising its own reasonable and legitimate rights.” Pointing out that the US and other countries also have ADIZs, she asked, “Why can only China not (do the same)?” “We hope that relevant countries and officials can stop making irresponsible comments,” she said. Carlisle also criticized recent actions by Manila and in particular Tokyo, saying that many countries needed to act to de-escalate tensions.

Malacanang’s stand on the issue was backed by the defense department, which downplayed the US general’s observation, even as it defended the president’s statement on China’s growing assertiveness in claiming virtually the entire South China Sea. “We must understand the statement of President Benigno S. Aquino III in the light of the Philippine Government’s call to the international community to oppose aggressive acts as they contravene established international conventions,” said a Department of National Defense statement. “We believe that the Philippines’ defense and military establishments have exercised maximum restraint with respect to the situation in the West Philippine Sea,” it added. “We believe that in opposing aggressive and expansionist behavior, the Philippines is not only serving its national interests, but also serving the region’s as well, including all states which have a stake in freedom of navigation and clear territorial rights as defined under the principles of UNCLOS,” the DND said. With Maricel V. Cruz, Francisco Tuyay and AFP‐china‐twit‐us‐general‐for‐views/                            

P1.6-b fake goods confiscated By Joel E. Zurbano | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am Government agents seized P1.6 billion worth of counterfeit products and rice during a raid on Tuesday in Parañaque City. A composite force of the Bureau of Customs, National Bureau of Investigation and Intellectual Property Office raided the Roligon Warehouse Compound on Quirino Avenue in Barangay Tambo following reports that contraband was stored in the premises.

Deputy Commissioner Ariel Nepomuceno leads the inspection of counterfeit products on February 11, 2014, following a raid in Parañaque City. DANNY PATA Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla said 17 warehouses yielded counterfeit “Havianas” and “Ipanema” flip-flops; “Nike,” “Adidas,” “Converse” and “Skechers” footwear; “Puma,” “Nike Team Pacquiao” and “Honda” jackets along with fake shampoo and personal care brands. More than 1,000 25-kilogram packs of rice were also discovered as contents of three shipping containers were being unlodaded for inventory. Last week, the three agencies raided six warehouse buildings in Binondo, Manila; Barangay 77 in Pasay City; and in Tambo and seized counterfeit footwear, apparel and other items with a market value of over P620 million. “Our priority is to stop smuggling. These seizures highlight the need for more aggressive intelligence-gathering and inspection of shipments as well as systemic solutions that prevent the entry of these fake products in the local market,” Sevilla said. “Counterfeit products are not just result in lost revenues for the Bureau of Customs, but bigger problems such as loss of income for legitimate business owners and industries and loss of jobs. On top of that, we do not know what health hazards these counterfeit products may pose on our consumers.”

In 2013, government agents confiscated over P6.6 billion worth of counterfeit and pirated products, with the Customs bureau accounting for over half of the seizures. In 2007, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Executive Order 736 to create the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights that mandated law enforcement agencies and government offices to set up their own IPR protection units. With Jennifer Ambanta‐6‐b‐fake‐goods‐confiscated/                                      

QC to argue garbage fee, tax By Rio N. Araja | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am THE Quezon City government has formed a legal team to argue an order issued by the Supreme Court to freeze the collection of garbage fees and the socialized housing tax. Mayor Herbert Bautista tasked the city’s legal officer, Christian Valencia, to defend the two measures. “The imposition of the socialized housing tax and garbage fee is a pioneering legislation by Quezon City. We hope to get a favorable decision from the court,” city administrator Aldrin Cuña said. The city has yet to receive official documents from SC before filing its pleadings. Cuña cited Section 43 of the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 providing “... that all government units are hereby authorized to impose an additional one-half percent (0.5) tax on the assessed value of all lands in urban areas in excess of P50,000.” He said the tax measure, which was signed in October 2011, is meant to support the shelter program for informal settlers. The financial management division under the Treasury Office said the city has collected a P4.15 million in garbage fees in January and P583,450 in February. The city treasurer said P11.18 million in socialized housing taxes have been collected from January to the present. “The city will abide by the orders of the Supreme Court. We respect the Court,” Cuña said.‐to‐argue‐garbage‐fee‐tax/            

Catholics mark World Day of the Sick By Vito Barcelo | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am Thousands of faithful, many of them in poor health, on Tuesday flocked to Catholic churches to mark the 22nd World Day of the Sick. Retired Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said holy mass at Espiritu Santo Parish Church in Sta. Cruz, Manila, joined by healing priest, Fr. Ferdinand Hernando. The World Day of the Sick was proclaimed by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1922 to seek the intercession of Our Lady of Lourds for those who suffer from illness and their caregivers. “We too must give our lives for the brethren” Pope Francis said in message read by the priests. “The Church recognizes in you, the sick, a special presence of the suffering Christ. At the side – and indeed within – our suffering is the suffering of Christ; he bears its burden with us and he reveals its meaning,” part of the pope’s message read. Manila Auxiliary Bishop Bernardino Cortez called on doctors, nurses and all heal the sick out of love. During the liturgy, the “sacrament of the anointing of the sick” was given to the sick and and elderly.‐mark‐world‐day‐of‐the‐sick‐/                    

DA urges farmers to raise organic fertilizer production By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am The Department of Agriculture Region 6 on Tuesday encouraged farmer organizations and local government units to intensify sustainable fertilizer production to expand organic agriculture areas in the region. Dr. Joyce S. Wendam said that sufficient supply of organic fertilizer will motivate planters to shift into organic farming and help decrease the price of organic fertilizer in the market. The establishment of vermicomposting project is one of the most proposed projects under the organic agriculture program for 2014. The province of Negros Occidental also proposed for the establishment of natural farming system production centers which will mass produce natural fertilizers. Wendam encouraged LGUs to incorporate in their project proposals their target area to be converted to organic agriculture farming. “This will help expand focus areas devoted to organic agriculture of at least five percent of the total agricultural land nationwide,” she said.‐urges‐farmers‐to‐raise‐organic‐fertilizer‐ production/                  

Exports jumped 16% to $4.6b in December By Jennifer Ambanta | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am Exports surged 15.8 percent in December from a year ago, bringing the full-year growth in 2013 to 3.6 percent, on the back of strong sales of manufactured goods, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Tuesday. Data showed exports in December 2013 hit $4.6 billion, up from $4 billion a year ago and $4.3 billion in November. Full-year exports reached $54 billion in 2013, up from $52.1 billion in 2012. The 15.8-percent rise in December marked the seventh consecutive month of exports growth and made the country the top export performer among East and Southeast Asian countries during the month, the National Economic and Development Authority said. The Philippines outshone Vietnam in terms of export growth in December (12.6 percent), Indonesia (8.5 percent), Malaysia (7.6 percent), Korea (7 percent), Singapore (5.6 percent), China (4.3 percent) and Thailand (1.9 percent). It also outperformed other economies in the region which posted negative exports growth such as Taiwan (-1.9 percent), Hong Kong (-3 percent) and Japan (-6.2 percent). “The positive exports performance of the Philippines—and even those of the majority of tradeoriented economies in the East and Southeast Asia--was reflective of the recovery of major economies such as the United States of America, European Union, and Japan,” said EconomicPlanning Secretary and Neda director-general Arsenio Balisacan. Balisacan attributed the December exports growth to the robust outward sales of manufactured goods, including electronics. Export sales of manufactured goods expanded 20.8 percent yearon-year as electronic shipments grew 26.1 percent. Balisacan, however, said the lower export receipts from agro-based, petroleum, mineral and forest products slowed down the export performance in December. Agriculture exports fell 27.8 percent to $274.4 million in December because of the contraction in export of coconut products. “The lower outward shipments of coconut products in December 2013, which account for about 40 percent of the total agro-based exports, was mainly due to the adverse effects of super typhoon Yolanda as 73 percent of total crop area in major coconut-producing regions was damaged,” Balisacan said.

“The combined destructions in plantations and milling facilities tightened the coconut supply and this resulted in large declines in the volume shipments of coconut products such as desiccated coconut, copra meal/cake and coconut oil,” he said. Japan remained the top destination of Philippine exports in December, accounting for 23 percent of the total receipts, with $1.06 billion. This was higher by 48.1 percent than $715.3 million worth of exports in December 2012.‐jumped‐16‐to‐4‐6b‐in‐december/                                      

No such thing as a free lunch By Boy P. | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am

Buddies had a lot of guffaws talking about this star business columnist in another broadsheet who reportedly took a jab at a colleague in the same paper most probably in gratitude for having been invited to lunch by a newbie tycoon. Apparently, new tycoon is a rather sensitive man who is averse to less-than-glowing reports about his business prospects. According to our buddies, the biz honcho had embarked on a rather unsuccessful offering— something that many writers, including this business columnist’s colleague duly noted and wrote about since the outcome was public knowledge anyway. News reports also came out about the warnings issued by an international financial institution concerning “over-borrowed” (unnamed) conglomerates and the economic implications if these too-big-to-fail entities suddenly failed to settle their obligations. The international institution likewise made a suggestion for the country’s regulators to consider a recapitalization so as to avoid credit contraction, which could be disruptive, to say the least. Business columnist’s colleague also wrote about the warning, which should not really be surprising since it was after all a valid issue, although like the international financial institution, he prudently kept the conglomerate unnamed. To cut a long story short, the businessman turned out to be such an overly sensitive guy—and over lunch reportedly aired his “disappointment” about the stories to business columnist who then dutifully wrote about the businessman’s sentiments, launching a thinly veiled attack against the colleague in the process. Our buddies are now wondering if business columnist has become the new spokesperson for newbie tycoon. After all, there is really no such thing as a free lunch. Overdue proposal for bus speed limiters The Senate proposal to install speed limiters on passenger buses is something that is long overdue, but one that is very much welcomed by the riding public anyway. Senator JV Ejercito, author of proposed Senate Bill 2110, correctly points out that the electronic speed limiters can help prevent fatal accidents involving buses which greedy operators allow to roll on the road like rolling coffins despite knowing they are in bad condition and poorly maintained, with worn tires, malfunctioning breaks and psycho drivers who could be high on uppers to keep them awake. A lot of these psycho drivers terrorize other motorists especially along Edsa, veering along nonyellow lanes and edging out smaller vehicles with their sheer size. Something should also be done to make the LTO and the LTFRB liable for this spate of deadly accidents. People are furious why it has to take tragedies—and the frequency and magnitude is already alarming—involving well-known personalities like comedian Tado Jimenez before they move their thick tushes to “investigate” and slap a suspension on these buses. Why, in heaven’s

name, are the violations and the record of accidents involving bus companies unknown to LTFRB and the LTO? Aren’t passenger buses required to renew registrations, during which time records of accidents and violations should pop up in the supposedly computerized records? And why are bus companies granted franchises even if they have no terminals and are just “squatting” in the terminals of other bus companies? Ad agency wins Cannes Chimera 2013 challenge Cheers! to DFCB Digital, the digital arm of ad agency Draftfcb Manila for winning the third Cannes Chimera challenge dubbed “Help Lead the Fight Against Extreme Poverty” to encourage public support for initiatives to virtually eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. Over 900 global entries from 79 countries participated in the initiative by the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to harness the creative power of communications to help solve problems that beset the world. DFCB Digital certainly made history by becoming the first Philippine winner of the Cannes Chimera challenge via its project brief titled “Gamers vs. Poverty.” The team, composed of James Bernardo, Ramby Libarnes, Francois Filamor, Mon Berenguer and Tatum Ancheta, hit on a novel concept to educate and engage the millions of gamers about poverty and how they can become heroes in and outside of the gaming world. Two of the members will be flying to Seattle next month for a two-day high-level workshop that would help bring their idea to fruition with help from Cannes Lions winners who served as the jury for the 2013 Cannes Chimera. Each of the eight winners will be invited back to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop their proposal further. As DFCB Digital president and COO Tom Eugenio remarked, this is indeed such a great start for 2014. Well done!‐such‐thing‐as‐a‐free‐lunch/                    

Remittances, BoP surplus support growth By Julito G. Rada | Feb. 12, 2014 at 12:01am The robust gains in the remittances from migrant Filipino workers and the country’s external payments position will continue to support the economy’s growth and ease concerns on the decline in the country’s gross international reserves, an official of ING Bank Manila said Tuesday. “[The] Philippines is likely to show some modest strength despite the large month-on-month drop in FX reserves for January. Data on the country’s external payments position would likely support the Philippines,” Joey Cuyegkeng, ING Bank Manila senior economist, said. “Data on December... remittances comes out next Monday. Resilient remittances should help support sentiment for the Philippines,” Cuyegkeng said. He said sustained gains in these two indicators would ease concerns over the $4.3-billion monthon-month drop in the international reserves in January. Cash remittances from migrant workers coursed through banks in November last year reached their highest level, hitting $2.063 billion, or 7.5 percent up from $1.918 billion on year, on the back of steady demand for local workers abroad. The November figure exceeded the previously-registered record high of $2.062 billion in October last year. The figure brought cash remittances in the first 11 months to $20.605 billion, or up 6.1 percent from $19.417 billion a year ago. The country’s balance of payments, meanwhile, remained in surplus in 2013 at $5.085 billion, despite the uncertainties on the timing of the Federal Reserve’s easing of monetary stimulus. The balance of payments refers to a record of all transactions made between one particular country and all other countries during a specified period of time. The BoP compares the dollar difference of the amount of exports and imports, including all financial exports and imports. A negative balance of payments means more money is flowing out of the country than coming in, and vice versa. A surplus in the BoP adds to the country’s gross international reserves. Despite the drop in GIR in January, Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said last week the reserves remained adequate—approximately more than $20 billion—over the “optimal level,” even if the government spent a large amount for debt service. Tetangco was reacting to the latest central bank data on Friday, showing the GIR fell to a 19month low at end-January to $78.9 billion from $83.2 billion in end-December last year. The last

time the GIR posted its lower-than-January level was in June 2012 when it stood at $76.129 billion. The January reserves could cover 11.3 months’ worth of imports of goods and services and income. They were also equivalent to 7.9 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 5.6 times based on residual maturity. Tetangco said part of the decline was “really due to debt services by the national government. It is a fairly large amount of debt service payments in January.”‐bop‐surplus‐support‐growth/                                    

DOJ helped Tuason fabricate story – Jinggoy February 11, 2014 9:41 pm   by JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA REPORTER THE sworn affidavit of Ruby Tuason contains fabricated stories fed to her by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make sure that it would fit the testimonies of other so-called pork barrel scam witnesses, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said on Tuesday. Estrada, who admitted having read parts of the Tuason’s affidavit earlier submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman, said he is convinced that the justice department helped Tuason concoct the story about her supposed role in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) controversy. The senator particularly cited a portion on Tuason’s affidavit wherein she stated various special allotment release orders (SARO) numbers, which she managed to remember while she was in the United States (US). “How can she remember the SARO number if it was not fed to her. An official of the DOJ went to the US and provided her the numbers so it can match the supposed SARO numbers obtained by Benhur Luy,” Estrada told reporters in an interview. The senator also took note of the lack of specific information on Tuason’s affidavit including the missing specific dates and amounts of the supposed PDAF “cut” she supposedly delivered him and Enrile. Tuason said in her affidavit that she was the one in charge of delivering Estrada and Enrile’s alleged PDAF kickbacks from businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, According to Tuason she personally delivered Estrada’s cuts either in his office at the Senate or at his residence in San Juan. Enrile’s commissions, on the other hand, were accepted by his chief of staff, lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes. On Monday, Tuason met Luy at the NBI office and compared notes in preparation for the Blue Ribbon hearing on Thursday. Estrada said the main purpose of the meeting between Tuason and Luy was for them to tally their figures and jack it up for it to reach the P50-million threshold for plunder. “Benhur Luy earlier claimed that I received P9 million, but now Tita Ruby is saying that it was P35 million. Clearly they are trying jack-up the amount to reach the threshold,” the Senator noted.

He added that the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the senate parking lot could show if Tuason really delivered P35 million to him. Tuason’s dare Tuason has dared Estrada and Enrile to attend Thursday’s Blue Ribbon probe on the PDAF scam to show to the public who among them lying. Estrada said he is willing to attend the hearing, however his lawyers barred him from doing so since it would not do him any good. He explained that if he attends the hearing, he cannot just cite Tuason in contempt even if the latter starts blurting lies, because he could be accused of trying prevent her from testifying. “If I was there and she [Tuason] started telling fabricated stories, do you expect me to cite her in contempt? I will be accused of bullying her,” Estrada said. Estrada and Enrile have inhibited themselves from attending the hearing in order to avoid being accused of trying to harass the resource persons that would appear in the proceedings. Sinister plan Meanwhile, opposition senator Nancy Binay said that she is convinced that the ongoing attacks against Estrada and Enrile is part of the sinister move by some members of the administration to discredit the opposition. Without naming names, Binay said that the attacks against the prominent members of the opposition started during the 2013 mid-term elections and it appears that people with interest in 2016 wants to sustain it in order to increase their chances. But Binay expressed belief that President Benigno Aquino 3rd is not part of the plan because he has no vested interest in the 2016 national elections considering that he is not a re-electionist. No-holds-barred Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd assured on Tuesday that the hearing on February 13 will be noholds-barred just like the other hearings of the committee. He said besides Tuason, the panel also invited Merlina Suñas, Marina Sula and Luy to compare the testimony of the former to the earlier testimonies of the whistleblowers. “It’s important in the sense that she named several individuals and she says she can narrate how it was done, where it was done and under what circumstances it was done,” Guingona said when asked about the importance of Tuason’s testimony for the blue ribbon probe. Guingona said that aside from the PDAF scam, the panel will also ask Tuason about her knowledge on the Malampaya fund mess.‐helped‐tuason‐fabricate‐story‐jinggoy/75049/

Tobacco industry has high influence in health policy February 11, 2014 9:38 pm   by FRANCIS EARL CUETO CORRESPONDENT A NEW study on how the tobacco industry influences public health policy showed the Philippines among the top three countries where tobacco interference is highest. The results of the first Tobacco Industry Interference Index conducted by the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) showed the Philippines among the three countries in the region where the industry exercise a great influence in public health policy. This led the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), an advocacy group, to ask for the full implementation of a code of conduct for government officials. The report, released last week, identified the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia as having the highest degree of tobacco industry interference in the region. Emer Rojas, NVAP president, said a joint memorandum circular signed by the Department of Health and the Civil Service Commission in 2010, should be fully implemented to prevent cigarette makers from exercising undue influence in public health policy. “This circular should be implemented in all levels of the bureaucracy to stop the tobacco industry from meddling with government affairs. Cigarette manufacturers will never have regard on people’s health as its business interests always runs counter to public health,” said Rojas. The circular enjoins public officials to interact with the industry “only when strictly necessary for the latter’s effective regulation, supervision or control.” It also mandated transparency to be observed during such transactions to avoid public perception of misconduct on the part of public servants. Besides the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, the other Asean nations with the highest tobacco industry interference level were Brunei, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. The SEATCA report cited the Philippines as the highest when it comes to government officials having “unnecessary interactions” with cigarette makers. Rojas said this unnecessary interaction between government and the tobacco industry is a major reason why tobacco control in the country is moving slow compared to other Asean members.

“It took Congress three decades to amend the sin tax law and impose higher levies on tobacco. When you are lobbying for the protection of public health against a giant like the tobacco industry, it is disheartening to see when some of our beloved legislators side with the industry instead of fighting for public health. This CSC-DOH code of conduct for public officials and employees should be observed at all levels of government,” lamented Rojas, a cancer survivor and a former smoker. The CSC said, violation of the joint memorandum, would result in dismissal from public service for a public servant. The commission however admitted that four years after the JMC was signed, it had not received complaints against public servants suspected of dealing with the tobacco industry.‐industry‐has‐high‐influence‐in‐health‐policy/75037/                                

Trader grabs lion’s share of agricultural imports February 11, 2014 9:10 pm   by LLANESCA T. PANTI The government has been accused of favoring an importer named Leah Cruz by issuing bulk imports permits to her entities. Importer Lilibeth Valenzuela made the disclosure during the congressional inquiry on alleged P200-million scam orchestrated by Cruz in the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI). The inquiry stemmed from the House Resolution 341 of Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, Jr. of Dasmariñas City. Valenzuela noted that at least two of the Cruz-owned entities namely Tumana Trading and Purple Moon are each granted 60 import permits for onions, and that Cruz’s group has requested for as much as 582 import permits in 2013. “We are 215 accredited importers. Why are they [Cruz’s group] having the monopoly here? Imagine one entity getting 60 permits, and they even made a request that they be issued 582 permits in 2013. Our group was only issued two permits,” Valenzuela told the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability. “Besides, the new permits will be issued November, but per records of the Bureau of Customs, they were able to get cargos as early as September,” Valenzuela added. The Barzaga resolution alleges that Cruz used dummy companies owned by her drivers, clerks and house helpers as owners of her companies en route to a monopoly that allowed her to profit P200 million thru fraudulent means. Per Director Clarito Baron of the Bureau of Plant Industry, their policy provides that 60 percent of import permits are granted to farmers association and or cooperatives, while 40 percent are given to private importers like that of the groups of Leah Cruz and Villanueva. Rep. Agapito Guanlao of Butil party-list backed Valenzuela. “How can a private firm be issued 60 importing permits and then you only issue two for the other private firm when the policy is that 60 percent of the permits should be granted to farmers groups? It doesn’t add up,” Guanlao pointed out. But for Rep. Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list, the real issue is not the squabble among importers but the importation of onion and garlic that affects the local farmers.‐grabs‐lions‐share‐of‐agricultural‐imports/75008/ 

COMELEC EXPECTS 2.9‐MILLION NEW REGISTRANTS February 11, 2014 9:08 pm   by ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it expects 2.9 million new voters to register beginning May 6, 2014 until October 2015 for the presidential elections of 2016. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez the 2.9-million new voters does not exclusively mean the 18-year old voters but also those registering for the first time but are above 18. Jimenez reminded the 8 million registered voters as of 2013 but have not yet validated their registration to do so at the Comelec offices.‐expects‐2‐9‐million‐new‐registrants/74999/                               

33 farmer‐leaders face illegal assembly charges February 11, 2014 9:07 pm   by JAIME R. PILAPIL THIRTY-THREE farmer-leaders from Mindanao and Negros, to whom President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2012 promised full implementation of the Comprehensive Land Reform Program, were arrested while holding a lightning rally near Gate 3 inside Mala–cañang Palace on Tuesday. The 22 male and 11 female farmer-leaders, all members of Task Force Mapalad, were arrested by combined elements of the Presidential Security Group and Police Station 8. They were taken to the Manila Police District headquarters on UN Avenue by two military trucks for questioning. A case of illegal assembly is being readied against them. Alberto Jayme, 49, of Cadiz City said President Aquino met their leaders in the Heroes Hall on June 14 two years ago. “The President instructed Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes to hasten the distribution of parcels of farm lands, but up to now we have yet to receive the certificates of ownership. The CARP [Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program] extension deadline is fast approaching on June 30.” The farmer-leaders represent 20,500 farmer-beneficiaries, i.e. 12,500 from Negros Occidental, 12,000 from Bukidnon, and 3,000 each from Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur. They were staying at a make-shift camp in the Quezon Memorial Circle just outside the main gate of the Department of Agriculture. Jayme said after the Mala–cañang meeting with the President, several DAR officials, both from the provincial and municipal offices, visited their areas, but nothing concrete came out of it. “Some areas have yet to be surveyed. Not even a notice of coverage was issued, which the first step of the process.” That June 14, 2012, Aquino approved the release of P1 billion for support services for their initial capitalization and socialized credit of farmers. The President also approved the P30 billion annual funding for the full implementation of CARP within two years. Most of the lands subject to CARP are owned by wealthy families like those of Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Maranan and Mayor Carlo Luis of Mati City. Some haciendas are owned by the Lopez, Rabat, Tolentino, Arcal, Rochamora and Ong families. These lands were bought by DAR for distribution to farmer-beneficiaries.‐farmer‐leaders‐face‐illegal‐assembly‐charges/74995/   

W. Visayas to produce organic fertilizer February 11, 2014 9:06 pm   by JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ The Department of Agriculture-Region 6 is embarking on the mass production of organic fertilizer as part of the region’s effort to shift to natural farming. Dr. Joyce Wendam, the regional organic agriculture spokesman, said the expansion of organic fertilizer production is a must among farmers’ organizations and local government units to ensure its viability not only for local farmers but also outside the region. “Sufficient supply of organic fertilizer will motivate farmers to shift into organic farming, adopt organic agriculture technologies and decrease the price of organic fertilizer in the market,” Wendam said in a statement. One of the most accepted programs under the DA6 organic agriculture initiative is the establishment of vermicomposting projects—particularly in the municipality of Calinog, Dumangas and Leon, Iloilo and of the Filamer Christian College in Roxas City, Capiz—for crop year 2014. The province of Negros Occidental, on the other hand, has proposed the establishment of natural farming system production centers, which will mass produce NFS concoctions. While the Organic Na Negros! Organic Producers and Retailers Association proposed for the “Strengthening of internal control system aided with the information and communication technology” which will harmonized data on production and prices on farm and in the market. Wendam also encouraged local governments to incorporate in their project proposals their target area to be converted to organic agriculture farming. This will help expand focus areas devoted to organic agriculture of at least five percent of the total agricultural land nationwide. The DA6’s organic agriculture program is expecting more project proposals in the coming months, and has allocated funds for organic agriculture projects in the region.‐visayas‐to‐produce‐organic‐fertilizer/74988/         

Peso rediscount loans down by 99.2% in January February 11, 2014 8:38 pm   by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO Loans under the peso rediscount facility of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) posted a 99.2percent decline for the whole month of January this year. Data from the BSP showed that total availments of thrift and rural banks amounted to P36 million for the period. It was lower compared to the P4.320-billion total availments in the same period last year. The central bank added that of the availments for the period, 27.6 percent went to commercial credits, 4.1 percent to agricultural and industrial credits, and 68.3 percent to other credits consisting of other services (66.1 percent) and permanent working capital (2.2 percent). Meanwhile, the BSP has rediscounted its rates on loans applicable on availments by banking institutions for February 2014. For loans under the peso rediscount facility, the rediscount rates effective November 15, 2013, up to the next policy rates revision for rediscounting window I (RW I) were 5.62 percent for 30 days maturity, 5.68 percent for 90 days maturity, and 5.75 percent for 180 days maturity. For rediscounting window II (RW II), the rates were set at 3.50 percent for 30 days maturity, 3.50 percent for 90 days maturity, 3.56 percent for 180 days maturity, and 3.62 percent for 369 days maturity. For loans under the exporters dollar and yen rediscount facility (EDYRF), the rates for the US dollar are 2.23 percent for 1 to 90 days, 2.29 percent for 91 to 180 days, and 2.36 percent for 181 to 360 days. For the yen, the rates are 2.14 percent for 1 to 90 days, 2.20 percent for 91 to 180 days, and 2.26 percent for 181 to 360 days. Under the EDYRF, aggregate dollar availments a thrift bank from January 1 to 31 amounted to $200,000 and benefited one exporter. “This represents a 99.1-percent decrease in availments compared to the $21.8-million grants for the same period last year,” the BSP said, while there was no yen-denominated availment under the EDYRF for the period.‐rediscount‐loans‐down‐by‐99‐2‐in‐january/74937/ 

Ruby fed info, manufactured ‘evidence’—Jinggoy Written by Angie M. Rosales Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   NO SPECIFICS, AMOUNTS IN TUASON’s AFFIDAVIT Manufacturing so-called evidence is fairly easy, when the administration wants to frame its political foes — just as it was in the case of Department of Justice (DoJ)’s latest “whistleblower” in the pork barrel scam, Ruby Chan Tuason, who Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said was obviously “fed” with information to bolster the claims previously made by claimed key witness in the case, Benhur Luy, before the senators in previous Senate hearings. Besides the reported “comparing of notes” that took place between the two “whistle-blowers” during a four-hour meeting at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last Monday in preparation for Tuason’s appearance tomorrow at the Senate, Sen. Estrada was told that the two fabricated some information to corroborate each other’s testimony. Allegedly, Tuason needed some vital information as the 15-page sworn affidavit that she had executed and submitted before the DoJ and the Office of the Ombudsman did not contain specific details, only categorical statements on her supposed role in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. “There is nothing by way of specifics in it. What she said was only that she had delivered money to me. That’s why I asked that the CCTV (closed-circuit television) footage be released if indeed there was money delivered (here at the Senate),” Estrada told reporters, in reference to Tuason’s affidavit, a copy of which was already in his possession. “I expect them (Tuason and Luy) to file a supplemental affidavit because that is where they will manufacture figures and the dates. I hope their dates are correct,” the senator said as he stood firm in his position aired during Monday’s plenary session denying vehemently the claims of Tuason in the sworn statement she had executed as reported in the papers. “I think she will crumble in the cross examination,” he added.

“Go ahead. I am unfazed. Of course she is going to fabricate stories already for the public to believe. This is all trial by publicity,” Estrada said and even warned the camp of Tuason. The senator expressed confidence based on what he personally knows of the character of Tuason, who is considered not only as a former employee of his father, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, while the latter was still the President but also a close family friend. “Of course the information (in her affidavit) was fed to her. As I’ve said you should look at it from a bigger picture,” Estrada said, referring to the supposed meeting that took place between Tuason and Luy at the NBI offices. “Of course, their stories were cooked. This was well orchestrated. From the time the NBI went to her for her affidavit. I presume that they fed the stories to Mrs. Tuason,” he said, adding that, based on the information that had reached him, she’s supposed to come up with a ledger of sorts for the figures presented by Luy to tally with the supposed money that was coursed through Tuason. Estrada pointed out that Tuason’s affidavit does not have specific details, such as dates or amount of pork barrel funds that were allegedly misused by the group of detained businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. “That’s because the original complaint (filed by the DoJ) was lacking. That is not enough to put me down. All she said was that she delivered money in the Senate and in San Juan. But there are no details. That’s why I expect them to file a supplemental affidavit so they can pin me down. The supplemental affidavit is fabricated, Estrada pointed out. “The reason Mrs. Tuason and Benhur Luy met yesterday was of course to tally the figures, such as how much was given to me, so the two will jack the amount to reach the threshold of plunder. Benhur Luy said I received P9 million. Now Tita Ruby (Tuason), says P35 million. They are really trying hard to make the amount reach the P50 million threshold (to make it appear as being covered by the provisions on plunder case),” he said. “Let’s see. When the CCTV footage will show whether she delivered P35 million to me. How many kilos would that be? Can she carry that?,”he asked. Estrada also questioned that P40 million that Tuason allegedly is willing to surrender to the government in exchange for her being a state witness. The said amount supposedly represented the “commissions” she received in the transactions she had brokered with the senator as well as that of Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile. “Assuming that it was still her time supposedly, before she claimed that it was only between her and Janet Napoles, that her commissions amounted to some P40 million. Let’s deal with that. That (PDAF) was in the billions. How many hundreds of million? That’s a lot. Now, let’s see this on the CCTV if she truly delivered the money to me. “Inasmuch as I want to attend the hearing, my lawyers barred me from appearing. First of all, definitely she will fabricate stories. And if I am there and she fabricates stories, do you expect me to cite her in contempt? I will be accused of bullying her,” he said. “It’s so obvious. There is no such ledger of Mrs. Tuason. Now suddenly she has a ledger similar to that 2001 ledger (of Chavit Singson against his father, President Estrada, now Manila mayor) ” he further said. Also, the senator noted that Tuason’s affidavit mentioned SARO (special allotment release order) numbers of the supposed pork barrel funds released to him. “She’s was the United States, how can she remember the SARO numbers unless she was fed this information? The Assistant secretary of DoJ was there. These are the SARO numbers. O, just sign this. Then they tallied the SARO numbers of Benhur (Luy). Do you think Mrs. Tuason will

remember the SARO numbers? I don’t think so,” he said. Estrada also hinted at some fabricated claims in the affidavit of Tuason such as the issue on her supposed late brother being the one actually involved in the Malampaya fund scam of Napoles and not her. “That I do not believe. She implicated her dead brother. That can’t be corroborated by the dead brother. And what she says is not true,” he said. Meanwhile, the Senate panel investigating the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam of Napoles is unlikely to endorse Tuason’s reported bid to become a “state witness” in the controversial case even if delivers a “tell-all” testimony before the blue ribbon committee tomorrow, Thursday. The self-confessed “bag lady” of Napoles is highly anticipated to spill the beans, so to speak, acusing those personalities already dragged in the purported embezzlement of lawmakers’ PDAF and possibly even implicate new names, including those under the Arroyo administration. Tuason is said to be privy to the supposed non-PDAF transaction of Napoles, the alleged Malampaya fund scam, where the latter was said to have cornered P900 million originally intended to aid farmers and other poor families who were victims of massive flooding in Luzon four years ago. Lead prober Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, yesterday categorically told reporters that the matter of her being turned into a state witness is “something that the (Office of the) Ombudsman should decide upon and we will not intervene.” “There is no need for the blue ribbon to recommend. I don’t think there is need. Secondly, I don’t want to interfere with the investigation of the Ombudsman. We’ll see if she’s (among) the principal (suspects). Let’s leave that to the Ombudsman to decide,” he said. Although originally Guingona intended to allot the entire Thursday’s proceedings to Tuason alone and be grilled by him and other panel members, he opted to have her in a faceoff with principal whistleblower in the case, Benhur Luy and two other supposed whistleblowers. The last time Guingona staged a face-off with Napoles and Luy, it was silly, as Napoles denied, while Luy was asked if that was true. Naturally, Luy contradicted Napoles. “This should be a no-holds barred (testimony), in the spirit of transparency and openness. It will be like the other hearings. It will be a no holds barred (proceedings). “We decided to invite Benhur (Luy) also and the two ladies (among the set of whistleblowers) to corroborate (her statements), so that we can compare what the other said and at least we can have a clearer understanding (of the issue) if there’s corroboration or if their testimonies jibe with each other,” Guingona said. The senator noted how crucial the testimony of Tuason in affirming or negating the issues being thrown at those supposedly in cahoots with Napoles, specifically senators being accused by Luy and others supposedly on the take of “commissions” from misused PDAF. “It is important in the sense that she named many and she says she can narrate how it was done, where it was done and under what circumstances how it was done. She had direct contact. But all these have to be verified on Thursday. We will also tackle the Malampaya, since she’s already there so we might as well discuss (the) Malampaya (case),” he said. Guingona said that a copy of Tuason’s sworn affidavit had already been furnished to his committee but he begged off from discussing details. “We have to ask her what is her motive is (for coming out) on Thursday. Let’s not speculate.‐fed‐info‐manufactured‐evidence‐jinggoy

Bad policies, not weather, blamed for high job loss Written by  Charlie V. Manalo   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   It’s not the weather but bad policies that led to the record-high of 12 million jobless Filipinos, independent groups assailed the government yesterday after attributing the high 27.5 percent jobless rate in the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey to the killer typhoon among other calamities that hit the country last year. Members of House Independent Minority Bloc yesterday said the government has a lot of explaining to do on the supposed 2013 fourth quarter 7.2 percent growth in the gross domestic product (GDP), as the two figures don’t meet eye to eye. The bloc issued this reaction yesterday as they noted that the supposed GDP growth was conflicting as against surge in the number of the unemployed to 12 million. Even before the string of calamities that hit the country last year University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE) professor Benjamin Diokno had said the Aquino administration sorely lacked “a concrete program of addressing the high and worsening joblessness problem.” He added the Philippines’ above normal growth during the last two years has been the highest in the five major economies of the Association Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) yet it, too, has the highest unemployment rate and poverty incidence. The latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey result showed that the number of unemployed is now estimated at 12.1 million and remained higher among women, with a rate increase of 2.5 percent, even with the exclusion of housewives who already stopped looking for jobs. Bloc leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said if the supposed gross domestic product (GDP) growth was accurate, then there should have been more job and livelihood opportunities for the people. “But why then are we experiencing the contrary” Why has the number of the suffering increased instead of decreased,” Romualdez asked? Bloc member and Abakada Rep. Jonathan De la Cruz said the government should come out with the basis of the supposed 7.2 percent GDP increase. “For all we know, the GDP claim had been based on periods when people had extra money to spend for their needs and their loved ones, like bonuses for gifts during the Christmas holidays,” De la Cruz said. De la Cruz added it is ironic that the unemployment rate has been decreased on the period where lot of job opportunities and employment were available brought by the increase spending of the consumers in preparation for the Christmas season. Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said the rise in unemployment clearly shows that the supposed GDP growth had only benefited some instead of the greater majority. “What did the country gain from the supposed GDP growth and where are these figures?” the

solons said. The members of the bloc said they would initiate a House inquiry into the real status of the economy as well as to account the Aquino administration on the different programs being implemented to address the unemployment rate of the country. “The people have the right to know the truth, as to where the country is really heading for,” Romualdez said. Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan slammed the Palace for its statement blaming the calamities for the rise in the unemployment rate. “To say that the increase is understandable is incomprehensible. People are not expecting the government to understand the situation; they want the government to do something about it. To blame the calamities that devastated the country last year for the rise in the rate of unemployment is proof that the Aquino government is clueless about the roots of joblessness and poverty and will therefore never be able to address it,” Ilagan said. Ilagan lamented that all the Palace had to say was that it will continue to find measures that can provide employment looking at the reconstruction and rehabilitation and the ongoing cash-forwork program of the government in areas hit by calamities. “There was no mention at all about policy changes when the culprit to the increase in unemployment rate is its adherence to neo-liberal globalization,” she said. “The Aquino government’s daang matuwid has not led to better lives for the people. Corruption remains rampant and so long as B.S. Aquino does not act to develop the Philippines’ own national industry, unemployment will remain and continue to rise. With the employed denied their just demand for a P125 salary increase, how can poor Filipino workers feed their children? The worsening joblessness, price hikes in basic commodities and the looming power rate increases will only result to widespread hunger and extreme poverty of the people at a loss to provide food and other basic needs for their families,” said Ilagan. It is not the bad weather but a combination of bad policies that is driving the country’s unemployment rate up, the workers’ group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) added. “It is really sad to see the unemployment numbers rising but we are more troubled with the fact that after more than three years in office, the Aquino administration has yet to understand the root cause of this chronic problem. And it’s not about the weather,” PM chairman Renato Magtubo said. Malacañang, in a statement, said it “understood” the survey figures as an outcome of Yolanda, the Bohol earthquake and the Zamboanga siege. The group asserted that while climate change is now becoming the biggest threat especially to most vulnerable countries like the Philippines, bad policies remain the biggest obstacle to the country’s development, more so in the midst of worsening climate crisis. “Trade liberalization both in industry and agriculture, lack of industrial program, and the privatization-led growth model were to blame in this chronic problem of unemployment in the country,” said Magtubo, adding that since the country implemented those programs in the 80’s, “growth had not only been jobless but highly unequal.” The group pointed out, based on its own review of the country’s development pattern during the past 30 years, it was every clear that growth years never translated into jobs while economic gains benefited only a few families. The former partylist representative added that the only period where the unemployment rate in the country fell to single digit was when the government changed employment definitions in 2005, reducing in effect the number of unemployed persons by some 1.4 million.

Magtubo said that unless the Aquino government and the ruling elite change course by reversing those bad policies, they will be punishing not only the present but even the future generation of workers. More than half of the unemployed, both in the SWS and the NSO surveys, are those in age group 18-24. He also warned that the unemployment problem is a “ticking time bomb”, a social problem that is due to explode unless addressed decisively by the present government. The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said the government must continue to attract new job-creating domestic and foreign investments, build new roads, bridges, sea and air ports, and lower electricity rate if it wants to effectively address the growth of high unemployment in the country. Palace House allies, meanwhile, were quick to blame high power costs and red tape as among those factors that contributed to the high incidence of unemployment. According to House Deputy Majority Leader Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo and House Appropriations panel Vice Chairman Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone high electricity costs and red tape are driving away investments that create jobs. Gunigundo and Evardone made the pronouncement in light of the Social Weather Stations survey showing that there are 12.1 million Filipinos unemployed, up by 2.5 million from the same period last year. Gerry Baldo‐policies‐not‐weather‐blamed‐for‐high‐job‐loss                          

Noy’s B‐day gift to Luisita farmers: Holding them at gunpoint, razing homes

Written by  Tribune   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   President Aquino’s birthday gift from his family’s corporaton, Tadeco, was its security guards, also known as the Aquino-Cojuangco’s yellow army that held the Hacienda Luisita farmers at gunpoint while the rest of armed security personnel destroyed huts, crops and homes of farmers., reported that on Feb. 8, the day Aquino turned 54, Wilfredo Sibayan was held at gunpoint as security guards of Cojuangco-owned Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco) destroyed their hut. Two other farmers — Abelardo Mallari and Edgar Aganon — suffered the same fate. The hut of farmer Eddie Castro was razed by security guards of Tadeco. That same morning, the hut of Ricky Flores was also dismantled. His son, Rey, 16, attempted to videotape the destruction of their hut through his cellphone’s camera but the guards pointed their guns at him and turned him over to the police. He was subsequently released upon the intervention of Tarlac City Councilor Emmy Ladera-Facunla and representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. On the same night of the president’s birthday, the hut Eddie de Castro was set on fire. Ambala, a Luisita union group reported that the following day, Feb. 9, the farm huts of Renan de la Peña and Conrado Dacanay were also destroyed. The only hut spared in the 260-hectare agricultural land in Balete village is the one owned by Jesus Flores, which has been been occupied by the Tadeco security guards. The farmers have chosen to remain in the area to look after their remaining crops. They are staying in makeshift tents, according to the fact sheet sent by Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma). Uma reported that Tadeco employee Villamor Lagunero and Mauro Dela Cruz, head of the Great Star Security Agency, threatened the farmers that they would be arrested if they insist on tending to their crops. Tadeco claims ownership over at least 461 hectares of land in the villages of Balete, Cutcut and Central. The corporation started bulldozing farmlands and evicting farmers in Balete village in

November last year. Last month, Tadeco started putting up fences and security outposts in Cutcut village. Uma said the area in Balete village is not the private property of the Cojuangco-Aquinos. “It should have been covered earlier by the 2012 SC decision to distribute Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers. It is now covered by a notice of land reform coverage issued by the DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) Dec.17, 2013,” Uma said. “The Cojuangcos do not respect even the laws made by their own kind. This useless NoC (notice of coverage) issued by the DAR is under the bogus and anti-peasant Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) enacted by the first Cojuangco-Aquino president, Cory,” Florida said in a statement. Uma pointed out that the recent incidents of destruction of huts and crops took place even after the local court dismissed the unlawful detainer and ejectment charge against Sibayan and 20 other farmers in Balete village. In a decision dated Jan. 24, 2014, Municipal Trial Court Judge Eleanor de Jesus dismissed the case filed by Tadeco for lack of jurisdiction. “The tension in Hacienda Luisita is escalating,” Ranmil Echanis, Uma secretary general, said. “If real land distribution is not carried out and if militarization in the area continues, we just might see a situation not unlike the period which led to the tragic Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004.” the report said. The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) yesterday assailed what it described as “excessive greed” by Aquino’s relatives for claiming that they were “underpaid” by the government for the more than 4,500 hectares of Hacienda Luisita lands still controlled by the Cojuangcos. The KMP issued the statement after HLI complained before the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (Darab) saying that it was “underpaid” and that the amount of P471 million was “certainly inadequate.” “President Aquino’s relatives’ claim they were underpaid over Hacienda Luisita smacks of excessive greed. In the first place, the Cojuangcos do not deserve a single cent over Hacienda Luisita,” said KMP chairman, former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, insisting that they still owe the farmworkers P1.3 billion. He said that “it is totally revolting that the Cojuangcos still have the gall to claim that they were underpaid when, in fact, Hacienda Luisita remains undistributed.” “The President and his family have perfected the art of milking cash from the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program,” the peasant leader said. Mariano said “the President’s family continues to bastardize the Supreme Court decision and wrest control over Hacienda Luisita despite the P471 million payment by the government over the lands” noting that “bulldozing of lands, destruction of food crops, and fencing activities by Tadeco are ongoing” in more than 400 hectares of land in Barangay Balete and Cut-cut inside Hacienda Luisita. The KMP leader also assailed as “another shameless maneuver” HLI lawyer Harriet Demetriou that “the underpayment was evident in the fact that the SC recognized the amount of P1.33 billion from the sale of 580.51 hectares of the sugar estate. “The nerve,” Mariano said, “the P1.3 billion debt by the Cojuangcos to the farmworkers is based on the premise that the land is owned by the farmworkers or the 33.3 percent of HLI and was never based on an imagined formula by the President’s relatives and their lawyers.” “Obviously, this latest shameless maneuver is designed to cover up the Cojuangcos’ opposition to land distribution and legitimize the ongoing landgrabbing and outright denial of Hacienda

Luisita farmworkers’ rights to the lands,” Mariano said. “Therefore, the P417 million paid by the people for Hacienda Luisita is the biggest deception, fraud, and plunder by Aquino and his relatives,” Mariano stressed. “It appears that President Aquino gave P417 million of taxpayers’ money to his relatives to be used for the anti-peasant development and land-use conversion of Hacienda Luisita that would lead to the displacement of farmworkers from the lands,” he added. “The widespread deployment and operation of state security forces and existence of military detachments inside Hacienda Luisita also shows the President and his family’s control over the lands,” the peasant leader said. Charlie V. Manalo‐s‐b‐day‐gift‐to‐luisita‐farmers‐holding‐them‐at‐ gunpoint‐razing‐homes                                  

Carlisle cites Noy’s China ‘rhetoric,’ piques Palace Written by  Paul Atienza   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   The Palace was obviously stung by the statement of a United States general criticizing the “rhetoric” that Presi-dent Aquino has been using against China while he at the same time urged leaders of the Philippines and Japan to “deescalate” the ongoing word war with China “as this could lead to tension.” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. described statement of US Pacific Air Command chief Gen. Herbert Carlisle on the South China Sea conflict as “not helpful” for the Philippines and Japan. “President Aquino simply called attention to the need for international solidarity in asserting the primacy of the rule of law to deter expansionism in WPS (West Philippine Sea, the termed used for the government for South China Sea). It’s understandable for a military commander to adopt a viewpoint that’s different from a head of state’s perspective,” Coloma said. Coloma said the words of Carlisle differ from that of the top Washington officials. “He can say what he likes but the President has the national interest in mind. And he needs to say what he has to say at the right time,” Coloma said. Carlisle also referred to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement comparing the confrontation between Germany and Britain in World War despite both having strong economic ties, and cautioned Japan and China to avoid a similar fate. China, meanwhile, continues to push its territorial claims in both the East and South China Seas. Also on July last year, Carlisle said any aggressive move by China to assert territorial claims runs the risk of “miscalculations” but are also helping Washington strengthen ties with other countries in the region. “Being fairly aggressive runs the risk of creating the potential for miscalculation,” Carlisle told defense reporters in Washington. “That’s something we think about every day,” he added. China has been involved in territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam over islands in the South China Sea and with Japan over the uninhabited Senkaku islands. Carlisle said he was concerned that some of China’s actions could trigger a larger response. “It’s a complex, changing environment,” he said. “Every action has unintended consequences and second and third order effects.”

Carlisle said at the same time China’s moves were helping Washington expand its own ties in the region, as seen in a recent announcement that Washington and Manila had expanded talks on military cooperation. “Some of their fairly assertive, aggressive behavior has in fact brought our friends (closer) and they’re relying on us to be there and to be present,” he said. In some cases, those allies could ultimately wind up buying defense equipment from non-US suppliers, but they wanted an increased US presence as a counterweight to China, he said. The Pentagon was working to increase rotations of U.S. troops through Asia, much as it rotated troops through Europe at the time of the Cold War, Carlisle said. He said half of the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jets are now in the Pacific region; the first foreign basing of the new F-35 fighter, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, would also be in Asia; and Global Hawks unmanned spy planes built by Northrop Grumman Corp would also be sent to the area. Washington is also stepping up its support of foreign military sales, which the US weapons industry is counting on to offset weaker demand in the United States and Europe. Carlisle said he was confident the US would continue shifting its focus to Asia despite hefty military spending cuts under a big U.S. government-wide spending reduction process known as “sequestration.” The Philippines and Hong Kong is in a proxy war between the United States and China. This was the view of Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone who, together with Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo and Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop also reiterated that the Philippine government should pursue its case against China’s intrusions before the United Nations Tribunal. “I think China is engaging in a proxy war by using Hong Kong,” Evardone said during the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum. Evardone maintained that the legislature should rally behind President Aquino in his position over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea and in his position not to apologize to Hong kong over the hostage incident at the Rizal Park that killed eight Hong Kongers. Evardone said that the House of Representatives should issue a resolution expressing its support for President Aquino and to urge the United Nations to expedite its resolution of the case filed by the Philippines against China. “That’s the only way we can resolve the issue, there are no other venues,” he said referring to the UN Arbitral Tribunal which China refuses to recognize despite its being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. On the issue of Hong Kong, he said that an apology from President Aquino will not solve the issue. Evardone said that China is of the view that the Philippines is being used by the United States to ensure their increased presence in the Asia-Pacific region. “I think the US and China are engaging in a proxy war.” He said. Gunigundo said that the Philippine government cannot afford to have inconsistent opinions and positions. Acop, for his part, said that the UN should do its part in the conflict. Charlie V. Manalo, Gerry Baldo‐cites‐noy‐s‐china‐rhetoric‐piques‐palace  

PNP spends P5,000 per day for Napoles Written by  Tribune   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   The Philippine National Police (PNP) is spending P5,000 a day for the detention of Janet LimNapoles, tagged as the principal suspect in the alleged P10-billion “pork barrel” scam, at the Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Chief Supt. Reuben Theodor Sindac, chief of the PNP Public Information Office, yesterday said the PNP is spending P150,000 a month for the detention of Napoles, who is held for serious illegal detention charge filed by government witness Benhur Luy. “(The PNP is spending) P150,000 every month in guarding Napoles. (Inclusive of) collateral expenses — utilities, operational expenses,” said Sindac. “We cannot break down to the very details but it covers all. Maintenance and operating expenses, utilities, food of the security and food for Napoles, it’s just an additional to the food for the trainees,” Sindac said. Asked if the amount is a burden on the part of the PNP, Sindac replied “it’s an additional operational expenses for the PNP.” Napoles has been detained at the Fort Sto. Domingo, home of the PNP-Special Action Force Training School, since August last year after she surrendered to authorities. PNA‐spends‐p5‐000‐per‐day‐for‐napoles                       

Abad releases P3.68 billion to DND to fast‐track military modernization program Written by  Paul Atienza   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has released a total of P3.68 billion to the Department of National Defense (DND) to fast-track the military modernization program as part of its 2013 year-end releases. “We remain committed to this pursuit of peace and the rule of law, and one of the ways we’re reinforcing that is by supporting our Armed Forces’ modernization activities. These initiatives are of course necessary in improving our territorial defense capabilities and ensuring better national security,” Abad said. He added in two separate special allotment release orders (Saro) issued last December, a total of 18 priority projects which include the acquisition of much-needed equipment upgrades were given the go-signal and were accordingly charged against the programmed appropriations of the AFP Modernization Program under the 2013 General Appropriations Act. Abad said the P3.68-billion release would benefit, in no particular order, the DND general headquarters, Philippine Army, Philippine Navy and the Government Arsenal. Priority projects and acquisitions include strategic sealift vessels, small amphibian vehicles, multi-purpose assault weapons, sniper rifles, mortars, portable radio receivers, radio test equipment, production capability and facility upgrades and technical forensic upgrades. Abad showed the following breakdown of the military hardware: P2.135 billion for nine projects: P1.670 billion for strategic sealift vessels, P189 million for C41/GIS equipment, P109 million for radio test equipment, P58 million for the production capability and facility upgrade/prime loading and assembly equipment, P52 million for portable radio receivers, P20 million for a master development plan, P19 million for technical forensic upgrades, P10 million for laser packing machines and P6 million for the Camp Bautista Station Hospital. Then on the P1.542 billion for nine projects: P97 million for small amphibian vehicles, P229 million for shoulder-launch multi-purpose assault weapons, P500 million for AV config radios, P364 million for HH radios, P107 million for 60mm mortars, P50 million for 7.62mm sniper rifles, P12 million for audio video equipment, P178 million for AFP JSOG requirements and P6 million for Jacinto Class Patrol Vessel Ph 2. Abad added Notice of Cash Allocations with a total of P6.62 billion was also issued by the budget department in the last month of 2013 that funded the acquisition of strategic sealift vessels, small amphibian vehicles, utility helicopters, communication equipment such as manpack radios and personal role radios and other projects under the AFP Modernization Program. The breakdown is as follows: P96.7 million for small amphibian vehicles project, P1.37 billion for 15 projects (a total of 3

NCAs), P1.26 billion for 21 Utility Helicopters-1, P22.87 million for 20W High-Frequency manpack radios and personal role radios and P3.86 billion for strategic sealift vessels. Abad said the DND gave assurance it would be able to obligate the funding released to them before the year-end.‐section/abad‐releases‐p3‐68‐billion‐to‐dnd‐to‐fast‐track‐ military‐modernization‐program                                        

Solon for restoration of death penalty but only for drug traffickers Written by  Tribune   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   Another solon is seeking the restoration of death penalty, this time for drug traffickers only. Another lawmaker at the House of Representatives has filed a bill seeking to restore the death penalty, but this time, limiting the scope to large-scale drug trafficking only. Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo yesterday said he is pushing the imposition of the death penalty specifically for drug trafficking cases involving large amounts of “shabu” to stem the rising number of drug traffickers operating in the country that now include members of international drug cartels. In his proposal, the lawmaker said anyone caught with a kilogram or more of the illegal substance should be meted the death penalty. “It is my firm belief that anyone who decides to manufacture and traffic such large volumes of shabu had already decided to ruin Philippine society in exchange for huge profits,” he said. “The death penalty should be restored for such cases in order to stop drug traffickers from operating in the country,” Gunigundo stressed, noting the growing number of foreigners operating in the country. The death penalty was suspended during the administration of then President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada and was repealed in the 13th Congress during the term of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Gunigundo’s proposal came on the heels of a similar proposed measure in the Senate. Sen. Tito Sotto had likewise proposed the restoration of the death penalty, but cited two cases: high-scale drug trafficking and rape with murder. Another bill of similar nature has also been filed in the House by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao Partylist Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. In their proposed measure, the Mindanao lawmakers called for the imposition of the death penalty on foreign drug traffickers caught in the Philippines if their country of origin imposes the same on the said offense. For his part, Gunigundo said he is amenable to any amendments that would add other heinous crimes to the death penalty but insisted that he would be sticking to drug trafficking. “Congress is a deliberative body and I would respect whatever comes out from the committee hearings. My proposal (for the death penalty) is only for large-scale drug trafficking; let the others defend their own proposals,” he said. PNA‐section/solon‐for‐restoration‐of‐death‐penalty‐but‐only‐ for‐drug‐traffickers   

RP exports grew 15.8% last year Written by  Tribune   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   The country’s merchandise exports grew by 15.8 percent, indicating a continued upward trend for the seventh consecutive month in December 2013 and making it the top export performer in selected economies in East and Southeast Asia, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda). The Philippines outshone Vietnam (12.6 percent), Indonesia (8.5 percent), Malaysia (7.6 percent), Korea (seven percent), Singapore (5.6 percent), China (4.3 percent) and Thailand (1.9 percent). It also outperformed other economies in the region which posted negative exports growth such as Taiwan (-1.9 percent), Hong Kong (-3.0 percent) and Japan (-6.2 percent). “The positive exports performance of the Philippines – and even those of the majority of tradeoriented economies in the East and Southeast Asia – was reflective of the recovery of major economies such as the United States of America (USA), European Union and Japan,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. Balisacan said exports continued their upward trend for the seventh consecutive month in December 2013. He attributed this to the robust outward sales of manufactured goods, most notably, electronics. Manufactured goods expanded by 20.8 percent year-on-year. Exports of electronic products significantly grew by 26.1 percent in December 2013 after contracting by 5.1 percent in the same period last year. The Neda director-general said, however, lower export receipts from agro-based, petroleum, mineral, and forest products slowed down export performance in December 2013. For this period, total export receipts from agro-based products contracted by 27.8 percent to $274.4 million from 19.1 percent to $379.8 million in the same period last year. The contraction was largely due to the decrease in export of coconut products. “The lower outward shipments of coconut products in December 2013, which account for about 40 percent of the total agro-based exports, was mainly due to the adverse effects of super typhoon “Yolanda” as 73 percent of total crop area in major coconut producing regions was damaged,” Balisacan explained. “The combined destructions in plantations and milling facilities tightened the coconut supply and this resulted in large declines in the volume shipments of coconut products such as desiccated coconut, copra meal/cake and coconut oil,” he added. Despite the setbacks in some commodity groups and other sectors, the country registered a positive growth of 3.6 percent in merchandise exports. Japan remains as the top destination of Philippine exports in December 2013, accounting for 23.0 percent of the country’s total overseas merchandise sales receipts, with a total value of $1.06 billion. This was higher by 48.1 percent relative to the $715.3 million worth of Philippine exports to the said country in December 2012. China was the second largest export market with a 16.2-percent share, majority of which are for

EDP, semiconductors, and other manufactures. USA was the third top destination with 12.4-percent share in total exports, posting a year-on-year growth of 13.5 percent — the fifth consecutive double-digit growth since August 2013. Other major markets for Philippine exports during the period were Hong Kong (8.8 percent) and Singapore (7.7 percent).‐exports‐grew‐15‐8‐last‐year                                        

ATM users warned against phishers Written by  Ed Velasco   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   The Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP) has advised the public to be cautious on places where automated teller machines (ATMs) are located as there are areas where phishers roam and victimize depositors via deciphering their cards using high tech equipment. Lorenzo Tan, president of BAP, has compared phishing to plain robbery except that the perpetrators are hiding and use non-conventional gadgets imputed on ATMs’ keypads and inhibitors. Phishing is the act of attempting to acquire information such as usernames, passwords, personal identification number (Pin) and details of credit and ATM cards by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. “That’s why there is a need to increase the charges for ATM transaction. It’s not easy and cheap to install anti-phishing equipment and protections,” Tan told The Daily Tribune in an interview. From what used to be free, account balance inquiry is no longer free today as Bancnet and Megalink-powered ATMs now charge P2 for every account balance inquiry. There are 59 Bancnet member-banks and 4,000-plus ATMs. Megalink has 19 member-banks and 2,000-plus ATMs. Tan said it is a misconception that phishing is present only in the Philippines. As a matter of fact, the BAP president said, phishers operate more aggressively in first world territories such as Singapore, Canada, United States and Europe. “There is a need for high tech firewalls because phishers also become high tech. The more we develop anti-phishing technique, the more they produce their wares,” Tan, president of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., added. Even the number of attempts to withdraw using any ATM or credit card has been reduced so that the possibility of falling into phishers’ hand will be minimized, according to some sources in the banking industry. Phishers usually chose a victim in a particular ATM. Once they get the information they need (usually Pin and type of account), they will immediately fabricate a fake version of the ATM card. The syndicate then chooses an ATM where there are few clients because most of the time, phishing takes time to succeed.‐users‐warned‐against‐phishers       

17 local firms to join Singapore expo in April Written by  Tribune   Wednesday, 12 February 2014 00:00   Filipino food, beverage, fast food, hotel, cruise, airline, resort and other allied businesses will gain a chance to be noticed and draw more clients during the Food and Hotel Asia and Wines and Spirits Asia at the Singapore Expo on Apr. 8 to 11, 2014. Stephen Tan, the event’s chief executive and lead organizer of Singapore Exhibition Services, said there are already 17 Filipino-owned firms that confirmed their participation in the event. Past Filipino firms that participated in past FHA-WSA expos were San Miguel Corp., Philippine Airlines, Dusit Thani, Mang Inasal and Jollibee. “It will be a big, wide array and diverse exhibition. The Hong Kong edition of this expo is only 68 percent of the size of this event,” Tan told various business reporters at yesterday’s announcement at Fairmont Hotel in Makati City. The official said Filipino firms that will take part in the expo will have great chance of getting their products and services known to the Asian market. “It’s Asian not Asean; the first is bigger,” the official emphasized. The entire Asia has 49 countries while Asean has 10 members. Tan said the Singapore government is promoting the event because it needs more attention to give emphasis to its size (both in floor area and number of exhibitors and guests) and importance when it comes to promoting various businesses. “When you walk from end-to-end of the venue hall, it will be about one kilometer. This event is not small whatever aspect you look at it,” the official said. More than 2,800 exhibitors-companies from 70 countries confirmed their participation in the event, according to the official. On visitors, 779 from China, 3,009 from Indonesia and 659 from South Korea confirmed their attendance. The Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (Hrap) welcomed the staging of the expo. “The various specialty events within the show offer an edge not only to Filipino hospitality stakeholders but also to players from other related sectors to source for the latest products and services offered by leading exhibitors from all over the world,” Eugene Yap, HRAP president and chairman, said. Ed Velasco‐local‐firms‐to‐join‐singapore‐expo‐in‐april     

Posted on February 11, 2014 11:34:52 PM

Exports target missed EXPORTS grew for the seventh consecutive month in December on strong demand for  electronic products but this was not enough to meet the  government’s full‐year target.     Preliminary data released by the National Statistics Office (NSO)  yesterday showed outbound shipments totaling $4.599 billion  in the final month of 2013, up 15.8% from a year earlier.     This brought full‐year exports to $53.978 billion, a 3.6% increase from 2012 but short of the  government’s 10% target.    Shipments of electronics, the country’s top export, were 26% higher year on year in December.  For 2013, however, these fell by around 4% with semiconductors ‐‐ the bulk of electronics  exports ‐‐ slumping by 8.5%.    "The positive performance... was reflective of the recovery of major economies such as the US,  European Union and Japan," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said in a  statement.    Victor A. Abola, economist at the University of Asia and Pacific, was of the same opinion. "The  better‐than‐expected recovery of the US economy in the second half translated into stronger  electronic products demand from China, Japan and Hong Kong. Our electronics exports are  mostly components that go to these countries," he said.    Mr. Abola noted that exports to China surged by 79% while those to Japan also grew by 48%.  The weakening of the peso in the latter part of last year also boosted export earnings, he  added.    "We are definitely more optimistic in 2014 compared to 2013. However, we remain cautious  because of headwinds in East Asia. And so we expect growth of 8‐10%," Mr. Abola said.    The government is targeting 6% growth for both exports and imports this year. Dan C. Lachica,  president of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc., said the  industry has projected 5% growth.   

Other top performers in December were electronic equipment and parts, "other"  manufactures, ignition wiring sets, "other" mineral products, and woodcraft and furniture.    Export earnings from agro‐based and petroleum products, on the other hand, sagged by 27.8%  and 44.2% respectively.    "The lower outward shipments of coconut products in December 2013, which accounted for  about 40% of the total agro‐based exports, were mainly due to the adverse effects of super‐ typhoon Yolanda...," Mr. Balisacan said.    Parts of the Eastern Visayas region, the country’s top producer of coconuts, were devastated by  typhoon Yolanda in November.    Japan was the country’s top export destination in December, taking in shipments valued at  $1.059 billion, 23% of the total. China came in second, with $746.82 million or a 16.2% share,  while the US was third with $570.37 million or a 12.4% share. ‐‐ Kia B. Obang‐target‐ missed&id=83319                         

Posted on February 11, 2014 11:33:03 PM

Power rate hearings conclude ORAL ARGUMENTS on Manila Electric Co’s (Meralco) hefty power rate hike ended yesterday  with the industry regulator defending approval of the adjustment and justices chiding officials  for failing to do their job, prompting the Energy chief himself to admit that market rules were  broken.  Appearing before the high court, Francis Saturnino C. Juan,     executive director of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC),  said the regulator has the mandate to regulate electricity rates  of distribution utilities (DUs) under Republic Act No. 9136, or the Electric Power Industry  Reform Act. "Section 25 declares that DUs’ retail rates, which include the generation  component, shall be subject to ERC regulations. The prescribed principle to follow is full  recovery of prudent and reasonable economic cost," Mr. Juan told justices yesterday.    Mr. Juan added that automatic generation rate adjustment ‐‐ which party‐list legislators and  consumer groups are questioning ‐‐ was "purely for recovery of costs that are based on  generation prices set or determined following a rate application process", adding the scheme  "is fully compliant with the due process requirement."    Justices, however, took ERC and the Department of Energy (DoE) to task for failing to check  Meralco’s P4.15 per kilowatt‐hour (/kWh) rate hike.    Associate Justice Mario Victor F. Leonen, during interpellations, asked Mr. Juan why the latter  failed to act immediately the utility announced the P4.15/kWh rate hike for Meralco’s  December billing period despite stable electricity supply.    "Cannot the high price already give you prima facie suspicion that there was something wrong  with the system?" Mr. Leonen asked Mr. Juan, who replied: "At that time, there was no  indication yet."    Mr. Juan added that ERC has begun probing the rate increase and that results will be released  this quarter.    Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla, meanwhile, admitted that the Power Sector Assets  and Liabilities Management Corp. violated rules governing the country's electricity grid when it  decided not to operate the 650‐megawatt Malaya thermal plant in Rizal despite being told to 

do so "as needed."    Mr. Leonen noted the Philippine Grid Code, as amended, states, among others, that anti‐ competitive behavior exists when a power generator withholds, refuses to offer, sell or  schedule the maximum available output.    "So wouldn’t you consider it clearly per se anti‐competitive behavior and thus illegal?" Mr.  Leonen asked.    Mr. Petilla replied: "Under the rules, it is."    PSALM’s lawyer, Raoul C. Creencia, maintained that Malaya was not run due to "technical  limitations" and high cost of operation.    When asked by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno whether PSALM had the authority to defy  the Energy chief’s instruction to run the Malaya plant, Mr. Petilla replied: "Your Honor, our  instruction is to run as needed."    Ms. Sereno, at the end of the session, directed all parties to "submit their memoranda within a  15‐day non‐extendible deadline." The Chief Justice instructed all parties to cover in their  memoranda all issues discussed in the oral arguments as well as questions asked by justices  during interpellations.    The 60‐day stay order on the rate hike will lapse on Feb. 21 and there was no indication  yesterday that it would be extended.    Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by  Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT). Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial  Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld. ‐‐ MFEF‐rate‐hearings‐ conclude&id=83318         

Posted on February 11, 2014 11:31:19 PM By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Reporter

Tax bureau defers other income rule for a third time THE BUREAU of Internal Revenue (BIR) has again deferred the mandatory disclosure of other  income in tax returns, giving taxpayers more time to comply.  Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) 9‐2014 dated Feb. 11     states that the inclusion of supplemental information in income  tax returns (ITRs) is optional for the 2013 taxable year and will  instead become mandatory for the following year.    "Thus, taxpayers are advised to demand from their payors and properly document their BIR  Form No. 2307 and other pieces of evidence for final taxes withheld. Likewise, said taxpayers  should properly receipt and book their tax exempt income," the issuance states.    This is the third time that the BIR has deferred the mandatory inclusion of supplemental income  information in ITRs.    The bureau in Sept. 5, 2011 issued RMC 40‐2011, which prescribed the use of revised forms for  individuals and corporations beginning the taxable year of 2011, for filing on or before April 15,  2012.    The new forms required the disclosure of additional information, such as income subjected to  final tax such as interest, royalties, prizes and other winnings; cash and property dividends;  capital gains from the sale of stocks not traded on the stock exchange; and capital gains from  the sale of real property, among others, as well as income exempt from tax and exclusions from  gross income.    Pure compensation income earners and taxpayers with sole income subject to final withholding  tax were likewise required to use the new forms.    On Nov. 25, 2011, the bureau followed the order up with RMC 57‐2011, which made the  disclosure of the supplemental information optional. The inclusions were instead made  mandatory for returns filed for the 2012 taxable year, due for filing on or before April 15, 2013. 

This was again postponed to the 2013 tax year via RMC 21‐2013 dated Feb. 28, 2013.    The latest order likewise amends RMC 57‐2011 to reflect the new versions of the BIR’s ITR  forms, which were released through Revenue Regulations (RR) 2‐2014 dated Jan. 24.    The RR prescribed the use of a redesigned Form 1700, or the annual ITR for individuals earning  purely compensation income, and Form 1701, or the ITR for self‐employed individuals, estates,  and trusts.    It likewise mandated the use of three separate ITRs by corporations, partnerships, and other  non‐individual taxpayers, depending on their income sources and exemptions. Previously, these  kinds of entities were required to file Form 1702.    Under the new rules, corporations, partnerships and other non‐individual taxpayers subject  only to the regular income tax rate will need to use Form 1702‐RT in filing their returns.    Meanwhile, entities exempt from income taxes under the Tax Code and other special laws, or  those with no taxable income, must file their returns using Form 1702‐EX.    Lastly, firms with mixed income subject to multiple income tax rates or with income subject to  special or preferential rates must use Form 1702‐MX when filing their ITRs.‐bureau‐defers‐ other‐income‐rule‐for‐a‐third‐time&id=83317                   

Posted on February 11, 2014 09:14:19 PM By Mikhail Franz E. Flores, Reporter

Lawmaker to face raps over SARO forgery A FACT‐FINDING team recommended the filing of charges against a congressman and four  others over allegations of forgeries in special allotment release orders (SARO) in the Budget  Department.  The National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) Anti‐Graft Division     accused Aklan Rep. Teodorico T. Haresco Jr. of allegedly  falsifying public documents for the release of public funds to  finance bogus projects. Also recommended to be charged are Emmanuel T. Raza, congressional  staff of Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Macrohon‐Nuño (2nd district); Elvie Rafael, a driver of Budget  Undersecretary Mario L. Relampagos; Bhernie C. Beltran, purportedly an employee at the  Department of Budget and Management (DBM); and Mary Ann V. Castillo, consultant of Mr.  Haresco.     Messrs. Raza, Rafael and Beltran were accused of falsifying public documents and violations of  the law on anti‐graft and corrupt practices. Messrs. Raza and Rafael were also recommended to  be charged with violations of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards  for Public Officials and Employees.     The NBI recommended obstruction of justice charges against Ms. Castillo.     The investigation covered SAROs intended for farm‐to‐market road (FMR) projects in Cagayan  Valley and Eastern Visayas amounting to P879.86 million.     The NBI probed the so‐called Xerox Gang within the DBM, which allegedly photocopied SAROs  and passed them off as genuine release orders.    The NBI said Budget Undersecretary Luz M. Cantor maintained no public funds were released  since she, as signatory, has yet to sign the SAROs in question.     Based on the NBI’s report, the circulation of the fake SARO was a result of "gross negligence  and apparent lack of internal control system" in the DBM.  

Also, Mr. Haresco was included in the recommendation since he wrote to Agriculture Secretary  Proceso J. Alcala last October where the questionable SAROs were also attached.     "The requirement of gain or benefit is satisfied because [Mr.] Haresco would surely take the  credit if the project mentioned in the SARO would be implemented considering that his district  was its beneficiary," the NBI said.     "In fact, that credit was the reason why he took the initiative of writing to the [Department of  Agriculture] Secretary informing the latter of the release of the questioned SARO with request  for the bidding of the project covered by the SARO," the NBI further said.    The NBI started investigating the alleged scam following a request from Budget Secretary  Florencio B. Abad to Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima to probe the irregularities.     Mr. Relampagos, who Ms. De Lima earlier tagged to be a subject of the investigation, was not  included among those recommended to be charged due to lack of evidence.     "No evidence or sufficient evidence yet. That’s why the team also recommends further  investigation with the end in view of identifying others who may be part of a well‐entrenched  syndicate engaged in SARO peddling and similar insidious schemes," Ms. De Lima said in a text  message.‐to‐face‐raps‐ over‐SARO‐forgery&id=83300                 

Posted on February 11, 2014 09:11:34 PM

Bill on mandatory free text alerts approved THE HOUSE of Representatives on Monday approved on third and final reading the proposed  measure mandating telecommunications companies to send free text alerts to their  subscribers in times of natural and man‐made disasters and  calamities.     House Bill(HB) 353 or the proposed Free Mobile Disasters Alerts  Act was filed on July 1, 2013 by Bayan Muna Party‐list Reps.  Neri J. Colmenares and Carlos Isagani T. Zarate. It was referred to the House Committee on  Information and Communications Technology on July 23, 2013, and was approved on second  reading on Tuesday last week.    Under the bill, mobile phone service providers are mandated to send out alerts at regular  intervals as required by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council  (NDRRMC), Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration  (PAGASA), Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and other relevant  agencies in the event of an impending tropical storm, typhoon, tsunami, or other calamities.    "The alerts shall consist of up‐to‐date information from the relevant agencies, and shall be sent  directly to the mobile phone subscribers located near and within the affected areas," the bill  said.    HB 353 said the alerts shall include contact information of local government units, and other  agencies required to respond to the situation.     "The alerts may contain other relevant information including, but not limited to, evacuation  areas, relief sites, and pick‐up points." "The alerts shall be at no cost ‐‐ whether direct or  indirect to the consumers ‐‐ this shall be included as part of the service providers auxiliary  service," the bill said adding that "the alerts may be in the form of text messages ‐‐ SMS or  MMS ‐‐ or e‐mail, as needed and appropriate."    Individual violators ‐‐ any person who gives false or misleading information ‐‐ shall be penalized  with imprisonment of not less than two but more than six months, and with a fine of not less  than P1,000, but not more than P10,000. 

If the offender is a corporation, the penalties may range from the imposition of a fine not less  than P1 million, but not more than P10 million and/or suspension or revocation of its legislative  franchise and other permits and licenses by the National Telecommunications Commission  (NTC), the bill said.    In filing the bill, Messrs. Colmenares and Zarate said the state shall at all times, protect its  citizenry in the events of natural or man‐made disasters and calamities. "It shall likewise  exhaust all possible means to notify and inform its constituents of the impending disasters to  prevent injuries, destruction and loss of lives and properties."    Following the approval on third and final reading on Monday, the bill was transmitted to the  Senate on Tuesday morning for deliberation.    Smart Communications, Inc., Public Affairs Head Ramon R. Isberto, in a text message to  BusinessWorld yesterday said they are already providing such services. "Hard to comment  because I have not seen text of the bill. But we are already providing free alerts with the  NDRRMC," he said.    For its part, Globe Telecom’s Corporate Communications Head Ma. Yolanda C. Crisanto, in a  separate text message to BusinessWorld said they are also already providing the service. "We  are doing this already as part of our public service. Also, we have an existing partnership with  NDRRMC for the emergency text 1456 to help prevent casualties during times of disasters," she  said. ‐‐ ICCD‐on‐mandatory‐free‐ text‐alerts‐approved&id=83299               

Posted on February 11, 2014 09:06:43 PM By Imee Charlee C. Delavin

Solons urge UN to expedite territory ruling FOLLOWING THE escalating tensions against China, four lawmakers yesterday filed a resolution at the  House of Representatives asking the United Nations arbitration tribunal to expedite the resolution of  the government’s petition over the territorial dispute in the West  Philippine Sea.      House Resolution (HR) 796 filed by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben P.  Evardone, Catanduanes Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento, Quirino Rep. Dakila  Carlo E. Cua and Bohol Rep. Rene L. Relampagos (1st district) urged the arbitration tribunal to  immediately act on the Philippine case involving the disputed territorial claims.    The solons called on other countries allied to the Philippines to support the rules‐based approach in the  resolution of such territorial maritime disputes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the  Sea (UNCLOS).    "The early resolution of the arbitration case filed with the UN arbitration tribunal of judges could  permanently settle the conflicting claims [therein] and ensure the peace and stability in the region," the  resolution said.    ‘EXPANSIVE AND FORCEFUL’  On January 21, 2013, the Philippines initiated an arbitration process seeking to declare as "illegal  Beijing’s expansive and forceful nine‐dash line claim, which harbors on the maritime economic zone of  the Philippines and other neighboring countries in the area ‐‐ Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Taiwan."    "China’s unilateral actions in the West Philippine Sea persist despite the ongoing arbitration," the  lawmakers said, adding "after more than a year, Beijing has yet to join in the process."    Messrs. Evardone, Cua, Sarmiento and Relampagos said in the resolution that the most recent "bullying"  act of China pertains to its fisheries regulation requiring all foreign vessels to obtain approval from  Chinese authorities before transiting into Hainan Province’s so‐called Administrative Zone in the South  China Sea for fishing or surveying activities.    The lawmakers also condemned China’s fisheries regulation ‐‐ implemented last January ‐‐ as it violates  the UNCLOS, and the 2002 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Declaration on the Code of  Conduct, as the act heightens the maritime tension in the West Philippine Sea. 

In 2002, the Philippines and China, among others, have signed a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in  the South China Sea, which would serve as the foundation for future negotiations in order to ease the  tension in the region.    Earlier, the United States rejected for the first time China’s U‐shaped, nine‐dash line used to claim  sovereignty over areas covering roughly 80% of the South China Sea, Mr. Evardone said in a statement  released yesterday.    Meanwhile, in a separate press conference Tuesday, Mr. Evardone expressed strong belief that China is  playing a "proxy war" against the Philippines through Hong Kong, which recently denied visa‐free entry  for officials to the Chinese state.    "I think China is engaging in a proxy war by using Hong Kong to send a signal and a strong statement that  they mean business," he said.    "That is why my colleagues and I decided to create a resolution that maybe, Congress can express its  sense of opinion asking the [UN] tribunal to expedite the resolution because that’s the only way that we  can resolve the issue."    For his part, Deputy Majority Leader and Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol T. Gunigundo I (2nd district)  said Congress should come up first with a unified stance consistent with the position of President  Benigno S.C. Aquino III before adapting any resolution, saying the issue on the territorial dispute with  China over the West Philippine Sea is a "very serious matter."    "We cannot afford to have different opinions and positions that are inconsistent with one another. The  Philippine government must speak with one voice, and that voice must come [consistent] with that of  the [President]," he said.     "Congress must be consistent... Otherwise we will be the laughingstock of China," Mr. Gunigundo  added.‐urge‐UN‐to‐ expedite‐territory‐ruling&id=83297        

Posted on February 11, 2014 08:55:07 PM

2016 elections to cost P24B: Comelec THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said the 2016 elections would cost the  government as much as P24 billion depending on the technology that will be used for the  synchronized national polls.  At the sidelines of the hearing of the Joint Congressional     Oversight Committee on the Automated Election System,  Comelec Commissioner Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. said one of the  options is to use the old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in 2016.    The two other options are: to discard all the old machines and buy new ones but using the  same PCOS technology; or to use a new technology and buy direct‐recording electronic (DRE)  voting machines.    The poll body said it would also need between P6.91 billion to P10.3 billion for the PCOS  warehouse, voters’ education, and other logistical needs depending on how many voters would  be assigned per precinct "if both old and new machines are used."    Comelec expects the total number of registered voters to increase to 56 million in 2016. ‐‐ ICCD‐elections‐to‐cost‐ P24B:‐Comelec&id=83292                   

Posted on February 11, 2014 10:29:01 PM

Strong sales fuel RFM profit growth PROFIT of RFM Corp. grew by almost a fifth last year from 2012 driven by strong sales, the listed food and beverage firm said in a statement through the bourse yesterday.  The firm said it booked a net income of P805 million for full‐year 2013, 18% more than the  P682 million in 2012 “on back of P10.3‐billion sales revenues in 2013.”    Further information on the company’s financial performance last year was not immediately  available.    Jose A. Concepcion III, RFM president and chief executive officer, said in the same statement  that growth in income can be attributed to better margins of RFM’s core businesses, higher  sales of higher‐margin products, and reduced overhead expenses.    “Lower commodity input costs in the early part of the year and managed operating expenses  helped in bringing our cost levels down,” the statement quoted Mr. Concepcion as saying.    RFM is the company behind White King flour‐based products, Fiesta pasta noodles, Selecta milk  and ice cream and Sunkist juices.    “Stronger consumer spending was also felt in some categories, especially in our Sunkist  beverage and Selecta milk,” the official said.    He noted that Fiesta pasta increased its market share to 35% share in the third quarter of last  year compared to 29% “just a few months back.”    “Fiesta pasta sustained its growth trend during the fourth‐quarter peak season, while core  brand Selecta ice cream also registered growth in more product categories towards the last few  months of the year,” Mr. Concepcion further said.    RFM, last month, acquired the Royal pasta brand from the Unilever Group in a deal worth $47.8  million in a bid to cement its leadership in the domestic pasta business. The acquisition of the  second largest pasta brand in the country is expected to complement its existing brand and  bring its market share to nearly 50%.   

“We remain confident in the market leadership and strength of our power brands Selecta and  Fiesta, and now with Royal, we expect a stronger top‐line growth of over 20%…” Mr.  Concepcion said.    Formed in 1958 as a pioneer in Asia’s flour‐milling industry, RFM has evolved from a single  company producing bags of flour to a multi‐company enterprise managing a chain of branded  products.    RFM shares ended yesterday unchanged at P5.24 each. ‐‐ Claire‐Ann Marie C. Feliciano‐sales‐fuel‐ RFM‐profit‐growth&id=83312                                 

TUASON BUBUGA NANG TODO BUKAS (Dindo Matining/Marlo Dalisay) Hindi umano magkakaroon ng restriksyon sa pagpapatuloy ng pagdinig ng Senate Blue Ribbon committee sa P10 bilyon pork barrel scam bukas (Huwebes) kung saan isasalang si Ruby Tuason.Ayon kay Sen. Teofisto ‘TG’ Guingona III, chairman ng komite, hindi umano nila pipigilan si Tuason na pangalanan ang mga pulitiko at iba pang indibidwal na sangkot sa nasabing anomalya. “This is a no holds barred in the spirit of transparency, openness. It will be like other hearings. It will be no holds barred,” pahayag ni Guingona sa panayam kahapon. Bukod kay Tuason, inimbitahan din sa pagdinig si Benhur Luy at dalawa pang mga whistblowers na sina Merlina Sunas at Marina Sula.Sabi ni Guingona, inimbitahan nila ang tatlong ‘pork’ scam whistblowers para maikumpara ang mga testimonya ng mga ito kay Tuason. “We decided to invite Benhur also and the two ladies Sula and Sunas para ma-compare natin ‘yung testimonies,” sabi ni Guingona. “Para at least magkaroon ng malinaw na corroboration o pagkakatugma ng mga testimonies,” dagdag pa ng senador. Matatandaan na inakusahan ni Sula si Tuason na siyang nag-facilitate sa pag-divert ng pork barrel fund nina Sens. Jinggoy Estrada at Juan Ponce Enrile sa mga pekeng non-governmental organizations na konektado kay Janet Lim-Napoles.Kaugnay nito, dahil sa mariing pagtanggi ni Estrada sa mga nilalaman ng testimonya ni Tuason, sinabi ni Senate majority leader Alan Peter Cayetano na hindi malayong mayroong humiling na magsagawa ng re-enactment sa sinasabi ni Tuason na “abutan” ng bag sa basement ng gusali ng Senado. “Anything is possible, may it be re-enactment may it be getting the tapes, additional testimonies even ‘yung mga logbooks as long as it needs us to do,” pagsisiwalat ni Cayetano sa panayam sa kanya bago mag-umpisa ang sesyon. “Halimbawa nakita mo bag, dala-dala ni Ruby Tuason tapos sasabihin ni Senator Jinggoy pagkain ‘yun, empanada at sasabihin naman ni Ruby na pagkain ‘yun, so maaaring bumaba ang mga senador, tingnan ‘yung lugar,” paliwanag ni Cayetano.Kung saka-sakali ay hindi ito ang unang pagkakataon na magkakaroon ng re-enactment ang Senado sa mga eksena sa isang iniimbestigahang anomalya dahil may mga una na umanong pangyayaring nagkaroon na rin ng ganitong uri ng aktibidad.

Gov’t hospitals na naniningil sa mga pobre, pagmumultahin (DM) Nagbabala ang Philippine Health Insurance Corp. o PhilHealth na kanilang pagmumultahin ang mga pampublikong ospital na maniningil ng professional fee at bayad sa gamot sa indigent patients o mahihirap na pasyente. Ayon kay Atty. Alex Padilla, president and executive chief officer ng PhilHealth, paglabag umano sa tinatawag na “no billing system” ang paniningil ng mga public hospitals sa mga indigent patients. Paliwanag ni Padilla, sa ilalim ng “no balance billing system”, ang mga indigent patients ay hindi dapat magbayad ng kahit isang sentimo kapag sila’y nagtungo sa ospital. “Ang ibig sabihin ng no balance billing ay wala ho siya (pasyente) dapat binabayaran ni singko for medicines, professional fees or kaya diagnostic. Wala ho siyang dapat gastos,” pahayag ni Padilla sa pagdinig ng Senate committee on health kahapon. Kung hindi umano “available” ang gamot sa ospital, ang ospital mismo ang dapat bumili ng kanilang gamot o bigyan ang mga pasyente ng pera na ipambibili nito. “Ang patakaran ho ang hospital ang bibili ng gamot or magbigay ng pera sa pasyente para magbigay ng gamot. Pero hindi po dapat gumagastos ng sarili ang pasyente,” dagdag pa nito. Sabi pa ni Padilla, ang enrollment ng ‘point of care system’ ay dapat magsimula sa pagtanggap ng mga pasyente sa ospital. “On the very day of admission. So dapat walang binabayarang mga gastos,” paliwanag pa ni Padilla.        

UST BUMUNTOT NA SA UP, ATENEO SA LIPAT-KLASE Nina Boyet Jadulco, Eralyn Prado at Aries Cano bakasyon ng mga estudyante ng University ang Mapapahaba of Sto. Tomas (UST) matapos nilang iurong sa Hulyo 2014 ang pagbubukas ng kanilang klase. kahapon ni Reverend Father Winston Cabading,  Inanunsyo O.P., secretary-general ng UST, na ang kanilang school calendar ay magbubukas sa Hulyo 7 kung saan isang tradisyunal na misa ang kanilang gagawin. Ang Thomasian Freshmen Walk, isang seremonya para sa incoming students ng UST, ay gagawin naman sa Hulyo 11 habang ang opisyal na pag-uumpisa ng regular na klase ay gagawin sa Hulyo 14.Ipinaliwanag ni Cabading na inurong nila sa Hulyo hanggang Abril ang academic calendar ng UST bilang preparasyon sa Integration of Southeast Asian Nations sa taong 2015. Nauna rito, inilipat din ng mga eskwelahan ng University of the Philippines (UP), maliban sa Diliman campus, sa Agosto ang pagbubukas ng kanilang klase habang ang Ateneo de Manila University naman ay sa Agosto 2015 pa mag-uumpisa ang pagbabago ng kanilang academic calendar. MMDA may counter proposal Bilang reaksyon, may inihahandang counter proposal ang Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) kaugnay sa ipapatupad na bagong academic calendar ng UP at Ateneo de Manila University.MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, sang-ayon siya  kay  Ayon sa ginawa ng mga nabanggit na unibersidad ngunit mayroon umano siyang ilalabas na counter proposal na mas higit na epektibo.Ngunit hindi muna dinetalye ng opisyal ang panukalang hakbang na kanyang ilalatag sa gaganaping dalawang araw na traffic management summit simula bukas (Pebrero 1314). Dapat may basbas ng CHED binuweltahan ni Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry  Samantala, Ridon ang pamunuan ng UP at Ateneo sa ginawang palit-klase nang walang basbas ng Commission on Higher Education (CHED).“Hindi puwedeng singular university lang...hindi puwedeng kung gusto nilang  magpapasya  UP lang, hindi puwedeng Ateneo lang ang magpalit ng kalendaryo. It subjects it to some legal question. Republic Act (RA) 7797 it’s the law pertaining to the school calendar,” giit nito.

CHED kinastigo ng mga estudyante (Aries Cano/Dindo Matining) Binakbakan ng mga estudyante ang Commission on Higher Education (CHED) dahil sa kahinaan umano ng ahensya na protektahan ang interes ng mga ito sa isyu ng pagtataas ng matrikula. Ang pagbatikos sa mga opisyal ng CHED ay ginawa ng iba’t ibang organisasyon ng mga estudyante sa paghaharap sa forum na ipinatawag ng House committee on higher and technical education na pinamumunuan ni Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo at dinaluhan din ng ilang opisyal ng CHED. Ayon sa grupo ng mga estudyante, kulang sa hakbang ang CHED sa pagkontrol sa tuition fee hike o tiyaking makatwiran ito. dako, bibigyan ng prayoridad ng Kongreso ang kabilang  Sa mga panukalang batas na tutugon sa daing ng mga mahihirap na mag-aaral sa bansa partikular ang pagsasabatas ng open high school para sa mga out-of-school youth at ang pagpaparami ng mga distance at open learning high school at kolehiyo upang mabawasan ang dropout rate sa bansa.                  

SOLON JOINS FIGHT VS FOREIGN CABLE FIRMS Published : Wednesday, February 12, 2014 00:00   Written by : Paul Gutierrez  

A militant partylist lawmaker has taken the cudgels up for local cable television (CATV) providers by filing separate petitions before the Supreme Court questioning the alleged “encroachment” of foreign cable giants Fox and AXN on the industry for several years now. Under G.R. 210885 and G.R. 210886 that he filed before the SC last February 5, Kabataan partylist Rep. Terry Ridon noted that the 1987 Philippine Constitution “strictly prohibits” the ownership of mass media entities by foreigners. “The (1987) Constitution limits the ownership and management of mass media to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations, cooperatives, or associations, wholly owned and managed by such citizens,” Ridon noted. Ridon’s action follows his privilege speech in Congress last January 27 on the “state of Philippine cable television (CATV)” and the “probable encroachment of foreign-owned companies” in the industry. In his speech, the lawmaker explained that he was acting on information that foreign-owned corporations such as AXN and Fox have been illegally engaging in mass media and advertising through the CATV system in the Philippines. Only last month, local CATV members under the Philippine Cable Television Association, Inc.

(PCTA), appealed for “government intervention” in what the group claimed was Fox and AXN’s “wholesale violation of the Constitution, statutes and rules and regulations governing both mass media and advertising industries.” “One only needs to turn on his/her cable television to see that both Fox and AXN – foreign companies by any definition – have somehow been able to provide programming content locally while engaging in advertising activities – both expressly prohibited by Philippine laws,” said PCTA President Leo Wong. “The direct but unwarranted competition with legally existing domestic corporations engaged in similar activities pose threats to the continuing viability of constitutionally protected domestic industries and employment of thousands of its workers,” Ridon added further. He added that the latest available documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reveal that foreign shares constitute 99.99 percent of ownership of Fox and AXN. Both have been allegedly engaged in mass media ownership and management by providing programming content, among other activities, to CATV operators nationwide. “Under their existing ownership structure, these corporations cannot be allowed to engage in mass media by providing programming content to CATV operators or engaging in advertising, pursuant to the limitation under the 1987 Constitution and other statutes governing the mass media industry,” explained Ridon. Both companies have supposedly also engaged in advertising activities by entering into sponsorship and advertising contacts with different clients. “The same corporations are also allegedly engaged in advertising activities, by entering into sponsorship and advertising contracts with different clients. “These activities seem to be perfectly legal, unless one discovers that the said corporations – in fact – have foreign shares that constitute the largest percentage of ownership,” the solon pointed out. The Foreign Investments Act Negative List states that the mass media industry cannot have foreign equity and the advertising industry can only have up to 30 percent foreign equity – in both instances, constituting violations of Philippine laws, Ridon explained. “The failure of government regulation over activities of these corporations has allowed these corporations to directly compete with legally existing domestic corporations engaged in similar activities in the mass media industry. “Big cable operators may not have any problem with this, but what about the hundreds of small local cable TV operators and local content providers and advertisers?” the solon asked.‐solon‐joins‐fight‐vs‐foreign‐ cable‐firms

Comelec needs P6‐P16B for new PCOS machines Published : Wednesday, February 12, 2014 00:00   Written by : Jester Manalastas   THE Commission on Elections needs some P6 to 16 billion for the procurement and technical operation of either additional or new Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the 2016 presidential elections. During the presentation before the Joint Oversight Committee on Monday, Chairman Sixto Brillantes and the other poll commissioners reported to Congress on the agency’s preparations for the next presidential elections. According to Brillantes, the Comelec will implement the automated election system in 2016. The Comelec has presented at least three options to the panel for budgetary allocations, depending on the number of voters to be accommodated by each precinct. To date, the government has already 80,000 PCOS machines which were already used in the 2010 and 2013 elections. Education and Information Department (EID) Director Jose Tolentino Jr. said that with the expected additional number of registered voters in 2016, the government needs additional PCOS machines. He further explained that if the Comelec will stick to the 1,000 voters per precinct, it needs to buy an additional 6,100 PCOS units amounting to P6.91 billion or if the government decides to disregard the old machines and buy new ones, it will cost to at least P12.9 billion. The other option is 800 voters per precinct, which would require the purchase of an additional 10,300 PCOS machines at a cost of P7.42 billion. But if the government decides to buy new ones for this ratio, it needs at least 19,903 machines amounting to P13.4 billion. The third option is, 600 voters per precinct, which would need 41,800 additional PCOS units or P10.3 billion. If new PCOS machines will be procured, the Comelec should buy 116,000 units amounting to P16.385 billion. In the last two elections (2010 and 2013) the Comelec used the 1,000 voters per precinct ratio. For 2016, the Comelec said there will be an approximate 2.9 million new registered voters.

Aside from the 2016 presidential elections, the Comelec is also preparing for the Bangsamoro plebiscite that may take place in 2015, Brillantes said. On the sidelines of the hearing, Brillantes said the Comelec has started preparing for the 2016 presidential elections as early as November of 2013. “We need more time to prepare and enough budget for these coming elections. That is why we are presenting the budget needed for the automated elections,” Brillantes said. “Yun ang hindi namin nagawa nung 2013, ang mag-prepare ng mas mahabang panahon, maraming gulo tuloy. I hope this time we will be able to fix these problems,” Brillantes said. A special team, composed of younger commissioners, was formed to handle all the preparations for the next elections, Brillantes added. He said, they assigned the four commissioners – Christian Robert Lim, Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca, Al Parreno and Luie Tito Guia to manage the preparation as three of them are set to retire next year. Aside from Brillantes, commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph are set to retire on February 2015.‐stories/66999‐comelec‐needs‐p6‐p16b‐for‐ new‐pcos‐machines                      

Road user’s tax ensures safety Published : Wednesday, February 12, 2014 00:00   IN the wake of the spate of  bus accidents, Malacañang made it clear  yesterday that the  multibillion‐peso Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC) or the road user’s tax is being used to  ensure the safety of passengers on public transportation.    “Na gagamit ng tama. [Naka‐]focus ang gamit sa road maintenance at road safety,” Presidential  Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to Palace  reporters.    Coloma said the MVUC, meant for road maintenance, road safety, and pollution control,  collected yearly is worth about  P10 billion.    The Palace official issued the statement after a G.V. Florida bus fell into a ravine in Bontoc,  Mountain Province last Friday, killing at least 14 passengers.    Last December, 18 people were killed after a Don Mariano Transit Corp. bus careened off the  Skyway southbound lane in Taguig City.    Due to the deadly accidents, the Palace said President Benigno Aquino will summon concerned  government agencies to discuss road safety.          EMontano‐road‐users‐tax‐ensures‐safety                   

BoC exec sacked for dishonesty Published : Wednesday, February 12, 2014 00:00   Written by : Joel dela Torre   THE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of a ranking Bureau of Customs (BoC) official for dishonesty. Found guilty for making false declaration in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) was Rafael Merencilla, Customs Operations Officer. The Ombudsman found substantial evidence to hold Merencilla administratively liable for his failure to declare at least six properties in Lipa City and Las Piñas and at least seven vehicles while his income was only P449,676 annually. On the other hand, his wife, who is also a BoC employee, was earning P176,184 a year. Investigation showed that the Lipa property turned out to be 18,535 square meters and his cashon-hand increased from P30,000 in 1997 to P9,145,493.04 in 2009. Records submitted by the Bureau of Immigration showed that the Merencilla family made several foreign travels to the United States, Tokyo, and Bangkok. Respondent’s total assets also increased from P4,480,000 in 1997 to P29,301,380.64 in 2009. Discrepancies in the disclosure of business interests were also established. “..[A]s a public officer (he) has the duty to declare his ownership over his properties as the law requires full disclosure of all (his) assets, liabilities, and net worth,” the Decision stated. The penalty of dismissal from the service carries accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification for re-employment in government service.‐boc‐exec‐sacked‐for‐ dishonesty         

2014 02 12 quedancor daily news monitor  
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