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ACEF scam: Lost billions, lost opportunities By Gerry Lirio, ABS-CBN Investigative Team Posted at 02/10/2014 4:53 PM | Updated as of 02/13/2014 1:04 AM (First of two parts) ALLEGATIONS of corruption, misuse, abuse, and neglect have marred the government's 19year-old agricultural program meant to help prepare farmers and fishermen compete with their Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) counterparts in time for tariff-free trade in 2015. With an accumulated budget of P13 billion, the program called the Agricultural Competitiveness Enchancement Fund (ACEF) is meant to help small farmers and fishermen improve the quality and volume of their harvest by funding their expansion and training programs. Its aim is to make them competitive vis-a-vis the expected untramelled entry of imported goods as a result of ASEAN integration and trade liberalization. FREE TRADE BY 2015 ACEF was created by Republic Act 8178 in 1996. Its funding comes from the collection of tariffs imposed on imported agricultural products. Its initial funding of P500 million came only five years later for lack of implementing guidelines. It was supposed to end in 2005, but Republic Act 9496 extended it up to 2015. Now on its final year, the program has turned instead into a scheme that betrayed, defrauded, and deprived farmers of huge sums and big opportunities through the years from the Arroyo to the Aquino administration, according to interviews and documents gathered by the ABS-CBN Investigative the past weeks. Funding will stop next year. NO MASTER PLAN FOR FARMERS Both the Aquino and the Arroyo administrations, farmers said, didn't have a master plan to make the sector competitive. Each farmer to his own project, a mango grower in the North said. “Among the earlier limitations of the program,” according to a recent study by the government think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), “were its weak identification of strategic investment areas to benefit the most vulnerable agricultural sectors, lack of a monitoring system to ensure the availability and timely release of funds, and the absence of impact assessment to determine the contribution of the fund to the competitiveness agenda.”

Of the P13-billion fund, about P8.5 billion has been lent to borrowers, mostly due to political patronage during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The program has not yielded any solid result for the agricultural sector so it can keep pace with trade liberalization in the ASEAN region. ACEF 101: Why the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund was conceived IN KEEPING with globalization, the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to turn into an ASEAN village, to be called the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), one component of full ASEAN integration. The envisioned regional community will finally take place in 2015, despite fears that some members may not be able keep up with the rest for various reasons, ranging from political, economic and environmental issues. ASEAN leaders initially envisioned a one regional economy when they adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020, which means a shared region, "outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in partnership in dynamic development and in a community of caring societies.” But they decided to advance integration by five years during the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu. So, next year, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar will fully open their economies. There will be free flow of all agricultural products and services with the removal of legal barriers and tariffs within the region. It will achieve the goal of ASEAN as a single market, hoping it will become a strong, cohesive economic regional force as it shifts its focus from away from traditional markets like the United States, Europe, Japan, and China. The AEC is banking on ASEAN’s strengths such as the region’s strategic location, its big population of around 600 million, mostly young men and women, and abundant natural resources, among others. A report by the Department of Trade and Industry has noted that many business sectors are prepared for integration, but some, like agriculture, are not yet competitive. In fact, it appears to be moving at a snail’s pace compared to its ASEAN neighbors, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board. As the free regional trade nears, the Philippines now lags behind ASEAN members such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand. Its performance has slipped in indicators such as foreign direct investments and poverty reduction. Leaders of Congress and the agricultural sector foresaw this problem decades ago. In 1996, Congress passed a law appropriating funds sourced from tariffs on imported agricultural goods.

It was envisioned to help farmers enhance their competitiveness by funding their expansion program and training seminars. Hence, ACEF was born. -- by Gerry Lirio, ABS-CBN Investigative Team Of the P8.5 billion, around P3.5 billion was released to grants and some P320 million to bankroll scholarship and training of farmers. WHERE IS THE ACEF BALANCE? The remaining P5-billion is supposedly intact but idle since 2010, and Budget, Agriculture, and Customs officials can't quite agree as to where exactly it is now, except to say it has been there in the General Fund. But some restless farmers hopelessly awaiting the release of their loans in the last two years have expressed concerns that the fund might have been diverted elsewhere, used particularly for the equally-controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), now facing scrutiny at the Supreme Court. “The fund was dispensed like pork [barrel],” said former Sen. Francis Pangilinan, erstwhile chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization, in an interview with the ABS-CBN Investigative Team. He and fellow Senators Serge Osmena and Ramon Magsaysay first discovered the irregularities and subsequently stopped further withdrawal from the agricultural fund in August 2010, about 15 years after the loan facility was introduced to the public. ACEF USED TO FAVOR ARROYO SUPPORTERS A big size of the P8.5 billion had been used, he said, to favor Arroyo's political supporters, a scheme much like the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund allocation released through the Farm Inputs/Farm Implement Fund in 2004, now known as the Fertilizer Fund Scam. “We saw anomalies in ACEF,” Pangilinan said. “Whoever is close to the administration gets a loan approval. The tragedy is that our poor farmers didn't get any. They have become poorer— these people who need government support the most. They have been abused, forgotten, and neglected.” KICKBACKS TURNED OFF FARMERS Several farmers interviewed by the ABS-CBN Investigative team revealed that some Budget officials had asked for a commission, ranging anywhere between 15 and 35 percent of their loans as a condition for the release. Three of these farmers approached by Budget officials during the Arroyo administration backed out of the program because of this corrupt practice. One of them was Gregorio San Diego, president of United Broilers Raiser Association, which operates from Laguna to Tarlac. Before he filed his loan application, he said he commissioned a feasibility study on how to improve raising chicken.

“So we submitted all the requirements but waited two years for the loan to come,” he told the ABS Investigative News team. “Yun pala, may hinihintay sila....Eh yung kalakaran na sinasabi nila, kumbaga common knowledge naman ito sa industriya na may hinihinging regalo. Ang sinasabi nila, talagang pinakamababang-mababa na yung 10 percent. Wala ngang interest, wala ngang collateral, may hinihintay naman na manggagaling sa iyo. Magpaparinig lang na, 'kaya di tumatakbo yung papel ninyo, hindi kayo willing na magbigay'.” If a farmer-borrower had no connections at the Department of Agriculture (DA), San Diego said, government officials may ask anywhere between 30 and 40 percent cut. “They say it is lower than what the bank required,” he said. “But still, hindi naman ayon sa batas iyan, dapat makuha mo ito na wala kang gagastusin. ” Another one was former Navy Commander Angel Aliwalas, director of the Powerful Development Ventures Corporation in Batangas. “We applied in 1998,” Aliwalas said. “When the time came to avail, we changed our mind. Why? Because somebody wanted a cut on the loaned amount. Maganda sana ang programa. E yun na nga eh, may mga mapagsamantala, may cut pa!" Another one was “Imelda,” an agri businesswoman from Central Luzon. Unlike many other farmers who applied for a loan on their own initiative, she took the reverse path: the loan sought out her interest, for it was Imelda who was cajoled by the Office of former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to apply. Imelda said the approval of her loan took less time than expected, but she ended up not taking it for two reasons: one, when she realized that others applying for the loan were bogus farmers; two, when a Budget official asked for a certain percentage share of the loan upon release. “In the beginning, farmers got interested with the ACEF loans,” she said in an interview held in Quezon City. “I tried to research. What is this? What are the criteria? If I apply, would it be approved? I told myself: 'I would lose nothing. The government had not given anything to support the farmers. So, this was a good avenue to enhance our farm business.' But even before I could start with my research, somebody offered me the loan. 'For you, it would be a breeze,' I was told.” 'NOT SOP, JUST FOR THE BOYS' Imelda said she realized that “operators” had been all over the place applying for the same loan facility in 2008. “I asked my secretary to submit my papers to the DA,” she said. “A DBM operator was there. And he is not supposed to be there. He asked my staff: 'Whose loan application is that?' Told about my name, the DBM official replied: 'O, kay ano pala yan, hindi na yan SOP (standard operating procedure), ano na lang yan—for-the-boys! Mas mababa!' I was taken aback!”

“The pro ogram stinks,," she said. “It “ had no in nterest, no coollateral. Thiis was a loann-to-forget. A And I didn't lik ke the idea th hat I would be b put togeth her with peopple who had a reputationn of not payiing their cred ditors and su uppliers.” Had she taken t part, Imelda said, she would have h been am mong its deodorizers. “The final blow w was when n I was told I would get my money in i two tranchhes, not morre as all otheers would haave it. So lalo ak kong napaisip, may palaakasan. Ayok ko ng ganunn, gusto ko pantay-pantayy lahat.” Imelda so oon dropped d her loan ap pplication. Her name andd company w were listed unnder “no releease” category,, according to t a summarry report of approved a proojects obtainned by the AB BS-CBN Investigaative Team from fr the Agrriculture dep partment. Thee report sum mmarized thee loan and prroject status as of March 20 012. In 2009, a hog raiser in Batangass received P1 11.5 million out of his P15-million loan. The balance, he added, went w to a DBM M officer. The loan had no collateraal, no interest. Until thenn, he didn't mind, he said. But even n after the go overnment im mposed interrest and collaateral on loaans drawn froom the fund,, a mango faarmer from the t north rep ported that so ome DBM oofficials undeer the Aquinno administraation had demaanded kickbacks from hiis colleaguess. “Why aree they doing g that,” he asked. “That would w kill uss.” These farrmers did no ot disclose th he names of the t DBM offficials. But iit is not cleaar why the Executiv ve departmen nt had not iniitiated the alllegations. BAD DE EBTS, BAD BORROW WERS As of Maarch 2012, ACEF A has relleased the P5 5.8 billion inn loans to fuund 304 diffeerent agriculttural projects, ranging from m the upgrad ding to expaansion of faciilities in farm ms and fisheeries.

Of the P5.8-billion, the government has recovered only P69 million earmarked for five projects. About P4.3 billion loans (for 209 projects) are under restructuring. About P2.6 billion (for 104 of the 304 projects) failed to post a single payment. A total of 79 projects funded with P1.3 billion posted less than half of the payment dues. Proponents of five projects worth P63 million had died, leaving some P58 million in unsettled accounts. 'REFORMS INSTITUTED' After senators discovered the anomalies, Pangilinan's oversight committee instituted some reforms, including imposing loan interests and collaterals, to ensure a speedy loan collection, but the Executive department had done little to recover funds, much less pump prime the agricultural sector through ACEF. Two separate reports—one done by the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization (COCAFM) and the other by the PIDS—confirmed that the management of the P13-billion fund was marred by corruption, abuse, and misuse during Arroyo's term between 2000 and 2010. The two reports did not accuse the administration of Joseph Estrada of anything. AQUINO GOV'T NEGLIGENT? But the Aquino administration has not been spared. Two groups of legitimate farmers awaiting release of their loans with an aggregate amount of P370 million under the Aquino presidency between 2011 and 2012, based on several interviews by the ABS-CBN Investigative Team, have accused the Aquino administration of neglect for its failure to continue the program, thereby depriving the farmers of government support even at the 11th hour of ASEAN intergration. Pangilinan, and Sen. Cynthia Villar, the current COCAFM chair, and co-chair Batangas Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza, and Agriculture officials have endorsed, in principle, their loan applications to Budget Secretary Butch Abad. IDLE FUNDS, RESTLESS FARMERS A 2009 report by the Commission on Audit (COA) said “a substantial portion of ACEF funds were actually not utilized for the program, only a small portion of the collectibles of the program were collected, additional loans were granted to beneficiaries with unpaid past loans, some fund transfers were actually not released to project proponents....” After failing to get a favorable response to their follow-up letters to Abad in October 2013 and January 2014, one of the farmers has asked if the fund is still there and whether it has ever been diverted or realigned to any other government project.

Abad told ABS-CBN Investigative Team that the fund is intact and has been ready for release, but farmers “lacked some more requirements.” He said the DBM is just the custodian of the fund and that only the COCAFM and the DA could recommend the release of the new loans to farmers. DA: IT'S ALL UP TO ABAD Interviewed separately, Agriculture Undersecretary Emerson Palad said the approval lies with Abad. He told the ABS-CBN Investigative Team the DA had recommended the release of the money, saying the farmers had complied with all the requirements. “The ball is already in the hands of the Budget department, not with the DA,” he said. In a second interview, Abad maintained the DBM was not about to make new releases of funds to the farmers for the same reason, but maintained that the fund is intact and that it is still with the General Fund. Villar told the ABS-CBN Investigative Team that she had met with the farmers and that she would soon speak with Abad to relay the farmers' plea and push for the continuation of the ACEF program, subject to the improved set of implementing guidelines. “By 2015, it's free for all in the trading of agricultural products,” Villar said, echoing the call for the government to support the farmers for the all-out ASEAN free trade starting next year. “That would include rice and labor. We should be ready.” Pangilinan agreed. “While looking for the rats, we don't burn the entire house,” he said. 'YOLANDA' FARMERS NEED HELP Of the 27 farmers awaiting release of loans, four came from Yolanda-hit areas in Iloilo; another set from Bohol. “Our farms have been inspected by the [Department of] agri officials several times,” a farmer from Bulacan said. “Our loans have been approved. ASEAN integration begins next year. Why can't we get help from the government now.” If released, the loans of these farmers will be imposed an interest of four percent per annum, with collaterals, payable within six years. Each will get up to P15 million only. “What more does Secretary Abad want?” a woman farmer asked. “This is a loan, not government subsidy. And that's all we want to stay afloat, if not competitive, after the government entered into that free-trade agreement.”

IN THAILAND, FARMER IS KING In contrast, farmers groups said their counterparts in Thailand get unrestrained backing from the government. “They get 100-percent free irrigation and free seedlings, among others,” a farmer said. Pangilinan, himself now a farmer, said Thailand considered agriculture the backbone of its economy and indeed gave its all-out support to its farmers. It gives a big subsidy to rice and supports farmers in establishing post-harvest facility. “For why cultivate the soil if you don't have good storage facilities? Your harvest will only get spoiled before it reaches the market,” he said. A few years back, Thailand launched a project worth an equivalent of some P150 billion to support its farmers, on top of its annual budget. In contrast, the Philippines has only allotted P72 billion to the Agriculture department, the bulk of which goes to payroll. “We are an agriculture country,” Pangilinan said. “But our agri imports have exceeded our agri exports. Vietnam has $5 billion dollars in net exports, about six to seven times bigger than ours.” NO PROJECT PROGRESS REPORT The Arroyo and Aquino administrations likewise allegedly failed to monitor progress of the projects of the borrowers. And while the Arroyo administration showed little interest in collecting loan payments, the Aquino government showed very little improvement in doing so. Quoting a COA report, the author of the PIDS report Danilo Israel said the collection rates have declined over the years, noting that ACEF has very poor performance in terms of collecting loan amortization, with repayment rates ranging from 38.38 percent in 2004 to 7.04 percent in 2009. “The data further indicate that the repayment rates were not only very low but also consistently decreasing over the years, he said. WORST ACEF BORROWERS There was some remarkable improvement after COCAFM under Pangilinan cracked the whip on borrowers, from less than 10 percent to 28 percent.

Those wiith the worstt repayment rates of zero o percent, Isrrael said, weere in the Coordilleras, thee Autonom mous Region of Muslim Mindanao M (A ARMM), MIIMAROPA (Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, M Romblon R and Palawan), and Centrall and Easternn Visayas. Except fo or ARMM, Mindanao M haad the highest repaymennt rate. “From th he start of its actual implementation in i 2000 up too the presennt,” Israel saiid, “ACEF hhas been plag gued by variious problem ms which maay have signiificantly deraailed the attaainment of itts objectivees.” The goveernment faileed to identify fy what we laacked, or whhat we need, a former law wmaker saidd. “We faileed to put up a cotton plaantation, for instance. i So we have noothing to suppport a local garment industry.” OANS POLITICIANS GET ACEF LO Except fo or former Maguindanao Rep. Didageen Dilangaleen, no politiccian was listted in the summary y report of ap pproved projjects obtaineed by the AB BS-CBN Invvestigative Team from thhe agricultu ure department.

Dilangalen, chairman of Moro Development Company Incorporated, has obtained a total of P14 million to finance the improvement of its sugar milling. As of March 2012, he still has a loan balance of P13.1 million. Another huge beneficiary of the ACEF fund, according to a DA source, was a politician in Northern Luzon, a long-time Arroyo supporter. The politician got P20 million, without collateral, before the 2007 elections, but failed to pay back anything at all. The DA source said there were other political beneficiaries in Batangas, but the summary report failed to reveal their names. BIGGEST CREDITOR The biggest creditor was Quedancor, or the Quedan and Rural Credit Guarantee Corp., a government company that provides credit line to small farmers and fishermen across the country. Quedancor obtained a P1 billion loan, an anomalous amount and an anomalous beneficiary, according to Pangilinan and Israel. Quedancor has been dissolved without paying its loans. Pangilinan said the loan was used to pay retirement benefits, thus depriving small farmers, the intended beneficiary of the fund. Without reforms, Israel said, “ACEF may go down the drain as one of the greatest program failures” among many in recent years. ACEF LAW NOT BEING FOLLOWED Records of a COCAFM meeting in August 2012 revealed that the body's co-chair Congressman Mendoza told Abad and Budget Undersecretary Mar Relampagos that “while he recognizes that the bulk of the funds has already been used for general appropriations,” the DBM should make a proper accounting of the funds. “(There) is negligence on the part of DA, BOC [Bureau of Customs], and DBM,” the minutes of the meeting quotes Mendoza as saying. Abono Rep. Robert Raymond Estrella said the law extending ACEF to 2015 was “very specific” on the creation of a special fund to protect products or people that will be adversely affected when the local market is finally opened to free trade. ACEF LOSERS “However, (Mendoza) observed that this law is not being followed,” the records quote him as saying. “If the law is no longer relevant to the current situation, there might already be a need to amend it,” he said.

“If a law is not being followed, this might backfire later on and administration officials would be blamed for not following it,” he added. Estrella said that the ACEF program needs to resume its implementation. He asked Abad to make it happen. 'DON'T BURN THE HOUSE' “ACEF must continue,” Pangilinan said, noting that the flaws in the past have been addressed. “While looking for the rats, we don't burn the entire house.” In all, the 19-year-old program seems to have failed to harvest anything, raising fears for the country's readiness with the influx of imported agricultural products from its ASEAN neighbors. Said Magsaysay, a gentleman farmer: “Do not just focus on the corruption, think of the readiness of our agricultural sector for the globalization.” Said Rafael Mariano, head of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas: “By 2015, we would see all the imported agri products from our ASEAN neighbors [set] loose upon us, the Filipino consumer would probably like that, but that would eventually kill our own farmers.” ACEF was a nice program gone bad, another farmer said. “What we saw all these many years were wasted funds, wasted opportunities.” http://www.abs‐‐scam‐lost‐billions‐lost‐opportunities                       

Recto seeks inquiry on status of farm credit pool Category: Agri‐Commodities   12 Feb 2014   Written by Mia M. Gonzalez   SENATE  President  Pro  Tempore  Ralph  Recto  has  filed  a  resolution  seeking  a  Senate  inquiry  on  the  Agricultural  Competitiveness  Enhancement  Fund  (Acef)  to  evaluate  its  status  and  its  effectiveness  in  helping farmers.  Recto filed Senate Resolution 495 directing the Senate Committee on Agriculture to conduct the inquiry,  following reports on problems  and alleged irregularities in the use of the multibillion‐peso fund.  In seeking the inquiry, Recto cited studies on the operation and management of the Acef conducted by  the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Commission on Audit, and the ABS‐CBN Investigative  Team which “reveal problems in its implementation including allegations of graft and corruption.”  “The reported anomalies in the implementation of the Acef should be looked into in order to introduce  reforms to promote transparency, accountability and efficiency for more effective services to the farmer  beneficiaries,” he said.  Recto added that the reported “politicized” grant of loans drawn from the Acef “should be investigated  in order to prevent its repetition and to recommend the filing of cases when deemed warranted.”  Recto  said  in  an  interview  before  session  that  the  focus  of  the  inquiry  would  be  on  improving  the  utilization of the Acef.  Republic  Act  8178,  or  the  Agricultural  Tarrification  Act,  created  the  Acef  funded  from  tariffs  collected  from imported agricultural projects.  Recto said the fund was “meant to help small farmers and fishermen improve the quality and volume of  their  production  by  providing  credit  and  training  programs  that  will  enhance  their  global  competitiveness.”  The senator said during the inquiry, concerned agencies would be asked to provide information on the  financial  status  of  the  fund  including  the  total  Department  of  Budget  and  Management  releases  and  agency fund utilization, and the actual unreleased portion of the fund. 

“The  implementing  agencies  should  provide  data  on  the  loans  granted  including  the  names  of  beneficiaries,  date  granted,  amount  and  subsequent  collections,  and  project  accomplishment/evaluation, among others,” Recto said.  The senator said audit reports on the Acef contain “adverse findings like ‘dismally low repayment rate,’  ‘double recording of loan releases,’ ‘return to sender of demand letters,’ and ‘loans without collateral.’”  “[Some  grantees]  have  done  a  Houdini  and  can  no  longer  be  found,”  Recto  said,  referring  to  official  findings that P2.5 billion worth of loans were covered by letters of confirmation whose addressees could  not be located.  Quoting audit reports, Recto said the loan portion of the fund suffered from low collection rate, which  meant that “for every P1 lent, only 14 centavos were collected.”  He said the amount in arrears is P5.1 billion, and that of the 294 private parties granted a total of P4.4  billion in loans, only 23 had fully paid as of December 2011.     Of the remaining 271 private borrowers, only 15, or 5 percent of the total, had no arrears.‐commodities/27454‐recto‐seeks‐ inquiry‐on‐status‐of‐farm‐credit‐pool                           

PHL to export milkfish, other aquaculture products to UAE Category: Agri‐Commodities   12 Feb 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega   THE  Philippines  is  set  to  export  milkfish  and  other  aquaculture  produce  to  the  United  Arab  Emirates  (UAE), Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala announced on Tuesday.  Representatives from UAE Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will visit the country this month, Alcala  said in a statement on February 11.  The  Department  of  Agriculture  chief  added  that  the  UAE  officials  will  meet  with  their  counterpart,  as  well as representatives from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).  Alcala  said  the  officials  will  discuss  in  particular  Sarangani’s  bangus  (milkfish)  and  other  aquaculture  products.  We  are  looking  at  opening  [trade]  initially  for  Filipino  communities  in  the  Middle  East,  he  said.   The  development was reported by Alcala during the agency’s quarterly national meeting in General Santos  City on Friday.  Alcala  also  visited  a  local  aquaculture  company  in  the  area,  the  Alson’s  Aquaculture  Corp.  in  Alabel  town,  Sarangani.The  company  has  been  growing  milkfish,  prawns,  tilapia,  pompano,  sea  bass,  eels,  snappers and groupers.  The company grows their produce from ponds to meet demands for live, chilled and processed food fish  products in Philippines and overseas markets, according to the statement. The DA chief also reportedly  met with tuna stakeholders at the General Santos Fish Port Complex and informed the group that the  fishery sector, after six years, registered a positive increase.  Alcala  also  disclosed  that  BFAR  Director  Asis  Perez  will  travel  to  Indonesia  on the  fourth  week  of  this  month,  to  secure  a  consent  allowing  Filipino  handliner  and  purse  line  tuna  fishers  to  use  Indonesian  navigational lane. Upon my instructions, the BFAR is also preparing a position paper on the request of  the industry for a fuel rebate on taxes and duties rebates for fishers plying the high seas, the statement  said.‐commodities/27453‐phl‐to‐export‐ milkfish‐other‐aquaculture‐products‐to‐uae 

DA u unit cites p potenttial off ‘maccapuno’ seed dlingss Category: Agri‐Commoditie es   12 2 Feb 2014   Written by Alla W adin S. Diega  

THE Bureau of Agriccultural Reseaarch (BAR) ecchoed on Weednesday resu ults of  a three‐ye ear project sh howing the fe easibility and economic viaability of emb bryo cultured macapuno (EECM).  In  a  state ement  issued d  on  Wedne esday,  the  BAR  said  pro ponents  of  aa  project  thaat  began  in  2010  “conclude ed that ECM p production is feasible and economicallyy viable, and ttherefore higghly recommeended  for farmers’ adoption.””  olves the exciising of the eembryo and ggrowing it in  a culture meedium  The BAR  explained thaat ECM “invo permits th he successful development of seedlingss from macappuno nuts.”  Embryo culture was be elieved to be developed b by the late Drr. Emerita V. d de Guzman o of the Universsity of  the Philippines Los Bañ ños in Lagunaa in 1960.  The  BAR  statement  was  w issued  as  Philippine  production  p off  macapuno  rremain  deficient  at  3.9  m million  kilogramss annually.  Citing  the e  Macapuno  Road  Map  20 010  of  the  Department  D oof  Science  and  Technologyy  (DOST),  thee  BAR  said  total  demand  fo or  macapuno  meat  is  esttimated  at  44,209,732  kilo ograms  per  year  against  total  on of only 215 5,202 kilogram ms per year. productio “The gap  of roughly 3.9 million kilo ograms per yyear will requuire 7,900,000 nuts. A tottal of 800 hecctares  e planted to aaddress the said gap and tto ensure stabble supply.” have to be

The BAR also cited a published report prepared by Dr. Erlinda Rillo of the Philippine Coconut Authority  (PCA)  in  Albay,  which  recommended  that  in  order  to  meet  such  demand  an  estimated  133,151  ECM  seedlings are needed to develop the competitiveness of the food and nonfood products.  “The only way to mass produce macapuno is through embryo culture,” the BAR said.  The BAR said that a project the government began in December 2010 and completed last year led to the  harvesting of 7,748 nuts, of which 6,819 embryos were recovered.  The BAR added that 12 percent of the embryos “were either nonmacapuno, aborted or damaged during  excision.”  “However,  there  was  an  improvement  in  the  percentage  embryo  germinated  from  the  total  embryo  recovered from year one to year three.”  The  BAR  said  there  were  5,135  ECM  planting  materials  in  different  stages  produced  at  the  Southern  Tagalog Integrated Agricultural Research Center as of May last year.  “In  terms  of  product  development,  the  project  developed  three  food  products  from  macapuno  [macapuno strings, balls and powder] and one non‐food product [macapuno soap],” the BAR said.  The  attached  agency  of  the  Department  of  Agriculture  noted  that  the  “adoption  of  embryo‐cultured  technology is an example of successful technology dissemination.”  “The dissemination and demonstration of this technology, through the project, has resulted in the high  demand for these ECM materials,” the BAR said in a statement on February 12.    In Photo: Photo shows a macapuno fruit, a variant of the coconut. The Bureau of Agricultural Research  says has said only half of the annual demand of over 4.2 million kilograms for macapuno is covered with  the  current  supply  of  about  200,000  kilograms  per  year.  (Photo  courtesy  of  the  Department  of  Agriculture‐Bureau of Agricultural Research)‐commodities/27451‐da‐unit‐cites‐ potential‐of‐macapuno‐seedlings   

Group slams BIR plan to tax fishermen By Dennis Carcamo ( | Updated February 13, 2014 - 9:02am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Fisherfolk group Pamalakaya on Thursday scored the plan of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to tax small fishermen and other marginal income earners. Pamalakaya said that the BIR wants small fishermen to pay taxes more than the 12 percent Expanded Value Added Tax they pay for every liter of gasoline or diesel for their motorized boats and for the 12 percent EVAT they pay for every kilo of rice they buy to feed their family. "Every fisherman in this country can no longer feed his family three times a day due to rising cost of production coupled with 12 percent EVAT and high prices of basic commodities due to the same regressive tax scheme levied on necessities," Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said. He said a small fisherman used to pay daily taxes in the form of expanded value added tax. He said for an average of 5 liters of gasoline or diesel they used for fishing, they pay the national government some P 60 pesos in taxes. France said aside from EVAT on petroleum products, a fisherman consumes three kilos of rice for his family and that constitutes P 12 per day in total taxes paid to the government in the form of the controversial EVAT. "Everyday a small fisherman pays the government a total of P 72 in EVAT, and now the government wants to tax the remaining P 50 for state income. This is horrible, terrifying and revolting to the highest order," he added. "The proposed BIR measure to tax the starving public is an open invitation to war," the group said. Meanwhile, the Pamalakaya urged the Senate and the House of Representatives to legislate a law that would stop Malacanang from pursuing the move of the BIR. "The lawmakers are legally and morally obliged to stop this tax madness from the tax madmen of the Aquino syndicate in Malacanang," the group added. The BIR said aside from small fishermen and farmers, owners of small "sari-sari" (variety) stores, single-unit tricycle operators and other marginal income earners will be required to pay taxes. Under its Memorandum Circular No. 7-2014, the BIR argues that MIEs are liable to pay the income tax, but are exempted from the value-added tax and from the business tax.

The MIEs are defined in the circular as individuals who are self-employed and earning not more than P100,000 in any given 12-month period. Their incomes are considered mainly for subsistence. The tax authority said the MIEs may also include owners of small carinderia or turo-turo and other micro-entrepreneurs. They exclude licensed professionals, sales agents, brokers, artists and other professionals whose incomes are subject to withholding tax. The issuance of the circular was part of the BIR’s tax campaign, under which it aims to plug leakages from tax evasion and to boost state coffers. In a complementary circular, No. 8-2014, the BIR said individuals who have claimed to have exemptions from certain taxes should secure certification from the bureau for such exemptions. The BIR, which accounts for at least 60 percent of the national government’s revenues, is tasked to collect P1.46 trillion in taxes this year. In 2013, it was expected to have posted at least a 10 percent year-on-year growth in collection although it was seen to have fallen short of its target of P1.253 trillion. According to rough estimates, the government loses about P450 billion a year due to tax evasion.‐slams‐bir‐plan‐tax‐fishermen

Phl recove r ers P1 1.3-B FM F Sw wiss acccounts By Helen n Flores (Thee Philippine Star) | Updaated Februarry 13, 2014 - 12:00am 0 52 go oogleplus1 3

Nat’l Treeasury gets last l tranche MANILA A, Philippinees - The gov vernment hass recovered $$29 million or P1.3 billion from the Swiss acccounts of thee late dictato or Ferdinand d Marcos andd his family,, which was left in a Singaporre bank sincee 2003. The fund ds, composed d of $16.8 million m and 4..2 million Brritish poundds, was part oof the Marcoos fortune stashed in Sw wiss bank acccounts under the name oof five founddations, said Andres Bauutista, chairman n of the Presiidential Com mmission on Good Goveernment (PCGG), the ageency handlinng the recov very of the Marcos M ill-go otten wealth. “With reg gard to the Swiss S accoun nts, this is th he last, unlesss we are ablle to gather oother accounnts,” Bautista told a press briefing yesterday. The mon ney, recovereed over the laast week, is part of the m more than $7712 million ffrom Marcoss’ secret Sw wiss accounts now in gov vernment haands. Switzerlaand lauded th he developm ment. “We welcome the cllarification on o the status of the fundss contested bbefore the Siingaporean courts,” Swiss S Ambaassador Ivo Sieber S told The T STAR. ““It further addvances the ssuccessful restitution by Switzerrland and the Philippines of the Marrcos accountts confiscated in Switzerrland and returrned to the Philippines.” Bautista said the PCG GG remitted d the money to t the Nationnal Treasuryy on Feb. 5 aand 10. In Decem mber last yeaar, the Singap pore appellaate court grannted ownersship of the $229-million S Swiss funds to the t Philippin ne National Bank B (PNB)). The fund hhad grown frrom $23 milllion in 20033 due to earned d interest.

The government won ownership of the funds after several years of litigation in Singapore courts over claims by victims of human rights violations under Marcos’ rule and private foundations representing the Marcoses. Bautista said while the court ruled that the PNB has legal title to the account, the bank kept the money in its capacity as a trustee for the Republic pursuant to an escrow agreement with the government. Marcoses no longer involved Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was nonchalant when asked to react on the PCGG report. He said his family has not been involved for a long time now in any court proceedings regarding the ill-gotten wealth. “We no longer appear in any of those proceedings since the parties involved are the human rights claimants and the Philippine government,” he said. $683 million recovered The PCGG had recovered a total of $683 million from the Swiss accounts of the Marcoses. Of the amount, P10 billion was allotted for the compensation of the human rights victims. Bautista said last month the government was targeting at least P50 billion or $1.1 billion more. “There is still a lot of work that can be done in respect to pursuing ill-gotten wealth. We should not allow the taking of ill-gotten wealth to go unpunished,” he said. In 1997, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ordered the secret Marcos accounts transferred from the Swiss bank to the Philippine government, subject to certain conditions. The first condition was met in July 2003, when the Supreme Court (SC) declared the Marcos Swiss funds ill gotten. The SC ruled that the Marcoses’ wealth in excess of their total legal income of around $304,000 from 1965 to 1986 was presumed to be ill-gotten. The second condition was met when President Aquino signed the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013. Under the measure, at least P10 billion from the alleged Marcos wealth will be used to pay the victims. Bautista said the P10 billion remitted by the agency to the National Treasury was more than enough to pay the victims of human rights violation committed during the Marcos regime.

Since its creation in 1986, the PCGG has recovered P166 billion or over $4 billion of the estimated $10-billion ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies. The PCGG was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 1 signed by former President Cory Aquino, which mandates that all recovered Marcos assets should be used to fund agrarian reform programs. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989 without admitting any wrongdoing during his presidency. Over 200 cases filed Bautista said the government had filed more than 200 civil cases for the recovery and forfeiture of ill-gotten assets, including real estate amounting to about P30-40 billion, or $667-$890 million, from the Marcos family, their cronies and associates. It is also seeking more than 150 paintings of “prominent masters and artists” collected by the Marcos family that went missing after the Marcoses were forced to flee from the presidential palace during the February 1986 people power uprising. Bautista declined to comment on whether he believes Marcos’ widow Imelda and their three children are still living off their hidden wealth. Imelda is a member of the House of Representatives. Her eldest child, Imee, is governor of their northern home province of Ilocos Norte, while her son, Ferdinand Jr., is a senator. Her other daughter, Irene, has kept away from politics. – With Marvin Sy, AP‐recovers‐p1.3‐b‐fm‐swiss‐accounts                   

Government warned of 25% LPG supply disruption in March Category: Top News   12 Feb 2014   Written by Jovee Marie N. Dela Cruz   A lawmaker on Wednesday warned the government that one‐fourth of the country’s regular supply of  liquefied  petroleum  gas  (LPG)  face  disruption  starting  in  March  because  of  a  scheduled  maintenance  shutdown of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp.’s oil refinery.  House  Deputy  Minority  Leader  and  LPG  Marketers’  Association  Party‐list  Rep.  Arnel  Ty  said  the  shutdown problem might cause an increase in the price of the cooking fuel. He urged the Department of  Energy (DOE) to step in to prevent supply disruption ahead of the looming crisis.  “The maintenance shutdown of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp.’s oil refinery next month, coupled with  the permanent closure of Shell’s LPG import terminal, will cut short our LPG supply by some 25 million  kilos per month. This volume is more or less equal to 25 percent of the estimated national consumption  of 100 million kilos per month,” Ty said.  “We are gravely worried that the bigger oil firms that continue to dominate the LPG market might take  advantage  of  the  supply  turmoil  to  unfairly  increase  their  prices  in  the  weeks  ahead.  Crooked  LPG  traders might also come in and exploit the disorder to the detriment of consumers,” Ty said.  “Some 80 percent of the country’s LPG supply is imported. While there is no shortage of LPG that can be  imported,  we  now  lack  the  infrastructure  or  import  terminals  to  efficiently  receive,  store  and  then  transfer the cooking fuel into tanker trucks,” the lawmaker added.  According  to  Ty,  the  problem  began  in  September  last  year,  when  Shell,  for  business  reasons,  permanently closed down its Tabangao, Batangas, LPG import terminal.   He  said  the  Shell  terminal,  with  the  capacity  to  stockpile  42  million  kilos  of  LPG,  was  the  country’s  largest,  handling  up  to  25  million  kilos  of  the  cooking  fuel  every  month,  mostly  for  distribution  throughout Southern Luzon.   As  a  result  of  the  closure  of  the  LPG  terminal,  Ty  said  cooking  fuel  providers  in  Southern  Luzon  and  (Southern) Metro Manila have been forced to obtain their supplies all the way from Mariveles, Bataan,  from Liquigaz Philippines Corp.’s import terminal, which can hoard only 12 million kilos. 

“This has created a logistical nightmare for LPG suppliers. There is now an endless line of empty tanker  trucks waiting to be filled up at Liquigaz’s terminal. Trucks have to wait in line up to one week just to  load up. The delay is already starting to hurt consumers, who have to cope with elevated retail prices  owing to higher waiting and transport costs,” he said.  Ty said his group is renewing its plea for the DOE to reopen Shell’s deactivated LPG import terminal, to  allow the faster transfer of more supplies from abroad.‐news/27484‐government‐warned‐of‐25‐lpg‐ supply‐disruption‐in‐march                                 

Noy orderrs Cab binet to t inteensify jjob crreation n By Delon n Porcalla (T The Philippin ne Star) | Up pdated Februuary 13, 20144 - 12:00am m

MANILA A, Philippinees - Presiden nt Aquino orrdered his Caabinet Tuesdday to “intennsify program ms on job crreation and social protecttion” amid th he ballooninng 12.1 milliion unemplooyed Filipinoos. “The Preesident directted Cabinet members m to be proactivee in deliverinng front-linee services thaat will assisst Filipinos in provinces where theree is a high inccidence of ppoverty,” Preesidential Commun nications Operation Officce Secretary y Herminio C Coloma Jr. saaid in a new ws briefing inn Malacañaang yesterdaay. The President’s direcctive came after the Sociial Weather Stations repoorted that unnemploymennt D 20 013, from ju ust about 9.6 million joblless in the coountry in Sepptember of tthe grew in December same yeaar. Coloma said s the main n agenda of the Cabinet meeting waas the “actionn plans on joob creation, social pro otection and d poverty red duction preseented by the departmentss comprisingg the Cabineet’s human deevelopment and poverty y reduction cluster.” “A key reecommendattion of the Cabinet C clustter on humann developmeent and poveerty reductionn was to im mplement strrategies with h spatial and sectoral dim mensions to eensure attainnment of inclusivee growth,” hee said. Categoriees in which government g ’s efforts in job j generatiion must be ffocused werre also speciffied. Category y 1 for the “m most” numbeer of poor, Category C 2w where “poor hhouseholds aare high” annd Category y 3 for those “exposed to o multiple haazards.” “The objective for Caategory 1 prrovinces is to o create moree economic opportunitiees; for Categgory 2, enhancce mobility of o labor and goods; and for Categoryy 3, increasee resilience ssince they arre most vuln nerable to diisasters,” Co oloma explaiined.

Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo will focus on increasing the country’s competitiveness in industry sectors with high employment multipliers like shipbuilding, food processing, furniture, chemicals, automotive, copper and copper products, electronics and garments. “Continuing support will be given to the IT-BPO sector that has been a consistent generator of new employment opportunities. The Department of Trade and Industry will also pursue initiatives in further improving the ease of doing business and lowering power costs to enhance employment and job creation,” he said. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the Department of Labor and Employment would “facilitate job matching and placement of jobseekers” through their “convergence programs” in 30 priority provinces that include those hit by disasters. NEDA: Gov’t missed job creation targets Coloma also told reporters that Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan presented a midterm assessment of the government’s performance and admitted that the government missed its job creation targets and objectives with regards to the Philippine Development Plan. “We are on track with respect to our economic targets, but we lag with respect to our social outcomes,” Coloma said, quoting Balisacan. The National Statistical Coordination Board reported in April 2013 that poverty incidence for the first half of 2012 was 27.9 percent, slightly less than the 28.8 percent recorded in the first half of 2006 and the 28.6 percent recorded in the first half of 2009 and 2011. By “economic targets,” Balisacan meant the robust 7.2 percent GDP growth in 2013 – the second highest in Asia next to economic giant China. This is mostly “consumption-driven,” according to Coloma. Coloma also said the National Economic and Development Authority reported that “fixed capital formation has also been on the uptrend, reaching 21.1 percent in 2013 or just a shade below the 22-percent target.” As far as the national government is concerned, however, “unemployment rate was 7.1 percent in 2013 compared to the forecast range of 6.8 to 7.2 percent,” Coloma said. He noted that the Aquino government has managed to reduce poverty level in the country to 25.2 percent based on the latest 2012 full-year figures.– With Paolo Romero‐orders‐cabinet‐intensify‐job‐creation   

SC asked a to exttend TRO T on Merralco rrate hikee By Edu Punay P (The Philippine P Star) | Updateed February 13, 2014 - 112:00am

A, Philippinees - The Sup preme Court (SC) was assked yesterdday to extendd its temporaary MANILA restrainin ng order (TR RO) on the Manila M Electrric Co. (Merralco)’s recorrd-high rate increase of P4.15 perr kilowatt-ho our. In an 11--page motion n, petitionerss led by Bay yan Muna Reeps. Neri Colmenares annd Isagani Zaarate stressed the t need to extend e the TRO to preveent Meralco ffrom imposiing the rate aadjustment pending resolution r off the case by y the high co ourt. “It is but proper and just j to restraain the impleementation oof the powerr rate hike annew and withh extreme dispatch d in order o to afford petitionerrs and the puublic effectivve injunctivee relief. The previous restraining order o must be b reinstated d and compleeted by an orrder from thiis Honorablee Court ind definitely resstraining GenCos (generration compaanies) from ccollecting thhe generationn charge peending the reesolution of this Petition n,” they appeealed. The 60-d day TRO issu ued on Dec. 23 last year will lapse oon Feb. 21, aaccording thee SC spokesm man Theodoree Te. Petitioners warned th hat lifting thee TRO woulld immediateely lead to innflation, as thhe rate hike will add billio ons to produ uction cost off manufacturrers, which w would push uup the pricess of goods annd services. “The imp pending implementation of the poweer rate increaase will not oonly unduly deprive fivee million consumers c off their hard-eearned incom me, it will allso fuel inflaation and furtther set the economy y back by spu urring hikes in consumerr prices, thiss time affectiing the peopple of the enttire country,”” they explaiined.

“Sans a restraining order, respondent Meralco will be able to deprive its customers of P22.64 billion in additional generation costs, needless to state, to the grave and irreparable injury of millions of Meralco’s customers, including the petitioners,” they stressed. Petitioners also rebutted the warning of Meralco in oral arguments last Feb. 4 of power outages should it fail to collect the generation costs from the customers, which it owes respondent GenCos. The petitioners insisted Meralco’s warnings of blackouts are baseless, especially since the Department of Energy publicly announced that there is no undersupply of electricity and the supply situation during summer will not result in blackouts. “Any threat of brownout, therefore, is not based on the insufficiency of supply. It is nothing more than threatening the people for the people’s exercise of their constitutional right to due process and remedies before this Honorable Court,” they stressed. GenCos, on the other hand, continued to threaten Meralco with very high penalties, interest rates and legal actions for the delay in the payment of the generation costs that the latter has not paid them on the basis of the TRO, they added. Other petitioners in the case are Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmie de Jesus, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon. The first oral argument was held last Jan. 21 with petitioners Bayan Muna party-list and consumer group National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms (Nasecore) presenting their case. The second was held last Feb. 4 with Meralco facing the high court while the third was held last Tuesday with the Department of Energy and Energy Regulatory Commission taking the podium. Parties were given until Feb. 26 to submit their memoranda before the high court decides on the case.‐asked‐extend‐tro‐meralco‐rate‐hike             

Rub by facees Senate: I will ju ust telll the ttruth By Aie Balagtas B See (The Philipp pine Star) | Updated U Febbruary 13, 20014 - 12:00aam

Pork barrrel scam witness Ruby Tuason T facess the press att the NBI maain office in Manila yesterday y. EDD GUM MBAN MANILA A, Philippinees - As she faces f Senate grilling todaay on the poork barrel funnd scam, potential state witnesss Ruby Tuason has prom mised to “jusst tell the truuth” and acceept whateverr follows. This wass all Tuason would w say when w asked if she was prrepared to staand before thhe Senate Bllue Ribbon committee c to o shed light on o the pork barrel b fund sscam allegeddly mastermiinded by businessw woman Janeet Lim-Napoles. Tuason had h earlier co onfessed to having h deliv vered huge kiickbacks froom pork-fundded projects to Senators Jinggoy Esttrada and Juaan Ponce En nrile. The form mer social seccretary of fo ormer Presideent and now w Manila Mayyor Joseph E Estrada decliined to talk fu urther to med dia yesterday y. But according to her lawyer Dennis Manalo, she is readyy to face the senators andd even impliicate more nam mes in the em mbezzlemen nt of congressional pork bbarrel, officiially called P Priority Developm ment Assistaance Fund (P PDAF). “I think my m assessmeent of Mrs. Tuason T is thaat she has acccepted her ffate. And shee has made tthis bold step p of testifying g not only before the DO OJ (Departm ment of Justicce), NBI (Naational Bureaau of Investigaation), and Ombudsman, O not only before the Sennate, but the before the F Filipino peopple. It takes cou urage to do th hat,” Manalo o said. Tuason had h admitted d working as agent for Napoles from m 2004 to 20008. Manalo said s it was not easy for Tuason T to co ome out in thhe open afterr months in hhiding in thee US, consideriing possible public humiiliation or ev ven risk to heer life.

“Her life is virtually under a microscope. She will expect that she will hear all sorts of criticisms from other people. She is just determined to accept and ready to move forward to what she believes is the truth,” Manalo said. He said Tuason draws strength from prayers and the encouragement of her family, particularly her children. “They have been very encouraging and they are doing their best to support their mother in this very challenging endeavor,” Manalo said. Tuason, along with pork scam whistle-blowers Benhur Luy, Baby Sula, Merlina Suñas and Arlene Baltazar, attended a case conference at the NBI yesterday. It was her first time to come face to face with the whistle-blowers since her arrival from the US last Friday. Just like in last Monday’s meeting with Luy, Tuason yesterday compared notes with the whistleblowers. After the conference, which lasted for an hour, they proceeded to the NBI chapel to hear Mass. ‘Only the truth’ Only the truth is what the nation wants to hear from Tuason in her Senate appearance today, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. He said there is a high level of public interest in the controversy because it involves a staggering amount of taxpayers’ money. But while the administration is keen on seeing those involved in the PDAF scam get punished, Coloma said President Aquino wants the investigation into the matter done fairly. Coloma said the DOJ would continue to gather more data and information to back up its case, especially now that Estrada’s wife, Luisa or Loi, is also being linked to the anomaly. However, Coloma stressed “no one is being singled out.” In Dagupan City, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said his Blue Ribbon committee was about to move to the Malampaya fund controversy after hearing the PDAF scam when Tuason surfaced to confirm Enrile’s and Estrada’s involvement in the anomaly. Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vicente Sotto III, for their part, downplayed reports that they would also be linked to the PDAF scam. Actor linked to scam

The NBI also said it is looking into the possible involvement of actor Mat Ranillo III in the pork barrel scam. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Luy and Tuason said it was Ranillo who had introduced Napoles to some senators. “That (Ranillo’s involvement) is now being looked into. It is in fact our duty to do that since there are some new (pieces of) information being provided by this new whistle-blower that we have to pursue,” De Lima told reporters in an ambush interview. Luy told the NBI that Ranillo and Napoles later had a falling out when the latter chose to bypass him in her dealings with the senators. Based on Luy’s accounts, De Lima said Napoles and Ranillo even had money transactions. “The first transaction that was cancelled was with Mat Ranillo. And if you can recall, there is this civil case involving recovery of sums of money in relation to certain transactions from where we got a proof that there were indeed vouchers used in the transactions of Napoles,” De Lima said. Tuason also mentioned in her affidavit that Ranillo had facilitated a transaction between Napoles and Jinggoy. Tuason said the transaction was “consummated through a certain Mr. Matt Ranillo showing the delivery of the sum of P11,970,000 to a house at No. 1564 Mahogany Street, Dasmariñas Village, Makati City.” She said the house was owned by Justa Tantoco. The latter would also be included in the investigation, according to De Lima. Tantoco is reportedly the former chief aide of Estrada’s mother, former first lady and senator Loi Ejercito. There is no official affidavit yet implicating the former first lady in the scam, the DOJ chief said. “I haven’t seen a new affidavit from Benhur, although it was mentioned earlier that there seemed to be dealings before but I haven’t seen any written report or affidavit from Benhur,” she said. “Recently, there is a statement on this but for me it has to be official, through a sworn statement. It cannot just be a verbal statement. I have to see something in writing,” she explained. Bail plea junked Meanwhile, Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 150 upheld yesterday its rejection of Napoles’ plea for bail in connection with the serious illegal detention case filed against her by Luy.

Clerk of court Diosfa Valencia said Judge Elmo Alameda denied Napoles’ motion for reconsideration of the court’s Nov. 21 decision to deny Napoles’ request that she be allowed to post bail. “There were no new matters presented by the accused. The motion for reconsideration was denied considering that the prosecution was able to prove its case based on evidence,” Valencia said. – With Edu Punay, Mike Frialde, Aurea Calica, Eva Visperas, Christina Mendez‐faces‐senate‐i‐will‐just‐tell‐truth                                         

DBM reviewing NBI findings on fake Special Allotment Release Orders probe Category: Economy   12 Feb 2014   Written by Estrella Torres   Budget Secretary Florencio Abad on Thursday said officials and employees of the Department of Budget  and Management (DBM) allegedly behind the release of fake Special Allotment Release Orders (Saros)  will be made to face charges.  He  said  the  DBM  is  now  reviewing  the  initial  findings  of  the  investigation  of  the  National  Bureau  of  Investigation (NBI) that showed there was a “systematic fake Saro operation within the bureaucracy.”  “Given the NBI’s findings, we plan to take immediate and appropriate action against DBM employees— be they regular staff or employees associated with us through an outsourced agency—so they are held  accountable for their role in the scam,” Abad said in a statement on Thursday.  He said the department will be “working closely with the Department of Justice [DOJ]” to determine the  proper action on the erring DBM staff involved in the scam.  “While  the  submission  of  the  NBI’s  report  marks  the  conclusion  of  this  investigation,  we  in  the  DBM  continue to support the DOJ  efforts in uncovering the extent of the fake Saro scam, especially as the  NBI report indicates that a deeper inquiry into the matter may be necessary,” Abad said.  Abad said measures have also been taken to improve the department’s internal processes based on the  recommendations of the NBI.  “  We’ve  already  fine‐tuned  our  Document  Management  System  so  that  valuable  files  and  official  documents are tracked more efficiently and meticulously. We’re also looking forward to refining other  processes that may be vulnerable to abuse and irregularities, as well as plugging operational loopholes  that may compromise the integrity of our work in the DBM,” Abad said.  The NBI confirmed that several DBM personnel falsified the Saro for two projects in Cagayan and Aklan  provinces involving P161 million and P77 million in funds, respectively.  It said specimen signatures of approving authorities were superimposed on unsigned and photocopied  Saros. 

The DBM personnel involved in the syndicate then photocopied advanced copies of the unsigned Saros  and superimposed on them signatures before photocopying the documents again.  The NBI also said Saros were photocopied several times to make the fake signatures appear authentic  already.‐dbm‐reviewing‐nbi‐findings‐ on‐fake‐special‐allotment‐release‐orders‐probe                                         

DPWH’s P38‐million road projects to boost rice, duck‐eggs production in Pampanga Category: Regions   12 Feb 2014   Written by Joey Pavia / Correspondent   CANDABA, Pampanga—The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has released P38 million  for  the  rehabilitation  of  major  roads  here.  Their  completion  is  seen  to  boost  the  agricultural  and  livestock productions of this town, including the duck‐egg industry which produces annual gross sales of  P1.42 billion.  Gov. Lilia Pineda, Pampanga Mayors’ League (PML) President and Apalit Mayor Oscar “Jun” Tetangcco,  Fourth District Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc and Mayor Rene Maglanque on Wednesday joined Enrico Guillas,  head  of  the  Pampanga  First  District  Engineering  Office,  during  the  groundbreaking  ceremony  for  the  P18,144,950 upgrading of the Baliwag‐Candaba‐Santa Ana Road in Barangay San Agustin. Fourth District  Board  Members  Nestor  Tolentino  and  Ric  Yabut,  who  hails  from  Candaba,  also  graced  the  twin  groundbreaking  ceremony.  The  DPWH  will  also  upgrade  the  700‐meter  portion  of  the  San  Miguel‐ Candaba and it allotted P19.8 million.  DPWH Pampanga First District Engineering Office Assistant District Willy Bustos, who briefed Pineda and  the other officials, said the 1‐kilometer portion of the national road will complete the repair of the 10‐ kilometer access road connecting Candaba’s town proper to the so‐called Tagalog Region.  The  Tagalog  Region,  composed  of  14 barangays,  is  adjacent  to  Baliwag  town  in  Bulacan  province.  The  region  has  2,471  farmers  and  is  the  major  producer  of  duck  eggs  in  the  country,  said  Municipal  Agriculturist Mario Concepcion.  Pineda said there should be cooperation among officials and politics should be set aside to allow more  projects to  come into Pampanga. She said her government’s vision to sustain the vibrant economy and  improve  the  general  welfare  of  the  some  32,000  farmers  in  Pampanga  “is  easy  to  achieve  with  the  support of the DPWH and other government agencies and offices.”  Maglanque said when the roads have yet to be improved, the residents of the Tagalog Region use other  access roads, including the ones in San Luis town, to reach the town proper of Candaba.  He added that it takes them about an hour to reach Poblacion Region where the municipal hall is. 

“In a few months, my people will be more than willing to regularly visit the town proper in Poblacion to  do  business  and  other  concerns.  They  can  reach  the  Poblacion  Region  within  minutes  of  land  travel,”  said Maglanque in the dialect.  The  San  Miguel‐Candaba  Road  will  be  elevated  by  at  least  1  meter  to  allow  its  accessibility  when  perennial  floods  affect  almost  all  of  the  33  villages  of  the  town.  The  road  leads  to  the  San  Miguel,  Bulacan and Candaba’s Capampangan Region composed of eight barangays.  The Capampangan Region has P2,183 farmers and is the major producer of rice and contributes to the  total palay harvest of Candaba.  In  the  2013  accomplishment  prepared  by  Concepcion,  the  Candaba  rice  farmers  produced  82,189,195  metric tons of palay (unhusked rice grains).    Vice Mayor Normita Evangelista and other town and barangay officials also welcomed Pineda.‐dpwh‐s‐p38‐million‐road‐projects‐to‐ boost‐rice‐duck‐eggs‐production‐in‐pampanga                             

‘No‐build zone’ policy blamed for sudden surge in unemployment in 2013 Category: Regions   12 Feb 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   PUTTING  up  the  “no‐build  zone”  in  coastal  areas  devastated  by  Supertyphoon  Yolanda  last  year  has  contributed  to  the  country’s  unemployment  problem,  the  Pambansang  Lakas  ng  Kilusang  Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said on Wednesday.   Salvador  France,  vice  chairman  of  Pamalakaya,  said  a  significant  population  of  mostly  fishermen  and  agricultural  workers  were  restricted  to  their  bunkhouses  and  tent  cities  and  prevented  from  pursuing  livelihood  means  like  fishing  by  the  policy  to  make  coastal  areas  in  Eastern  Visayas  “off‐limits”  to  dwellings.   France was reacting to the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) report that the number of unemployed  Filipinos swelled to 12.1 million or by 27.5 percent during the last quarter of 2013.  The report said 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December  2013.   “The  dramatic  increase  in  unemployment  is  the  work  of  the  national  government.  The  Aquino  administration  stopped  tens  of  thousands  of  fishers  and  rural  workers  from  going  to  work  because  it  wants  big  business  to  come  in  for  major  rehabilitation  projects  with  promised  of  high  return  on  investments,” France said.  The “no build zone” policy restricted more than 100,000 small fishermen and at least 800,000 workers  dependent  on  fishing  to  pursue  fishing  activities  when  Yolanda  hit  Eastern  Visayas  and  34  more  provinces last year, France said.  Unemployment,  France  said,  is  also  partially  due  to  the  government’s  failure  to  address  rehabilitation  challenges  in  other  Yolanda  stricken  areas  such  as  Northern  Cebu,  Northern  Negros,  Northern  Iloilo,  Aklan, Capiz, Antique and Palawan.   Earlier this week, Pamalakaya urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to  dismantle the “no‐build zone” markers it installed and allow small fishermen to return to their villages  and resume fishing activities. 

The markers indicate the 40‐meter legal easement from shores to inland in San Joaquin in Palo, Leyte,  up to San Juanico Bridge in Tacloban City.    The group noted that the no‐build zone currently imposed by DENR covers some 35.88 kilometers from  Palo to Tacloban City.  “Something must be done to stop Malacañang, the DENR, the DPWH and the rehabilitation task force of  Panfilo  Lacson  from  clearing  the  area  of  small  fishermen  to  give  way  to  corporate  takeover  of  big  business groups. The program of rehabilitation which the government wants to carry out is extremely  anti‐people and promotes joblessness and zero opportunities,” France said.   The group earlier chided the decision of the government to allow big businesses to take the lead in the  rehabilitation of the Yolanda‐devastated areas.‐no‐build‐zone‐policy‐blamed‐for‐ sudden‐surge‐in‐unemployment‐in‐2013                               

DBM M to su ue em mployeees in ffake SARO scam By Camiille Diola (ph | Updated February 12, 2014 - 12:01pm

Budget Secretary S Flo orencio "Buttch" Abad. PCOO P MANILA A, Philippinees - Employeees and conssultant of thee Departmennt of Budget and Managem ment (DBM)) proven to be b involved in i faking releease orders w will be held accountablee, Budget Secretary S Flo orencio "Buttch" Abad saaid on Wednnesday. "We willl also be worrking closely y with the (D Department oof Justice) inn determininng the best coourse of action for us, inclu uding the filiing of chargees against D DBM staff whhose involveement in the scam hass properly beeen establish hed," Abad added a in a staatement. In Septem mber 2013, the t DBM ask ked the NBI and the Deppartment of JJustice to look into an operation n faking Special Allotmeent Release Orders O (SAR RO) to funneel governmennt funds. On Tuesd day, NBI reccommended charges to be b filed againnst five indivviduals connnected with tthe DBM inccluding Aklaan Rep. Teod dorico Haressco Jr. The four other accuseed were Emm manuel Razaa, member oof Zamboangga Rep. Liliaa Macrohon-Nuno's sttaff; Elvie Rafael, R driverr of Budget Undersecreta U ary Mario R Relampagos; Mary Ann Castillo, consultant for f Haresco and a DBM em mployee Bheernie Beltrann. Abad said that he is "very " pleased" with the completion c oof the probe.He also saidd that the buudget departmeent will conssider the state investigato ors' suggestioons on internnal processees adjustmennts to prevent such s scheme in the futuree. "We’re also a looking forward to refining r otheer processes tthat may be vulnerable tto abuse andd irregulariities, as welll as plugging g operationall loopholes tthat may com mpromise thhe integrity oof our work in DBM," D Abad d said. He claim med that the DBM D has alrready implem mented meassures to trackk official doocuments. http://ww om/headliness/2014/02/12 2/1289528/dbbm‐sue‐emplloyees‐fake‐ssaro‐scam 

DAR’s P3.7‐million potable water project benefits Cagayan farmers Category: Regions   12 Feb 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   CLOSE to 1,500 families in Santa Barbara, Cagayan, are now enjoying clean, drinking water following the  completion of a potable water‐system project of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).  The  project,  worth  P3.7  million,  was  recently  turned  over  by  the  DAR  to  the  Santa  Barbara  Agrarian  Reform Community (ARC).  The completed water system consists of an elevated steel tank with a water capacity of 22 cubic meters,  1.845‐linear  meter  distribution  lines  and  150  linear  meters  of  deep  well  and  a  7.5  horsepower  submersible pump.  Agrarian Reforms Regional Director Marjorie Ayson said the potable water system (PWS) implemented  under the Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project would provide the community with clean and  safe drinking water.  “Prior to the PWS project of DAR, most of the residents of the Santa Barbara ARC had inadequate access  to  potable  water  and  constrained  to  use  sources  of  water  often  contaminated  with  disease‐carrying  organisms.  Some  sources  of  water  had  high  levels  of  toxins  which  often  caused  acute  and  chronic  illnesses to the residents of Santa Barbara,” Ayson said.  DAR’s provision of potable water project is aimed at reducing water‐borne diseases in the community, in  addition  to  providing  water  for  backyard  livelihood  opportunities  such  as  vegetable  production  and  other similar activities.‐dar‐s‐p3‐7‐million‐potable‐water‐ project‐benefits‐cagayan‐farmers         

Failu ure in job creatio on SEARCH H FOR TRU UTH By Erneesto M. Maceda (The Phhilippine Starr) | Updated February 133, 2014 - 12 2:00am In a Cabiinet meeting g Tuesday, Prresident Aqu uino asked hhis Cabinet too explain whhat went wroong that resullted in the nu umber of unemployed, in ncreasing 6% % to 27.5%, totalling 122.1 million jobless Filipinos. F P-Noy assked the Cab binet for an action a plan on o poverty reeduction. It aappears that the main program to combat poverty p is thee conditionall cash transffer (CCT) prrogram, whicch has now ballooned d to P62 billlion. Analysts have expresssed the view w that the CC CT has not bbeen effectivve in alleviatting poverty.. The ‘cash h for work’ programs p off the Departm ment of Sociial Welfare aand Developpment (DSW WD) have been too small, and are ben nefitting only y a few thoussand of the 112.5 million unemployedd. The infraastructure spending has focused f on big b ticket proojects and noot in job inteensive projeccts like farm m-to-market roads r and sm mall commun nal irrigationn systems. C Communicatiions Secretarry Herminio o Coloma saaid the Aquin no administrration is focuusing on job creation in m manufacturinng and moree highly rem munerative seectors. He gaave no furtheer details. Economiics professorrs Victor Abola and Benj njamin Dioknno expressedd the view thhat the 7.2% gross dom mestic produ uct (GDP) grrowth did no ot translate inn the hiring of more worrkers. Diokno said s that even n the multibillion-peso school-build s ding program m has been aw warded to biigtime conttractors, insttead of the th housands of small contraactors that used to do thee job. Other economissts also said that we need d to attain a 9% GDP grrowth to creaate jobs. Thee projection of GDP in 2014 2 by the National N Eco onomic and Developmennt Authorityy (NEDA) is still at 6.5-77.5% GDP gro owth. The botto om line — “The “ Aquino o administrattion has faileed to create jjobs.” Morre witnessess Lawyer Levito L Balig god said Mon nday that theey are expectting Paulinee Labayen, deeputy chief oof staff of Sen. S Jinggoy Estrada and d Richard Caambe, chief ppolitical advviser to Sen. Bong Revillla Jr., to come out o like Rub by Tuason, an nd spill the beans. b

Tuason and Ben Luy said that part of the money was delivered by actor Mat Ranillo to a house in Dasmariñas Village. Senator Estrada charged that Ruby Tuason was being spoon fed by government agents to pin him down as she conferred with Ben Luy to synchronize their testimony. Word has come out that Tuason will return P40 million as commission she received for delivering the money to Senators Enrile and Jinggoy. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile stated that he met Ruby Tuason only once in a Makati restaurant to discuss a real estate transaction, but not the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Speaker Feliciano Belmonte suggested that the investigators also focus on the Philippine Forest Corp. (PhilForest), which received P100 million in PDAF funds from 2 senators and 20 congressmen. Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III denied that they had released funds to ghost organizations through PhilForest. Ruby Tuason also stated that delivery of funds to Jinggoy were made directly and received by Pauline Labayen. Senator Jinggoy fully denied Tuason’s allegations. Raid all warehouses The confiscation of P1 billion worth of counterfeit China goods, from 17 warehouses in Parañaque, once again confirms the extensive smuggling that is going on of different goods. The Bureau of Customs (BOC) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should step up its inspection of warehouses to which many containers are delivered. In the case of the 2,000 missing containers, it was quite clear that Customs personnel have records of where they were delivered. BOC/NBI should now also conduct a 100% inspection of all warehouses of rice stocks. More clashes in Mindanao Six Abu Sayyaf rebels were wounded in an encounter in Talipao, Sulu. Six civilian volunteers were wounded. One marine was killed, three were wounded in another ambush in Sulu. One soldier was killed in an ambush in Parang Sulu. Six soldiers were wounded in an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Davao Del Sur. Waiting for SC People are still waiting for the Supreme Court (SC) decision on the reproductive health law passed by Congress in December 2012, by a narrow vote.

It took more than 13 years to pass the bill as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and other church groups campaigned against it. Speaker Feliciano Belmonte called on the Supreme Court to approve the law as the majority of Filipinos are in favor of the law. Belmonte asked the SC to respect the majority opinion, which calls for their freedom of choice. It will be a close vote in the Supreme Court. Slow construction After more than three months, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) finally finished the construction of 221 bunkhouses distributed as follows: Tacloban City, 51; Ormoc City, 42; Palo, 37; Eastern Samar, 60; and Western Samar, 32. DPWH explained that the delay was caused by bad weather and by the lack of construction materials, which had to come all the way from Manila. National Housing Authority plans to build 60,000 houses in the Yolanda-hit areas, but like in Cagayan de Oro it will take at least 2 to 3 years. Tidbits: There are extensive floods in England. Prime Minister David Cameron publicly apologized for not doing things fast enough to help thousands affected. An apology is also due from the Aquino government for their slow action on Yolanda-hit areas. Eighty-one people have died at the evacuation centers in Zamboanga City. Philippine National Police (PNP) admits carnapping is up to 576. They also admitted that 70% of crimes are not reported. TV reports corruption and kickbacks in the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF). The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) has moved its opening of classes to July. Earlier, Ateneo de Manila, and all University of the Philippines units except Diliman moved their opening to August. Man shot dead in Bacoor, Cavite. Live-in-partner critically wounded. Police Officer 1 Adener Paña was stabbed to death in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte.‐job‐creation   

Aidee recou unts ‘p pork’ scamss sincee ’90s (2) GOTCHA A By Jarius Bondoc (Th he Philippinee Star) | Upddated Februaary 12, 2014 - 12:00am 5 186 googleplus1 g 3 Continueed from Mon nday is this précis p of a 20 007 series onn senators’ ppork-barrel scams. Sourrce “Jason” narrated hiss sordid taskks as consulttant for seveeral senatorss since the 19990s. ators are described, not identified. i Who W they werre in 1992 too 2007 are lissted in the liink: The sena http://ww ww.senate.go p. The full teexts of the thhree Gotcha installmentss — 7, 9, and d 11 May 200 07 — can be accessed in n the archives es below. Moore details onn the pork baarrel of the 1990s-2000s in n my book, “Exposés: “ In nvestigative R Reporting foor Clean Govvernment,” availablee at all Natio onal Booksto ore and Pow werbooks braanches. *



Dear Mr.. Bondoc, To contin nue, I left my y miserable life with thaat senator aftter x monthss. Years laterr a friend invvited me to wo ork for a senaatorial candiidate, now deceased. d Hee won; I was absorbed innto his staff. My new boss was briilliant and kiind, giving us u financial aassistance frrom his own pocket and sharing his h food. Ourr chief of staaff was the opposite. o Shee collected reeceipts of evven our persoonal expensess, have these certified as official busiiness, and poocketed the rreimbursemeents. Opinion ( Article MR Rec ), pagem match: 1, secttionmatch: 1 om all the prrojects. She eendorsed contractors to Our enterrprising projject officer took a cut fro DPWH district d engin neers and reg gional directo ors. She got 50-percent kkickbacks onn mahoganyy seeds fro om the DA, children’s c co oloring book ks, barangay seminars, innfrastructure projects, livelihood training (ccattle raising g). When thee boss died, another frien nd gave me “consultancyy” work. Traained by myy first boss too deal with h governmen nt officials, I became frieends with Caabinet secrettaries, U-Seccs, and bureaau directors. I worked d simultaneou usly for fourr senators, prreparing andd following uup project prroposals withh the agencies.. I’d buy fruits, noodles or cakes for my contactss to speed upp the paperw work. I got too meet my employers’ favorite con ntractors/sup ppliers. Everyy time we goot the SARO Os they’d all be waiting at a the senatorrs’ offices orr at (nearby hotel). Theyy’d give boxes carefully gift-wrappeed. 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:‐recounts‐pork‐scams‐90s‐2                       

URC reports higher net income in Q1 Category: Companies   12 Feb 2014   Written by VG Cabuag   UNIVERSAL Robina Corp. (URC) on Wednesday said its net income increased by 26 percent on its fiscal  first quarter ending December as its branded consumer food became its key driver of growth.  The company said in a statement that its net income reached P2.88 billion, on the back of its 13‐percent  sales growth of P22.7 billion.  The  maker  of  junk‐food  products  like  Chippy,  Granny  Goose  and  beverage  drink  C2,  said  its  branded  consumer foods business at home was key for its growth during the quarter as it increased sales by 28.1  percent, while international branded consumer foods recorded a 9‐percent growth.  Sales  of  its  nonbranded  consumer  foods  group,  however,  declined  by  12.7  percent  during  the  period  due to decrease in sales volumes for sugar and feeds.  URC  said  its  operating  income,  which  strips  out  certain  items  like  depreciation,  reached  P3.34  billion,  some 42 percent higher than the previous year’s P2.35 billion.  “Growth was slower than operating income as we booked lower market valuation gains and net‐finance  revenue given that we liquidated most of our bond and equity holdings last year,” the company said in a  statement.  URC’s  branded  consumer  foods  group,  including  the  packaging  division,  increased  sales  of  goods  and  services  by  20  percent  to  P8.83  billion  for  the  first  quarter  of  fiscal  year  2014  from  the  P15.65  billion  posted in the prior year.  Its  beverage  remained  to  be  the  main  driver  backed  by  the  continued  growth  momentum  of  its  powdered beverage business, mainly coming from coffee and ready‐to‐drink business.  “Our snack‐foods segment also registered double‐digit revenue growth across salty snacks, bakery and  confectioneries,” it said.  The company is now the No. 2 player in the coffee market trailing Nestlé’s Nescafé and remains to be  the dominant market leader in salty snacks, candies, chocolates, iced‐tea drink and cup noodles in the  Philippines. 

Its international sales, on the other hand, mainly came from Thailand and China. The company’s Chinese  business  was  significantly  up  due  to  higher  seasonal  sales  for  cereals  and  oats  categories  while  the  Thailand business grew despite the weak macroenvironment and political turmoil in the country.  “URC remains to be the market leader in biscuits and wafers in Thailand, while C2 is now the No. 1 in  ready‐to‐drink tea brand in Vietnam,” the company said.‐urc‐reports‐higher‐net‐ income‐in‐q1                                         

Banks, agents told to demand proof of tax exemption Category: Banking & Finance   12 Feb 2014   Written by David Cagahastian   Notwithstanding  a  preliminary  injunction  issued  against  her  memorandum  requiring  all  tax‐exempt  entities  to  renew  their  tax‐exempt  status,  Internal  Revenue  Commissioner  Kim  Henares  has  issued  another  order  requiring  withholding  agents  to  demand  a  valid  and  current  tax‐exemption  ruling  from  their payees before payment of the related income.  Henares  issued  Revenue  Memorandum  Circular  8‐2014  addressed  to  all  banks  and  other  withholding  agents  to  demand  from  their  payees,  such  as  their  depositors,  a  “valid,  current  and  subsisting  tax‐ exemption  certificate  or  ruling”  before  payment  of  the  related  income,  such  as  interests  on  bank  deposits.  The circular mandates that “the concerned withholding agents shall require all individuals and entities  claiming such exemption to provide a copy of a valid, current and subsisting tax‐exemption certificate or  ruling, as per existing administrative issuances and any issuance that may be issued from time to time,  before payment of the related income.”  “Failure on the part of the taxpayer to present the said tax‐exemption certificate or ruling as required  shall subject  him to the payment of appropriate withholding  taxes due on the transaction,” Henares’s  circular said.  The  circular  warned  that:  “On  the  other  hand,  the  withholding  agent’s  failure  to  withhold,  notwithstanding  the  lack  of  tax‐exemption  certificate  or  ruling,  shall  cause  the  imposition  of  penalties  under Section 251 and other pertinent sections of the Tax Code.”  This means that as a minimum penalty, any withholding agent who would fail to collect and remit the  withholding tax that he or she should have withheld will be liable to a penalty equal to the total amount  of the tax that such withholding agent failed to withhold or remit.  Section  251  of  the  National  Internal  Revenue  Code  provides  that:  “Any  person  required  to  withhold,  account  for,  and  remit  any  tax  imposed  by  this  Code  or  who  willfully  fails  to  withhold  such  tax,  or  account for and remit such tax, or aids or abets in any manner to evade any such tax or the payment  thereof, shall, in addition to other penalties provided for under this Chapter, be liable upon conviction to  a penalty equal to the total amount of the tax not withheld, or not accounted for and remitted.” 

Henares  earlier  issued  Revenue  Memorandum  Order  (MO)  20‐2013  which  mandated  that  all  entities  claiming tax‐exempt status under the Constitution and other laws should renew their tax‐exempt status  with the Bureau of Internal Revenue every three years.  The Regional Trial Court in Makati City has issued a preliminary injunction against MO  20‐2013, but it  remains to be seen whether banks and other withholding agents will honor such preliminary injunction,  considering  that  Henares  has  issued  another  circular  requiring  them  to  demand  a  “valid,  current  and  subsisting” tax‐exemption ruling from their payees or pay hefty fees for failure to withhold tax.‐finance/27439‐banks‐agents‐told‐ to‐demand‐proof‐of‐tax‐exemption                                     

Kidapawan to launch Info campaign on toxic cassavas Kidapawan to launch Info campaign on toxic cassavas By John Unson ( | Updated February 12, 2014 - 4:04pm 0 0 googleplus0 0 KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines – Mayor Joseph Evangelista on Tuesday ordered the city’s health and agriculture offices to launch a massive information campaign to prevent a repeat of Sunday’s deaths of two children after ingesting toxic cassava root crops. The two fatalities, four-year-old Irene Diarog, and her younger sibling, Jessica, of Barangay Santo Niño here, died writhing in painful abdominal spasms while vomiting profusely. Twelve other ethnic Manobos in Barangay Santo Niño, who also feasted on the boiled cassava that downed the Diarogs, are still undergoing medication at a local hospital. Evangelista said his office has extended assistance to the Diarog family and to the food poisoning patients being treated at a hospital. Samples of the still uncooked cassava gathered from the victims’ houses have been taken for toxicity evaluation by the Department of Health, according to Evangelista.‐launch‐info‐campaign‐toxic‐cassavas                       

Alcala pledges P6-M for farm-to-market road in South Cotabato By John Unson ( | Updated February 12, 2014 - 1:49pm SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines - Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has pledged P6 million for the concreting of a farm-to-market road connecting a farming enclave to the public market of Banga town in the province, which he toured this week to inspect local projects of his department. Alcala, accompanied by Amalia Jayag-Datukan, director of the Department of Agriculture for Region 12, and South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, officiated on Monday the inauguration of the farm-to-market road linking Barangay Cabuling to trading areas in Banga municipality in South Cotabato. Alcala promised to allocate P6 million for the concreting of the road project. The agriculture chief was in General Santos City early this week to preside over the DA’s national management committee meeting, according to Datukan. He also visited selected areas in South Cotabato and Sarangani to inspect projects of DA-12 in the two provinces. While in General Santos City, Alcala also met with officials of the Alson’s Aquaculture Corporation, which is based in Alabel town in Sarangani. The private firm is engaged in the propagation of Bangus (milkfish), brackish water prawns, Tilapia, Pompano, Sea Bass, Snappers, and Groupers that are being exported to Metro Manila and abroad. Alcala had announced during the meeting that a group from the United Arab Emirates will visit the country next month to study the viability of funding inland and marine fishery ventures along with Filipino partners. Local entrepreneurs have actively been trying to link up with contacts in the Middle East where they intend to sell frozen Bangus. Hundreds of farmers attended the turn-over of the Cabuling farm-to-market road in Banga. The road links Cabuling to nearby Barangays Benitez, Barrio 5, and San Jose, all in the town of Banga. Banga Mayor Albert Palencia, who witnessed the turnover of the road project, said they are grateful to Alcala for committing P6 million more worth of additional assistance for the concreting of the thoroughfare.‐pledges‐p6‐m‐farm‐market‐road‐south‐ cotabato   

Phl still s SE EA’s laggar l rd in F FDI floow By Kathlleen A. Marttin (The Phillippine Star)) | Updated F February 13, 2014 - 12:000am

Despite big b jump in November N in nflow MANILA A, Philippinees - Despite rising foreig gn direct invvestments, thhe research aarm of Metropollitan Bank & Trust Co. said s the coun ntry remainss a laggard am among Southheast Asian countriess in terms off annual averrage FDI. The coun ntry’s net FD DI inflow rosse to $286 million m in No vember, brinnging the 111-month figuure to $3.648 billion, or 37 percent high her than in th he same periiod in 2012. “This maay be seen ass an improveement from five f years aggo as the YT TD (year to ddate) figure breached d the 12-yearr average of FDI flows which w is nearr the $2-billiion mark,” M Metrobank Research h said. Howeverr, it continueed: “The need for higher FDIs cannoot be further emphasizedd especially w when we look at a the annual figures of our o ASEAN (Associatioon of Southeaast Asian Naation) peers.” The reseaarch unit poiinted out thee Philippiness’ annual aveerage FDI frrom 2000 to 2012 amounnted to $1.547 7 billion, far below Thailland’s $7.22 23 billion andd Indonesia’’s $6.208 billlion. The coun ntry was also o lagging beh hind Malayssia, whose annnual averagge FDI in thee 12 years too 2012 sum mmed up to $5.885 $ billio on, and Vietn nam ($4.5455 billion). “Robust foreign inveestment has been b supportting the grow wth in other Asian econoomies – generatin ng much-neeeded employ yment, raising incomes, iincreasing ecconomic activity, and deepenin ng technologies,” Metrob bank Researcch said. “The lack k of infrastru ucture and th he failure to attract FDIss have long bbeen seen as a critical grrowth constrain nt to the dom mestic econom my, but the government g has been firrm in its com mmitment to improve and develop p the country y’s infrastruccture system m,” the researrch unit said. The centrral bank exp pects net FDII inflows hittting $2.1 billlion in 20133, a figure allready surpasssed by the $3 3.648 billion n recorded ass of Novemb ber.

“The remarkable expansions in investment spending has indeed been a major push to GDP (gross domestic product) growth in 2013, which when sustained would lay the foundation for a more sustainable and inclusive growth moving forward,” Metrobank Research said. The economy expanded by 7.2 percent in 2013, matched by a stable inflation which averaged three percent. The government hopes to grow the economy by 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year, while inflation is expected to remain within three to five percent.‐still‐seas‐laggard‐fdi‐flow                               


Farmers, Fishermen required to register with  BIR  by Jun Ramirez February 12, 2014

Manila, Philippines – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has required marginal income earners (MIE) to register with the bureau even though they are still exempted from paying income and business taxes. The payment of P500 registration fee is waived under Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 7-2014 signed by BIR Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares. The circular defined MIEs as “those individuals whose businesses do not realize gross sales or receipts exceeding P100,000 in any 12-month period.” They included farmers, fishermen, operator of a single tricycle unit, “sari-sari” store and a “carinderia,” or “turo-turo.”‐fishermen‐required‐to‐register‐with‐bir/                           

P20‐M M gov v’t aid ffor Sassmuan ndev’t by Mark Manuel M February 12, 1 2014

Sasmua an, Pampan nga – This small s agricu ultural town n has receivved almost R20-million n of governm ment assista ance from the t provinciial governm ment to alle eviate the scarcity of m much needed funds for its social and d developm ment projectts, Mayor N Nardo Velassco said Wednes sday. Velasco said the Pampanga Provincial P Government G t had infuse ed R19,474 4,345.90 wo orth of projec cts in 2012 and 2013 to improve the genera al welfare o of the town people.

ROAD REPAIR R – In this file photo, so ome workers do oing the San M Miguel-Candaba a road repair ge et the eyes of llocal offficials during a recent visit to the area. (File e photo by Fran nco Regala)

Most of the projects s are for the e improvem ment of road ds, anti-floo od projects and construc ction of schools in Barangays Ma alusac, Sta. Lucia, San n Pedro, Sto. Tomas, S San Nicolas 2nd, Sebita anan and Mabuanbua M n. The may yor described the coas stal town as s “poor,” be eing one of the smallest municipa alities of Pa ampanga in n terms of la and area, p population a and annual budget. Sasmua an, south off Lubao, pro ojected a bu udget of R6 64,178,433.97 for 2014, accordin ng to municipa al treasurerr Lolita Son ngco. It is one of the so-c called “catch basins” in n the provin nce, with on nly two perccent of the ttotal area or 80 8 percent land and th he rest cove ered either by man-ma ade or natu ural rivers. At least 90 percentt of the 35,0 000 populattion of theirr town rely o on the operrations of fishpond ds and fishing as their means of major m livelih hood. The prov vincial gove ernment is set to estab blish extenssion campu uses of the Don Honorrio Ventura Technical State Unive ersity in Ba arangay Sta a. Catalina, Lubao and d Guagua Community College e to cater to o poor students of Sassmuan, Lub bao and Gu uagua towns. Also, the e R2,062,99 90 multi-pu urpose cove ered court in n Mabuanb buan, one o of the coastal villages of Sasmua an, is set to be awarde ed to the win nning bidde er.

Governor Lilia Pineda said she will also improve the equipment and medical services at the Escolastica Romero District Hospital in Lubao, about five minutes away by land travel from the town proper of Sasmuan. Meanwhile, some R150 million is needed for the repair of the Arnedo Dike traversing the towns of the Fourth District in Pampanga to prepare the flood-control dike before the rainy season, Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc said Wednesday. The Arnedo Dike serves as first line defense against massive flood for the people of the towns of Masantol, Macabebe, Apalit, San Luis and Candaba. It is deteriorating due to strong current of water from Pampanga River, particularly during rainy season. Bondoc conducted an inspection on the dikes in his district as preemptive measures before the typhoon months. He said a request will be sent to the Department of Public Works and Highways to repair the dike as soon as possible to spare the residents of the fourth districts from experiencing “very high floods.” The solon explained a request must be made as the dike repair project was not included in the 2014 national budget. DPWH is set to repair the collapsed portion of the Arnedo dike at barangay Mandasig in Candaba town, he said. “I will do the best I can to find ways to have the Arnedo Dike repaired,” the congressman promised. Bondoc added that more than 5,000 families and millions worth of private and public properties will be affected if the dike would not be restored before the rainy seasons. Most vulnerable to the effects are the residents in three barangays which are at risk to massive flooding due to the 100-meter riprap breach along the Barangay Sta. Cruz Poblacion portion in this town.‐m‐govt‐aid‐for‐sasmuan‐devt/         

Editorial: Local governments’ capacity‐building  initiatives for a stronger tourism industry  February 13, 2014

The Department of Tourism (DOT) recently partnered with the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro in an effort to help the local government units (LGUs) craft their individual tourism master plans. The partnership is part of the DOT’s thrust for the development of new tourist destinations, geographic markets, segments, niches, and routes pursuant to the country’s National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP). Oriental Mindoro is one of the country’s emerging eco-tourism destinations. It is an island province in the Southern Tagalog region – together with the provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan – known as the Mimaropa Region southwest of Manila. Envisioned as a “Green Paradise” by its local government, Oriental Mindoro is a tropical paradise with rich marine biodiversity, and an array of natural bounties, from powdery white sand beaches, to crystal clear water, lush green forests, towering mountains, and impressive waterfalls. Mountain climbing, trekking, camping, caving, bird-watching, island hopping and exploration, adventure trips, windsurfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling are some of the exciting recreational activities possible in the island province. The DOT said that eco-tourism has always been one of the country’s strongest competitive advantages relative to other destinations in Asia, and emphasized that they have already created the demand with the Philippines now enjoying extensive international media mileage. The Manila Bulletin, led by its Chairman of the Board of Directors Dr. Emilio T. Yap, President and Publisher Atty. Hermogenes P. Pobre, Executive Vice President Dr. Emilio C. Yap III, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Cris J. Icban Jr., Business Editor Loreto D. Cabañes, Directors, Officers, and Employees congratulate the Department of Tourism headed by Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez Jr. and Region IV Director Rebecca Villanueva-Labit in helping the local government units’ capacity-building initiatives for a stronger tourism industry of our Filipino people of our Republic of the Philippines. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!‐local‐governments‐capacity‐building‐initiatives‐for‐a‐ stronger‐tourism‐industry/     

Supervising the cooperatives  by TeodoroEstacio February 12, 2014

Created by RA 6939 signed on March 10, 1990, The Cooperatives Development Authority (CDA) is the agency tasked with registering and supervising the various types of Cooperatives of the country. Its mission is “to be a proactive and responsive lead agency in advancing and sustaining the growth of the cooperative sector by pursuing a holistic development approach, establishing support systems and structures, and building strong linkages with stakeholders, thereby optimizing benefits to cooperatives in particular and to society in general.” On the other hand, its vision is “a strong and visible cooperative sector that is able to create and equitably distribute wealth, expand socio-economic opportunities, and help bring about conditions to overcome poverty and strengthen the middle class in the Philippines.” Under the leadership of CDA, the Coop Sector grew in terms of number, assets and business volume. As of December, 2013, a total of 23,673 Coops are actively registered with the agency with assets amounting to more than 266 trillion pesos that serves more than 12million members. Lately though the sector was highlighted when some agricultural cooperatives appeared to have been part of the illegal importation of rice. Even while the investigations are not yet finished, several quarters are asking the inclusion of these coops in the legal complaint against a suspected rice smuggler and that they be banned from further operation. This caused disappointment among leaders in the Sector considering that Cooperatives have been designed and developed to be a non-political self-help peoples organization. Further look at the operations of most Coops showed several items that need more guidance from the CDA. For instance, the absence of specific rules on how to manage Statutory Funds have left many coops confused on how to protect and better manage their funds. The required Reserve Funds for instance, instead of being set aside as stand by funds for Coop operations are being used for re-lending purposes. The Social fund, in some Coop schools are used for summer outing and the like while there is no specific guidance on how the balance of the Net Savings are to be re-distributed either as Patronage Refund or Dividends. On the part of Training, accredited trainors are allowed to lecture on practically any subject matter under the mandatory trainings, even if the topic is not within their expertise. Likewise,the number of requiredtopics that must be complied with by the primaries can impact on the quality of training. In the Philippines,Coops rely on CDA for guidance and monitoring unlike in other countries with a strong Coop sector that monitors their ranks so that the government Coop agency only serve as a registry. This being the case, there is need for the

strengthening of Regional and Municipal Unions to supervise and provide guidance on their members. Small issues need not be passed on to CDA but can be acted upon by the Unions themselves. One last issue is how are the voluminous reports by the primaries reviewed and acted upon? Are they really examined for compliance? Is it time to be stricter in supervising the Sector?‐the‐cooperatives/                                     

Take e job fa airs serriously y, stud dents to old  by Irene Fernando F February 13, 1 2014

Manila, Philippines – Whetherr applying in nside the co ompany’s p premises orr attending a job expo o in malls or schools, a person loo oking for a job must put his best foot forwarrd at all times s. Dr. Marc conEspino, director for Alumni Re elations Pla acement Se ervices (AR RPS) at the Far Eastern University (FEU), gav ve this advic ce at the sid delines of tthe universiity’s two-da ay “Alumni Placementt Expo (APE EX)” which opened ye esterday. M Manila Bulle etin is the official media m partn ner of the jo ob fair.

PLACE EMENT EX XPO – Stude ents from th he private-rrun Far Easstern Unive ersity in Manila and oth her graduates of tertiarry institution ns queue u up at the Ma anila Bulletiin booth du uring the ope ening yesterday of the two-day Alumni Place ement Expo o FEU Jobffair 2014, o open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the e Morayta ccampus. (Manny Llane es) “They (a applicants) really have to prepare e. They havve to presen nt themselvves [well] whetherr if it is in a school setting or in an ny area whe ere job fairss are being conducted,” Espino said. s “It’s not just j going to t the booth h and subm mitting resum mes—they have to rea alize that th hey are in th he recruitme ent process s. They hav ve to take it seriously.” At the sa ame time, job seekers s should als so take adva antage of the Internet as more companies check online o recorrds of poten ntial employyees. As its media partne er, Manila Bulletin B has set up a bo ooth in the two-day aff ffair to help students s create the eir online re esumes at www.mbcla w Applican nts who hav ve successffully made their accou unts will havve a greate er chance of being hired by com mpanies in a wide range of industrries. MB is scheduled to hold a series off Classified ds Job fairs this year with w the firstt leg on March 6 – 7, 2 2014 at Megatra ade Hall, SM M Megamalll.

As the number of unemployed Filipinos hit 12.1 million, FEU hopes to prepare its graduating students land the best positions in the workforce, as well as assist the working students and alumni secure sound employment. In his message during the opening ceremonies, FEU President Dr. Michael Alba said that they are looking at beefing up their online database for their alumni. “One thing we are trying to do is set up LinkedIn website where we will encourage our graduates to update their credentials. We hope that the [company] HR heads will look into the database and try to source their recruitment needs through this website,” he said.‐job‐fairs‐seriously‐students‐told/                                   

Peace at hand in Muslim Mindanao, Aquino  says  by Alexander D. Lopez February 13, 2014

Davao City – President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday inspired leaders of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) when he personally appeared in their summit here to assure them of the government’s continued support to peace and development efforts in Muslim Mindanao. Peace is at hand after the signing of the annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the President said. “Abotkamaynanatinangganapnapagbabagonapagtutuwidngsistemasarehiyongito, at angpermanentengpagbabagosaLupangPangako,” President Aquino said in a message to ARMM leaders who are holding a summit at the Waterfront Hotel here. “Makakaasapo kayo nasabawatkasunduangatingnilalagdaan ay nakatayaangamingdangal at pangalan. Hinihimokkopokayongtumayarinsapagasangmakakamitnatinangmalawakan at ganapnapagbabagosa ARMM,” Aquino stressed as he laid down his commitment to the process, while urging ARMM leaders present to make their own pledges of support. President Aquino said the country is now waiting for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will open a new chapter in the history of Muslim Mindanao. He said fear and doubt is the only hindrance to peace and development as he called on the Filipino people, especially the constituents of Muslim Mindanao, to give a chance to the present progress of the peace process. The Mindanao leaders lauded when Aquino assured them of the administration’s continued support to complete the peace process. In an earlier interview, ARMM Governor MujibHataman said the Muslim Mindanao leaders were expecting President Aquino’s full support to the peace process. Earlier in his message, President Aquino enumerated the developments gained by ARMM in terms of peace and order, infrastructure, and health. The President said that ARMM has already experienced an orderly and honest election lately compared to previous electoral proceedings where in the year 2007, failures of elections were declared in 17 municipalities of the region. This number constantly decreases, Aquino said, as failures of elections were only declared in six towns in 2010 and then only one precinct in 2013.

In the field of health starting in 2013, Aquino said a total of 45,659 women received prenatal visits and services while another 36,876 women availed themselves of the postpregnancy services, and 14,179 infants had undergone newborn screening through the efforts of the DOH-ARMM. Aquino also assured the leaders of continued support to the infrastructure programs of the ARMM, including construction of roads, school buildings, and health facilities. The President also took note of the economic gains of the region. He said investments in the area increased to P1.46 billion or 157 percent last year compared to P569 million in 2012. The target collection of the regional treasurer was surpassed in 2013, from P.24 billion to P1.25 billion, Aquino added.‐at‐hand‐in‐muslim‐mindanao‐aquino‐says/                               

Displaced Zambo IDPs get vital aid  February 12, 2014

Zamboanga City – Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar expressed her gratitude to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) for its continued support to families displaced by the standoff last September in this city. The city government is set to distribute the farming tools and supplementary food donated by the WFP to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are housed at the various evacuation centers. The farming tools and ready-to-use supplementary food were turned over by the WFP to the city government, which Salazar gladly accepted. Among the tools turned over to the mayor by WFP representative MisaelArgonza through Department of Social Welfare and Development Assistant Regional Director HadjimudinRidswan include 350 scythes, 150 bolos, 150 pails with cover, 150 plastic containers, 50 crow bars, 25 basins, 150 shovels, 150 shovel spades, 75 big shovels, 150 garden hoes, 150 rakes, 150 sprinklers, 100 gloves, 50 sledge hammers, 54 eye protectors, and 106 rubber boots. Salazar then handed the tools to City Agriculturist DiosdadoPalacat, who will distribute it to the IDPs for food security and livelihood through vegetable production while staying at the evacuation centers. The WFP also turned over boxes of beans from Uzbekistan, cooking oil from Indonesia, and 5.3 metric tons of peanut-based and ready-to-use supplementary food for children.‐zambo‐idps‐get‐vital‐aid/                 

Thaii farme ers ma ake ma arshes p produ uctive  by ZacSarrian February 12, 1 2014

Low-lyin ng land area as are a big g problem in n making th hem producctive. But fa armers in Thailand d have a wo onderful sys stem of ma aking such llands yield bountiful harvests of vegetables, fruits and a many other crops. This is how h they do o it. They make m emban nkments wh here they ccan plant the eir favorite crops lik ke vegetables, fruit tree es, orname ental plants and some other cropss that have ea ready market m either locally or abroad. Suppose e there is a one-hectare property y. There is a canal, abo out two to tthree meterrs wide abo out a meterr deep all along the pe eriphery of tthe propertty. The cana al is deep enough to have enough waterr for paddlin ng the banccas that the ey use in go oing around d the property y.

WATE ERING VEG GETABLES FROM THE CANAL — Farmerss in the low--lying areass in Thailand d construct canals and d make embankmentss several me eters wide with the du ug up soil. Then T they plant various s crops like e vegetabless, fruit treess and otherr crops on tthe

embankments that are about five meters wide. The farmers go around their plantations by means of a small improvised banca in the canal which has water that they also use for watering their plants. Here, a farmer is watering his crops with a motorized water pump in his little banca. Canals are also made between embankments as pathways for the farmer to reach his plants. The embankments may be about five to six meters wide and elevated enough so they are not submerged during the rainy season. Between the embankments are canals used by the farmers for visiting their plants, paddling their way to the different parts of the property using their own little boats. In the province of Petchaburi, we saw samples of marshlands converted into productive farms. One farmer was producing a lot of cucumbers which find their way to the huge Talad Thai market that is about an hour’s drive from the heart of Bangkok. In some parts of the property, the farmer has planted papayas which are also saleable in Thailand. Thai farmers usually plant the red-fleshed varieties that include those developed by East-West Seed Company called Red Royale or the Red Lady developed in Taiwan. There are other varieties that are available to farmers in Thailand from other companies. The beauty about planting in embankments surrounded by canals is that watering is very convenient. The farmers can water their plants right from the canals. They can install a water pump in their little utility boats for spraying water on the planted field. The canals are also very convenient for hauling their harvests to the farmer’s home where they are packed for the market. The marshland farmers are progressive. You can easily detect that from their houses which are equipped with the amenities of modern living. The farmers also own the latest models of 4 x 4 pickup trucks for bringing their harvests to the market. The parking lots of the Talad Thai market are full of such delivery vehicles as well as the vehicles of buyers who go there to purchase their requirements for distribution to retail shops and institutional markets in the urban areas. The farmers usually produce relatively big quantities of the varieties that they grow. That’s because they have to deliver big quantities to the trading area. The Thai farmers produce a lot of hot chili and culinary herbs that are used in a lot of Thai cooking. If one will visit the Talad Thai market, one readily sees the big volumes of agriculture produce that are available there, many of them produced in marshlands that have been converted into productive farms.‐farmers‐make‐marshes‐productive/   

Experts eye Sago production technology  February 12, 2014

Researchers from Aklan State University (ASU) in Aklan and the Visayas State University (VSU) in Leyte are set to develop a package of technology for the propagation of Sago palm (Metroxylonsagu) in terms of nursery and plantation establishment using suckers and wildlings. The researchers aim to develop a set of protocols in the propagation of Sago to further promote the production of this underutilized plant. So far, no scientific methods have been developed for the production of sago in Panay Island whose soil and climatic conditions favor Sago’s growth. Sago is a palm that grows abundantly in marginal areas where only few other plants survive. The trunk of Sago contains high levels of starch of high food value and wide industrial uses. In Aklan, the farmers usually scrape off the pulp from the trunk after splitting it. When sundried, the pulp can be used as flour for cooking into various delicacies. The leaves, on the other hand, are made into shingles for roofing. On a commercial scale, Sago starch converts into ethanol, lactic acid and biodegradable plastics by using biotechnology. Sago also contributes towards environmental protection through carbon sequestration, protection of swamps and drylands, and prevention of floods and forest fires. The Philippines, however, does not have an established Sago industry, a result of a local study on supply chain analysis revealed. It added that the current production practices in Sago-producing areas in Mindanao and Visayas were merely confined to cater to the limited demand of sago flour from local processors for the production of delicacies, and the production of shingles is being carried out to augment household income in the countryside. The University of Philippines Mindanao is leading the research and development for Sago culture and propagation, national inventory and protection of wild stands, and better utilization in the country. In 2013, it has established a pilot facility for R & D on Sago product development and utilization. While majority of the Sago stands in the Philippines are located in Mindanao which accounts for 507 hectares, Sago is also found in Panay Island (consisting of Aklan, Iloilo, Antique, and Capiz provinces), Cebu, and Leyte with a combined area of less than 40 hectares. A survey conducted by Dr. LelisaTeodosio of ASU indicates that although there is no available data on the actual land area devoted to Sago production in Panay Island,particularly in Aklan, sizeable patches of Sago stands are found in 12 out of 17

municipalities in the province. These include Ibajay, Makato, Tangalan, Numancia, New Washington, Lezo, Banga, Malinao, Batan, Balete, Madalag, and Libacao. Teodosio leads a study funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Researches and Development (PCAARRD) titled “Nursery Propagation of Sago Palm Suckers and Wildlings for Plantation Development” that aims to develop package of technologies for Sago production specifically on the appropriate methods of nursery propagation and plantation establishment using suckers and wildlings. The study has two components. The first component, led by Dr. MalcoTeodosio, will study the survivability of Sago palm suckers as influenced by frequency and depth of looping (incision). The second component will deal on the survivability of sago palm wildlings at different leaf stages planted in various soil media and will be handled by Dr. Evelyn P. Vedasto. The study will be conducted in a 10-hectare area in Cabugao, Altavas, Aklan. Asimilar study will be conducted in VSU. — Melpha M. Abello‐eye‐sago‐production‐technology/                             

30 poorest provinces to get more funds–Aquino By Michael Lim UbacPhilippine Daily Inquirer3:41 am | Thursday, February 13th, 2014  MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino has created a club of 30 poorest provinces that will receive  increased funding and national government support between now and the end of his term in 2016. The President’s decision to employ a “geographical” or surgical approach to defeating poverty was made  at a rare full Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday that lasted for almost eight hours.  At the meeting that mainly tackled the “action plan for poverty reduction,” Socioeconomic Planning  Secretary ArsenioBalisacan candidly admitted to the Chief Executive and his Cabinet that the  administration had a dismal performance in arresting poverty and creating jobs.  The 30 “priority provinces” will be categorized into three: Category 1 aims to create more economic  opportunities; Category 2 aims to enhance mobility of labor and goods; and Category 3 aims to increase  resilience since they are local government units most vulnerable to disasters.  Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma announced this new categorization or prioritization of  provinces at a briefing on Wednesday.  The Aquino administration is rushing to meet its target of halving poverty incidence by 2015, which  means that the government will have to further cut poverty incidence by as much as 8.6 percentage  points in a year’s time.  Despite robust economic growth over the past few years, poverty incidence in 2012 stood at 25.2  percent of the population, slightly lower than the 26.3 percent in 2009 but higher than the 24.9 in 2003.  The President directed the Cabinet to be “proactive in delivering front‐line services that will assist  Filipinos in provinces where there is a high incidence of poverty,” Coloma said.  “Intensify programs on job creation and social protection in the most needy and vulnerable provinces,”  the President was quoted by Coloma as saying.  The main agenda for the Cabinet meeting presided over by the President were the “action plans on jobs  creation, social protection and poverty reduction presented by the departments comprising the  Cabinet’s human‐development and poverty‐reduction cluster,” said Coloma. 

Lagging in ‘social outcomes’  At the start of the meeting, Balisacan presented a midterm assessment of the government’s  performance vis–à–vis the targets and objectives of the Philippine Development Plan.  “We are on track with respect to our economic targets, but we lag with respect to our social outcomes,”  Balisacan said. 

He was referring to the poverty incidence and growing level of joblessness despite a robust economic  growth in 2013.  The Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) latest survey found that the unemployment rate rose to 27.5  percent, or an estimated 12.1 million people, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless  between September and December last year.  The unemployment rate soared even as the economy surprisingly grew 7.2 percent in 2013, the second‐ fastest after China’s, showing that economic growth was not inclusive.  The unemployment rate was 6 percentage points higher than the 21.7 percent (some 9.6 million) in the  previous quarter, according to the SWS survey.  At the briefing, Coloma tried to explain the glaring disparity between the robust gross domestic product  growth and the rising unemployment rate.  He said the GDP growth of 7.2 percent in 2013 was within the 7 to 8 percent annual growth target.  But on unemployment rate, he cited a much lower figure without providing a source for the data—7.1  percent in 2013 compared with the forecast range of 6.8 to 7.2 percent. 

Elusive antipoverty target  The official definition of the unemployed covers persons 15 years old and over who are not working,  looking for work and available for work.  SWS defines the unemployed as those aged 18 and above who are without a job and looking for one.  In consonance with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the target is to decrease  poverty incidence by half, from 33.2 percent in 1991 to 16.6 percent of the Philippine population by  2015.  Coloma, however, said the government was far from reaching this target.  “Latest figures (meaning 2012, these are the latest full year figures) show that poverty incidence has  been reduced to 25.2 percent,” Coloma said. 

Geographical approach  “A key recommendation of the Cabinet cluster on human development and poverty reduction was to  implement strategies with spatial and sectoral dimensions to ensure attainment of inclusive growth,” he  said.  “Hence, the cluster mapped out specific interventions targeted at addressing the needs of the people in  provinces with the (biggest) number of poor households (and these are known as the Category 1  provinces), provinces where the proportion of poor households is high (Category 2), and provinces  exposed to multiple hazards (Category 3),” said Coloma. 

Action plan  The Cabinet also laid out an agency‐by‐agency action plan for poverty reduction:  – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will focus on increasing the country’s competitiveness in  industry sectors with high‐employment multipliers, such as shipbuilding, food processing, furniture,  chemicals, automative, copper and copper products, electronics and garments.  – The DTI will also pursue initiatives in further improving the ease of doing business and lowering power  costs to enhance employment and job creation.  – Continuing support will be given to the information technology‐business process management (IT‐ BPM) sector that has been a consistent generator of new employment opportunities.  – Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that through convergence programs in 30 priority provinces,  (these are the provinces in Categories 1, 2 and 3), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will  facilitate job matching and placement of jobseekers.  The DOLE is working closely with the Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills  Development Authority (Tesda), Department of Science and Technology, and Professional Regulation  Commission, along with a network of school administrators, guidance counselors and career advocates.  – In line with Asean integration, the DOLE is also promoting the mobility of professionals in up to 46  professions through mutual recognition agreements with other countries.  – Tesda’s work scholarship program aims to develop skill sets and competencies that will match  available and potential job opportunities in the following sectors: agro‐fishery and agro‐industrial;  manufacturing, tourism, IT‐BPM, infrastructure and housing, and logistics. 

Mass housing  On social protection, Vice President JejomarBinay said the Housing and Urban Development  Coordinating Council was targeting to provide 561,932 families with housing assistance estimated to  cost P103.1 billion from 2014 through 2016.  Three priority sectors will be assisted: informal settler families, calamity victims and low‐salaried  government employees.  Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said families being supported by the PantawidPamilyang  Pilipino Program would be given sustainable livelihood opportunities, and expanded educational and  health grants. 

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Cagayan folk question P5B breakwater cost By Melvin Gascon Inquirer Northern Luzon  1:17 am | Thursday, February 13th, 2014

SANTA ANA, Cagayan—When construction began for the breakwater at Port Irene in the fishing  village of Casambalangan here, residents felt no excitement about the new infrastructure  project in their neighborhood.  But when news broke last week that the project was worth P5.101 billion in taxpayer money,  their jaws dropped.  “I may not be an expert in the construction business, but the P5‐billion cost of that breakwater  project is incredible. That figure boggles the mind,” said a village council member here who  spoke on condition of anonymity.  The almost kilometer‐long breakwater inside the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport  is at the center of a controversy, with Sen. Miriam Defensor‐Santiago asking the Department of  Justice to investigate a possible involvement of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in the award of the  contract to a construction company that has links with Enrile’s former chief of staff, lawyer  Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.  The Inquirer broke the story last week. Enrile denied having anything to do with the project or  with the builder, Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corp., owned by Alice Eduardo.  The Securities and Exchange Commission records showed that members of Reyes’ family are  officers of Sta. Fe Builders Dredging and Equipment Corp., which shares an office with Sta.  Elena in Manila’s Malate district.  Sta. Fe is listed as a director of MGNP Inc., a construction and general trading company formed  by Reyes and members of her family in 2003.  Reyes fled the country last year after being linked to the P10‐billion pork barrel scam allegedly  masterminded by detained businesswoman Janet Lim‐Napoles.  Not overpriced  Sought for comment, Joyce Jayme, information officer of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority  (Ceza), which manages the free port, denied allegations that the project was overpriced.  “Before the project’s implementation, the Philippine Ports Authority validated the cost and  design of the breakwater, [and its] findings showed that the unit cost for each item is generally 

reasonable and acceptable, and that the unit cost per cubic meter in dredging work can be  adopted considering the degree of difficulty in the performance of work,” Jayme said.  Santiago wants the justice department to determine whether Enrile used the free port in his  home province to channel P5.101 billion in government funds to companies controlled by  Reyes’ family.  She said Enrile also used the free port as the “main vehicle for smuggling and other illicit  operations.”  Enrile has denied Santiago’s allegations.  ‘Pile of rocks’  Casambalangan residents said it would not need an expert to see that the breakwater was  overpriced.  “During fishing trips, we often take our boats to the breakwater to check it out. We really  cannot understand why it costs P5 billion. It is nothing but a pile of rocks,” a resident said.  An examination of the 750‐meter structure showed that it juts out of the northern tip of Port  Irene, extends for about 250 m, and bends northeast every 250 m.  The first and second segments, which, according to records, constitute the first two phases of  the project, consist of a layer of jack stone‐shaped precast concrete (PC) blocks randomly  placed on top of a pile of rocks the size of a subcompact car extending down to the sea floor.  In the third segment, the jack stone blocks decrease in number and down to the end, only rocks  are seen from the water surface.  Economic activities  The Ceza said in a report that the breakwater was needed to spur economic activities in Port  Irene. It said existing structures at the port were “already structurally unsafe and highly  vulnerable.”  “The use of PC blocks is designed to dissipate the force of incoming waves by allowing water to  flow around rather than against it and to reduce displacement by allowing random distribution  of PC blocks to mutually interlock,” the report said.  Fishermen here, however, said the breakwater protected only the port and the vessels involved  in two controversial industries: the used‐car importers and the processed black sand exporters. 

“The breakwater has served only the facilities within the cove, nothing else. In fact, it has  diverted destructive waves to nearby fishing communities, especially Rapuli village,” said  Marciano Agonoy, a member of the town council.  Ceza vision  Jayme said the Commission on Audit had determined that the total cost of the project was  “generally reasonable and within the allowable limit of variance.”  “The Ceza envisions Port Irene to be the heart of its economic zone and free port, [and] the  region’s entry point for commercial and industrial products. But before this can be attained, we  must set the foundation first,” she said. 

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

MANILA, Philippines—Aklan Rep. TeodoricoHaresco 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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Like It Is

Been stuck in traffic lately? By Peter Wallace Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:57 am | Thursday, February 13th, 2014

I was stuck in traffic the other day, and another day, and another day. It’s the norm now,  although unacceptable. It won’t do. And it needn’t do, if there’s one simple thing: ACTION,  instead of talk. What is needed is control—control that would cost nothing except firm political  will to enforce sensible traffic rules.  We’re stuck with the inadequate roads that are there, and the older ones that are acceptable.  What aren’t, and what I’m very angry about, are the new cities (past 20 years is new) that were  blank pieces of ground where anything could have been done—but wasn’t. Roads are narrow  and there are intersections. Roads should be eight, even 10, lanes wide with over‐ or  underpasses on all major intersections, or roundabouts in some cases. Traffic lights should be at  a minimum, as unnecessary; malls and popular areas should have LARGE off‐road areas for  loading and unloading so normal traffic is not affected in any way.  The so‐called “city planners” and government officials should suffer Davao City Mayor Rodrigo  Duterte’s solution. Greed has dominated decisions. Sadly, what’s done is done. But over‐ and  underpasses can still be built at some critical intersections—if the political will is there. I wish to  devote this column to some simple, quick solutions that can help right now.  The first is to hire hundreds of traffic aides, and TRAIN them in the art of keeping traffic flowing,  with the power to enforce their directives. Given the ill‐discipline and ignorance (how many  drivers have actually passed a license exam?) of too many drivers, external control is essential  until disciplined driving is second nature. Station 100, 200—whatever is needed—traffic aides  and cops all along Edsa to ensure that buses stay ONLY in the curbside lane and stop at  designated bus stops. Take away the license of any bus driver outside the curbside lane, and  ensure that intersections don’t get blocked so cross traffic can flow and drivers don’t cross  lanes and push in for selfish advantage. All it needs is disciplined driving. It can be done. At peak  hours, turn off the traffic lights, have INTELLIGENT (I have to stress that) cops maximizing  intersection flow.  So, top of the list: Keep intersections open. If you can’t get through to the other side, you can’t  enter the box. The delays that a blocked intersection causes are horrific. Corollary to this is, let  left‐turning traffic through if your side is moving slowly so the other side can maintain a smooth  flow. A block on the road doesn’t just affect those nearby, it also has a strong cumulative 

affectthat builds up. The other day we wanted to cross over SLEx from the airport to Bonifacio  Global City—a couple of hundred meters, and it took 45 minutes. The problem was, cars  entering into SLEx blocked the crossover; they couldn’t clear the crossing but entered anyway.  Beyond that the road was clear, and we were in BGC in 10 minutes. A perfect example of  mindless selfishness, a perfect example of the need for a cop, or two.Or 10.  Parking outside malls and schools should not be allowed, not even to drop off or pick up. That  minute or so is enough to create substantial delays. The Virgin Mary Immaculate School in  Alabang has cars two, sometimes three, lanes deep (leaving but one) as parents and drivers  wait for the kids to emerge. Parking must be off‐road; walking is good for kids (adults, too)  anyway.  In Australia, when there’s an accident the vehicles must be immediately moved out of the  traffic if possible. A picture is taken to provide needed detail. The other day a bus (of course)  and an SUV had a minor bump coming down the ramp from the Skyway onto SLEx. The traffic  buildup was over a kilometer because the vehicles stayed there while the drivers argued with  the cops. Both vehicles were perfectly drivable.  On that SLEx exit ramp that leads to Edsa, one thing I’d do is put up a large live screen  sufficiently ahead of the exit showing the traffic flow, or lack of it, on Edsa so you can choose to  exit there or proceed further down. You don’t have to add to the chaos. And that happens  wherever a choice can’t be made before entering a blind intersection.  A reason for the chaos there, incidentally, is the lower gate to Dasma. Cars from the boulevard  cross from the far left lane to get to it, stopping traffic flow. The solution is simple: Close that  gate at peak hours. The few cars taking kids to school or whatever can drive an extra 200  meters to the main gate so thousands of other motorists aren’t disadvantaged.  And now that we’re on Edsa, everyone agrees: TAKE HALF THE BUSES OFF IT. A study by the  University of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency has confirmed it.  Why on earth hasn’t it been done? The buses are half or less full, so half of them gone will  disadvantage no commuter. I challenge our transport officials to take half the buses off Edsa  before Holy Week.  Who are we trying to look after, the public in millions or the bus owners in tens? And don’t give  me nonsense about franchises and things, I’m sure it can be done. Half of the buses were  probably fraudulently acquired anyway. And police them to stay only in the curbside at all  times, absolutely no overtaking. And for the buses left, pay drivers a fixed salary so there’s no  temptation to rush for the next passenger. Bus service is a public service, not a profit‐ maximizing venture. 

As to trucks, get Subic and Batangas operating as planned, as alternate international ports.  A successful city is where you take public transport by choice, where the system is so good you  don’t need, or even want, to use your car. We are far, far from that. So cars have to remain part  of our city life, but let’s get them moving.  It’s time we demanded one simple thing from government: ACTION. Just do it. Now. 

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DBM staff involved in fake SARO face raps By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:01am THE government will pursue administrative and criminal cases against the employees of the Department of Budget and Management who were involved in the release of fake special allotment release orders or SAROs for projects to build farm-to-market roads, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said on Wednesday. “We plan to take immediate and appropriate action against DBM employees—be they regular staff or employees associated with us through an outsourced agency—so they are held accountable for their role in the scam,” Abad said. “We will also be working closely with the Department of Justice in determining the best course of action for us, including the filing of charges against DBM staff whose involvement in the scam has been properly established.” Abad made his statement even as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima rejected the appeal of Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. to re-investigate his alleged involvement in the falsification of SAROs in the Budget Department. “I don’t think the NBI is inclined to do that because the case will now be filed in the proper forum—whether the DOJ or the Office of the Ombudsman,” De Lima said. “That will be the proper forum now.” De Lima also rejected Haresco’s claim that his right to due process was violated since the NBI did not get his side while it was investigating the case. She said his office had been “evasive to the NBI team.” But Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., an administration ally, said Wednesday he was puzzled by the NBI’s move to recommend the filing of criminal charges against Haresco for his alleged role in the SAROs case. He urged the NBI to produce witnesses that would prove Harescos’ involvement in the case. “I really cannot comprehend why my colleague Congressman Haresco was included in the criminal complaint,” Barzaga said. “SAROs are official issuances of the DBM, and I cannot see how Congressman Haresco could influence the issuance of fake SAROs.”

Opposition Reps. Silvestre Bello III, Jonathan dela Cruz and Rodolfo Albano III said Haresco deserved due process and that he had their support. Abad said his department would continue to cooperate in the effort to uncover the extent of the fake SARO scam after the NBI said a deeper inquiry into the matter might be necessary. The NBI also said it had discovered a well-entrenched syndicate operating in the Budget Department and which was involved in the proliferation of fake SAROs. The NBI earlier recommended the filing of criminal charges against Haresco and four other people for their alleged involvement in the SAROs case. Abad said that, as early as October last year, the Budget Department had sought the help of the Justice Department to probe the suspected systematic faking of SAROs within the bureaucracy. “The possibility that the scam involved—and perhaps originated among—some DBM employees was deeply unsettling, but it was a likelihood that we needed to confront in the course of the NBI’s investigation,” Abad said. “Independent of the fake SARO probe, we’ve already fine-tuned our document management system so that valuable files and official documents are tracked more efficiently and meticulously.“We’re also looking forward to refining other processes that may be vulnerable to abuse and irregularities, as well as plugging operational loopholes that may compromise the integrity of our work in DBM.” Haresco had earlier cried foul, saying he was singled out among 32 lawmakers who were accused of benefiting from the fake SAROs. “I am the victim here. I was the one who requested the investigation at the NBI and yet I am the one being charged here,” Haresco said.Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the NBI had yet to gather sufficient evidence to recommend the filing of charges against Relampagos, who was among those who had been investigated. 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. With Jennifer Ambanta, Rey E. Requejo and Maricel V. Cruz‐staff‐involved‐in‐fake‐saro‐face‐raps/   

Economic czar admits govt lags in job creation By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:01am The National Economic Development Authority on Wednesday admitted that despite hitting economic targets, the Aquino administration has lagged behind in providing social protection and creating jobs. “We are on track with respect to our economic targets, but we lag with respect to our social outcomes,” NEDA director general Arsenio Balisacan said during Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Balisacan reported that while full year gross domestic product in 2013 was at 7.2 percent, the unemployment rate was at 7.1 percent - in the upper ceiling of the government’s forecast range of 6.8 to 7.2 percent. The high unemployment rate had rompted the independent block in the House of Representatives to question the Aquino administration’s supposed GDP growth which it said conflicted with the increase in the number of unemployed to 12 million. In a statement, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, the bloc’s leader, said that the government ‘has a lot of explaining to do on the supposed 2013 fourth quarter 7.2 percent growth in the gross domestic product.’ According to the latest Social Weather Stations survey, the number of jobless Filipinos, out of a population close to 100 million, rose to 12.1 million during the last quarter of last year. The figure was up by six points from 9.6 million jobless Filipinos recorded in September 2013. Romualdez said if the supposed 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? Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz and Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, members of Romualdez’s group, was also puzzled over the government’s claim of 7.2 percent GDP increase when there is a huge number of Filipino people who are jobless. Dela Cruz said the government should come up 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,” Dela Cruz said.

Atienza, for his part, said the rise in unemployment clearly showed that the supposed GDP growth had only benefited the lesser privileged minority instead of the greater majority. “What did the country gain from the supposed GDP growth and where are these figures?” Atienza said. Romualdez’ group vowed to file a resolution on the matter so as to initiate a congressional 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. As this developed, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said a key recommendation of the Cabinet cluster on human development and poverty reduction was to implement strategies with spatial and sectoral dimensions to ensure attainment of inclusive growth. “The cluster mapped out specific interventions targeted at addressing the needs of the people in provinces with the most number of poor households (Category 1), provinces where the proportion of poor households is high (Category 2), and provinces exposed to multiple hazards (Category 3),” Coloma said. “The objective for Category 1 provinces is to create more economic opportunities; for Category 2, enhance mobility of labor and goods; and for Category 3, increase resilience since they are most vulnerable to disasters,” Coloma added. Coloma said the government is confident that the upward trend of fixed capital formation, which reached 21.1 percent last year, would help address the gaps in social protection and job creation. With Maricel V. Cruz‐czar‐admits‐govt‐lags‐in‐job‐ creation/             

Online voting eyed in ‘16 By Joel E. Zurbano | Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:01am The Commission on Elections is considering allowing overseas Filipino workers to use the Internet to vote in the May 2016 presidential elections. Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, head of the overseas absentee voting committee, said the poll body is now in the process of meeting officers of the Spain-based Scytl Technologies in connection with the Internet voting plan.“As of now, there are no other companies presenting such a technology, only Scytl. But we are still open to presentations of others,” Tagle said. The Comelec came up with the plan to increase the numbers of overseas Filipinos, particularly seafarers and those working far from Philippine embassies and consulates, who participate in the elections.Online voting, according to Tagle, is allowed under the amended Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2013. But he said the Comelec en banc headed by Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. has yet to approve Internet voting. “As of now, there is about a 50-50 percent chance of us being able to conduct the Internet voting pilot test,” he said. In the May 13 mid-term polls, the Foreign Affairs department listed a total of 988,384 overseas absentee voters. Of the total number, there are 398,554 OAV new registrants. The new figures surpassed the total number of registrants in 2004, where 364,187 were listed as OAV; in 2007, 143,236; and in 2010, 235,950. In the last elections, the Comelec conducted automated polls using the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines in seven selected countries—Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Kuwait, Dubai, and Riyadh—for overseas Filipino voters. Of the seven countries, Hong Kong has the highest number of registered voters with more than 120,000 followed by Singapore with 50,0633 while Abu Dhabi has 21,645 registered voters, followed by Dubai with 55,842, then Kuwait with 30,468 and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with 30,238. America has 66, 745 registered voters while Europe has 17,650 votes out of the 61,294 registered voters. The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 allows qualified Filipino citizens residing abroad to vote for president, vice president, senators and party-list representatives.‐voting‐eyed‐in‐16/ 

Delu usiona al gov vernm ment By Maniila Standard d Today | Feeb. 13, 2014 4 at 12:01am m

YEARS from now when w the hazee of media-d driven hype aand bogus opinion polls has lifted, w we will remeember the Aquino admin nistration as a delusionall governmennt, more conccerned with perceptio on than true service to th he people. A shining g example of this comess from Philip ppine Nationnal Police (PN NP) chief A Alan Purisimaa, who writtes off a surg ge in crime to o a change in the way thhe police gatther their stattistics. “We have reported th he true crimee rate, this iss the true crim me picture,”” the police cchief has beeen n the past], there t have been some effforts to loweer the crime stats. Now, we quoted ass saying. “[In are just trruthful.” By the PN NP’s own co ount, there were w 1.03 miillion crimess committed in 2013, or aalmost 3,0000 crimes a day. This was almost fiv ve times the 217,812 crim mes that thee PNP reportted in 2012. In the facce of these grim g numbers, the police chief insistss that are nott in the midddle of a crim me wave. Hee offers no sttatistical basses for makin ng this claim m, however, and attributees his concluusion to “perso onal observattion.” “I don’t see s that it haas gone up. It’s the same thing. Actuually, it’s moore peaceful nnow than it w was in the passt,” Purisimaa said. From thiss statement, we can only y conclude th hat the policce chief neithher listens too the news noor reads thee newspaperss, which are filled daily with w reports of brazen ddaytime robbberies, motorcyccle-riding criiminals who o prey on law w-abiding cittizens with im mpunity, annd a growingg number of o grizzly shooting death hs.

When compelled to confront these problems, the police chief offers no cohesive strategy to curb motorcycle-enabled crime or to reduce the number of firearms in the hands of trigger-happy criminals. This helplessness mirrors the inability –or unwillingness—of other government agencies to do their jobs and to impose order. We see this in the lack of action on the part of the Bureau of Customs to curb what everyone acknowledges as rampant rice smuggling. We also see this in the inability of the traffic authorities to impose order on the streets, and to ensure that the commuting public is safe from buses that all too regularly become coffins on wheels. It is also reflected in this government’s continued failure to protect consumers from monopolistic behavior. The administration’s answer to all these problems is public relations and denial. In this regard, President Benigno Aquino III leads by example, denying that serious ills plague the nation and insisting that all is well and good under his watch. One day soon, however, that bubble too will burst, and a true accounting will have to be made. By then, the inept police chief will no longer be able to hide behind this administration’s penchant for delusion and denial.‐government‐2/                           

Bagoong fiesta fund mess; SB seeks report By Johanne Macob | Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:01am LINGAYEN, Pangasinan —Officials responsible for organizing the town’s bagoong festival have failed to submit a financial report and the head of various committees have pointed their fingers at the municipal accountant, officials said. Councilor Judy Ann Vargas said the chairmen of the three main committees --- Municipal Accountant Nelson Gumapos, Municipal Registrar Jojo Lopez, and Human Resources Management Officer Raul Ungson --- could not present a financial report after three meetings on the issue. “The bagoong festival stinks,” one town official said. “I am not pointing a finger at anyone, but there should be transparency in handling public funds,” Vargas said. The bagoong festival, which is held as a joint celebration with the town fiesta from December 7 to January 15, is now on its third year. It has a P500,000 allocation. Johanne Margarette Macob‐fiesta‐fund‐mess‐sb‐seeks‐report/                       

Farmers get production boost from Mighty Corp By William Garcia | Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:01am SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union --- A cigarette manufacturing company announced it would double its purchase of tobacco from five million to 10 million kilos this year, which would boost the income of farmers in the area, the president of the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Association and Cooperatives (NAFTAC) said. NAFTAC president Mario Cabasal said the announcement of Mighty Corporation was expected to break the farmers’ dependence on giant tobacco companies, who enter into contract with farmers to make them plant high nicotine varieties. “The farmers now have a buyer for low-grade tobacco,” Cabasal said. Mighty Corporation, a Filipino company, produces low-priced brand of cigarettes, which are popular among the masses. The company provided farmers 83 units of water pumps and 16 hand tractors. The company also sponsored 100 college scholarship for children of tobacco farmers in La Union. It signed partnership agreements with farmers at the Hotel Ariana in Bauang, La Union last February 8. Mighty Executive Vice President Oscar Barrientos said the company will compete with the giant tobacco companies in the purchase of tobacco, which they needed as cigarette filler. Edgardo Zaragosa, Administrator of the National Tobacco Administration, welcomed the entry of Mighty Corporation in the market, “which is good because competition in tobacco trading will help farmers, especially if the price is right.” “If Mighty is absent, we will be having problems selling tobacco,” Zaragosa said.

A Brown investing P3b in oil palm estate By Othel V. Campos | Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:01am A unit of A Brown Group is investing P3 billion to establish a 1,400-hectare oil palm plantation in Cagayan de Oro City. A Brown Energy and Resources Development Inc. on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with the city government of Cagayan de Oro led by Mayor Oscar Moreno during an event at Intercontinental Hotel Manila in Makati City. A Brown Company Inc. chairman Walter Brown said his company was slowly diversifying into agro-industrial business, especially in the area of palm oil production. “This is just the planning stage, but we are already in partnership with the city government of CDO for the project. They will provide us the land, we provide them the expertise,” Brown told reporters at the sidelines of the Connect and Do Business Cagayan de Oro Forum. Moreno said the agreement between Cagayan de Oro and A Brown was a clear example of public-private sector partnership. Cagayan de Oro recently opened up at least 5,000 hectares of raw land for development by interested investors. Brown said the output from the CDO plantation would complement two existing plantations in Bukidnon province with combined 1,600 hectares. Brown said Energy and Resources currently sells crude palm oil to local refiners and feed millers. A Brown director and president Robertino Pizarro said the company’s existing crude palm oil refinery in Bukidnon could process 10 metric tons of crude palm oil an hour. “By yearend, we will have our own refinery that will convert crude palm oil into refined palm oil which is already good for cooking,” he said. Pizarro said the company planned to expand the capacity of the crude palm oil mill to 25 tons an hour. All refined palm oil output will be made available for local consumption, the company said.

URC’s net income increases 26% to P2.88b as sales rise 13% By Jenniffer B. Austria | Feb. 13, 2014 at 12:01am Food manufacturing company Universal Robina Corp. said Wednesday net income in the first quarter of its 2014 fiscal year grew 25.9 percent to P2.88 billion from P2.28 billion posted in the same period a year ago. The first quarter of URC’s 2014 fiscal year covers October to December 2013. URC, the food manufacturing arm of the Gokongwei group, said in a report to the stock exchange consolidated sales of goods and services reached P22.705 billion in the period, up 13.1 percent over the same period a year ago. The company said revenues from branded consumer foods segment both from domestic and overseas operations increased 21.3 percent to P18.63 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2014 from P15.35 billion registered in the same period last year. This segment accounted for 82.1 percent of the company’s consolidated sales of goods and services for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014. Sales from domestic operations posted a 28.1-percent increase in net sales to P12.69 billion, due to strong performance of the beverage division which grew 43.6 percent on the back of solid performance by beverage businesses. Sales for snack foods division also grew by 20 percent, led by higher sales of salty snacks, bakery and confectionery segments. Revenues from international operations also climbed 9.1 percent to P5.93 billion from P5.43 billion a year ago, on improved sales in China and Thailand. “China business was significantly up due to higher seasonal sales for cereals and oats categories. Thailand business grew despite the weak macro environment and political turmoil in the country. Sales for biscuits and wafers increased due to launch of new products which are showing signs of traction,” the food manufacturing firm said. Sales from the company’s packaging division, however, fell 31.6 percent to P208 million from P304 million year due to the decline in sales volume.‐s‐net‐income‐increases‐26‐to‐p2‐88b‐as‐ sales‐rise‐13‐/   

Tuason meets fellow plunder witnesses February 12, 2014 10:24 pm   by JAIME R. PILAPIL REPORTER Potential state witness Ruby Tuason arrives at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila on Wednesday. She attended a case conference with other whistleblowers to the pork barrel scam, and reviewed the documents to be presented to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing today. PHOTO BY EDWIN MULI “Slam bang” witness Ruby Tuason on Wednesday met for the first time with the other plunder case witnesses, namely Marina Sula, Gertrudes Luy, Merlina Sunas, Marina Sula, and Mary Arlene Baltazar, all employees of suspected scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. Tuason already met Benhur Luy on Monday. Socialite Tuason was originally an accused in the plunder case filed by the government against Napoles, as well as Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, among others. But she is expected turn state witness, and therefore be excluded from the plunder case filed by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan. Tuason and her colleagues attended Holy Mass at the chapel of the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima referred to the testimony of Tuason as “slam bang” as it would give vital information on how plunder money exchanged hands from Napoles to the lawmakers or their trusted personnel. They held a conference to acquaint the witnesses with the pieces of evidences they will present before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing today. Tuason was presented to the media in the afternoon, but she was not allowed to speak to reporters. She looked better on Wednesday compared on Monday when she appeared haggard. She was smiling and even exchanged pleasantries with media. Accompanying Tuason at the conference room were Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano and Special Task Force chief Rolando Argabioso, who is responsible for gathering the pieces of evidences, as well the documentation of affidavits of the witnesses. Argabioso said the Witness Protection Program (WPP) office is on top of the security of the witnesses, including Tuason, although NBI agents are always on hand to give support. Justiniano clarified that although Tuason is “provisionally” accepted to the WPP, she is already entitled to security as the case is sensitive and involves big names.

Tuason will be accompanied today by the witnesses in her first appearance before the Senate. She is expected to narrate the details on how she delivered money, in the millions, to Senators Enrile and Estrada, who reportedly demanded kickbacks from their pork barrel. Napoles is presently detained at Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna for serious illegal detention, a non-bailable offense. Once the Office of Ombudsman has finds merit in the plunder case, it is the only time warrants of arrests will be served to those involved in the embezzlement of P10 billion in pork barrel funds. Tuason arrived in the Philippines from the United States on Friday and went straight to the Department of Justice to submit her sworn statement.‐meets‐fellow‐plunder‐witnesses/75309/                                 

Business groups back cha‐cha February 12, 2014 10:21 pm   by JHOANNA BALLARAN REPORTER As the unemployment rate in the country continues to rise, the Makati Business Club (MBC) pushed for amending economic provisions of the Constitution to “improve the inflow” of investments in the country. In an interview, MBC Chair Ramon Del Rosario Jr. said the government should consider looking into the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that restrict complete foreign ownership of estates and corporations to “open up” certain areas of the economy. Del Rosario attended the House of Representatives meeting with the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce and Philippine business groups on Wednesday. He said the steady increase of unemployment rate in the country amid the economic growth is “a very serious issue” and a “more serious crisis than [Super Typhoon] Yolanda” as it affects a larger number of people. “The message we would like to convey here is that we really need to put everything we’ve got together to try and address this issue, including things like looking at our Constitution and what are the restrictions there that impede the inflow of our investments into our economy,” Del Rosario told reporters. “Because to create jobs, you really need investments. Let us open up those areas of our economy, such as mining, which is still at a standstill, where more employment can be created,” he added. Del Rosario said the MBC had already appealed to President Benigno Aquino 3rd directly on the proposal but was turned down. This should be addressed immediately as the Philippines becomes a new investment hub in Asia, second only to China, he said. Aquino already turned down proposals for charter change since he assumed the presidency in 2010. Critics, on the other hand, believed that once the Constitution is opened for amendments it would also open the floodgates for amendments of several political provisions, including extending term limits. However, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the main sponsor of the move to amend the Constitution, assured the public that it would only be limited to the insertion of the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in the 60-40 ownership provision.

Belmonte believes that charter change is a larger contributor to economic growth as foreign direct investments (FDIs) are seen to increase once ownership on estates and corporations, one of the issues raised by investors for not investing in the country, is relaxed. “When we talk about FDI, we want investments in factories, we want investments in industries. And when you do that, you cannot just come and go. You have to stick around and see you’re able to do to make money,” Belmonte said after the conference. The speaker said that the measure, Joint Resolution 1, is expected to reach the plenary before end-March. He also expressed confidence that constitutional amendments would be approved at the House with a three-fourths vote of the chamber. European Chamber of Commerce Vice President Henry Schumacher also expressed support to the move as it is the key to increase FDIs to the country. “I think the time is now to do it. I think we need more [FDI] and from that point of view, it makes sense to remove the obstacles,” he said.‐groups‐back‐cha‐cha/75308/                           

HIV/AIDS infects educated Pinoys February 12, 2014 10:20 pm   by LLANESCA T. PANTI REPORTER Contrary to popular belief, the majority of those who get infected with the deadly Human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the country are highly educated. Dr. Ferchito Avelino of the Philippine National Aids Council (PNAC) made the disclosure at the sidelines of the Technical Working Group meeting on House Bill 3243, which seeks to strengthen the country’s comprehensive policy on the prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS patients as well as to protect their rights and freedoms. “Normally, when we talk about HIV/AIDS, we think that those who get infected are those who dropped out of school, or those who never went to school at all, and thus they have very little knowledge about the disease. But you will be surprised that most people contracting HIV virus are highly educated. Mga inglesero [sila] at maporma (They speak English fluently and they sport nice clothes),” Avelino told reporters. Avelino said that as of 2013, one Filipino gets infected with the HIV for every one hour and 43 minutes—a staggering increase compared with the 2007 figures wherein one Filipino is infected with HIV every 24 hours. “It [profile of HIV infected persons] shows that it is not about lack of knowledge, but translating this knowledge to behavioral change. We still need to encourage people who have multiple sex partners and are sexually active to practice safe sex,” Avelino pointed out. “Sadly, we see a very low rate of condom use in our population, and one way of protecting yourself and your partner from potential infection is using condoms,” Avelino added. Moreover, Avelino pushed for the provider-initiated testing wherein a health or service provider would no longer wait for a person to seek information on HIV testing but instead go on an aggressive stance by convincing those belonging in the population at high risk of contracting HIV to get tested. “In the country, HIV testing is free. If a person turns positive, there are already facilities and services that are available for free. What we would want is for the infected person to get immediate treatment so you can still be a productive, contributing partner of the community,” Avelino said.‐infects‐educated‐pinoys/75303/ 

P1.3‐B remitted to govt from Marcos loot February 12, 2014 10:18 pm   by NEIL A. ALCOBER THE Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) said on Wednesday it recently remitted $29 million or P1.3 billion to the National Treasury recovered from the remaining Swiss bank accounts of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his family that had been ordered forfeited by the Supreme Court in 2013, but which was held up in litigation in Singapore. PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista said the remittance came following the decision of Singapore Court of Appeal affirming the High Court ruling that the funds were being held in escrow by the Philippine National Bank (PNB) in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines. He said the money, composed of $20.2 million and 5.3 million pounds sterling, were remitted to the Bureau of Treasury last February 5 and 10. “These amounts collectively are around approximately $29 million or over P1.3 billion pesos,” Bautista told reporters in a press briefing, noting that the amount is an addition to the P683 million secret Swiss bank accounts of the Marcoses. “This is the last from secret Swiss bank accounts. The money would go to human rights compensation,” Bautista said. Bautista said the remitted funds form part of the secret Swiss bank accounts of the late strongman, which have been declared as ill-gotten and ordered forfeited by the Supreme Court in 2003 though it was not enforced since the funds were still held up due to litigation in Singapore court. The Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 1997 ordered that the secret Marcos accounts hidden in the Swiss banks be transferred to the Republic of the Philippines, subject to certain conditions and its disposition be determined by final enforceable judgment of the competent Philippine court. Among the conditions was that these accounts be placed under escrow with the PNB and that they could be reinvested only in banks with Standard & Poor’s “AA” rating.‐3‐b‐remitted‐to‐govt‐from‐marcos‐loot/75295/       

Palace told to explain hike in PhilHealth rates February 12, 2014 10:17 pm   by JOMAR CANLAS THE Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered Malacañang to explain the increase in members’ premium contributions implemented by the Philippine Health Corp. (PhilHealth) this year. During en banc deliberations, the SC magistrates mandated President Benigno Aquino 3rd to comment on the petition to block the increase filed by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU). The SC deferred the issuance of a temporary restraining order with regards to the prayer of the petitioner. “The Court resolved to require respondents to comment on the petition and the application for a TRO,” the SC said. In a 22-page petition for certiorari, KMU and National Federation of Labor Unions-Kilusang Mayo Uno, represented by their officers, asked the high court to nullify the three PhilHealth circulars numbered 0027s-2013 (dated September 20, 2013), 0025s-2013 (dated September 28, 2013), and 0024s-2013 (dated September 30, 2013) that authorized the hikes. The group urged the court to declare these issuances as null and void as it supposedly failed to comply with a “reasonable, equitable and progressive contribution schedule.” Circular 0027s-2013 provides for a new contribution rate with P200 as minimum for those in the employed sector; Circular 0025s-2013 increases the annual contributions to P2,400 from P1,200 in 2013 for land-based overseas contract workers starting Jan. 1 this year, and Circular 0024s2013 increases to P2,400 from P1,800 in 2013 the annual contributions for individually paying members with a monthly income of P25,000 and below effective January 1 this year. The group blasted how “those with lower salaries have their PhilHealth contributions increased while those with higher salaries maintain their contribution rates.” KMU said the increase, which will raise members’ minimum monthly contribution from P750 to P1,000, is an added burden to workers already suffering from stagnant wages and soaring prices and is part of the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to subsidize health services. “We are calling on the Supreme Court to stop this additional burden for workers who are already suffering from low wages and high prices. This premium hike is part of the government’s

abandonment of its responsibility to subsidize health care,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson. The labor leader counterposed the premium hike with the privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, which was approved last December, and the impending privatization of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital as well as other public hospitals under President Aquino. “Aquino is clearly a Health Disaster. He is meting out a death sentence to many Filipinos by causing huge increases in Filipinos’ payments for health services through the privatization of public hospitals and the hike in PhilHealth premiums,” Labog said. He also rejected PhilHealth’s excuse for the premium hike, saying the expansion of PhilHealth’s coverage and the improvement of the insurance corporation’s benefits should be shouldered by the government, not by members. KMU also said that both the PhilHealth board and the Aquino government are insensitive to the dire situation of workers and the poor that’s why it is easy for them to increase members’ premiums to PhilHealth as well as the Social Security System.‐told‐to‐explain‐hike‐in‐philhealth‐rates/75290/                           

‘Petron the only suspect in oil smuggling’ February 12, 2014 8:52 pm   by ERNIE ESCONDE CORRESPONDENT MARIVELES, Bataan: The Bataan district customs collector on Tuesday denied the presence of oil smuggling in Limay town, challenging those hurling accusations, one of which is Shell, to come up with specifics. Lawyer Elvira Cruz, Bureau of Customs (BOC) collector of the Port of Lamao in Limay, emphasized that the port was not an entry point of smuggling but merely a possible entry point. “Smuggling is not allowed in this port,” she said emphatically. She said that Petron is the only importer of petroleum products in Limay and ships in gas oil, crude oil, mogas, ethanol and asphalt. It has an oil refinery, reportedly the biggest in the country, in Brgy. Alangan in Limay “If there is smuggling in Limay, it is tantamount to saying that Petron is doing that, so let Ramon Ang answer that, not us,” Cruz said. Ang is Petron’s chairman and chief executive officer. On Shell’s allegation of oil smuggling in Bataan and Subic, Cruz said “simply because their sales went down, they came up with the smuggling story. It is not the BOC’s fault. Why blame us?” She challenged Edgar Chua to come up with specifics. “Any one accusing us of smuggling should come and tell us how it is done. Perhaps Shell sees things that we don’t and can help us,” Cruz said. She said that they are doing their best to curb smuggling. One of the safeguards against smuggling is the Load Port Survey that she said is accredited by the Bureau of Customs and internationally. “Before a ship docks, our people have already inspected it at mid-sea,” the Customs collector said.‐the‐only‐suspect‐in‐oil‐smuggling/75225/   

Cavite coffee farmers eyeing world market February 12, 2014 8:52 pm   by ROGELIO LIMPIN In a bid to catch the eye of the world market, the ongoing 12th Pahimis Coffee Festival in Amadeo, Cavite province boasts of a trade fair, street dancing, a beauty pageant, a coffee convention, coffee exhibits and free brewed coffee give-aways. It is spearheaded by Mayor Benjarde Villanueva and Gov. Jonvic Remulla,and local and national visitors who enjoyed cups of their favorite beverage. Pahimis means abundant harvest and the festival has become an annual tradition for residents of Amadeo, known as the “Coffee Capital of the Philippines,” as a way of expressing thanks to God. Amadeo has about 3,600 hectares of land planted with coffee by about 4,000 coffee farmers from a total population of 33,457 people, making this municipality a major producer and supplier of coffee to Manila, Batangas, Baguio and other places. Because coffee is the second most consumed beverage in the world and local demand grows about three percent annually, coffee farmers from Amadeo are optimistic about penetrating the world market with their coffee, which is considered by local coffee experts as of the first class.‐coffee‐farmers‐eyeing‐world‐market/75223/                 

Taal Lake recovers from fish kill – BFAR February 12, 2014 8:51 pm   by JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Wednesday said it has observed significant improvement in the dissolved oxygen and water transparency of Taal Lake, nearly a month after the reported sulfur upwelling in the area. BFAR Director Asis Perez, citing reports from BFAR-4A regional office, said “the water quality in the lake which has been affected by the recent sulfur upwelling is now getting back to normal,” said Perez. According to the report, two of four barangays in Talisay, Batangas that were affected by the recent fish mortality have already fully recovered from sulfur contamination. The dissolved oxygen levels in Barangays Aya and Tumaway are 6.1 miligram per liter (mg/L) and 6.5 mg/L, respectively, which are higher than the 6.0 mg/L acceptable continuous exposure level in water for fish culture. Barangay Quiling, on the other hand, recorded a dissolved oxygen level of 4.9 mg/L while Barangay Sampaloc’s is at 5.4 mg/L, both of which are above the 3.0 mg/L level in water associated with fish mortality. “The current dissolved oxygen levels in barangays Quiling and Sampaloc in Talisay municipality have already improved and will not likely cause fish mortality,” Perez explained. To recall, a blue-green discoloration of the waters associated with fish mortality was observed in the said barangays on January 17. Of the 2,000 units of fish cages allowed for the town of Talisay, only 51 units in the four barangays had been affected, causing the death of 120 tons of tilapia and bangus combined. Perez said the fish deaths were kept minimal by the proactive efforts of the different agencies concerned. The lake municipalities, the fish cage owners as well as the fisherfolk were informed beforehand of the possible occurrence of sulfur upwelling during the cool months of November to February. Fish cage operators were likewise advised to conduct emergency harvests of marketable sizes of tilapia and bangus.‐lake‐recovers‐from‐fish‐kill‐bfar/75222/ 

PH drops in press freedom ranking February 12, 2014 7:19 pm   Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed a report by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders that ranked the Philippines a poor 149th among 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. Last year, the Philippines was ranked 147th in the World Press Freedom Index. The World Press Freedom Index is a reference tool based on the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure. The report showed that eight journalist were killed in the Philippines in 2013. Meanwhile, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea are the three countries at the bottom where freedom of information is non-existent. In 2013, the Philippines was also labeled as the fifth deadliest country for journalists according to Paris-based press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders. In a statement, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the government acknowledged the “slight decline” in the country’s ranking in the recent World Press Freedom Index. But, he emphasized that the Aquino government remains committed to protect the rights and welfare of journalists and workers in the media industry in general. “Part of this continuing commitment is to continue to work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure that justice will be served to the families of the journalists who are victims of violence in the performance of their duties,” he said. “We are committed to pursue and prosecute assailants of slain journalists so that we may obtain justice for those who were killed in the practice of their profession,” Coloma added. The Palace official said that the government will also continue to ensure that there are “no prior restraints to the exercise of press freedom.” “This is in keeping with the spirit of EDSA People Power as we commemorate this month the 28th anniversary of the struggle that ensured the triumph of democracy over dictatorship and martial rule,” he said. CATHERINE S. VALENTE‐drops‐in‐press‐freedom‐ranking/   

Belmonte: Fake SARO didn’t come from Congress February 12, 2014 7:00 pm   The fake Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) did not originate from the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said Wednesday. Belmonte made the pronouncement a day after the National Bureau of Investigation recommended the filing of charges against Rep. Teodorico Haresco of Aklan in connection with the use of fake SARO in securing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the Congressional discretionary fund. SARO is solely released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the implementing agencies of government projects, including those funded by Priority PDAF. “There is zero probability that it [fake SARO] came from the House. It didn’t come from here. It came from DBM and so far they [NBI] are only targeting low-level people in the DBM. In fact the only guy that you can be sure of is the driver,” Belmonte, a lawyer, said in a chance interview. Belmonte was referring to the Department of Budget and Management and the others that the NBI also wants charged namely: Emmanuel Raza (congressional staff of Rep. Lilia MacruhonNuño of Zamboanga City), Elvie Rafael (driver of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos), a certain Bhernie Beltran (also from the DBM and Mary Ann Castillo (consultant in Haresco’s office). The Speaker then disclosed that he is writing a letter to the NBI so that he can get a copy of the charge sheet vs. Haresco and other three individuals. “I come to the defense of Congressman Haresco. I didn’t see any direct thing by him. That’s why I would like to get a copy of the charge sheet of the NBI,” Belmonte argued. Belmonte, however, underscored that the House of Representatives won’t dodge any NBI investigation on its ranks. “As you knew from before, some employees here were found holding some of those fake SAROs. They were duly investigated by the NBI and two of them were actually included in the list of people who were charged,” Belmonte added in closing, referring to Raza and Castillo. LLANESCA T. PANTI‐fake‐saro‐didnt‐come‐from‐congress/   

Loose tobacco more dangerous than factory‐made cigarettes February 12, 2014 5:52 pm   WELLINGTON: Special measures might be needed to curb a rising tendency in Western nations for smokers to roll their own cigarettes—either to cut the cost of smoking or from a belief that loose tobacco is less hazardous than factory-made cigarettes, a New Zealand expert warned on Wednesday. Evidence showed that roll-your-own (RYO) cigarettes were at least as harmful as the factoryrolled type, although many RYO smokers falsely believed they were more “natural” and less dangerous, said University of Otago Wellington Professor of Public Health Richard Edwards In Canada, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, between 21 percent and 40 percent of RYO smokers reported that they thought they were healthier. However, in New Zealand, the concentration of additives in loose tobacco was about 18 percent compared with 0.5 percent for factory-made cigarettes, Edwards said in a statement. RYO consumption had been rising greatly in some countries, such as the UK, where their use among smokers older than 16 rose from 2 percent to 23 percent among women and from 18 percent to 39 percent among men between 1990 and 2010. Edwards said the high use among youth “further suggests that they may have a specific role in facilitating initiation of smoking.” Evidence also indicate a high rate of RYO cigarettes in disadvantaged groups in many countries with higher usage among black South Africans, Maori in New Zealand and smokers of lower socioeconomic status in Australia, the UK, the U.S. and Canada. Edwards said measures to reduce smoking among RYO smokers “need to be formulated with an awareness of the extent of use of RYO cigarettes” or the sale of loose tobacco could be banned altogether. PNA‐tobacco‐more‐dangerous‐than‐factory‐made‐ cigarettes/       

Peso closes P44.83 to $1 February 12, 2014 8:50 pm   by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO REPORTER The Philippine peso closed on a stronger note on Wednesday, following the pledge made by the new chairman of the United States Federal Reserve in maintaining the central bank’s monetary policy. The local currency closed at P44.83 to $1 on Wednesday, appreciating 23 centavos from the P45.06 level the previous day. An analyst said that the stronger peso can be attributed to the upbeat outlook of US Fed Chairman Janet Yellen to the US economy, and the portfolio flows to the Philippine stock market.In her first testimony since taking the Fed chairmanship on February 1, Yellen said that the US economy is expected to grow this year and next at a moderate pace, despite some recent poor data that has sparked fears of a slowdown. Yellen told the US Congress that she expects to continue predecessor Ben Bernanke’s plan to gradually wind down the bond-buying scheme and keep interest rates low until there was a significant improvement in the jobs market, which she said was still shaky. The Fed earlier decided to taper its bond-buying program by another $10 billion, to $65 billion a month beginning February on the account of continued confidence on the US economic recovery.The Fed agreed to a second tapering, following on a December 18 decision to cut its monthly asset purchases to $75 billion a month in January from an original $85 billion a month. For its part, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said that, “As expected, Fed Chair Yellen emphasized the principles of continuity of policy, of being data-dependent, of not having a preset course on policy.”“This means the markets will be well-served if they are circumspect and if they also watch how the economic data unfold,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text message. Meanwhile, the dollar was mostly lower against Asia-Pacific currencies. It weakened to Sg$1.2656 from Sg$1.2688 on Tuesday, to 12,105 Indonesian rupiah from 12,163 rupiah, to 62.15 Indian rupees from 62.39 rupees. It also eased to 32.68 Thai baht from 32.79 baht, and to 1,062.95 South Korean won from 1,070.89 won. WITH REPORT FROM AFP‐closes‐p44‐83‐to‐1/75215/ 

DBM fine‐tuning budget processes February 12, 2014 8:44 pm   by KRISTYN NIKA M. LAZO REPORTER Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said on Wednesday that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is “fine-tuning” and improving its budget processes to avoid instances of special allotment release orders (SARO) being faked. In a statement, Abad said that the DBM has considered the recommendations of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) report that is requiring the department to improve internal processes to avoid further cases of scams.“Independent of the fake SARO probe, we’ve already fine-tuned our Document Management System so that valuable files and official documents are tracked more efficiently and meticulously,” he said. “We’re also looking forward to refining other processes that may be vulnerable to abuse and irregularities, as well as plugging operational loopholes that may compromise the integrity of our work in DBM,” Abad added.The budget secretary was referring to the issued 12 fake SAROs uncovered in October for farm-to-market projects pegged at over P879.8 million for Cagayan Valley, Calabarzon, Western Visayas and Soccsksargen. The fake SAROs were discovered and disapproved in November by the DBM and the Department of Agriculture (DA), citing that the network plan required by the 2013 General Appropriations Act provisions were nonexistent. “We reached out to the DOJ [Department of Justice] with a request to investigate what we suspected was a systematic fake SARO operation within the bureaucracy. The possibility that the scam involved—and perhaps originated among—some DBM employees was deeply unsettling, but it was a likelihood that we needed to confront in the course of the NBI’s investigation,” Abad said. He added that “immediate and appropriate action against DBM employees” would be undertaken, and that the budget department would cooperate with the DOJ in relation to the cases to be filed accordingly. “We will be working closely with the DOJ in determining the best course of action for us, including the filing of charges against DBM staff whose involvement in the scam has been properly established,” Abad said. He noted that the success of the fake SARO probe would be beneficial for the administration’s campaign for “improved transparency, accountability and openness in government.”‐fine‐tuning‐budget‐processes/75187/ 

Posted on February 12, 2014 10:55:21 PM By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Reporter

Regions seen crucial to country’s growth A SURGE in regional economic activity, backed by supportive government fiscal policies, could  be the Philippines’ "growth engine" over the medium term.    Citi Research, in a report released yesterday, highlighted the likely gains from a focus on  regional growth, which would then raise the overall economy’s potential for more sustainable  and inclusive expansion.    "Rising spending on infrastructure, especially to widen access to electricity and water, will have  numerous and self‐reinforcing economic benefits, including creating new and competitive  industrial clusters," said Citi’s local economist, Jun Trinidad, in the "Philippines Long View: The  Regions That Could Roar" report.    "Continuing cash transfers and social investment will alleviate poverty, raise education  standards and help create sustainable consumer demand," he added.    Income improvements in the regions "would help ease the concentration risk of Philippine  economic growth." This will require government fiscal intervention, particularly via increased  budgets for the Public Works and Transportation departments that are primarily responsible for  infrastructure developments.    Mr. Trinidad noted that government’s fiscal strategy over the past three years had contributed  to regional growth, and that a rise in the regional shares of the Public Works and  Transportation department budgets, the expansion of economic zones and robust social  spending would continue to spur expansion.    "We find empirical evidence that regional growth responds to regional DPWH (Department of  Public Works and Highways) budget shares ... A 1% rise (decline) on average in the DPWH  budget share (ex‐NCR) increases (decreases) regional GDP growth (ex‐NCR) by 0.36% ... For  household consumption, a 1% increase (decrease) in DPWH regional budget share potentially  elevates (diminishes) regional household consumption by 0.11%," he said in the report.    "In terms of DoTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) budget share, a 1%  change has a 0.02% impact on household consumption." 

He warned that "the government would be ill‐advised to ignore infrastructure needs in regions  that are already proving their economic competitiveness and attractiveness as investment  hubs" such as Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and Northern and Southern Mindanao.    For less‐developed regions, improved roads, electrification, airport/seaport upgrades and  expanded services are needed "to attract local businesses and investment, and thus spawn a  virtuous loop of more jobs and higher incomes, resulting in increased consumption demand and  in turn more investment".    "Further regional growth upside would come from a faster rollout and implementation of PPP  (public‐private partnership) projects," Mr. Trinidad added.    Infrastructure improvements will lead to more investments that could help the growth of  industries, among them food processing, garments, furniture & fixtures, and construction  materials, which "should do well."     "These industries are not very sensitive to ‘clean & stable’ power, while cheap labor and supply  of indigenous agro‐based inputs would enable them to produce for the national/regional  markets."    Risks to regional growth, Mr. Trinidad said, include fiscal constraints, peace and order, PPP  delays and power shortages as these would delay investment activities, especially in  underdeveloped regional clusters.‐seen‐crucial‐ to‐country%E2%80%99s‐growth&id=83372               

Posted on February 12, 2014 10:53:14 PM By Daryll D. Saclag, Reporter

Anti-piracy efforts still insufficient, lobby groups tell US GOVERNMENT EFFORTS to protect intellectual property rights (IPR)remain insufficient to  warrant the Philippines’ removal from a piracy watch list, industry and trade groups said in  comments solicited by Washington.  Documents posted online by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)  showed the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition (IACC), Pharmaceutical Research and  Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)  tagging the Philippines as among the countries that "deny adequate and effective protection of  intellectual property rights."The comments will be considered by the USTR in its 2014 Special  301 Report, which is set to be released in April.  "While acknowledging the progress that has been made ... rights‐holders continue to report a  significant level of concern in the country during 2013," the IACC said. "[W]e again recommend  inclusion of the Philippines on the Watch List, to ensure that further progress materializes and  that reforms undertaken thus far fully take root."  The PhRMA identified the Cheaper Medicines Act of 2008 and the parallel importation and sale  of unregistered pharmaceutical products as reasons for the Philippines’ retention in the list.  The IIPA also said that "significant concerns remain" even as it recognized the government’s  "sustained and effective anti‐piracy activities ... even with very little budgetary support."  Social media platforms are being used to sell pirated books and "increasingly, mobile device  repair shops double as piracy portals [and] the number of illegal instances of camcording ...  tripled in 2013," the IIPA claimed.  The Philippines has been in the USTR’s ordinary watch list since 2007.  The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), meanwhile, said it was looking  forward to being removed from the list.    "With the necessary regulations already put in place, the Philippines is confident in  implementing a higher level of IPR protection," IPOPHL Director‐General Ricardo R. Blancaflor  said in a separate submission to the USTR, citing the Amended IP Code that was signed into law  in February last year.‐piracy‐efforts‐still‐ insufficient,‐lobby‐groups‐tell‐US&id=83370 

Posted on February 12, 2014 10:11:59 PM

Funds for Yolanda survivors hit $354M TACLOBAN CITY -- The total funds raised for the survivors of typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) have reached almost $354 million, nearly half the $788 million committed by the United Nations (UN). In a statement sent to BusinessWorld, UN Head of Office for the     Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Philippines David  Carden said they were counting on more support from foreign  donors as response focus shifts from emergency to recovery phase.    As of yesterday, aid from private individuals and organizations has reached $108.26 million, or  31% of the total contribution for the UN Strategic Response Plan, according to the UN’s  Financial Tracking Service.    So far, the United States has been the top donor to the recovery plan with $40.15 million, or  11.4% of the total donations.    Other top 10 contributors were the United Kingdom ($39.45 million), Japan ($24.09 million),  Australia ($19.56 million), Norway ($15.84 million), Canada ($12.71 million), Germany ($10.31  million), Sweden ($6.45 million), Denmark ($4.80 million) and Russia ($3.56 million).    The Central Emergency Response Fund ($25.28 million) and the European Commission ($11.68  million) were also listed as major donors. To augment response, UN agencies have access to  unallocated funds totaling $6.51 million for the UN plan. "In the Philippines, we engage donors  directly through regular briefings on the status of the response and the current requirements,"  Mr. Carden said in the statement.    "Our offices in Bangkok, Geneva and New York also advocate with donors on the plan, which is  designed to complement the government’s longer term recovery plan for the affected regions,"  he added.    The UN response plan, designed to complement the Philippine government’s rehabilitation  assistance, will be carried out until November 2014.    Tagged as priority are 171 municipalities in 14 provinces and six regions along Yolanda’s path.  There are about 14 million affected people in these areas, the UN OCHA said. 

The plan will directly reach three million people who will get assistance through programs  planned by the Food Security and Agriculture cluster interventions.    Target population are three million for water, sanitation and hygiene; 2.2 million for camp  coordination and camp management; 550,000 for education; 500,000 for emergency shelter;  300,000 for nutrition; and 400,000 for early recovery and livelihood. "More than seven million  people will benefit from support to health services and up to five million people will receive  benefit from protection‐related activities," the plan stated.    Listed as priority interventions under the plan are provision of shelter assistance for the  emergency and recovery phases; food assistance, and nutritional support and agricultural  inputs, among others. ‐‐ Sarwell Q. Meniano‐for‐Yolanda‐ survivors‐hit‐$354M&id=83350                             

Posted on February 12, 2014 10:27:12 PM

Fuel charge hike sought BUDGET carriers Cebu Pacific and Tigerair Philippines have separately asked the commercial air  service regulator’s permission to increase fuel surcharge on some of their domestic and  international destinations.    A filing with the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) showed Cebu Pacific has asked permission for  such increase for the following routes:    • Manila to Narita ($50 to $55), Beijing ($50 to $68), Jakarta ($25 to $59), Kuala Lumpur ($25 to  $39), Nagoya ($50 to $55), Bangkok ($30 to $48), Siem Reap ($30 to $35), Shanghai ($37 to  $51), Hanoi ($30 to $44), Bandar Seri Begawan ($15 to $25), Taipei ($20 to $30), Xiamen ($26 to  $33), Macau ($15 to $33), Hong Kong ($15 to $30), and Kota Kinabalu ($15 to $23);    • Cebu to Bangkok ($35 to $56), and Singapore ($25 to $46);    • Clark to Singapore ($20 to $41), Macau ($10 to $26), and Hong Kong ($10 to $25); and    • Iloilo to Singapore ($25 to $47) and Hong Kong ($25 to $34).  In a separate CAB filing, Tigerair sought increases for the following routes:    • Manila to Bacolod (P300 to P400), Cebu (P300 to P400), Davao (P400 to P500), Iloilo (P300 to  P400), Kalibo (P300 to P400), Puerto Princesa (P300 to P400), and Tacloban (P300 to P400);    • Clark to Davao (P400 to P500), Kalibo (P300 to P400), Bangkok (P900 to $20), Hong Kong  (P500 to $10), and Singapore (P860 to $20).    It also seeks to impose a $35 fuel surcharge on its Cebu‐Bangkok and Kalibo‐Hong Kong routes,  as well as $25 for its Cebu‐Singapore route. ‐‐ L. C. S. Marasigan‐charge‐hike‐ sought&id=83357       

Posted on February 12, 2014 10:28:54 PM

Sales growth lifts URC’s bottom line FOOD AND BEVERAGE producer Universal Robina Corp. (URC) saw its net income climb in the  first quarter ending December of its 2014 fiscal year, buoyed by higher sales, according to a  filing disclosed by the Gokongwei‐led company yesterday.    URC booked a net income of P2.889 billion in October‐December 2013, up 25.9% from P2.295  billion in the same period in 2012, unaudited consolidated statements of income showed.    Sales of goods and services climbed 13.1% to P22.705 billion from P20.084 billion, driven by the  strong performance of its principal business segments, the firm explained in its report. The  company’s flagship Branded Consumer Foods Group raised sales by 21.3% to P18.631 billion  from P15.354 billion. URC’s Agro‐Industrial Group expanded sales by 3% to P2.04 billion from  P1.98 billion as its farm business offset the decline in its feeds business. Its Commodity Foods  Group, however, saw a 25.3% drop in sales to P1.826 billion from P2.446 billion “due to  significant decline in volume as sugar cane production” amid an “unusually wet season.”    Cost of sales ‐‐ mainly raw and packaging materials costs, manufacturing costs and direct labor  costs ‐‐ accelerated by 10.3% to P16.003 billion from P14.515 billion in the same comparative  periods amid high sales volume. ‐‐ Claire‐Anne Marie C. Feliciano‐growth‐lifts‐ URC%E2%80%99s‐bottom‐line&id=83358                   

Posted on February 12, 2014 10:49:05 PM

Del Monte Pacific advances towards completing acquisition DEL MONTE Pacific Ltd. (DMPL) has secured shareholder consent for its planned acquisition of  the food consumer business of US‐based Del Monte Corp. which is slated to be completed next  week, the listed fruit canner said in a disclosure to the local bourse.  A CANNERY forms part of the firm’s integrated pineapple facility in Cagayan de Oro. ‐‐ BW file  photo DMPL, which has also been listed at Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Ltd. since  1999, held a meeting in that country on Tuesday where shareholders passed two resolutions.    The proposed acquisition of Del Monte’s consumer food business was approved by  shareholders, after it garnered 99.99% votes. At the same time, DMPL’s share placement,  subscription and listing of shares involved at the Philippine Stock Exchange got 99.91% votes.    Last Jan. 27, DMPL said that the general meeting was intended to secure shareholder approval.  The firm also said it expected to complete the acquisition on Feb. 18.    DMPL secured the foreign bourse’s preliminary approval for the planned acquisition last Jan.  23. Final approval, however, was subject to conditions such as compliance with listing  requirements and shareholders’ consent.    FINANCING  DMPL Foods Ltd., the intermediate holding company of DMPL, entered into a subscription  agreement with Ace Profit Enterprise Ltd. and Anatoli Holdings Company Limited on Feb. 5.  Each of these third‐party investors agreed to make an equity investment of $37.25 million or a  combined total of $74.5 million in DMPL Foods.  DMPL, last Jan. 28, also said that besides the equity investment, the acquisition will be funded  through the following means:    • approximately $80 million from existing credit lines;    • $350 million through issuance of perpetual preference shares, though the company last Jan.  14 obtained a bridge loan facility worth $350 million from BDO Unibank, Inc. that will be used  until such time the preference shares are issued;   

• another bridge loan facility worth $165 million from Bank of the Philippine Islands, also  secured last Jan. 14; and  • $75.5 million though share placement or bridge loan, or both.    The firm added that the Consumer Food Business will obtain separate institutional debt  financing of up to $970 million “to be used for working capital needs and general corporate  purposes.”  DMPL, in October last year, entered into a definitive agreement for the acquisition that would  cost it a total of $1.675 billion and would give the Filipino‐controlled firm a foothold in the  market where the brand originated.  The acquisition involves the purchase of brands, certain assets an liabilities related to Del  Monte Food’s (DMF) consumer food business in the US plus stakes in a number of South  American units.The deal, in turn, will allow DMF to concentrate on its pet food business.    DMPL had said it expects to add around $1.8 billion in sales with the acquisition.    DMPL ‐‐ which is not affiliated with other Del Monte companies worldwide ‐‐ holds the rights to  the Del Monte brand in the Philippines, the Indian sub‐continent and Myanmar and is  controlled by the Campos family’s NutriAsia Pacific Ltd.  DMPL is an investment holding company with subsidiaries that are principally engaged in  growing, processing, and selling canned and fresh pineapples, pineapple juice concentrate,  tropical mixed fruit, tomato‐based products, beverage products and certain other food  products mainly under the brand names of “Del Monte,” “S&W” and “Today’s.”    It operates an integrated pineapple operation in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, with a  23,000‐hectare plantation, a cannery with a processing capacity of 700,000 tons with a port  beside it.  Profits of DMPL declined 4.25% to $17.58 million as of September last year from $18.36 million  in the same nine months in 2012, weighed partly by transaction fees for the acquisition of  DMF’s consumer food business and fees related to its dual listing in the Philippine Stock  Exchange in June the same year.  In the same comparative periods, sales increased 11.71% to $335.38 million from $300.20  million, while cost of sales slid 0.22% to $225.58 million from $226.08 million.    DMPL shares closed at P22.95 each yesterday, down 40 centavos or 1.71% from P23.35 each on  Tuesday. ‐‐ Claire‐Ann Marie C. Feliciano‐Monte‐Pacific‐ advances‐towards‐completing‐acquisition&id=83367 

2 Tuason affidavits bare pork frame up Written by  Angie M. Rosales   Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:00   DETAILS MISSING IN SINGAPORE DRAFT The script for the pork barrel melodrama on the chapter involving now state witness Ruby Chan Tuason, an erstwhile Malacañang employee, is a work in progress and is revised along the way based on the two affidavits of Tuason that The Tribune got hold of yesterday. The two affidavits, supposedly executed by Tuason, the latest whistle-blower in the alleged pork barrel scam of Janet Lim-Napoles, were curiously very different from one giving a more detailed narration of her supposed involvement in siphoning off some of the lawmakers’ priority development assistance fund (PDAF) and implicating “new” personalities in the process. Incidentally, the more detailed sworn affidavit, a 15-page document that’s apparently the one being referred to by Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima as signed and submitted to them and the Office of the Ombudsman last Feb. 7, Tuason said that her decision to come out and cooperate voluntarily with authorities in the ongoing investigation on the PDAF scam was not only to clear her name and apply in the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the government but also to be granted immunity from any charges. “I would like to apply for admission in the Witness Protection Security and Benefits Program of the DoJ because I know that once the people I have implicated get a copy or is informed of this sworn statement, my life and security will be in danger, including that of my children and other close family members,” Tuason said in page 14 of her signed statement. This was followed with the statement, “I also want to be granted immunity from prosecution from all criminal cases involving the transactions of Janet Napoles and her corporations and NGOs (such as the PDAF and Malampaya Fund scam).” Such statements can be gleaned from the 15-page document executed last Feb. 4 at the Philippine Consulate office in San Francisco, California and given before head agent Daniel D. Daganzo, chief international operations division (IOD) of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), in the presence of the agents and signed by her, Tuason’s lawyers and De Lima. The said document bore signed initials or signatures on every page as well as a thumb print. Copies were obtained by the Tribune recently. It was her reply to the query to her if there’s anything that she wants in exchange for her cooperation. There was no mention of any petition or request for any immunity from prosecution in the other document, which was an “unsigned” affidavit that was supposedly given before Daganzo aooeared and in the presence of DoJ Assistant Secretary Jose Justiniano “inside the Philippine Consulate located in Singapore, this 13th day of January 2014.” The “unsigned” affidavit, it seemed, was the “working draft” as the last page noted that it was supposed to be subscribed and sworn to inside the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, California. Both bore the same information on Tuason’s passport number XX3157830 issued on

March 4, 2009 and expiring on March 3 this year. In the said unsigned document, the portion on the fourth page where she was asked what compelled her to voluntarily cooperate in the investigation found on page 13 of the signed document, was edited to include the issue on the Malampaya fund. “I want to clear my name and conscience. I never thought that Janet Napoles was involved in anomalous transactions with the Government involving the PDAF of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile. I am willing to return and to the Philippine Government all the amounts that I may have received from these transactions,” the unsigned document said. “I want to clear my name and conscience. I was deeply bothered when I found out that Janet Napoles was engaged in ghost transactions with the Government involving the PDAF of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and the Malampaya fund. It is only right that I cooperate and herein express that I am willing to return and to the Philippine Government all the amounts that I may have received from these transactions,” the signed document, on the other hand, showed. The sequence of questions in both documents were almost similar except for a few which rendered the signed document “longer” than the unsigned affidavit as the latter carried only 44 questions compared to the other which reached 62. Interrogated on the issue of the alleged Malampaya fund scam, Tuason implicated her own brother Remy Chan, who reports said already passed away and thus cannot verify her claim, who supposedly helped in finding any “connections” in Malacañang when Napoles purportedly sought help. “I mentioned this to my brother, Remy Chan. He told me that he might find somebody who has connections in Malacañang. After a couple of weeks, Remy told me that he found someone. I asked him who this person was, he said Attorney Jess Santos,” the signed document read on page 11. Not long after, Tuason claimed that she realized that her brother was already engaged in transactions pertaining to Malampaya funds, the supposed tainted money being delivered to her house “for pick up” as requested by her sibling. Tuason said she remained unaware as to who were the persons her sibling was dealing with as she was no longer informed by her brother where or to whom the money would go. It was unclear whether Tuason’s brother was directly dealing with Napoles as she made no mention of this in the signed document while in the unsigned affidavit, she claimed that her sibling which incidentally she named as a certain “Butch”, she admitted witnessing the “delivery of money by employees of Janet Napoles to my house for my brother.” The unsigned document made mention of the house in 1564 Mahogany St. Dasmarinas Village, Makati City where supposedly P11.9 million was delivered, was identified by Tuason as “the house of the parents of Mr. (Matt) Ranillo’s sister-in-law.” There was no mention of the name “Justa Tantoco” which she identified as the owner of the said residence in the signed document.‐tuason‐affidavits‐bare‐pork‐frame‐up       

No ffair trreatm ment ffrom colle eague es in Senate h hearin ng—Jinggo oy Written b by  Angie M.. Rosales   Thursdayy, 13 February 2014 00:0 00  

Embattled E Sen. Jinggoy E Estrada does not expect ffair treatmennt even from m his own raanks in the Senate S while his colleaguues extract innformation oover his allegged involvem ment in the P10-billion po ork barrel sccam when a former famiily friend turrned whistle-blower Ruby R Chan Tuason T and th he Departmeent of Justicee chief, Leilaa de Lima’s ex-star witnness, Benhur Luy, L testify today t before the blue rib bbon committtee. Estrada said s that not only is the treatment t on him grosslyy unfair but aalso that Tuaason and Luyy have drag gged his mother in the pork p barrel sccam despite the lack of pphysical andd genuine documen ntary evidencce, bewailing g the fact thaat dragging hhis mother innto the porkk scam picturre is a replay of o what Mallacañang and d the DoJ did d in the casee of Sen. Ram mon “Bong”” Revilla, whhen, a day afterr his privilege speech wh hich touched on the presiidential sisteer and her huusband beingg linked to the Inekon MRT-3 scam m, President Aquino blassted at Revillla, after whiich De Limaa immediattely dragged d Revilla’s aiiling father, former Sen.. Ramon Revvilla, by claiiming that shhe did hear Luy say thatt the old man n Revilla alsso had illegall dealings w with alleged bbrains of the pork scam, Jan net Lim-Nap poles. Luy, in an a interview with a broad dsheet know wn for its senttiments agaiinst the Estraadas, claimed that form mer Sen. Loi Estrada, Jing ggoy’s moth her, was alsoo into the porrk scam withh Napoles, having go otten kickbaacks from Naapoles, as Lu uy said this w was recordedd in his “nottebook” whicch was donee in his own handwriting g. Under the Witness Prrotection Pro ogram, the witnesses w aree not allowedd to give inteerviews, yett De Lima hass allowed theem to freely give interviews to the m media, whichh does prove that all thesse

media interviews as well as the Senate hearings on the pork barrel scam are all in aid of the accused senators’ trial by publicity. Estrada also pointed out that some senators have even gone to the extent of “coordinating” or “colluding” with the whistleblowers. Tuason and the whistleblowers yesterday met again yesterday to compare notes, in preparation for today’s hearing, which Estrada says shows how purely scripted their testimonies are. Senator Jinggoy also admitted that he is alarmed at his “fate” in the hands of the Ombudsman, considering the recent statements made by De Lima on the government allegedly having the “goods” to pin him down along with two others, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Revilla Jr., boosted by the pronouncements made by President Aquino himself who had expressed hope on Tuason’s testimony providing the needed closure on the pork barrel scam. “To quote Thomas Jefferson, ‘a politician looks forward to the next election, but a statesman looks forward to the next generation.’ I hope they (senators) become statesmen,” the senator said to reporters on the eve of the scheduled appearance of Tuason, who claims to have acted as liaison officer and “bagman” of the purported mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles, to Estrada as well as Enrile, by way of giving them their alleged kickbacks in the millions. The senator expressed concern over the impartiality of those out to prosecute them over their supposed involvement with Napoles, “but I’m still praying so hard that the Ombudsman will not be influenced with the statements of De Lima and the President.” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. claimed that the Aquino administration, through the DoJ, does not focus only its probe against the family of former President Joseph Estrada, now Manila City mayor. Estrada’s wife, Loi, was implicated in the pork scam that is said to have been a clearly selective investigation of the NBI agents tasked to compile information on the pork barrel scam. “The Department of Justice will continue the investigation in all data, information, and evidence that it has been receiving in connection with the prior information or complaint filed before the Ombudsman,” Coloma said. Coloma denied that the NBI agents were only focused on one personality to pin down in the criminal charges. “No one is mentioned or being singled out or any individual because the basis here is only evidence,” Coloma said. Coloma said due to the extent and nature of the pork barrel case against the senators and other personalities, there could be the possibility to prolong the litigation even beyond 2016. “We are aware about the issues which are so huge and the public interest is so wide because what is involved here is comprised of funds from the taxes of the people. That’s why there’s a sense of urgency,” Coloma said. Senator Jinggoy is urging the government to pursue the case before the Ombudsman rather than engage in trial by publicity against those supposedly involved in the misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). “In the event that the NBI complaint is elevated to the Ombudsman, I am just hoping and praying that the Ombudsman reads our counter affidavit and not be influenced by the statements of De Lima. And I urge the Secretary of Justice to refrain from making statements that tend to influence the decision of the Ombudsman. The role of the DoJ is to evaluate and appraise the evidence and not to talk as if we are guilty. We are being tried by publicity here. There is still no case but the DoJ is making us look guilty already,” he lamented. Estrada has been quite vocal in his observations on the handling of the case, especially with the

recent turn of events aimed at depicting them as “demons and villains” and add credence to the claims earlier made by the so-called whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy. Branding the public hearing called by the Senate blue ribbon committee, as “zarzuela” of sorts, Estrada said he will not impose or dictate upon Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, who is the panel chairman, on the manner in which the proceedings should take place. “It’s his call (as blue ribbon chairman)...but the matter of the surfacing of Tuason, I think that is already scripted since she and Benhur (Luy) already talked about tallying their figures. Also, I think some of the senators have ‘coordinated’ with some of the whistleblowers, those witnesses themselves. The hearing tomorrow will again depict us in a bad light,” he said. Even the timing on the holding of the so-called “clarificatory hearing” at the Office of the Ombudsman where the DoJ and the NBI filed the plunder complaint against the three senators and several others, which included Tuason, was done practically on the eve of her appearance before Senate probers. The said proceedings, Estrada said, was aimed at further corroborating Tuason’s testimony with that of Luy. “So I expect in tomorrow’s hearing, when they both testify, they will be called to corroborate each other’s testimony. So that’s really scripted which will be what the hearing is all about today.” he said. Estrada also noted that Guingona himself initially said that their plan is to allot the entire proceedings to hear Tuason’s testimony based on her affidavit, but changed his tune when he announced last Monday that he intends to have Luy and two other whistleblowers invited in order to validate any information that the whistleblowers might be privy to. “Why are they coming out with these pieces of information, even dragging my mother? For me, the timing is very, very suspicious. Just like what happened to Revilla, when he delivered his privilege speech, the following day, news came out that his father is also involved. That’s what is happening now to my mother. If such is the case, they should have made mention of it long time ago. “Now, if they really have the evidence by way of documents against other senators, why haven’t they shown them? I suppose or I suspect that they still have other documents against other senators. Why do they come up on a piecemeal (basis) in the matter of coming with the ‘evidence’? I think that is really unfair,” he stressed. Estrada admitted that his mother has been affected by reports trying to implicate her as well. “She feels so bad of course. She feels so upset that this appeared in the newspaper. That’s my mother and she does not like politics. Maybe this might be one of their plans to again pin me down. But I still have faith, I’m still confident that the truth will set us free. “I think that’s unfair. They (whistleblowers) should come out and name the other senators that they don’t want to identify. If they really have the evidence, they should come out with it. I hope they spare my mother. For me, the timing is very suspect,” Estrada said. With Paul Atienza‐fair‐treatment‐from‐colleagues‐in‐senate‐hearing‐ jinggoy     

Impunity vs media thrives under Noy’s watch — RSF Written by  Tribune   Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:00   The Philippines remains notorious among countries where journalism remains a dangerous profession which belies government’s claim of the existence of a vibrant press freedom with its ranking in the 2014 Press Freedom Index sliding to 149th place out of 180 countries from 147th last year. Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) or Reporters Without Borders, which released the annual ranking, rated press freedom in the Philippines in a “difficult situation” at its current status. RSF still considers the Philippines one of the five deadliest countries for journalists last year along with Syria, Somalia, India and Pakistan. It said impunity against journalists continues in the country with hit-men on motorcycles as the common method of execution. “What do Rogelio Butalid’s murder in Tagum City on 11 December, and Jesus Tabanao’s murder in Cebu City on 14 September have in common? All were gunned down in cold blood by masked men on motorcycles who did not worry about witnesses,” RSF said in its annual report. The press freedom watchdog said hit-men on motorcycles or what is referred to commonly as “riding in tandem” is such a widespread method in the country. “Private militias, corrupt politicians’ thugs and contract killers who work for a few thousand dollars continue to threaten and kill journalists with complete impunity,” it added. It counted eight media personnel murdered in 2013. “Less than 10 per cent of these killings lead to convictions. In the few cases in which the police complete an investigation successfully, the judges are usually unable or unwilling to do their job,” RSF said. Malaysia, where the media are mostly state-controlled replaced the country at 147th place this year, while Indonesia was in 132nd and Thailand 130th in the 2014 index. The Republic of Korea ranked the highest in Asia at 57th even beating out Japan at 59th and Hong Kong at 61st. RSF said the World Press Freedom Index spotlights major declines in media freedom in such varied countries as the United States, Central African Republic and Guatemala and, on the other hand, marked improvements in Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa. The same trio of Finland, Netherlands and Norway heads the index again, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea continue to be the biggest information black holes, again occupying the last three positions, it added. It said the annual index was based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure. Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said the index makes governments face their responsibilities by providing civil society with an objective measure, and

provides international bodies with a good governance indicator to guide their decisions. The index’s annual global indicator, which measures the overall level of violations of freedom of information in 180 countries year by year, has risen slightly. The indicator has gone from 3395 to 3456 points, a 1.8 percent rise. The level of violations is unchanged in the Asia-Pacific region, but has increased in Africa. RSF said this year’s index covers 180 countries, one more than the 179 countries covered in last year’s index. The newcomer is Belize, which has been ranked in the enviable position of 29th, it added. Aside from the 13-place fall by the United States at 46th, Guatemala’s dizzying 29 points plunge to 125th, was due to a sharp decline in the safety of journalists, with four murders and twice as many attacks as the previous year, it said.‐vs‐media‐thrives‐under‐noy‐s‐watch‐rsf                                   

SB makes pitch for Cha‐cha before foreign and local business Written by  Gerry Baldo   Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:00   Speaker Feliciano Belmonte yesterday made a pitch before foreign and local business leaders to support his move to relax the economic provisions of the Constitution. Belmonte, in a meeting with the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce and Philippine Business Groups, stressed the need to open up the economy to more foreign investors. He said that without doing so, the Philippines would lag behind its Asean neighbors who are now in the thick of establishing the Asean Economic Community that would transform the region into one single market. “The establishment of the Asean Economic Community is practically here. Around this time next year, we expect the Asean to commence its transformation into a single market and production base with free movement of goods, services, capital and skilled labor,” Belmonte said. “If we do not make our economy attractive for foreign investments, we would not be able to maximize the benefits from economic integration. Investments will pour in and factories will be built in our neighboring countries, and they will be exporting goods to us while we export our workers to them to run their factories. I’m sure we all agree that this would be a most sorry scenario,” the speaker added. He also pointed out that increased foreign investment would minimize the export of labor and unite families. “The thing to do is to entice foreign investments in our country, so that we would not have to export our labor, and our workers would not have to leave their families in the name of higher incomes abroad,” he said. Aside from the Asean Economic Community, also brewing is a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is being formed by the United States. Taking part in the discussions are Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. It is intended to boost trade and investments among its member countries. He said that the 12 countries currently engaged in the TPP discussion have a combined gross domestic product that is almost 40 percent of global GDP, and about a third of total world trade. “It is with certainty and urgency that I say that if we do not relax the restrictive provisions on foreign investments in our Constitution, the Philippines would not be eligible to be member of the TPP and we will be left out,” he said. He said that the push for specific amendments to the constitution will not sidetrack the legislature from acting on other legislative priorities of Congress. He noted that amid the economic growth, unemployment rate increased in 2013 and stood at 7.1 percent compared to 7.0 percent in 2012. This translates to 2.9 million unemployed persons or an increase of 70,000. Since 2006, the number of unemployed persons in the Philippines have remained the same at around 2.8 million. And while underemployment slightly improved to a

national figure 19.3 percent from 20.0 percent, underemployment is actually much higher in the poorest regions of the country. He said that despite their relatively lower economic growth rate in recent years, our neighboring countries in the region continue to enjoy low unemployment rate. He said that within the Asean region, the Philippines’ share of foreign direct investment during the period 2009 to 2011 averaged only 1.8 percent as compared to Singapore, with the lion’s share of FDI at 54 percent, followed by Indonesia at 15 percent, Vietnam at 9.1 percent, Malaysia at 8.9 percent and Thailand at 8.6 percent. Total FDI of the Philippines for the same period amounted to only $4.5 billion compared to the foreign direct investment that went into Vietnam ($23.0 billion).‐makes‐pitch‐for‐cha‐cha‐before‐foreign‐and‐local‐ business                                   

BSP bucks plastic banknotes Written by  Ed Velasco   Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:00   Days after two representatives advised the security printing complex of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to use non-porous polymer instead of abaca-mixed paper in printing banknotes, its now the turn of the banks’ regulator (BSP) to return fire with a big “no.” “It is not true that plastic is more secure,” said an expert in banknotes’ printing at the central bank who requested not to be named. House Bill 3689 wants the SPC, the BSP agency that prints banknotes, to abandon paper-abaca mixed materials in printing banknotes. Another source said that siblings Rufus and Maximo Rodriguez might have been fed with wrong information that led them to file a bill that seeks use of polymer in printing banknotes. However, the source said polymer materials is alright for lower denominations but definitely not for higher ones, particularly P1,000 and P500 bills. “It is suitable for lower denominations like P50 and P20,” the source affirmed to The Daily Tribune. In the bill, the siblings said polymer-made notes are five times more durable than paper-made; more difficult to counterfeit; perform better in vending machines; and don’t spread ink that cause automated teller machines to malfunction. Asked if the source can say without batting an eyelash that paper notes are more secure, he replied “yup” very quickly. The Tribune asked him why paper notes are more secure and suitable but his reply was “It is very technical. Difficult to explain in layman’s terms.” Another request was sent to him to provide even a brief explanation why the SPC will continue to use paper but his reply was “there is no simple explanation.” Polymer banknotes are banknotes made from biaxially oriented polypropylene. These notes incorporate many security features not available to paper banknotes, including the use of metameric inks. They also last significantly longer than paper notes, resulting in a decrease in environmental impact and a reduction of production and replacement costs, according to a research material obtained . Countries that switched completely to polymer banknotes are Brunei, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Vietnam, Fiji, Mauritius, Canada and Israel.‐bucks‐plastic‐banknotes       

URC sales up 13.1% in 1st qtr of 2013 Written by  Tribune   Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:00   Universal Robina Corp. (URC) reported a 13.1 percent sales growth for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 (beginning Oct. 2013 and ending Sept. 2014) with net sales amounting to P 22.705 billion. URC’s Philippine branded consumer foods (BCF) business was the key driver for total company growth as it increased sales by 28.1 percent while International branded consumer foods recorded a 9.1 percent growth. Sales of non-branded consumer foods group declined by 12.7 percent for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 due to decrease in sales volumes for sugar and feeds. URC’s operating income was at P3.342 billion for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014. This is 42 percent higher than the P2.353 billion posted in the prior year as relaxed input prices and higher sales volume resulted in margin expansion for branded foods. URC’s net income for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 reached P2.889 billion, a 25.9 percent increase against prior year. Growth was slower than operating income as we booked lower market valuation gains and net finance revenue given that we liquidated most of our bond and equity holdings last year. The company’s balance sheet remained healthy with strong cash levels. As of the first quarter, URC was in a net cash position of P9.932 billion with a financial gearing ratio of 0.11 (vs. 0.09 in FY13) as the company paid a significant portion of its debt obligations. Sales performance by business are as follows: URC’s BCF group, including the packaging division, increased sales of goods and services by P3.181 billion, or 20.3 percent, to P18.839 billion for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014, vs. the P15.658 billion posted in the prior year. BCF Philippines further accelerated its growth momentum in the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 and posted record growth of 28.1 percent amounting to P12.698 billion, vs. P9.915 billion in the prior year. Beverage remained to be the main driver backed by the continued growth momentum of powdered beverage business, mainly coming from coffee and complemented by ready-to-drink (RTD) business. Snackfoods segment also registered double digit revenue growth across salty snacks, bakery and confectioneries. URC is now the number two player in the coffee market and remains to be the dominant market leader in salty snacks, candies, chocolates, RTD tea and cup noodles in the Philippines. URC’s international BCF business registered sales of P5.933 for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014, a 9.1 percent increase. Thailand and China contributed to the good top-line growth. China business was significantly up due to higher seasonal sales for cereals and oats categories while Thailand business grew despite the weak macro environment and political turmoil in the country. The prolonged rains and cold weather slightly affected beverage sales in Vietnam though this was partly offset by the growing snackfoods categories.

URC remains to be the market leader in biscuits and wafers in Thailand while C2 is now the number one RTD Tea brand in Vietnam. Our non-branded consumer foods business, commodity foods group and agro-industrial group, posted revenues of P3.866 billion for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014, a drop of 12.7 percent against last year. This is mainly due to the 25.3 percent decline in revenues for the commodity foods group, with sales for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 of P1.826 billion. While flour sales grew at 7.2 percent, sugar business decreased by 50.1 percent as volumes dropped given that sugar cane production was affected by unusually wet season which affected the cane supply, and some operational issues encountered in one mill for the period. However, the company we expects better volumes as the milling season is extended. Net sales for agro-industrial group amounted to P2.040, a three percent increase, as higher sales in farms were offset by the decline in feeds.‐sales‐up‐13‐1‐in‐1st‐qtr‐of‐2013                                 

WTO calls on nations to follow Bali deals Written by  Ed Velasco   Thursday, 13 February 2014 00:00   Countries need to implement this year the agreements on the Bali Package reached at the World Trade Organization’s 9th Ministerial Meeting in order for them to realize its trade benefits, said a top WTO official. “Bali represents not just a huge achievement for all of us but also a huge opportunity. There is real political momentum and we must build on it. The work has only just begun,” directorgeneral Roberto Azevêdo said in a position paper emailed to various entities, including some select business reporters. Azevêdo asked the negotiating groups to start implementing decisions and agreements reached in Bali and prepare a clearly defined work program on the remaining Doha Development Agenda issues by year-end. “2014 should be the year that we implement our first negotiated outcomes — and the year that the Doha Round is put back on track. It will not be easy, but it is achievable,” he said. The Bali Package consists of 10 ministerial decisions, foremost of which are those on trade facilitation and agriculture. The first meeting of the Preparatory Committee will swiftly commence the execution of the tasks ministers gave in Bali specifically to ensure the entry into force of the Trade Facilitation Agreement and prepare for its efficient operation. The Committee convened on Jan. 31. “The true significance of the Bali results, and the tangible realization of their benefits, will only be achieved as a result of the actions that you, the members, take over the coming months,” said Azevêdo. “This is an important test for the system and one which we must pass if we want to move forward and see the benefits of Bali made real,” he added.‐calls‐on‐nations‐to‐follow‐bali‐deals           

Papel ni Matt Ranillo sa Napoles scam lumalalim (Juliet de Loza-Cudia) Iimbestigahan ng National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) ang pagkakasangkot ng aktor na si Matt Ranillo III sa umano’y ‘kickbacks’ sa P900 milyong Malampaya fund scam. Inihayag ito ni Justice Secretary Leila de Lima kasunod ng panibagong impormasyon na ibinigay ng provisional state witness na si Ruby Tuason. Nabatid sa sinumpaang testimonya ni Tuason na si Ranillo ang umano’y naghatid ng P12 milyon ‘kickbacks’ sa isang bahay sa No. 1564 Mahogany St., Dasmariñas Village sa Makati City. Sa nabanggit na address umano nakatira si Justa Tantoco na kilalang miyembro ng MARE Foundation ni dating Senador Loi Estrada at malapit umanong kaibigan ng pamilyang Estrada. Samantala, nalaman kay Atty. Levi Baligod, abogado ng mga whistleblowers, na lumutang na ang pangalan ni Ranillo bago pa man nagbigay ng testimonya si Tuason na naging ‘middleman’ ng mga kongresista para sa negosyanteng si Janet Lim-Napoles. Naging ‘link’ din umano si Ranillo sa pagitan nina Tuason at Napoles kung saan siyang naging dahilan kung bakit nakilala ni Napoles ang mga sangkot na senador sa PDAF scam. Kaugnay nito, patuloy ang imbestigasyon ng NBI sa umano’y ‘principal’ na nagbenepisyo ng P242 milyon Malampaya ‘kickbacks’ na idineliber kay Tuason. Ayon kay Tuason, ang kanyang kapatid na si Remy ang tumanggap ng pera at ibinigay ito kay Atty. Jess Santos na dating abogado ni ex-First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. Ang nabanggit na paratang ay itinanggi naman ni Santos.             

GRO OWTH H CLA AIM D DOUBTED Published d : Thursdayy, February 1 13, 2014 00:0 00   Written b by : Jester M Manalastas  

AT economiic growth whhen there aree WHA moree jobless Filiipinos? The H House Indeppendent Minnority bloc, led by L Leyte Rep. Feerdinand Maartin Romualldez, askedd the adminiistration to eexplain to thee publiic the confliccting reportss on the 7.2 perceent growth rrate in the ecconomy and the 12 m million joblesss Filipinos. Rom mualdez said if the suppoosed gross domeestic producct (GDP) groowth rate is accur urate, then there should bbe more jobss and liveliihood opporrtunities for tthe Filipinoss. vernment hass a lot of exp plaining to do d on the suppposed 2013 fourth quarrter 7.2 perceent “The gov growth in n the GDP,” Romualdez said. y then are we experienciing the contrrary? Why has the numbber of the sufffering increased “But why instead of o decreased,,” he asked. up will be in nitiating a Ho ouse inquiryy to determinne the real sttatus of the The independent grou y and examin ne the admin nistration’s different d proggrams or inittiatives to adddress the economy unemploy yment rate. ople have thee right to kno ow the truth,, as to wheree the countryy is really heeading for,” “The peo Romuald dez said. A membeer of the ind dependent blo oc, ABAKA ADA Rep. Joonathan dela Cruz emphaasized that thhe governm ment should come c out witth the basis for f the suppoosed 7.2 perccent GDP inncrease. w know, thee GDP claim m had been based b on periiods when ppeople had exxtra money tto “For all we spend forr their needss and their lo oved ones, lik ke bonuses ffor gifts duriing the Chrisstmas holidaays,” dela Cruzz said. t bloc, BU UHAY Rep. Lito L Atienzaa, said the risse in unemplloyment cleaarly Another member of the shows that the suppo osed GDP gro owth had on nly benefitedd the lesser pprivileged miinority instead of the greateer majority.

Meanwhile, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), has urged President Benigno Aquino to come out with an emergency employment program to address the 27.4 percent jobless Filipinos. “The failure to address the growing unemployment is criminal,” Castelo said, as he urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to draft in a month’s time an emergency employment scheme. “The program should center in major cities and certain rural areas that have the highest unemployment, or it could attempt to provide jobs where the requirements for infrastructure building and reconstruction appear huge,” he added.‐growth‐claim‐doubted                               

Recto seeks accounting of P12‐B aggie fund Published : Thursday, February 13, 2014 00:00   Written by : Bernadette Tamayo   SENATE President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has sought an “accounting” of the P12 billion agriculture fund pooled from tariff payments on rice and other agricultural imports which were later loaned to groups most of which have defaulted on their repayment. He filed Senate Resolution 495 directing the Senate committee on agriculture to inquire on the status of the Agriculture Competitive Enhancement Fund (ACEF). “If we are going to import more rice in the future, then we must see to it that the original intent of plowing back to farmers the taxes levied on these imports is honored,” Recto said. As of May last year, ACEF has an available balance of P3 billion. “We have to study the present state of ACEF, draw lessons from how it was used, so that if it will be retained as a mechanism of using imported rice duties to promote farm productivity, we avoid the shortcomings of the past,” Recto said. He deplored audit reports that ACEF is littered with adverse findings like “dismally low repayment rate”, “double recording of loan releases”, “return to sender of demand letters”, and “loans without collateral.” Recto said all ACEF transactions audited by the Commission on Audit (CoA) in 2010 and 2011 transpired before the Aquino administration. Quoting CoA reports, Recto said the loan portion of the ACEF fund suffered from low collection rate. “For every one peso lent, only 14 centavos was collected. The amount in arrears is P5.1 billion. For that amount, we can repair 5,000 kilometers of farm roads,” he said. He said that while 294 private parties were granted a total of P4.4 billion in loans, only 23 had fully paid as of December 2011. Of the remaining 271 private borrowers, only 15, or 5 percent of the total, had no arrears, he said. As a result, P2.2 billion in loans was already due and demandable two years ago. He said P2.5 billion worth of loans was covered by letters of confirmation whose addressees could not be found or who did not reply at all. “Conceived as a safety net when the country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), the ACEF was created by RA 8178 in 1996 to assist farmers affected when tariff walls came crashing down as a result of the Philippine ratification of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT),” Recto said. It was to be funded by “in-quota tariffs” collected from imported commodities, such as rice,

placed under the restricted Minimum Access Volumes (MAV) which the Philippines imposed, he said. By May 15, 2013, total actual collections of ACEF has reached P11.8 billion, of which P10.3 billion was from “MAV” quotas and P1.2 billion was from so-called sugar conversion fees. Of the P11.8 billion, almost P8.9 billion was released by the Department of Budget and Management to the ACEF Executive Committee which administers the fund. The body in turn released P2.6 billion as grants to local governments, government corporations and state colleges, and P5.9 billion as loans to 304 groups which, except for 10, were private corporations.‐stories/67070‐recto‐seeks‐accounting‐of‐ p12‐b‐aggie‐fund                                   

Actor probed over pork scandal link Published : Thursday, February 13, 2014 00:00   Written by : Hector Lawas   THE National Bureau of Investigation is now investigating inactive actor Matt Ranillo III for his possible involvement in the pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima bared that whistleblower Benhur Luy and potential witness Ruby Tuason have both implicated Ranillo in the scheme that reportedly benefited several lawmakers. “That is now being looked into. It is in fact our duty to do that since there are some new (pieces of) information being provided by this new whistleblowers that we have to pursue,” she told reporters in a chance interview. According to Luy, Ranillo introduced Napoles to senators tagged in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam. Luy added the two (Napoles and Ranillo) had a falling-out when the businesswoman no longer needed the actor after he made the introductions. Tuason, on the other hand, included Ranillo in her recent affidavit where she confessed participating in the scam and also tagged Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile as recipients of pork kickbacks. She said the transaction between Napoles and Estrada was “consummated through a certain Mr. Matt Ranillo showing the delivery of the sum of Php11,970,000.00 to a house at No. 1564 Mahogany Street, Dasmariñas Village, Makati City.” Tuason said in her affidavit, which was used as basis for her provisional coverage in the Department of Justice’s witness protection program, that the house was owned by Justa Tantoco. Based on these statements, De Lima said Ranillo and Tantoco would be included in the NBI probe. Tantoco is reportedly the former chief aide of Estrada’s mother, former First Lady and Senator Loi Ejercito.‐stories/67054‐actor‐probed‐over‐pork‐ scandal‐link   

NPC opposes bill declaring Nov. 23 as PH Press Freedom Day Published : Thursday, February 13, 2014 00:00   Written by : People's Tonight   THE National Press Club (NPC) is opposing the bill declaring November 23 of every year as Philippine Press Freedom Day filed by Senator Grace Poe. In a Senate hearing conducted by senate committee on public Information and mass media chaired by Poe, the NPC submitted its position paper opposing the Senate Bill No. 2044 or An Act Declaring November 23 of every year as Philippine Press Freedom Day. “While we are grateful that this honorable committee has taken into consideration the promotion and advancement of a free press, this purpose cannot be served by proclaiming November 23 as a day of freedom for Philippine press; the day when the most notorious crime against Philippine free press was committed,” said NPC Vice-President Marlon Purificacion. Purificacion said the NPC finds the proposed measure as ironic and almost insulting the memory of departed mediamen and other victims of Maguindanao massacre. “November 23 is not the day for free press. Rather, it will be remembered as one of the darkest days for free press in this country. Walang dahilan para ipagdiwang ang petsang pinatay ang ating mga kasamahan sa Maguindanao,” he added. “Worse, up to date, more than four years from horrible massacre, justice is still elusive. While the perceived masterminds of the offense are temporarily behind bars, the victims’ families and the Filipino people are still waiting for true justice to be served. “Instead of pursuing SB No. 2044, the NPC has called upon the Senate as a body to act expeditiously on other pending bills that would genuinely serve the avowed interest of advancing press freedom such as decriminalization of libel and the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. “We also take this opportunity to express our disappointment that despite of the government’s persistent avowal of a ‘daang matuwid’ policy, it has not taken sincere efforts to see to it that the Freedom of Information Act, a bill which enjoys the support not only of the media but of the Filipino people, is passed. “It is well within the power of the President to certify the Freedom of Information Act as an urgent bill and thus expedite its passage. But up to date, he has refused to do so. This makes us doubt if government accountability, which is at the very heart of the FOI bill, truly enjoys the support of the current administration,” he added.‐npc‐opposes‐bill‐declaring‐ nov‐23‐as‐ph‐press‐freedom‐day 

Go after fake SARO ‘brains,’ DoJ prodded Published : Thursday, February 13, 2014 00:00   AN administration ally has urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) to dig deeper into the reported case of fake Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to unmask the mastermind. Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said the campaign of the government to curb corruption will be useless and meaningless if the brains will remain at large. Defending colleague Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr., Barzaga said that it is impossible for the lawmakers to manipulate SARO since it was a document coming from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and not from Congress. “I really cannot comprehend why my colleague Congressman Haresco was included in the criminal complaint. SAROs are official issuances of the DBM and I cannot see how Cong Haresco could participate or influence the issuance of fake SAROs,” Barzaga said. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended to the DoJ the filing of falsification of public documents, obstruction of justice and other criminal cases against Haresco and some House staff for their alleged involvement in the fake SAROs for farm-to-market road projects. Aside from Haresco, those being linked to the fake SARO were Emmanuel Raza, a congressional staffer of Zamboanga City Rep. Lilia Macrohon-Nuno; Bhernie Beltran from the DBM, Elvie Rafael, driver of DBM Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and Mary Ann Castillo, a consultant from the office of Haresco. According to Barzaga, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the NBI should convince Rafael and Beltran to turn state witness and for them to disclose everything about this SARO anomaly. The solon said there is a need to uncover the entire syndicate. “While the NBI findings would be a laudable initial step nonetheless it seems that the head of the syndicate has not yet been determined. It is only through the whistleblower’s testimony and admission that the whole truth would come out,” Barzaga said. “The continuing effort of the government to curb corruption and establish high standards of public accountability would be meaningless if only the small fry would be charged and the brains of the multimillion-peso fake SARO syndicate would not be included in the complaint,” he added. Jester P. Manalastas‐go‐after‐fake‐saro‐brains‐doj‐ prodded 

Gov’t assures enough supply of LPG Published : Thursday, February 13, 2014 00:00   Written by : Efren Montano   The government is taking steps to ensure the availability of liquefied petroleum gas at reasonable prices. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there are established procedures for dealing with price movements under a deregulated industry. “May prosesong sinusunod sa price movements. Ang mahalaga ay tiyakin ang availability of supply and reasonable prices following the law ,” Coloma told Palace reporters yesterday. Coloma added it is the duty of the government to get a clear picture of the situation and come up with the proper solution. Coloma’s reassurance came amid reports that LPG prices may go up by P5 per kilo with the decommissioning of an LPG import terminal in Batangas. Earlier reports said the terminal’s closure resulted in a supply deficit of LPG in Southern Luzon.‐govt‐assures‐enough‐supply‐ of‐lpg                     

Bigger monthly stipend for elderly pushed Published : Thursday, February 13, 2014 00:00   Written by : Jester Manalastas   A veteran lawmaker has filed a measure seeking to give senior citizens additional benefits. House Bill 3731 author Davao del Norte Rep. Anthony del Rosario proposed an increase of monthly stipend for senior citizens from P500 to P1,000. The bill also seeks to lower the age of coverage from the present 77 years old to 70 years old. Del Rosario noted that the present age requirement is no longer reasonable considering today’s average lifespan of senior citizens. “The coverage should be lowered so that our elderly will be able to avail of the benefits longer into their twilight years,” he added. The measure amends Republic Act 7432 otherwise known as the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010. “The time is ripe to re-visit the provisions embodied in the existing law and uphold the timehonored principle that those who have less in life should have more in law,” Del Rosario stressed. The solon said it cannot be denied that over the years the prices of commodities have increased and by increasing the senior citizens’ purchasing power, this bill hopes to alleviate the situations of our indigent elderly. “The principles enshrined in the Constitution do not only serve to protect the less privileged and the most vulnerable sectors in our society such as the elderly but also affirm their important role in the community as partners in nation-building,” he said.‐bigger‐monthly‐stipend‐for‐ elderly‐pushed 

2014 02 13 quedancor daily news monitor