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BOC C tags s 5 firrms in n illeg gal ric ce trade By Evelyn Macairan (The e Philippine Sta ar) | Updated Fe ebruary 21, 20 014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines P - At A least 200,00 00 metric tons of rice were il legally importe ed into the cou untry last yearr with about 75 percent p of thatt allegedly con nsigned to only y five importerrs, Bureau of C Customs (BOC C) Commissioner John Sevilla revealed ye esterday.

Sevilla said s data fro om the National Food Authority ( NFA) show wed the 200 0,000 metricc tons of rice r was imported with hout the req quired impo ort permit, w which far su urpassed the estimate ed 55,000 MT M of legally imported rice. Sevilla id dentified the five rice importers as a Silent Ro oyalty Marke eting, Bold Bidder Marketin ng and Gen neral Merch handise, Sta arcraft Interrnational Trrading, Inte er-Continental Gains an nd Medaglia de Oro Trading. T These five firms rep portedly ac ccounted for 75 percen nt or 150,00 00 MT of ricce that were e brought into the country via th he Port of Manila M and tthe Manila Internationa al Containe er Port with hout importt permits.

Sevilla added the remaining 25 percent of illegal rice importations passed through the ports of Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and he sub-port of Mindanao Container Terminal in Phividec, Tagoloan and Misamis Oriental. Coincidentally, the BOC identified them as the top rice importers for year 2013, next to the NFA. Starcraft was previously mentioned in the investigation of suspected rice smuggler Davidson Bangayan, who is reportedly also known as David Tan. “So internally what we are looking for is how this happened when the law and procedure (on importations) have been clear. Were there fake import permits? Did they recycle the import permits?� Sevilla asked. They also noticed that the bulk of the rice importations without import permits took place around October, before the alert orders were issued and some two months before the BOC started receiving court injunctions. These occurred during the second week of December when the courts ordered the release of the seized rice shipments. They have so far received five court injunctions with the expectation of two more because there are pending petitions for injunction, Sevilla said. The importers Starcraft, Bold Bidder and Silent Royalty were among those who filed an injunction case against the BOC. Since the BOC does not blacklist importers under investigation, they would just place the five firms’ future shipments under alert if these fall under the category of illegal import. At the moment, Sevilla said they are concentrating efforts on looking into the activities of their own BOC personnel, specifically the assessors and examiners who processed the release of questionable cargo. Customs deputy commissioner for Intelligence Group (IG) Jesse Dellosa is reportedly in charge of investigating the transaction of 18 examiners and assessors. Dellosa said the 18 would remain in their posts during the course of the investigation. In the case of Silent Royalty, the NFA said it has not issued even a single import permit to the firm.

“So we are backtracking on our records and determining how many shipments came in for Silent Royalty. Who cleared the release? Did they present an import permit to the BOC employee? Can we see that import permit? Was it fake?” Sevilla said. Legal question The Department of Justice (DOJ) has raised a legal question on the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports. In a 12-page confidential legal opinion, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the NFA has no power to extend the imposition of QR following the expiration of the government’s commitment to the World Trade Organization-General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in June 2012. While the agreement has expired, De Lima said it had provisions saying extension of the QR on agricultural products “shall only be by agreement after the conduct of negotiations.” De Lima believes such provisions are binding. – Edu Punay

DAP lacks transparency, Miriam says By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago believes the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) lacked transparency from the start. As early as the impeachment trial of ousted chief justice Renato Corona in 2012, it has not been transparent, she added. Nobody knew about the DAP until Budget Secretary Florencio Abad explained the P50million additional funds distributed to each senator-judge after the conviction of Corona, Santiago said. The DAP came out after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed a supposed bribe to senator-judges in a privilege speech last year. “That was introduced into our vocabulary only after the impeachment trial. That is the downside to extreme secrecy... lack of transparency. “In my case, I never knew. I had no clue. I was completely clueless about the DAP while we were struggling with legal technicalities during the impeachment trial.” Santiago said she was not aware that the executive department released extra funds later known as DAP at the height of Corona’s impeachment trial. She said the test for bribery was not when it was given, but whether the amount influenced a senator-judge to change his decision. “For example, if you give a senator a basket of mangoes, that’s not bribery, that’s not going to change his mind. But if you give him P50 million, that would change his mind,” she said. “Now they are arguing whether this was given before, during or after the impeachment? That is not the test for whether there has been bribery. The test for bribery is this: Whether that amount is sufficient to change his mind. That is the test for bribery. So you have to ask yourself, was the amount sufficient to change his mind? “We are all of course, required, sitting as trial judges, to keep an open mind and keep a cold neutrality of an impartial judge,” she said. “But if that amount was sufficient to remove that cold impartiality then that is a bribe, whether it was given before, during or after, it doesn’t matter.” ‘Gov’t arguments alibis’ A petitioner labeled as “alibis” the government’s arguments in defending the DAP’s legality before the Supreme Court (SC). Making the arguments during the third and final oral argument last Tuesday were Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza.

In a statement, former Manila councilor Greco Belgica said: “Not even the brilliant Justice Mendoza was able to disprove the illegality of DAP. The government’s defense was an alibi.” Mendoza argued that the petitioners have no legal standing to question the DAP. The principle of separation of powers would be violated if the SC rules on the issue because “no actual case of controversy” exists, he added. Petitioners should have first question the DAP before the Commission on Audit or the trial courts, Mendoza said. However, Belgica said he and other petitioners came to the right place to question the DAP’s constitutionality. “It is our right as taxpayers to question this abusive system of government spending,” he said. “We are the most aggrieved party in this case and only the Supreme Court can answer such constitutional question.” Mendoza insisted that petitioners availed of the wrong remedy in filing the petition when they cannot be considered aggrieved parties under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. Petitioners also failed to exhaust all other legal remedies before bringing the matter to the SC, he added. Responding, Belgica said an actual case exists for the SC to rule on. “As citizens, it is our right not just to tell government officials to stop stealing and diverting our money, but fire these crooks and make them pay and tell them to give back what was stolen or illegally used,” he said. In the second oral argument last Jan. 28, the Office of the Solicitor General said the SC need not rule on the merit of DAP as the program has ceased to exist. Belgica said the defense was an admission of the DAP’s illegality and an attempt to evade the real constitutional issues raised in the petitions. “The government’s attempt to make our DAP petitions moot, in effect, is an attempt to make illegal acts impossible to punish,” he said. Filing the eight other petitions last year were former lawmaker Augusto Syjuco, lawyers Jose Malvar Villegas Jr. and Manuelito Luna; Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Bayan Muna, Kabataan and Gabriela, Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption. –With Edu Punay, Paolo Romero

‘No presidential imprimatur on Cha-cha moves in Congress’ By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - There is no presidential imprimatur on fresh moves by administration allies in Congress to amend the Constitution, two Palace officials clarified yesterday. “The President is firm, notwithstanding the endorsement of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. towards amending the Charter on the economic provisions,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. “I suppose Speaker Belmonte has a position different from the President, but the President has always been very transparent about his position on Charter change,” he told a news briefing, categorically denying insinuations Aquino was orchestrating the move. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. also rejected allegations by militant lawmakers that Aquino was secretly supporting Charter amendments. “That allegation has no basis. The President’s position is firm and clear that Charter change is not necessary, much less a priority,” Coloma said in Filipino. “There have been occasions, for instance, where there were some people who will call for the amendment of the Charter, but the President, either publicly or privately, has always stated that there’s no need for Charter change,” Lacierda said. “The President has always cited the example of China as a country where land is not open to foreign nationals and yet they experience growth,” Lacierda said. “Our economy has grown better even without amending the Charter.” No double talk House leaders also denied allegations that President Aquino is secretly supporting their economic Cha-cha push. Belmonte said the claims are unfair and baseless since the President does not engage in double talk. “The track record and integrity of the President will speak for itself. It is not his style to deceive the people. We are still working to convince him into supporting our initiative,” he said. Aside from insinuating that Aquino was secretly supporting Cha-cha, Bayan Muna also accused administration lawmakers of railroading Cha-cha. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite urged Colmenares and his party-list allies to stop making false accusations against Aquino.

“Filipinos believe in the sincerity of the President. He does not engage in doublespeak. The imputation that the President gave his silent blessings to Charter change is thus uncalled for.” Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the Cha-cha initiative is an honest-togoodness effort on the part of Aquino’s allies to help him expand the modest economic growth the country has attained under his administration. “We can do double-digit growth if we can attract more foreign investments by enlarging foreign participation in certain sectors of the economy,” he said. He urged those against Cha-cha to accord its proponents the courtesy of presuming good faith on their part, “in the same manner that we are assuming that they are opposing Cha-cha out of their own convictions and not because some people or groups are pushing them to.” – With Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Michelle Zoleta

Form mer TRC T chief c to t tell all on ‘pork’ By Aie Bala agtas See (The e Philippine Sta ar) | Updated February F 21, 20 014 - 12:00am

For genera al manager De ennis Cunanan of the Techn nology Resourrce Center De ennis Cunanan n. file

MANILA,, Philippines s - Another re espondent in n the crimina al complaint filed againsst individualss implicate ed in the pork k barrel scam m wants to turn t state wittness and ba are details o of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.’s misuse of o his Priority y Developme ent Assistan nce Fund (PD DAF). Dennis Cunanan, C forrmer head off the Techno ology Resou urce Center ((TRC), reportedly wantss to divulge everything e he e knows abo out the anom maly, includin ng his dealin ngs with Revvilla concern ning the release of the latter’s PDAF – the official name of po ork barrel fun nds – to dub bious nongovernment organiza ations (NGO Os) of alleged d scam mas termind Jan net Lim-Napo oles. Levito Ba aligod, lawye er of pork ba arrel scam whistle-blowe w ers led by Be enhur Luy, cconfirmed yesterday Cunanan’s s decision to o offer himse elf as state w witness. The e other whistle-blowers include Merlina M Suña as and Gertrrudes Luy. Cunanan n’s decision came c days after a Ruby Tuason, T form mer social se ecretary of M Manila Mayorr Joseph Estrada E when he was president, offe ered herself as state witn ness and linked Senate Minority Leader Juan n Ponce Enrrile and Sen.. Jinggoy Esstrada to the scam.

Revilla, Enrile and Estrada are respondents in the plunder and malversation complaint – along with Cunanan – filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) with the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the PDAF scam. Tuason is also a respondent in the case. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Baligod said Cunanan’s testimony would be crucial because he was able to get Revilla himself to confirm over the phone that the signatures on some project endorsements were his. “Dennis will refute Bong Revilla’s claim that he had nothing to do with the implementation of PDAF-funded projects,” Baligod said in Filipino. “Mr. Dennis Cunanan had cited instances when Sen. Revilla himself had confirmed signing endorsement letters favoring NGOs of Napoles,” Baligod said in a GMA News report. Earlier, Revilla denied he had ever signed letters allowing the allocation of more than P500 million of his PDAF to eight dubious NGOs between 2007 and 2009. He said Luy may have forged his signatures on the endorsement letters. Baligod said Cunanan even recalled an incident when Revilla gave him a dressing down for his failure to process a request from the senator. Cunanan and his staff, Baligod said, had to work the whole day on Dec. 23 just to process some papers demanded by the senator. “Just for that he (Cunanan) was scolded by Revilla,” Baligod said. He added the former TRC boss is in Manila. Cunanan went on an indefinite leave of absence when he was named in the plunder and malversation complaint. Based on a Commission on Audit (COA) report, lawmakers had allocated pork barrel funds to TRC, which then channeled the money to dubious NGOs, including those of Napoles. After he was linked to the PDAF scam, Revilla filed a plunder complaint against Cunanan and officials of other government agencies that had transacted with Napoles. The other respondents were former president of the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) Alan Javellana, former president of the National Livelihood Development Corp. Gondelina Amata, and former president of ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. Salvador Salacup. Baligod said Cunanan has been applying to be accepted as state witness since October last year, and had even submitted an affidavit to the NBI.

The STAR called and texted Cunanan’s lawyer Rey Roble to confirm Baligod’s announcement but received no reply. Baligod said Cunanan is qualified to stand as state witness. The decision to accept an accused as state witness depends on the Ombudsman or the courts. Meanwhile, two other officials of another government-owned and controlled corporation named in the pork barrel scam have expressed willingness to divulge what they know about the anomaly. Baligod identified them as Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal of Nabcor. Both are facing plunder charges. Cacal, in another GMA News report, said he and Mendoza were mere employees taking orders from higher ups. “As employees we just follow instructions,” Cacal said. He said they had to follow some processes lest they get into trouble with their bosses.

Rev villa se ees Palace P e hand d in C Cunan nan’s decision By Christin na Mendez (The e Philippine Star) | Updated February F 21, 20 014 - 12:00am

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr

MANILA A, Philippine es - Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. seess Malacañan ng’s hand in the decission of forme er Technolo ogy Resourc ce Center director d Den nnis Cunan nan to offer himself as state wittness “and peddle lies s” in the porrk barrel sca am. “You kno ow Dennis Cunanan is s among those charge ed for plund der. He is doing this to o save his s skin,” Rev villa told The e STAR in an a interview w last nightt. “This is so unfair, and a we can see the ha ands of Malacañang an nd Boy Pickk-up behind d this,” Re evilla said, referring r to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxass II. “It mightt be that Bo oy Pick-up has h also pic cked up Cu unanan just to exact re evenge,” Re evilla said, notting informa ation receiv ved by his camp c that h his having rrevealed Prresident Aquino’s s asking him m to vote fo or the conviction of forrmer chief ju ustice Rena ato Corona during his h impeach hment trial in 2012 had d enraged R Roxas.

“It is obvious that they do not have solid evidence against me. These are all rehashed claims. How will I be calling a mere director of the TRC? If so, I should have called his higher ups,” the senator said. The senator’s camp said Cunanan merely wanted to evade the plunder charges filed not just by the justice department but by his lawyers as well. Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon said Cunanan’s move was his “veiled attempt to be freed from prosecution for plunder.” Revilla and Bodegon said Cunanan cannot be accepted in the Witness Protection Program because he had no solid testimony against the senator. Bodegon also sought the disbarment of the lawyer of whistle-blowers Levito Baligod for conflict of interest.

AFP P chie ef: China cllaims s are n nonse ense By Chris Brummitt and Oliver Teves (As ssociated Press s) | Updated Fe ebruary 21, 20 014 - 8:38am

An aerial shot s of Pag-As sa Island, partt of the dispute ed Spratlys Grroup, in the W West Philippine Sea. The Philippines s claims the is slands as part of its 200-nau utical mile excllusive econom mic zone presccribed by the U United Nations Co onvention on the t Law of the e Sea. MANILA, Philippines P — The Philippine es military chief vowed Thu rsday to defen nd the countryy's fishermen against an ny Chinese "terror or intimida ation" in the South S China Se ea, the latest ssign of sharpe ening tensions in what is a potential p globa al flash point.

In an inte erview with The T Associated Press, Gen. G Emman nuel Baustita a said Chine ese claims to o islands ju ust off the Ph hilippine coa ast are "of co ourse absolu ute nonsensse. Just take a look at the map." China cla aims almost the whole of o the vast So outh China S Sea, which is believed to o have significan nt oil and gas deposits. Beijing B has been b increassingly assert rtive in presssing its claim ms in the ocean against its s smaller neighbors, sending navy sh hips into con ntested wate ers and harassing g fishing flee ets of nations with rival claims. c "Our fishermen will continue c on fishing, f asse ert their rightts on those a areas. They should go o on with theirr lives and liv ve their life as a fishermen n, not to bow w down to terror or intimidation," Bau ustita

said, referring to an incident in which he said a fishing vessel was sprayed by a water cannon on a Chinese boat. Asked if the Philippine military would defend the fisherman in the event of another incident, he said, "To the best we can, we will support them, especially if there is more aggression and unnecessary use of force." China and the Philippines, along with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan, have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, with China and Taiwan claiming the largest swathe of the strategic waters. The United States is a military ally of the Philippines and shares many of the concerns of the small countries regarding China, but says it wants a diplomatic solution. The United States gave the Philippines two coastguard cutters which have been turned into the country's biggest naval vessels. Bautista said the navy is procuring two new frigates and other vessels to boost its maritime force. Manila announced last year it has taken its claims to a United Nations-backed tribunal, which will take several years to reach a verdict. China has insisted instead on one-on-one negotiations to resolve the territorial conflicts. Such negotiations, which would give China an advantage because of its sheer size, have been rejected by the Philippines. Baustita said that decision risked angering China in the short term, but that it was the right course of action. "They are a big country, we are a small country. What can we do? Bring it to court, solve it through peaceful means," he said. The Philippine military is one of the weakest in Asia, and for much of the last 40 years has been fighting internal security threats from Muslim separatists and Communist insurgents. Last month, government negotiators announced they had a reached a peace deal with the largest separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Bautista expressed hope that the deal could provide a model for other conflicts in the country, allowing it to focus on external defense and disaster relief in a country prone to earthquakes and typhoons.

Aus stralia a to se ea cla aiman nts: R Resolv ve disp pute peace p efully By Pia Lee e-Brago (The Philippine P Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 4 - 12:00am

President Aquino welcomes Australian Foreign Min nister Julie Bis hop during a ccourtesy call a at MalacaĂąang g yesterday.. At right is Foreign Affairs Secretary S Albe ert del Rosario o. WILLY PER REZ

MANILA A, Philippine es - Visiting g Australian n Foreign M Minister Julie e Bishop sa aid her country does not take sides s in the Sou uth China Sea S dispute e, but urgess all claiman nts to resolvve their diffferences pe eacefully an nd lawfully. Various claims in th he West Ph hilippines Sea (South C China Sea)) and conce erns over growing tensions in n the area were w discus ssed in yestterday’s 4th h Philippine es-Australia a Ministerial Meeting at the Dep partment of Foreign Afffairs. Bishop said s Australia and Phillippines had d a lengthyy discussion n on the cha allenges facing the regio on in terms of territoria al claims in the South China Sea,, as well ass in the Senkaku u (Diaoyu) Islands betw ween Japa an and Chin na in the Ea ast China Sea. Australia a urged all parties not to escalate e tensions a and to recognize that m many countries have interest in ens suring peac ce.

“We believe that there should be consultation, that there should be dialogue in the case of the South China Sea. We support ASEAN objectives in concluding a Code of Conduct with China and we hope that there will be some early progress on that Code of Conduct,” Bishop said, noting that Australia has legitimate interest in these matters. Expressing concern on the stability and peace in the region, Bishop stressed the role of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in the peaceful resolution of the sea row. Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario informed Australia about a memorial to be submitted by the Philippines on March 30 to the arbitral body under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) before which it has filed a case over the territorial dispute. The Philippines has maintained that the core issue in the dispute was China’s sovereignty stand on almost the entire South China Sea, which it said was a gross violation of the international law. Because of this, the Philippines had to look for other means to address the issue, including mechanisms that would manage the tension and settle the disputes. In terms of managing tension, the Philippines told Australian delegates that it relied on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), as Manila looks for a speedy conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). “In terms of settling the dispute, we are looking for clarification and entitlement of all parties, not only China and Philippines, but all countries that use the seaways for their trade. We believe that we have exhausted all possibilities,” Del Rosario told journalists during a briefing. – With Alexis Romero

Meralco has enough funds to pay power suppliers – lawmaker By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A lawmaker believes the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has enough funds to pay power suppliers to avert a shortage in electricity. Deputy Minority Leader Arnel Ty said they have discovered that Meralco has amassed P43 billion in “cumulative earnings” after examining the company’s financial statements. “The P43 billion is already net of all funds earmarked by Meralco to further enlarge its business, and is on top of the P40 billion it had paid to its shareholders as dividends from 2009 to 2013,” he said. Meralco could use the P43 billion to pay power suppliers, Ty said. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has urged Meralco to partially pay power producers while unable to charge electricity consumers the P4.15 per kilowatthour increase in generation charge for November last year. The Supreme Court (SC) has stopped Meralco from collecting the increase. Ty said Meralco’s net earnings have grown from just P2.8 billion in 2008 to P6 billion in 2009, P9.7 billion in 2010, P13.2 billion in 2011, and to P17 billion in 2012. “While Meralco is a private entity, it is also a business that enjoys a privilege granted by the state, by way of a legislative franchise bestowed by Congress, to exclusively distribute electricity in Metro Manila and outlying areas,” he said. – With Iris Gonzales

Gov't earmarks $22 M for ecotourism in disaster-prone area ( | Updated February 20, 2014 - 9:00pm

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The government has allotted P1 billion ($22 million) for mangrove and beach forest development in disaster-prone areas, a senior official said today. Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources ( DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje said that the Aquino administration is putting ecotourism at the forefront of its development priorities to help coastal communities affected by last year's calamities, such as typhoon Haiyan, recover from the devastation. "In the wake of the killer typhoon, the government has forged measures that will be part of a comprehensive program on environmental protection. Sustainable resource-use strategies shall be promoted all throughout the country wherein one of the key activities is ecotourism development," he said. Paje said the 1-billion-peso allocation for mangrove and beach forest development will cover not only areas hit by Haiyan, but also those affected by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake in the central Philippine provinces of Bohol and Cebu and other calamities. The fund will be used to provide socioeconomic benefits to affected local communities and the program will in the long run mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, Paje said. He underscored the need to provide alternative livelihood to coastal communities to curb the country's high dependence on its coastal and marine resources, characterized by destructive and unsustainable resource extraction practices, which led to devastation in ecosystems as in the case of Haiyan. "It was clear that due to lack of natural barriers in the coastlines, the communities were highly devastated by storm surges sending five-meter high, tsunami-like wave," he said.

New batch of int'l peace monitors to arrive in Mindanao in March ( | Updated February 20, 2014 - 7:00pm

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - A new contingent of peace monitors will arrive next month to oversee the ongoing ceasefire between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a senior government official said today. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said the new batch of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) will replace the current group whose mandate will end on March 12. "The IMT, which monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF, will be serving its mandate for another year until March 2015," said Deles. The Philippine government and the MILF, the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, agreed to renew the mandates of the IMT and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) during their 43rd round of exploratory talks last month in Malaysia. They also agreed to reduce the number of IMT members to 36 monitors, composed of 14 from Malaysia, nine from Brunei, nine from Indonesia, two from Japan, and two from Norway. Meanwhile, Deles said the AHJAG will be reinstated for one year or until February 14, 2015. Initially formed in 2002, the AHJAG is a joint effort of the government and the MILF that seeks to interdict and isolate lawless elements. It coordinates, monitors, and disseminates information between and among government security forces and the MILF to facilitate law enforcement operations without jeopardizing the peace process. Brig. Gen. Romeo Gan, who currently serves as assistant division commander of the 6th Infantry Division, has been designated as the new head of the AHJAG, following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Leo Cresente Ferrer in December. Deles said the IMT and AHJAG have been instrumental in reducing levels of hostilities between the government and MILF, and increasing efficiency in the pursuit of criminal elements in Central Mindanao and Basilan province.

Miriam: DAP not in Senate vocabulary before Corona trial By Christina Mendez ( | Updated February 20, 2014 - 5:20pm

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday decried the apparent lack of transparency on the existence of the Development Acceleration Program (DAP) as early as the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona in 2012. Santiago noted that there was no knowledge of DAP at all, apparently until Budget Sec. Florencio Abad explained the P50-million in additional pork barrel funds distributed to each senator-judge after the conviction of Corona. It can be recalled that Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who revealed the supposed bribe when he delivered a privilege speech last year, lambasting the administration for “selective injustice” on the pork barrel controversy. Santiago made the revelation after she was asked on whether lawmakers should stop receiving DAP allocations since the issue is pending before the Supreme Court. Unlike the pork barrel allocation, Santiago noted that there has been no ruling on the DAP -which was virtually unknown to senators not until the Palace and Abad explained what it was last year. “…there was no knowledge or information about the DAP at all. That was introduced into our vocabulary only after the impeachment trial. That is the downside to extreme secrecy… lack of transparency,” she said. "In my case, I never knew. I had no clue. I was completely clueless about the DAP while we were struggling with legal technicalities during the impeachment trial,” Santiago added. Santiago said she was not aware that the executive department released extra funds, later to be known as DAP, at the height of the Corona impeachment trial. “I have no inkling. Senators like me have no inkling that this was taking place,” said Santiago, who resurfaced anew at the Senate on Thursday where she conducted a public hearing on the pending treaties that need ratification of the Senate. What constitutes bribery? Santiago then let out her legal opinion as she lectured on what constitutes bribery. She said the test for bribery was not when it was given but whether the amount paved a senator-judge to change his decision on the impeachment of Corona.

“For example, if you give a senator a basket of mangoes, that’s not bribery, that’s not going to change his mind. But if you give him P50 million, that would change his mind,” Santiago said. Santiago was among the three senators who voted to acquit Corona. The two others are Senators Joker Arroyo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. “Now they are arguing whether this was given before, during or after the impeachment? That is not the test for whether there has been bribery. The test for bribery is this: whether the amount given whether before, during, or after with time as an irrelevant element there,” Santiago said. “Whether that amount is sufficient to change his mind, that is the test for bribery. So you have to ask yourself, was the amount sufficient to change his mind?” she added. Santiago explained that the driving principle is whether “it was sufficient to make a senator make up his mind or change his mind if he had already made a decision or at least change the perspective from which he was viewing the proceedings of the impeachment trial.” “We are all of course, required, sitting as trial judges to keep an open mind and keep a cold neutrality of an impartial judge. But if that amount was sufficient to remove that cold impartiality then that is a bribe, whether it was given before, during or after, it doesn’t matter,” Santiago added. Individual liability Santiago said each senator-judge should be responsible for his or her actions. “Each one must raise his own defense,” she said, regardless when they received their DAP or even allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). She said there is individual liability for every person or senator considered “as a person of interest in the impeachment proceedings,” particularly the on the financial release of certain funds of government around. On reports that Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. received DAP during the impeachment trial, Santiago expressed belief that he cannot be held liable for bribery under her theory since the senator voted against Corona’s removal from office. “According to my test, no. Maybe because it was not enough. So bribery also has a certain calculus of its own. "Remember what I’ve said: it must be sufficient to change his mind."

PNP gears up security for int'l forum By Christina Mendez ( | Updated February 20, 2014 - 4:26pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Police (PNP) is gearing up for the intensified security preparations for at least four international events in the country, including the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 2017. Chief Superintendent Ricardo Marquez, PNP Director for Operations, said the security preparations are in full swing also for the 34th ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police (ASEANAPOL) Conference in Manila this year. “We are busy with the security preparations for APEC, ASEANAPOL and WEF East Asia Summit,” Marquez said in an interview at the Senate after he attended the public hearing on proposed legislation pertaining to electoral reforms. The Philippines will host this year's World Economic Forum's East Asia Summit, an extension of the famed WEF meeting of Davos, Switzerland. In 2016, the country will also welcome delegates of the ASEAN Tourism Forum, a meeting that will bring over 1,800 participants including officials from the ASEAN and its dialogue partners (China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India and Russia). Marquez said the PNP’s security preparations are in full swing, noting that the world’s top leaders will be attending the APEC. “These events are important since many leaders are coming here. We want to ensure their safety,” he added. The PNP, meanwhile, will be hosting the annual ASEANAPOL conference in May this year. The Philippines is a founding member of the ASEANAPOL, which held its first conference in Manila in 1981 and has been holding annual conferences since, hosted by member-agencies. The PNP last hosted the 23rd ASEANAPOL conference in Manila in September 2003. Aside from the Philippines, other national police agencies forces represented in the ASEANAPOL are the Royal Brunei Police Force, Cambodian National Police Force, Indonesian National Police, Myanmar Police Force, Singapore Police Force, Socialist Republic of Vietnam Police, Royal Thai Police, Royal Malaysia Police, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic Police Force. Also invited to attend the annual ASEANAPOL Conferences are observer delegations from the ASEAN Secretariat, ICPO-Interpol, Australian Federal Police, National Police Agency of Japan, New Zealand Police, Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, and the National Police Agency of the Republic of Korea, and Timor Leste.

Equitable progress SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

In 2007, a decade after the Asian financial crisis, several analysts observed that while reforms were instituted to prevent a repeat of the economic disaster, crony capitalism and monolithic family businesses continued to impede growth in Southeast Asia. And while several countries in the region were among the world’s best economic performers, the analysts noted that inequality was also on the rise in the region. Even back then in 2007, economic managers in the Philippines, one of the better performers in the region, were already acknowledging that growth was not inclusive. We might derive some consolation from the thought that we have not been alone in our predicament. Analysts pointed out that in much of Southeast Asia, circa 2007, businesses were dominated by billionaire families that avoided putting their money in export manufacturing where they must compete globally and play by international rules. Instead the families focused on businesses where they could enjoy a monopoly, oligopoly or cartelized trade, with cheap credit provided by their own banks. Politics and private enterprise were locked in an incestuous embrace, ensuring that the regulatory environment would remain ineffectual, the law malleable, and the rules skewed in favor of the well connected. When Southeast Asian countries were colonized by Europeans, the businessmen who thrived were those favored by the colonial masters. All the rules – or the pretense of rules – were stacked in their favor. The setup killed competition and created the region’s version of pampered royalty. When the colonial era ended, Asian strongmen stepped in, and they rewarded their own cronies with sweetheart deals and concessions. Again, this story is not unique to the Philippines. Even when the strongmen were gone, the lucky cronies held on to their vast wealth and became wealthier in the absence of reforms. Foreign investors saw the unfair competition and stayed away, further reinforcing the families’ monopolistic hold. Our landed political elite, which blocked genuine agrarian reform during the first Aquino presidency, also controlled economic activity across the country. How much has changed since 2007? The answer to this also provides much of the answer to why growth in Asia’s second best economic performer in 2013 has not trickled down to the grassroots. *



When the 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia holds its meeting in Manila this May, the agenda will be “leveraging growth for equitable progress.”

Some Asian economies have in fact achieved equitable growth, with crony capitalists much reduced in influence and the middle class expanded. Japan did it many years ago, although growth has stagnated. South Korea has done it, and so has Taiwan. So the WEF East Asia agenda is not an impossible dream. From 600 to 700 participants are expected at the meeting, which will be held as the region prepares for a common market through the ASEAN Economic Community next year. A handout from the WEF described the Philippines as “one of the greatest economic comeback stories in recent years… expected to be the strongest performing Southeast Asian economy in 2014, with GDP growth surpassing 6.5 percent.” “We’re very honored that the Philippines has welcomed us,” WEF associate director for media Desiree Mohindra told us during a visit to The STAR the other night. She said that in 2013, “I don’t see any other country that’s performed better.” President Aquino would be happy to know that he is still much appreciated abroad, with his focus on fighting corruption and promoting good governance seen as a model for other emerging economies. Even some World Bank officials, however, are puzzled by reports, based on the government’s own data, that robust growth has made hardly any dent on poverty incidence, especially among the extremely poor. P-Noy’s economic managers, like those of his predecessor, acknowledge that growth has not been inclusive. But they dispute criticism that what we have is jobless growth. The miniscule fraction of the population that controls wealth and power has certainly thrived in the past three years. But then they always do, regardless of who is ensconced in Malacañang. The system, in place for decades, sees to that. The wealthier you are in this country, the more untouchable you become to corporate and banking regulators. Enormous wealth also buys political protection, ensuring the perpetuation of monopolies, oligopolies and unfair competition. Politics should be an enabler for equitable growth, empowering the masses. Instead our politicians enable themselves, empowering their families and their cronies. With the exception of a handful of homegrown enterprises such as Jollibee and Oishi, which have successfully taken on global giants, the businesses that have prospered in this country are those whose owners have the right connections to engage in smuggling and other forms of unfair competition. How will Pinoys appreciate the value of hard work when we see the biggest fortunes built on influence peddling?

Politics has become a disease. The rule of law is a joke because members of the judiciary, prosecution and law enforcement agencies owe their appointments and promotions to politicians and the religious mafia. The WEF has wide-ranging objectives in three areas: achieving equitable progress, advancing models for sustainable growth, and realizing regional connectivity in various aspects. Participants hope to come up with recommendations to stimulate job-generating investment and more equal access to employment opportunities particularly for the youth. Other objectives include promoting entrepreneurship and improving response to natural disasters. Among the buzz phrases are “economic resilience” and “trade enablement.” Perhaps the WEF meeting can propose regional rules that will bind the Philippines to promote fair competition, the rule of law and global standards in corporate regulation. And as WEF East Asia host, perhaps the Philippines can lead in implementing reforms for inclusive growth that may be proposed at the meeting. After the meeting, there will be even more pressure on P-Noy to achieve inclusive growth. It’s not an impossible objective, but time is running out for him.

Catch up COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

If we are to believe official pronouncements, there is a flurry of government infrastructure projects going on all over the country, the bulk of which are concentrated in Metro Manila. In fact, 15 major infrastructure projects spread across Metro Manila are lined up to start on various dates this year, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Aside from the DPWH, other government agencies are also undertaking their respective infrastructure projects with the private sector under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program of President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III. With less than three years left in the Aquino administration, many of the PPP projects formally launched in March 2011 are finally taking off. Actually, this development is both good news and bad news for us Filipinos. The good news is that these construction projects will mean not only improvements in our country’s existing infrastructure system but will also create new jobs and income for the people. With jobless rate in the Philippines reaching as high as 7 percent, or seven of every 100 Filipinos unemployed, these infrastructure projects would definitely address the twin problems of unemployment and poverty in the country. Despite the “robust” economic growth reported in the past two years, the Aquino administration has been grappling with a situation of “jobless growth” in the country. President Aquino had to convene last week a full Cabinet meeting at Malacañang reportedly to look into this jobless growth that threatens to frustrate his promised “inclusive growth” for all Filipinos by the end of his term. The downside of this massive infrastructure development is the resulting dislocation and displacement these projects will bring about as they take place simultaneously all over the country. Of the 15 projects slated in the national capital region that includes Metro Manila, construction work has already started on the Skyway 3 and NAIA Expressway Phase 2 projects. The rest of the projects will soon follow suit with completion dates slated for 2016. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino warned this early about the developing nightmarish traffic gridlocks as a consequence of these infrastructure projects. Tolentino admitted motorists and commuters as well have no choice but to brace themselves for more traffic woes before it gets any better. Other projects to start soon their respective scheduled construction dates in the coming months in Metro Manila are, namely: the Gil Puyat-Makati Avenue-Paseo de Roxas underpass; Sta. Monica-Lawton Avenue bridge; CP Garcia Avenue-McKinley Hill ramp; repair and asphalt overlay of Magallanes Interchange; EDSA-Taft Avenue flyover; MRT Line 3/ LRT Line 1 extension common station; LRT Line 2 East extension up to Masinag; LRT Line 1 Extension (Cavite); EDSA- Roosevelt Ave. interchange; España Avenue-Lacson Avenue interchange; repair and rehabilitation and improvement of South Superhighway Makati; the NLEX-SLEX connector road; and the EDSA-West Avenue-North Avenue interchange.

Per estimation of MMDA chief, motorists and commuters alike will feel the time-crunching traffic jams come the last quarter of this year once these major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila start and go full blast all at the same time. One of the ongoing DPWH projects is the NAIA Expressway Phase 2 where an eight-lane elevated expressway, including the ramps, is being built from Sales Avenue going to Andrews Avenue, to Domestic Road going to MIA Road and end at Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard and Entertainment City. The project aims to connect Terminals 1, 2 and 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). With the former five-lane NAIA road reduced to three lanes, traffic flow has been constricted further. Since it’s an airport route, motorists have to share the reduced road space with taxicabs and commuter vehicles bringing in and fetching airport passengers. Left with no other option or alternative route — which of course is longer route and more gasoline waste – I have sort of gotten used and adapted to this slow grind of traffic. Either I just browse through Twitter and Facebook to monitor news or watch a movie on my i-Pad rather than lose my patience and sanity over traffic gridlock. Or better yet, sleep it out. But that adaptation is only applicable if you are just a passenger. Driving in such horrendous traffic requires longer patience. And how about the commuters who take public utility jeepneys or buses? Yesterday, the MMDA chief announced plans to hire additional 400 traffic aides to cope with the staggering expected traffic jams. Tolentino disclosed about 2,000 MMDA traffic enforcers are now deployed to manage vehicular traffic especially in the vicinities of construction projects. Obviously, many of these construction projects under the PPP have been delayed and remained in the pipeline for a time already. Several of these PPP projects have been entangled in controversial bidding “war” problems. Bidding in government projects here is like running in elections: nobody loses because they were cheated. At times, the problem lies with the government agency that declares failure of bidding for the slightest reason. Another cause of delay in the implementation of these projects is the tendency of Aquino officials to see corruption at every nook and cranny. Aquino administration officials seem to have the monopoly of uprightness that everybody else is a crook and out to make quick money from government projects. Infrastructure projects are looked upon as concrete evidence for the Filipino people to see and feel to judge this administration’s accomplishments. And Metro Manila is the country’s political capital where such accomplishments of the President are measured. With the timetable within which to complete all these infrastructure projects limited, administration officials got the marching orders to make sure when P-Noy steps down from office, the Chief Executive will still enjoy two-digit public approval rating. With P-Noy’s term ending in June 2016 just around the corner, the Aquino administration is on catch-up mode.

Kapitolyo: 1 vs DPWH: 0 CTALK By Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

What did they expect, that we would roll out the red carpet for them and sign our own death sentence or the rape of our community? What were they thinking? That we would presume good judgment on the part of a national government agency that never even bothered to consult or solicit suggestions and recommendations BEFORE spending or wasting a lot of time and money on a proposed project? Why would we support a project that would not have a single benefit to our village and would as expected, be vehemently and overwhelmingly opposed by residents of Barrio Kapitolyo? Last Tuesday night, the DPWH sent out a team of sacrificial lambs from the DPWH to present their design and concept of a bridge that would “connect the BGC (Bonifacio Global City) with the Ortigas business district.” The team of humble, patient, but low-level officials from the DPWH were there to present as well as gather reactions, suggestions and try their best to clarify and by a long shot perhaps convince the people. The meeting was supposed to be between the DPWH, the Barangay Captain and the presidents of various “street associations” in Barrio Kapitolyo. But when word leaked out the truly concerned and aware residents showed up uninvited and unashamed. My first reaction was: Why do government agencies always ask our opinion after they’ve made up their minds, made their plans and talked about it as if it were a done deal? Only a jackass would put the cart in front of the donkey. This is a constant behavior that should be banned by law! The Ombudsman and the COA and Congress should prohibit this because it wastes a lot of time and money and man-hours that could be saved through PRIOR consultation. My second observation was why send this first team of low level officials who cannot make definitive statements or commitments? Why subject an already agitated community to 3, yes THREE consultations: first with the sacrificial lambs who having failed to cool our heads, will now ask a second team with better debating and argumentative skills to host or attend the second consultative meeting. And if that fails, as we are certain it will, a third and final consultative meeting is expected to draw the presence of an Assistant Secretary, an Undersecretary or, hoping against hope, the Cabinet Secretary himself? Are the 3 meetings designed to wear us out or harvest our arguments at meeting 1 in order to provide great answers and comebacks for meeting 2? Or maybe give them enough time to woo and find a “Judas” or two in our midst who are more than happy to sell their properties to the government. As the meeting progressed my great and wonderful neighbors certainly succeeded in putting the DPWH “up against the wall” and eventually revealing a number of points that made the proposal even more unpopular. In effect the proposed “Lawton Bridge” would provide a made to order corridor allowing “business” to travel between Ortigas and BGC. It would connect the “Boardroom” with the “Bedroom.” An engineer from the DPWH asserted that BGC is or will soon be a traffic generator and the estimated two-kilometer bridge over the Pasig River would provide relief. The “only”

drawback is that the bridge and elevated roadway has to land and pass through somewhere. That somewhere would be over a lot of houses, commercial establishments and one of the main attractions of West Kapitolyo Drive: a long row of really beautiful old Acacia trees. In other words our beloved Barrio Kapitolyo will become collateral damage so that the government can connect 2 traffic generating business hubs. The problem with the bridge is that it will simply be a 2-kilometer, 2-lane structure capable of absorbing no more than 500 to 600 vehicles at any given time. But once those vehicles get off the bridge they will go back to the same existing traffic congested roads such as Meralco Avenue, Julia Vargas and Ortigas Avenue. So the DPWH will build an estimated P6- to 10billion bridge that will provide space for 500 to 1000 cars to be stuck in during rush hour. In the mean time, if the road will be an elevated platform, the residents of Barrio Kapitolyo won’t even have direct access to the bridge or road except if they go in a long circle. Later in the evening, Barangay Captain Noel Pajara and I tried to explain to the man from DPWH that there are many other alternatives and a lot cheaper than what they had in mind. Unfortunately, I have the impression that the DPWH as an organization is incapable of considering the government’s right over riverbank areas, that the government could create a mixed use roadway along both sides of the Pasig River from Manila to Laguna that would be a high income potential for tourism, mini parks, job generation, and a more serious rehabilitation of the Pasig River. As I pointed out to the DPWH contingent, in many developed countries, riverbank properties are the most expensive and sought after real estate. Unfortunately people in government commit intellectual suicide by immediately saying: we can’t possibly go against the companies that have loading docks, silos etc. along the riverbanks. They also fear having to deal with squatters who use the river as their personal toilet, laundry area and garbage disposal bin. If they refuse to even think about the possibility, how can it ever happen? In the end I predict this story will end with the proverbial words: “See you in court.” In the 20 years it takes to settle the matter judicially, most of us would be lucky or unlucky to be alive. *




Malaysia deports more Filipinos from Sabah By Roel Pareño ( | Updated February 20, 2014 - 5:03pm

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - - The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional government expressed alarm over the wave of deportees that could reach more than 200,000 arriving in Tawi-Tawi as the Malaysian authorities started the crackdown on illegal aliens and demolition on the villages on the coastal areas in Sabah, according to an official.

Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM Executive Secretary, said the regional government was anticipating the deportation of more than 200,000 Filipinos who will be expelled from Sabah as a result of the crackdown operation. “The deportation is alarming because Malaysia started the demolition of the water villages and crackdown on the undocumented citizens of which many are Filipinos who have been living in Sabah,” Alamia told newsmen here following their visit in Tawi-Tawi province Wednesday to assess and establish the need for mitigating measures. According to Alamia, based on the estimate population data there are about 600,000 undocumented Filipinos staying in Sabah. Some are illegal migrant workers, while others have been staying as residents for decades. She said even those about 300,000 documented Filipinos in Sabah, who are residents in the so called water villages, have no assurance if they will be spared from being deported as demolition has started. “The wave of deportations had already started and even the passport itself is not an assurance that they will be spared,” Alamia added. The ARMM executive secretary said that since the fourth quarter of last year the social welfare office in TawiTawi has listed 1,113 deportees repatriated by the Malaysian authorities. Alamia said the deportees were arriving by the hundreds twice a week. On Thursday last week about 198 deportees were sent to and arrived in this city. This prompted the regional ARMM government to sit down with the provincial government of Tawi-Tawi led by Gov. Norbert Sahili and Rep. Ruby Sahali, local government units and private sector to assist the wave of deportees arriving in the province. Alamia said they will be establishing a one-stop processing center and temporary shelter for those who will be deported back from Sabah. The private sector also participated in finding ways to assist the deportees in their livelihood program. However, Alamia believes more should be done.

“In the absence of the resolution of the Sabah issue, this problem will go on,” Alamia said. Alamia said Zamboanga City can not host the deportees, citing that the city itself is still on the rehabilitation process because of the thousands of victims displaced following the September 9 siege staged by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Nur Misuari faction. Gov. Mujiv Hataman and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa will be meeting next week as measures will be presented for the intercession of the national government on the deportation issue. Samera Gutoc-Tumawis, who was representing the private sector, urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Malacañang to create a focal group that will directly coordinate with the Malaysian government to find ways on the displacement of illegal Filipino migrants in Sabah. “Let us turn this irritant as opportunity. They (deportees) are not victims only, they are employable because many of them are skilled workers,” Tumawis said.

Dow wnside of low in nflatio on: A w weaker glob bal ec conom my (Associate ed Press) | Upd dated February y 21, 2014 - 1:3 39am

Chart show ws year-over-y year change in n monthly infla ation in three m major econom mies.

WASHIN NGTON — What W the glob bal economy y could use rright now is a dose of hiigher prices,, though th hat might be e unfathomab ble to people e who still be ear scars fro om the doub ble-digit inflattion of the 1970s. Overall prices p are ba arely budging g because th he economyy is still weakk. And the re everse may b be true, too:: Super-low inflation has s likely slowe ed growth fro om the Unite ed States to Japan to Europe. It's why the world's w centtral banks wo ould like pricces to rise. Most peo ople aren't lik kely to work up much an nxiety about low inflation n. After all, lo ow inflation iis surely preferable to runaway r infla ation. Back in 1980, U.S S. inflation re eached 13.5 percent. Last year, overall U.S S. prices inc ched up just 1.1 percent,, according tto the Federral Reserve'ss preferred d gauge. Infla ation has sta ayed below the Fed's 2 percent targ get for two ye ears. On Wednesd day, the gov vernment saiid its produc cer price inde ex, which tra acks prices b before they reach consumers, ha ad risen just 1.2 percent over the pa ast 12 month hs.

Yet Ben Bernanke, the just-departed Fed chairman, has said policymakers worry as much when inflation is too low as when it's too high. What's wrong with very low inflation? Lots. When prices barely move, many people postpone purchases. Why rush, if the same price — or lower — will be available in six months? Collectively, these delays slow consumer spending, the economy's main fuel. Ultra-low inflation also makes the inflation-adjusted cost of a loan more expensive. And too-low inflation raises the prospect of something worse: deflation — a broad decline in prices, pay and the value of stocks, homes or other assets. Deflation can further restrain spending and even tip an economy into recession. Just ask the Japanese. Japan has been stuck in a deflationary trap for most of two decades. Its economy has barely grown. Fears have spiked that Europe might be next. For now, prices in Europe are ticking up — barely. Inflation in the 18 nations that use the euro currency rose 0.7 percent in January from a year earlier. In Japan, consumer prices rose 0.4 percent for 2013. That counts for good news: It was Japan's first overall price increase in five years. Its central bank is trying to lift inflation to 2 percent. So why is inflation so low across the developed world? Blame a persistently subpar economy and a tough job market. When good jobs are scarce, businesses can hold down pay and prices. Companies can cheaply produce enough to meet demand. "Prices have only gone down because nobody has any money to buy stuff," says Antonio Duarte, a retired postal worker in Lisbon, Portugal, who favors discount stores. "It's all about supply and demand." Other trends have contributed. Most clothing and furniture in the United States comes from lower-cost manufacturers overseas. Technological innovation has improved the quality of TVs and smartphones while cutting their costs. A more fundamental factor is at work, too: People believe inflation will stay low. And inflation expectations can be self-fulfilling. Suppose a company expects to pay 3 percent more for salary and materials next year. It will then raise its own prices 3 percent. The company's expectations would help produce 3 percent inflation. Ask people if they're enjoying low inflation, and you may encounter puzzlement. Many of us don't feel it. One reason: Apart from the government's broad inflation gauges, many items have gotten much costlier over the past five or 10 years.

Low inflation does help when pay increases are weak. Consumers can stretch their dollars, yen and euros. In hard-hit European economies, such as Greece and Portugal, prices have actually fallen in the past year. Ace Hardware CEO John Venhuizen says his company paid less to manufacturers for products it sells in 2013 than in 2012. That's helped offset other rising costs, such as health care. "We are delighted," Venhuizen says. "There's far less price pressure than I would have anticipated five years ago." Yet low prices pose a downside for some businesses. Big chains such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Bed, Bath & Beyond fought a brutal price war during the past holiday shopping season. The discounts got Americans to spend more. But 33 retail chains cut their profit estimates for the final months of 2013, according to RetailMetrics LLC. By contrast, if retailers could raise prices, say, 3 percent or 4 percent, the extra revenue would allow them to pay employees more. And they wouldn't have to rely strictly on cost cuts to deliver profits. Other businesses might also spend more. U.S. companies are sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash, according to the Fed. Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, notes that low inflation leads many businesses to hoard cash. Higher inflation, by contrast, would erode the cash's value. So businesses would be more inclined to spend — to hire or buy equipment. Higher inflation would also make it easier for Americans to manage their debts. Laurence Ball, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins, notes that many car buyers have loans with rates of 2 percent or less. If inflation were 3 percent or more, pay would likely rise. The car loans would become cheaper to pay off. In Europe, higher inflation could help resolve that region's economic crisis. Greece and other poorer members of the eurozone let wages and prices rise too high, and their goods became comparatively expensive. Now, they must reduce wages and prices, especially compared with stronger economies like Germany. If inflation were higher in the richer countries, it would help ease prices and pay in the poorer countries and encourage hiring. In the United States, many economists have long feared that the Fed's efforts to stimulate growth would ignite inflation. Since 2008, the Fed has bought more than $3 trillion in bonds to try to keep loan rates low to encourage spending. Yet to the surprise of many, all the money the Fed has pumped out hasn't caused prices to jump. "It's a bit of a riddle," says Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Other economists note that most of the money the Fed has created is being held by large commercial banks as reserves. And consumers and businesses aren't clamoring for loans.

Banks have tightened their lending standards. So the new money created by the Fed hasn't circulated through the economy, where it might have accelerated inflation. Most economists foresee inflation remaining low for at least two more years. Fed policymakers have forecast that inflation will be just 1.7 percent to 2 percent in 2016. They'd be happy to be wrong. An uptick in inflation "is a sign that growth is happening," says Alberto Cavallo, an economics professor at MIT.

DOF F bucks bid d to raise r ttax ex xemptions By Zinnia B. B Dela Peña (T The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21,, 2014 - 12:00a am

MANILA, Philippines P - The T Departmen nt of Finance said s the goverrnment standss to lose as mu uch as P61.7 billion in revenue es if Congress approves me easures seekin ng to raise the tax exemption n ceiling on th he 13-month bonus and other benefits of public and privatte sector work kers.

Different bills were filed in the Ho ouse of Representativess seeking to increase the e tax exemp ption cap from the current P30,000 to a range of P40,000 P to P P75,000. The Fina ance Departm ment, which oversees th he Bureau off Internal Re evenue, has thumbed do own the propo osals becaus se of the pottential reven nue losses o of up to P61.7 billion. Finance Secretary Cesar C Purisim ma said the proposals p wo ould jeopard dize the gove ernment’s liability management m t program an nd public spe ending on so ocial service es. The prop posed bills will w greatly afffect the Aqu uino administtration’s bid to improve ttax to GDP (gross do omestic prod duct) ratio to o 16 percent by 2016. “The Philippines is still s on deficitt spending. The T passage e of these proposals will derail our deficit sp pending prog gram of two percent p of GDP G in 2016 , in the proccess wipe ou ut the revenu ue gains from sin taxes that the cou untry worked d for 16 years rs to pass, an nd jeopardizze our sociall

spending commitments, especially for the rehabilitation for calamity-stricken areas and infrastructure,” Purisima said. Purisima pointed out that taxpayers would ultimately come out on the losing end with the government grappling with meager financial resources to fund basic social services. “For example, foregone revenues of P61.7 billion could almost fully-fund the expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to P62.6 billion, which provides direct immediate support to poor households with irregular income,” he said. “If the legislative proposals are passed, and additional revenue measures would take another decade to pass, then the country is in danger of going back into the vicious cycle of fiscal mismanagement. Historically, countervailing revenue measures have been much harder to pass in Congress since increasing taxes is not popular. But the DOF was not made to be popular; it was made to be responsible for the country’s economic health,” Purisima added. The DOF chief also pointed out that taxpayers have already benefited from previous reforms that increased their personal and additional exemptions by up to 456 percent, much higher than the 157 percent adjusted value for inflation since 1994. Purisima also noted that the Finance Department has always advocated for responsible revenue-neutral policy making, which urges lawmakers to identify fund sources for revenue eroding proposals. “Ultimately, our stance is beneficial to our taxpayers since a fiscally capable and responsible government will be more equipped to carry out economic reforms that spur inclusive development. Instead, we must strengthen the country’s socio-economic conditions through expenditure programs which benefit everyone, including salaried taxpayers,” Purisima said. Some lawmakers, however, said the DOF or BIR should look for other ways to generate revenue instead of imposing the burden to wage earners. Legislators said any decline in collections could be offset by the expected increased spending power of salaried workers.

Joblessness and poverty DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

The increase in the SWS joblessness rate in the last quarter of last year from 21.7 percent in September 2013 to 27.5 percent in December 2013 was reported to have sparked a full Cabinet meeting that took more than five hours. Last Monday, Economic Planning Secretary Arsi Balisacan called a press conference where he admitted that “growth is not denting poverty.” I like the honesty of Sec. Arsi who went on to explain why poverty is a tough nut to crack. High unemployment and poverty incidence, he admitted, will remain a big challenge for the government in the next 10 years or so even amid steady growth. Balisacan didn’t make a big thing of what he called a modest reduction of poverty incidence since 2009 – declining from 27 to 25 percent. Of course years of bad economic management and even squandered growth opportunities are responsible for our stubborn poverty situation. But past administrations are quick to resort to technicalities to highlight whatever little positive result they can squeeze out from the numbers. Indeed, it would have been easy for Sec Balisacan to say that journalists are being myopic for highlighting the single-quarter increase in joblessness. Arsi could have taken journalists like myself to task for failing to notice that the full-year data reveals a FALL in the SWS average from 2012 to 2013 as Malacanang apologists have always done. Arsi could have even castigated newspaper headline writers for disregarding the fact that the 21.7 was the lowest quarterly percentage ever since December 2011. Averaging over four quarters, the Joblessness percentage of the full year 2013 was 25.2; this was 3.6 points below the 28.8 in the full year 2012. Hooray! 3.6 points below! But Sec Arsi knew better. He has been in government long enough to realize that journalists look at the big picture when reporting on statistics. We look at the numbers and see a total picture, not the small differences here and there the way social scientists with PhDs would.

Take these numbers from SWS on the previous annual averages: 23.6 in 2011, 22.5 in 2010, 29.0 in 2009, 28.8 in 2008, 25.2 in 2007, 26.4 in 2006, and 22.6 in 2004. In 1993-2003, on the other hand, the average was below 20 percent. Thus, as SWS’s Dr. Mahar Mangahas himself pointed out, “high joblessness, like self-rated poverty, has been lingering for a decade.” That’s the story we saw and reported on. But I do agree that some readers are getting confused with the terms being used in these reports like joblessness and unemployment rate. A review is in order. For SWS, “Jobless” means No Job Now + Looking for Work. For the government, “Unemployment” means Idle Last Week + Looking for Work + Available for Work. Dr. Mangahas explains the difference further: “In the government’s Labor Force Survey, all respondents who worked for as little as one hour in the week before the interview are classified

as employed (as well as those not actually working last week but already with a job/business or starting one within two weeks). “Those idle and seeking work are unemployed; those idle but not seeking work, and not available for work if an opportunity arises within two weeks, are outside the labor force, which is the sum of the employed and the unemployed. Official unemployment is the ratio of the unemployed to the labor force. “The official unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in the October 2013 Labor Force Survey. This should be compared to the SWS jobless/available rate of 17.1 percent, rather than to the SWS joblessness rate of 27.5 percent… “The key to the contrast between SWS and official figures is the latter’s stingy one-hour rule. Official unemployment is so low because so few can afford to be idle. “Surely, many of those who say they are jobless, when interviewed by SWS, were not idle in the past week, but did odd work to earn whatever they could. They are jobless, but ‘employed’. The stingy rule has resulted in a statistical cover-up of the problem of lack of decent jobs.” With all that out of the way, let us get back to Sec. Arsi and the Aquino administration’s plans to dent the poverty rate. Dent is the operative word as this is just about as much as they can hope to do in the time they have left. Sec. Balisacan noted that “some cities or provinces have been experiencing economic growth, but the poorest families are being left behind perhaps because the growing sectors do not require the goods or services that the poor can provide. Worse, migrants are being attracted into these cities or provinces, but they too, are unable to participate in the growth process.” So, Balisacan said, social services are now being improved and more targeted. Government, he said, will be more aggressive in helping poor people get better job-skills match to facilitate employment. The Secretary said he hopes to accomplish those goals through “what we call narrow targeting, meaning that the beneficiary should be known by name. For this reason, we will make use of the data from the National Household Targeting System of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which identifies the poor households in these provinces by name.” Sec Balisacan said government “will begin with the growth sectors present in these provinces, then focus on providing auxiliary and ancillary services that could be provided by the poorest families in the province. Based on our growth experience, these sectors could be IT-Business Process Management, tourism, construction, manufacturing, and logistics.” The Economic Planning chief also pointed out that over the last three years, the Aquino administration has allocated more resources for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, education, health, among other services, to benefit the poor. “The thing about investment and social services is that we actually inherited big… huge gaps in the spending, not only classrooms…but also in many other social services.” The problem they

inherited, Sec Balisacan explained, could be summed up as the “Lost decade”. The Philippines had committed in 1991 to reduce poverty by half by 2015, but missed the target. “What has happened was that by 1997 and even as early as 1994 – from 1994, in fact, to almost 2009, you hardly see any change in the poverty incidence…” Dr. Balisacan, an economist who has done a lot of work on poverty, was optimistic “we can make the connection between economic growth and poverty reduction sharper. That is, we are going to look at specific geography, specific provinces and cities where the poor are, and we look at the circumstances of those areas and sectors, and we will tailor-fit the interventions that will matter most to the poor.” The NEDA chief underscores the role of private sector investments in job creation needed to cut poverty incidence. “Accelerating job creation requires building up of capital. Investments must continually rise for the economy to continue to grow and this requires a stable and predictable market environment… “At the same time, we need to raise productivity and sustain growth in the agriculture, industry, and services sectors. Investing in research and development is crucial in this respect. Emphasis will be given towards income diversification and agriculture and industry linkages. “Reducing the cost of doing business in the country will continue to be a priority, consistent with the platform of good governance, and in order to encourage more investments. This requires addressing infrastructure bottlenecks, improving connectivity and increasing the availability of highly trainable and skilled labor. Balisacan cited the critical constraints to investors… “We know what they are: the regulatory bottlenecks, the bureaucratic processes. And over the last three years, we have made some progress, as we have seen in the indicators of the ease of doing business and the competitiveness indicators – these are global reports.” He called on domestic investors to take the lead in tapping opportunities the economy offers. “If you cannot get your private local investors to invest, how would you expect foreign investors to come in?” Well, Sec Arsi Balisacan made it plainly clear that the Aquino administration knows what the problem is, realizes there are no quick fixes and is not about to quibble with statistics to convince us our problems are not as serious. Now, we all have to deliver on those modest short term goals. We are in it, all together. Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

Optimism m on Phl P ec conom my sttill strrong By Donnab belle L. Gatdula a (The Philippin ne Star) | Upda ated February 2 21, 2014 - 12:0 00am

MANILA, Philippines P - Despite D the imp pact of the dev vastation brou ught about by Super Typhoo on Yolanda, th he internation nal investor co ommunity rema ains bullish on n the growth prrospects of the e Philippines, Standard Chartered Bank said in its latest resea arch note.

“Optimism m about the Philippine economy e rem mains strong g. Internation nal sentimen nt towards th he Philippine es has impro oved, particu ularly in 2013. Investme ent is becoming a growth h engine, alb beit at a slow w pace,” it sa aid. Howeverr, it said expe ectations on n the peso-do ollar exhang ge rate are m more divided d. StanChart said inves stors also ex xpect inflation to rise but still within th he central ba ank’s target zone in 2014. 2 “As early y as Q1 2013 3, domestic and internattional investo ors had price ed in the stro onger econo omic performa ance seen since 2012 an nd the Philip ppines’ abilityy to achieve an investme ent-grade crredit rating. Siince March 2009, 2 busine ess sentiment for the ne ext quarter ha as been gen nerally optim mistic, though th he recent typ phoon disastter did affect it to some d degree in th he latest survvey. The Philippine es has also climbed inte ernational rankings. It ra nked 108 in the Ease off Doing Business in 2014, from 133 a year y ago,” it said.

It singled out the Philippines as one of the economies that made significant improvements, particularly in “dealing with construction permits”, “getting credit” and “paying taxes”. StanChart said the Philippines has also made some progress in improving investment-driven growth. “We note that investment growth has contributed at least 1.5 percentage point to GDP growth over the past seven quarters, providing the economy with a secondary growth driver. This has been supplemented by strong durable equipment growth, showing that the Philippines is investing in future productive capacity,” it said. But it said while progress has been made, the Philippines has a relatively low investment-toGDP ratio compared with other Southeast Asian economies (20.2 percent in 2013 versus 19.4 percent in 2012). “This will need to be driven higher by both domestic and external sources – we note that in 2013 that the Philippines remained dependent on domestic investment. The increase in investment growth needs to be sustained in order for the economy to benefit in the long term,” it pointed out. StanChart said it expects the Philippines’ investment story to benefit from certain trends this year. “It is likely that better global growth will support stronger FDI growth in the Philippines. Historically, Japan and the US have been big investors in the Philippines; we think this has further upside potential. In addition, higher labor costs in China have driven production chains towards Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, where labor costs are lower. With an Englishspeaking population and a sizable labor force, it is likely that the Philippines has the excess capacity to benefit from these trends in 2014,” it said.

Pres s. Aqu uino to t inv vestorrs: We e nee ed inve estme ents By Aurea Calica C (The Philippine Star) | Updated Febru uary 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA,, Philippines s - President Aquino calle ed on Filipin no businessm men abroad and foreign n counterp parts to help restart the economies e of o areas hit b by natural an nd man-made disasters by putting in n investmentts, trumpetin ng once agaiin that the P Philippines w was no longer the “decayying” country that some pe eople though ht it was. “Without doubt, your involvemen nt will help ou ur country fu urther; and I am eager to o work with a all of you. You u have the ch hance not on nly to take advantage off a golden op pportunity in n a revitalized d nation, but to open more m doors fo or our counttrymen, who have for so o long been sshackled by hopeless sness and cy ynicism, but now are dre eaming again n, and are d demonstratin ng their capa acity to fulfill th heir vast pottential,” Aqu uino said in his h speech d during the co ourtesy call o of the San Francisco o-Manila Sis ster City Com mmittee Bus siness and C Cultural Misssion in Malaccanang yesterday. Such hop pefulness, th he Presidentt said, broug ght back mem mories of the e days when n his family llived in exile both b in San Francisco F an nd Boston where Filipino os abroad, m many of them m professionals, “mourned d what seem med to be the e slow and irreversible d decay of the Philippines..”

“Yet then, as now, our people did not give in to despair. Rather than curse the darkness, we chose to light candles. In our long history as a country, this has always been the case: Filipinos have looked for ways to overcome apathy, and to extend a helping hand; to rise from the rubble, to dream, and to fulfill those dreams,” Aquino said. The President said 1.4 million families were directly affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda alone, 44 of 81 provinces and at least 918,000 families would need assistance in terms of rebuilding or repairing just their houses. “Of course, the economies of the most affected area, which was Region 8, really took a massive hit, loss of all of their equipment, substantial damages their buildings. In short, one of the tasks is really how to restart their economies at the soonest possible time,” Aquino said. “Therefore, allow me now to make a pitch for my country: It is not only more fun here; we are also a country that knows the value of work, and has the creativity, resilience, professionalism, skill, and loyalty that characterizes an ideal place to set up shop. This is really a welcome opportunity for me to share with you the prospects of our economy,” he said. While the past year was indeed filled with challenges, the President said the Philippines still had one of the best performing economies in Asia as gross domestic product grew 7.2 percent. He said several international organizations also improved their outlook on the economy and good governance brought about concrete results: Foreign direct investments, for example, were up by 33 percent in the first three quarters of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012 and manufacturing grew by 10.5 percent in the past year. Fiscal prudence has also allowed the government to increase spending on strategic sectors, such as health, education, and infrastructure, Aquino said, without raising taxes except for the sin tax, which provided more funds to empower the health sector. These, combined with significant progress in other key sectors, such as tourism have given rise to a Philippines where growth is not just fast-paced, but also sustainable and increasingly equitable, Aquino said. “These prospects have been built on the hard work, dedication, and bravery of a people that has followed through on a shared commitment, which was, and still is, to end the vicious cycle of corruption, greed, and apathy that once paralyzed our country; and to replace it with a virtuous cycle, where good governance, in harmony with transparency and accountability, brings about rapid, inclusive growth,” he said.

WEF to focus on inclusive growth By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The World Economic Forum (WEF) which will be held in Manila in May will be threshing out global and regional challenges centered on equitable progress, sustainability, and connectivity. Under the three broad themes, Sushant Palakurthi Rao, WEF’s senior director and head of Southeast Asia, said the forum will have a broad range of sessions such as achieving inclusive economic growth, recognizing natural disruptions, and filling in the needed infrastructure in a bid to link economies. The 23rd World Economic Forum on East Asia will be held on May 21 to 23 in Manila. The Philippines will be the fifth Association of the Southeast Asian Nations member to host the event after Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. “What we’re doing here is we’re taking some of the key outcomes, key issues, key concerns and priorities expressed in our recent annual meeting in January in Davos (Switzerland) and putting this under the lens of the region,” Rao said. “This is because the views and approaches to challenges may differ from one part of the world to another,” he continued. These challenges include economic recovery, youth and employment, climate change and natural disasters, health, and inclusive growth. Issues specific to the region, meanwhile, will include those surrounding the launch of the 2015 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community. “And because we are in the Philippines for the first time, of course, we will also look at some of the issues that are most relevant to the Philippines,” Rao said. “We feel the timing to be in the Philippines to be superb and that’s linked to the very strong economic performance of the country. The Philippines has become the benchmark for many other countries in the world for good governance and anti-corruption [efforts],” Rao said. He said the Philippines in the past three years has been one of the most improved globally in the WEF’s annual survey on competitiveness. The country has also ranked high in relation with other Asian economies with relation to gender gap and equality. WEF expects to welcome more than 600 delegates including nation and business leaders, as well as heads of civil society organizations.

Gov’t sets aside P1.6 B for Agaton loans By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Government Service Insurance System is setting aside P1.6 billion for emergency loans that may be tapped by about 85,000 members affected by Typhoon Agaton. The state pension fund approved a special emergency loan package which increased the credit limit to up to P40,000 and waived the requirement to pay 12 monthly amortizations prior to renewal of the loan. GSIS is also offering a Pensioners’ Emergency Loan (PEL) window of P20,000 with terms similar to the emergency loan for active members. PEL was first offered to GSIS pensioners hit by Yolanda. Robert Vergara, president of GSIS, said the increased credit limit will enable GSIS members to take home a bigger loan amount even with the deduction of the balance in their previous emergency loan from the renewal proceeds. Qualified to avail of the emergency loan package are active members with an outstanding balance in their existing emergency loan as well as those who are either residing or working in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, and the municipalities of Asuncion, Carmen, Kapalong, New Corella and Tagum City in Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. Affected GSIS members who are not on leave of absence without pay and have no arrears and loans declared in default are also qualified to join the program. “Almost 50 percent of active GSIS members hit by Agaton have already availed of the emergency loan and moratorium on loan payments for Typhoon Pablo granted in December 2012, and would not qualify for a renewal as they have paid less than the required 12 monthly loan payments,” Vergara said. Members residing or working in the affected areas who have no balance in their previous emergency loan accounts may avail themselves of the regular P20,000 loan. Affected members have until March 9 to file their loan applications with any GSIS branch office. “Our branch offices in Butuan, Iligan, Surigao, and Tagum will remain open during weekends to serve our members and pensioners,” Vergara said.

What bankers and traders must know about SBLC (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - If you are involved in negotiations and transactions in PPP investment projects, international trade (Import & Export), and project finance structures, it’s a must that you understand the use of bank guarantees and standby letters of credit (SBLC as differentiated from LC) as commercial instruments for use in your business transactions. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), in collaboration with Center for Global Best Practices, will hold a rare special two-day seminar entitled, “Revised ICC Rules on Demand Guarantees and Standby Letters of Credit for Bankers, Investors, Importers, Exporters and Lawyers” to be held on Wednesday & Thursday, Feb. 26 & 27, 2014 at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong City, Philippines. Learn the ICC’s official interpretation on how to apply the revised rules on bank guarantees and standby letter of credit practice with focus on practical usage of these instruments, new definitions and many examples to highlight right practices vs. contentious errors and common pitfalls to avoid. We will provide you with a step-bystep approach to let you understand everything with clarity and precision. You will learn about the main differences between standbys and guarantees and how to implement and interpret these ICC rules in your everyday business transactions. For more details on this and all other upcoming best practices seminars including “Mastering the Use of LC for Import and Export” and “Incoterms 2010” check or call call Manila lines: (+63 2) 556-8968 or 69; telefax (+63 2) 842-7148 or 59; Cebu lines: (+63 32) 512-3106 or 07; Baguio line: (+63 74) 423-5148. This two-day comprehensive program will feature the Uniform Rules for Forfaiting 800, Uniform Rules on Bank Payment Obligations, and Uniform Rules on Demand Guarantees 758 which are adopted globally by all countries as universal standard rules in business transactions using such commercial instruments. This program will feature Pavel Andrle, an international trade finance expert and lead resource person on Uniform Rules on Demand Guarantees and Standby Letters of Credit. He will fly-in from the Czech Republic for this to lecture on this special training program. He has worked for a number of leading local and international banks in various key positions and is a resource person for seminars abroad for ICC National Committees.

Coal power plant to start construction in 3rd quarter (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

TUBOD, Lanao del Norte, Philippines – The anticipated coal-power plant of GNPower will soon start to rise in the coastal town of Kauswagan sometime in the third quarter of this year. This was revealed to media by GNPower project engineer Neil Carlo Francisco during the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) meeting on Feb. 6 at the Macapagal Training Center here. During public consultations, the power plant project received 92-percent acceptability from different stakeholders in the community. “We are very pleased with the outcome, this is the highest acceptability score we got so far from a host community,” Francisco said. Upon its full operation, the plant will help solve the power crisis in Mindanao and allow for expansion of local industries with the stable supply of power now readily available. “We have a signed contract with AMRECO (Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives) composed of about 20 electric cooperatives from all over Mindanao for a total of 300 megawatts,” Francisco added. GNPower already operates two coal-power plants in Mauban Plant in Quezon province and Mariveles Plant in Bataan. “What’s good about GNPower is that they meet the international standards in environmental and work safety. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is also on board to ensure that there is minimal impact to the environment,” Gov. Khalid Dimaporo said. “GNPower’s investment here in Lanao del Norte not only addresses the Mindanao power crisis but it also shows that it’s easy to invest here in Lanao del Norte. From the municipal level, provincial and even up to congressional level, we all work hard together for development. This is our style of leadership,” Dimaporo added. More than P22 million is earmarked annually as GNPower’s livelihood assistance to local residents and nearby communities. The fund also will help in the electrification of remote barangays in the province. For his part, project engineer Neil Carlo Francisco assured the people of Kauwagan and Lanao del Norte that “they will comply with all the requirements for this vital project and partner with the local community.”

Emerging Power to convert CDO landfill into RE source By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino-owned Emerging Power Inc. (EPI) is eyeing to embark on a project that will convert the Cagayan de Oro City sanitary landfill into a source of renewable energy. EPI has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Cagayan de Oro city government and Waste Recovery Borås (WRB), a partnership of Borås City in Sweden, Borås Energy and Environment, the WRB Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the University of Borås, for the project. Under the agreement, EPI will develop a full solid waste management plan that will specifically address Cagayan de Oro City’s 10-hectare landfill in Brgy. Carmen. Created in 1987, the landfill is located 3.5 kilometers from the city proper and had a 25-year life span that ended in 2012. “Cagayan de Oro City is serious about managing its solid waste, and this development will greatly help the city in addressing its current solid waste problems,” Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno said. EPI tapped WRB to conduct a feasibility study on the project, said EPI project manager Nenette Capaning. Biogas Systems, a Swedish renewable energy company with expertise in developing waste-toenergy projects, is also part of the project. “Biogas Systems is willing to collaborate as technology provider and investor for waste-toenergy projects in the Philippines,” Capaning said. The basis of the feasibility study on the landfill waste-to-energy project was a pre-feasibility study completed by the Cagayan de Oro government on waste water, watershed and solid waste management with the Cities Development Initiative Asia-Asian Development Bank (CDIAADB). EPI is a Filipino company engaged in the development of renewable energy projects. It earlier signed a power supply agreement with the Oriental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (Ormeco) for the 40-megawatt Montelago Geothermal Power Plant in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

Fighting erupts between gov’t militias, Moro rebels 9:30 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

CAGAYAN DE ORO CIT, Philippines – After more than a year of zero hostilities, a firefight erupted between government militias and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Carmen, North Cotabato on Thursday afternoon, the military reported Friday. A militiaman was hurt in the exchange of gunfire, according to Captain Tony Bulao, spokesperson of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade based in the said town. Bulao said in a statement that the gun battle started after a group of MILF rebels led by a certain Kumander Karim of the 110th Base Command put up a road blockade and prevented farmers from bringing their produce to the town center. Bulao said Karim and a Kumander Tarzan were reportedly irked by the farmers’ refusal to give “zakat (alms)” to the local MILF unit because they were already giving the same to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group in the area. Von Al-Haq, spokesperson of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said they were now investigating the incident. “We will not tolerate anyone if they will be proven guilty. Aside from the investigation of the joint ceasefire mechanism, the MILF would also conduct an internal probe,” Al-Haq said by phone. Bulao said the military sees the incident as an isolated one and would not affect the peace process. “Karim and Tarzan were acting on their own and not as an organization,” he said. Inquirer Mindanao. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Tail-end of cold front to bring light rains to Central, So. Luzon By Frances Mangosing 8:06 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—A tail-end of a cold front affecting Central and Southern Luzon will bring light rains there, the state weather bureau said on Friday. “Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas and the provinces of Aurora and Quezon will experience cloudy skies with light rains and isolated thunderstorms,” the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said. Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon will have partly cloudy to cloudy skies with isolated light rains. Mindanao and the rest of the Visayas will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms, Pagasa added. Moderate to strong winds from the northeast will prevail over Luzon, Visayas and Caraga region. The coastal waters along these areas will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the northeast with slight to moderate seas. Read more:

Earth Hour: Switch off for bancas for fishers By Camille Anne M. Arcilla Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:08 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

More than just switching off lights, Earth Hour will go beyond its 60-minute environmental conservation campaign and raise funds to help fisherfolk who lost their livelihood to Super Typhoon Yolanda. The goal of the “Bancas for the Philippines” project is to raise $24,000 before this year’s Earth Hour slated on March 29 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The Earth Hour campaign of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) urges individuals, communities and businesses to switch off their nonessential lights as a symbol of their commitment to the conservation of the planet. A related Earth Hour Blue campaign also hopes to raise funds from online supporters for various initiatives, among them the donation of bancas made of fiberglass to Yolanda-afflicted coastal communities. The projects are listed at It is estimated there were around 145,000 fisherfolk whose livelihood was affected by the typhoon. After the fundraising, there will be an initial donation of 60 boats to be given by mid-April, according to WWF-Philippines. Aside from the boat donation, WWF-Philippines will teach fisherfolk in coastal communities how to mold their own fiberglass boats. Fiberglass, a petroleum-based product, consists of glass in a form of resin which is mixed with a reinforcement material, is said to be cheaper and stronger than wood for boat-making in the long run. “It also eliminates the [use of] wood because wood is already a problem in terms of resources,” fiberglass boat designer Juny Binamira said. Pilot sites for training people in boat-molding would be Palawan and Leyte. Read more:

Manila relents, allows window period for truckers By Erika Sauler Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:26 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Following a meeting with exporters and other government officials on Thursday, the City of Manila decided to temporarily modify its daytime truck ban by allowing truckers to ply their routes between a window period of 10 a.m to 3 p.m. “The new truck ban will be enforced except that there will be an extension during daytime,” Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso told reporters after the meeting. “It’s a good start. We gave way to the request of the import-export industry and I want to [make it] clear [that it was not] because of the truckers’ threat.” The window period will be in effect starting on Monday for about six to eight months to allow businesses to transfer operations to the Subic and Batangas ports, he said. The meeting was attended by Domagoso, Mayor Joseph Estrada, Councilor Manuel Zarcal, secretary to the mayor Edward Serapio, Estrada’s former Trade Secretary Jose Pardo, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chair Francis Tolentino and three officials from the export industry. Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., chair of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said they were happy with the extension and Manila was probably right to decongest the ports in the city. “We’ll be able to make do with the given window,” he said, adding that the truckers would be unreasonable if they were to continue their threat to go on indefinite strike starting Monday to protest the expanded truck ban. “We are their clients and it’s OK for us, it should be OK with them,” he told reporters. The expanded truck ban allows eight-wheelers and vehicles with a gross weight of over 4,500 kilograms to ply roads in Manila only between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., seven hours longer than the current one. Trucks carrying perishables and petroleum products, as well as vehicles used for government projects, are exempted from the ban, which is lifted on Sundays and holidays. Earlier, trucking groups threatened to shut down their operations indefinitely starting on Monday. The Manila government, however, was unfazed and said that should the truckers make good on their threat, it would not be the city’s loss. At the same time, it announced that it was considering granting exemptions for truckers for an annual fee, just like it did when it implemented a bus ban last year. “If the City of Manila will push through [with] the truck ban, it will be as if we are not operating anyway. The majority of the sector agreed on stopping operations,” Aduana Business Club Inc. (ABCI) president Mary Zapata told the Inquirer. ABCI is a group of truckers, importers, exporters, brokers and other businesses in the cargo moving industry. Teddy Gervacio, president of the Integrated North Harbor Truckers Association, said in a radio interview that with the implementation of the expanded truck ban, it would take three days for truckers to go to their destinations from the port. According to Zapata, around 4,500 to 5,000 containers arrive at the two ports in Manila every day. “We can deliver 4,000 containers a day. More or less, there are 500 to 1,000 left over, so there is already a problem of port congestion. If we stop operations for three days or a week, you can just imagine how [congested] the Port of Manila will [be],” she said. Zapata added that the manufacturing sector would not be able to receive its delivery of raw materials while the image of the country would also be affected.

But Domagoso said the granting of exemptions was being studied by the Traffic Management Council headed by Mayor Joseph Estrada. The fee may range from P400 to P800 per truck every year. Read more:

P370M for 4 senators for ‘stimulus’–Palace No explanation why they got money ahead of others

By Michael Lim Ubac Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:07 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The P370 million that went to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Vicente Sotto III and Ramon Revilla Jr. in March 2012, at the height of the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, was part of a stimulus fund of the Aquino administration, Malacañang said on Thursday. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda confirmed that the amount came from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)—a little-known impounding mechanism for government savings that came to light in September last year after Estrada said each senator who voted to convict Corona had received P50 million in additional pork barrel funds as “incentive.” Lacierda, however, did not offer any cogent explanation for why the four senators were given DAP funds in March 2012 ahead of their colleagues, who started receiving DAP funds only in late August. “I think most of them—they were asked also if they have any (project). If I recall, they were asked if there were projects,” Lacierda said. He said he would examine the documents and could not say if the four senators were just the “early birds.” The constitutionality of the DAP, specifically the juggling of funds from one department to another from the program described as President Aquino’s pork barrel, has been questioned in the Supreme Court following Estrada’s revelations in a privilege speech. Estrada went on the offensive after being named, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., in a complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with an alleged P10-billion racket involving the diversion of the lawmakers’ allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects and kickbacks. Secretary Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) later confirmed what the senators got—as revealed by Estrada—came from the DAP but denied the additional funding was a “bribe.” Termination of DAP During hearings in the high tribunal last month, Abad and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza announced that the DAP had achieved its objective of stimulating the economy and had been terminated, a point repeated by Lacierda on Thursday in a news briefing. Abad and President Aquino introduced the DAP in 2011 primarily to “ramp up spending and help accelerate economic expansion.” Since 2012, the DAP has been used, according to Abad, as a source of additional funding for the senators’ development projects on top of their annual P200 million PDAF allocation. Following revelations that the legislative pork barrel funds had been coursed through dubious nongovernment organizations controlled by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional. The high court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the DAP after the contending parties submit their memos summing up their respective positions. List Abad on Sept. 28, 2013, released a list of senators who were granted additional funds taken from the DAP “in the interest of transparency” following the Estrada bombshell. It showed that

the senators began receiving DAP funds the following month, in August, not March, as the Inquirer said in a report yesterday. “To suggest that these funds were used as ‘bribes’ (in the impeachment trial) is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst,” Abad then said. Implementing agency probed A ledger submitted by a whistle-blower in the PDAF scam to the Department of Justice showed that the DAP releases of the four senators were coursed through the state-owned National Livelihood Development Corp., whose head, Gondolina Amata, is among those under investigation in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. In a text message on Wednesday, Abad clarified that the Saros (special allotment release orders) for the DAP funds were issued in October 2011, or about eight months before Corona’s conviction. The notice of cash allocations (NCA) were released in March 2012, he said. He said NCAs, like the Saros, were never released to legislators but to implementing agencies “to pay for work done or goods delivered.” P1.107B from DAP Following Estrada’s disclosure in September last year that senators who voted for Corona’s conviction subsequently received at least P50 million in additional funding for their pet projects, Abad confirmed that P1.107 billion from the DAP went to the senators in 2012. Abad said the funds were released after the conviction of Corona for dishonesty in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. Read more:

Santiago vows to lead fight against online libel By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:05 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago vowed Thursday to rally her colleagues to repeal the libel provision of the cybercrime law, but also urged netizens to do this in court. Santiago said that as it was worded, the libel provision in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012—upheld in a Supreme Court ruling announced on Tuesday—was vague, and very broad. “You hardly know who are covered by it. Although the SC said it is only the sender who is liable not the person who is commenting or who is receiving, but what does this word mean? Who is the sender? The service provider? The individual netizen? Or if they are a group, how are we identifying them? Or even worse, if they are not using their true identities, how are you going to go beyond what they profess to be their identities on the Internet? That is the main problem today,” she told reporters. The language has become so vague, Santiago said, “that it becomes illegal since it is a very significant constraint” on freedom of expression. “I humbly submit that the SC ruling on this particular provision is erroneous and I call on all netizens to magnify all our efforts and to speed it up as soon as possible so that we can either file a motion for reconsideration with respect to this particular libel provision or we can speed it up here in the Senate on that new law,” she said. Legal but not moral Santiago said she would fully support a motion for reconsideration, and vowed to “redouble” her efforts to convince the Senate to pass a new law repealing the online provision. She said various states have passed legislation decriminalizing libel. “Meaning to say if you are proved to have been guilty of libel you no longer go to jail, but you have to pay damages to the person who has been injured,” she said. The Supreme Court ruling came more than a year after netizens questioned the cybercrime law, which was signed in September 2012. Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano asserted that the libel provision in the law suppressed the freedom of speech of Internet users. “What is constitutional and what is legal is not necessarily what is moral and what is right. The Supreme Court based it on the legality of the provision. But on the wisdom of the law, that is for Congress to determine,” Cayetano said. Tool to stifle dissent Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the justice committee, said he would call a hearing on proposals to decriminalize online libel. At least six bills on the issue have been introduced in the Senate. In a statement, the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research Inc. said cyberlibel creates a “chilling effect” among workers, most of whom are nonunionized and are highly vulnerable to company harassment and retrenchment. “We can expect corporations to use libel lawsuits to stifle workers’ voices and block democratic initiatives of workers online such as social media campaigns,” said the institute’s Carlos Maningat. “Online libel further narrows the democratic space for Filipino workers who are increasingly turning to social networking sites to voice labor concerns in the absence of unions,” he added. ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the court ruling was a “backward step,” noting the power of social media that was demonstrated in the public outrage against the pork barrel system.

“We’ve seen how the lively online discussion became a positive force to change society,” Tinio said.—With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Tina G. Santos Read more:

‘Butanding’ back in Quezon waters after 20 yrs By Delfin T. Mallari Jr. Inquirer Southern Luzon 12:18 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Whale sharks, the world’s largest fish and one of the country’s top tourist drawers, are back in the waters of Quezon province after more than 20 years. Mayors of coastal municipalities, particularly in the Lamon Bay area in the fourth district, reported the presence of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), locally known as “butanding,” while attending the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting here recently. Volunteers of Bantay Dagat (sea patrol) in Lucena City and other southern towns as far as the Bondoc Peninsula also reported sightings of the whale sharks in Tayabas Bay. The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies whale sharks as “vulnerable” to extinction. Although the Philippines’ Republic Act No. 8550 and Fisheries Administrative Order No. 193 give legal protection to the fish species, records showed that whale sharks disappeared from Lamon Bay in the 1980s, as fishermen slaughtered them for meat. Blast fishing and other irresponsible fishing methods also drove the sea creatures out of Quezon’s seas. In 2012, a whale shark was found dead by fishermen in Lamon Bay off Mauban town. It was reportedly hit by a commercial fishing boat, which is banned in the bay. Gov. David Suarez said law enforcers, local officials and fishermen should protect the growing number of butanding in the Lamon and Tayabas bays, and in Ragay Gulf. “The butanding could become the next tourist attraction in Quezon,” he said. “The fishermen themselves should be at the forefront of protecting the butanding because they will benefit from the presence of the sea creatures,” he said. Fishermen can earn extra as guides for whale shark sightseeing tours, Suarez said. Suarez asked the provincial government’s environment and natural resources, and tourism offices to identify the habitats of the whale sharks so plans could be drawn up for their protection. Read more:

Mayors plead for funds, told to submit papers first By Carmel Loise Matus Inquirer Visayas 12:16 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

CEBU CITY—More than 100 days after Super Typhoon “Yolanda” all but wiped out towns in northern Cebu province, two mayors are wondering aloud where the funds donated by foreign governments and groups have gone, as their towns have yet to receive help from the national government. At an open forum with officials of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR), the two mayors expressed frustration at what they said was the lack of funding support for their towns from the national government. Jose Esgana, mayor of Sta. Fe, said his town had started building shelters but lacked funds. Ricky Ramirez, mayor of Medellin, said his town had not received anything from the national government. “Where are the foreign donations?” Ramirez said at the forum. Ramirez said the national government should just release the funds directly to local government units. “It’s like a contest as to who will be the first to recover from Yolanda,” Ramirez said, adding that his people were still waiting for the P5,000 housing assistance promised by the National Housing Authority. “The local government is trying to do as much as it can,” Ramirez said. However, Joseph Ranola, PARR public sector chief, said the delay in the release of funds to the towns was partly the fault of the local government units (LGUs). He said that while the national government was ready to provide the funds, local government units in northern Cebu had yet to submit detailed rehabilitation programs. At a meeting at the Cebu provincial capitol, Ranola and lawyer Karen Jimeno, PARR communications director, explained to local government officials how the PARR works. Ranola said the national government was committed to provide funds for the rehabilitation of 15 towns and a city in northern Cebu devastated by Yolanda, but LGUs must coordinate rehabilitation efforts with the PARR. One basic requirement for LGUs seeking funds, he said, is a detailed assessment of damage that will help the PARR determine how much each LGU needs. Ranola said the funds would be given to LGUs that have completed the requirements. Task Force Paglig-on, which was created by the Cebu provincial government to oversee rehabilitation efforts, reported that the towns and a city struck by Yolanda needed at least P7.2 billion for shelter. Baltz Tribunalo, a member of the task force, said in a report that the amount did not include the P1 billion needed to buy land for relocation sites. Read more:

Raps readied over unfinished Davao Sur project Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:15 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

DAVAO CITY—Charges against a construction company partly owned by controversial businessman Cedric Lee and several former and incumbent provincial officials are being prepared over the unfinished Davao del Sur Sports Complex, Gov. Claude Bautista said on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters, Bautista said an investigation that he had ordered into the project indicated irregularities. Bautista declined to elaborate what the investigation’s findings were, saying the full details would be revealed when the case is finally filed. But he said “some officials were involved, including former Gov. Douglas Cagas on account of command responsibility.” Cagas could not be reached for comment. Based on data provided by the provincial government, the firm Izumo Contractors Inc. was awarded the P500-million project and construction commenced on June 16, 2009. Funds for the project came from a P490-million loan to the provincial government by the Land Bank of the Philippines and the World Bank, which provided P10 million in consultancy fees. The sports complex, which would have housed a coliseum, an Olympic-size swimming pool and a rubberized track, was supposed to be finished on April 12, 2010. When the deadline came, however, the contractor, Izumo, had yet to build the swimming pool and the rubberized track, while the coliseum was far from complete. Bautista said then Governor Cagas approved Izumo’s request for a deadline extension to Jan. 16, 2011. The new deadline came but the project still was not complete, said Bautista. Documents showed that Izumo got a third deadline extension on July 26, 2011, which Bautista said was highly questionable. Bautista said that after Izumo repeatedly failed to beat its deadline, the logical thing that the previous administration should have done was to rescind the provincial government’s contract with Lee’s company. The contract, however, was not rescinded, said Bautista. The delays have jacked up the project cost to more than P500 million now, said Bautista. To add insult to injury, Bautista said Izumo had asked him for another deadline extension and fresh funds to finish the project, which had been declared 95-percent complete. “We told them no,” he said. Bautista said that because he had become suspicious of the deal surrounding the project, he had ordered an investigation into it. “After a three-month investigation, we have come up with findings and it firmed up some of our doubts,” he said, confirming that “some anomalies” had indeed taken place. Inquirer Mindanao Read more:

Bulaccan gov vernor, others o sued s forr plund der Sy-Alvarad do calls charges ‘early politick king,’ dares foe es to face him Philippine Daily D Inquirer 12:16 am | Thursday, Febrruary 20th, 2014 4

CITY OF F MALOLOS S, Philippine es—A reside ent in Bulacan n province ha as accused Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarrado and sixx other provincial governm ment officialss of graft and d plunder forr alleged misuse, con nversion and d misapprropriation of governmentt funds. In a com mplaint filed iin the Office e of the Ombudssman, Anton nio Manganti, a resident of nidad (DRT)) town, sued Doña Re emedios Trin d Alvarado o; Belinda B Bartolome, prrovincial treasure er; Marina Flores, provin ncial budget officer; M Marites Frigiinal, provinccial accounta ant; Arlene P Pascual, pro ovincial plann ning and develop ment officerr; Jim Valerio o, provincial administrrator; and Marina Sarmiento, head of o the provin ncial general services offfice. But Alvarrado denied the charges s and called the filing ass a form of po olitical harasssment. “Who is this t Manganti? Why can n’t the politiciians behind him appear and sue me e instead? This is early politicking for th he 2016 elec ctions,” he to old Inquirer b by telephone e. Records from the Bu ulacan goverrnment’s hum man resourcces office showed that M Manganti is a rebel retu urnee and a former secu urity agent at the provinccial capitol d during the term of formerr Gov. Jos selito Mendo oza. Mangan nti resigned in 2009. In the complaint, Manganti cited observation ns raised in a Commissio on on Audit report on the e provincia al governmen nt’s fund use e for 2012. The repo ort cited the delayed d prep paration of bank b stateme ents, irregularity in the u use and replenish hment of petty cash fund ds and unliqu uidated cash h advances of more than n P200 millio on made to 25 officers and a employe ees. he unliquidatted funds as s of Dec. 31,, 2012 repre esented accu umulated confidential an nd Bulk of th intelligen nce funds (CIF) totaling P197.56 P milllion. The repo ort also cited more than P60 P million worth w of coll ections that were not re ecorded within the required period and a P6 millio on worth of unremitted u w withholding ta axes from em mployees an nd suppliers s. Mangantti’s complaint also questioned the inc crease in the e number off casual, job order and contractu ual employee es in 2012, which w includ ded consulta ants who werre high scho ool graduatess and churrch members s. He also accused a the officials of diverting d mo ore than P10 million in th he provincial governmen nt’s Special Education E Fu und (SEF) and using the e money for donations. Alvarado o said he has s yet to receive a copy of o the compla aint. But he be elied Manga anti’s accusa ations, saying g the provinccial governm ment had liqu uidated its ccash advances s. “We have e liquidated that [obligattion] because e we will nott be able to g get a cash a advance if w we fail to liquida ate previous advances,” he said. Alvarado o said other issues raised d by Manganti, like the i ncrease in tthe number o of employee es, had been n raised even before the e 2013 elections.

“It is easy to file cases in the Ombudsman. But the question is, ‘Are these charges true?’” he said. Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon Read more:

Palace sides with 255 farmers in Sariaya 12:12 am | Thursday, February 20th, 2014

In what a farmer leader described as “surprisingly welcome,” Malacañang finally sided with 255 agrarian reform beneficiaries struggling to keep 461 hectares of land already awarded to them by the government in Sariaya town, Quezon province. Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. dismissed “for lack of merit” an appeal by a clan of rich landowners represented by Emiliano Gala to reclaim their vast estate in the villages of Concepcion I, Pinagbakuran and Manggalang Kiling. A copy of his decision dated Dec. 16, 2013, was received by the farmers. Ochoa’s ruling favored 255 holders of certificate of land ownership awards (Cloas), who belong to Bukluran ng Mamamayan ng Concepcion-Sariaya, Quezon and Kalipunan ng Manggagawa at Magniniyog. The groups are under the umbrella of Ugnayan ng Magsasaka sa Gitnang Quezon (Ugnayan). Romeo Clavo, Ugnayan president, said in an interview on Tuesday that “after several rejection of our appeals based on the same points of arguments, here comes Mr. Ochoa finally siding with us and reversing his earlier prolandlord decision.” Legal assistance On May 28, 2013, President Aquino’s top lieutenant turned down the appeal of six Sariaya farmers for recognition of their Cloas and allowed the return of the parcels of land to the former landowner. One of them had died from depression. Jansept Geronimo, coordinator of Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services, had earlier urged the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to provide the farmers with lawyers to pursue their quest for justice. “The losing landowners will surely resort to using all powers and influence to reverse the decision. The Cloa holders should brace themselves for more challenges,” Geronimo had said. In 1998, the Gala family asked the DAR in a petition to exempt their landholdings from coverage of the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), claiming that its classification had long been “nonagricultural” based on Sariaya’s controversial 1982 zoning plan. Zoning plan In April 2008, then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman rejected the Gala family’s appeal for exemption. He said the municipal zoning plan “does not show any clear delineation or classification of the applied landholdings.” Pangandaman also argued that the ownership of the lands had already been transferred to the agrarian reform beneficiaries and thus the former landowners had no more legal personality to apply for exemption. The Gala family subsequently appealed the DAR’s decision to Malacañang. Ochoa upheld the decision of Pangandaman and cited that he “has exclusive jurisdiction to classify and identify landholdings for coverage under the CARP.” Clavo said Ochoa’s decision brought joy to the families of the 255 Cloa holders and gave them special reasons to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14. “They even wanted to send Valentine cards to Mr. Ochoa,” he said. The farmers, along with other agrarian reform beneficiaries who have similar agrarian cases pending in Malacañang, would hold novena prayers to ask Ochoa to also rule in their favor and that the Palace and the DAR would not reverse the latest ruling. “The issues and arguments raised and the pertinent laws and rulings that Mr. Ochoa cited in his latest decision that favors the Cloa holders are all carbon copies of all pending and past cases,” Clavo said. On Jan. 15, a DAR sheriff ordered seven Cloa holders in the villages of Sampaloc II and Tumbaga to leave and surrender their lands to the original owners. Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

Read more:

Court cases delay CARP in Quezon By Delfin T. Mallari Jr. 12:15 am | Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Some 16,000 hectares of land almost the size of Quezon City in Metro Manila have already been marked for coverage in the Bondoc Peninsula in Quezon province under the government’s land reform program but legal and technical problems have hindered their distribution to farmers, according to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). Samuel Solomero, provincial agrarian reform officer in Quezon’s third and fourth districts, said the cases of “problematic landholdings,” mostly in Bondoc, were pending resolution in the courts and quasi-judicial government agencies, such as the Land Registration Authority and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “The DAR coverage is being contested in court by landowners. Some of the lands also have problems in technical description or whether it is alienable, disposable and other issues,” Solomero explained in a recent phone interview. The official, however, said the farmer-beneficaries should not fear that they would lose the land promised them when the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) ends in June. The Carper Law provides that these “problematic” lands could still be distributed, he said. Mulanay program On Feb. 6, 2013, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes led the distribution of certificates of land ownership award (Cloas) for 480 ha of the estate owned by the heirs of Domingo Reyes in the peninsula towns of San Narciso, Buenavista and San Andres. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Commission on Human Rights Chair Loretta Ann Rosales and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chair Joel Rocamora joined De los Reyes in the land distribution to show the resolve of President Aquino to finish the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program initiated in 1988 by his late mother, then President Corazon Aquino. They shook hands and exchanged “high fives” with representatives of some 5,000 farmers, even embracing some of them, during a historic march in Mulanay’s major street under the searing heat of the noonday sun. No other land distribution followed after Mulanay’s much-heralded event, farmer-leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula (KMBP) and the nongovernment Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungan Panlipunan (Katarungan) claimed. “Worse, big landowners in the area are fencing their properties to stop agrarian reform beneficiaries from taking possession of the land that had been awarded to their former tenants,” said Katarungan spokesperson Jansept Geronimo. Maribel Luzara, KMBP president, said most Cloa recipients in Mulanay were left on their own without any government support. Intimidation “What we’ve been receiving were different forms of intimidating tactics from influential landlords to stop us from pursuing our dreams to own the lands that our families have been tilling for a long time,” Luzara said in a phone interview last week. Solomero denied that the DAR had stopped awarding land after Mulanay. “As a matter of fact, we distributed more than 3,400 hectares of lands last year, 80 percent of which are in the Bondoc Peninsula,” he said. The succeeding awarded events were held without media fanfare, he said. “The Cloas were simply distributed by the Maros (municipal agrarian reform officers),” he explained.

Geronimo, however, demanded proof on the supposed land distribution, such as the list of new Cloa recipients. “Mere say-so is not enough to convince the farmers because the reality on the ground is very much different,” he said. Rage and discontent among tenant-farmers have continued in the Bondoc Peninsula, one of the agrarian “hot spots” in Southern Tagalog and once a bastion of armed rebels of the communist New People’s Army. 6 farmers killed In October last year, peasant leader Elisa Tulid was gunned down in San Andres by someone said to be hired by a landlord in the area. “All through the years, six farmer leaders have been killed in Bondoc Peninsula,” said Danny Carranza, Katarungan secretary general. At least 18 other leaders of KMBP in San Andres have also received death threats. Several landowners surnamed Reyes, Zoleta, Uy, Matias and Tan control big landholdings, particularly in San Francisco, San Andres, San Narciso and Buenavista. More than 50 farmers are facing court cases filed by their landlords in the past years. The farmers have been forced to hide because they could not afford to pay at least P60,000 in bail for each count of qualified theft that they have been charged with. According to the KMBP, more than 300 criminal cases, mostly for theft of coconuts, have been filed against 250 tenants who complained of harassment by several landlords whose estates were under Carp coverage. Solomero placed the “problematic landholdings” at 60 to 80 percent of the DAR’s total target for land distribution in the district. “We’ve been trying our best to distribute the remaining 20 to 40 percent of the ‘workable’ Carpable lands before the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016,” he said. Last month, the CHR called for a dialogue among stakeholders in the Bondoc Peninsula— farmers, DAR and DENR representatives, police and military officers, members of nongovernment and human rights groups, and journalists—to defuse the brewing tension. The meeting, presided by lawyer Jacqueline de Guia-de la Peña, regional CHR head, was held at the agency’s office in San Pablo City in Laguna province. Read more:

PH faces WTO sanctions for rice importation policy By Christine O. Avendaño Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:08 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—No rice import permit, no entry. Customs Commissioner John Sevilla on Thursday said this directive will be observed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in monitoring rice imports in the country’s ports amid a legal opinion by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) that the country stands to be sanctioned by the World Trade Organization (WTO) if it maintains this policy. The special treatment for rice imports had expired in June last year. “The lawyer of the BOC is not the OGCC,” Sevilla told reporters, admitting that he has yet read to the legal opinion issued by Government Corporate Counsel Raoul Creencia. He said his office will await the opinion on the matter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Supreme Court, where there is a pending case related to this issue. Asked whether this policy will be observed until the DOJ issues its legal opinion, Sevilla said, “I’m not going to talk about the future but with the legal circumstances right now, that’s it (no permit, no entry).” Creencia had written the National Food Authority early this month warning that Manila may face sanctions before the WTO if it continues to impose quantitative restrictions on rice imports. Creencia said the special treatment on rice for the country on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade had expired in June last year and that other WTO member-countries may file dispute proceedings against the country if it continues with the restrictions on rice imports. Read more:

Charter change could lead to instability, employers warn Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:55 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—A Constitution where the economic provisions could be amended by law and subject to the whims of Congress could lead to instability, according to local employers and private school associations opposed to the mode of Charter change being proposed by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. Belmonte is spearheading a campaign to ease the constitutional restrictions on foreigners doing business here by changing the economic provisions of the Constitution. However, instead of convening a constitutional convention to effect the changes, Belmonte proposes inserting the phrase “unless provided by law” to the economic provisions, thereby opening the way for Congress to pass the needed laws to bring about these changes. Edgardo Lacson of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines on Thursday warned that this “might degrade the fundamental law to the level of an ordinary piece of legislation.” The proposed changes could lead to “instability” because future legislators might change the economic provisions any time by just passing a law, he said. This might even have far-reaching implications even for the political and social aspects of the Constitution, he said. “What will prevent other Congresses in the future from inserting the phrase in every other [provision] of the Constitution?” he said. Lacson said ECOP was not opposed to the idea of amending the Constitution, but it believes that a constitutional convention would be the wise way of going about it. A constitutional convention with elected members would promote participatory democracy, he said. Also objecting to the Belmonte mode of changing the Charter’s economic provisions is the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea). “We’re afraid that the economic provisions can be reduced merely to a statute and such therefore can be changed at any time,” said Antonio Abad, the Cocopea’s chief legal counsel, adding that Cocopea also favored a constitutional convention.—Leila B. Salaverria Read more:

$756M Malampaya rig going up in Subic By Riza T. Olchondra, Tarra Quismundo Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:37 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

SUBIC, Philippines—A platform of the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project off Palawan province is to be installed next year to maintain fuel supply to power plants providing about half of Luzon’s electricity needs. The platform, worth $756 million (P33.68 billion), is part of Phase 3 of the Malampaya project. Phase 2 involved the installation of two additional subsea wells at a cost of $250 million (P11.139 billion), said Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (Spex). Malampaya is a joint undertaking of the Philippine government and the private sector. The project is spearheaded by the Department of Energy (DOE), and developed and operated by Spex on behalf of joint-venture partners Chevron Malampaya LLC and PNOC Exploration Corp. DOE data show that the country’s largest natural gas producer will start losing output from 2015 and will run out by 2024 “if no further activities are undertaken until 2024.” The Luzon grid is dependent on Malampaya as it fuels three power plants—Sta. Rita (1,000 megawatts), San Lorenzo (500 MW) and Ilijan (1,200 MW). Last year, amid the scheduled shutdown of Malampaya, the three plants used more expensive liquid condensate and diesel. The shutdown was exacerbated by the unplanned and simultaneous outages of other power plants in the Luzon grid, resulting in the record P4.15 per kilowatt hour (kWh) increase in electricity rates of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) for December. The increase in generation charges is now the subject of an extended Supreme Court order that prevents Meralco from collecting it from consumers. Timing shutdown In the first half of 2015, the installation of the Phase 3 platform will coincide with the maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya gas facility. “We want to have just one maintenance shutdown instead of two. So we are timing it in coordination with the Department of Energy,” said Spex managing director Sebastian Quiniones. The transport and installation of the new gas platform beside the existing one some 80 kilometers off Palawan will involve European firms Boskalis and Mammoet of the Netherlands. Deposits The Malampaya natural gas field is estimated to contain 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 85 million barrels of condensate (gas oil, naphtha, and other light hydrocarbons). To sustain production, the Shell-led consortium that develops and operates the gas field invested in the Phase 2 development that was completed last year and in the Phase 3 platform. “Malampaya Phases 2 and 3 were meant to keep up the volume of gas production,” Energy Undersecretary Ramon Allan V. Oca said in a phone interview. He said that the DOE was monitoring the progress of work and that he was set to inspect the fabrication’s progress next month. Keeping gas flowing Matthias Bichel, Shell director for projects and technology, said the compression process would keep the gas flowing from the reservoir. Phases 2 and 3 do not require well drilling since existing wells are interconnected. To date, SC 38 Consortium has drilled 11 wells, of which five are being used for production and the rest are just exploration ones not used for production.

“It is very important that Malampaya gas production remain at present levels otherwise these power plants will shift to more expensive fuels,” the DOE said, even though it has not granted any extension for Service Contract No. 38 (SC 38), which is set to expire in 2024. Quiniones said the $756 million included the fabrication at the Keppel Subic Shipyard here of the substructure and modules of a self-installing platform (the first locally made one) fitted with compressors. The budget also includes seabed preparation, installing the platform near the existing one, and costs for the accommodation vessel that will host 300 beds for personnel who will help get the platform established on-site. 2,000 jobs About 2,000 jobs were generated by the project, including engineers and shipyard workers. Besides the jobs, the gas field has provided royalties to the government. From 2002 to October 2013, the government collected P184 billion in royalties from Malampaya, Treasury head Rosalia de Leon told senators last year. The head of the European Union delegation in Manila underscored the need for stable energy sources in the Philippines as the country aims to sustain economic growth amid concerns of tightening power supply. Amend Constitution Guy Ledoux, the EU ambassador to the Philippines, also called on the Philippine government to fully open up the economy by allowing 100-percent foreign ownership of certain sectors, a move that would require amending the Constitution. Currently, foreigners are limited to owning only 40 percent of public utilities in the country. “Certainly, opening up the economy. That is what has shown to be the most successful policy. I think that is the road that the Philippine government is taking at the moment and we are encouraging the government in that direction,” Ledoux told reporters following a visit to the Keppel shipyard. He noted that despite the limit, foreign firms remained keen on investing in the country because of its encouraging economic performance, credit rating upgrades and restored confidence in governance given recent reforms, particularly the “very conducive atmosphere of fighting corruption.” Ledoux spoke to reporters as he led a contingent of European diplomats visiting the shipyard, where construction of a second platform for the Malampaya gas project has been underway since December 2012. Cleaner fuel The natural gas cuts the country’s dependency on imported fuel by 30 percent, according to Spex, and increases the use of clean energy. Power plants running on natural gas are known to emit 70 percent less carbon dioxide than coal-fired plants. European firms are “heavily involved” in the project, Ledoux said. Dutch firm Mammoet has been tapped to transport the new platform from the Subic shipyard to the Palawan site, while the Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., also of the Netherlands, will install the new platform beside the existing one. Parts and machinery from various European countries also make up the new platform itself, including the compressor from Germany and turbines from British engine maker Rolls-Royce. “European companies are heavily involved in this project. With 7 percent economic growth three years in a row, the demand for electricity and energy is rising very fast in the Philippines,” Ledoux said. “So it is crucial that this project be successful and Shell has very well planned this phase,” he added. European firms have infused some 4 billion euros (about P240 billion at the exchange rate of 61 euros to P1) since 2001 in what the European Union considers its flagship investment in the Philippines.

Ledoux led the group of 10 EU diplomats in the largest high-level visit to the shipyard. The group consisted of envoys of Austria, Belgium and Italy; chargÊs d’ affaires of Germany, the Netherlands and Romania; deputy heads of mission of the Czech Republic and Greece; and the French commercial counselor. Read more:

BSP eyes new real estate price index Regulator stands guard over PH property sector By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:27 am | Friday, February 21st, 2014

The central bank is drawing up plans to create an official price index to track the value of homes in the country as part of an effort to closely watch the sensitive real estate sector. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said the new residential real estate price index would aid regulators in monitoring the real estate sector, which historically has been a source of weakness for the real economy when left unchecked. “We started the groundwork for this two to three years ago. We expect to have this by the end of the year,” Guinigundo told reporters. He said the new price index would be similar to headline consumer price inflation data that is released every month. Under the index, the prices of homes in different sectors of the real estate sector, based on data culled by the National Statistics Office, would be compiled in a basket. Each component of the basket will have different weights, according to its impact on the sector. “We want to distil everything in one indicator,” the central bank official said. The regulator now is trying to address concerns that a “bubble” has been forming in the country’s booming residential real estate sector, driven by higher income levels and the sustained flow of remittances from overseas Filipino workers. In 2012, the BSP stepped up its watch over the real estate sector by ordering banks to disclose more comprehensive reports on their exposures to property industry. This included the proportion of banks’ loan portfolios that went to property firms, as well as investments in real estate companies. Banks are also constrained from lending more than 20 percent of their loanable funds to the property sector. Guinigundo shrugged off the perception that the property sector has started to overheat, citing recent reports that showed price movements were “consistent with long-term trends.” Last year, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said history was “replete with cases where bubbles caused massive dislocations and instigated further damage” to the rest of the economy. To keep prices from being artificially inflated due to market speculation, the BSP monitors the lending standards of banks to ensure that prudent credit standards for real estate are maintained. Latest data from the central bank showed that the real estate exposure of universal, commercial, and thrift banks reached P900.1 billion as of June last year—6.8 percent higher quarter-on-quarter. Real estate loans also cornered 18.6 percent of universal and commercial banks’ total loan portfolio at the end of December—the second largest segment next only to trade, transportation, storage and communications. Read more:

BDO-Unibank, Joyo Bank sign pact to help Japan’s SMEs set up in PH market By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:55 pm | Thursday, February 20th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — Local banking giant BDO Unibank has teamed up with The Joyo Bank Ltd. of Japan to help Japanese small and medium enterprises gain a foothold in the Philippine market. The two banks signed a memorandum of agreement to enable BDO to provide assistance to Joyo Bank’s SME clients. BDO’s support might be in the form of financial or non-financial advisory services, the local bank said in a press statement. The agreement is an offshoot of the 2013 memorandum of understanding between BDO and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) essentially promoting the development and strengthening of a framework to support Japanese mid-tier companies as well as SMEs through Japanese regional banks (JRB). These JRBs, strategically situated in the various prefectures of one of the world’s largest economies, will be the conduits for their SME clients requiring banking support when they decide to set up shop in the Philippines. Joyo Bank is a 79-year-old bank and a leading financial institution in the Ibaraki Prefecture and surrounding regions while BDO, which is led by the country’s leading conglomerate SM Investments, provides an extensive range of customized and cutting edge banking solutions to its growing corporate, institutional and retail client base. “BDO will continue to collaborate closely with JBIC to explore more tie-ups and potentially assist the Japanese SMEs to establish operations throughout the Philippines, including the special economic zones,” the local bank said. Read more:


Accountability and P200-B smuggling loss By Ernesto Ordoñez Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:16 am | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

In President Aquino’s last Sona message, he said the government was losing P200 billion due to smuggling. The table below shows this was not always the case. In 2004, the government lost only P26.6 billion, which dropped to P19.4 billion in 2005. From 2006 onward, it rose steadily hitting P204.3 billion in 2012. Who is accountable for the revenue loss due to smuggling? It is definitely the Bureau of Customs. However, in a less but important way, it should also be the Department of Finance, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Do the numbers in the table make sense? We used UN Trade Statistics in getting the top 25 countries that export to the Philippines, which account for 86-91 percent of Philippine imports. We took their reported exports to the Philippines and compared them to the BOC record of imports. The difference is underreporting. Most of this is due to undervaluation, misclassification or misdeclaration. Our revenue loss estimates were derived in the following way. We took the dollar value of underreported exports and multiplied it by the 5 percent average tariff and the effective 11 percent Value-Added Tax (1 percentage point was deducted from the 12 percent VAT because VAT-exempted agricultural imports constitute 12 percent of total imports). We then translated the dollar value into pesos by multiplying this by P45. Are these reasonable estimates? Our calculated 2012 number of P204.3 billion is close to President Aquino’s P200 billion Sona number. For 2011, we used the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) data, which goes back only to 2011. GFI economist Brian Le Blanc places this number at $3.9 billion. This is equivalent to P175.5 billion which is also close to our P169.3 billion estimate. Gwynn Guilford states: “The bigger question for the Philippines is how its poor households are doing. If illegal in-flows mean the government can’t give them as much aid, the real economy will continue to suffer.” Inclusive growth Our economy is suffering because we are seeing jobless growth and increasing unemployment. Smuggling has much to do with this. According to the DA’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, 20 percent of our backyard hog raisers lost their livelihood over a two-year span, mostly because of smuggling. Companies in both the agriculture and industry sectors have closed down due to smuggled cheap, and sometimes unsafe, imports. More potential investors would come if they are assured that massive smuggling will not kill their businesses. Smuggling has a double hit on inclusive growth. First, it kills existing jobs. Second, it discourages investments which are necessary for more jobs. Jobs are the key to inclusive growth. And if we recover the revenue lost from smuggling, we can use this to create a more job-friendly economic environment. Recently, we have seen significant reforms under the BOC’s new management guided by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. We saw similar reforms in 2005, when smuggling decreased by 27 percent (and the underreporting rate decreased to 6 percent). During that time, there was a joint public-private sector anti-smuggling oversight body. But when this body was

abolished, the smuggling increased systematically until it reached 10.6 times in 2012 (and the underreporting rate increased to 33 percent). In 2005, the only year when smuggling decreased, three other departments were made accountable in the anti-smuggling drive: DOF, DA and DTI. This is because they were part of the antismuggling oversight body. It was their job to help fight smuggling. But when this body was abolished in 2006, their accountability decreased. Restored accountability This accountability should be restored: the DOF, because it supervises BOC; and the DA and the DTI, because they should not only create jobs but also protect existing jobs from unfair competition through smuggling. In fact, gains against smuggling should be part of these departments’ key performance indicators (KPIs) because of smuggling’s tremendous damage to our economy. Today, there are many good officials at the BOC. But there are still unscrupulous elements that wish to undermine BOC’s important reforms. BOC needs the monitoring and guidance of an oversight body. This should include the private sector and at least the accountable departments of the DOF, DTI, and DA. This was the winning formula in 2005, and should be done immediately to keep the BOC reform momentum. But to ensure that this body will not be abolished when it succeeds, as what happened in 2005, the creation of such a body should also be included in the proposed joint bill of the Customs and Tariff Modernization Act and the Anti-smuggling Law. Identifying the appropriate accountabilities and putting a structure to implement them is the key to eliminating the smuggling scourge we see today. (The author is chair of Agriwatch and former secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects. For inquiries, e-mail or telefax 8522112). Read more:

EU diplom d mats ba ack PH H as inv vestmeent hu ub in Asia a February 21, 2 2014 Ambassadors and diplom mats from member states of th he European U nion (EU) have e underlined th heir strong supp port for the Philippines as an investment i des stination in Asia a. This follow wed a visit to the e construction site s of the seco ond offshore ga as platform of tthe Malampaya a Deep Water G Gasto-Power Phase P 3 Project.

PRIVATE--PUBLIC PART TNERSHIP — The European Union delegattion visits Mala ampaya Phase 3 fabrication yyard in Subic Ba ay. A total P45 Billion (€750M) has been pou ured into new p platform of Mala ampaya. Briefing the diploma ats is Antoine Bliek, Malam mpaya Phase 2 and 3 Project Manager. The high-level EU delegation is m made up of (L-R R) Germany--Michael Hasper, Charge d’ Affaires A a.i; EU Delegation- A Ambassador Gu uy Ledoux; The e Netherlands- Hero de Boer, Charge d’ Affa aires a.i ; Austrria Ambassado or Josef Meullne er; Greece’s- N Nikolaos Vergh his; EU DelegattionWalte er van Hattum, Head of Trade e & Eco; Romania- Mihai Sion n, Charge d’ Afffaires a.i; Italy (not in photo) – Ambassado or Massimo Ro scigno.

EU Amba assador Guy y Ledoux said “Several European E co ompanies arre involved in this endea avor that prom mises to secu ure an important source e of revenue for the Philippine people e while crea ating new jobs s for well-trained Filipinos s in their ow wn country.” Ledoux, with w Ambass sador Josef Muellner (A Austria), Rola and Van Rem moortele (Be elgium); Massimo o Roscigno (Italy); Charg ges d’Affaire es a.i Michae el Hasper (G Germany), He ero de Boer (Netherla ands), Mihai Sion (Roma ania); Deputy Heads of M Mission Jan Vytopil (Cze ech Republic), Nicholao os Verghis (G Greece); and d Commercia al Counsello or Ms. Marie-Jose Conna an (France) on

Thursday toured the Keppel Subic Shipyard in Subic, Zambales, to witness the fabrication activities for the Malampaya Phase 3 (MP3) platform. Their visit did not only highlight the strong EU presence in the Philippines but also showed that the European Union has confidence in the Philippine economy and is looking to put in more investments, officials said. Ledoux added, “We are convinced that many opportunities for more European job-creating investments exist. “European businesses are closely following developments here, in particular with respect to reforms in customs, competition and public procurement, as they make their investment decisions.’’ Largest Investor By Stock To date, the European Union is already the largest investor in the Philippines by stock at P440 billion. These investments have created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Philippines while adding value to the economy through technology and capital transfer, officials said. The Malampaya Project – which supplies more than 40 percent of Luzon’s power requirements – is developed and operated by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) on behalf of joint venture partners Chevron Malampaya LLC and the PNOC Exploration Corporation. The parent company of the Shell group is Royal Dutch Shell plc, which is incorporated in Britain with headquarters in the Netherlands. Still regarded as the single biggest investment in the Philippines to date, Phase 1 of the Malampaya project has an estimated capital outlay of $4.5 billion. It is now in its next stages of development which aim to maintain current levels of natural gas production. $1.02B For Malampaya In particular, the consortium has committed to pour in an additional $1.02 billion for the Malampaya Phases 2 and 3, according to officials. The scale of the second Malampaya platform project required the use of a 1,500T gantry crane, the largest in Southeast Asia that has been built at the Keppel Subic Shipyard specifically for the Phase 3 project. After the construction of the platform, the offshore transport and installation of the second gas platform beside the existing one will be executed with the participation of European companies Boskalis and Mammoet.

Sebastian Quiniones, Shell Philippines Exploration, B.V. Managing Director, said the company welcomed the visit of the EU delegates. “We are happy to welcome the European Union delegates to the Malampaya Phase 3 Fabrication Yard and showcase a technological innovation where a gas platform is being built for the first time in the country. “The relationship between the European Union and the Philippines has been a long-standing one and we are positive that this partnership will continue to broaden and deepen our ties and help each other progress as nations,’’ Quiniones added.

Cha‐cha not in PNoy’s radar by Genalyn D. Kabiling, Charissa M. Luci & Ben R. Rosario February 21, 2014

Manila, Philippines — Charter change (Cha-cha) remains the farthest thing in the mind of President Benigno S. Aquino III. This was stressed by Presidential Communications Operations Herminio Coloma Jr. as he rejected allegations that the President is behind congressional moves to amend the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. The President’s position is clear and firm. Charter change is not needed and not a priority, Coloma said. That allegation has no basis, he said, reacting to reports that Aquino has given his consent to the Charter change drive in Congress. At the House of Representatives, Cha-cha advocates said President Aquino will not “deceive” the people and will not in any way engage in double talk to push for economic amendments in the 1987 Constitution. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares had earlier said the administration allies in Congress would not insist on constitutional amendments without the President’s approval. ‘Long Con Game’ Former Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad readily agreed with the House opposition solon, describing the Charter change bid as a “long con game” which is an underworld term used to describe a swindle carried out in a protracted and painstaking manner but with enormous rewards. “Mahabang confidence building game ito, matagal ang pagplano, unti- unti rin ang pag-implement pero napakalaki naman ng reward,” Tatad told reporters during the Usaping Balita News forum. Reward, Tatad said, could be the lifting of the term limitations for the sitting president which at least two previous government administrations attempted to carryout but were total failures. Colmenares voiced his suspicions as Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., an ally of the President, continued to push for amendments to ease restrictions on foreign ownership of land and businesses supposedly to fuel economic growth. ‘Utterly Unfair’ Belmonte branded as “utterly unfair” Colmenares’ allegations. “The track record and integrity of the President will speak for itself. It is not in his style to deceive the people. We are still working to convince him (President Aquino) into supporting my initiative,” he said, denying that he was in agreement with President Aquino to push for economic Cha-cha.

But Tatad finds it incredulous that Belmonte, a key ally of the Aquino administration, would go against the wishes of President Aquino who continues to reject the attempt to amend the Charter that was framed and ratified during the term of his mother, the late President Corazon C. Aquino. Tatad said the real motive behind the Charter change bid will unfold as soon as political survey results would indicate that the Liberal Party prospective candidate for president, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, will unlikely become a strong choice to win the presidential race in 2016. President Aquino has repeatedly declared he is not convinced Charter change is needed to boost economic growth. Aquino said the country has managed to post strong growth in the past three years without tinkering with the Constitution. Last Tuesday, Malaca単ang said the President has no intention to extend his term beyond 2016 via Charter change. Coloma said the President is actually counting down the days on how long he would stay in the Palace.

President to lead EDSA rites in Visayas calamity areas by Genalyn Kabiling February 21, 2014 Manila, Philippines — In a bid to show that he is “one with the people,” President Benigno S. Aquino III yesterday decided to celebrate the next week’s EDSA People Power anniversary in disaster-hit areas in the Visayas instead of Metro Manila. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President wants to “spend time” with the calamity survivors and assure them of continued government support to rebuild their lives. The President’s schedule on EDSA Day, Tuesday, February 25, includes visits in Cebu, Leyte, and Samar which were devastated by super-typhoon Yolanda late last year. Prior to EDSA Day, he will travel to the calamity zones in Davao and Bohol on Monday. The original plan was to move the EDSA anniversary celebration to Malacañang from the usual site near Camp Crame on EDSA in Quezon City. “There was apparently an announcement by (Presidential Communications Operations) Secretary (Herminio) Coloma but I suppose there was a change of plans, and the President prefers to spend the next week with the people affected by national calamities, by typhoon Pablo and also by typhoon Yolanda,” Lacierda said in a press briefing. “He wants to be one with the people especially those who were affected by the natural calamities,” he said. Lacierda said the President is expected to lay down “what we have been doing from Day 1 to Day 100 and beyond” during his visit to the calamity areas. Lacierda brushed aside allegations that the administration has been insensitive to the plight of the families affected by Yolanda. He said the rehabilitation effort may take years but the government will continue to “build back better” the region affected by Yolanda and other calamities. “Is there a disconnect? I don’t think so. We have a lot of government resources that have been devoted to reconstruction, rehabilitation,” he said. “I think the actions of the President have shown that he is anything but insensitive.” Early in the day, the EDSA People Power Commission announced that the people power rites will be conducted in calamity areas to highlight the “modern-day Filipinos working together for the recovery and continued development of the country.” In this year’s EDSA celebration that will carry the theme “Kapit-bisig Tungo sa Pagbangon,” the President is expected to hold town hall meetings in Leyte and Samar on February 25. The commission noted that these disaster-hit places have demonstrated recovery “fueled by the spirit of bayanihan that was also perfectly exemplified during the EDSA Revolution.”

The commission also said that the EDSA anniversary rites will be moved away from EDSA “to give consideration to commuters who use the thoroughfare, where various government infrastructure projects have already been initiated.� Cebu Public Information Office (PIO) head Ethel Natera said the Capitol has received information that after the EDSA rites, the President will fly to Bantayan Island to check on the conditions of Yolanda victims. (With a report from Mars W. Mosqueda Jr.)

Local fishermen can again access Panatag Shoal by Aaron B. Recuenco February 20, 2014 Filipino fishermen are now enjoying access to the Scarborough Shoal, locally called as Panatag Shoal, after months of being restricted by Chinese authorities in the area. But the access remains limited, according to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, saying they are still receiving harassment from personnel of the Chinese ships stationed in the area. “There are still fishing vessels there as of the latest report, but the good news is that there are also Philippine fishing vessels,” Gazmin told reporters. “There was a reported reduction of our fishing vessels because of a reported harassment of one of our fishing vessels by a Chinese ship,” he added. The latest monitoring, according to Gazmin, is that there are three Chinese vessels in the area and seven Philippine fishing boats. He said the situation is still not normal mainly because of the Chinese presence in the area. “We have only small fishing boats there (while what they have are ships), that is the difference,” said Gazmin. The official then asked China to listen to the growing concerns of the international community as far as its claims over the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea. “They (foreign countries) are now realizing that China is indeed wrong. And we are happy with that development because a lot of countries are now on our side and supporting us in our stand of pursuing the rule of law,” said Gazmin. “And (China) should listen to prevent tension and instability in the region,” he stressed. The Philippines is locked on a territorial dispute with China since the 2011 incident when the Philippine Navy intercepted 11 Chinese fishing vessels poaching near Panatag Shoal. The Philippine Navy vessels backed off and allowed all the intercepted vessels to go, reportedly over an agreement that the Chinese maritime vessels which reinforced their fishing vessels would also withdraw. But the Chinese vessels, however, remain and occupied Panatag since then. Recently, President Aquino likened China’s aggressiveness in West Philippine Sea to Hitler-led Germany during the World War 2, which in turn, drew the ire of China.

Investors remain confident on economy by Lee C. Chipongian February 20, 2014 Investors remain optimistic about the Philippines’ growth prospects for this year on account of strong, solid economic fundamentals — it is the market sentiments that are temporarily shaking confidence, according to two foreign banks with businesses in the country. “While our clients remain optimistic on growth prospects in 2014, they are more uncertain about market conditions,” said British bank Standard Chartered Bank in its February 20 global research report. The bank’s research team held its annual investors meeting in Manila earlier this week with top local corporate and investor clients. “We were able to gauge sentiment on a number of topics, including what our clients see as most affecting their business in 2014 and their expectations for the Philippine peso foreign exchange market outlook,” said the bank. The meeting yielded positive results including the growing interest from US and Japanese companies’ foreign direct investments in the Philippines. Other topics discussed were the lack of inflation pass- through from moves in US dollar-peso versus historical levels; expectations of either no or limited hikes in electricity prices; and plans in the pipeline to improve hard and soft infrastructure to take advantage of the young workforce. “Overall, clients believe the shakiness of asset markets is caused more by global than local factors,” concluded Stanchart. US banking giant Citi in its own commentary yesterday homed in on the foreign exchange reserves situation which declined despite a strong combination of OFW remittance flows and revenues from the information technologybusiness process outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector. “If the remittance and BPO flows are assumed to be recurring, GIR’s (gross international reserves) recent compression should have been mitigated. But GIR surprised on the downside to suggest strong net outflows other than the reported portfolio net outflows,” noted Citi. “Moving forward, remittances/BPO proceeds would be ‘recurring’ in nature but not sizeable net outflows from external debt repayments, unwinding portfolio positions, and others. Despite its recurring theme, strong remittances/BPO flows that fail to lift GIR do not comprise a solid basis for strong peso retracement.” In the meantime, Stanchart reported that the country’s growth story continues to impress and will encourage FDIs. “The Philippines continues to register above-trend growth. If we combine our forecasts with current numbers, we believe the economy could grow by an average of 6.3 percent per annum in 2011-2015.” Stanchart analysts assessed that progress made in “improving its economic fundamentals, particularly in deepening growth in key sectors and improving international perceptions.” They added that the Philippines “has made significant strides in developing its services and industry sectors. In addition, international sentiment towards the Philippines has improved, particularly in 2013. Investment is becoming a growth engine, albeit at a slow pace.” The Philippines still has a low investment-to-GDP ratio compared to its regional peers.

Aquino rules out asset bubble risks and overheating economy by Bloomberg February 20, 2014 President Benigno S. Aquino III said yesterday there is no danger of the economy overheating, downplaying the risk of asset bubbles forming even as annual growth exceeds 7 percent. The central bank is on guard to contain inflation and asset prices, Aquino, 54, said in an interview yesterday at the presidential palace in Manila. The Philippines is targeting growth of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent this year after expanding 7.2 percent in 2013, he said. Aquino has overseen the resurgence of a nation once called the Sick Man of Asia and is seeking faster expansion to reduce among the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the region. The economy can cope with the current pace of growth without worrying about excessive inflation because it is underpinned by demand for homes and office space, as well as the need to create more jobs for millions entering the labor force, he said. “There’s so much to be done in this country,” Aquino said. “There is demand that still has to be met as opposed to availability of supply,” he said, referring to a backlog of 4 million low-cost houses. Philippine growth in 2012 and 2013 was at the fastest two- year pace since 1954-1955, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has held its key interest rate at a record-low since October, 2012, even as inflation last month accelerated to a two-year high and money-supply growth exceeded 30 percent every month from July through December. The peso fell 0.3 percent to 44.748 per dollar as of 10:24 a.m. in Manila, set for a third day of declines, according to Tullett Prebon Plc. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index rose to a three-month high. Analysts including Michael Wan at Credit Suisse Group AG are starting to warn of pressures in the economy. The Philippines risks going down the same path as Indonesia two years ago as it delays tightening monetary policy amid surging liquidity growth and rising property prices, Wan said. Indonesia, which refrained from raising its benchmark rate in 2012 even as expansion exceeded 6 percent, saw its currency slump the most in Asia last year as growth slid to a four-year low. “The Philippines is certainly warming up,” Singapore-based economist Wan said. “If policy makers are not careful, they may run into the same mistakes Indonesia made: Keeping policy settings too loose for too long and risk a return to the boom-bust cycles the nation has been known for.” Money-supply growth in the Southeast Asian nation was more than three times that in Malaysia and Thailand, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The surge is not worrisome, and the rate will return to its normal pace of 12 percent to 14 percent this year, central bank Governor Amando Tetangco said this week. “We are very proactive; we’re trying to control any speculative activity,” Aquino said yesterday.

The peso is undervalued and there’s no fundamental reason for the weakness, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said yesterday. The currency touched 45.475 per dollar on Feb. 4, the weakest since Aug. 2010. Credit growth in the Philippines is “acceptable” and in line with growth momentum, said Jeff Ng, a Singapore-based economist at Standard Chartered Plc. While “event risks on food and energy prices could lead to higher inflation,” Ng said that “for now, there is very little risk of overheating.” Business process outsourcing is expected to bring in $25 billion in revenue by 2016 and create 1.2 million jobs, Aquino said. The industry now contributes about $16 billion to $17 billion and employs 900,000, Purisima said yesterday. The administration plans to create as many as 2.34 million jobs through 2016 to reduce the unemployment rate to between 6.5 percent and 6.7 percent, and cut the poverty ratio to a range of 18 percent to 20 percent, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said earlier this month. The Philippines will reach a demographic “sweet spot” from 2015 when a large portion of the population will enter the workforce, Aquino said. The demographic dividend – a term popularized by economists David E. Bloom, David Canning and Jaypee Sevilla in a 2001 National Bureau of Economic Research study – occurs when most of a country’s population is in the 15-to-64 working-age range. This increases productivity if supported by policies that promote health, family, labor and financial and human capital, the study concluded.

WEF F highllights PH P succcess sstories by Chino Leyco February 20, 2 2014 The World Economic Forum (WEF) has s highlighted the e Philippines’ rrecent successs stories, particcularly in good governance, ahead of Ma anila’s hosting of o the gathering of world’s mo ost powerful pe eople in May. In a briefing, Sushant Pallakurthi Rao, th he senior directtor and head off Southeast Assia at the WEF,, said the Philip ppines has been a “benchmark” for other goverrnments when it comes to refforms, citing the e country’s rob bust economic growth and d good governa ance.

RAO Rao also said the recent success stories s of the Aquino o administration n as such the investment grade status from three major interrnational credit rating agencie es as well as the nation’s imprroving competitiveness rankin ng in WEF’s an nnual report. “This is the e Philippines’ moment,” m Rao said s when aske ed about Manila a’s hosting of tthe three-day W WEF on East A Asia meeting in May. “The Philippines has de emonstrated to o the world its ccapabilities and d can serve as a very good example [fo or other nations].” The Philipp pines is the fifth h ASEAN mem mber-country to host the WEF meeting since e 2010, after Vie etnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. “The Philip ppines is one off the greatest economic e come eback stories in n the recent ye ears. The Philip ppines is expeccted to be the strongest performing Southeast Asian A economy y in 2014, with gross domestiic product grow wth supposing 6 6.5 percent,” Rao R said. The time fo or WEF to hold its East Asia meeting m in Man nila is “superb,”” he added. In the WEF F’s Global Com mpetitiveness Rankings, R the Philippines P is no ow at 59th placce, or 26 spots higher since 2 2010. Likewise, the country has s also recorded d a marked imp provement in th he World Bank and Internation nal Finance Corporation’s Ease of Do oing Business Report R after it moved m thirty pla aces in a single e year.

Rao said WEF’s meeting in Manila will be guided by its three objectives, namely achieving equitable progress, advancing models for sustainable growth and realizing regional connectivity. The meeting will also discuss the world’s joblessness, economic recovery, environment, health, inclusive growth, among others. The 23rd WEF on East Asia meeting will, likewise, serve as a platform for participants to deliberate the opportunities of the ASEAN Economic Community to promote greater inclusion across East Asia and to instill more resilient decision-making in the face of unpredictable economic and natural disruptions. WEF expects around 600 participants for the May meeting, including not only business and state leaders, but also heads of civil society organizations, labor unions, among other non-government organizations.

Roxas eyeing Asian sugar exports by James Loyola

February 20, 2014

Roxas Holdings, Inc., the country’s top sugar producer, aims to start exporting to nearby countries when tariff barriers come down with the integration of ASEAN markets in 2015. According to RHI Chairman Pedro Roxas, the firm will ride on synergies with First Pacific Company which is now a strategic investor in the company. RHI is particularly looking at exporting to Indonesia where First Pacific has investments in the food business. RHI is looking to get a slice of the 4.0 million metric tons of sugar that Indonesia imports every year, Renato Valencia, Roxas Holdings President said. “First Pacific, has a strong presence in the food business in Indonesia and has a wide array of interests in other key cities in Asia,” noted Valencia. Roxas said Roxas Holdings is also training its sights on opportunities in Vietnam, and Cambodia, countries where the sugar industry “still needs an upgrade.” Roxas said the sugar group is aware of the implications of the coming tariff reduction on sugar to 5 percent in 2015 from 48 percent in 2010 under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) and has prepared for the coming challenge. “We felt the pressure and continue to feel the implications of the impending threats and challenges of 2015 — all the more made real by the fact that we only have a window of less than 12 months to implement the necessary action plans. These, more than anything, drive the point that we cannot afford to be complacent,” Roxas explained. He added that “RHI has prepared for 2015, recognizing it as an opportunity to showcase our strength as a global Filipino company. We took stock of our capabilities, strengthened our competencies, widened our networks, scouted for opportunities that will solidify Roxas Holdings’ sweet position — not only in the Philippines but also outside Asia, and made aggressive but calculated decisions while we continue to nurture relationships.” Valencia said “we are building our financial resources for the coming industry consolidation, always on the lookout for strategic merger, acquisition and collaboration that will make RHI even stronger and more viable in the future.” The initiatives include establishing co-generation facilities beside the Group’s plants in Batangas and Negros Occidental; setting up a research and development facility in partnership with universities and providing nursery and extension services to planters; upgrading of facilities and systems; enhancing brand equity; focusing more on cost effectiveness and diversification; leveraging on technical management expertise; installing Risk Management system; and strengthening corporate social responsibility.

Posted on February 20, 2014 11:08:22 PM

Cooling prices unlikely to hurt banks AN EXPECTED RISE in interest rates later this year could cool property prices somewhat, global debt watcher Standard and Poor’s said, but not enough to hurt the health of local banks’ home mortgage portfolios.

Rising interest rates make home mortgage payments more expensive for borrowers, increasing the chances of a default, which in turn hurts banks because lenders could end up absorbing the losses. Ideally, banks sell a foreclosed home at a price higher than what’s tagged when they placed that asset in their loan books. If property prices fall to levels beyond what banks had estimated, they book the loss. But S&P director for financial services ratings Ivan Tan said any drop in prices should be modest, because the pace at which domestic interest rates will rise is predictable anyway. The ratings agency expects the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to begin tightening later this year. “In our opinion, the moderate and predictable trend in the rise of interest rates in the Philippines does not suggest any significant risk of a sharp correction in property prices,” the Singapore-based Mr. Tan said in a phone interview. In a report titled “A Waning Economic Tide May Expose Hazards for Weaker AsiaPacific Banks in 2014” and discussed in a webinar yesterday, S&P tagged the risk posed by falling property prices to Philippine banks as “limited”. That assessment is not as bad as in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia where a plunge in real estate prices is a “key risk” factor because home loans and real estate-related loans account for about 30%-50% of bank lending, according to the report. S&P estimates that home loans account for just 7% of Philippine banks’ loan books, Mr. Tan said. Still, Philippine property prices are sensitive to interest rates, whether they rise or fall. The cheap credit in the Philippine financial system in recent years boosted demand for homes, stoking property prices, and with it, fears of a property bubble.

But S&P said it’s unlikely there will be a property price crash, reminiscent of a bubble, which it said did not form anyway. Property consultant CB Richard Ellis said it expected property prices to still rise by 3%-5% this year, sustaining last year’s momentum that was supported by record low interest rates. But it did admit there would be pressures for property prices to skid, possibly coming from a fresh supply of foreclosed homes that banks need to dispose of; weaker demand, as home buyers are discouraged by higher borrowing costs; and as property developers review prices in an attempt to fill inventories. “Property developers will probably give some concessions and make arrangements with banks to restructure the amortization plan,” Jan Custodio, senior director for global research and consultancy at CBRE, said in a phone interview. S&P also pointed out that interest rates were not just the ones that dictate property prices. Having more weight is the unemployment rate, for an obvious reason that a home borrower who loses his job might default in mortgage payments. “Property prices are more sensitive to unemployment rates rather than interest rates. We see jobless rates in the Philippines to be stable,” Mr. Tan said. -- Maria Eloisa I. Calderon


Posted on February 07, 2014 05:00:49 PM

By Victor Cesar Ubaldo, IDEA

CCT: An Enabling Approach to Poverty Reduction Â

NOW HEADING on to its seventh year, the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program has become a key plank in the government’s longstanding fight against poverty. There are those, however, who still do not fully appreciate the merits of CCTs. Meant to target the needy and the youth, the fruits of this program will be seen in a healthier and bettereducated new generation of Filipinos in the long-run.

Also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the CCT Program supports the poorest households in the Philippines by providing them with cash grants provided certain conditions are met, such as keeping their kids at school and having regular medical check-ups. This poverty alleviation program attempts to help the neediest Filipinos by allowing them to actively take part in improving their regular lifestyle. In a status report released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the program has registered almost four million households as of June 2013. There are broken down to 1.6 million, 1.5 million, and 0.8 million households in Luzon, Mindanao, and Visayas, respectively. From January to April 2013, these households received almost P13 billion for their many needs. The program selects the poorest households through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction. Once eligible, households may receive cash assistance of P6,000 per year for health, P3,000 per school year for each child, and P15,000 a year per household, as long as they comply with the conditions. The CCT program has two main objectives. The first is social assistance. By providing cash directly to the poor, it alleviates the immediate needs of the family. One of these needs is food, to which hunger continues to be a persistent problem in the Philippines. Also, conditions such as having regular health check-ups and

keeping children in school help will benefit the family. With regular compliance, the household will grow with a strong concern for health and education. This leads to the second objective which is social development. Families that get to solve the basic household necessities of health and education will be better equipped to make their way out of poverty. Are we perhaps mindlessly giving billions of pesos in the hope that the poor will actually comply? It’s true that it’s up to every household to comply with the program’s conditions, but this is something we’re banking on. If these households do not comply with the conditions, they risk being removed from the program and unable to receive the cash benefits. A Compliance Verification System (CVS) checks on the compliance status of the beneficiaries. Thankfully, however, the DSWD confirms a compliance rate of at least 95% through the CVS. This positive figure shows that the money invested in this program is being put to good use, and may be on the road to success. This success hinges on these households that have chosen to comply. Thus, the government does not become some anonymous donor of cash but is rather more of one that cooperates with every registered family in a direct and personal manner. Ronald Mendoza of the Asian Institute of Management defends the 4Ps by saying that the benefits of the program will be felt in the future, since the aim is to focus on the youth, the next generation of Filipinos. The Filipino youth of 15-24 years of age is expected to peak by around 2040-2050, according to the United Nations. Our nation should be built on a strong foundation of skilled and healthy citizens, or else it cannot support a growing economy. In pursuing solutions to poverty, perhaps one may be tempted to think that it is impossible to help every singe individual. This course of thinking, however, presumes that the government or any external agent involved in poverty alleviation as the sole actors in solving the problem. The truth is, everyone needs to cooperate -- not only those lending a helping hand, but also those that need their assistance. They simply lack the resources and opportunities that others in society have. It may simply require a little push in order to get them going, like a ball of potential energy up on a hill. These people have a lot of potential, and making great investments in the human capital of the Philippines is sure to make a great impact in the whole of society.

The Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis (IDEA), Inc. is a non-stock, non-

partisan institution dedicated to high-quality economic research, instruction, and communication. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the organization. For questions and inquiries, please contact Remrick Patagan via ideainc.mail[@] or telefax no. 920-6872.

Corporate News

Posted on February 20, 2014 10:40:37 PM

Storm-damaged power plant in Leyte back online

THE 112.5-megawatt (MW) Tongonan geothermal power plant in Leyte is now fully restored following the return to service of the remaining unit of the plant that was damaged by typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) on Nov. 8 last year, the Lopez-led owner and operator of the facility said in a disclosure yesterday. A VIEW of the Tongonan geothermal plant is shown in this undated official photo. --

“We have now energized the last remaining unit of our Tongonan Power Plant,” Energy Development Corp. (EDC) said. “All units, however, remain subject to close monitoring and/or additional tests.” ON TARGET Restoration of the Tongonan plant -- which was partially recommissioned last December -- was within the first-quarter target set by the firm. Just last Monday, the company reported that the remaining unit of Malitbog power plant and the first unit of the Mahanagdong plant were also back online. These power plants form part of EDC’s Unified Leyte geothermal power complex. The complex -- which straddles Ormoc City and municipality of Kananga -- consists of 125-MW Upper Mahiao plant, 232.5-MW Malitbog plant, 180-MW Mahanagdong plant, and 51-MW Leyte optimization plants. Two units of the Malitbog plant were restored last month, contributing a total of 150 MW. Portions of the Upper Mahiao and optimization plants were also restored in November last year, enabling them to dispatch a total of 57 MW to the grid. EDC President and Chief Operating Officer Richard B. Tantoco said last month that all damaged geothermal plants were expected to be back in online by August.

EDC is the largest producer of geothermal energy in the Philippines, operating 12 power facilities in five service contract areas in the country. The company, through First Gen Hydro Power Corp., also operates the 132-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydro power plant in Nueva Ecija. It is also building the 87-MW Burgos wind power project in Ilocos Norte, which is expected to be operational this year. EDC’s net income sank 30.8% to P5.93 billion as of September last year from P8.57 billion in the same nine months in 2012. Sales of electricity slipped 7.7% to P19.78 billion from P21.44 billion, while cost of power sales likewise dropped 6.7% to P7 billion from P7.5 billion. Shares of the firm closed at P5.44 each yesterday, unchanged from their finish last Wednesday. -- Claire-Ann Marie C. Feliciano


Posted on February 20, 2014 11:06:27 PM

200,000 MT rice lack import permits

RICE imports that lacked requisite permits from the National Food Authority (NFA) reached over 200,000 metric tons (MT) last year, the Customs bureau claimed yesterday. “We’ve discovered that the volume of rice that was imported without permits last year was almost 200,000 MT, based on the info given to us by the NFA,” Customs Commissioner John Philip “Sunny” Sevilla told reporters in a chance interview. The amount is roughly 57% more than the 350,000-MT minimum access volume (MAV) of rice that the Philippines has committed to import at 40% duty, under agreement with the World Trade Organization. Imports outside the MAV get a 50% duty. Mr. Sevilla also said that only 50,000 MT of rice were issued import permits last year. The number is expected to rise to 55,000 to 60,000 since the NFA extended the validity of rice imports until January this year, due to the political turmoil in Thailand. Of the 200,000 MT that lacked import permits, 150,000 MT were traced to only five companies: Silenty Royalty Marketing, Bold Bidder Marketing and General, Starcraft International Trading, Medaglia de Oro Trading and Inter-Continental Grains. Most of the shipments, Mr. Sevilla said, arrived at the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port (MICP) while others arrived at the ports in Davao, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and the Mindanao Container Port in Misamis Oriental. The Customs chief said the bureau is also investigating its employees regarding how the shipments were imported into the country despite the lacking requisite NFA import permits. “We’re looking at what happened here; were there fake import permits or recycled import permits?” Mr. Sevilla said. “We want to start with them. We have to start making our own people accountable, so I want to find out what is really happening,” he added. -- Mikhail Franz E. Flores,000-MT-rice-lack-import-permits&id=83773


Posted on February 20, 2014 11:06:04 PM By Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio, Reporter

DoF stands pat against tax break bills THE FINANCE department rejected yet again lawmakers’ proposed measures to raise the ceiling of tax exemption for bonuses, saying it would result in foregone revenues for the government, which would be detrimental to taxpayers in turn. “On the basis of the country’s fiscal health, the Department of Finance (DoF) expressed strong reservations towards the different bills currently filed in the House of Representatives and the Senate which provide income tax relief to taxpayers by raising the ceiling on the 13th-month pay and other benefits under the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC), as amended, or the Tax Code,” the DoF said in a statement released yesterday. The agency estimated that increasing the present P30,000 ceiling to P40,000P75,000 will result in foregone revenues of P10.3 billion-P61.7 billion, which is more than Undersecretary Jeremias N. Paul, Jr.’s initial estimate last month of P10.3 billion -- P43.6 billion. Several bills amending Section 32 B of the NIRC have been filed by lawmakers in both houses of Congress. Amending the law, without countervailing revenue measures, the DoF said, would “curtail the administration’s bid to improve tax-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio to 16% by 2016.” It would also reduce the government’s funds for social spending, the agency added. “The Philippines is still on deficit spending. The passage of these proposals will derail our deficit spending program of 2% of GDP in 2016, in the process wipe out the revenue gains from ‘sin’ taxes that the country worked for 16 years to pass, and jeopardize our social spending commitments, especially for the rehabilitation for calamity-stricken areas and infrastructure,” Cesar V. Purisima was quoted saying in the statement. He stressed that the “potential revenue leak” due to the bills in both houses of Congress would affect the government’s resources for basic social services.

For instance, Mr. Purisima said: “Foregone revenues of P61.7 billion could almost fully fund the expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to P62.6 billion, which provides direct immediate support to poor households with irregular income.” The Finance chief also noted that the government has “given generous relief to taxpayers.” “...[T]axpayers have already benefited from previous reforms that have increased their personal and additional exemptions by up to 456%, much higher than the 157% adjusted value for inflation since 1994,” he said. “If the legislative proposals are passed, and additional revenue measures would take another decade to pass, then the country is in danger of going back into the vicious cycle of fiscal mismanagement...,” he further said. “Ultimately, our stance is beneficial to our taxpayers since a fiscally capable and responsible government will be more equipped to carry out economic reforms that spur inclusive development. Instead, we must strengthen the country’s socioeconomic conditions through expenditure programs which benefit everyone, including salaried taxpayers.”


Posted on February 20, 2014 11:02:59 PM

Program lacks beneficiaries TACLOBAN CITY -- Questions on how the $10-million fund for a malnutrition reduction program will be used surfaced after the number of beneficiaries fell below the target. Megan Gayford, typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) response nutrition cluster coordinator, said they found only 2,702 preschool children suffering from acute malnutrition in the three Visayas regions, less than half of the targeted 6,000 beneficiaries. “One of our main concerns is not finding the number of malnourished children. The nutrition cluster planned to find 6,000 in three Visayas regions affected by the typhoon, but when we look at the result of rapid assessment, only few are severely malnourished children,” Ms. Gayford said. The United Nations Children’s Fund and other international disaster response groups are raising $10 million for life-saving nutrition interventions benefitting children under five years old as well as pregnant and lactating women affected by the typhoon. As of this week, 99% of the amount has been funded. They had drawn their target from the global malnutrition rate during emergencies and the 2011 National Nutrition Survey results in Western, Central and Eastern Visayas regions. “We intended to find half of the projected number of malnourished children after the typhoon. Now that we did not find a lot, there are some questions coming out on how to spend the money. We have to wait for the result of SMART (Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions) survey and calibrate our targets,” Ms. Gayford said. SMART is an interagency initiative launched in 2002 by a network of organizations and humanitarian practitioners. It is a systematized approach to providing critical, reliable information for decision making, and the establishment of shared systems and resources for host government partners and humanitarian organizations. Of the 2,702 children found malnourished after the Rapid Nutrition Assessment, 2,332 are moderately underweight, and 370 are severely malnourished. -- S.Q. Meniano

NFA can’t impose rice curbs — DOJ By Rey E. Requejo | Feb. 21, 2014 at 12:01am The Department of Justice has taken a legal position that the National Food Authority has no power to extend the implementation of quantitative restriction on rice importations. In a 12-page confidential legal opinion, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima stressed that the NFA has no authority to extend the imposition of QR following the expiration of government’s commitment to the World Trade Organization – General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (WTOGATT) in June 2012. De Lima said that while the agreement already expired, it had provisions saying extension of the QR on agricultural products “shall only be by agreement after the conduct of negotiations.” It is beyond the power of a mere implementing agency like the NFA, which must exercise its rule-making and regulatory powers in accordance with, and not contrary to, applicable laws, De Lima’s opinion stated, copy of which was forwarded to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. The Justice Secretary stressed that such provisions of the WTO-GATT are binding. “The WTO provisions on the lifting of QRs as well as their exceptions, and the provisions on negotiations for its extension are already effective and should be complied with. It is not for nothing that the Philippine government gave its consent to the WTO agreement.” De Lima noted that at this point, the government is still in the period of negotiating for the extension of the QR to 2017. However, the DOJ legal opinion was not made public yet as de Lima said they would issue a more “definitive legal opinion” after considering “varying interpretations.” It was also not distributed among members of the NFA Council, the country’s rice policymaking body, during their meeting last Monday. Asked about the de Lima opinion, NFA Farmer Sector Representative Edwin Paraluman said: “I did not see any DOJ opinion.” Pressed as to whether copies of the said opinion were distributed to members of the council, NFA Board Secretary Ofelia Cortez-Reyes said in Filipino that she did not “remember matters like that.” Stakeholders in the rice industry have been waiting for the legal opinion of the DOJ on the matter, which they said would serve as a guide for the courts in resolving petitions for injunction filed by rice importers.

The GATT allowed member-countries of the WTO to restrict the importation of sensitive agricultural products. The agreement, however, already expired in June 2012. While the government started renegotiating with member-countries on the extension of the pact, it continued to impose the QR. Rice importers questioned such policy, saying their importations should be allowed even without import permits as long as the corresponding taxes are paid - now that the WTO-GATT has already expired. The issue was highlighted after the Bureau of Customs seized tons of rice imported without permit, which were later on released upon separate court order. Reacting to Creencia’s observation, Alcala said: Based on our assessment, we are just doing what we think is the best for our farmers. What will favor our farmers? They should consider that. He added that all rice importers should register with, and secure an import permit from, the National Food Authority. “That is what we are fighting for, that all importers should register. Like for instance, you buy a car, the you will need to register because if you don’t then it will not be good. If we just let them be and we have no control on that what do you think will happen? Rice smugglers will be very happy when that happens. Alcala said he has asked the DOJ for a ruling on the legality of QR but “DOJ is still waiting for something before they issue an official statement but the Solicitor General already told us that the implementation of QR should continue.”‐can‐t‐impose‐rice‐curbs‐doj/                

PNoy insists: No need for Cha-cha to spur growth By Joyce Pangco Panares | Feb. 21, 2014 at 12:01am Malacañang said on Thursday that President Benigno Aquino III remained firm on his stand that charter change is not needed to improve the economy. In a press briefing, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that Aquino has noted that the “economy has grown better even without amending the Charter.” As this developed, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the principal author of Charter change in the Lower House, denied insinuations that he and Aquino had secretly agreed to push for the economic amendments in the 1987 Constitution, saying that the President has been consistent of his opposition to Charter Change. “That is utterly unfair. The track record and integrity of the President will speak for itself. It is not in his style to deceive the people. We are still working to convince him (President Aquino) into supporting my initiative,” Belmonte said. The House Speaker made the statement in response to allegations by the Makabayan bloc led by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares that Aquino is behind the effort of his allies in the Lower House to push for the constitutional amendments. Colmenares said on Wednesday that he was convinced that the Lower House is pushing Cha-Cha because President Aquino is “secretly backing it, while openly against the proposal.” “Malacañang could be behind it,” Colmenares said, adding that the House and even the Senate are very confident over the passage of Cha-cha. “Gagalaw ba sila kung walang basbas ng Presidente?” Belmonte stressed that it was not the style of Aquino to engage in double talk. Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., a lawyer and vice chair of the House committee on constitutional amendments, agreed with Belmonte, noting that Aquino, whose mother, the late Corazon Aquino was the chief executive when the Constitution was enacted. Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, a lawyer and senior member of the House committee on constitutional amendments, urged the group of Colmenares to stop from further speculating. With Maricel V. Cruz‐insists‐no‐need‐for‐cha‐cha‐to‐spur‐ growth/

Bongbong clears self from DAP By Macon Ramos‐Araneta | Feb. 21, 2014 at 12:01am   SENATOR Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday again denied the allegations he received funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program or pork barrel at the height of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment trial in 2012. He said if the money from the DAP had been a bribe to secure Corona’s conviction, it was illogical for him to have been rewarded with it because “I voted to acquit him.” Marcos and Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Joker Arroyo voted against Corona’s impeachment. Santiago on Thursday said Marcos was not liable for bribery since he voted against the impeachment, and that was true even if he received funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program. “No, because it was not sufficient. Maybe it [the money] was not enough,” Santiago said. Bribery also has a certain calculus of its own. Remember what I said? It must be sufficient to change his mind.” Santiago made her statement even as one of the petitioners questioning the legality of the DAP before the Supreme Court said Thursday the government’s defense of it was an alibi. Petitioner Greco Belgica said the arguments presented by Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza sound more like “alibis.” “Not even the brilliant Justice Mendoza was able to disprove the illegality of the DAP. The government’s defense was an alibi,” Belgica said. Mendoza said the petitioners should have first voiced their concerns against the DAP before the Commission on Audit or the trial courts. He said the petitioners also failed to exhaust all other legal remedies before bringing the matter before the high court. But Belgica said there had been an actual case that the high court could rule on. Santiago said the test for bribery was whether the amount given “before, during or after” the fact, with time as an irrelevant element there, was sufficient to make that person change his mind. “So you have to ask yourself—was the amount sufficient to make a senator change his mind?” Santiago said.

“For example, if it is a basket of mangoes he’s not going to change his mind. But if you gave him P50 million, that would change his mind.” Reports said Marcos was among the beneficiaries of the P370-million DAP funds released by the Department of Budget and Management. The other senators who were said to have been given DAP funds in the middle of Corona’s impeachment trial were Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Vicente Sotto III. In a statement he released in September last year, Marcos said he wrote a letter to Magno Oasan, a supervising auditor of the Commission of Audit, on the authenticity of various documents involving National Livelihood Development Corp. He said his signatures on the NLDC documents were forged. With Rey E. Requejo‐clears‐self‐from‐dap/                              

Red ducing g poveerty By Manilla Standard Today | Feb b. 21, 2014 aat 12:01am 

The coun ntry’s econom mic planning g secretary early e this weeek tried his best to diagnnose what aiils the econo omy and why at least a fifth f of the population is poor. His m media presenttation analyzzed the limiteed effects off the econom mic expansion n, in which ssome provinnces are beinng left out off the growth process p altog gether. Economiic Planning Secretary S Arresenio Balissacan gave thhe media a gglimpse of thhe updated Philippin ne Developm ment Plan forr 2014-2016,, which aimss to lower pooverty whilee maintainingg high econ nomic growtth. Througho out his disco ourse, howevver, Balicasaan made it cllear that povverty would reemain widesspread in the Philippines, unless the ggovernment creates a beetter econom mic environm ment that cou uld lure locall and foreign n investors too set up busiinesses in crritical areas oof the country. Creating jobs and low wering the co ost of doing business, hee says, are thhe keys to reeducing poveerty. “Accelerrating job creeation requirres building up of capitall. Investmennts must conttinually rise for the econo omy to contiinue to grow w and this req quires a stable and predictable markeet environmeent,” says Baliicasan. The Cabiinet memberr did not say y anything neew about whhat is wrong about the Phhilippine economy y. The Philip ppines for so many years has attracteed the least innvestments, which creatte jobs, in th his part of Asia A because the econom mic environm ment is not coonducive to bbusinessmenn. Power raates in the Ph hilippines, fo or one, is thee second highhest in Asia,, next only too Japan. Thee governm ment, in addition, has the tendency to flip-flop onn certain econnomic and bbusiness issuues, with the judicial j systtem contribu uting its part when it deciides on certaain issues in which it hass no economicc competencce.

The high cost of doing business in the Philippines and the bureaucratic maze that one has to undergo in getting permits are enough to drive away potential investors and make them seek their chances elsewhere. Balicasan and the rest of the Cabinet know exactly what ails the economy. The Philippines cannot generate enough jobs, in order to reduce poverty, because the government does not treat investors well and has little to offer in terms of infrastructure support.‐poverty/                                      

NTA welcomes Mighty program for local farmers By Manila Standard Today | Feb. 21, 2014 at 12:01am SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union—The National Tobacco Administration (NTA) chief Edgardo Zaragoza has welcomed the assistance provided to tobacco farmers by Mighty, a local cigarrete company, officials said. “The more players dealing directly with the farmers, the better and merrier. This is a big boost to the tobacco industry,” Zaragoza said. He said Mighty’s social outreach programs would increase the assistance provided to farmers and their families and “we hope this would encourage other cigarette industry players to do the same.” Mighty has provided 90 diesel-fed water pumps and 16 power tillers to farmers in the provinces of Abra, Ilocs Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Isabela and Cagyan, the country’s top producers of yellow leaf, the variety used for cigarettes. Tobacco thrives even without rainfall and irrigation systems. Mighty said it would buy 10 million kilograms of tobacco leaves, one fifth of the industry’s total production. It has also provided 100 scholarships to high school graduate children of tobacco farmers. Zaragoza said the NTA was working on the implementing rules for the excise taxes on cigarettes “to ensure that the taxes will directly benefit tobacco farmers.” “In 2003, excise tax collection from tobacco increasaed by almost P35 billion. From P32 billion in 2012, it became P67 billion in 2013,” Zaragoza said. The increase in excise taxes followed the enactment in December 2012 of the Sin Tax Reform Law, which took effect in January 2013 and levies higher taxes on cigarettes and liquor.‐welcomes‐mighty‐program‐for‐local‐ farmers/        

Employees slam abuse by NIA officials By Ferdie G. Domingo | Feb. 21, 2014 at 12:01am CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija— Employees of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has accused members of the board of directors of rigging bidding of contracts and anomalous disbursements of funds in a P100 million project, officials of the employees association said. The NIA Employees Association (NIAEASP) president Victorino Aron said a senior official ordered the payment to a contractor in Saranggani despite lack of accomplishment. “This practice is going on in other provinces and the Commission on Audit (COA) records will support our claim,” Aron said in a manifesto he signed together with national vice president Louella Mercado and other officials. The group asked President Aquino to order an investigation. Copies of the manifesto have been sent to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. It was not immediately known if they furnished copies to the Ombudsman, which has the authority to look into the case even without a formal complaint. NIA Administrator Claro Maranan supported the employees’ demand. The employees said the board has usurped Maranan’s functions and meddled in the management of the agency and one board member appointed by Alcala claimed he will takeover the agency next month. “The Board has sown havoc and demoralization among the ranks of regional managers, project managers, department managers and irrigation management office managers through indiscriminate reshuffling,” the manifesto said.‐slam‐abuse‐by‐nia‐officials/            

PH ships chicken, ducks to Japan By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Feb. 21, 2014 at 12:01am The Philippines recently shipped 4.8 metric tons of chicken parts and 11 metric tons of Peking ducks to Japan. The Agriculture Department said the poultry shipment came from the Misamis Oriental-based SMFI-Maharlika Marine Ventures. More shipments of both products to Japan are expected this year, it said. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the department was aggressively working to expand export markets for Filipino poultry and livestock products, as the country remained free from major animal diseases. The Philippines remains among the very few countries in the world that are free from foot-andmouth disease and avian influenza, or bird flu. “It is a badge of excellence that we should use to the fullest for the benefit of our stakeholders, notably the smallholder ones,” said Alcala. The Philippines successfully tapped South Korea’s $300-million fresh frozen chicken market last year, after the Korean Quarantine Inspection Agency granted Bulacan-based Bounty Fresh Food Inc. the clearance to start sending fresh chicken products to the northAsian country. The Agriculture Department said negotiations were also underway for the country’s bid to export whole dressed chicken, pork and other meat products to the United Arab Emirates market, primarily aimed at Filipino workers and other foreign expatriates.‐ships‐chicken‐ducks‐to‐japan/              

Govt to lose P62b on bonus tax exemption By Jennifer Ambanta | Feb. 21, 2014 at 12:01am The Finance Department on Thursday warned the proposed bills in Congress that aim to raise the ceiling on the 13th month pay and other benefits with tax exemption would result in foregone revenues of as much as P62 billion. The proposed bills seek to increase the ceiling on tax-exempted 13th month pay from the current P30,000 to a range of P40,000 to P75,000. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the proposals would result in foregone government revenues of P10.3 billion to P61.7 billion. The agency said without countervailing revenue measures, the proposed bills would severely curtail the administration’s bid to improve the tax-to-GDP ratio to 16 percent by 2016 and rob important social spending commitments of much needed funding. “The Philippines is still on deficit spending. The passage of these proposals will derail our deficit spending program of 2 percent of GDP in 2016, in the process wiping out the revenue gains from sin taxes that the country worked for 16 years to pass, and jeopardize our social spending commitments, especially for the rehabilitation for calamity-stricken areas and infrastructure,” Purisima said. Purisima said taxpayers would also be adversely affected, if the government would have no fiscal resources to provide for basic social services. He said the expected forgone revenues of P61.7 billion could almost fully-fund the expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to P62.6 billion, which provides direct immediate support to poor households with irregular income.‐to‐lose‐p62b‐on‐bonus‐tax‐exemption/            

Did EDSA 1986 matter? February 20, 2014 10:53 pm   by RIGOBERTO TIGLAO Every year around this time in February, we commemorate the 1986 People Power revolution, which had become a morality play of a Martyr’s Widow leading the people to overthrow the Dark Lord. Indeed the morality tale was so powerful that it inspired peoples elsewhere under the yoke of dictatorships to break their own shackles. Just a year after the EDSA uprising, huge people’s rallies challenged South Korea’s strongman, Chun Doo-hwa, which eventually led to democratic reforms, among them the direct election of the president. Chile’ strongman Augusto Pinochet called for a referendum in 1988 that triggered events that eventually led to his fall in 1989. Poland’s “Solidarity” movement gained momentum after 1986, with Lech Walesa assuming power in 1989. In his visit to Manila in 1995, Walesa said: “Your peaceful People Power Revolution was an inspiration to us for our own revolution.” From then on, it was a democratic domino effect: Poland’s people power revolution, the Singing Revolutions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic states in 1989, the East German democracy movement that eventually tore the Berlin wall down; and Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution,” which all contributed to the demise of a powerful totalitarian state. Even South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was inspired by our people-power revolution. But did it matter to us? Did it change the lives of tens of millions of Filipinos trapped in poverty? The chart accompanying this article says it all. The chart tracks the Gross Domestic Product per capita (or per person)—a rough measure of the average income of the people in particular country—at constant 2005 US dollars, in order to account for inflation in each country. We have the lowest GDP per capita now, at $1,501. Twenty-eight years after EDSA, our major competitors in ASEAN—Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia—have overtaken taken us. Malaysia’s GDP per capita of $6,786 is a 4.5 times our $1,501; Thailand’s $3,353 is 2.2 times ours. To put it in another, depressing way:Our GDP per capita of $1,501 in 2012 was roughly that of South Korea in 1961, Malaysia in 1972, and Thailand in 1990. In effect, we’re behind South Korea by half a century, Malaysia by four decades, and Thailand by two decades.

It’s as depressing when we look at the poverty data (see Table). Malaysia and Thailand have nearly miraculously reduced their poverty incidences (measured as the percentage of population living below $2 per day) to single-rates since the 1980s, 2 percent for the former and 4 percent for the latter. No wonder that in the past several years Filipino domestic workers have been leaving our country to serve the Malaysian rich. After nearly three decades, we’ve reduced our poverty incidence only by 15 percentage points and we seem to be stuck in the 40-percent levels. These statistics however could never capture the tragedy and horror of poverty, of children living miserable lives and dying of diseases that have been wiped out it in developed countries, of men and women wasting away in some slum shack, just waiting for death. So what happened that we’re so left behind that pessimists even think that Vietnam, nearly destroyed by the world’s most powerful nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, could soon overtake us? In a nutshell: Nothing much happened here. The EDSA Revolution restored the power of our oligarchs, and the country’s oligarchic structure created by colonial powers, and of course, its ideological superstructure, Spanish Catholicism. The religious spin given to the Revolution—the Virgin Mary was claimed to have willed it— even strengthened the backward, medieval version of Hispanic Catholicism that partly explains the backwardness of nearly all nations that had been colonized by the Iberian colonialists. No wonder we have been unable to undertake even the weakest program for population control, making us the Asian country with the fastest-growing population—of mostly poor people. The cronies and big-business supporters of the dictator, years after EDSA, regained their seats in politics, business, and even media. Even such a prime architect of martial law’s economic structure — Marcos’ Finance Secretary Cesar Virata — was given recently no less by our national university, the UP, the honor of having its business school named after him, oblivious of the fact that Philippine business collapsed from 1983-1985 when he was the dictator’s Prime Minister. The heroine of EDSA basically restored the pre-martial law constitution, and therefore the country’s political and economic structure, except for its provisions making one-man rule very difficult. Weak state, strong elite Our state since 1986 has been a weak one, standing not for the nation as a whole but only for the strong elites that control it. In crucial junctures—for instance the re-capture of the Meralco monopoly by the oligarchic Lopez clan right after EDSA or the skirting of land reform through “corporatization” of the Aquino clan’s Hacienda Luisita until the Supreme stopped it—the elites

get what they want, at the expense of the changing our social structures so our country would be more productive. As I will be writing on Monday, our state has become so weak, its elite so lacking in patriotism, that a foreigner, an Indonesian magnate has been able to capture Meralco and other strategic industries. Some even say that it would have been probably better if EDSA were a violent bloody revolution. In such scenario, the oligarchs would have been wiped out, or the horror of a bloody revolution would have been such a catharsis that it would have forced Filipinos to embark on serious nation building. This after all was the case in the French Revolution, America’s Civil War, the Korean war, the Malayan Emergency and its ethnic strife that led to the rise of Singapore and Malaysia, and Thailand’s bloody extermination of its communists. Is that such a cruel thought? Maybe, but then how many millions of Filipinos have died or will die of hunger and diseases or lived or would live miserable lives because we haven’t forged a strong nation and a strong state? That idea, that strong states emerge from the blood of its people, worries me. If that were the case, Vietnam, with 3 million its people killed in the war, would soon be overtaking us. Take a look again at the chart, and something is so deeply wrong with us, and Indonesia’s rate of growth suggests that it would probably have us biting the dust in the coming years, and don’t forget, Indonesia is a major-oil producer. It’s the sad, sad reality of what was our glorious moment in history. EDSA just didn’t improve much the lives of most Filipinos. We’ve got to move and change things, and in our lifetime.‐edsa‐1986‐matter/77211/              

Let that cadet graduate! February 20, 2014 10:43 pm   by ERWIN TULFO DEAD SHOT Barely two months to go, a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) 4th year cadet was told he might  not be able to graduate this coming April. Worse, he may be kicked out of our country’s  topmost military school.  The reason? He was late being present in his next class for two minutes. Cadet Aldrin Cudia is the salutatorian of the class and is set to become a second lieutenant officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) if he graduates. Relatives of Cadet Cudia said his professor in the earlier class dismissed Aldrin late. Unfortunately, during the investigation the professor concerned told the inquiry board that he couldn’t recall dismissing Cudia late. Some days later, according to the Cudia family, the same professor admitted he failed to dismiss Cudia on time so that he could have missed reaching his next class on time. We see, however, based on the report submitted by the PMA to the AFP Headquarters, that there is more than just being late in class to the reason that Cudia is facing expulsion from the academy. AFP Spokesperson Ramon Zagala said Cudia could not explain why he was late and is believed to have lied before the Honor Committee of the school. “Honor is strictly being observed in the academy and the students know that it is one of the rules that must be followed especially if you want to become an officer of the AFP,” Zagala said. Granting the kid lied, does this mean he will have to attend fourth year all over again in a different school just because of this honor system? Are you guys saying that all products of the PMA are honest and do not know how to lie? Wasn’t it that few years ago several generals and senior officers of the AFP were investigated by the Senate for pocketing funds? For heaven sakes…let the boy graduate!!!. And if he did lie, just do not let him become a member of the officers corps of the AFP, if you really insist on what you call your honor system, which I doubt is still being adhered to by all of the officers of the AFP.

*** Govt inutile in curbing black sand mining Time and time again we hear residents, especially those in the provinces, complain of unabated black sand mining along their riverbanks or seashores . The problem has been exposed by the media in the past and the attention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was called but the problem continues and there seems no respite in black sand mining and no solution to this kind of abuse to the environment. Black sand is one of the components in the production of metal bars and the main ingredient in gun powder, and is used in many more ways as an industrial and construction supply. Surprisingly, the DENR has not lifted a finger to stop black sand mining in the countryside. Ironically, most of the mining operators or financiers are Chinese nationals but their workers are mostly locals. In an interview over Radyo 5 last Wednesday, DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno said the problem is actually mainly caused by the continuing issuance of a temporary “permit to operate” by local government officials to small scale miners to mine black sand in their own localities. “But all of this will change once the President signs the directive ordering all local officials to stop the issuance of permits for small scale mining in their jurisdictions,” Jasareno disclosed. For now, black sand mining , whether with or without permit, continues not only on the riverbanks and shorelines of Northern Luzon but also in several parts of Region 3 such as in Zambales, Bataan, and Mindoro provinces. Well, let’s keep our fingers crossed, folks. As I have said in the past, this administration is full of talk but lackin or totally zero in action.‐that‐cadet‐graduate/77145/            

Aquino wants ‘pork’ plunderers convicted February 20, 2014 10:59 pm   by Joel M. Sy Egco Senior Reporter Jefferson Antiporda and Jaime R. Pilapil Reporters PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd wants nothing less than a conviction for lawmakers and other individuals proven to have plundered public funds, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Thursday. In a press briefing at Malacañang, Lacierda said the President expects the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its prosecutors to gather enough evidence to warrant a conviction. “The role of the prosecution is to gather all evidence that would come up with, not only a situation that would merit a probable cause for filing, but also to ensure a successful prosecution,” Lacierda said. “That has always been the instruction of the President. It’s not enough that we file a case, it should merit a conviction,” he said. Besides Ruby Tuason, who turned state witness against Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and others who allegedly pocketed huge kickbacks from pork barrel transactions, more witnesses will surface, President Aquino said Wednesday. Lacierda said it was up to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to screen those who step forward to testify for the prosecution in the billion-peso scheme. De Lima and her team “are the ones evaluating the evidence, so I would defer to them. If, for instance, Secretary Leila de Lima says ‘it’s a slam dunk evidence’, we would presume that there is basis for her to say that,” he said. According to Lacierda, the testimonies of Tuason and other whistleblowers such as Benhur Luy will back up the documentary evidence, such as the Commission on Audit (COA) report, that the DOJ has gathered. While Lacierda said he considered Tuason’s account of how she delivered millions to Estrada as credible, it would still have to be verified and assessed by the Justice Department and the Office of the Ombudsman. “We can only go so far as to how the DOJ has evaluated the situation, and also by the fact that the testimony of Ruby Tuason is one based on personal experience. That is currently being evaluated by the DOJ, and I understand there was some clarifi[catory]—correct me if I’m wrong—there was a clarificatory hearing with the Ombudsman,” he said.

Lacierda said he is not in a position to identify who the new witnesses are. “The President himself has not said anybody with specificity, so we don’t want to preempt him. But certainly, once they are willing to share information, it will be relayed to the Department of Justice for evaluation,” he said. Lacierda said the Palace welcomes the proposal of Estrada for the Senate to also investigate senators with whom Tuason has had dealings in the past. He said it is up to the Senate to heed Estrada’s call, stressing “the DOJ will just evaluate the evidence presented.” Other than Estrada, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla and scores of former congressmen and government officials have been charged with plunder at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion priority development assistance fund scheme allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles. Unafraid Estrada was unfazed by the President’s announcement that more witnesses will emerge, even if one of them could be his former secretary, Pauline Labayen. Estrada on Thursday said Labayen will not do a Ruby Tuason. He admitted he has lost touch with his former secretary, who fled the country after the pork barrel scam was exposed. “I’m very confident that my former secretary will not turn against me. Besides, she has nothing to do with this. She was also implicated by the whistleblowers but they don’t have proof,” he said. The senator belittled Tuason’s testimony, saying it contained fabricated stories fed to her by the DOJ to make sure that it would fit the stories of the pork barrel scam witnesses. While the President did not name the new witnesses, there were reports that one of them was Labayen. Other likely witnesses mentioned were former Technology Resource Center (TRC) director general Dennis Cunanan, Rhodora Mendoza, former vice president for administration of the National Agri-Business Corp. (NAGCOR) and Victor Roman Cacal, former vice president of the National Agribusiness Corporation, a government-owned and controlled agency under the Department of Agriculture. They are all respondents in the graft and corruption complaints filed by the DOJ before the Ombudsman last year in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam. State witness Private prosecutor Levito Baligod on Thursday confirmed that Cunanan applied to be considered a state witness.

Baligod said Cunanan will confirm the signatures of Revilla in the documents presented as evidence in the complaint. “He makes validation calls on Revilla’s signatures and if the senator’s staff members are authorized to sign for him,” Baligod said. Revilla denied he owned the signatures on the documents presented by witnesses before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. Cunanan’s application has yet to be acted upon by Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, who will make the recommendation to de Lima. Baligod said Cunanan applied for the Witness Protection Program in March 2013, months before Luy and his companions exposed the pork barrel scam. He said Cunanan knows more about the scam than other witnesses like Marina Sula and Merlina Sunas, former employees of Napoles. “Cunanan’s affidavit is stronger compared to the weight of the evidence contained in the affidavits of these three whistleblowers,” Baligod said in an interview with radio dzBB. He said Cunanan will detail the participation of some implementing agencies such as the TRC in the pork barrel misuse. Cunanan will refute Revilla’s claims that he did not benefit from the scam, Baligod said. Based on Cunanan’s affidavit, Baligod said there were instances when the former TRC official personally talked to Revilla to confirm pork-funded transactions. He said Cunanan recalled that at one time, he was scolded by the senator because of the slow processing of his endorsement letters to allocate his pork barrel fund to Napoles’ fake NGOs. “So what his (Cunanan) office did was to rush the processing of Revilla’s request the whole day and they even worked overnight on December 23,” Baligod said. According to the COA report, at least 10 NGOs linked to Napoles received more than P2 billion in pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2010. With Ritchie Horario‐wants‐pork‐plunderers‐convicted/77234/    

Ex‐TRC chief to spill beans on PDAF scam February 20, 2014 10:57 pm   by Ritchie A. Horario Reporter WILL he do a Ruby Tuason? Dennis Cunanan, the former director general of Technology Resource Center (TRC), who is among those charged in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam, is now wiling to spill the beans. Lawyer Levito Baligod, legal counsel of the whistleblowers in the pork scam, said Cunanan holds a very vital information which could link lawmakers into the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), popularly known as pork barrel. Baligod said they have been finalizing the affidavit of Cunanan, who resigned as TRC director general after he was dragged into the controversy, to be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman. In expressing his willingness to testify against those who are involved in the scam, Cunanan has applied to be a state witness as early as last year, according to Baligod. The lawyer expressed belief that Cunanan would qualify as a state witness since he has vital pieces of information about the misuse of some lawmakers’ pork barrel fund as contained in his affidavit. He said Cunanan even holds stronger pieces of evidence as compared to those of other whistleblowers Simonette Briones, Marina Sula and Arlene Baltazar. “Cunanan’s affidavit is stronger as compared to the weight of the evidence contained in the affidavits of these three whistleblowers,” Baligod told radio dzBB in an interview. He said Cunanan would give link to the participation of some implementing agencies such as the TRC in the pork barrel misuse involving some lawmakers and alleged pork barrel fund scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. Cunanan, he added, would refute claims of Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., who is also among those who were charged at the Ombudsman, that he did not benefit from the scam. Based on Cunanan’s affidavit, Baligod said there were instances that the former TRC official personally talked to Revilla to confirm about the pork barrel funded transaction.

He said Cunanan even recalled that he was allegedly scolded by the senator for the slow processing of his endorsement letters to allocate his pork barrel fund to Napoles’ fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs). “So what his [Cunanan] office did is to rush the processing of Revilla’s request the whole day and they even worked overnight on December 23,” he added. At the same time, Baligod said Cunanan, during his term as OIC director general of TRC, even suspended the transactions of all the NGOs in their agency. Besides Cunanan, the lawyer said two more respondents in the pork barrel scam have expressed willingness to testify against those allegedly involved in the scandal. He said these include Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal, former vice president for administration and finance and former general services supervisor of the National Agri-Business Corp., respectively. According to Baligod, the two said they know how the lawmakers’ pork barrel fund was channeled into the bogus NGOs of Napoles. President Benigno Aquino 3rd earlier said that more witnesses have expressed readiness to testify against lawmakers accused of pocketing kickbacks from their pork barrel funds.‐trc‐chief‐to‐spill‐beans‐on‐pdaf‐scam/77232/                      

Refund first before asking for rate hike, Meralco told February 20, 2014 10:56 pm   by Llanesca T. Panti Reporter A LAWMAKER on Thursday urged the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to first complete the refund of P30.2 billion to its customers as ordered by the Supreme Court in 2003 before seeking another power rate hike. Rep. Arnel Ty of the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers Association (LPG-MA) party-list was referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2003 barring the country’s biggest power distribution firm from charging its income tax obligations to its customers — a policy that Meralco had indulged in from 1994 to 2002. The High Court ordered Meralco to refund its customers P30.2 billion. The initial deadline to complete the refund payout was the end of 2011, but it was extended by another four years. “Meralco should first fully settle all refunds due its customers. While Meralco is a private entity, it is also a business that enjoys a privilege granted by the state, by way of a legislative franchise bestowed by Congress, to exclusively distribute electricity in Metro Manila and outlying areas,” Ty, the House deputy minority leader, pointed out. Meralco has asked the Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour power rate hike that was supposed to take effect in December last year. The company said at the time that the rate adjustment was a result of the month-long shutdown of the state-run Malampaya Natural Gas Plant and the unplanned outages of other power plants. Earlier this week, the high court extended to 120 days the 60-day TRO it issued in December. It also stopped the power generators from collecting payments from Meralco. Ty said Meralco is financially capable of settling its refund obligations and shouldering additional generation charges because it is expected to report a net profit of P19.409 billion for 2013 based on estimates by online stockbroker COL Financial Group Inc. Citing the same source, Ty added that Meralco has accumulated dividends of P43 billion following five years of unbroken profitability: the company posted net profits of P2.8 billion in 2008, P6 billion in 2009, P9.69 billion in 2010, P13.23 billion in 2011, and P17.016 billion in 2012.

“In return for the concession, Meralco—which is engaged in a business highly imbued with public interest—should constantly find ways to provide some economic relief to its customers. The company should not just pass on to consumers every cost of doing business,” the lawmaker said. “While Meralco is entitled to a fair profit, it should lessen its excessive want for ever-increasing profits and spare its 5.2 million captive residential, commercial and industrial customers from burdensome charges,” Ty added. Joe Zaldarriaga, Meralco’s corporate communications manager, said the company has not turned its back on its obligation to pay the refund. “All customers entitled to the refund have received it or have been notified. Over 95 percent of our customers have received their refund,” Zaldarriaga told The Manila Times. “As for the P4.15 per kilowatt hour power rate hike, that will go to power generation companies, not Meralco. It is a completely pass-through charge. Not a single centavo will go to Meralco,” he added.‐first‐before‐asking‐for‐rate‐hike‐meralco‐told/77230/                          

Private schools reject 4‐day school week February 20, 2014 10:47 pm   by Neil A. Alcober Reporter THE Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) has rejected the 4-day school week proposal of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in a bid to ease traffic problems in the metropolis because of the construction of several infrastructure projects.Br. Narciso Erguiza, FSC, Ed.D, former president of De La Salle University (DLSU), said the proposed 4-day school week is not the right solution to the monstrous traffic problem in Metro Manila. He said the scheme will disrupt the normal run of phase in education. “If we have this problem, let the schools view and have their own adjustments and let not the Commission on Higher Education or the Department of Education run after them because they lose a number of school days,” Erguiza told reporters.Erguiza said the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and MMDA should not dictate what schools should do, stressing that the decision of reducing the number of school days will badly affect the learning experience of students. “The DPWH and MMDA are mandating the schools to stop their classes. What kind of a system are we following?” he asked, adding that the public works department should come up with certain measures to address the traffic congestion.“That is my personal response. I think we can be more proactive in the way we respond to the situation and how it affects the education (sector).” Rhodora “Doris” Ferrer, executive director of the Catholic Educational Associations of the Philippines (CEAP), also expressed the same sentiment, saying it will be best for the schools to deal with the problem depending on their location. “Let the schools decide because the schools will have to comply with contact time, with the programs that they are implementing and ensuring that it gets implemented,” Ferrer said. “Given whatever pedagogical practices that they [private schools] really want to do, I mean, you can’t impose distance learning, etc. It’s really up to the schools. All schools have the learners’ interest. You don’t have to compromise the learning,” she added. Cocopea is one of the country’s largest umbrella organizations of private schools. It is made up of five educational associations which include the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities; the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines; the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities; the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities; and the Technical-Vocational School Associations of the Philippines.‐schools‐reject‐4‐day‐school‐week/77206/ 

More bike lanes planned in Metro Manila February 20, 2014 8:12 pm   To encourage the commuting public to try other modes of transportation, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is setting up for more bicycle lanes in the metropolis. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said he has been discussing the bicycle lanes with Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officials. He said it is more convenient to use bicycles amid the traffic gridlock caused by the construction of 15 major road projects. “We will be adding more bicycle lanes to encourage the public to use bicycle since it is more convenient to do so nowadays,” said Tolentino. There are bike lanes along EDSA between Magallanes and Ayala Avenue in Makati City and on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City. The MMDA also put up a 1.75-kilometer-long bike lane from Remedios Circle to Adriatico Street and 550-meter stretch from President Quirino Avenue to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Manila. There are similar lanes on Marcos Highway connecting the cities of Marikina and Antipolo. “We are planning to set up a bike lane between Camp Aguinaldo and Santolan along EDSA,” Tolentino said. He said the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has considered the proposal to allow commuters to bring with them folding bikes inside the trains of Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT). He welcomed the observation of world renowned architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. that the government’s infrastructure projects will not totally solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila. Palafox said the government should focus on pedestrians instead of automobiles, a concept other countries have embraced. RITCHIE A. HORARIO‐bike‐lanes‐planned‐in‐metro‐manila/77149/ 

DENR pushes ecotourism to preserve PH coastlines February 20, 2014 7:54 pm   by James Konstantin Galvez The Philippine government is putting ecotourism at the forefront of its development priorities to help coastal communities affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said. The DENR is now looking at ecotourism as sustainable livelihood to divert natives from the extraction of coastal and marine resources. Speaking at the 5th World Ecotourism Conference (WEC) in Cebu City, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the devastation brought by Yolanda compels the government to step up its campaign for sustainable travel practices that promote conservation of protected natural areas while also benefiting local economies. The WEC is organized by Discoverymice, an affiliate of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, to bring together global eco–tourism players to help host countries bring their eco– tourism policies and initiatives to global attention. This year’s conference, which runs from February 20 to 22, is locally organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism. To recall, the government has allotted $22 million or P1 billion for mangrove and beach forests development in disaster-risk areas in the country covering not only areas hit by Yolanda, but also those affected by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and other calamities. Paje underscored the need to provide alternative livelihood to coastal communities to curb the country’s high dependence on its coastal and marine resources, characterized by destructive and unsustainable resource extraction practices, which led to devastation in ecosystems as in the case of Yolanda. “It was clear that due to lack of natural barriers in the coastlines, the communities were highly devastated by storm surges sending five-meter high, tsunami-like wave,” he pointed out. “To ensure the sustainability of ecotourism initiatives in the country, the government has adopted another way of expanding and diversifying its approach in coastal and marine resources management. What we have now is a paradigm shift from the upland area as the focus of conservation activities to a ridge-to-reef approach,” Paje said.‐pushes‐ecotourism‐to‐preserve‐ph‐coastlines/77119/ 

Rice import restrictions invite backlash February 20, 2014 7:47 pm   by Jing Villamente Reporter With Robertzon F. Ramirez With rice prices soaring and the debate on rice importation policies ongoing at the Senate, members of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council, the country’s rice policymaking body, have been kept in the dark about the likely backlash resulting from the decision of Department of Agriculture (DA) and NFA to continue implementing quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports despite the June 2012 expiration of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) Agreement’s special treatment on rice for the Philippines. In a legal opinion submitted to the DA and the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima advised Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala that with the expiration of the QR or special treatment for rice, the government would have to comply with its GATT-WTO treaty obligations. De Lima also urged Alcala to junk restrictive measures such as NFA-issued permits that restrict volumes of rice imports. Copies of the Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion, however, were not circulated to members of the NFA Council in its February 17, 2014 meeting. Asked about the said opinion, NFA Farmer Sector Representative Edwin Paraluman said “wala akong nakita na DOJ opinion.” (I did not see any DOJ opinion.) Pressed as to whether copies of the said opinion were distributed to members of the council, NFA Board Secretary Ofelia Cortez-Reyes said in Filipino that she did not “remember matters like that [‘Di ko naaalala ang mga bagay na ‘yan].” De Lima stressed that the government had no authority to extend the special treatment on rice that had expired in 2012 pending action on the request of the Philippines to extend the restriction to 2017. Negotiations for the extension of the QR will be resumed in March this year. Talks are ongoing with four countries (Australia, Canada, Thailand and the United States) that have withheld support for the extension of the QR until tariff concessions are given on agricultural goods such as beef, chicken, swine, and turkey. The DOJ also emphasized that although the NFA had the power to establish rules on rice importation under Presidential Decree 4 or the National Grains Authority Act, it was obliged to do so only in accordance with applicable laws. An implementing agency like the NFA, De Lima warned, could not violate an international agreement that had been approved by the President and the Philippine Senate such as the GATT.

In support of this, the DOJ stressed that the WTO treaty was not an ordinary law as its provisions, by the acts of both the President and the Senate, became part of our body of laws. De Lima emphasized these points at the Senate in January 22, when she told senators that the WTO “forms part of the law” consistent with the legal maxim of “maxim pacta sunt servanda [international agreements must be kept in good faith].” Government Corporate Counsel Raoul Creencia, has warned NFA officials that the Philippines risks sanctions from the WTO if the government continues to impose the QR. Creencia advised the NFA in a February 3, 2014 letter distributed to Council members during its February 17, 2014 meeting that “other WTO member countries, which may be prejudiced by NFA and the country’s action on rice imports, may file a dispute.” Contraband rice The BOC discovered almost 200, 000 tons of rice were smuggled into the country in 2013, Customs chief John Sevilla said on Thursday in a press conference at the DOJ. Sevilla, citing reports from the NFA said that only 50,000 tons of the country’s rice importations in 2013 had import permits. Sevilla said that 75 percent of the total rice importations without permits came through the Port of Manila, Manila International Container Port and the ports of Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. Customs investigators are looking into rice shipments consigned to five importers, namely Bold Bidder, Starcraft, Intercontinental Grains, Medaglia de Oro and Silent Royalty.‐import‐restrictions‐invite‐backlash/77083/                    

PNP media policy gets Malacañang support February 20, 2014 7:46 pm   by Catherine S. Valente Malacañang on Thursday defended the Philippine National Police (PNP) policy prohibiting the ordinary personnel from sharing information to the media. The PNP has barred ordinary police officers from disclosing information on crime investigations and crisis incidents to the media unless tasked by the leadership. Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that the new policy was not intended to withhold information from the public but to ensure that accurate information is given. “[There are] initial reports that later on turn out to be wrong, so they just want to be very clear that when we relay information to the public it is accurate, so that it will not lead to wrong information being relayed to the public,” Lacierda told reporters in a press briefing. “There is no effort to hide the truth from the public. It’s just that we want to be sure that whatever we release to the public is accurate,” he added According to Lacierda, the media has the ability to squeeze information. But, he stressed that the media has to report to the public a certain crime accurately so that the police could investigate it properly. The PNP explained that the move aims to prevent policemen from unduly disclosing to the media and eventually to the public. Several police officers are being investigated for unduly disclosing sensitive information to the media. Some of them gave personal opinion in an ongoing case during an interview with the press. Under the tightened policy, only the designated officers are allowed to disclose information to the media.‐media‐policy‐gets‐malacanang‐support/77081/       

DOF: Don’t raise income tax ceiling for bonuses February 20, 2014 9:33 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Reporter Various bills filed in the Congress, which proposes hikes in the income tax ceiling for bonuses such as 13th month pay, may hinder the government’s goal to improve its tax collection by 2016, according to the Department of Finance (DOF). “The Philippines is still on deficit spending. The passage of these proposals will derail our deficit spending program of 2 percent of GDP [gross domestic product] in 2016, in the process wipe out the revenue gains from sin taxes that the country worked for 16 years to pass, and jeopardize our social spending commitments, especially for the rehabilitation for calamity-stricken areas and infrastructure,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a statement on Thursday. The Finance department is opposing the different bills currently filed in the House of Representatives and the Senate which provide income tax relief to taxpayers, by raising the ceiling on the 13th month pay and other benefits under the National Internal Revenue Code, or the Tax Code. The DOF noted that the proposals aim to increase the current P30,000 ceiling to a range of P40,000 to P75,000, which would result in foregone revenues of P10.3 billion to P 61.7 billion. The agency explained that without countervailing revenue measures, the proposed bills will severely curtail the administration’s bid to improve tax to GDP ratio to 16 percent by 2016, and rob important social spending commitments of much-needed funding. Purisima also highlighted that taxpayers will be adversely affected by a government without the fiscal resources to provide for basic social services caused by the potential revenue leak of up to P61.7 billion. He added for example, the foregone revenues of P61.7 billion could almost fully fund the expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to P62.6 billion, which provides direct immediate support to poor households with irregular income. “If the legislative proposals are passed, and additional revenue measures would take another decade to pass, then the country is in danger of going back into the vicious cycle of fiscal mismanagement. Historically, countervailing revenue measures have been much harder to pass in Congress since increasing taxes is not popular. But the DOF was not made to be popular; it was made to be responsible for the country’s economic health,” Purisima said.

Furthermore, the DOF stated that the government has given generous relief to taxpayers, with previous reforms that have increased their personal and additional exemptions by up to 456 percent, much higher than the 157 percent adjusted value for inflation since 1994. “The government has not been remiss in its duty to look after the plight of the taxpaying salaried workers who, incidentally, comprise the bulk or 82 percent of the total internal revenue collection from individual income taxes in 2012. They have already been granted generous tax subsidies even with the continuous deficit that the government had experienced before,” Purisima said.‐dont‐raise‐income‐tax‐ceiling‐for‐bonuses/77163/                                    

Country starts export of poultry to Japan February 20, 2014 9:30 pm   by James Konstantin Galvez The Philippines has started exports of poultry products to Japan, further boosting the country’s distinction as “reliable source of safe and quality” agricultural products, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said on Thursday. Citing reports from DA-Regional Field Unit 10, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said that Misamis Oriental-based SMFI Maharlika Marine Ventures has made its first shipment of 4,856 kilos, or 4.8 metric tons of fresh cut chickens to Japan in December 2013. Two weeks later, the company shipped 11,000 kilos, or 11 metric tons of whole Peking duck.“More shipments of both products are expected this year,” Alcala said, banking on Northern Mindanao being the “export champion” of agricultural commodities. Northern Mindanao is popular among foreign markets for its fruit exports, particularly pineapples and bananas. “It is a badge of excellence that we, the government and the private sector, should use to fullest for the benefit of our stakeholders, notably the smallholder ones,” Alcala said. To recall, the DA has been aggressively expanding export markets for Filipino poultry and livestock products, and took advantage of the country’s status as free from major animal diseases. The Philippines remains among the very few country in the world free from foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza or bird flu. “The bigger goal is to further shrink the country’s trade deficit, which went down by 70 percent in the first half of last year, thanks to faster growth in exports, coupled with a slowdown in imports,” Alcala said. To recall, the Philippines successfully cracked South Korea’s $300-million fresh frozen chicken market, after the Korean Quarantine Inspection Agency granted Bulacan-based Bounty Fresh Food Inc. the go-signal for the export of fresh chicken products. That development propelled the Philippines to become the first and only Asian country to export poultry products to South Korea.‐starts‐export‐of‐poultry‐to‐japan/77157/ 

IMF SEES NO ‘HARD LANDING’ FOR CHINA February 20, 2014 9:28 pm   SYDNEY: International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde said on Thursday that China was unlikely to suffer a hard landing, describing it as a “poorly understood and poorly interpreted” economy that took a cautious approach to growth. The IMF expects China’s economy to expand by 7.5 percent in 2014, but subdued inflation and manufacturing data has fueled concern about a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. A windback in stimulus by the Unite States Federal Reserve and subsequent exit of capital from the emerging economies has amplified anxieties about the global implications of such a move. But Lagarde was upbeat on the Asian giant at a public question and answer session in Sydney on Thursday before this weekend’s meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers. “It’s very unlikely that China would have a hard landing,” Lagarde said at the session, recorded for ABC television. “If I look at the forecast we have for China it’s 7.5-percent growth. It’s certainly a bit less than what they’ve done over the last 10 years but an economy of that size and with that degree of development is bound to slow down a little bit, and we believe it’s appropriate actually that they should slow down their growth,” she said. Lagarde added that the IMF felt China’s economy “is very cautious with its development and is often poorly understood and poorly interpreted.” Though the IMF chief believed such an event was unlikely, she said that it would be prudent for China’s partners to “hedge” against the possibility. “[China’s partners] should make sure that they have trade relationships, financial relationships, foreign direct investment relationships with other countries of the world in order to hedge and protect their position,” she said. AFP‐sees‐no‐hard‐landing‐for‐china/77153/     

Posted on February 20, 2014 07:08:56 PM

JP Morgan upgrade feeds buying THE BOURSE extended its winning streak for the fifth straight trading day yesterday, with the  main index ending at a fresh three‐month high on optimism spurred by JP Morgan’s upgrade of  its Philippine shares rating, analysts said.  The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) climbed     58.14 points or 0.92% to close 6,352.76, its highest finish since  the 6,355.18 recorded on Nov. 8 last year. PSEi traded as high  as 6,353.39 and as low as 6,277.04 during Thursday’s trading.    The broader all‐shares index similarly gained 28.20 points or 0.74% to 3,826.50.    “The Philippine Stock Exchange bucked the regional sell‐off to gain by 0.92% as the market  cheered the upgrade of JP Morgan last Wednesday,” said Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa, market  research officer at BPI Financial Markets Group.    Last Wednesday, investment bank JP Morgan upgraded Philippine shares to “overweight” from  “neutral” in its global emerging markets model portfolio, saying shares are no longer  overvalued and adding that the economy’s robust growth may lead to a surprise in earnings this  year.    All sectors edged higher with buying momentum evident, pushing the main index closer to the  6,400 level, Mr. Mapa noted.    SAFE HAVEN  Manny P. Cruz, market strategist at Asiasec Equities, Inc., concurred, saying: “Despite weakness  in most regional markets, the local market saw continued influx of foreign buying on selected  blue‐chip stocks after JP Morgan’s upgrade.”    Joanna M. Capiral, analyst at Papa Securities Corp., said “[a]mid negative developments  overseas, foreign investors saw the country as a safe haven given our strong macroeconomic  fundamentals.”    Other Asian stocks tumbled, Reuters reported, as a grim picture of China’s manufacturing  sector heightened concerns on the outlook of the region’s economic powerhouse. HSBC’s  preliminary China Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to a seven‐month low of 48.3 in February 

from January’s 49.5, while employment fell at the fastest pace in five years.    Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index plunged 270.44 points or 1.19% to 22,394.08; Japan’s Nikkei 225  index tumbled 317.35 points or 2.15% to 14,449.18; while China’s Shanghai composite index  lost 3.77 points or 0.18% to 2,138.78.    Gregg Adrian R. Ilag, analyst at AB Capital Securities, Inc., attributed local market gains to a  “spillover of positive sentiment” as investors expect optimism to persist, as recently reported  corporate profits were better than expected.    At home, a total of 2.14 billion shares worth ₱9.0 billion were traded from the previous day’s  2.77 billion shares worth ₱8.8 billion.    Advancers beat decliners 90 to 69, while 43 stocks were unchanged.    Foreign buyers continued to outnumber sellers, sending net foreign buying 31% up to ₱1.41  billion yesterday from Wednesday’s ₱1.08 billion.    All counters ended the day in the green. Industrial added 140.28 points or 1.48% to 9,607.30;  holding firms gained 66.07 points or 1.16% to 5,757.23; financials rose 14.83 points or 0.96% to  1,562.38; property edged up 17.40 points or 0.72% to 2,418.44; services increased by 5.83  points or 0.31% to 1,898.44; while mining and oil climbed 40.98 points or 0.29% to 14,282.86.    The daily list of the 20 most actively traded stocks showed 15 gained, while five issues lost.    “We may still see some buying momentum, but it might be tempered given that the market is  already susceptible to some selling pressure as the index approaches the 6,400 level,” Asiasec’s  Mr. Cruz said, placing market’s support at 6,190 and resistance at 6,400. ‐‐ Judy Dannibelle T.  Chua Co‐Morgan‐ upgrade‐feeds‐buying&id=83712         

Posted on February 20, 2014 11:05:37 PM By Lorenz C.S. Marasigan, Reporter

2013 ad spending pegged at P340 billion ADVERTISERS spent as much as P340 billion last year, most of it going to hygiene‐related  products, according to a media analyst yesterday.    “We estimate that there’s about P340 billion spent on advertising on radio, TV and print for  2013, based on rate cards. But, probably, the real negotiated rates, more or less, are about 60%  of this, because the discounts go to around 50‐80% of what was published,” Kantar Media  General Manager Gabriel V. Buluran said in a press briefing yesterday, citing the research firm’s  2013 Advertising Expenditure Report.  Mr. Buluran said that, of the total, TV got the lion’s share of P265 billion, followed by radio with  about P60 billion and print with about P12 billion.  The official noted that Kantar expects spending on radio ads to grow by at least a tenth.  “Radio could probably grow by 10‐15% because, in the past two years, they have been investing  to audience measurements allowing them to rationalize their costs,” Mr. Buluran added.    However, TV might be seeing a flat year ahead due to fixed commercial minutes on ads.  “Print will have to continue on selling with the emergence of the digital platform,” he noted.    This year’s sales are seen to end flat due to the lack of election‐related ads.  According to Kantar Media, 92% of urban homes and 70% of rural homes own at least one  television set while 83% of urban homes and 69% of rural homes own at least one radio unit.  When it comes to print, 50% of Filipinos read newspapers and 14% read magazines.  TOP TV ADVERTISERS  Unilever Philippines, Inc. spent the most last year with over P48 billion on television advertising.  The company was consistently the top spender in all channels and timeslots. Procter & Gamble  Philippines, Inc. and Colgate‐Palmolive Philippines, Inc. followed suit with over P33 billion and  P15 billion in TV ad spending, respectively.  “Most of the spending would go to the manufacturers of personal products like shampoo, soap,  conditioner, and toothpaste,” Mr. Buluran said.  He also said that advertisers “really are still into the traditional radio‐TV‐print advertising.”‐ad‐spending‐ pegged‐at‐P340‐billion&id=83771   

Belgica: State lawyers failed to disprove DAP illegality Written by  Tribune   Friday, 21 February 2014 00:00   Petitioners challenging the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program pointed to the defense’s arguments before the Supreme Court (SC) made by the government lawyers were mere alibis, saying that they failed to disprove the illegality of the DAP funds. Former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica said arguments made by Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza are mere “alibis.” “Not even the brilliant Justice Mendoza was able to disprove the illegality of DAP. The government’s defense was an alibi,” he told reporters in the SC yesterday. At the same time, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) ch1ief Florencio “Butch” Abad, in a TV news program interview, denied that government funds from DAP were released to four senators during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. “Not true. Absolutely no funds were released to senators during the impeachment,” Abad was quoted as saying in the GMA News Online Web site, in reaction to the banner story of a broadsheet saying that the DBM released a total of P370 million from DAP to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Bong Revilla Jr. and Vicente Sotto III while the Corona trial was ongoing. The funds purportedly ended up in one of the non-government organizations of alleged pork barrel brains Janet Lim-Napoles. The report said that Abad pointed to the broadsheet’s banner which admitted that not only was the Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) released in October 2011, or eight months before the May 2012 trial, but that the money never went to the senators, as the funds went directly to the implementing agencies. “What happened subsequently were payments of obligations for goods and services delivered or provided to implementing agencies,” he said. Abad was quoted as saying that “an NCA presupposes an allotment release well ahead of disbursements for which you need an NCA. So, the release of Saro may have been made way before (the) release of NCA. That is because an NCA is payment for work already done or goods already provided. So, a Saro may have been issued in October 2011 but its NCA issued only in March 2012,” Abad said. “Second, NCAs, like Saros, are never released to legislators but always to implementing agencies and NCAs are normally requested by IAs to pay for work done or goods delivered,” which is what senators have always said. Last Tuesday, Mendoza argued that the petitioners have no legal standing to contest the controversial program. Mendoza claimed the court would violate the principle of separation of powers if it rules on the DAP issue because there is “no actual case of controversy.” The former magistrate said petitioners should have gone through the hierarchy of courts and first

questioned the DAP before the Commission on Audit (CoA) or the trial courts. Belgica insisted he and the other petitioners against the DAP came to the right place to contest the program’s constitutionality. “It is our right as taxpayers to question this abusive system of government spending. We are the most aggrieved party in this case and only the Supreme Court can answer such constitutional question,” he stressed. Mendoza asked for judicial restraint from the SC, warning that granting the petitions would violate the principle of separation of powers among the three co-equal branches of government. He argued that petitioners availed of the wrong remedy in filing a petition for certiorari when they cannot be considered aggrieved parties as required by Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. He also contended that the petitioners failed to exhaust all other legal remedies before bringing the matter to the court. Belgica insisted there is an actual case for the SC to rule on. “As citizens, it is our right not just to tell government officials to stop stealing and diverting our money, but fire these crooks and make them pay and tell them to give back what was stolen or illegally used,” he argued. In the second oral argument last Jan. 28, the Office of the Solicitor General told the Court that there is no need for it to rule on the merit of DAP as the program has ceased to exist, thus, mooting all the nine petitions filed before it. Belgica believes such defense was an admission of the illegality of the DAP and an attempt to evade the real constitutional issues raised in the petitions. “The government’s attempt to make our DAP petitions moot, in effect, is an attempt to make illegal acts impossible to punish,” he lamented. Belgica expressed reservations on the pronouncement of Commission on Audit (CoA) Chairman Grace Tan that she would audit the DAP. The CoA should first fulfill its promise to issue notices of disallowance on pork barrel funds. “Unless she (Tan) issues the 6,000 Notice of Disallowances on the PDAF of tainted officials that she bragged about in the Pork Barrel System case, Justice will not be served. Officials who cannot serve justice are useless,” Belgica said. By Benjamin B. Pulta and Paul Atienza‐state‐lawyers‐failed‐to‐disprove‐dap‐illegality                

Allie es abando on Noy ynoy over cyberr libel tack k Written b by  Angie M.. Rosales   Friday, 21 February 2 2014 00:00   SC ERRE ED IN UPH HOLDING PROVISION P N IN NEW L LAW — SAN NTIAGO

Despite President Aquino’s unnequivocal ssupport to

the onlin ne libel provision of the Cybercrime Act that thee Supreme C Court (SC) receently upheld d as constituttional in a yeet unreleasedd ruling, his allies in the Senate said they will push h its removall in the new law. At least one o senator was w candid in i expressing g her views tthat the SC, in its latest rruling concernin ng the contro oversial law, erred in up pholding the provision onn libel for reeasons of vaguenesss and overbreadth. “I humblly submit thaat the SC rulling, on this particular p prrovision, is eerroneous annd I call on aall netizens to magnify all a our effortts and to speeed it up as s oon as possiible so that w we can either file a motion for reconsid deration with h respect to this t particulaar libel provvision,” Sen. Miriam Defensorr-Santiago yeesterday said d, adding thaat there are sstill other leggal remediess available. Aquino told reporterss the other day d that the online o libel iis justified siince it constiitutes equal protection for those who w are aggrrieved by infformation thhrough the Innternet. Justice Assistant A Secretary Geron nimo Sy, how wever, expreessed an opiinion that thee provision iis already redundant r wiith the existeence of the reegular libel llaw.

Santiago said that the passage of another cyber-related law, the proposed crowdsourcing bill, allows the use of social media and promote wider public participation in the legislative process and the decriminalization of libel. Immediately after the high court handed down its decision declaring as constitutional R.A. 10175, also known as Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, moves in the Senate to decriminalize libel has been snowballing since Wednesday, a day after the ruling was made, with at least four members tenaciously pushing for the abolition of prison time for the crime of libel. Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara whose father, former Sen. Edgardo Angara, was the author of the bill filed in the Senate in 2011, was the first to renew his call on the decriminalization of libel, one of the first measures he introduced when he was still a member of the House of Representatives. He was seconded by Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Teofisto “TG” Guingona, the latter was among those petitioners who questioned before the SC the constitutionality of the law. “I have been pushing for lighter penalties for libel even before the passage of the Cybercrime Law. I think this has been the trend worldwide—to decriminalize libel. Though I agree that libel committed online should be penalized, as provided in the Cybercrime Law and as ruled by the Supreme Court, I don’t think these offenders should be imprisoned,” said Angara, one of the authors of the House version of the Cybercrime Law. The neophyte senator has once again filed a similar measure which seeks to amend Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes anyone who is found guilty of libel with six months to four years imprisonment or a fine ranging from P200 to P6,000. The SC ruled that penalties of online libel are the same as those under the libel clauses in the Revised Penal Code. Under Angara’s Senate Bill No. 1218, the penalty of imprisonment will be removed. Other senators have expressed their support to such measure. “In a country where democracy is primarily infringed on the freedom of speech and expression, in a State where the media is considered the fourth state, it is a sad reality that existing laws on libel have not been attuned to the evolving needs of the people under a democratic rule and the rising importance of media in effecting transparency and accountability in governance,” the lawmaker said. “To imprison a person convicted of libel might preclude him or her in the future from digging into issues and concerns, that with deep investigation, might expose anomalies and abuses,” added Angara, who is also an author of the Freedom of Information Bill. The senator, however, clarified that the bill does not intend to downplay the importance of one’s privacy and right to be free from public and malicious charges that would dishonor or discredit him or her. He stressed that the imprisonment penalty should be abolished in order to further protect and preserve the constitutional right of Filipinos to speech and self-expression. In Senate Bill No. 127, which Escudero reintroduced, he is seeking anew the repeal of Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code to decriminalize libel committed by writing, printing, airing on radio or any similar means. “I respect the decision of the high court but there still lies a pressing need to pass the amendments removing the criminal provisions of libel as a crime. These bills are only consistent with my long-time position to decriminalize libel from our statutes and just retain civil liabilities just so we also ensure that the exercise of our freedom of expression comes with equal responsibilities,” Escudero said.

“We must not forget how hard we fought for the democracy that we now enjoy, and that includes our freedom to speak against erring public officials. It is counter intuitive therefore for us to have come this far and yet have the cloud of possible imprisonment impinge on the liberties that the very democracy we have fought for seeks to protect,” Guingona, for his part, said. In pressing for the removal of imprisonment as a penalty for libel, the senator said the threat of jail time sends a sufficient chilling effect on the freedom of expression. Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday also pushed the decriminalization of libel and all forms of criminal defamation while urging his colleagues to “repeal” the online libel provision, saying that it suppresses internet users’ freedom of speech. Santiago acceded to the position of her colleagues in having to decriminalize libel “because that is the international trend today.” Various states in the world have already passed legislation on their respective penal code, decriminalizing the statute, she said. “If you just leave the SC ruling alone, what will happen is there will be extreme difficulty in law enforcement and if you cannot enforce a law you had better strike it off the record because it promotes contempt for the law. It will also add to the burgeoning population of this country we are spending taxpayers money to sustain this prisoners and then you add up more people to populate the prisons because of libel,” she said. In arguing the two reasons in which she finds the SC erroneous on the issue of upholding the constitutionality of libel provision in the cybercrime law, Santiago cited the void for vagueness doctrine and overbreadth doctrine. “The language of the law that has been passed upon by the SC is so vague that it becomes illegal since it is a very significant constraint on the preferred freedom of the entire bill of rights—the freedom of expression or the freedom of free speech. “The second objection in constitutional law terms is overbreadth. It is all encompassing so that this law becomes unclear. The basic principle should be that the law should be confined within very strict limits. Only a certain group of persons are liable under this provision. But this law plus the interpretation of the Constitution makes this field so wide open. It is virtually almost like the void for vagueness doctrine that you no longer have any clear voice or signals on where the line ends or begins,” she said. “I just think it was a bad idea for the SC to look into Internet as another form of publication. It’s not another form. Its not like radio, tv or print. It’s a compeletely diferent concept imported from cyberspace,” she added. Cayetano pushed for the passage of Senate Bill 249, which aims to repeal the online libel provision of Republic Act 10175 or Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. For his part, Guingona filed Senate Bill No. 3374 seeking to decriminalize libel by repealing Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. On the other hand, Santiago said she will also re-file her own bill that “will in effect overturn the decision of the SC.” The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) said the SC clearing the provision on libel committed through the Internet retained one of the most problematic provisions of the Cybercrime Act. The free press advocate said in 2012, it asked for the repeal of the Act and the crafting of a less restrictive law. “While crimes committed over the Internet such as child pornography need legal sanctions, the Cybercrime Act throws such a wide net it penalizes even legitimate expressions of opinion

online,” it said. “Although the Court made it clear that the provision would not apply to anyone who comments on material that may later be deemed libelous, the original author would still be liable to imprisonment of as much as, say some lawyers, to twelve years,” it added. The Act adopts the 82-year old Revised Penal Code (RPC) provisions on libel, but raises the penalties by one degree, from a minimum of six months’ imprisonment in the RPC per count of libel to a minimum of six years. The Court decision not only legitimizes the higher penalties for online libel; by implication it also declares the original libel law constitutional. The Supreme Court decision is in short a partial victory for free expression, the group said. Libel as provided for in the RPC thus remains today as problematic as it has been for over 80 years to press freedom and free expression, and in addition has become an even bigger constraint on free expression when committed online.‐abandon‐noynoy‐over‐cyber‐libel‐tack                                

Ruby says what gov’t wants her to say— Miriam Written by  Angie M. Rosales   Friday, 21 February 2014 00:00   Between Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and whistle-blower Ruby Chan Tuason on the matter of truthful statements, it is the senator who gets the vote of Sen Miriam Santiago. In making that choice, Santiago appeared to be leaning toward Estrada on whose testimony or statements in the Senate as against socialite Tuason’s on whose testimony does not hold water, as Santiago said that since Tuason is angling to become a state witness, she will only state what she thinks the government wants her to testify. It is public knowledge that Leila de Lima, backed up by the Aquino administration, as well as her whistle-blowers, wants Senators Estrada, Juan Ponce-Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. arrested and charged with plunder. De Lima’s latest whistle-blower, former Technology Resource Center director general Dennis Cunanan, said he is ready to spill the beans on Revilla and his PDAF projects. Estrada appeared to have received a boost from Santiago, who only last week was critical of him and Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile upon hearing from Tuason their alleged receipts of supposed kickbacks from the pork barrel scam, on the matter of his latest disclosure — the alleged involvement of senators, other than those supposedly already embroiled in the said controversy, in misusing their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) on “hard” pork component or the infrastructure projects. Santiago, however, wants Estrada to unmask whoever among their colleagues were also involved with Tuason in the past, to spare the others who are innocent of the allegations from being placed under public suspicion, adding that by doing so, “it will improve his credibility” on his latest allegations. “By contra-indication, Tuason is one of the persons who have applied for state witness, so she cannot be expected to give all, but only what she thinks will make the government approve her application for state witness, meaning to say she will be acquitted in the complaint sheet to be filed in the Sandigan. “I would say that I would tend to place my presumption on Senator Estrada. I wish he would do it as soon as possible,” Santiago told reporters in a press conference at the Senate. The senator who managed to grill Tuason during the Feb. 13 blue ribbon public hearing on the PDAF scandal, noted the conflicting statements between the whistleblower and Estrada, whom the former claimed to have received tainted money in his supposed dealings with pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles directly from her. In her affidavit, Tuason admitted acting as “agent” of Napoles in dealing with Estrada and Enrile in the past. Estrada, during Tuesday’s heated exchanges on the floor with blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, however, revealed that Tuason has also been paying visits to senators other than him, supposedly to seal deals on projects funded by their PDAF.

“There is a direct collision between the testimony of Tuason and the statement of Estrada. I asked Tuason categorically, ‘why didn’t you just approach all the 24 senators since you already approached two?’, and she said ‘no, I did not approach anybody else.’ Now, Estrada is saying Tuason also approached other senators. So there is a direct conflict. “You can resolve this conflict only in a court of law, but not in this legislative hearing. There are many procedures that are different in a legislative hearing,” she said. On the need for Estrada to name names, Santiago agreed on this matter “because it places us all under a cloud (of doubt), and it is not fair to those who are not implicated.” “And it also will prove he is in good faith when he makes statements like this, when he makes general statements and then backs them up with specific details,” she said. “Let me say this for Senator Jinggoy: We, the public—including myself—never knew about the DAP disbursements until he rose and delivered his privilege speech, implying that the administration has been bribing members of Congress to shape their decisions during the impeachment trial. “If he has arcane knowledge that were not known to other people, perhaps we could grant him the benefit of a doubt that there were other senators. I would really like to know who they are in the first place. I’m just curious by nature. Who are these senators?” she asked. But on Estrada’s tiff with Guingona, who had earlier this week accused his colleague of already having prejudged his guilt, on his alleged involvement in the PDAF scam after the hearing last week, Santiago sided with the blue ribbon chairman. Santiago dissented on the position aired by Estrada and other members of the minority bloc to have the issue on their alleged involvement in the PDAF scam investigated separately by the ethics and privileges committee and not by the blue ribbon. “That was what the blue ribbon committee was created for. The ethics committee is just to maintain a certain degree of decorum and good behavior within the Senate. But if you have something as hot as the pork barrel issue involving hundreds of millions and involving a lot of senators, it is best that it should be given to blue ribbon. “The question there is: Are the members of the committee required to have the objective neutrality of an impartial judge. Answer: No, because we are not judges of law or justices. You go to a courtroom , the judge is bound, just like the other parties—the lawyers, the prosecutor, the defense counsel—all are bound by the Rules of Court, and you can be very strict there about the laws of evidence. But a Senate hearing is different. It is not a judicial proceeding, and we are not required to have open minds. We can close our minds as fast as we want to because this is a political proceeding. Politics will always intrude. You cannot say ‘Ah, you are part of the legislative branch, but when you are hearing cases, particularly alleged scandals, you have to keep an open mind.’ You approach it by preparing yourself with information and you try and tailor your information so that the truth, in your view, will come out,” she said.‐says‐what‐gov‐t‐wants‐her‐to‐say‐miriam        

Justice dep’t ruling on importation of rice confuses executives of NFA Written by  Benjamin B. Pulta   Friday, 21 February 2014 00:00   Members of the National Food Authority (NFA) Council have been kept in the dark about the effects of the decision of the government to continue with quantitative restrictions (QR) on the importation of rice despite the expiration of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) Agreement’s special treatment on rice for the Philippines. In a legal opinion submitted to the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima advised Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala that with the expiration of the QR or special treatment for rice, the government would have to comply with its GATT-WTO treaty obligations and discontinue the imposition of the QR via the institution of restrictive measures such as the NFA’s issuance of rice permits.The DoJ opinion, however, was not circulated to members of the NFA Council in its Feb. 17, 2014 meeting. Asked about the opinion, NFA Farmer Sector Rep. Edwin Paraluman said “wala akong nakita na DoJ opinion (I did not see any DoJ opinion).” Pressed as to whether copies of the opinion were distributed to members of the council, NFA Board Secretary Ofelia Cortez-Reyes said in Filipino that she did not “remember matters like that.” De Lima stressed in the opinion the government had no authority to extend the special treatment to rice that had expired in 2012 pending action on the request of the Philippines to extend the QR to 2017.Negotiations for the extension of the QR will be resumed in March this year. Talks are ongoing with four countries (Australia, Canada, Thailand and the United States) that have withheld support to the extension of the QR until tariff concessions are given on agricultural goods such as beef, chicken, swine and turkey. The DoJ also pointed out that although the NFA had the power to establish rules with regard to the importation of rice under Presidential Decree No. 4 or the National Grains Authority Act, it was obliged to do so only in accordance with applicable laws. An implementing agency like the NFA, De Lima warned, could not violate an international agreement that had been approved by the President and the Philippine Senate such as the GATT. The DoJ underscored the WTO treaty was not an ordinary law as its provisions, by the acts of both the President and the Senate, became part of our body of laws. De Lima emphasized these points at the Senate on Jan. 22 when she told senators the WTO “forms part of the law” consistent with the legal maxim of “maxim pacta sunt servanda (international agreements must be kept in good faith).”Government Corporate Counsel Raoul Creencia had warned NFA officials the Philippines risks sanctions from the WTO if the government continues to impose the QR. Creencia advised the NFA in a Feb. 3, 2014 letter distributed to council members during its Feb. 17, 2014 meeting that “other WTO member countries, which may be prejudiced by NFA and the country’s action on rice imports, may file a dispute.”‐section/justice‐dep‐t‐ruling‐on‐importation‐of‐rice‐ confuses‐executives‐of‐nfa 

Competition between Skyway 3, connector road seen by expert Written by  Ed Velasco   Friday, 21 February 2014 00:00   An expert engineer and president of one of the biggest conglomerates operating in the Philippines said having two skyways located very closely at each other is not a good idea, especially on the financial viability of the projects. Isaac David, president of MTD Philippines, a Malaysian conglomerate currently looking where to put its P20-billion investments in the Philippines, said there is a serious challenge for San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Citra, the proponents of Skyway 3, as the project will have a rival when connector road of Slex and Nlex is completed. “I am not sure if there is a real estate play for the two developers that would help in the recovery of investments,” David explained to the Daily Tribune in an exclusive interview. Construction of skyway 3, a 14-kilometer elevated road, has officially started last Feb. 17, creating monstrous traffic jam along Osmeña Highway. By next year, construction of the second phase of connector road of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. is also expected to start, thus adding to the traffic mess in the area. Unlike the Skyway 3, the connector road will traverse at the railroad track of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) so it is a bit shorter. David said although the country needs more infrastructure like the two projects, their profitability on the side of the investors is a big question. “They will compete with each other; it will take long before they can get their return on investments,” he said. The engineer said its also good that at least two giant conglomerates are joining together to build needed infrastructure “but I think as a purely toll road, I am not sure of its financial viability,” Several text messages were sent to Ramon Ang, president and chief operating officer of SMC, and Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of MPIC, to comment about the matter but both officials didn’t reply.‐between‐skyway‐3‐connector‐road‐seen‐ by‐expert         

Big PR advertising firm from Japan invades RP Written by  Ed Velasco   Friday, 21 February 2014 00:00   Dentsu, a giant advertising and public relations entity based in Japan, has officially launched its Philippine network. The firm promises to bring to the local soil the quality advertising job it provides to diversified clientele. The launch of Dentsu Media Philippines comes at an opportune time with the Philippine market enjoying a very promising position in terms of economic growth and experiencing an increase in advertising expenditure. “This is the most exciting time for us as we launch Dentsu Media Philippines as the latest addition to its media network. Our client partners can expect cutting edge media services and consistent exceptional value,” Jam de Guzman, the entity’s director for media services told business reporters at the formal launching at Shangri-La Hotel in Makati City. The newest player in the advertising and PR business offers a complete range of advertising media services from consumer insighting to media research and analysis to strategic planning and value-driven buying. The firm covers all types of media and consumer contact points with focus on new media in cognizance of the current digital era. De Guzman said with the strength of all existing Dentsu Media networks in different territories coupled with the talent and focus to provide on target media solutions and value driven buys to its client, the entity will be the challenger brand poised to make a mark in the Philippine media advertising industry. The media outfit currently has 20 offices in different countries. It was established in 1999, initially setting up a satellite office in Taiwan. Several years after, it opened its branches in South Korea, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Malaysia, India and Russia. Its sprawling head office in Minato, Tokyo, Japan is an iconic landmark in the area as it is very near the highly revered Shogun temple. It has 48 floors and over 700 feet in height. It is the 11th tallest building in Tokyo designed by Jean Nouvel, a leading French architect, and completed in 2002. It was built over the site of Tokyo’s first train station and sits aside the Hamarikyu Gardens, formerly the site of a Shogun’s vacation home.‐pr‐advertising‐firm‐from‐japan‐invades‐rp     

ISA PANG 3‐POINTER WITNESS?  (Tina Mendoza) Kinumpirma ni Atty. Levito Baligod, ang abogado ng mga whistleblower sa pork barrel scam, na isa pang testigo na si dating Technology Resource Center (TRC) General Manager Dennis Cunanan ang nagsumite ng aplikasyon sa Department of Justice-Witness Protection Program (DOJ-WPP) para maging state witness. Sinabi ni Baligod na noon pa man ay nagpahayag na ng kahandaan si Cunanan na isiwalat ang nalalaman nito sa scam, sa katunayan umano ay nauna pa ito na naging resource person sa mga impormasyon ukol sa paggamit ng PDAF funds bago pa man lumantad noon si Benhur Luy at noong nakaraang taon pa naghain ng kanyang aplikasyon sa WPP ngunit hindi lamang agad na naaksyunan. Ang TRC ang isa sa sinasabing conduit sa pagpapalabas ng pork barrel fund at si Cunanan diumano ang mismong kumausap sa ilang mambabatas, isa rito ay si Sen. Bong Revilla, para mapalabas ang pondo. Ani Baligod, mayroon pang isang pangyayari na nagalit diumano si Revilla dahil sa mabagal na pagpapalabas ng pondo. “Cunanan made the calls to validate the senator’s signatures on letters endorsing the nongovernment organizations of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and if the senator’s staff members are authorized to sign for him. Kasi may mga memorandum of agreement na hindi legislator kundi chief of staff ang pumipirma,” pahayag ni Baligod. Sinabi ni Baligod na ang testimonya ni Cunanan ay magpapatibay na mismong si Revilla ang lumagda sa endorsement letters para sa pagpapalabas ng PDAF funds noong 2007 hanggang 2009 na umaabot sa P503.60 milyon.Matatandaang makailang ulit nang itinanggi ni Revilla na mayroon itong nilagdaang mga endorsement letter.“Depende kasi sa depensa nila. Si Senator Jinggoy Estrada at si Senator Juan Ponce Enrile sinasabi hindi sila tumanggap ng kickbacks kaya relevant ‘yung sinabi ni Ruby Tuason. Pero ‘yung kay Bong Revilla, sinasabi niya wala siyang nalalaman.Hindi niya alam ang nangyayari sa PDAF kaya mahalaga ang testimonya ni Cunanan kasi siy‘yung tumatawag to validate tapos sasabihin sa kanya ni Revilla: Oo, pirma ko ‘yan.’ Kilala naman niya ang boses ni Senator Revilla,” paliwanag ni Baligod kung saan kasama pa umano ni Cunanan ang aide ni Revilla na si Richard Cambe sa ilang transaksyon nito.

4‐day work week ‘di sapilitan ‐‐ MMDA  (Eralyn Prado)

Hindi inoobliga ang mga opisina at kumpanya na sundin ang 4-day work week habang dumaranas ng matinding kalbaryo sa trapiko ang Metro Manila dahil sa sabay-sabay na paggawa ng 15 infrastructure projects. Ito ang paglilinaw kahapon ni Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino na nagsabing boluntaryo at hindi naman sapilitan ang iminungkahi niyang apat na araw lang na pasok kada linggo bilang isa sa mga remedy para mapagaan ang epekto ng higanteng trapik. Kasunod ito sa pag-alma ng ilang sektor kaugnay sa nabanggit niyang panukala. Ayon kay Tolentino, nasa mga employer pa rin naman ang huling desisyon kung tatalima ito sa kanyang mungkahi. Ang mahalaga, ani Tolentino, ay binibigyan umano nila ng opsyon ang mga employer oras na maramdaman na ang matinding epekto sa daloy ng trapiko ng mga isasagawang proyekto. “Voluntary naman ‘yun, nasa employer pa rin ‘yun, binigyan lang sila ng opsyon,” ayon kay Tolentino. Inaasahan na sa pagtuntong ng last quarter ng taon ganap nang mararamdaman ang epekto ng matinding trapik.            

DA, NFA WARN NED O ON RIICE PE ERMIIT Published d : Friday, Fe ebruary 21, 2 2014 00:00  Written b by : Paul Guttierrez  

IS therre already ann “initial” poosition madee by ustice (DoJ) on o the “high hly contentioous” issue off continuing with the usee of the Depaartment of Ju an ‘Impo ort Permit’) for f rice impo orts despite the t lapse of tthe country’s “special prrivilege” to resort to “Quantitativ ve Restriction” (QR) two o years ago? This seem ms to be the case as welll-informed sources who declined to bbe named foor the momennt assured that as far baack as Decem mber 16, 201 13, Justice Seecretary Leiila de Lima hhad already ccome out with the position that with the expiration of the QR fo for rice, the ggovernment would have to w its GAT TT-WTO treaty obligatio ons and it shhould disconttinue the impposition of tthe comply with QR via th he institution n of restrictiv ve measuress such as the NFA’s issuuance of IPs. The sourrces added th hat this docu ument had alrready been fforwarded laast month to the Departm ment of Agricu ulture (DA) which has au uthority oveer the NFA aand, the Bureeau of Custooms (BoC) w which is in charrge of appreh hending smu uggled rice. Howeverr, it was gath hered even members m of the t NFA Couuncil and meembers of Congress conductin ng separate probes p into the t issue of rice r smuggliing appearedd to have beeen “blindsideed” about its existence with w council members m adm mitting they are not awaare of it. bout the DoJJ opinion, NF FA Farmer Sector S Repreesentative Eddwin Paralum man reporteddly Asked ab said “walla akong nak kita na DoJ opinion” o (I did d not see an any DOJ opinnion). Pressed as a to whether copies of th he opinion were w distribuuted to membbers of the ccouncil, NFA A Board Seecretary Ofellia Cortez-R Reyes likewisse admitted sshe did not ““remember m matters like tthat” (“Di ko naaalala n ang mga bagay na yan”). In two seeparate heariings by the Senate S Comm mittee on Aggriculture chhaired by Senn. Cynthia V Villar, last Januaary 22 and February F 3, De D Lima only went so faar as to confiirm that the D DoJ alreadyy had its initial position butt not to the extent e of con nfirming thatt she had alrready advised the BoC annd

the DA/NFA formally as to what this is. “It would not be wise or prudent for me to publicly declare that opinion until we shall have thoroughly discussed it with the Solicitor General,” De Lima told the committee, referring to the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General). It was also in the February 3 committee hearing that De Lima repeated her concern about making a “definitive position” on the issue, noting this might impact on the government’s ongoing negotiations with other WTO-member states. “It might jeopardize the ongoing negotiations, kung halimbawa lang po ang aming final opinion ay lifted na yung QR on rice,” De Lima said. The Philippines’ negotiations for the continuation of its QR privilege would resume next month. Talks are ongoing with four countries (Australia, Canada, Thailand, and the United States) that have withheld support for the extension of the QR until the Philippines grants tariff concessions on the importation of beef, chicken, swine, and turkey. According to sources, the DoJ stressed in its initial opinion that the government had no authority to extend the special treatment on rice that had expired in June 2012 pending action on the request of the Philippines to extend the QR to 2017. The DoJ also purportedly emphasized that although the NFA had the power to establish rules with regard to the importation of rice under Presidential Decree No. 4 or the National Grains Authority Act, it was obliged to do so only in accordance with applicable laws. An implementing agency like the NFA, the DoJ allegedly noted, could not violate an international agreement that had been approved by the President and the Philippine Senate such as the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) which was passed by the chamber in 1994. The Uruguay Round of the GATT paved the way for the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The DoJ allegedly stressed that the GATT-WTO treaty was not an ordinary law as its provisions, by the acts of both the President and the Senate, became part of the country’s body of laws. Significantly, these are among the points De Lima emphasized during the January 22 Senate hearing, telling lawmakers that “the WTO treaty forms part of the law” consistent with the legal maxim of “Maxim Pacta Sunt Servanda,” which, in international law, is translated as, “every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.” Government Corporate Counsel Raoul C. Creencia, in his letter to NFA administrator Orlan Calayag last February 3, warned that the Philippines risks sanctions from the WTO if the government continues to impose the QR. Only the copy of Creencia’s letter was distributed to NFA Council members during its February 17 meeting but not the copy of the initial DoJ position that, sources pointed out, basically adheres to the points raised by Creencia.‐da‐nfa‐warned‐on‐rice‐ permit

No Corona impeach bribe — Abad Published : Friday, February 21, 2014 00:00   Written by : Efren Montano   NO P370 million worth of funds from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) were released by the Department of Budget to several senators during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Thus clarified budget chief Butch Abad as he slammed news reports of the alleged DAP release. “Not true. Absolutely no [funds] were released to senators [during that time],” Abad said yesterday. Abad reacted to a report by a daily broadsheet claiming that DBM released a total of P370 million from the DAP to Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Bong Revilla Jr. and Vicente Sotto III while the Corona trial was ongoing. The funds reportedly ended up in one of the non-government organizations of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. But Abad said even newspaper reports admitted that the Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) were released in October 2011, which was eight months before the May 2012 trial. “What happened subsequently were payments of obligations for goods and services delivered/provided to implementing agencies,” he said. He added that “the release of SAROs, including their timing, had nothing to do with the impeachment process.” The DAP, the constitutionality of which is being questioned before the Supreme Court, hogged the headlines after Estrada bared that he and other senators who voted to convict Corona were given additional funds months after the impeachment trial. While Abad had admitted that the funds came from the DAP, he insisted that these were neither bribes nor incentives for senators. The Palace had said the DAP fund is a stimulus package initially meant to address sluggish government spending in 2011. The DBM secretary said 6 percent of the 2011 DAP disbursements and 14 percent of the 2012 releases went to legislators. But the Palace said the money went directly to the department implementing the project nominated by the lawmaker. Last January, the DBM junked the SARO system following reports of fake versions of the documents being issued to implementing agencies.‐stories/67543‐no‐corona‐impeach‐bribe‐‐ abad 

Ruling on $2B compensation for rights victims’ clarified Published : Friday, February 21, 2014 00:00   Written by : Hector Lawas   VICTIMS of human rights violations during the administration of former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos have been reminded that the final judgment they got from a US district court that awarded them more than US$2 billion in compensation was not conclusive. What they have was just “presumptive evidence” of their right against the estate of the former ruler, as handed down by the Philippine Supreme Court in GR No. 139325 on April 12, 2005. In fact, the Makati regional trial court in a ruling dated June 25, 2013, junked the victims’ petition to enforce in the country the 18-year-old US court ruling. The RTC held, among others, that it was unclear how the jurisdictional requirement was overlooked by the US district court in Hawaii when it rendered the award of damages to the victims under Class Action MDL No. 840. MDL No. 840 was filed before the Hawaii court in 1991 or five years after Mr. Marcos was deposed. It was lodged by victims Priscilla Mijares, Loretta Ann Rosales, Joel Lamangan, etc. on behalf of the class plaintiffs (other human rights victims). The Alien Tort Act was invoked as basis for the US court’s jurisdiction. Subsequently, the US court certified the case as class action and created three sub-classes of torture, summary execution, and disappearance of victims. Trial ensued, and a jury rendered a verdict and award of compensatory and exemplary damages in favor of the plaintiff class. It became a final judgment on February 3, 1995. Thereafter, the victims filed a petition before the Makati RTC under Judge Santiago Javier Ranada seeking enforcement of the US court ruling in the country. But on February 5, 1998, the petition was junked by the Makati RTC for non-payment of the required docket fees of the P472 million. The victims filed a motion for reconsideration which was subsequently denied, prompting them to elevate the case to the SC. At the high court, they sought to annul the RTC orders, and the reinstatement of Civil Case No. 97-1052 (enforcement of US ruling in Philippines.) While the SC allowed the reinstatement of Civil Case No. 97-1052, the magistrates had made it clear that Class Action MDL No. 840 was not conclusive. Claimants have presumptive evidence only of their right against the estate of Marcos.

The SC ruling was “decisive as it is on the question of filing fees and no other.” In fact, the decision does not render verdict on the enforceability of the (US court) final judgment. Also, such final judgment may be repelled by evidence of a want of jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact. When it was reinstated, the Makati RTC ruled to dismiss the complaint and declared MDL 840 as null and void for the following reasons: 1. Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their remedies pursuant to the provisions of the Torture Victim Protection Act; 2. Despite the lapse of 18 years after its promulgation, MDL 840 has yet to come up with a credible and validated list of claimants; 3. RTC ruled that the decision in MDL 840 violated the defendat’s right to due process; and 4. The MR was denied because the RTC sustained the position of defendant as well as the letter of the Presidential Commission on Good Government in 1992 that MDL 840 must be tried in the Philippines under the TVPA. The Marcos estate was represented by former first lady Imelda Marcos and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.‐stories/67537‐ruling‐on‐2b‐compensation‐ for‐rights‐victims‐clarified                    

Recto: Buy more coaches for PNR Published : Friday, February 21, 2014 00:00   Written by : Bernadette E. Tamayo   SENATE President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has urged the government to buy more coaches for the Philippine National Railway’s 44-kilometer Metro South commuter service which currently ferries 70,000 passengers a day. Recto said doubling the number of PNR trains plying the Tutuban, Manila-Sta. Rosa, Laguna line “can displace 14,000 cars on the road at a per passenger cost that is one-eight of the subsidy government pays for one Metro Rail Transit rider.” At present, the Tutuban-Sta. Rosa service operates from 5 a.m to 7 p.m daily and stops in 23 stations in between. But even at its present “neglected state,”the line manages to ferry 25 million passengers annually, he said. “Mabilis na, mura pa. The average fare is 70 centavos per kilometer,” Rector said. The senator said this line, which is part of the longer Manila-to-Mayon railway, is currently “underutilized” with just 2.5 trips per direction an hour. “Kung saan-saan tayo naghahanap ng solusyon e nandyan naman ang riles, bakit hindi natin gamitin. If fully developed and modernized, it can help ease traffic in Metro Manila and provide fast, efficient, and cheap form of transport not only to its residents but those in outlying provinces as well,” he said. While Recto hailed PNR’s decision to add two trips per direction by March 3 as “the way to go, there remains a big room for improvement.” Noting that PNR trains are always full, Recto said government should add rolling stock by tapping official development aid or “even outright purchase using its own funds because in this era of two-trillion national budgets we can certainly find money for such an important expense.” Recto said “budgetary support” should be given to the PNR so it can complete the refurbishing and the retrofitting of 50 coaches the East Japan Railway Co. donated in 2012.‐recto‐buy‐more‐coaches‐for‐ pnr 

2014 02 21 quedancor daily news monitor