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Aquino abolishes 6 GOCCs and poised to dismantle more By Christian V. Esguerra Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:53 pm | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — President Aquino has abolished six government-owned and controlled corporations and has approved the abolition of more as part of an ongoing crackdown on “nonperforming” or “unnecessary” firms operating under the bureaucracy. The Governance Commission of GOCCs (GCG) said on Monday it has been “actively” monitoring 116 such corporations, with the aim “to reduce [the number] to less than 100 by the end of 2014 through abolition, privatization or merger.” “The streamlining of non-performing and/or unnecessary GOCCs is a key objective in GCG’s strategic roadmap to improving efficiency and transforming the GOCC Sector into a significant tool for economic growth and development,” it said in a statement. “Affected employees are given separation pay amounting to around one month’s salary for every year of service, unless an administrative or criminal case is failed against them.” The President has given the go-signal to abolish six GOCCs, namely: the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), Philippine Fruits and Vegetables Corporation (PFVC), San Carlos Fruits Corporation (SCFC), Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corporation (PADCC), Bataan Technology Park, Inc. (BTPI), and the PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation (PNOC-STC). Cagayan De Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier filed a bill seeking to dissolve 19 state companies, including two that allegedly figured in the P10-billion pork barrel scam—the ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) and the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor). Last year, the President approved the termination of ZREC and Nabcor, including the Human Settlements Dev’t. Corp. (HSDC), Philippine Forest Corp. (PFC), and the Cottage Industry Technology Center (CITC). Of those included in the Rodriguez list, eight more had been recommended for abolition, according to the GCG. These are the Marawi Resort Hotel Inc. (MRHI), Philippine Aerospace Dev’t Corp. (PADC), NDC-Philippine Infrastructure Corporation, Batangas Land Co., Kamayan Realty Corp., GY Real Estate, Inc., Pinagkaisa Realty Corp., and the Technology Resources Center (TRC). TRC chief Dennis Cunanan earlier applied to become state witness, alleging that at least P600 million worth of pork barrel had been channeled through the agency while he was serving as its deputy head.

The GCG said it had also recommended for “abolition/privatization” the AlabangSto. Tomas Development, Inc. (ASDI), Tierra Factors Corp. (TFC), Traffic Control Products Corp. (TCPC), DISC Contractors, and the CDCP Farms Corporation. The GCG said six more companies listed in the Rodriguez bill were part of the commission’s “regular sector-wide evaluation of GOCCs based on financial viability and relevance to current national development plans.” These are the Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel, BCDA Management and Holdings, Inc., MasaganangSakahan, Inc., Northern Foods Corp., Tourism Promotions Board [referred to as Philippine Convention and Visitors Corp.], and Trade and Investment Development Corp. [now PhilEXIM]. Also under evaluation is the National Livelihood Dev’t Corp. (NLDC), which was also allegedly listed as an implementing agency for bogus non-government organizations put up by Janet Lim Napoles. Fourteen of the state companies had been “actually dissolved-by-expiration-of-corporate-term, rendered non-operational, or liquidated under the direction” of the GCG. These were the Manila Gas Corp. (MGC), PNOC Malampaya Corp. (PNOC-MC), Aviation Services and Training Institute (ASTI), Calauag Quezon Province Integrated Coconut Processing Plant (CQPICPP), Clark Polytechnic Dev’t Corp. (CPDF), First Centennial Clark Corporation (FCCC), GSIS Properties, Inc., LBP Financial Services SpA, LBP Remittance Company, LBP Singapore Representative Office, PaskuhanDev’t., Inc., Phil. Centennial Expo ’98 Corp., Philpost Leasing and Financing Corp. (PLFC), and the Metro Transit, Inc. (MTI).

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Seminar on meat and fish processing Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:01 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The Golden Treasure Skills and Development Program will conduct a seminar on meat and fish processing, as well as ice cream making, on March 9, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at the College of Social Work and Community Development building, Magsaysay Avenue corner Ylanan Street, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City. Participants will learn how to make chicken and pork ham, lechonmanok, tocino, different kinds of longganisa (skinless, Vigan, Lucban), bacon, Chinese sausage, embutido deluxe, pork quikiam, burger patties, beef tapa, Spanish and tomato sardines, tuyo, pork and bangussisig, fish ball, squid ball and corned beef. They will also be taught how to make atchara. A demonstration of bangus deboning will be featured. Participants will learn how to make ice cream in different flavors from fruits and cheese to fancy flavors such as rocky road, chocolate fudge, halo-halo, etc. Certificates of training will be handed out after the seminar. There will be food tasting of finished products. Lunch and snacks will be served. Handouts and all raw materials will be provided. Call 4211577, 4367826, 9136551, or 0949-9308587 or log on to

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House panel approves Charter change resolution 4:03 pm | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – A House of Representatives committee approved on Monday a resolution seeking to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution. Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter Leila Salaverria tweeted that 24 members of the House committee on constitutional amendments voted in favor of the resolution while two voted against, and only one abstained. The House resolution filed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. seeks to ease the foreign restrictions in the Constitution by inserting the “unless otherwise provided for by law� phrase in the provision granting 60-percent ownership to Filipinos and 40-percent on foreign investments. This means amending the Constitution would only require a simple legislation that needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress and subjected to a plebiscite. Belmonte had said he would make sure that the resolution would only be limited to economic provisions and would not be used to change the system of government. Charter change has failed in the previous Congresses due to criticisms that it could be used to extend the term limits of public officials. The charter change resolution would now move to the plenary for debate.

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Senate OKs FOI bill on second reading By Matikas Santos 5:23 pm | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Senate Bill 1733, authored by Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, was passed after several amendments by Senators Loren Legarda, Alan Cayetano, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. The bill is set for approval on third and final reading on March 10, Senate President Franklin Drilon said. “This is a landmark legislation passed by the Senate,” he said. Asked about when the House of Representatives will pass their version of the bill, Drilon said he couldn’t say for sure, as he is not aware of the sentiment of the lower chamber. “[But] the promise is that when we pass it, they will discuss it in the House of Representatives,” he said. The bill, when passed, will allow the general public to gain access to government information and is widely seen as a boost in the campaign against corruption. Poe said when she sponsored the FOI bill that opening up government information will eliminate “red tape, abuse of authority, gross misconduct, and graft and corruption.” At least 94 countries already have their own version of the FOI Law, she said. The FOI bill however exempts information that pertains to national security, foreign affairs, internal/external defense, disclosure of identity of a confidential source, etc.

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‘Pork barrel scholars’ to get P4B in grants By Dona Z. Pazzibugan Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:31 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—After worrying earlier how it could support the former “pork barrel scholars,” the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) can rest easy after receiving a record P4 billion for college scholarships for the next school year. CHEd Executive Director JulitoVitriolo said this would support some 340,000 college students. Vitriolo said the scholarships would go mainly to students from low-income families who enroll in CHEd-identified priority courses in state universities and colleges (SUCs). Among the preferred courses for CHEd scholars are engineering, science and technology, teacher training, maritime education, information and technology, geological sciences and agriculture. Thousands of college students lost their scholarships last year after the Supreme Court struck the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of legislators that supported their studies. CHEd Chair Patricia Licuanan then said that they would “work something out” to support the legislators’ scholars. The CHEd is planning to revise its guidelines for student financial assistance programs, which were issued on Dec. 31, 2012, after drawing flak from state auditors. The latest Commission on Audit (COA) report found that in 2012, the CHEd did not adhere to its own guidelines and minimum requirements for scholars who were supported by congressional and executive branch funds. State auditors found the CHEd had allowed the legislators to pick their scholars regardless of whether they met academic or financial requirements, and that the CHEd had allowed the legislators to exceed the maximum allowable grant of P30,000 a year. Admitting the COA criticism compelled them to revise their guidelines, Licuanan said the CHEd had added policy safeguards to improve payment modes and schedules and simplify procedures and documents. Under the draft guidelines to be presented in public hearings, the CHEd raised the minimum annual gross family income level for qualified applicants from P300,000 to P500,000.

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PDAF scam probe to continue beyond 2016 – Palace By Bong Lozada 7:59 pm | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—“DaangMatuwid” would go on beyond 2016. President Benigno Aquino III may step down from the presidency in 2016, but Malacañang is hoping that the crusade against corruption would continue in the next administration. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Monday that the cases against those involved in the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scam would continue even with the change of administration. “I will certainly hope, we will certainly hope that the justice system will continue,” Lacierda said at a media briefing. He added that he looks forward to the proposition of Senate President Franklin Drilon to increase the number of courts under the Sandiganbayan to accommodate and hasten the process of persecuting those involved in the scam. “This is not only for the PDAF cases, all cases that involve government officials,” Lacierda said.

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Milita ant law wmaker slams ‘Cha-ch ‘ ha’ train n INQUIRER 6:02 pm | Monday, M March 3rd, 3 2014


MANILA,, Philippines s – A militantt lawmaker slammed s the e passage off Speaker Fe eliciano Belmonte e’s resolution seeking to o amend the economic p provisions off the Constitu ution. In a text message to reporters on n Monday, Bayan B Muna Represnetative Carlos Z Zarate said c seem med to be th he priority of the Aquino a on, especiallly as a Housse Charter change administratio panel approved the resolution r for plenary de ebate. stitutional am mendments committee c made m the mo ove on the same day the e technical The cons working group g postpo oned its mee eting over th he Freedom of Informatio on Bill, whicch has been languishiing in the chamber, Zara ate added. “This inordinate, overspeeding by which the majority dro ove the Cha cha train is ominous of f colon nization courrtesy of Con ngress,” said d Zarate, who o was one o of the two wh ho another foreign voted against the res solution on Monday. M e’s House Resolution R No o. 1 seeks to o ease the fo oreign restricctions in the e Constitution n by Belmonte inserting the “unless otherwise provided p for by b law” phra ase in the pro ovision gran nting 60-perccent os and 40-pe ercent on foreign investm ments. ownership to Filipino ans amendin ng the Consttitution would d only requirre a simple llegislation th hat needs to o be This mea approved d by both chambers of Congress C and subjected to a plebisccite. Belmonte e had said he would make sure that the resolutio on would on nly be limited d to economic provision ns and would d not be used to change e the system of governm ment. Charter change c has failed in the previous Co ongresses d ue to criticissms that it co ould be used d to extend th he term limits s of public officials. o

e: nt-lawmaker-sla ams-cha-cha-trrain#ixzz2ux0W W0CAZ Read more

Fruit-eating ‘bayawak’ Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:10 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The northern Sierra Madre forest monitor lizard, Varanusbitatawa, is one of the largest species of monitor lizard known from the Philippines. Indigenous Dumagat and people of the Sierra Madre Mountains call the lizard bitatawa or baritatawa. Bitatawa is an arboreal species, spending most of its time above the forest floor perched on trees with heights of over 20 meters. It inhabits intact low-elevation rainforests from near sea level up to an elevation of about 500 meters. Adult lizards may reach a total length of nearly 2 meters. The body is generally black and covered with bright, golden yellow spots, while the limbs are olive yellow and the head has yellow mottling. It is the third known fruit-eating species of monitor lizard (bayawak) in the world. The other two species, the Panay forest monitor lizard (Varanusmabitang) and Gray’s forest monitor lizard (Varanusolivaceus) are also found only in the Philippines. Bitatawa is endemic to the Philippines and is found mainly in the northern parts of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range of Luzon. It has been recorded in a few localities in the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Aurora. Current threats to the species include habitat destruction (especially of the lowland dipterocarp forest and beach forest) and rampant collection for the illegal wildlife trade. Arvin C. Diesmos, Ph.D. National Museum of Natural History E-mail:

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How to write memos, business letters, reports Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:04 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

A seminar on Write Right for Results: A Best Practices Guide to Writing One-Page Letters, Memos, and Reports will be held on March 14 at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong City. Conducted by the Center for Global Best Practices, the seminar will feature communication expert Rodolfo “Dups” A. Reyes. The interactive and motivational workshop will help participants improve their business writing skills. They will learn current best practices in writing a one-page memorandum, persuasive proposal and the make-or-break letter. Writing templates that produced results in the most difficult of situations will be presented. Real and current examples and effective strategies that may be used by anyone, from an assistant to a top decision-maker, will be presented. Topics include the golden rule and 10 commandments of writing, sparklers for one-page messages, business correspondence formulas, SPACE for LOVE, KISS and its variations for clarity, conciseness and directness in business writing. Businesses can boost their corporate image, profitability and growth through professional writing. De los Reyes is the author of 11 books including “Write Right for Results,” “Write Win Win,” “Write for Long” and “Watch Your English.” He is an international trainer and lecturer in local and multinational companies, with over 30 years of experience conducting seminars and training in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Qatar and the United States. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in English (cum laude) and Master of Arts in Literature degrees from the University of the Philippines (UP). He has a doctor of philosophy degree in communication also from UP, as well as a master’s in business administration from Ateneo de Manila Graduate School of Business. Log on to or call 8427148/59, 5568968/69 (Manila); 032-5123106 and 07 (Cebu) or 074-4235148 (Baguio).

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Leyte survivors choose to rebuild lives in Cebu City By Doris C. Bongcac Inquirer Visayas 12:04 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Emerita Antonino has no plans yet of returning to her hometown in Palo town, Leyte province. “I’d rather stay in Cebu so that we will forget the nightmare that we experienced during the typhoon and move on,” the 46-year-old woman said. A storm surge brought about by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” claimed the lives of her husband, Ernesto, and two daughters—Erica Cressia, 18, and Ma. Celeste, 14—and destroyed their house in Palo on Nov. 8, 2013. Emerita and her three other children—Ernest, 19, Eloisa Catherine, 17, and Maria Emelyn, 14— took the offer of a free ride by a shipping company and arrived in Cebu City on Nov. 21. They are now staying in a “tent city” at South Road Properties (SRP) along with 54 other families who evacuated from Guiuan town and Borongan City in Eastern Samar province, Basey town in Samar province, and Tacloban City and the towns of Pastrana, Palo, AlangAlang, San Isidro, Villaba, Dagami and La Paz in Leyte. Family rebuilding Formally called the Family Rebuilding Center, the tent city is being run by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the city government until March 23. Based on a PRC agreement with the city, the facility will operate for only three months. “What we are doing now is to teach the typhoon survivors to stand on their own. We cannot teach them to have that kind of a mind-set if we keep on extending their stay at SRP,” said Vic Jay Gonzal, who is in charge of the place. Ester Concha, head of the city’s department of social welfare and services, said 10 of the 54 families staying in the tent city wanted to go back to their hometowns while 31 families chose to stay. The rest have not made yet up their minds, she said. Those who are staying are given the opportunity to take short courses on household servicing, plumbing and machining among others at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) in Barangay (village) Lahug. Skills training For them to work immediately, Marc Canton, convenor of the nongovernment organization Movement for Livable Cebu (MLC), has asked the Tesda to shorten the study period from the usual six months to a month.

Canton said MLC would provide P100 to each Tesda scholar to cover their daily transportation, from City Hall to the Tesda office, and one meal. The city shuttle can only ferry them from the tent city to City Hall. Even before the skills training was offered, many typhoon survivors have been able to find work in hotels, calls centers and malls in Cebu, Concha said. One of them is Emerita’s son, Ernest, who was hired as a computer encoder in Barangay Apas last month. Emerita, a dressmaker, said she would avail herself of the Tesda training, hoping to find a job so she could send her daughters, Eloisa Catherine and Maria Emelyn, to school again this June. Eloisa is a first year college student while Emelyn is a high school junior. Housing plans “We have decided to just stay here in Cebu because there is nothing left to return home to but horrible memories of Yolanda,” Emerita said. “Each time I remember, I just close my eyes and pray. I have to be strong because I still have my three children with me.” Jocelyn Diaz, 50, of Tacloban, said she and Emerita had agreed to look for a house in Cebu City and share the rent once they leave the tent city. One of Diaz’s two children has been employed as a production worker at Mactan Export Processing Zone since Feb. 17. “We are very thankful to the city government and its partners for taking care of us even if they do not know us. The Red Cross has been watching over our stay in Cebu 24/7,” Diaz said. According to Concha, the city government is not allowed to release money to the survivors as down payment for house rentals. But she said it would seek the help of the National Housing Authority and the Department of Social Welfare and Development in finding houses for them. No choice left Samuel Baquilod said he and his wife had decided to go back to Tacloban to check on their relatives. “We have no other choice but to go home when the tent city closes on March 23. We do not have relatives in Cebu and we do not know what will become of us if we stay here longer,” he said. Concha said the city government could send 10 families back to their hometowns under its BalikProbinsya program. They will receive P3,000 each to cover their boat and bus fares, as well as meals. The program, which has a P1.5-million fund, aims to help indigent transients go back home so that they will not end up as street dwellers or mendicants. Lately, it has also covered typhoon survivors.

The city government is negotiating with the Air Force and the Navy for the use of C-130 planes or Navy ships. “Flying on the C-130 planes will be the best option for the Yolanda victims because they will have more than enough space to also bring with them items they had saved during the typhoon and had acquired during their stay here,� Concha said.

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Charter change bill takes off in House By Leila B. Salaverria Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:12 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Charter change took a step closer to reality with the approval on Monday of a resolution to amend the protectionist provisions and foreign participation limits in the Constitution, despite dire warnings from local businessmen and legal experts. The House committee on constitutional amendments approved the measure overwhelmingly, with 24 congressmen voting in its favor, two objecting and one abstaining. The resolution, principally authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, would add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the Constitution’s articles concerning the national economy and patrimony; education, science, technology, arts, culture and sports; and general provisions. This would not automatically remove the foreign ownership and participation limits as stipulated in the Charter. Congress would still have to pass laws to lift the restrictions, and they may do this for the constitutional provisions that prevent foreigners from operating public utilities and educational institutions, and from undertaking activities to develop or utilize the country’s natural resources, for example. Belmonte and the other proponents of the resolution had touted it as a tool to increase foreign direct investment to boost the economy. With the approval, the resolution would now move to the plenary for deliberations. Should it be approved by the House, it would be forwarded to the Senate. Once the Senate approves it, the measure would be subject to a plebiscite. Consultations first Bayan Muna Rep. NeriColmenares had objected to the vote, saying public consultations all over the country should be completed first. Colmenares also disagreed with the substance of the resolution, adding that allowing greater participation by foreign investors in the country’s affairs would not necessarily lead to progress and might be even detrimental to the country. Economic and legal experts were also divided on the issue, he noted. But foreign businessmen had vigorously supported Belmonte’s resolution, saying that more foreign investments would help modernize the country’s infrastructure and boost its defense capability.

They said the proposed amendment would also allow for more flexibility in the country’s economic policies and allow it to respond to changes brought about by globalization. The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop), however, had warned that this could lead to instability, as the economic provisions and policies could be amended at any time, subject to the whims of the lawmakers. The fundamental law of the land would also be reduced to the level of ordinary legislation, Ecop pointed out. Joint assembly Ecop further warned that future Congresses might also insert the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the social and political aspects of the Constitution. Legal experts had also expressed reservations about the process the House followed. Retired Supreme Court Justices Reynato Puno and Vicente Mendoza had said it would be better if both houses of Congress met in joint assembly and voted separately to tackle proposals to amend the Constitution. They also expressed concern about the proposal in the Charter change resolution to add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the Constitution’s economic provisions, with Mendoza saying this would make the provisions subject to change by Congress anytime, and would thus render the constitutional policies “tentative and uncertain.” But retired Justice Adolf Azcuna and constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas, both members of the commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, took the position that Congress need not necessarily meet in a joint assembly to propose the changes. Azcuna also supported Belmonte’s Charter change proposal, saying it would make the economic provisions flexible.

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Asian shares hit by rising Russia-Ukraine tensions Agence France-Presse 12:11 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

HONG KONG—Asian markets mostly fell on Monday as growing fears of a conflict between Ukraine and Russia sent traders scurrying for safer assets, with the yen surging and oil prices also seeing big gains. The downbeat atmosphere was compounded in some markets by another disappointing set of manufacturing figures from China that added to concerns about growth in the world’s No. 2 economy. Tokyo shed 1.27 percent, or 188.84 points, to 14,652.23, Sydney fell 0.38 percent, or 20.5 points, to 5,384.3 and Seoul lost 0.77 percent, or 15.30 points, to end at 1,964.69. Hong Kong tumbled 1.47 percent, or 336.29 points, to 22,500.67. However, Shanghai rose 0.92 percent, or 18.93 points, to 2,075.23 as investors brushed off the weak manufacturing figures ahead of Beijing’s annual policy gathering later in the week. The long-running political crisis in Ukraine took another turn Saturday when lawmakers in Moscow voted to allow President Vladimir Putin to send troops into Crimea, a mainly Russianspeaking peninsula in the southeast of the ex-Soviet state. In what has become the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War, global leaders condemned the move as Ukraine’s new Western-backed prime ministerArseniyYatsenyuk warned: “We are on the brink of a disaster.” US President Barack Obama branded the move a “violation of Ukrainian sovereignty,” while Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow faced being kicked out of the Group of Eight economic grouping if it did not step back. Atsushi Hirano, head of FX sales Japan at Royal Bank of Scotland, told Dow Jones Newswires: “Tensions have risen with the United States. Stocks are likely to be negatively affected.” The tensions sent investors scurrying to the yen, which is considered a safe bet in times of political and economic uncertainty. In afternoon trade the dollar was at 101.33 yen, compared with 101.76 yen in New York Friday afternoon, while the euro fetched 139.51 yen against 140.44 yen. The euro bought $1.3777 against $1.3800. China data fuels growth fears With Russia also a huge supplier of oil to European nations, the price of both main crude contracts also spiked.

New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, gained $1.72 to $104.31 in afternoon trade, and Brent North Sea crude for April jumped $2.14 to $111.21. There were renewed worries about the health of China’s economy after Beijing said its official purchasing managers’ index (PMI) of manufacturing activity fell to an eight-month low of 50.2 last month. The figure represents the third straight drop following a reading of 50.5 in January, 51.0 in December and 51.4 in November. A figure above 50 indicates expansion while one below shows contraction. However, officials stressed that the result was skewed by the Chinese New Year holidays at the start of the month. Later in the day HSBC said its final PMI fell to 48.5 last month, the weakest reading since July when the figure stood at 47.7, according to the British bank. China’s economic growth has weakened in recent years, hitting 7.7 percent in 2013, the lowest level since 1999. Analysts expect a further drop to 7.5 percent this year. Eyes will now be on the annual National People’s Congress, which opens this week. The event will be closely watched for the disclosure of China’s annual growth target. The events in Europe overshadowed a strong lead from Wall Street Friday, where the Dow rose 0.30 percent and the S&P 500 tacked on 0.28 percent to a new record high. The Nasdaq, however, ended 0.25 percent lower. The broad advance came despite the Commerce Department saying US gross domestic product growth in the final quarter of 2013 came in at 2.4 percent, compared with its initial estimate of a 3.2 percent expansion. The downward revision was bigger than analysts’ forecast of 2.6 percent and included a cut to closely watched consumer spending growth. However, analysts said investors view the latest data as partly the result of extremely cold weather that has depressed economic activity. Gold fetched $1,344.94 an ounce at 1045 GMT, compared with $1,329.05 late Friday. In other markets: – Bangkok added 1.05 percent, or 13.88 points, to 1,339.21. Airports of Thailand gained 3.20 percent to 193.50 baht, while oil company PTT rose 2.39 percent to 300 baht. – Jakarta dropped 0.78 percent, or 36.01 points, to 4,584.21.

Bank Negara Indonesia fell 2.20 percent to 4,450 rupiah, while tin producer Timah gained 2.17 percent to 1,650 rupiah. – Kuala Lumpur slid 0.60 percent, or 10.97 points, to 1,824.69. IHH Healthcare lost 2.3 percent to 3.75 ringgit while budget carrier AirAsia ended 2.0 percent lower at 2.50. – Taipei fell 0.44 percent, or 37.60 points, to 8,601.98. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was unchanged at Tw$108.0 while Cathay Financial Holdings eased 1.12 percent to Tw$44.2. – Wellington added 0.35 percent, or 17.37 points, to a record high of 5,007.40. Fletcher Building rose 0.32 percent to NZ$9.45 and Air New Zealand added 1.41 percent to NZ$1.80. – Manila closed 0.27 percent lower, giving up 17.47 points to 6,407.52. Universal Robina fell 2.14 percent to 137 pesos but Aboitiz Power surged 5.53 percent to 41 pesos. – Mumbai fell 0.82 percent, or 173.47 points, to 20,946.65. Jaiprakash Power Ventures fell 15.51 percent, or 2.57 rupees, to 14.00 while HCL Technologies fell 4.53 percent, or 71.45 rupees, to 1504.55. – Singapore lost 0.75 percent, or 23.31 points, to 3,087.47. Oil rig maker Keppel Corp eased 0.57 percent to Sg$10.41 while real estate developer Capitaland dropped 1.05 percent to Sg$2.82.

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Cosco buys Cabanatuan’s largest mall By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:39 am | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Cosco Capital Inc. is continuing to expand into other retailing formats outside of flagship Puregold Price Club Inc. with a deal to acquire the largest mall in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday, Cosco announced a deal to acquire 100 percent of NE Pacific Shopping Centers, which is partly owned by infrastructure holding firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC). MPIC said in a separate disclosure that it had sold all of its shares in NE Pacific, representing 36.89 percent of the issued and outstanding capital stock, to Cosco. The stake in NE Pacific, MPIC said, was part of its non-core assets. Cosco also acquired the remaining shares from the other shareholders. Cosco, retailer LucioCo’s holding company, also recently announced a deal to take over office and school products supplier Office Warehouse Inc. as part of its expansion into non-food specialty retailing. Office Warehouse, which has about 47 stores, is the biggest retailing platform of the Lorenzana family. Cosco is expanding into specialty retail as differentiated from its heavy engagement in food retail represented by Puregold as part of its bid to broaden its market base. Once a purely oil, gas and mining company called Alcorn Gold Resources Corp., Cosco was transformed by Co into a holding company for the bulk of his businesses. The assets injected into this company consisted of the following: 51 percent stake in the country’s second largest grocery operator Puregold, an array of liquor distribution companies, a portfolio of commercial real estate companies and an oil storage business (Pure Petroleum Corp.)

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BDO reports net income of P22.6 B in 2013 By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:16 am | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s largest lender, Banco de Oro Unibank, chalked up a record-high net profit of P22.6 billion in 2013, exceeding its earnings guidance and beating the performance of all other banking peers for the year. In a statement on Monday, BDO said its net profit last year jumped by 56 percent over the P14.5 billion profit in 2012. The bank attributed its landmark earnings from its core businesses in conjunction with notable trading gains. Primary commercial banking business continued its robust growth with net interest income rising by 20 percent year-on-year to P43.2 billion. Customer loans expanded by 19 percent to breach the P900-billion mark. On the other hand, total deposits ended the year at P1.3 trillion or an upsurge of 44 percent. Accompanying earnings from its lending and deposit-taking activities, BDO also booked P12.8 billion in trading and foreign exchange gains. Fee-based income also continued to show steady improvement as it reached P15.5 billion, or an increase of 15 percent.

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With no solution in sight for Thailand, investors look to PH, Indonesia The Nation-Asia News Network 6:16 pm | Saturday, March 1st, 2014

BANGKOK—Foreign investors prefer Indonesia and the Philippines right now as they do not see any sign of a solution to Thailand’s political crisis, Chua Hak Bin, Asean economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told The Nation during an exclusive interview. “If you had put your money into Indonesia or Thailand five years ago, you would have tripled your investment by now, and it was the same for the Philippines. These were the three best-performing markets in Asia,” he said. However, investors who put their money into China five years ago were lucky if they broke even. But the situation has changed. Looking forward to the next five years, Thailand is no longer attractive to investors, Chua said. Key factors Three key factors make the economic outlooks of the Philippines and Indonesia much better than Thailand’s. These are stable politics, lower levels of debt, and large labor forces, said Chua, head of economics research for emerging Asia at Merrill Lynch (Singapore). Foreign investors are finding it hard to understand the political situation in Thailand fully, he said. “They worry that the political stalemate may drag on indefinitely.” He said everyone was waiting for the end of the political crisis, which is undermining the proper functioning of the government. “We have seen growth collapse in the fourth quarter last year,” Chua said, referring to a sharp slowdown of consumer spending and investment. The conflict now has dragged on for nearly four months, and some are even wondering if it will last until the second half of the year. There is speculation that an interim government may be formed midyear, and this might provide some relief. But it would raise questions of how long such a government would last, he said. So far the year the Indonesian and Philippine stock markets have risen by about 7 per cent, while the Stock Exchange of Thailand has been flat. “If some end games are in sight, the Thai stock market could catch up with these markets. It could go up by 5 per cent, but it is a big if,” he said. Indonesia will have a legislative election in April and a presidential election in July. But it is unlikely to experience the kind of political unrest that Thailand is facing now. Household debt

“The second [factor] is the balance sheet: Indonesia’s leverage is very low,” he said. Thailand has faced fast-rising household debt, which currently is equivalent to 80.1 per cent of gross domestic product, compared with 17 per cent in Indonesia and 6.2 per cent in the Philippines. Higher household debt will lead to lower consumption. Domestic credit in Thailand is relatively high at 103.7 per cent of GDP, compared with 36.6 per cent in Indonesia and 42.4 per cent in the Philippines. Among Asean economies, Malaysia ranks first in household debt at 86.1 per cent of GDP and Singapore third at 77.1 per cent, while Thailand is between those two. Demographic change The third factor is demographic change. Shrinkage of the working-age population will have an impact on Thailand’s competitiveness. As growth of the working-age population in Thailand between 2013 and 2023 will turn negative, that contrasts with high growth rates of more than 20 per cent in the Philippines and 15 per cent in Indonesia, according to estimates by Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research. To boost economic growth, Chua expects the Bank of Thailand’s Monetary Policy Committee at next month’s meeting to cut the benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points, from 2.25 per cent currently to 2 per cent. Inflation is not a cause for concern, he said. He does not think the BOT will worry much about a weaker baht and the possibility of capital flight. The central bank will be comfortable with a weak baht, which will boost exports, given that domestic demand is so weak. As foreign capital has stopped coming into Thailand, “We’re not worried about capital flight, but if there is such flight it is because of politics, Thais taking their money out,” Chua said. Regarding the impact of the US Federal Reserve’s scaling back its bond-buying program, Chua said that under the leadership of Janet Yellen, the Fed’s newly appointed chairwoman, tapering of its quantitative-easing policy would be very gradual, and the first increase on the federal funds rate would be in 2016. Yellen will look at broader economic indicators, no longer relying on the goal of a 6.5-per-cent unemployment rate, since the drop in the US jobless rate has been partly caused by many people giving up looking for work, leading to a lower labor-participation rate. East Asia and developed markets such as Europe and the United States remain promising as Europe has come out of recession, and the US economy is expected to accelerate after April as pent-up demand bounces back from the effects of severe winter weather. Though the Dow Jones Index often hits a new record high, Bank of America does not think the US stock market is in a bubble, as the recovery is in an early stage, so valuation is not too demanding.

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Manila ports operating beyond capacities Group pushes shift of foreign cargoes to Batangas By Amy R. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:18 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The Export Development Council (EDC) has urged the government to issue a policy or an executive order that will shift foreign cargoes from the Port of Manila to the Port of Batangas and other newly developed international ports across the country. “We are promoting the use of ports outside Metro Manila, particularly the International Port of Batangas, for goods moving in and out of South Luzon,” EDC vice chair Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. said in a statement yesterday. The proposal is seen to support efforts to decongest the Port of Manila and resolve the issues arising from the new truck ban being implemented in the city of Manila. The new policy bans eight wheelers and vehicles with a gross weight of above 4,500 kilos from plying Manila’s streets between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. A temporary concession was offered by the city government, thus allowing trucks to ply streets between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the next six to eight months. Ortiz-Luis pointed out that the Port of Manila was operating beyond its capacity. Hence, cargo trucks continued to congest not just the port but also the major thoroughfares of the metropolis. The Manila International Container Terminal has an annual cargo capacity of 1.5 million twentyfoot equivalent units (TEUs) but handled a total capacity of 1.83 million TEUs in 2012. The Manila South Harbor, meanwhile, has an annual cargo capacity of 850,000 TEUs but accommodated 1.01 million TEUs in the same year. In contrast, the Port of Batangas used only 11,000 TEUs or 2.75 percent of its annual cargo capacity of 400,000 TEUs. “We urge the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to work on a feasible plan and timetable to start transferring the shipment of cargoes to the Port of Batangas and other international ports in the country. This plan can start by putting the proper equipment and people in these ports,” OrtizLuis said. “Likewise, we also expect to address related issues and concerns that hamper the transfer to these ports, particularly the pestering of certain groups in the local government units asking for unnecessary fees from truckers,” he added. In the meantime, the EDC is expecting the PPA to open up two roads at the back of the Department of Public Works and Highways building to be used as parking lot for the cargo trucks.

“To further ease the congestion in the Port of Manila, we also suggest that the Bureau of Customs get rid of the unnecessary piles of cargo containers in its yards,� Ortiz-Luis said. He added that since ports operate on a 24/7 basis or without interruption regardless of time or day, government agencies that operate in the port area offer 24/7 service as well to its clients.

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Big demand pushes 91-day treasury bill rate down to 1% By Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:12 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The benchmark 91-day treasury bill rate fell during the latest monthly auction for government securities yesterday as market uncertainties pushed banks to go for very short-term investments. The rate for the three-month debt paper settled at 1 percent, down 45.8 basis points from the previous auction. The drop came as bids reached P21.31 billion, more than five times the government’s debt offering of only P4 billion. Despite the oversubscription, the Bureau of the Treasury’s auction committee accepted just P4 billion worth of bids. On the contrary, rates for the longer-dated bills rose as financial markets globally showed some risk aversion against emerging-market assets. The 182-day yield jumped by 139.9 basis points to 1.4 percent. The auction committee accepted P6 billion worth of bids, thus raising the entire amount in the borrowing program. Bids for the 182-day bills hit P16.53 billion. Despite the significant increase, the Treasury said the new rate for the six-month debt paper was reasonable because this was aligned with rates in the secondary market. The rate for the 364-day debt paper reached 1.865 percent, or an increase of 78.6 basis points from the rate recorded in last month’s auction. The government accepted only P4.4 billion worth of bids compared with the P10 billion stated in the borrowing program. The Treasury said rejecting some of the bids was meant to prevent an unreasonable increase in the one-year borrowing cost. It said the latest rate for the 364-day bills reflected secondary-market rates. Market uncertainties continued to be driven by the absence of a definite schedule for the US Federal Reserve Board’s tapering of its stimulus program for the American economy. The Fed had said that the exact amount and the timing of its tapering would continue to depend on future macroeconomic data. So far, the Fed has cut its monthly bond purchases by $20 billion from the original amount of $85 billion. The Fed is expected to continue with the tapering this year, although the amounts of further cuts have yet to be determined. Read more:

PH debt stock seen to increase By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:08 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The government’s debt stock is expected to rise faster than any other major Southeast Asian market this year as reconstruction efforts fuel extraordinary inflows of low-interest foreign loans from other countries and multilateral institutions. In a report, Standard & Poor’s said Asia-Pacific governments would continue to brave international debt markets this year despite volatile conditions. “We project that rated Asia-Pacific sovereigns’ commercial debt stock will reach an equivalent of $15.4 trillion by the end of 2014, up by $1 trillion, or 6.9 percent, from 2013,” S&P said yesterday. According to S&P, gross commercial borrowings by the Philippines would rise 8.57 percent, faster than the average for the rest of the region. The pace of commercial borrowing by the government is also projected to be faster than all major Southeast Asian markets. Growth in commercial debt for Malaysia will rise by 7.67 percent, Indonesia by 7.2 percent, Singapore by 2.28 percent, Thailand by 2.81 percent, and Vietnam by 6.79 percent. The Philippines is expected to end the year with a total commercial debt stock, both short and long term, of $124.1 billion from $114.3 billion. Meanwhile, S&P said sovereign issuances in the region would remain attractive, noting that countries rated below investment grade would account for just a small fraction of issuances. S&P said it expected that Japan—Asia-Pacific’s largest advanced economy—would continue to dominate the issuance of long-term government commercial debt in the region in 2014, with $1.8 trillion in gross issuances, followed by China. S&P said that as both countries, which are rated ‘AA-’, would account for 84 percent of gross long-term government borrowing by rated Asia-Pacific sovereigns in 2014. “In contrast, sovereigns with speculative-grade ratings will account for just about 2 percent of gross long-term commercial borrowing by rated [Asia-Pacific] sovereigns this year,” S&P said.

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BIR to probe VAT payments of firms Finance chief notes slow growth in collection By Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:46 am | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

The Bureau of Internal Revenue has been tasked to zero in on the value-added tax payments of large corporations as the weak collections in 2013 indicated that the VAT could be the most evaded tax. The Department of Finance showed in a report that VAT collection from large corporate taxpayers grew at an annual pace of 6 percent last year to P152 billion. Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said that while there was an increase in VAT collection, the pace was much slower compared with the 9.2-percent nominal growth rate of the economy last year. “Clearly, there is room for growth in VAT collections because, ideally, VAT collection should be growing by almost the same pace as the economy,” Purisima told reporters. Last year, the Philippines remained one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. The country’s economic growth was driven partly by robust consumption, which was aided by remittances from overseas Filipinos. The VAT, currently set at 12 percent, is a consumption tax that an individual or a corporation pays every time a consumption of a good or a service is made. Purisima said the foregone revenues from suspected evasion of VAT could be largely accounted for by large corporate taxpayers because the total VAT collection of the BIR, including those remitted by smaller enterprises and individuals, grew at an annualized pace of 9 percent to P250 billion. With this backdrop, Purisima said the BIR has been directed to conduct an audit of large corporate taxpayers and pay special attention to their VAT payments. Taxes imposed on large corporate entities are collected by a special unit in the BIR called the Large Taxpayers Service (LTS). Purisima said the LTS has been ordered to use third-party sources to verify tax compliance of large corporate entities. At present, there are about 2,000 corporations being serviced by the LTS. Purisima said the number was small and that there could be about 2,000 more entities that should already be considered large taxpayers because of their high profits, but were not remitting the proper taxes.

Under the BIR’s rules and regulations, a corporate entity is considered a large taxpayer if it meets a combination of the following criteria: quarterly VAT payment of at least P200,000, quarterly percentage tax payment of at least P200,000, annual excise tax payment of at least P1 million, annual income tax payment of at least P1 million, annual withholding tax remittance of at least P1 million, and annual documentary stamp tax payment of at least P1 million. Purisima said plugging the potential leakage in VAT collection could help the government achieve its revenue targets. For 2014, the BIR, which accounts for about 60 percent of the national government’s revenues, is tasked to collect P1.46 trillion. Last year, the BIR collected P1.22 trillion, which was up by 15 percent from its 2012 collections but short of its target for the year.

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Del Monte ’13 profit down to $16.1M Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:38 am | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Food manufacturer Del Monte Pacific Ltd. halved its 2013 net profit to $16.1 million due to onetime expenses arising from its big US consumer food business acquisition and the listing of its shares on the local stock market. Taking out nonrecurring expenses, last year’s net profit would have risen by 5 percent to $33.9 million, DMPL told the Philippine Stock Exchange last week. DMPL’s net profit in 2012 amounted to $32.2 million. “The full year 2013 results —without the nonrecurring expenses—were in line with earlier guidance that the group’s 2013 profits are expected to be better compared to that of the same period last year,” the company said. For 2014, DMPL expects to generate higher earnings on a recurring basis in the first quarter but report a lower nonrecurring net income afterwards due to one-off transaction fees in closing the $1.675-billion acquisition of Del Monte Foods’ US business. DMPL plans to align its fiscal year with that of Del Monte Foods (May to April financial year), as the US business is expected to account for about 80 percent of the enlarged group’s sales. “Group earnings will improve in the new financial year 2015 (May 2014-April 2015) as it drives both top-line growth across its key markets in the USA, the Philippines and rest of Asia, optimizes synergies and manages cost actively,” DMPL said. Last year’s group turnover grew by 7 percent to a record $492.2 million, attributed to better performance for the Del Monte brand in the Philippines and in the Indian subcontinent and S&W in Asia and the Middle East. Doris C. Dumlao

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Reconstruction efforts seen to help fuel economic growth By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:04 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Reconstruction efforts following the onslaught of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” should result in a rebound in Philippine importation this year, helping support investments and economic growth. DBS of Singapore, in a report this week, said the drop in total imports in December was not a concern yet, but the level of goods brought into the Philippines from abroad would be a key indicator of the domestic economy’s performance. The Philippine Statistics Authority last month reported that the country’s imports fell by 0.1 percent to $5.29 billion in December as electronics shipments fell by 7.3 percent to $1.19 billion. The drop in Philippine imports followed a relatively weak global demand, especially for nonessentials like electronics. This pushed export-oriented firms in the country to import less materials for production. This was led by the drop in the importation of capital goods by 19.3 percent month-on-month, DBS said. “While data in this component tends to be more volatile, it typically indicates momentum in investment growth,” DBS said. “Monitoring the trend in imports of capital goods is crucial this year, especially since investment growth has been the key support for overall GDP growth,” it added. “Reconstruction efforts at the start of this year are likely to provide underlying support to investment growth, “DBS said. Despite the weak showing, imports data for December showed encouraging signs, DBS said. “The December imports data this week provided a couple of interesting insights,” the bank said. Imports of intermediate goods, DBS said, rebounded with a growth of 15 percent in December over month-ago level. This marks an improvement compared to the previous two months of decline. “If this were to be sustained, look for export growth to inch higher in the coming months,” DBS said.

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Reforms = jobs Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:24 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The desire of the Aquino administration to ensure that its actions are corruption-free and can stand up to scrutiny is backfiring. Half of its term is over but there is so much yet to be done to restructure the economy for it to generate the jobs required to reduce poverty. And we’re not even mentioning the stalled projects under the flagship Public-Private Partnership program. The business community is sounding exasperated. At a forum organized by the foreign chambers of commerce in the Philippines, industry leaders highlighted the need for President Aquino to step up decision-making and the implementation of reforms needed to make economic growth inclusive—by generating more jobs. As former finance secretary and now Philippine Veterans Bank chair Roberto de Ocampo said, “it is imperative to heighten the need for urgency and to make everyone aware of time-based realities starting this year.” The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines also unveiled last week a report on the progress of its Arangkada initiative, a 10-year roadmap started in 2010 that targets $75 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI), 10 million jobs, and P1 trillion in revenues for the Philippines. Of 462 recommendations put forward by businessmen in the roadmap, 73.26 percent were classified as “active or moving,” and 26.97 percent “dormant.” The Arangkada roadmap anchored its targets on the so-called seven “big winners”— agribusiness, outsourcing, trade and industries, infrastructure, manufacturing, mining and tourism (medical travel and retirement). Tourism is enjoying some success, according to Julian Payne, head of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, but “dormant” reforms were noted in agribusiness and mining. Ian Porter, president of the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, observed that agribusiness was a crucial area in creating employment as it was also feeding manufacturing. Mining, another crucial sector, has not progressed at all. It has been at a standstill since the issuance of Executive Order No. 79, which banned new mining contracts until the passage of a new revenue-sharing scheme with the government. Porter pointed out that just two mining projects could easily raise the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) growth by 2 percentage points. “The Philippines has great opportunity in mining and should create a responsible, environmentally friendly mining regime that could create thousands of jobs,” he said, noting that most mines were located in remote areas where unemployment was highest. As such, mining has a huge impact in reducing unemployment in these places, he said. National Competitiveness Council cochair Guillermo Luz also emphasized the need for on-time execution of essential reforms and projects. “It takes too long to get anything done here,” he lamented. “We cannot be sitting back and taking our time making decisions. On-time execution is the key we need and the discipline we should have to be able to move the country forward.”

Last year, business groups pressed for the early passage of business and economic reform bills to draw more investments. These included the liberalization of shipping and the negative list for foreign investments, amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution, mining reforms, as well as the rationalization of and transparency and accountability in fiscal incentives. Among these, industry leaders are agreed that the government should focus on easing restrictions on FDI. While FDI have increased, their levels pale compared to those received by other Asian countries. This was traced in part to the fact that the 1987 Constitution limits foreign ownership in certain industries, particularly utility companies, to 40 percent. The Constitution was written during the term of President Corazon Aquino, the mother of President Aquino. But while Congress is deliberating on a possible bill that will allow foreign firms to skirt constitutional limits, Mr. Aquino is adamant in his position that there will be no amending the Constitution during his term. The Arangkada project maintains that in an increasingly interlinked and competitive world, accelerating growth is an imperative, not a choice. The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines estimated that, to achieve results, the country must focus on faster development of the seven “big winners� and move twice as fast. The government should not be a roadblock to this movement.

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Big ideas, little loans Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:44 am | Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

The Grameen Bank, which extends small loans to the poor without requiring collateral, is a godsend for impoverished families in Bangladesh. Founded in 1976, the bank (Grameen is “village” in the native tongue) has a simple philosophy: Offer small loan amounts for start-up businesses, make sure that loans are used for what they are intended and that payments are made (peer pressure is often employed in communities). Through the innovative concept of microfinancing, the Grameen Bank has gone on to help the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh. It was made an independent bank by law in 1983, with 90 percent owned by its borrowers and 10 percent by the government. Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus, an economist, wanted to start a project that would make a difference. And what a difference it has been: The bank now has over 2,000 branches with an overwhelming number of borrowers (97 percent) being women and a stunning loan recovery rate (also 97 percent). Its concept of microfinancing is now being used in more than 50 other countries. And there is now a Grameen Foundation that, according to its motto, “connect[s] the world’s poor to their potential.” Yunus and Grameen Bank were unknown to women of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, although they instinctively knew that zero-interest loans were what they badly needed. After enduring Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” the Logatoc sisters sought to raise themselves and their families from dire straits by embarking on little enterprises like selling fish or shell craft, according to a report last week by Inquirer contributor Danny Petilla.“We are not lazy! We just need a little bit of help to start our own small business,” said Gina Logatoc, who borrowed P5,000 from a Manila-based microfinance firm to start a sari-sari store. Thirty women subsequently came together to protect one another from loan sharks, but even the interest rate of legitimate lending firms (15-20 percent) was preventing them from thriving. Still, they were determined to do something for themselves and were not just waiting around for government doles. “If we can get some loans with zero interest, that would be a great help to us,” GertrudesLogatoc said. Now there’s a wish that the government should make haste to heed. Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma was in fact reported as saying that the Department of Social Welfare and Development was prepared “to extend microlending facilities as part of sustainable livelihood programs for calamity-affected communities.” It’s now a matter of translating these words into action. Yunus’ groundbreaking project in microfinancing has not gone unrecognized. In 1984 Yunus received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership, for “enabling the neediest

rural men and women to make themselves productive with sound group-managed credit.” In 2006 he received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Grameen Bank, for “developing microcredit into an ever more important instrument in the struggle against poverty” and for being “a source of ideas and models for the many institutions in the field of microcredit that have sprung up around the world.” The Philippines will doubtless benefit immensely from a widespread application of microfinancing. There have been bursts of such activity in the past. The Center for Agriculture and Rural Development Inc., founded in 1986 in San Pablo City, has taken a leaf from Grameen Bank and applied its principles energetically—offering loans, training and insurance to clients now numbering half a million, mostly poor farmers. A nonprofit group called the Arab Gulf Program has studied the feasibility of setting up a $5-million microfinance bank in the Philippines. Yunus, now known as “the banker of the poor,” came to the Philippines for the 2013 Microcredit Summit that had 800 participants representing over 60 countries. “It’s financially viable. It’s a business proposition. It’s not a charity proposition,” he said. “My position is that profit-making has pushed us away from the real business of people.” Indeed, microfinancing presents big ways to help impoverished survivors of disaster get back on their feet. When he received the Nobel in 2006, Yunus said: “Now the war against poverty will be further intensified across the world. It will consolidate the struggle against poverty through microcredit in most of the countries. There should be no poverty, anywhere.”

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No Free Lunch

More reforms, more jobs By Cielito F. Habito Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:16 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Creating more jobs, as we all know, remains the foremost challenge for our economy in the years ahead, even as brisk rates of economic growth have lately put the Philippines ahead of the pack in South East Asia, and even Asia as a whole. In last week’s Arangkada 2014 forum of the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC), I heard the word “tiger” used several times to describe the Philippine economy as it is performing now. Well, it may indeed have begun to look that way, but for too many in Philippine society, it has yet to feel that way. And the reason for that is that job growth has lagged far behind the growth of the economy. Here’s the lowdown: the Philippine economy grew by 7.2 percent last year, but the number of jobs grew by barely one-fifth of 1 (0.2) percent. For the third time, Arangkada 2014 made an annual assessment of progress on a long list of 471 recommendations the foreign chambers made in late 2010 for achieving accelerated and broad-based growth for the Philippine economy. With the theme “More reforms = More jobs,” this year’s assessment reported further improvement over those reported last year. The recommendations that moved ahead—that is, those identified as “started,” saw “substantial progress,” or deemed “completed”—comprised 71 percent of the total, better than last year’s 63 percent. Still, much remains to be desired. Only 4 percent of the 2010 recommendations have been completed, and only one out of five (20 percent) have seen substantial progress in implementation. Those marked as “started” comprised the largest group (46 percent). With last year’s corresponding percentages at 2, 16 and 44 percent respectively, the forward movement has been anything but spectacular. Meanwhile, more than one out of four recommendations either have remained seeing no action or saw backward movement or regression. These recommendations fall under broad headings that address constraints to economic growth, overall competitiveness, specific economic sectors (including agribusiness, business process outsourcing or BPO, creative industries, tourism, infrastructure), general business environment, environment and natural disasters, governance, labor, security and social services. Most saw improved implementation in the past year, with the number and percentage of active recommendations (vs. “dormant recommendations”) having significantly gone up. The best improvement was seen in the promotion of creative industries, where implementation rate rose from less than 50 percent to 88 percent. Major improvement was also seen in airports, where active recommendations rose from 50 percent to 87 percent. Recommendations on security also saw significant improvement, with active recommendations jumping from 73 to 93 percent. But there were areas where the number of nonmoving recommendations went up, including in environment, health and population, telecoms, macroeconomic policy, and tourism/medical travel/retirement.

If our impressive economic growth of the past year has not been widely felt, it is because too few economic sectors and geographic areas have driven and consequently benefited from that growth. Furthermore, weak linkages between the leading growth sectors and the rest of the domestic economy yielded growth lacking in depth, hence providing shallow benefits. And too little job-creation with the growth we attained, driven dominantly by capital-intensive (a.k.a. labor-saving) industries, yielded growth that has continued to fail in reducing poverty. It was in this light that JFC focused on seven “big winner sectors” in its original Arangkada document in 2010, namely: agribusiness, infrastructure, tourism (including medical travel and retirement), BPO, creative industries, manufacturing, logistics and mining. The first three are singled out as top drivers of more inclusive growth. This is supported by my own analysis made in a 2010 ADB paper (“An Agenda for High and Inclusive Growth in the Philippines”), where I argue that for a sector to be an effective driver of inclusive growth, it must satisfy at least two attributes. First, it should be strongly job creating, meaning, it uses more labor per unit of output. Second, it must have strong linkages with other domestic industries—either as buyer of their products as inputs to production (backward linkages), or as sellers to those industries that use its product as input to their production (forward linkages). Arangkada 2014 stressed that creation of more jobs so that employment growth would not lag so far behind economic growth will require embarking on crucial reforms yet to be acted upon by government, among the 471 actions listed in 2010. National Competitiveness Council co-chair Bill Luz pointed out that improving ease of doing business in the country still has a long way to go in spite of impressive gains made in the past year, when the country jumped 30 notches in the global rankings. Former Finance Secretary Bobby de Ocampo pushed, among other things, for proactive preparations to join new emerging trade agreements, particularly the Trans Pacific Partnership, especially in light of our hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting anew in 2015 (the last time was when we were working together in the Ramos Cabinet in 1996). Philippine Economic Zone Authority director general Lilia de Lima, Arangkada 2014 honoree and keynote speaker, has demonstrated through 19 years of outstanding leadership of her agency that hard and honest good work is what’s needed from our government officials if we are to reap positive results for the country. *** E-mail:

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Philippine agriculture must go organic  by Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina Jr. March 3, 2014 Sown on good soil, seeds produce a harvest thirty, sixty, or a hundred fold, to paraphrase a parable in the Holy Bible. This simple truth underpins the basic equation of organic farming: nurture good clean soil to produce a profitable harvest of good clean food. With the vast earning potential of organically grown commodities in the world market estimated to be a $70-billion industry, it is high time that goverment intensify efforts to enable Filipino farmers to shift to organic agriculture, which President Aquino has described as “a solution to alleviate poverty, mitigate hunger, and address the growing food requirements of a ballooning population.” But more than the need to develop a niche in the international organic agri-industries market is the God-ordained necessity to promote the health of our people and to protect and preserve our environment through farm products that are free from harmful synthetic chemicals. In a talk with officers of the Organic Producers Trade Association (OPTA) and Lao Integrated Farm who were recent guests in my radio program SagotKo‘Yan (DZMM Teleradyo, 8 to 9 a.m. Sundays), discussion focused on dangers and health risks from chemically-grown farm products — cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders, and abnormalities, among others. OPTA said that modern agriculture techniques using large amounts of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers have been identified as one of the causes of brain damage and impaired intellect to people in third world countries. Synthetic chemicals also harm the environment, OPTA said, because they destroy beneficial micronutrients in soil such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, and many others. Also posing health hazards to our people are regularly eaten meat, poultry, and fish from animal and aquaculture farms that use chemicals to hasten animal growth and therefore hasten profits, but endanger the lives of unknowing consumers. The European Union has already imposed a ban on the use of antibiotics and growth hormones in livestock. But while organically grown food commodities are catching the interest of consumers in developed countries, the trend has yet to make a splash in the local market. This is partly due to expensive prices of organic products because supply is low and production inputs are scarce. The situation, however, should improve — with more organic products in the market to drive prices down —as RA 10068, the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, goes into full swing to achieve its objective to “cumulatively condition and enrich the fertility of the soil, increase farm productivity, reduce pollution and destruction of the environment, prevent the depletion of natural resources, further protect the health of farmers, consumers, and the general public, and save on imported farm inputs.”

Enriching soil fertility and protecting plants from infestation of bugs and insects is possible without harmful chemicals, if farmers follow a practical option now being done by Lao Integrated Farm headed by Benjamin Lao: convert animal wastes into fertilizer and insect repellant. High quality organic fertilizer is produced from animal manure through vermicomposting. To repel pests, a concoction of organic pesticides can be made from mixing kakawati leaves, panawan vines and hot chili with animal waste such as goat urine, swine sludge, fermented goat manure. Using these natural methods, farms can be encouraged to transition from using synthetic chemicals to organic inputs. Meanwhile, to protect organic farms from surrounding areas that use harmful chemicals, buffer plants and trees can be used to form a perimeter cordon to absorb non-organic pesticides from other farms. The need to have our people eat healthy food at low cost is beyond dispute. During my two terms as governor of Laguna province, we pursued the Food Always In The Home (FAITH) program that enabled people to produce clean nutritious food in their backyards that reduced home food cost by 30 to 50 percent and improved family nutrition. The program has since been adapted by the National Nutrition Council. Though more Filipino farmers are now shifting to farm systems free from hazardous chemicals, organic agriculture is still in its infancy. But with intensified efforts for its expansion and with an information drive to let it “grow on the fertile ground of public awareness,� as one editorial put it, the Philippines will eventually be at par with 162 other countries already engaged in certified organic agriculture. Then we can expect healthier and happier Filipinos. E-mail:

Zamboanga rehab efforts underway  by Nonoy E. Lacson March 3, 2014 (updated)

Zamboanga City – The city government here is now in full swing in implementing the Zamboanga City Roadmap to Recovery and Reconstruction (Z3R) in an effort to bring back normalcy to the lives of the people that were affected by the siege last year. Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco said the Z3R team recently met with the National Inter-Agency Council, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson, and National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Chito Cruz to expedite the rebuilding of infrastructure and shelters for the thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) “Secretary Singson has given the local government authority to enter into lease of property agreements to hasten the construction of temporary shelters or houses,” Climaco said. According to Climaco, there are now four transitory sites for the evacuees, while another one is due for completion on March 8, which will house at least 90 families. As for the budget for rehabilitation, Climaco said that a total of P2.5-billion was already downloaded to the NHA for the shelter and infra projects. “What is taking time is, the legal issues concerning the purchase of lots for temporary and permanent houses have to be resolved,” she said.

‘Listahan’ system gets local support  by Mike Crismundo March 3, 2014 (updated)

Butuan City – The ‘Listahan’ or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) gained support from the various Regional Development Councils (RDC) in the Northeastern and Northern Mindanao areas. The NHTS-PR, known as “Listahanan,” is an information management system that the government uses in identifying the poorest of the poor. The program aims to address poverty through a scientific and target- focused strategy. This new strategy being implemented by the DSWD Regions 13 and 10 is being recognized by the RDC in the Caraga Region and in Region 10. The “Listahan” contained the list of the poor households with information about names, address, date of birth and age. The household members’ highest educational attainment and occupation, features of the housing structure and access to basic services of facilities like water, electricity, and sanitary toilet, households’ ownership of assets, tenure status of housing, and difference in cost of living and social services or programs availed by these poor households are entered in the list. The members of the RDC Caraga recognized the “listahan” as vital document in identifying qualified beneficiary on the government’s anti-poverty alleviation program.

P2.4‐B agri projects for ARMM farmers  by Ali G. Macabalang March 3, 2014 (updated)

Cotabato City – The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has launched various projects in the provinces of Lanaodel Sur and Maguindanao funded under a record high P2.4-billion subsidy for the region’s agricultural sector this year. Some projects identified under the fund “started rolling out” over the weekend, DAF-ARMM Secretary Makmod Mending, Jr. said during the launching rites in Parang, Maguindanao. The P2.4-billion pooled fund is the biggest subsidy given to the region’s agriculture sector in a year, Mending said, pointing out that the same sector got only P260-million last year. Part of the fund is the P800-million subsidy for farm inputs from the Agri-Pinoy banner program, which Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala launched Saturday in Maguindanao and Lanaodel Sur, Mending said. Alcala graced the launching rites after ARMM Governor MujivHataman and Mending toured him in the targeted areas of the two provinces. The projects are part of the Aquino administration’s thrusts to empower subsistent farmers in the proposed Bangsamoro political entity, which would replace ARMM, officials said. Alcala, Hataman, and Mending distributed farm inputs – machineries and livestock – to Maranao, Iranun, and Maguindanaoan farmers.

Cha‐cha necessary for inclusive growth  by Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas March 3, 2014

The economic provisions of the Philippine Constitution have to be amended if we are going to attain inclusive growth in the next decade or so. There is no way we can attain the 7% to 9% GDP growth necessary in the next ten to twenty years to significantly reduce poverty and unemployment without the massive entry of foreign direct investments (FDI) that could replicate the Chinese experience over the last thirty years or so. If we examine the way some 400 to 500 million Chinese were liberated from poverty since the market revolution of 1978 under Deng Xiao Peng, the critical role of FDIs (that reached as much as $100 billion annually) is without doubt. The other factor, of course, was the massive investments of the Chinese State in infrastructure that reached as much as 10 percent of GDP. Critics of the present Administration are pointing out that the more than 7% growth that we have been attaining over the last two years or so is meaningless because the poor remain poor and unemployment has even increased. What do we expect? After twenty years or more of mediocre growth of about 4% annually, the country has accumulated tens of millions of poor and/or unemployed people, especially in the countryside that was very inadequately provided with the necessary infrastructure to improve the lot of the farmers. It will take at least ten years of 7% or more growth for there to be any sign of inclusive growth. In the meantime, we have to sustain this high growth and even accelerate it to close to 10% if we are ever going to eradicate massive poverty. We cannot avoid the Chinese formula of pouring a lot of money on infrastructure and getting foreign funds into the industrial sector. With the exception of land ownership, China has been much more open to foreign equity investments than the Philippines. Foreign ownership of land was not a major consideration of foreign investors in China because they were mesmerized by the outstanding ability of the Chinese State to improve public infrastructure to the level of a First World country. The Philippines has to open land ownership (of residence, factory and commercial establishment) to foreigners to compensate for the terrible state of infrastructure from which we are still suffering. It may take another five to ten years before we can bring our public infrastructure spending to the desired level of 5% of GDP. In the meantime, we have to depend on long-term equity capital to improve such infrastructures as toll roads, airports, trains, power plants, water facilities, etc. Investment in these sectors is still problematic for foreigners because of the many restrictions we have in our Constitution, which prohibits even 1% foreign equity investment in education and media and severely restricts foreign investments in such sectors as telecom, energy, mining, and public utilities. Some local employers are wary about the method being proposed by the Philippine Congress to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution, i.e. adding the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law.” They say that provisions found in the fundamental law of the land are being brought down to the level of legislation. These critics have hit the nail on the head. As one of those who framed the 1987 Philippine Constitution, I must declare what I told many of my fellow commissioners in my role as Chairman of the Committee on the National Economy. I told them that, because of their nationalist, leftist, anti-market or other sentiments, their including so many

restrictions against foreign investments in the fundamental law was tantamount to transforming the Constitution into one huge piece of legislation. Any research on constitutions all over the world will show that quantitative restrictions on foreign participation in the local economy are never found in the fundamental law. They are always the subject of continuously changing legislation that adapts to changing circumstances in the global, regional and local economies. What Speaker Belmonte and the other legislators are trying to accomplish is precisely to reduce the Constitution into a really fundamental law and to remove provisions that straightjacket future generations with obsolete percentages and other provisions that should change with time. For example, some of our local business leaders are misinformed when they say that opening land ownership to foreigners will enable some rich countries to buy all the islands of the Philippines. This is hyperbole. Once the amendment of this constitutional provision is passed, then Congress will pass a law that will clearly establish the conditions for foreign ownership of land. There are enough level-headed members of both houses in Congress who will realize that foreign ownership of land should be limited to the land on which the foreigner builds his residence, his factory, his office building and other commercial establishment. Why should the foreigner be prohibited from also benefiting from the appreciation of the land on which he has invested some amount of money? In other words, there will be a limitation to foreigners buying unlimited space in the Philippines. The same process will be applied to the other reasonable restrictions that enlightened legislation may stipulate. For example, instead of a zero level of foreign investment in any educational opinion is to limit the foreign equity in a local school to 49% so that Filipinos can still determine the values that will be the foundation of the educational programs offered in the institution. The same reasoning can be applied to the foreign ownership of media. These two sectors are so sensitive to values so that total foreign control may lead to undesirable moral principles (such as the culture of death) creeping into our media world. Any historical analysis of FDIs in the Asian region will show that average inflows of foreign direct investments among our ASEAN neighbors (not to mention China) would show that the Philippines has had the smallest share of FDIs, with our peers like Vietnam and Indonesia attracting foreign investments four to six times our yearly average. Although the admirable efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry have led to significant increases in the last two years, especially vis-a-vis Japanese and Korean investments, the figures are still puny compared to what our neighbors are getting. As I said at the beginning of this column, much bigger FDIs must complement the larger infrastructure spending of our Government if we are going to attain inclusive growth over the next ten or more years. Those who are opposed to amending the economic provisions of the Constitution are unwittingly condemning the Philippine poor to perpetual penury. For comments, my email address is

External debt ratios to stay manageable at 21.9%  of GDP  by Lee C. Chipongian March 3, 2014

The central bank expects the country’s external debt ratios will continue to be manageable and projections of debt service burden indicate sustainability of external debt. BangkoSentralngPilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said the Philippines’ external debt ratios, over the long term, has a declining trend even if the total outstanding debt stock will increase. “The important thing is debt ratios are steady,” said Guinigundo. “The debt stock is increasing (on certain quarters) because GDP is growing and current account receipts are also increasing. However, the external debt ratios continue to be very stable.” “In fact it’s coming down, it’s only at 21.9 percent debt to GDP,” added Guinigundo. The central bank’s projections of debt service burden, which are payments in principals and interests owed to creditors outside of the Philippines, also indicate stable external debt condition. In worst case scenario based on previous data, from 2011 to 2015, the BSP forecast external debt service burden will not exceed $9 billion per year and is estimated to peak at $10.5 billion by 2015 based on maturing foreign obligations. These numbers are regularly put on review and external debt burden has been declining. In the next several years, BSP projections indicate that the public sector share to total debt service burden will be a low of 46 percent to a high of 82 percent. As of end-November 2013, the country’s external debt service burden increased by 5.24 percent year-on-year to $6.29 billion. The principal amount is $3.64 billion during the period, up 18.92 percent from the same period in 2012 of $3.06 billion. Interest payments, in the meantime, continued to decline to $2.65 billion, down 9.11 percent year-on-year or from $2.92 billion. The debt service burden – both principal and interest – are payments on fixed medium and long term credits including the International Monetary Fund credits and loans covered by the Paris Club and commercial banks rescheduling and new money facilities. The interest payments also include those on fixed and revolving short-term liabilities of banks and non-banks.

The BSP reported that as of end third quarter 2013, the country’s total external debt was $59 billion. The public sector accounted for $42.17 billion of this total, while the private sector foreign loans amounted to $16.87 billion. The debt service forecasts are reviewed regularly as debt ratios are very sensitive to currency or foreign exchange movements, which is majority in US dollars and a significant portion in Japanese yen. Based on the BSP’s Early Warning System or EWS, the country’s outstanding external debt is still within the comfortable level of 25 percent, well-within the international benchmark’s 20-25 percent limit. The EWS is what the BSP use for assessing debt sustainability.

WB: Buyer nations subsidize rice farmers, but not in PHL Category: Agri‐Commodities   03 Mar 2014   Written by Marvyn N. Benaning / Correspondent   FARMERS,  millers  and  irrigators  associations  (IAs)  in  the  Philippines  are  disputing  the  claim  of  the  top  economist  of  the  World  Bank  in  the  Philippines  that  protectionism  is  the  reason  rice  prices  in  the  country are 40 percent higher than global prices.  The World Bank’s Dr. Rogier van den Brink said the policy on rice importation, which is regulated by the  National Food Authority (NFA), has caused rice prices to zoom to P35,000 per metric ton (MT) compared  to the world market price of about P23,000 per MT in 2013.  Van  den  Brink’s  position  has  been  assailed  by  farmers’  organizations  like  the  Kilusang  Magbubukid  ng  Pilipinas (KMP), the Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations (Philcongrains), the IAs and even by  studies conducted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the Southeast Asian Regional  Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca.)  He  also  wondered  why  the  quantitative  restrictions  on  rice  stands  even  as  it  had  expired  in  2012.  He  added that by maintaining QR through the NFA, the country would be violating its agreement with the  World Trade Organization (WTO.)  Van  den  Brink  also  claimed  the  Philippines  now  has  the  second  highest  wage  level  in  Asia  and  a  high  rice‐price regime would punish workers who have to spend more for food.  The KMP has criticized the World Bank for insisting on rice‐trade liberalization even as it means opening  the country to cheap subsidized rice from other countries that the WTO had never punished.  Dismantling  the  so‐called  protectionist  barrier  would  kill  the  Filipino  peasantry,  KMP  claimed,  and  demanded that rice imports be scrapped altogether and the Philippines pull out from WTO.  KMP said the World Bank does not understand that the Philippines has the second highest power rates  in Asia and prices of oil products are skyrocketing after the oil industry was liberalized, with their costs  accounting for 25 percent per kilo of palay.  Dr. Vo‐Tong Xuan, who won the first D. L. Umali award for rural development in 2008, also warned that  “farmers remain poor and may even get poorer with the sweeping force of globalization.”  

Dr. Sjarifudin Baharsjah, winner of the 2013 D. L. Umali award for agricultural development in Indonesia,  has also called on Asian nations not to abandon rice‐sufficiency and urged them to revolutionize their  farm sectors, as well.  He  said  the  “opening  of  the  domestic  market  to  foreign  produce  caused  the  rise  in  poverty  and  unemployment in rural areas, a rural agriculture economic involution, even within a seemingly healthy  national economy.”  Herculano  “Joji”  Co,  longtime  president  of  Philcongrains,  said  Filipino  rice  farmers  do  not  enjoy  the  subsidies heaped on rice producers in Thailand and Vietnam, both of which have surpluses of the grain.  Co  said  in  Thailand,  the  government  of  Prime  Minister  Yingluck  Shinawatra  had  guaranteed  farmers  a  return of 20 percent to their investments, pushing production levels higher and assuring Bangkok a large  inventory that it had trouble disposing.  Vietnamese  rice  producers  sell  their  stocks  to  the  state,  which  also  guarantees  a  fair  return,  and  the  government sells the grain through two corporations, one with socialist countries and the other to the  rest of the world.  Thailand and Vietnam have been providing fertilizer, seed and irrigation subsidies to their farmers, with  the National Food Authority Employees Association (NFAEA) claiming that the former gives each farmer  a subsidy of $900 annually, while the latter provides $800 per year to each grower.  In the Philippines the so‐called subsidy is not even P400 yearly, or less than $10 annually.  PhilRice’s  recent  study  has  confirmed  that  the  so‐called  high‐subsidy  and  protectionist  regime  in  the  country is a misnomer.  For its part, a recently released Searca study on technical smuggling showed that milled rice is the top  smuggled commodity with a total value of $1.2 billion from 1986 to 2009.  The estimates revealed that the smuggling of rice was highest in 2008, which happened to be the year  when former President Gloria Macapagal‐Arroyo lifted the quota on rice importation.  Between 1986 and 1994—the pre‐WTO period for the country—technical smuggling of milled rice was  only about an average of 30,007 MT per year, valued at an average of $8.07 million per year.  A 24‐year data showed an estimated total amount of technically smuggled milled rice into the country at  4,349,546 MT or roughly 181,000 MT per year, valued at $1.196 billion at current prices or about $49.8  million per year. 

“Although rice  continues  to  benefit  from  trade  protection  through  a  quantitative  restriction  on  importation,  rice  importation  was  also  the  highest  among  the  selected  agricultural  commodities  over  the last decade,” the study said.  In effect, technical smuggling came with WTO and trade liberalization.  The  statistics  relating  to  the  so‐called  subsidies,  protectionism  and  agricultural  credit  policies  are  no  match for the subsidies and highly protectionist policies of other rice‐producing Asian countries.  “The  interest  on  agricultural  loan  is  also  more  affordable  in  other  countries.  The  government  bank  in  India provides zero interest if agricultural loan is paid within six months, while the government bank in  China offers interest of 5 percent per annum for agricultural loans, 80 percent of which is shouldered by  the government,” PhilRice said.  “Thailand’s Bank of Agriculture offers 6 percent per year, while the government bank in Indonesia and  Agri Bank in Vietnam both charge 12 percent per annum,” it added.  “Filipino farmers have to be content  with 24 percent per year charged by cooperatives, which charge lower compared with informal money  lenders.”  Worse, Land Bank of the Philippines told the farmers to secure loans from a unit of the Department of  Agrarian Reform (DAR), which is scandal‐ridden as well.  PhilRice said “subsidized” Filipino farmers pay $49 per hectare in irrigation fees during the wet season  and spend $69 per hectare during the dry season.  “In Indonesia, farmers pay only the laborer who opens and closes the main canal, but payment for the  use of water is free,” the agency said.  Filipino farmers can only plead for an exemption from the payment of irrigation fees only if calamities  ruin their crops.  In all other Asian countries like China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, farmers enjoy unlimited irrigation  for free, unlike the “subsidized” Filipino rice farmers.  PhilRice’s  latest  study  showed  that  the  farm‐gate  price  of  palay  here  is  slightly  higher  than  those  of  neighboring Asian countries like Indonesia and Vietnam.  The average Philippine rice yield in 2012 was 3.84 MT per hectare (MT/ha) in 2012, much better than  India’s (3.59 MT/ha) and Thailand’s (3.00 MT/ha), which are exporters of rice.  On  the  average,  said  PhilRice,  the  labor  cost  for  land  preparation,  crop  establishment,  harvesting  and  threshing in the Philippines totaled to an average of $484.50 per hectare. 

This figure is a mile removed from that of India ($268/ha), Thailand ($192/ha), and Vietnam ($198/ha),  but is not so far from the $430.50/ha that farmers spend in West Java, Indonesia.  “In these countries, most farmers practice direct seeding and use combine harvester‐thresher, thereby  minimizing their labor cost,” PhilRice argued.  China should be condemned by the champions of globalization and trade liberalization for providing free  seeds  to  large‐scale  farmers,  while  India  and  Indonesia  should,  likewise,  be  sanctioned  for  providing  subsidy to their fertilizer industries and finding them markets in Java.  “In the Philippines, fertilizers are unsubsidized. Urea is sold at $27.91 per bag, which is 67 percent and  82 percent higher than the subsidized price of India and Indonesia, respectively,” PhilRice said.  “Except in Indonesia, where agricultural land is taxed heavily, the annual tax for agricultural land in the  Philippines [$4.65/ha] is higher than in other countries,” it argued.  China and Vietnam decreed free tax on agricultural land, while land taxes in India and Thailand are less  than a dollar per hectare.‐commodities/28383‐wb‐buyer‐nations‐ subsidize‐rice‐farmers‐but‐not‐in‐phl      

Palace: Fishermen can still go to Panatag By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 4, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - The government is making sure Filipino fishermen are not deprived of access to Panatag Shoal’s rich resources despite threats of being driven away even during inclement weather by intruding Chinese vessels. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Filipino fishermen are free to go to the area not just for fish but also for other marine resources they are allowed to collect. In a press briefing, Lacierda said the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) would continue to assist fishermen who were driven away from Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea by Chinese sailors reportedly with the use of a water cannon last Jan. 27. BFAR director Asis Perez said yesterday they were setting up fish sanctuaries, locally known as payao, off Zambales to serve as an alternative fishing ground for local fishermen. But Lacierda said he did not have information on whether the Philippine Coast Guard could already be deployed to protect the fishermen who would venture into area. The PCG said it was waiting for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Malacañang to make a decision. On Friday while on a state visit to Malaysia, President Aquino said they learned from affidavits of the fishermen involved in the Jan. 27 incident that a fire hose and not water cannon was used on them by the Chinese. Aquino said he reiterated to Malaysia that the Philippines was for the settlement of maritime disputes based on international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and through consensus among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, China and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. Aquino said he was not able to discuss with Malaysia the possibility of joining the country in its case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to press for Manila’s claim against China. But he said both sides were anxious to have a code of conduct for freedom of navigation and ensure peace and stability in the region. Lacierda also said he was not aware of any incentives being offered by China in exchange for the Philippines’ not submitting its written argument to ITLOS by the end of the month. – With Ric Sapnu

Infrastructure problems cause erratic fertilizer, food prices Category: Top News   03 Mar 2014   Written by Cai U. Ordinario   THE country’s infrastructure constraints have been causing inefficiencies in fertilizer prices nationwide,  which in turn, have made some agricultural products more expensive than others, thus contributing to  the unstable prices of food items.  This is according to a study released by the state‐owned think tank Philippine Institute for Development  Studies (PIDS).  Titled  “The  Role  of  Mineral  Fertilizers  in  Transforming  Philippine  Agriculture,”  the  study,  prepared  by  PIDS  Senior  Research  Fellow  Roehlano  M.  Briones  said  infrastructure  problems  have  made  fertilizer  prices expensive in some regions and cheaper in others.  The  uneven  pricing  of  fertilizer  has  also  affected  farm  gate  prices,  making  some  agricultural  products  more expensive than others, contributing to the unstable prices of food items.  “A more serious challenge is the persistence of apparent inefficiencies in fertilizer marketing, as seen in  the  large  discrepancies  in  pricing  across  adjacent  regions  for  the  same  product.  The  fact  that  markets  are  competitive  does  not  preclude  inefficiencies  in  the  fertilizer‐supply  chain  at  least  in  some  areas,  owing to poor transport infrastructure, weak logistics systems and low investments,” Briones said.  Data  showed  that  across  the  country,  retail  prices  of  fertilizer  based  on  the  Dealer’s  price  index  vary  widely. Relative to the national average, the cheapest fertilizers are found in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley  (in the north); Western Visayas (central) and Davao Region (south).  The most expensive fertilizers are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Eastern Visayas—  which also happen to be among the poorest regions of the country.  “Variations in fertilizer prices [as gauged by the standard deviation] are similar across fertilizer grades,  i.e.,  in  the  somewhere  between  6  [percent]  and  7  percent.  The  widest  range  in  the  index  is  for  urea,  followed by ammonium sulfate,” Briones said.  “Accounting for these disparities warrants future research. Further study should check for the presence  of  spatial  market  integration,  i.e.,  whether  spatial  arbitrage  opportunities  exist  within  the  country.  If  none,  disparities  may  still  be  attributed  to  transaction  cost  differences,  perhaps  due  to  area‐specific  gaps in infrastructure and logistics,” he added. 

The study  said  the  fertilizer  marketing  passes  through  three  levels,  namely,  importers/manufacturers;  distributors‐wholesalers; and dealers‐retailers.  Briones said distributors operate in one province and sell to dealers, then dealers sell to end users, such  as  farmers.  Distributors  can  also  sell  directly  to  farmers  or  large  plantations,  and  may  also  have  a  dealer’s license.  He  added  that  in  some  areas  there  could  be  area  distributors  who  operate  in  multiple  provinces  and  supply  distributors.  Briones  added  that  imports  could  also  be  done  by  large  plantations  and  farmer‐  cooperatives.  As  of  2012  there  were  483  licensed  handlers  in  the  fertilizer  industry  involved  in  importation,  distribution, repacking, export and manufacturing. Of these, Briones said 150 were listed as importers  and there were eight handlers that were listed as end‐users like large plantations.  Briones added that there are also farmer‐ cooperatives or associations, like sugar‐planter organizations,  that distribute fertilizer to their members. Hence, even if there are entry barriers to fertilizer marketing,  these are not so high as to limit the number of players.  However, Briones said data on fertilizer revenues are confidential. Available information on the market  profile is too sparse to support any firm findings on market structure; the assessment rather examines  pricing behavior to infer the state of competition in the domestic market.  Briones  said  official  data  on  fertilizer  price  pertains  to  retail  or  dealer’s  prices.  Prices  were  increasing  gradually until 2007, after which prices shot up dramatically, before pulling back in 2009.  Briones said this is why prices resumed their more gradual upward trend. By 2011 fertilizer prices were  much higher than in 2007. This accounts for lower fertilizer application after 2007.‐news/28410‐infrastructure‐problems‐ cause‐erratic‐fertilizer‐food‐prices         

5 GO OCCs scrap pped, 7 more on w way ou ut By Delon n Porcalla (T The Philippin ne Star) | Up pdated Marchh 4, 2014 - 112:00am 3 4 goo ogleplus0 0

MANILA A, Philippinees - Presiden nt Aquino ap pproved last year the aboolition of fivve underperrforming gov vernment-ow wned and con ntrolled corpporations (G GOCCs), inclluding three implicateed in the porrk barrel scam m, and seven n more may be scrappedd. The Governance Com mmission on n GOCCs (G GCG) said in a statement released yessterday that in q of 2013, Aquino had h approveed the abolitiion of the Naational Agribbusiness Corp. the last quarter (NABCO OR), Zamboaanga del Norrte Rubber Estate E Corp. and Philippiine Forest C Corp., which were linked to the alleged misuse of th he pork barreel or Priorityy Developmeent Assistancce Fund (PD DAF) of lawmaakers. The two other agenciies abolished d by the Pressident were tthe Human S Settlements Developmennt d Cottage In ndustry Tech hnology Centter. Corp. and All five firms f were in ncluded in th he 19 underp performing G GOCCs that Reps. Rufuss Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro and his brother Maximo M of the t party-listt group Abannte Mindanaao have sougght to abolish. G has also reecommended d the abolitio on or privatizzation of anoother seven oout of the 199 The GCG GOCCs cited c in the Rodriguez R biill. These aree the Maraw wi Resort Hootel Inc., Phillippine Aerospacce Dev’t Corrp., NDC-Ph hilippine Infrrastructure C Corp., Batangas Land Coo., Kamayann Realty Corp., GY Reeal Estate Incc. and Pinagkaisa Realtyy Corp. The GCG G has also reecommended d for abolitio on or privatizzation five m more GOCCss: the Alabanng Sto. Tom mas Developm ment Inc., Tierra Factorss Corp., Trafffic Control Products Coorp., DISC Contracto ors, and CDC CP Farms Corp. C The Rodrriguez broth hers have fileed House Billl No. 3807, which seekss to abolish 19 GOCCs tthat are eitherr losing mon ney or have redundant r fu unctions withh other agencies, especiaally those thaat have been linked to the t multibilliion-peso porrk barrel funnd scam.

“We have to make sure that this is studied thoroughly by the GCG, which has the mandate to ensure that all government companies are in shape,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said yesterday. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the GCG is in charge of evaluating the performance of every GOCC under its watch. The other six GOCCs in the Rodriguez bill – Banaue Hotel and Youth Hostel, BCDA Management and Holdings Inc., Masaganang Sakahan Inc., Northern Foods Corp., Tourism Promotions Board (also called the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corp.) and Trade and Investment Development Corp. (now PhilEXIM) – are part of the GCG’s regular sector-wide evaluation of GOCCs. The evaluation is based on financial viability and relevance to current national development plans. The Freeport Services Corp., a subsidiary of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, is outside the jurisdiction of the GCG. The GCG said President Aquino also approved the abolition of six other GOCCs not appearing in the Rodriguez bill. These are the Southern Philippines Development Authority, Philippine Fruits and Vegetables Corp., San Carlos Fruits Corp., Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corp., Bataan Technology Park, Inc. and PNOC Shipping and Transport Corp. The GCG said 14 more GOCCs were actually dissolved by expiration of corporate term or were rendered non-operational or liquidated under the direction of the GCG. These firms include the Manila Gas Corp., PNOC Malampaya Corp., Aviation Services and Training Institute, Calauag Quezon Province Integrated Coconut Processing Plant, Clark Polytechnic Dev’t Corp., First Centennial Clark Corp., GSIS Properties Inc., LBP Financial Services SpA, LBP Remittance Company, LBP Singapore Representative Office, Paskuhan Development Inc., Phil. Centennial Expo ’98 Corp., Philpost Leasing and Financing Corp. and Metro Transit Inc. There are 116 GOCCs that are currently being monitored, which the GCG aims to reduce to fewer than 100 by the end of the year through abolition, privatization or merger. The streamlining of non-performing or unnecessary GOCCs is a key objective in the GCG’s roadmap to improving efficiency and transforming the GOCC sector into a tool for economic growth and development. Affected employees are given separation pay amounting to around one month’s salary for every year of service, unless an administrative or criminal case is failed against them. No need for legislation Senate President Franklin Drilon said that there is no need for any congressional action to abolish non-performing GOCCs because there are already mechanisms in place to accomplish this.

Drilon said that the GCG is tasked to go over the performance of the state-owned corporations and to take appropriate action against those that are not performing well or are no longer relevant. “We do not need legislation for that because that can be done under the GOCC Governance Act,” Drilon said. He said that the GCG has a mandate to perform a technical evaluation of the GOCCs, so if ever there is a need to abolish any one of them, the GCG would be able to recommend this to the President. Bill 3807 filed by the Rodriguez brothers provides that all officers and employees of the abolished GOCCs should be given separation pay equivalent to their salary for two and a half months. The funds should be provided in the national budget. The bill also sought to transfer the agencies’ functions to other government offices. The departments of finance and budget and management, and the Commission on Audit would be mandated to issue the implementing rules and regulations. “Consistent with the Aquino administration’s austerity measures, it is high time that the government remove the excess fat and spend only for things that are truly vital to the country,” the Rodriguez brothers said. They said the government has around 120 GOCCs, many of which are unnecessary, underperforming and losing money. However, the lawmakers said taxpayers are still paying for the expenses of these GOCCs, including the officers’ and employees’ salaries. “This is aside from the P7.28 billion that the government extends to these state-owned subsidiaries as subsidies from January to May, or P2.25 billion more than the P5.03 billion recorded in the same period in 2013,” they said. The lawmakers said these subsidies are booked as expenses and continue to put a strain on the government’s widening budget deficit. Earlier, militant party-list groups led by Bayan Muna sought the abolition of the National Livelihood Development Corp., a subsidiary of Land Bank of the Philippines, and Technology Resource Center for involvement in the pork barrel scam. With Marvin Sy

Oil firms f roll ba ack pu ump p prices By Iris Gonzales G (Th he Philippinee Star) | Updated March 4, 2014 - 122:00am

MANILA A, Philippinees - Oil com mpanies annou unced anothher round of oil price rolllback effectiive midnightt yesterday. Petron Corp., the cou untry’s biggeest oil refineer, was the fiirst to announ unce a rollbacck of 30 centavos per liter forr diesel and kerosene, k bu ut gasoline prrices are uncchanged. “This refflects movem ments in the international i l oil market,,” Petron said. Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, P an a independeent oil playeer, also issueed a similar aannouncemeent. Other oill companies are expected d to follow suit, s but theyy have not issued similarr announcem ments as of presss time. It is also not clear wh hether the prrice cuts willl continue evven as gasoliine companiies have beenn reducing prices for th he past five weeks. w b. 25 oil mon nitoring repo ort, the Depaartment of Ennergy (DOE E) said that fo for the produucts In its Feb market in n Asia, gasolline sentiment remained mixed, withh divided opinions from market traders. “While some traders say that therre is an overrsupply of ligght distillatee fuels, otherrs pointed to a still healtthy demand as the reason n behind thee firming of ggasoline preemiums,” thee DOE said. As of Feb b. 25, diesel prices rangee from P42.5 55 per liter too P46.35 perr liter while gasoline priices are at P50.20 per liter to P56.55 per p liter. Thee common pprice is P45.330 per liter ffor diesel andd P53.60 per liter for gasoline. g Thee last price cu ut follows a similar rollbback in pricees of liquefieed petroleum m gas (LPG)) or cooking gas last Marrch 1. Petron cu ut LPG pricees by P5.35 per p kilogram m while Solanne announceed a rollbackk of P4.68 peer kilogram m. http://ww nes/2014/03//04/12968655/oil-firms-rooll-back-pum mp-prices

Gov v’t officers who w flu unked d reporrt card surv vey to underrgo tra ainingg By Michael Punongb bayan (The Philippine P Sttar) | Updateed March 4, 22014 - 12:000am

A, Philippinees - Governm ment officerss who flunkeed the 2013 Report Cardd Survey (RC CS) MANILA last week k will have to o correct theeir deficienciies and compply with the law. The Civil Service Co ommission (C CSC) will en nsure that thhey institute rreforms to reectify their faults. These off fficers will undergo u a Seervice Deliveery Excellennce Program (SDEP) to ddetermine annd deal with h problem areas in frontline service delivery. d Surprise visits will en nsure that offfices needin ng help to coorrect their ddeficiencies w will comply with t Anti-Red d Tape Act. Republicc Act 9485, the Chairman n Francisco Duque III told t The STA AR the CSC C’s interventiion bore possitive resultss in 2012, wh hen almost all of the 150 0 of 599 goveernment offiicers who fluunked the tesst are now complian nt with the ARTA A law. “They arre to be subjeected to SDE EP for reorieentation and training in sservice delivvery,” he saidd. In publishing the resu ults of the 20 013 RCS in The STAR, the CSC saiid 67 or 929 governmentt offices naationwide faailed the test. Among the top flunk kers were thee Land Regisstration Authhority (LRA A), Land Trannsportation Office (L LTO) and Naational Proseecution Serv vice (NPS). T Thirteen offices of the LR RA, includinng those in Cebu C and Daavao; nine LTO L offices, including thhose in Olonngapo City annd Tawi-Taw wi; and eightt NPS officees, including those in Cav vite and Cebbu, received “Failed” rattings in the R RCS. http://ww om/headliness/2014/03/04 4/1296864/goovt‐officers‐w who‐flunked‐rreport‐card‐ survey‐un ndergo‐trainin ng  

Hou use loo oks intto ‘misssing’ P30-B B infraa fund d By Jess Diaz D (The Ph hilippine Staar) | Updated d March 4, 20014 - 12:00aam

A, Philippinees - The Hou use of Repreesentatives oppens an inquuiry today innto the reporrted MANILA “missing g” P30 billion n in infrastru ucture funds during the A Arroyo admiinistration. Invited to o the initial hearing h weree Public Works and Highhways Secreetary Rogelioo Singson, Chairman n Grace Puliido-Tan of th he Commisssion on Audiit and Ramonn Allado of the Philippinne Contracto ors Accredittation Board (PCAB). The committee on go ood governm ment and pub blic accountaability, chairred by Pampanga Rep. O Oscar Rodrigueez, is conduccting the inqu uiry, which was w prompteed by Resoluution 592 auuthored by Eastern Samar S Rep. Ben B Evardon ne. In his ressolution, Evaardone said it i was Singso on and his ppeople who uuncovered thhe missing infrastruccture funds. He said the t public wo orks officials have “adm mitted discovvering releasees of agencyy funds amountin ng to at leastt P30 billion, allegedly sp pent and left ft unaccounteed for by thee previous administrration, including a 2008 P100-millio on 12-kilomeeter road connstruction prroject in the town of Mataaas na Kahoy in Batangas, which remaains unfinishhed.” “The con ntractor, a ceertain Edwin Gardiola, has allegedly failed to subbmit accompplishment reeports to the DP PWH on projjects worth about a P6 billlion,” he sai d. Evardonee also questiioned the acccreditation sy ystem of thee public workks departmeent and PCAB B. He said one o of Gardiola’s constru uction firms, which he iddentified as JSG Construuction named after the contractor’s wife Judy, had h only a “B” license bbut was awarrded contraccts for “Triplle AAA” co ontractors. At the veery least, the accreditatio on system an nd standards are “confusiing,” he saidd.

He said it was important for the House to know where the missing funds went, since it is the chamber that has principal responsibility for allocating taxpayers’ money. Rodriguez said he himself is interested in finding out what really happened to the huge amount of infrastructure funds that was reportedly disbursed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but could not be accounted for. He said he received information that even in his home province, where Arroyo also comes from, as well as in Leyte and other provinces, there were billions in such funds that were misused. He said the funds were literally washed away, since they were allocated for river and canal clearing and dredging projects. When President Aquino assumed office in June 2010, his officials discovered that Arroyo released P10.61 billion in pork barrel funds to her congressional allies two months before the presidential elections in May that year. The funds were intended for infrastructure projects. Upon the request of then newly installed Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Singson ordered his regional directors, project directors and managers, and district engineers to “withdraw” the funds for the congressmen-recipients’ projects. In a letter to Singson, Abad said the P10.61 billion was part of a total of P30.32 billion lawmakers had inserted in the 2010 DPWH budget. He indicated that Arroyo violated her own “conditional veto message” that she sent to Congress as part of her approval of the P1.54-trillion 2010 budget. He quoted the pertinent part of Arroyo’s veto message, which provides that the “release of the increased items of appropriations is subject to the identification by Congress of new revenue measures in support thereof.” The 15th Congress did not pass any revenue bill. “This veto message is in line with the policy of keeping the (budget) deficit within the projected level for FY (fiscal year) 2010. As of end June 2010, the fiscal performance showed that the actual deficit of P196.7 billion exceeded the deficit target by P51.6 billion,” Abad said in his letter. “In this regard, the release of P10.61 billion without the corresponding revenue measures identified by Congress will have the effect of bloating the deficit. However, if we are to maintain the deficit level with the release of said amount, this will lead to suppression of DPWH lumpsum funds of same amount, which in turn will lead to non-implementation /deferment of projects,” he said. “Given these scenarios, there is a need to withdraw allotments that have not been obligated yet. Further, kindly review those that were already obligated and explore the possibility for their cancellation to enable this department to withdraw the unobligated allotments,” he said.

In his directive to his field personnel, Singson made it clear that the DPWH would have to sacrifice its own projects if funds released by Arroyo for projects funded by congressional insertions were not recalled. Abad subsequently told The STAR that they were not able to recall Arroyo’s “midnight” releases. The DPWH has been trying to trace where the money went.


Soybean does not raise risk of gout–UPLB researcher Category: Agri‐Commodities   03 Mar 2014   Written by Marvyn N. Benaning   EATING soybeans does not raise the risk of gout.  This was the conclusion made by Elmer E. Enicola, a researcher from the University of the Philippines Los  Baños’s Institute of Plant Breeding, who discussed the popular but false belief that soybeans instigate  attacks of gout.  Enicola  said  since  beans  are  high  in  protein,  some  people  have  concluded  that  consumption  of  foods  with high‐protein content leads to higher uric‐acid levels in the blood that trigger gout.  “This  is  not  true  as  revealed  by  numerous  scientific  studies,”  he  said  during  a  seminar  on  soybeans  organized by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) on recently.  Admitting  that  he  is  neither  a  physician  nor  a  medical  researcher,  Enicola  said  the  paper  he  delivered  was aimed at informing the public on the value of soybeans and the benefits of its consumption.  “I’m very interested in this topic since conventional wisdom can limit bean consumption in the country,”  he said.  Enicola presented “Soybeans and Gout” publicly to correct one of the most well‐known tales about the  risks posed by eating soybeans and soy‐based foods.  He said gout develops in an individual when there is excess uric acid in the blood.  The uric acid builds up in the fluid around the joints, leading to the formation of uric‐acid crystals that  may cause the joints to swell and become inflamed.  Gout is also known as podagra when it involves the big toe.  Enicola discussed that gout can be acute or chronic.  “It’s acute if only one or a few joints are affected, mostly like it’s either the big toe, knee or ankle joints.  It becomes chronic when there are repeated episodes of pain and inflammation and that more than one  joint is affected, leading to damage and loss of joint motion,” he said.  He said gout may be a consequence of high uric‐acid levels in the blood. 

Uric acid is the waste product from the metabolism of purines.  “Some purines are made by the body itself since purines are part of the chemistry of the human body.  But aside from that, purines can also come from the food we eat,” Enicola said.  Food items with high levels of purines are liver, kidney, anchovies, sardines, mussels, bacon, scallops and  beer.  Purines from the body and those from the food that we consume form the uric acid in the blood. This  eventually builds up in the joints only if the body cannot metabolize quickly  enough to dispose of the  uric acid.  “However, this does not immediately result to gout as this requires triggers that build up uric acid in the  blood,” Enicola said.  Earlier studies have shown that eating legumes is not associated with gout, even if some legumes have  low to moderate levels of purines like stringbean, chickpea and mungbean, and soy food such as tofu.  The reason for this is that the  purine  content of legumes is not as high as those coming  from animal‐ based foods.  “Results of some of the most recent studies and even existing data show that there is no reason why the  public,  with  or  without  gout,  should  avoid  eating  soybeans  and  soy‐based  foods  when,  in  fact,  they  provide plentiful amounts of high‐quality protein,” Enicola said.  He presented several scientific studies to support the claim that intake of purines from animal sources  increases the risk of gout.  A  study  in  2004,  entitled  “Purine‐Rich  Foods,  Dairy  and  Protein  Intake,  and  the  Risk  of  Gout  in  Men,”  revealed that higher levels of meat and seafood consumption increase the risk of gout.  Moderate intake of purine‐rich vegetables or protein is not associated with any such increased risk.  Another  study  in  2005,  “Intake  of  Purine‐Rich  Foods,  Protein,  and  Dairy  Products  and  Relationship  to  Serum  Levels  of  Uric  Acid,”  found  that  higher  levels  of  meat  and  seafood  consumption  are  associated  with higher serum levels of uric acid.  In a study conducted in 2012 that looked into the role of purine‐rich foods and  protein intake on the  prevalence of hyperuricemia, it was shown that the “intake of soy products (bean curd/tofu, fried bean  curd,  vegetarian  chicken,  and  bean  curd  cake  and  soy  milk)  was  associated  with  lower  risk  of  hyperuricemia.” 

Also, it  was  reported  that  seafood  intake  (fish  and  shellfish  combined)  was  associated  with  higher  prevalence of hyperuricemia.  Noneteless,  Enicola enjoined  the  public to watch  what they eat and  modify the  consumption of some  food items to reduce the risks of gout.  He also encouraged the public to limit the intake of high purine foods, most of which come from animal  source (red meat and liver), and include legumes (including soy food) in the daily diet.  As the focal agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the Soybean Research and Development  Program,  BAR  is  promoting  the  health  benefits  of  soybeans  and  is  supporting  the  implementation  of  various projects for the production and processing of soybean products.    Marvyn N. Benaning‐commodities/28382‐soybean‐does‐ not‐raise‐risk‐of‐gout‐uplb‐researcher                               

Power‐bill refund good until 2015, Meralco exec says Category: Nation   03 Mar 2014   Written by Lenie Lectura   The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) on Monday said it has until 2015 to fully comply with a 2013 Supreme  Court (SC) ruling that mandated the utility firm to return the P30.2 billion it overcharged to customers.  “We have up to 2015 to complete the refund process for the remaining customers,” Meralco Spokesman  Joe Zaldarriaga said.  About 95 percent of Meralco customers entitled to the refund have received it. The remaining 5 percent  of Meralco customers have terminated accounts, Zaldarriaga said.  “We have strictly followed the process of the SC refund order. In fact, all our customers entitled to the  refund  have  been  notified  or  refunded.  We  continue  to  remind  customers  to  present  necessary  documents  required,”  the  Meralco  spokesman  said,  who  added  that  the  remaining  5  percent  is  equivalent to an estimated P1.5 billion in refunds.  Meralco,  according  to  the  SC,  wrongfully  passed  on  to  its  customers  many  years  of  corporate  income  taxes.  The  utility  firm’s  comments  were  in  reaction  to  a  House  Resolution  filed  by  House  Deputy  Minority  Leader  Arnel  Ty,  who  urged  the  House  Committee  on  Energy  to  inquire  into  Meralco’s  failure  to  fully  comply with the SC order.  “We  were  told  that  up  to  now,  or  more  than  10  years  later,  Meralco  has  yet  to  refund  at  least  P1.5  billion to approximately 260,000 customers,” Ty said.  Ty invoked The Consumer Act, or Republic Act 7394, which mandates the State “to protect the interest  of consumers, promote their general welfare, and to establish the standards of conduct for business and  industry.”‐power‐bill‐refund‐good‐until‐2015‐ meralco‐exec‐says   

Protesters seek repeal of Cybercrime Law provision on libel By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 4, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Various sectors marched to the Senate yesterday to demand the repeal of provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act increasing penalty for online libel. They believe online libel is an infringement of the freedom of expression. Senate President Franklin Drilon believes the debate over online libel could be addressed through a law decriminalizing libel “because right now libel is punished under the Revised Penal Code and the Cybercrime Law.” “The only difference is the medium.We cannot say it is libelous if spoken in radio or printed in print and not libelous when it gets to the Internet. So the solution, and I endorse it, is we must decriminalize libel under the Revised Penal Code.” Drilon said the right way of dealing with the issue of libel in cybercrimes is to decriminalize libel in its totality. “If it’s libelous in one then it’s libelous in all. If it is decriminalized in one it is decriminalized in all. Because the elements of the crime does not include the medium that you use.” Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said libel must be decriminalized because as long as libel exists as a criminal act under the Revised Penal Code, it must apply to traditional media as well as to new media, including the Internet. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 “The point is why this time single out the use of computers?” he said. “Why not take out libel altogether? This time you’re discriminating against those who use the airwaves, those who use the print versus those who use the Internet. So let’s take it out.” Opposing the Cybercrime Law Marnie Tonson, Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA) convenor and legal counsel, raised the issue of mass surveillance of the populace as in the case of former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. “What is the concern of the Philippine government to the 5-eyes network? Edward Snowden pointed to the Australian embassy as an active node in this 5-eyes network, which means that they are spying on Filipino citizens,” he said.

“Our problem in the law is that it places every netizen under surveillance. Even if the Philippine government would say that there are still no acts of surveillance being conducted, as stated by Snowden, we are already under surveillance by the 5-eyes network.” Tonson said the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of online libel on Feb. 11, the global day against mass surveillance. “This is important to note because in 2013, we were put on notice by the declarations of Snowden that there is a 5-eyes spy network already in place worldwide,” he said. He was among the resource persons at the joint hearing of the Senate committees on science and technology, constitutional amendments and revision of codes, civil service, and finance. Tonson said it will take a government official to ask any of the 5-eyes network countries: the United States, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada. “It is our concern that this type of cyber surveillance increases and will be promulgated by the IRRs of the cybercrime law,” he said. The human rights framework of PIFA emphasizes that the Internet is an enabling human right covering freedom of expression and includes rights to privacy and freedom of association. Justice Assistant Secretary Geronimo Sy allayed fears that the government will place Filipino citizens under surveillance. “The fear on surveillance should not cramp the need for everyday law enforcement,” he said. “The fear of surveillance should be tempered by very strict administrative checks, the exercise of oversights of agencies, that our NBI which is beside me, will not do things with special knowledge that has been specially given,” referring to the National Bureau of Investigation. Sy said an online libel provision was not included when the law was originally crafted. “So it bled our hearts... that for such as a technically simple and good piece of legislation that we end up having to defend it,” he said. – With Marvin Sy‐seek‐repeal‐cybercrime‐law‐ provision‐libel          

DAR approves Zamboanga del Sur bridge project Category: Regions   03 Mar 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has approved the implementation of a P20‐million Tulay ng  Pangulo Para sa Kaunlarang Pang‐Agraryo (TPKP) project in Zamboanga del Sur.  Agrarian Reform Regional Director Julita Ragandang said the project is designed to ease the transport of  farm products within Tabuan‐Navalan and nearby barangays to the market place.  Funded by the DAR and the local government units (LGUs), the 34.2‐linear meter bridge with a 40‐ton  capacity, is one of two bridges allocated for the district and forms part of the 418 TPKP projects being  set up nationwide.  The  TPKP  is  being  supported  by  the  government  of  France  through  the  DAR  Foreign  Assisted  Projects  Office.  Josephine Sisican, chief of the Beneficiaries Development and Coordination Division, said the P20‐million  project will benefit a total of 1,545 agrarian‐reform beneficiaries in the area and 12,600 residents from  neighboring barangays.  “The construction of this bridge will not only promote agricultural production but also secure the safety  of the children going to and from the nearby schools,” said Tukuran Mayor Francis Vic Villamero.‐dar‐approves‐zamboanga‐del‐ sur‐bridge‐project     

DENR drafts P1‐billion mangrove, beach forest development project in disaster‐risk areas Category: Nation   03 Mar 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   THE  Department  of  Environment  and  Natural  Resources  (DENR)  is  eyeing  the  use  of  more  scientific  techniques  in  mangrove  and  beach  forest  development  to  enhance  the  country’s  defense  against  calamities.  The DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), formerly the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau,  is  currently  drafting  the  guidelines  for  the  implementation  of  a  P1‐billion  mangrove  and  beach  forest  development project in disaster‐risk areas.  To  be  implemented  by  the  DENR’s  Forest  Management  Bureau  this  year,  the  project  is  expected  to  provide  a  long‐term  solution  to  problems  brought  about  by  the  degradation  of  the  country’s  coastal  environment.  BMB  Director  Theresa  Mundita  Lim  said  the  agency  will  tap  foremost  mangrove  expert  Jurgenne  Primavera to help craft the guidelines.  The  project  will  be  implemented  in  areas  devastated  by  Supertyphoon  Yolanda  (international  code  name Haiyan) in November, as well as other areas highly at risk to such devastation.  “We are coming up with a guideline for the project. We want to make it to be science‐based,” Lim said.  Environment  Secretary  Ramon  J.P.  Paje  recently  announced  that  the  government  has  allotted  $22  million, or P1 billion, for the massive reforestation of mangrove and beach forests across the country.  Paje said the additional allocation for mangrove and beach forest development would pave the way for  the  development  of  coastal  areas  in  the  face  of  the  worst  impacts  of  climate  change,  such  as  the  intensifying typhoons and storm surges that threatens the country, and will be a big boost to the push to  develop the country’s ecotourism potential.  The fund for mangrove and beach forest developments in disaster‐risk areas is on top of the P6.2 billion  allotted for the implementation of the National Greening Program (NGP) this year, which also includes  the rehabilitation of denuded mangrove and beach forests. 

A comprehensive plan for the preparatory activities that was presented by the BMB has been approved  by the DENR chief, Lim said.  The  plan  has  four  major  components,  namely,  site  assessment  and  selection;  community  and  partnership engagement; nursery establishment; and planting and out‐planting activities.  “More than cash‐for‐work, we want to engage the communities and other stakeholders so that they will  appreciate the long‐term benefit of having back the mangroves and beach forests,” she said.  Lim  added  that  a  more  important  component  of  the  project  is  the  conduct  of  nationwide  site  assessment and selection.  “Some  areas  have  been  previously  rehabilitated.  That  is  why  we  need  to  do  site  assessment  and  selection. We need to plant the right species of mangrove in the right area,” she said.  Also,  there  are  areas  that  need  infrastructure  development,  more  than  mangrove  reforestation  as  intervention, she said, adding, “You cannot just plant any mangrove specie anywhere.”  “That is why we are tapping experts to help us in this endeavor.”  This  is  also  important  in  the  establishment  of  more  nurseries  for  the  production  of  quality  planting  materials, Lim said.  The nurseries, she said, will complement  the other tree nurseries being established  under the  NGP  to  ensure adequate supply of planting materials for target areas.    Initially, she said the DENR is eyeing 60 coastal towns in various parts of the country that are considered  highly at risk because of the intensifying typhoons, sea‐level rise, storm surges, or tsunamis.‐denr‐drafts‐p1‐billion‐mangrove‐ beach‐forest‐development‐project‐in‐disaster‐risk‐areas               

Pag‐IBIG, PhilH Health h and the sttock m markeet Category: Opin nion   03 3 Mar 2014   Written by Ma W anny B. Villar 

THE T Philippine  Health  Inssurance  Corp p.  (PhilHealth h)  and  the  H Home  Developm ment  Mutual  Fund,  bette er  known  as  Pag‐IBIG,  sttand  out  am mong  government‐owned d  or  ‐ controlled d corporation ns (GOCCs), bo oth in terms o of performannce and sociall relevance.  Through  its  benefit  programs,  PhilHealth  P makes  m diagnoosis,  treatmeent  and  hosspitalization  more  e to more Filipinos. Without PhilHealth, health care  would be out of reach forr many familiees.  affordable Pag‐IBIG e extends long‐‐term loans o of as much as P6 million, w with interest  rates of as lo ow as 4.5 perccent a  year, allow wing many faamilies to reallize their dreaam of acquiri ng their own homes.  As  of  end d‐2013  Pag‐IB BIG  has  13.5  million  members,  who  eaach  pay  a  mo onthly  contrib bution  of  P10 00.   It  also  reported  a  net  income  of  P16 6.25 billion  last  year,  an  im mpressive  344‐percent  incrrease  from  P P12.10  billion in 2 2012. Resources totaled P345.7 billion.. Based on itss results for 2013, Pag‐IBIG G indicated it could  declare  P10.03  billion  in  dividendss,  which  wou uld  be  crediteed  to  each  m member’s  acccount.  In  201 12  the  dited P9.28 biillion in divide ends to its me embers’ acco unts.  Fund cred The perfo ormance of Ph hilHealth is no o less comme endable. The  health‐insuraance firm, wh hich seeks to cover  100  perce ent  of  the  po opulation,  earrlier  projecte ed  total  bene fit  paymentss  of  about  P6 63  billion  for  2013,  more  thaan  30  percen nt  higher  thaan  the  P47  billion  b paid  inn  2012.  Acco ording  to  Ph hilHealth  Pressident  Alexanderr Padilla, the corporation rreleases an avverage of P1. 2 billion a weeek for benefit payments. Accreditation with PhilHealth is a high priority among privatee hospitals an nd clinics. Info ormation gathered  w show ws  that  nine  out  of  10  ho ospitals  licenssed  by  the  D Department  o of  Health  aree  now  from  its  website  PhilHealth h‐accredited. Nationwide, PhilHealth haas accreditedd 1,622 health h‐care providers and moree than  24,414 he ealth‐care pro ofessionals. 

In its  television  and  radio  commercials,  Pag‐IBIG  proudly  informs  the  public  that  it  maintains  its  low‐ interest  and  easy  repayment  terms  for  housing  loans  without  increasing  members’  monthly  contribution. PhilHealth, on the other hand, doubled its monthly premium of P100 to P200 in January.  The additional contribution is supposed to support the expansion of PhilHealth’s services.  Based on available information, both Pag‐IBIG and PhilHealth are financially healthy. They are not in any  financial predicament, and are not expected to face one in the foreseeable future.  So, recent news reports about their plans to invest in the stock market slightly raised some eyebrows.  But  don’t  get  me  wrong.  The  stock  market  is  a  good  place  to  invest,  compared  with  other  passive  investment outlets, like banks. The low or nil interest rates that banks offer make them comparable to  the piggy banks that children are taught to keep at home, except that it is a lot safer to keep money in  the bank rather than at home.  The same reports cited a statement from Padilla saying the corporation was looking for fund managers  for  its  maiden  venture  in  the  equities  market  that  amounts  to  P5  billion.  According  to  his  statement,  Republic  Act  10606,  or  the  National  Health  Insurance  Act  of  2013,  which  was  enacted  last  June,  authorized PhilHealth to invest part of its funds in the stock market. Prior to the new policy, the bulk of  PhilHealth’s  investments  were  in  government  securities,  which  are considered  safe  because  of  their  zero‐default risk. Stocks are considered high‐risk investments, but they are also high‐yielding.    Pag‐IBIG is also considering a P5‐billion foray into the equities market. Pag‐IBIG President Darlene Marie  Berberabe has been quoted in news reports as saying the Fund was waiting for the go‐signal from the  Department of Finance to channel part of its P20‐billion investible funds for the purchase of blue‐chip  shares.Again,  I  must  say  I’m  not  against  the  plans  of  PhilHealth  and  Pag‐IBIG.  There’s  nothing  wrong  about generating additional revenue to support their programs, which benefit many of our countrymen.  But my advice in one word: Caution. The stock market offers high returns, but it also carries a high risk.  The Philippine Stock Exchange index, which tracks the behavior of stock prices, surged by 27 percent last  May, reaching the 7,200 level. On the last trading day of 2013, however, the index closed at 5,889.83,  basically  wiping  out  the  gains  in  the  first  half  of  the  year.  In  their  efforts  to  further  improve  their  finances  and,  thereby,  their  services,  I  hope  Pag‐IBIG  and  PhilHealth  will  never  forget  their  primary  mandates: health care on the part of PhilHealth, and shelter on the part of Pag‐IBIG.   For comments, e‐mail or visit‐pag‐ibig‐philhealth‐and‐the‐stock‐ market   

Bina ay’s neew parrty SEARCH H FOR TRU UTH By Erneesto M. Maceda (The Phhilippine Starr) | Updated March 4, 20014 12:00am ogleplus0 0 0 0 goo We have confirmed from f Vice Prresident Jejo omar Binay tthat he is forrming a new w political paarty nched on Jun ne 12, Indep pendence Daay. to be laun Binay saiid he is cuttiing ties with PDP since the t Pimentells are not folllowing partyy decisions. He furtheer revealed that many leaaders have signified suppport for him m, but would not want to join PDP-Lab ban. He confirrmed he is now n vetting possible p VP running mattes, but exprressed his prreference forr a non polittician, preferrably a succeessful busineess executivee or econom mist. The Vicee President got g a high sattisfaction ratting of 80% in the last S SWS survey, even higherr than Presidentt Aquino. There aree clearly effo orts to destro oy him by reeviving old ccases when hhe was Mayoor of Makatii, but have alreeady been dismissed by the t Sandigan nbayan. Opinion ( Article MR Rec ), pagem match: 1, secttionmatch: 1 Potentiall rivals for th he Presidency y include Seecretary Marr Roxas for tthe Liberal P Party, Senatoors Alan Peteer Cayetano and Bongbo ong Marcos for the Naciionalista Parrty and Chiz Escudero foor the Nationaliist People’s Coalition (N NPC). Gov. Vilm ma Santos, Senator S Gracce Poe and Senator S Franncis Pangilinnan are mentiioned as Vicce Presidenttial bets. Binay co ontinues to peerform well as HUDCC chairman, aas presidentiaal adviser onn OFWs andd as head of th he Anti Traffficking Task k Force. As the 20 010 election showed, he has strong support s from m local goverrnment officcials. DBM M cover up p

UNA Secretary General, Rep. Toby Tiangco questioned why 200 days after the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the 2007-2009 PDAF releases involving several senators and 32 congressmen, no one from the Liberal Party or Noynoy’s allies have been charged in connection with the pork barrel scam. “What is really obvious and dubious is that the cases are all focused on the opposition, they just don’t include any of their friends who dipped their hands in the PDAF scam. Clearly, there is a cover up here,” Tiangco said. “As a matter of fact, there are 192 solons tagged in the COA report with a combined amount of P6 billion of misused funds that are totally unaccounted for,” Tiangco added. Tiangco also assailed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for failing to submit requested documents to COA and the Senate. Tiangco also criticized the NBI for not investigating other dubious NGOs other than the 8 Janet Napoles NGOs. Zambo judge killed RTC Judge Reynerio Estacio was shot dead by 2 unidentified motorcycle riding men as he was leaving his house in Barangay Tumbungan in Zamboanga City. His wife, Teresita escaped unhurt as Judge Estacio covered his wife from the shots fired by a .45 caliber pistol. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno condemned the killing and asked law enforcers to speed up their investigation and bring the killers to justice. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Zamboanga chapter also condemned the killing. Yolanda death toll The latest official tally of dead persons caused by Yolanda is 6,224 with 1,039 missing. In Tacloban City, dead bodies are still being recovered, the death toll is now at 2,637. Meanwhile, ABS-CBN TV host Noli de Castro reported that 8,000 families were affected in Basey, Samar with many of them still living in tents as 12,000 houses were destroyed by Yolanda. In Tacloban, The Eastern Visayas Medical Center was rebuilt by Enrique Razon. Mayor ambushed Mayor George Perrett was ambushed Friday, in Maitum, Sarangani. While being treated at the hospital, he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Barangay Chairman Nestor Rodriguez and his wife Eusebia were killed when a grenade exploded inside their vehicle in Laurel, Batangas. Barangay Chairman Anselmo Malabanan was shot dead in Tanauan, Batangas. Barangay Chairman Ariel Guillen Buniel was shot dead in Madrid, Surigao del Sur. Five people were wounded in an explosion in Parang, Marikina. A driver of a UV Express was shot in Pasay. In San Manuel, Isabela, peasant leader Romulo dela Cruz was abducted by men who claimed to be from NBI. Low priority Looks like the Mindanao power crisis will persist for some time as President Aquino said that priority is being accorded to the areas damaged by typhoon Yolanda. Secretary Jericho Petilla and NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan have issued statements saying the additional power supply will be on line only in 2015. As of this writing, 35 towns in Lanao del Sur are without electricity. Rotational brownouts are happening all over Mindanao. Almost 4 years after assuming office in 2010, the Aquino administration has failed to solve the power crisis. Dismal picture The US State Department reports that human rights violations by government forces continue to happen under the Aquino Administration. The US State Department said that extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances undertaken by security forces is the most significant human rights problem in the Philippines. The State Department also expressed concern on inadequate and overcrowded prison conditions; killings and harassment of journalists; internally displaced persons; violence against women; abuse and sexual abuse of children and human trafficking. More BIFF clashes Government troops clashed with BIFF rebels in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. Three BIFF rebels were killed when 3 soldiers were wounded when BIFF rebels attacked a camp of the Army’s 2nd mechanized battalion. Meanwhile, 4 civilian volunteers were wounded in a landmine explosion in Davao del Sur.

TIDBITS. . . Dennis Cunanan’s P40 million residence is located in White Plains, Quezon City. Metrobank is building a Metrobank Center in Palo, Leyte. The PNP paid P130,000 to rent an ultrasound machine used to test Janet Napoles. Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed a bill to abolish 19 losing GOCCs.‐new‐party                                        

Aquino told: Discard Mining Act, stop ‘destructive’ projects Category: Economy   03 Mar 2014   Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga   Environmental  groups  under  the  Kalikasan‐People’s  Network  for  the  Environment  (Kalikasan‐PNE)  launched on Monday a nationally coordinated action to reiterate the call for the Aquino administration  to  scrap  its  mining  liberalization  policy  and  alleged  environmentally  destructive  projects  across  the  country.  The “Green Flag Day of Action against Large‐Scale Mining” was launched in various parts of the country  to  mark  the  19th  anniversary  of  the  passage  of  Republic  Act  (RA)  7942,  also  known  as  the  Philippine  Mining Act of 1995.  Protest  caravans,  marches,  ecumenical  activities  and  forums  in  Metro  Manila,  Ilocos,  Baguio,  Cagayan  Valley  and  Davao  were  held  in  protest  of  the  current  mining  liberalization  policy  of  the  Aquino  administration,  and  the  large‐scale  mining  projects  that  have  allegedly  caused  massive  land  grabbing,  environmental destruction and human‐rights violations in mining communities.  The  various  Green  Flag  Day  actions  across  the  country  united  in  their  calls  for  the  repeal  of  both  the  Mining Act of 1995 and Executive Order (EO) 79, Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan‐ PNE, said.  He stressed that a new people’s mining policy should be ratified in order to reorient the mining industry  toward ensuring needs‐based utilization, environmental safety and people’s welfare in the objective of  ensuring genuine land reform, agricultural modernization and national industrialization.  “Nineteen years after its passage and a decade after its unconstitutionality was subverted by corporate  greed, the Mining Act of 1995 remains in place and continues to open up our lands and resources to the  unfettered plunder of transnational mining corporations. President Aquino’s Executive Order 79 further  reinforced the wholesale of our mineralized lands and has done nothing to arrest the growing incidents  of environmental destruction, land grabbing and human‐rights violations,” Bautista added.  He  said  the  provision  of  EO  79  signed  by  President  Aquino,  which  claims  to  have  harmonized  all  environmental and governance policies to be in line with existing mining policies, is being used as a basis  in  disputing  the  environmental  code  of  the  South  Cotabato  provincial  government  banning  the  use  of  the open‐pit mining method. 

The ban on the open‐pit mining method in South Cotabato continues to delay the development of $5.9‐ billion Tampakan Copper‐Gold Project of the Anglo‐Swiss mining giant Glencore‐Xstrata in Mindanao.  The  various  investment  guarantees  and  auxiliary  rights  granted  by  RA  7942,  such  as  the  provision  of  timber,  water  and  easement  rights,  Bautista  said,  have  been  the  basis  for  mining  companies  for  the  diversion of water sources, massive forest clearing, and the demolition and displacement of peasant and  small‐scale communities.  In  Nueva  Vizcaya  alone,  Bautista  said  the  destruction  caused  by  the  Aquino  administration’s  mining  regime is evident. He said the mine‐ exploration activities of the Royalco company have spurred human‐ rights violations, including militarization and harassment law suits.  “FCF  Minerals  mine  development  has  diverted  water  away  from  communities  and  demolished  the  homes of indigenous small‐scale miners,” he said.  Worse,  he  said  OceanaGold’s  commercial  operations  have  caused  the  massive  siltation  in  its  adjacent  rivers,  reduced  the  productivity  of  surrounding  agricultural  lands,  and  exploited  its  workers  with  low  wages  and  lack  of  benefits.  The  Task  Force‐Justice  for  Environmental  Defenders  have  noted  that  the  militarization  of  mining‐affected  communities  under  Mr.  Aquino’s  mine  investment  defense  policies  resulted  in  at  least  30  victims  of  politically  motivated  killings,  four  cases  of  frustrated  murder  and  27  victims of strategic lawsuits against public participation.  Bautista said the current policies not only caused destruction and rights violations during the operations  of mines, but also encouraged the abandonment of unrehabilitated mines, citing the decadelong case of  the Marinduque people filed against Marcopper Mining Corp., now owned by Canadian‐owned Barrick  Gold, for causing one of the country’s most severe mine‐spill disasters. Also, South Korean‐owned Rapu‐ Rapu  Minerals,  which  concluded  its  eight‐year  mining  contract  in  the  island  of  Rapu‐Rapu  in  Albay,  attempted to leave without implementing the rehabilitation provision of its contract, he said.  “The  attempts  of  Rapu‐Rapu  Minerals  and  Marcopper‐Barrick  Gold  to  skirt  their  responsibilities  in  rehabilitating  their  mine  sites  upon  closure  belie  the  claims  of  the  mining  industry  lobby  and  national  government that the mine operations in the country are socially and environmentally responsible. Let us  also  not  forget  how  Philex  Mining  Corp.  has  weaseled  its  way  out  of  its  20‐million‐metric‐ton  tailings  disaster last 2012, but has not fully rehabilitated Balog and Agno River, and has not fully compensated  all downstream communities they affected,” added Bautista.‐aquino‐told‐discard‐mining‐act‐ stop‐destructive‐projects     

Soda ban in schools backed By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 4, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) yesterday supported calls to ban soda and other sugar-laden drinks in schools to fight obesity, diabetes and hypertension. PCP vice president Anthony Leachon said these illnesses are caused by high intake of sugar and calories, which are the main composition of soda. Leachon noted that children should not be exposed to soda at a young age because of its illeffects on their health. “There are five million obese, 27 million overweight and seven million diabetic Filipinos. By banning soda and other sweet drinks in schools, these figures will be reduced eventually,” he added. He said the PCP supports 10-year-old Daniel “Chip” Gatmaytan who has been campaigning to ban soda. Representatives Leni Robredo of Camarines Sur and Arlene Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands have filed House Bill 4021 or the proposed Healthy Beverage Options to push Gatmaytan’s advocacy. The bill seeks to prohibit the sale in schools of soft drinks, sports drinks, iced tea and fruit-based drinks that contain less than 50 percent real fruit juice or that contain additional sweeteners as well as drinks containing caffeine, excluding low-fat or fat-free chocolate milk. Beverages that contain at least 50 percent fruit juice and do not contain additional sweeteners; low-fat or fat-free milk, including chocolate milk, soy milk, rice milk and other dairy and nondairy calcium-fortified milks are allowed to be sold in schools.‐ban‐schools‐backed            

Thai PM tto hea ar cha arges o over rrice scchemee Category: World   03 Mar 20 014   Written b by AP  

BANGKOK—T B Thailand’s anti‐graft  commission  on  Thursday  summoned  the  embatttled  prime  minister  m to  hear  charges  of  negligeence  for  alleegedly  mishandliing a governm ment subsidyy program, ass her supportters blocked aaccess and ch hain‐locked o one of  the gates to the agency’s headquarters in Bangkkok’s outskirtss.  A on  Commiss ion  (NACC)  could  lead  tto  Prime  Minister  The  chargges  from  the  National  Anti‐Corruptio Yingluck  Shinawatra’s  impeachme ent  after  three  months  oof  street  pro otests  by  heer  opponentss  and  mountingg violence that has promptted fresh conccerns from thhe US and thee UN.  Yingluck’ss opponents w want to replaace her government with  an appointe d council thaat would intro oduce  vaguely  described  d antti‐corruption  reforms,  butt  she  has  refuused  to  step  down.  The  aanti‐graft  ageency’s  officials saaid Yingluck w would send a legal represe entative to heear the chargges because she was visitin ng her  home pro ovince of Chiaang Mai in northern Thailand.  “After  hearing  the  chaarges,  we  will  study  them m  and  then  rrespond  to  th he  NACC  within  15  days,””  said  uenban, the h head of Yinglu uck’s Pheu Thai Party.  Pichit Chu Yingluck’ss  supporters,  called  Red  Shirts,  S are  co opying  the  taactics  of  her  opponents,  w who  have  blo ocked  roads  and d  government  agencies  since  Decembe er  to  pressurre  her  to  resiign.  The  Red  Shirts  believve  the  anti‐graft  agency  is  pe ersecuting  the  prime  miniister.  They  buuilt  a  stage  aat  their  demo onstration  site  and  t anti‐corruption  comm missioners  froom  their  offiices  on  Thursday.  Severaal  also  said  they would  bar  the  chained th hemselves to o the office’s ggates.  The  rice  subsidy  s program—a  flagship  policy  of  Yingluck’s  addministration n  that  helped d  win  the  vottes  of  millions o of farmers—h has accumulatted losses of  at least $4.44 billion and h has been doggged by corru uption  allegation ns. Payments to farmers haave been delaayed by manyy months. 

Yingluck will  be  given  15  days  to  answer  the  accusations  against  her.  She  could  eventually  face  impeachment by the Senate or criminal charges if the commission delivers a final ruling against her.  The Red Shirts have generally kept a low profile during the antigovernment protests, but as Yingluck’s  government  comes under greater threat of legal action that  might force it from office, they have said  they will respond in force, if necessary.  The  volatile  situation  has  worsened  recently,  with  shootings  and  grenade  attacks  on  antigovernment  protest sites. Twenty‐two people have died and hundreds have been hurt in the political violence. The  deaths of four children in attacks this past weekend caused widespread shock and sorrow, but seem to  have only hardened the positions of both sides.  UN Secretary‐General Ban Ki‐moon expressed his increasing concern and reiterated his condemnation of  the recent escalation of violence. He urged the parties to “engage as soon as possible in meaningful and  inclusive  dialogue  toward  ending  the  crisis  and  advancing  genuine  reform,”  UN  Spokesman  Martin  Nesirky said.  “The  secretary‐general  expresses  his  readiness  to  assist  the  parties  and  the  Thai  people  in  any  way  possible,” he said. A grenade believed to have been fired from a M79 launcher exploded in the parking  lot of public TV broadcaster TPBS on Wednesday night, damaging several cars but causing no casualties.  Thai  media  reported  that  another  two  grenades  were  apparently  fired  at  the  nearby  offices  of  the  government’s  emergency  peacekeeping  task  force  but  failed  to  explode.  In  Washington  State  Department  Spokesman  Jen  Psaki  described  the  attacks  that  claimed  the  children’s  lives  as  “inexcusable.”  “Violence is not an acceptable means of resolving political differences. We reiterate our call for all sides  to exercise restraint and urge Thai authorities to investigate thoroughly and transparently all recent acts  of  violence,”  she  told  reporters.  Thailand’s  army,  which  is  generally  sympathetic  to  the  current  antigovernment protesters, announced on Wednesday that it would set  up  checkpoints in  Bangkok to  help maintain safety.  Thailand has seen political conflict since 2006, when then‐Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s  brother, was ousted by a military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. Thaksin’s  supporters and opponents have since taken to the streets for extended periods in a power struggle. In  Photo:  Antigovernment  supporters  rally  in  support  of  peaceful protests  during  a  memorial  for  the  children killed in recent bomb blasts in Bangkok, Thailand, on Wednesday. Violence spread on Tuesday  to another anti‐government protest site in Thailand’s capital, following weekend explosions that left five  people dead, including four children, security officials said. (AP)‐thai‐pm‐to‐hear‐charges‐over‐ rice‐scheme 

New w agri facilit f ty in Kidapa K awan iinaugu urated d ( | Upd dated March 3, 2014 - 5:3 34pm

North Co otabato Gov.. Emmylou Taliño-Mend T doza (middlee) leads locaal executivess and representtatives of diffferent sectors in the cereemonial launnching of thee P58.5 milllion-worth Provinciaal Agriculturral Center Complex in Kidapawan K C City. JOHN UNSON NORTH COTABAT TO, Philippin nes --- Officcials inaugurrated over thhe weekend tthe newlyconstructted Provinciaal Agriculturral Center Complex C in K Kidapawan C City, built to help peasannt communities in the province. p Thee P58.5-milllion facility w was construucted by the ooffice of North o Gov. Emmy ylou Taliño--Mendoza ussing savings generated thhrough pruddent spendingg of Cotabato the proviincial govern nment’s quarrterly budgett and revenuue collectionns. The agriccultural com mplex also haas a P5-millio on worth prooduct displayy and food llaboratory building,, and a coverred court, co osting P3 milllion, both baankrolled byy the Trade U Union Congrress of the Ph hilippines. Th he constructiion of the faacility startedd Novemberr 2013 and w was completeed early thiss year, accorrding to prov vincial agricu ulturist Engrr. Eliseo Manngliwan. “This is a big boost to t our operattion and our goal of imprroving the pproductivity oof our farming sectors,” Mangliwan said. w in her seco ond term as provincial p ggovernor, andd representattives from thhe Mendozaa, who is now office of the Departm ment of Agricculture in Reegion 12, ledd the launching of the aggricultural complex.. The prov vincial agricu ulturist, and veterinary offices, o and tthe Provinciaal Cooperatiives Developm ment Office will be reloccated to the new compleex, located att the vast proovincial capitol estate in Kidapawan City. Mendo oza, in a messsage duringg the facility’s inauguration, said shee is optimistiic the agricu ultural complex will imp prove the dellivery of the provincial ggovernment’s services to t farmers in n all of North h Cotabato’ss 17 towns aand those in tthe more thaan 40 baranggays in Kidapaawan City.M More than 70 0 percent of North Cotabbato's Muslim m and Chrisstian residents rely main nly on farmin ng as main source s of inccome. - Joh n Unson http://ww om/nation/20 014/03/03/12 296670/new‐‐agri‐facility‐kkidapawan‐in naugurated

Phl seen s in ncreassing debt d too $124 B thiss yearr By Kathlleen A. Marttin (The Phillippine Star)) | Updated M March 4, 20114 - 12:00am m

MANILA A, Philippinees - The Phillippines is seeen increasinng its comm mercial debt tto $124.1 billlion this year from $114.3 3billion in 20 013, accordiing to estimaates by debt watcher Staandard & Pooor’s. Based on n S&P’s Asiaa-Pacific Sov vereign Deb bt Report 20114, the 8.6-ppercent grow wth rate of thhe Philippin ne governmeent’s borrowiings this yeaar will be thee fastest amoong memberrs of the Associatiion of South heast Asian Nations N (ASE EAN). Malaysiaa is estimated d to borrow $181.1 billio on this year, up 7.7 percent from 2013, while Indonesiaa’s commerccial credit is seen rising 7.2 percent tto $130.9 billion.Vietnam m is projecteed to borrow 6.8 6 percent more m to $33 billion b this year y while S& &P sees Thaailand’s com mmercial creddit going up 2.8 percent to $127.8 biillion. Singaporre is projecteed to borrow w 2.3 percent higher at $3331.2 billionn this year.Thhe increase iin Southeasst Asian natio ons’ commeercial debt th his year is in line with othher economiies in AsiaPacific. S&P said d in its reporrt Asia-Paciffic nations will w be borrow wing $2.5 triillion from loong-term commerccial sources this t year, up p 4.9 percent from 2013.T The global ccredit rater said about 600 percent of o the borrow wings will bee used to refi finance matuuring debt. Jaapan’s comm mercial long--term borrowin ng is expecteed to be the biggest b in thee region at $$1.8 trillion, followed byy China at $2255 billion.Th he report cov vered 21 sov vereigns rateed by S&P. “Our estiimates focuss on debt thaat is issued by y a central ggovernment iin its own naame, and excclude local gov vernment and d social secu urity debt as well as debtt issued by oother public bbodies and governm ment-guaranteeed obligatio ons,” S&P saaid. “In termss of commerrcial debt insstruments, ou ur estimates for long-term rm borrowingg include boonds with maturities of mo ore than one year issued either on puublicly listedd markets or sold as privvate placemen nts, as well as a commerciial bank loan ns,” the debt watcher conntinued. http://ww ww.philstar.ccom/business/2014/03/04 4/1296712/pphl-seen-incrreasing-debtt-124-b-yearr

Philex completes rehab of Padcal mine By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 4, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Listed Philex Mining Corp. has completed the cleanup and rehabilitation work in its copper-gold mine in Benguet required for the resumption of normal operations, according to the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC). In a report, the MICC said the company has completed the repair and clean up works included in the workplan it submitted in the aftermath of the massive tailings spill that occurred in August 2012. Immediate rehabilitation works carried out by Philex include the decommissioning of two penstocks of the compromised tailings storage pond no. 3 and the commissioning of the new spillway. “The Technical Working Group on Environmental Protection and Legislation finds that Philex Mining Corp., based on the understanding of the nature of the incident and the direct and indirect interventions surrounding it have made the remedial measures in accordance with the rehabilitation and clean up plan,” the MICC said in the report. The MICC said the company has also addressed the needs of communities affected by the spill. The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is now reviewing the MICC report along with the petition filed by Philex for the permanent resumption of operations. MGB director Leo Jasareno said they are waiting for the results of the discussion between Philex and the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) on the fines imposed on the company for violation of the Clean Water Act. “We can only come up with a recommendation on the appeal of Philex once we have the official result of their talks with PAB,” said Jasareno. Philex president and CEO Eulalio Austin earlier said the firm has appealed for the reduction of the fine and the number of days subject to the fine. “There are charges by the PAB that we feel that should not be charged. That’s why we are appealing that with the PAB,” he said. He noted that as early as October 2012, the company complied with the water safety standards set by the government. “Three months into the incident, we complied with the Clean Water Act. The water discharges are within standards already,” he said. Philex is already scouring the environs of the mines for viable deposits that can extend its lifespan beyond 2020.

Peso o decliines midday m y Monday ( | Upd dated March 3, 2014 - 12 2:21pm

MANILA A, Philippinees - The peso o declined ag gainst the doollar middayy Monday, seettling at 44..745 from the 44.63 posted on Friday. Total vollume transaccted at the Ph hilippine Deealing System m amounted to $461.1 m million, higheer than the $434.9 $ milliion posted th he same perio od the previoous day. The peso o opened on Monday at 44.74. 4 http://ww ww.philstar.ccom/business/2014/03/03 3/1296622/ppeso-declinees-midday-m monday


Is DA now w the most m corrup c pt departmeent? By Rudy y Romero | Mar. M 04, 201 14 at 12:01am m

For as long as I can remem mber the nam me of the Deppartment of Agriculture instrumen ntality mand dated to main ntain stable rice r and cornn prices—N National Ricee and Corn Administtration, laterr renamed Riice and Corn n Administraation, Nationnal Grains A Authority (NG GA) and Natio onal Food Authority—h A has long been n associated with corrupttion, but I haave never considereed the DA th he most corru upt of the Caabinet deparrtments. Not untill now. The stteady stream m of allegatio ons of wronggdoing, begiinning with tthe infamouss fertilizer scandal of 2004—appea 2 ars to have made m DA disslodge the D Department oof Public Woorks and High hways and th he customs component c (B Bureau of Cuustoms) of tthe Department of Finannce as the most corrupt amo ong Cabinet departmentss. The fertillizer scam, which w involv ved former President P Glooria Arroyo’’s Secretary of Agricultuure and appeears to have been b intendeed to supportt her Presideential campaaign, was badd enough. Thhe scandal robbed r Filipiino taxpayerrs of around P738 millionn destined fo for the purchase of fertiliizers and otherr production n inputs for farmers fa aroun nd the counttry. The scam m was a douuble whammyy for the nation n: it augmen nted campaig gn funds for an extremelly unpopularr Presidentiaal candidate aand it hurt ag gricultural prroduction in rice and corrn-producingg areas, whicch failed to rreceive muchhneeded production p in nputs. Almost teen years lateer no one hass yet been co onvicted in tthe fertilizer scam. A waarrant of arreest has been issued for Secretary S Citto Lorenzo, who w fled to tthe US uponn the scam’s outbreak. Since 200 04, there hav ve been alleg gations of ricce imports inn excess of pprojected naational requirem ments and of overpricing o of such imports. Investiggations of thhe allegationns by the Department of Justice and Congrress have beeen consistenntly inept andd inconclusivve. But in more recent tim mes a couple of particullarly large boombs have rrocked the D DA. The first was the revelaation that a number n of DA D instrumen ntalities havve been particcipants in thhe P10-billion scam alleegedly perpeetrated by Jan net Napoles with the usee of the Priority Developpment Assisttance Fund allo otments of Senators S and members off the House oof Representtatives. The other bomb has been the allegation by a retired BoC B official that t no less tthan 50,000 metric tons of rice are smuggled d into this co ountry every y week. At the ou utset it appeaared that the PDAF anom malies endedd in 2009, whhich was thee last year off the multi-yeaar audit cond ducted by the Commissio on on Audit of the identtified legislattors’ PDAF

allotments. But subsequently, it turned out that the anomalies have continued during the watch of President Noynoy Aquino’s Secretary of Agriculture. Since he has not claimed unawareness of the PDAF money inflows into DA agencies, Secretary Proceso Alcala must have known of the existence of the pipelines between the DA agencies, on the one hand and, on the other hand, the Napoles non-governmental organizations and the tagged legislators’ offices. The idea that Secretary Alcala didn’t know is not believable. Which makes him (effectively) complicit in the Napoles shenanigans. Nor has the Secretary of Agriculture been an effective steward of the nation’s agricultural affairs where rice imports are concerned. The old saying states that where there is smoke there is fire. On the basis of the reports that have appeared in the media—some of these have emanated from persons who are knowledgeable—what we have here is not a fire but a full-blown conflagration. But Secretary Alcala never has anything persuasive to offer the Filipino people by way of explanations. Indeed, watching the Secretary giving testimony has become one of the most frustrating experiences that one can undergo. So I go back to the title of this column. Has the Department of Agriculture become the most corrupt of the Cabinet departments, dislodging DPWH and BoC? It certainly looks that way. E-mail:

DA moves to revive E. Visayas agriculture March 3, 2014 9:33 pm  

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is setting aside P1.2 billion for the immediate rehabilitation of the farming industry in Eastern Visayas after the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda late last year. The bulk of the budget or P800 million will be used to repair damaged facilities such as the DA regional office building, satellite offices, laboratories and vehicles. The remaining P400 million will be for procurement of seeds, fertilizers and farm machinery that would restore production. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala during his recent visit in Tacloban said the budget represents the preliminary release for Region 8 and there will be additional allotments later this year and in succeeding years. ”While we are helping farmers, we also have to prioritize building the capacity of our regional office for them to be able to implement sustainable recovery efforts,” Alcala said The DA chief said the budget for the region is on top of the P2.8-billion rehabilitation fund for coconut industry recovery and P1.7-billion funds to restore fish production. More than half of the rehabilitation funds of the Bureau of Fisheries and Resources (BFAR) and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will be channeled to Eastern Visayas. “Although the P2.8 billion will also cover Regions 6 and 7, about 70 percent will be used in Region 8 considering the extent of damage here,” said PCA Administrator Euclides. Forbes. Rehabilitation efforts will focus on replanting and fertilization. For fishery rehabilitation, about 60 percent of the P1.7 billion outlay will be spent in Region 8, said BFAR Director Asis Perez. Projects include rebuilding fishing boats, aquaculture development, mangrove replanting and rehabilitation of wrecked facilities.‐moves‐to‐revive‐e‐visayas‐agriculture/79833/            

House bloc raps Palace ‘color code’ rehab rule By Christine F. Herrera | Mar. 04, 2014 at 12:01am THE Independent Minority Bloc said Monday the Palace had forsaken Tacloban and was now giving priority to the Yolanda-devastated areas ruled by the administration’s allies. The bloc, led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, challenged the government to be “color-blind” in its rehabilitation and reconstruction program for the disaster-hit areas. Super typhoon “Yolanda” slammed into the Visayas on Nov. 8 last year, killing over 6,000 people and affecting 11 million others of whom many were left homeless. Critics say many of the victims have been receiving little or no help. “It came to our knowledge very recently, last week, this new policy of “no downloading to the LGUs [local government units] has commenced,” Romualdez told reporters. “However, they are prioritizing areas or LGUs that have local government officials closely aligned with the administration. So the rhetoric and what is actually seen on the ground are two different things.” Romualdez made his statement even as Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said Monday much work still needed to be done to help the typhoon victims. She said the Red Cross was still focused on providing shelter, health support, education and livelihood to the people affected by the typhoon. “We also give help to those whose houses were not totally damaged by Yolanda,” Pang said. Efleda Bautista, spokeswoman of the alliance of typhoon survivors, on Monday asked President Benigno Aquino III to sack Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman over the alleged P580million rotting-rice fiasco. “The fact that P580 million worth of rice meant for the typhoon Pablo victims in December 2012 rotted in the Subic Freeport cries out as a case of criminal negligence,” said Bautista of People Surge. “This was only found out when the rice was supposed to be given to the typhoon Yolanda survivors but was rejected as unfit for human consumption.”

Romualdez is president of the opposition Lakas-CMD. His cousin, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, was early on dared to surrender his power to the national government if he wanted to speed up the help to his people because he was “a Romualdez and the President is an Aquino.” The rehabilitation operations in Tacloban and other areas whose officials were not aligned with the ruling Liberal Party, Romualdez said, was “very painfully slow.” “So we urge the national government to apply a color-blind policy especially to the hardest-hit areas, to download immediately, to enable the aid agencies both the national and international agencies to become more efficient by empowering and devolving and decentralizing the process to the local so that much more could be done,” Romualdez said. Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza lamented that the government struck down the IMB’s amendment to tap the LGUs and devolve the power to rehabilitate, reconstruct and redevelop all the destroyed areas. “We said it before we saw it during the deliberations of the budget and on the supplemental budget for this particular purpose that we saw that they did not want to include the LGUs,” Atienza said. In fact, they rejected our amendment to include...the LGUs in the rehabilitation. They voted against that, they turned it down. Why? Because they want to handle it themselves. When you centralize everything you slow down the whole process. That is what’s happening.” Romualdez said he was grateful to learn that the recent visit of the President to the hardest-hit areas, particularly Tacloban, made the chief executive realize and see for himself that the reconstruction and rehabilitation process was too slow. “There should be no politics, it should be color-blind and the aid and the resources should be downloaded immediately to the areas hardest hit regardless of political affiliation,” Romualdez said. He said had the government listened to their suggestion that the national government devolve some powers to the LGUs, the prompt action would not have “alienated them and kept them out of the loop.”‐bloc‐raps‐palace‐color‐code‐rehab‐ rule/        

DBP agrees to arrange financing for liquefied natural gas hub By Alena Mae S. Flores | Mar. 04, 2014 at 12:01am State-owned Development Bank of the Philippines has agreed to arrange financing for the P12.9billion liquefied natural gas hub terminal and the 600-megawatt power plant that Energy World Corp. of Australia plans to build in Pagbilao, Quezon. Energy World disclosed to the Australian Securities Exchange its directors agreed on a mandate and term sheet with DBP for project financing of the LNG facilities. It said the value of the project was estimated at $550 million, with DBP agreeing to partially underwrite the financing and arrange for syndication among local banks. Energy World and DBP signed the mandate and term sheet in Manila on Feb. 28. “We are extremely pleased to announce this important financing milestone for our Philippines projects, which represents a strong statement of support for EWC’s strategy to bring clean and green energy to Asia by one of the Philippines’ leading financial institutions,” Energy World chairman and chief executive Stewart Elliott said. “We look forward to working in close cooperation with the Development Bank of the Philippines and other local and international lenders in finalizing this project financing transaction in the coming months,” he said. Standard Chartered Bank, as previously announced, was appointed as financial advisor of the company. Energy World is building an LNG terminal and a 600-MW combined cycle gas-fired power plant in Ibabang Polo on Grande Island, Pagbilao, Quezon. The LNG terminal will be built in phases, with phase one involving a 130,000-cubic meter LNG storage tank, regasification facility, jetty, and supporting infrastructure. Phase two will include an additional 130,000-cubic meter LNG storage tank. The 600-MW power plant has been listed as one of the committed power projects for Luzon with the first 200-MW unit eyed for completion this year, the second unit in 2015 and the third unit in 2016.

Tetangco cites need to raise savings By Julito G. Rada | Mar. 04, 2014 at 12:01am Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. stressed the need to conduct financial education campaigns to raise the level of savings and their rate in the country. “A survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral two years ago revealed that only 20 percent of households in the Philippines have bank accounts,” Tetangco said during the awarding ceremony of the 2013 Guro ng Pag-asa over the weekend. “Another study from PDIC [Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.] indicated that over 60 percent of savings accounts in the Philippines have balances of P5,000 and below. Our challenge is to raise both the savings rate and the level of savings,” he said. He said financial education campaigns would reach different segments of the population. He added the central bank, the Education Department and the banks had joined forces to provide parallel training on personal finance management for teachers and parents of school children. The Bangko Sentral, banks and DepEd have collaborated to launch the Kiddie Account program, where kids can translate their lessons in savings into actual practice. Tetangco said through Kiddie Accounts, children could open savings account with participating major banks with a minimum of P100 and no maintaining balance requirement. The program has already generated over half a million kiddie savings account in one year. Tetangco cited a recent study conducted by the Washington University Center for Social Development in Missouri, showing that a child with school savings before reaching college is almost two-and-a-half times more likely to graduate from college than a child with none. “This serves as further validation of our push for financial education starting at the elementary school level where we have over 14 million pupils,” Tetangco said. He said the collective effort caught the attention of finance education advocates in other countries. Last year, the Netherlands-based Child and Youth Finance International, which is at the forefront of a global campaign to promote finance education and savings, cited the Philippines for having the best finance education and savings program. The Philippines was selected over other countries such as Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and the United Kingdom.

90-day T-bill rates decrease By Jennifer Ambanta | Mar. 04, 2014 at 12:01am Strong demand among investors pushed down the benchmark Treasury bill rates Monday, amid the excess liquidity in the financial market. The yield on the 91-day government debt papers fell to 1.4 percent during Monday’s auction, from 1.458 percent in the previous auction on Feb. 3. The Treasury said rates dropped, as tenders for the three-month instruments reached P17.96 billion, or four times the initial offer of P4 billion. The Treasury said demand for six-month debt instruments was also strong Monday, although the rates surged from near zero in November last year. “The committee decided to accept all bids for the 91-day and 182-day given the healthy demand,� it said in a statement. Rates for the 182-day or six-month papers reached 1.865 percent, its first sale in 2014. The 182day securities were two-times oversubscribed, as tenders reached P16.540 billion from initial offer of P6 billion. Yield on the six-month papers, however, climbed from 0.001 percent recorded during the last award on Nov. 4, 2013.

DA COOKBOOK PROMOTES BROWN RICE TO KIDS March 3, 2014 9:22 pm   New recipes that will entice children to eat brown rice and rice mixes will be included in a  cookbook to be produced by Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division (AFID) of the  Department of Agriculture (DA). The initiative is part of the movement to a more RICEponsible  Philippines. AFID officer‐in‐charge Cheryl Suarez said that among the recipes are those being  showcased in a recent cooking contest participated by five schools in Metro Manila. These are  the vegetable chao fan, organic sauté kachi (combined kangkong and chicken), and tinapa  kamote fried rice.  PNA

Posted on March 03, 2014 10:01:15 PM

Prices of diesel, kerosene reduced by 30 centavos per liter LESS EXPENSIVE FUEL greeted motorists today as retailers adjust pump prices to track  movements in the international oil market.  Petron Corp., Phoenix Petroleum Philippines, Inc., SEAOIL  Philippines, Inc. and PTT Corp. implemented price cuts of 30 centavos per liter on diesel and 30  centavos per liter on kerosene effective 12:01 a.m. today. There were no movements in the  prices of gasoline.Phoenix, in its advisory, cited the "downward movements in the price of  refined petroleum products in the world market."The new set of adjustments ‐‐ the fifth price  rollback since the beginning of the year ‐‐ followed last week’s price increases of 25 centavos  per liter on diesel and 15 centavos per liter on kerosene.Following the rate changes, gasoline  price now already has a net increase of 20 centavos per liter, while diesel price has a 55‐ centavos‐per‐liter net decrease since January.The Energy department’s latest bulletin  highlighted that reports on uncertainty amid protests in Venezuela (which is a major US oil  supplier), as well as export disruptions in Libya and South Sudan pressured oil prices.  However, the Asian gasoline sentiment remained to be mixed amid divided opinions from  market traders. "According to Platts, while some traders say that there is an oversupply of light  distillate fuels, others pointed to a still healthy demand as the reason behind the firming of  gasoline premiums," the department said.Traders also noted that the upcoming turnaround  season in Asia and refinery maintenance may have been the cause of price uptick in the  previous weeks.The diesel market, however, continued to firm on tightening supply amid  emerging demand from Sri Lanka and Vietnam as well as good demand from Saudi Arabia.  Prices of Dubai crude ‐‐ the benchmark used by most of Asia ‐‐ are at $105.13 per barrel  yesterday from $105.45 per barrel recorded last week.Meanwhile, as of Feb. 28, international  prices of diesel are at $123 per barrel from $127 per barrel the previous week, while those of  gasoline are at $120 per barrel from $122 per barrel last week.  Data from the Energy department’s Web site showed that prior to the recent adjustments,  gasoline was worth between P50.20 per liter and P56.55 per liter, while diesel prices ranged  from P42.55 per liter to P46.35 per liter. ‐‐ Claire‐Ann Marie C. Feliciano,kerosene-reduced-by-30-centavos-per-liter&id=84203

Posted on March 03, 2014 10:21:06 PM

WB economist pushes MSME growth CEBU CITY ‐‐ To sustain high growth rates, the Philippines will have to improve the business  environment for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and increase infrastructure spending, a  World Bank economist said.  Karl Kendrick T. Chua, WB senior country economist, said the      government needs to focus its macroeconomic policies on securing a  good business environment and lowering the barriers to entry for  MSMEs.    "If you provide a good business environment, the private sector will come in and provide productive  jobs for your labor force," Mr. Chua said, after the presentation of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary  Arsenio M. Balisacan, during the fourth Cebu Annual Economic Briefing & Investment Forum held by the  Cebu Business Club on Friday.    The Philippine economy grew 7.2% in 2013, exceeding projections of 6.0‐7.0% and making the country a  top performing Asian economy, despite the 7.2‐magnitude quake and typhoon Yolanda (international  name: Haiyan) in the last quarter of last year.    The country is aiming for growth of 6.5%‐7.5% this year, 7%‐8% in 2015, and 7.5%‐8.5% in 2016.    To sustain growth, Mr. Balisacan said more jobs need to be created; the cost of business, reduced; and  infrastructure spending, increased.    Mr. Chua said providing a good environment for MSMEs, which comprise the bulk of businesses in the  country, will lead to more jobs.    He noted that starting a business in the country is prohibitive. Compared with Malaysia, where business  registration takes a week, registering a business in the Philippines takes up to 30 days and filling up 16  forms, he said.    Mr. Chua also suggested making the tax code fairer to MSMEs.    "By increasing the tax base and lowering tax rates, MSMEs are able to participate in a more equitable  tax policy," he said.    "As it stands, those with power, money and connections are the only ones able to enjoy tax exemptions  while smaller businesses are unable to compete."   

Asked on MSMEs’ inability to secure bank financing, Mr. Chua said the endemic informality in the  business sector needs to be addressed first before creating fiscal legislation.    "Seventy‐five percent of Filipinos experience some form of informality, making it difficult for the formal  financing and banking sector to lend financial aid. Over 40% of the land in the country is non‐titled," he  said.    "I believe the financing concerns of businesses is not solvable solely by financial legislation. Some cross‐ cutting efforts must be done first."    Mr. Chua also expressed support for higher infrastructure spending and cited a recent study by the  Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), showing that the country loses as much as P2 billion  daily from traffic woes alone.    "The decision of the administration to double the infrastructure budget to 5% will go a long way to  sustaining our high growth rates," he said.     Mr. Chua said the WB estimates that the country will need P800 billion in three years in order to meet  its infrastructure goals.    "Half of this can be raised by addressing administrative issues alone," he said.    In his presentation, Mr. Balisacan had said the government will address infrastructure bottlenecks and  spearheads reconstruction efforts in disaster‐struck areas.    Mr. Chua also urged the government to keep an eye on the real estate sector and protect the economy  from a property crisis.    "Over 90% of the financial crises in the world stems from the real estate sector. The Philippine  government should watch and monitor the real estate prices," he said.    He said that small to medium developers as well as low to middle income players are inadequately  protected should the real estate market crash.     With rising debts and an expanding working class taking out more home loans, Mr. Chua said players in  the real estate market need protection from shocks. ‐‐ John Paolo G. Bago

Posted on March 03, 2014 10:20:21 PM

Farmers’ ‘Hot Pablo’ headed for Guam DAVAO CITY ‐‐ Farmers of Cateel, Davao Oriental, who have ventured into producing chili powder under  the brand "Hot Pablo", have signed an agreement with a trading association to introduce their product  to Guam. A report from the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the farmers, all  members of the group Subangon Dumang Makers, forged a deal with VIEVA Philippines, Inc. for an  initial 2,500 kilograms of chili powder, valued at P1.15 million, for export to Guam.    The agreement was signed during President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s visit to Cateel on Feb. 24.    VIEVA Philippines, whose president, Leah M. Cruz, signed the agreement with farmer‐leader Edgardo T.  Arisola, is a vegetable traders’ organization.    Under the agreement, the farmers’ group will act as consolidator and sell fresh, dried or processed chili  to the buyer. The buyer, meanwhile, will specify the quality standards, volume requirements, and the  pricing. The agreement will be renewed based on the acceptable options available to either side.    The chili farmers are among those whose properties and farms were destroyed by typhoon Pablo in  December 2012.    DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said that part of the national government’s intervention in Cateel is  providing funding for the farmer‐producers’ post‐harvest facilities. The agency has already set aside  P680,000 for grinders, multi‐commodity solar dryers and ultraviolet film for drying. It will also allocate  funds for seeds to be distributed among the farmers.    Mr. Ariola added that his group has also started developing a mechanism that will result in increasing  the product’s market value, to ensure higher return on investment.    Last year, the group was able to sell about 2,700 kg of chili powder to local companies.    Cateel farmers decided to venture into chili production after their coconut farms, along with those in  Baganga and Boston towns, were destroyed by typhoon Pablo in December 2012.    Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras was said to be responsible for the Hot Pablo brand name. ‐‐  Carmelito Q. Francisco 9-%E2%80%98Hot-Pablo%E2%80%99-headed-for-Guam&id=84208

Posted on March 03, 2014 10:27:30 PM

Customs to bid out Vietnam rice THE CUSTOMS bureau will bid out on Thursday several shipments of rice allegedly smuggled  into the country from Vietnam.SEVERAL SHIPMENTS of rice allegedly smuggled into the  country will be auctioned off this Thursday. According to the Customs bureau, the cargoes  were misdeclared and lacked import permits. ‐‐ AFP FILE  PHOTO  In a notice published in a newspaper yesterday, the agency said it will hold a public auction on March 6 for three shipments of rice at the Port of Cebu. The three sale lots, once auctioned off, will translate to earnings of at least P25.78 million in earnings for the government, based on the floor prices assigned to the shipments. One lot, according to the notice, is comprised of 4,680 bags of rice and will be bid out at a floor price of P7.74 million. This shipment was consigned to Melma Enterprises and arrived in the country March 16, 2013. Some 5,200 bags of the commodity will also be bid out at a floor price of P9.7 million. This lot likewise had Melma Enterprises as its consignee and arrived last April 6. Lastly, a shipment of 4,680 bags of rice will be auctioned off at a starting price of P8.34 million. This lot arrived at the Port of Cebu last March 22 and was consigned to JJM Global Trading. According to the bureau, these shipments were part of several hot cargoes seized in April which were misdeclared as stone slabs, granite slabs, cooling insulators and cellulose fiber. The consignees allegedly did not have the required import permits from the National Food Authority (NFA). Interested bidders must file and submit to the Customs bureau a duly accomplished and notarized Bidders Information Form along with several documents, such as certified true copies of their income and business tax returns, tax clearance, and business permits not later than two days before the auction date. The notice states that all prospective bidders must also be accredited grain traders and importers of the NFA, proof of which must also be submitted along with the other documentary requirements. Firms must also pay a non-refundable registration fee of P2,000, and post a bond in an amount equivalent to 20% of the floor price of each sale lot up for bidding. The bond shall be refunded to the losing bidder after the closing of the auction. The highest bidder will be required to pay 50% of the bid price upfront upon announcement of the winning bid. The remainder of the payment must then be made by the next business day. Interested bidders will be allowed to view the articles tomorrow at the Port of Cebu. -- Bettina Faye V. Roc

Posted on March 03, 2014 10:25:10 PM

High seas pocket fishing rules released IMPLEMENTING rules for fishing in a tuna‐rich high seas pocket were released yesterday. The  Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) issued the regulations on group tuna purse  seine operations in High Seas Pocket 1 (HSP‐1), in Fisheries Administrative Order No. 245‐2,  Series of 2014, published in a newspaper yesterday.    "This policy is designed as a conservation measure primarily to reduce effort in the Philippine  waters where juvenile tunas are more likely to be found than in the high seas pocket 1," the  order read.    The order covers the 36 Philippine‐registered traditional group seine fishing vessels with gross  tonnage of not more than 250. The vessels must have international fishing permits, have paid a  $1,600 fee for a special permit to operate in HSP‐1, and be registered with the Western and  Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).    Vessels must also comply with the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea and with  the Catch Documentary Scheme.    They should also have not been convicted for any administrative or criminal offenses for  engaging in fishing activities that violate conservation and management measures adopted by  the WCPFC.    As for vessels’ equipment, the purse seine net must have a mesh size of not less than 3.5  inches, starting at the mid body to the entire wing, while the ring net mesh size must be at  least 3.5 inches at both wings.    The catcher fishing vessel and its supporting carriers must be equipped with a two‐way vessel  monitoring system (VMS), and corresponding light boats should have at least a one‐way  automatic location communicator (ALC).    "Installation of ALCs to light boats shall be in phase manner," the order read.    Real‐time, continuous VMS information must be transmitted by the Fisheries Monitoring  Center to adjacent coastal states/territories.    Each tuna purse seine/ring net operation group must commit to deploy no more than 40 fish  aggregating devices per catcher vessel. FADs are buoys, drifting logs, and other similar objects  used to attract fish.    The order also requires each tuna purse seine/ring net operation table group to engage the 

services of an accredited regional observer, "preferably fishery graduates".    The owner and the three highest ranking officers of the boat must also attend a BFAR  orientation prior to operation.    Catcher vessels listed with access to the high seas are also barred from fishing for tuna in  Philippine waters during the validity of their license in the high seas. However, BFAR may issue  a special approval to the contrary, "in the furtherance of national priority".    At least 24 hours prior to entry and no more than six hours prior to exiting HSP‐1, the vessels  or fishing company must notify BFAR by electronic or any other means. The information will  also be sent to adjacent coastal states or territories and the WCPFC.    The reports must include the date, time, and geographical coordinates of the vessel’s entry and  exit.    Vessels operating in HSP‐1 must also report sightings of any fishing vessels to the BFAR and the  WCPFC Secretariat, indicating the vessel type, date, time, markings, heading and speed.    All landings of vessels operating in HSP‐1 must be done at the General Santos and Zamboanga  fish ports or other ports operated by the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority. The BFAR  must receive a catch log sheet "to insure that reliable catch by species are collected for process  and analysis".    The annual total catch per vessel must not exceed an equivalent to 273 high seas fishing days.    Transfers of access right or vessel replacements must be approved by the BFAR.    Penalties for violating the order include, for sailing from the home port to HSP‐1 without an  onboard observer, a P100,000 fine for the first offense and a P500,000 fine and revocation of  the special permit for HSP‐1 for the second offense.    If the BFAR FMC has notified the vessel that its VMS automatic location communicator is not  transmitting as required, the vessel must report its position manually every four hours.  Otherwise, the BFAR will impose a P500,000 fine for the first offense and a P1‐million fine as  well as revocation of the special permit for the second.    Similarly, failure to make the entry/exit or sighting reports and intentional non‐submission of  catch log sheets will be penalized with P500,000 for the first offense and P1 million for the  succeeding.    Vessels that exceed the maximum number of fishing days must pay P1 million, and the owner  will lose all special permits for HSP‐1.   

Non‐compliance with the mesh size requirements merit a first‐offense penalty of P1 million  and a second‐offense penalty of P2 million and revocation of the special permit.    Excess FADs will be confiscated, and a fine of P50,000 per extra FAD will be charged.    Unauthorized access right transfer or vessel replacement get a penalty of P1 million the first  time and P2 million, plus special permit revocation, the second time.    The order will take effect on March 18, 15 days after it was published.    HSP‐1 is the area of the high seas bounded by the exclusive economic zones of Micronesia to  the north and East, Palau to the west, and Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to the south,  according to the order.    The WCPFC met last December for a conservation plan to reduce tuna catches and prevent  over‐fishing. The Philippines was the only country granted continued access to HSP‐1.    This, the Agriculture department had said in a statement, was "after it was ruled that the  country was adhering to responsible fishing practice".    The Philippines had received access in April 2012 until March last year and then received an  extension in June. The access was further extended for three years at the December meeting.

Posted on March 03, 2014 10:22:49 PM

Davao cacao players want national council set up DAVAO CITY ‐‐ Major players in Davao Region’s cacao industry are pushing for the  establishment a National Cacao Council, composed of government and private sector  representatives, to help regulate, monitor and boost the industry not only in the region but  also nationwide.    "We at Cidami (Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, Inc.) are willing to  spearhead the creation of the council in order to address the various concerns of the cacao  industry," said Dante R. Muyco, Jr, president of the group and marketing director of Chocolate  de San Isidro, a group of cacao growers.    Cidami is a non‐government organization composed of various industry stakeholders in  Mindanao. National demand for cacao is pegged at 40,000 metric tons, but production is only  10,000 MT, with up to 80% produced by the Davao Region.    Charita P. Puentespina, managing director of Malagos Agri‐Ventures Corp., said there are many  investors who now want to enter into cacao farming, so there is a need to establish the council  soon, to provide guidance and assistance to new players.    Ms. Puentespina, a pioneering cacao exporter, started selling cacao beans to foreign buyers in  2009 after learning the fermentation process from American entrepreneur Shawn Askinosie,  founder of Askinosie Chocolate.    "I started exporting eight tons inside a 20‐footer van, and from then on I never had a refusal  from my buyers," she said.    Pancita U. Juan, trustee of the Peace and Equity Foundation, advised cacao industry players  present at the "Good News Kapihan" held here, to look into the experiences of the Philippine  Coffee Board when the coffee industry formed the council.    "The only way for the cacao industry to be recognized is to come up with a promotions plan  which will be spearheaded by Mindanao," Ms. Juan said. She also advised the group to avail of a  maximum‐P100,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture (DA) for promotion.   

Mr. Muyco said that the country’s present cacao production is .0001% of the world’s total  cacao production. Even if it meets a 100,000‐MT target by 2020, that would still be only .001%  of global production.    "We are still a very, very small player in the world cacao industry considering the world  demand... which is why we are advocating for the production of good quality cocoa beans," he  said.    "We have to put leverage on our cacao products so we can get premium prices despite the  small production," he added.    Ms. Puentespina said every agricultural endeavor, including cacao, should start from very good  planting materials. She said DA should closely monitor the cacao growers and "not just allow  the investors to buy any seedlings without quality control."    Davao claims to have the best cacao clones, and the Bureau of Plant Industry was urged to  monitor the nurseries to make sure that the seedlings being sold are quality ones. Ms.  Puentespina also said the DA should help farmers produce high‐yielding cacao trees.    "You don’t need to spend millions for drying machines that the farmers could not use anyway.  You need to train technicians because our government technicians still teach farmers the old  methods of growing cacao," she told the DA.    Remelyn R. Recoter, DA regional director, said that while the agency can provide the  technology, the growth of the industry is everybody’s concern.    "The Regional Development Council has recently drafted the roadmap for the Cacao Industry  Cluster, and the formation of a cacao council would help realign the functions of the private  and the government sectors," Ms. Recoter said. ‐‐ Carmencita A. Carillo

Posted on March 03, 2014 10:16:18 PM

House panel urges RE dev’t CITING growing energy demand, looming power shortages and rising electricity costs, the  House Committee on Energy yesterday said it is time to tap  other power sources.     This, as the committee head said the panel supported  implementation of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (Republic  Act 9513) but hoped that the executive branch of government would take the lead.  Energy committee Chairman and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali told reporters at a  round‐table discussion yesterday that the committee will support RA 9513’s implementation  through policies, "but to the extent we wanted the executive to issue regulations and programs  because it is immediate and executory.""Time is of the essence now. So executive fiats are a  better solution," Mr. Umali said.Noting that renewable energy (RE) is an indigenous resource,  the lawmaker said: "If we want price stability, rate predictability, renewable is a way to go."  He also said that RE is abundant, unlimited and free, resulting in numerous benefits once fully  harnessed."For one, the deployment of RE will decrease if not eliminate the country’s  dependence on fossil fuel imports, thus generating savings on the national balance of trade," he  said.Citing data from the Department of Energy, Mr. Umali said the country has a potential  4,000 megawatts of geothermal power, 8,000 MW of hydropower, 1,048 MW of wind energy,  and 276 MW of biomass energy, but only a fraction of these are actually tapped.  Although developing RE would initially be more expensive, Mr. Umali said it would be short‐ term pain for long‐term gain."By considering other energy source alternatives which are always  available and free, it will definitely result in lower electricity rates," he also said.  Mr. Umali noted that the country’s present power is mostly dependent on imported coal,  bunker fuel and diesel, which makes the country vulnerable to the volatility of international fuel  markets.On a related note, the lawmaker said he dreams of transforming Mindoro island into a  "renewable hub".He noted that a geothermal plant in Barangay Montelago, Nauhan, Mindoro  Oriental, has been given a green light. The plant is expected to generate 40 MW and go online  by 2015."We expect the geothermal plant to supply 3.5 MW for a start and [an] additional 5  MW every four to five months, until they finish the project, which will give additional 40 MW in  the whole island," Mr. Umali explained. ‐‐ Imee Charlee C. Delavin

Posted on March 02, 2014 08:43:11 PM

P1.3 billion set to rehab E. Visayas farms TACLOBAN CITY ‐‐ Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said an initial budget of P1.3 billion  has been set aside to rehabilitate the farm sector in Eastern Visayas.  The bulk, or P800 million, will be used to repair the regional Agriculture office building, satellite  offices, laboratories, nurseries and vehicles that were damaged by typhoon Yolanda  (international name: Haiyan) last November.  The remainder is for procuring seeds, fertilizer, farm tools and machinery for distribution to  farmers.  "While we are helping farmers, we also have to prioritize building the capacity of our regional  office for it to be able to implement sustainable recovery efforts," Mr. Alcala said in a press  briefing here.  He said the budget is on top of the regular allocation for regional operations. Additional funds  are also expected to be set aside later this year.  Under the government’s Early Recovery Program, the Agriculture department has been  distributing rice, corn and vegetable seeds as well as fertilizer and farming tools to entice  farmers in affected communities to plant.    Mr. Alcala said the department hopes to increase food production to bring down prices of basic  commodities.  "Supply was disrupted because of the typhoon. We need to clean up farms immediately so  people can plant. If we can plant three to five hectares everyday, we can have abundant  harvest of high value crops after a few months," Mr. Alcala added.    The repair of irrigation systems is almost complete. As of last week, National Irrigation  Authority (NIA) Regional Manager Romeo G. Quiza said water supply has been restored to  8,600 of the 9,000 hectares of farms with damaged irrigation systems.  "The total requirement to repair a damaged irrigation system is P280 million. Since funding is  not yet available, we sought assistance from farmers’ groups to help us clear clogged canals,"  Mr. Quiza said.  To help farmers, Mr. Alcala said he will ask the NIA governing board to defer service fee  collection for the next four planting seasons.    A separate budget of P1.7 billion has been set aside to rehabilitate the fisheries sector. About  60% will go to Eastern Visayas.   

Pending the budget’s release, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Asis G. Perez  said his agency has raised funds to construct 10,000 fishing boats in the region.    "As of this week, fishermen have already built 8,200 boats. This is our immediate assistance to  fisherfolk in partnership with private individuals and companies," Mr. Perez said.    Two families share one boat.    The bureau has also distributed 19.8 tons of farming materials, including seaweed seedlings,  nylon ropes, plastic twine and floaters in Eastern and Western Visayas.    The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) announced earlier that P2.8 billion had been set aside  to rehabilitate the coconut sector. About 70% will be for Eastern Visayas, where 33.82 million  trees were destroyed, resulting in a P16.6‐billion loss.    "Of the total budget, P1.6 billion will be used for fertilization program since we want slightly  damaged trees to become productive one year after the application of complete fertilizer," PCA  Administrator Euclides G. Forbes said.    About 1,000 chainsaws will be deployed to clear farms of toppled coconut trees. Those suitable  for timber will be processed for use in building shelters for families left homeless by the  typhoon.    "Currently, there are about 400 chainsaws that have been used for clearing operations in  affected areas. We expect to bring 600 more units in two weeks," Mr. Forbes said.    Meanwhile, Mr. Alcala assured transparency in the implementation of rehabilitation efforts. He  said the agency will post the list of beneficiaries, budget used for each program, and updates on  its Web site. ‐‐ Sarwell Q. Meniano

Solons demand CoA release report on PDAF under Noy Written by  Tribune   Tuesday, 04 March 2014 00:00   The Commission on Audit (CoA) should release in full its audit report on the pork barrel disbursement from the second half of 2010 up to 2012, under the administration of President Aquino, which Abakada Rep. Jonathan De la Cruz said contains the findings of Napoles-type of operations in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and in the Visayas. The CoA released in August last year the Special Report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), otherwise known as pork barrel, covering only the years from 2007 to 2009 which many said targeted opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. to implicate them in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel racket of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. De la Cruz said the complete audit report should be made public along with the list of the beneficiaries of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco has been asking for. De la Cruz told reporters CoA chairman Grace Pulido-Tan should be made to explain why up to now she is withholding the release of the pork audit report from 2010 to 2012 as he noted that all Pulido – Tan had released to date was the copy of special audit report on the lawmakers’ priority development assistance fund (PDAF) from 2007 to 2009 which contains discrepancy with the regular audit report. “We mentioned it before and we will mention it again. In the case of 2010 to 2012, the report is that there were 3158 SAROs (special allotment release orders) that were classified as either doubled numbered, missing or illegally issued which brought into question 40,000 other SAROs with the total face value of P1.942 trillion,” De la Cruz said. “Up to now they have not answered these questions,” he added. De la Cruz said the alleged 2010 to 2012 audit reports contain names of three other contractors who operate in the style of alleged pork scam queen, Janet Lim Napoles. “The first CoA report concentrated only on the so-called Napoles NGOs. But the report that we are getting is that there are at least three other contractors with operations similar to that of Napoles,” said De la Cruz. “As a matter of fact the name of Godofredo Roque has come out. He hads the Godofredo Roque Group that operates just like Napoles. Even in the case of the DPWH, there is also a similar group there under a certain Rose Lao,” the solon averred. He however refused to give details on the third contractor. When asked where Roque operates, De la Cruz said it would be better to ask Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas as he was one of those named in the CoA report. Although De la Cruz stopped short of divulging where Roque operates, sources bared he has cornered all types of projects worth billions of pesos in contracts in the Visayas particularly in Iloilo, the home province of some administration allies in the Senate.

The source added that Lao, on the other hand, are known well among many lawmakers whom she extends financial support during election campaign. “Many politicians are friends of Rose Lao,” said the source. “She always extends help to them.” Asked if anyone among them could be bigger than Napoles who is suspected of ripping off at least P10 billion in public fund, De la Cruz said all of them operate on equal opportunity although he could not discount the possibility that Roque and Lao could have cornered much bigger projects than Napoles. “Let me put it this way,” they are equal opportunity operators,” said De la Cruz. De la Cruz also asked the government to hold in abeyance its planned abolition of certain government offices suspected of involvement in the alleged pork scam. “We are asking the government to hold in abeyance its planned abolition of offices suspected of involvement in the pork scam including Nabcor, Philforest, TLRC, TRC, etc. because they have not yet concluded their investigation on the extent of their involvement on the supposed scam. They have not yet even submitted a report to Congress. Are they trying to hide something? Are they trying to shred the evidence?” asked De la Cruz. The party-list solon also questioned the failure of the CoA to reconcile the discrepancies in its special audit report on PDAF with that of the regular audit report. “If you take a look at the special report, it will tell you a lot of things. Not only did the special report concentrate on 2007 to 2009 but it contains conflicting figures with that of the regular audit report,” said De la Cruz. “But we have a copy of that as well as the special audit report from 2010 to 2012 which is shrouded in mystery,” he added. Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said that all the administration should have to do to clear things up, especially in the questioned period of 2010 to 2012 when the DAP was supposedly invented and disbursed, was for Budget Secretary Butch Abad to heed to tiangco’s request that rthe list of DAP beneficiaries be released. “All Secretary Abad has to do is to release the list DAP beneficiaries and those whom he had given additional PDAF during the Corona trial and after the vote on RH bill. From there, we could see where the DAP and the PDAF went and how much went to Napoles type of exchanges,” said Atienza. Another violation on the disbursement of the additional pork, Atienza said, was the allegation that the SAROs already contained the names of the NGOs which would supposedly implement the projects. “Isn’t that a violation of the law? Isn’t that really giving away cash as reward for the boats that are sinking? Secretary Abad has a lot of explaining to do,” said Atienza. Independent bloc leader, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez scored the administration’s selective prosecution on the alleged pork scam. “We support the call of Congressman Toby that this should be done across the board and that the master list should be all released for better transparency,” said Romualdez. “We have no problem with that and in fact we are all for the investigations. For the prosecution of those who are allegedly guilty, but it should be done across the board there should be no selective prosecution,” he said. “The problem is the administration is once again, being color blind on this. It’s getting quite obvious that if their ally is being dragged into the issue, he is immediately exmepted from the probe. But if you happen to be a critic, you are automatically tagged as a suspect,” said Romualdez.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in defending he absence of formal charges being filed in relation to the government complaints on the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam that the Ombudsman is still in the process of evaluating the evidence. “As you know, the office of the Ombudsman is a separate entity from the Executive branch. They are the ones evaluating the evidence submitted by the DoJ, so it’s not automatic that just because it was filed by DoJ, the Ombudsman will immediately file it before the Sandiganbayan,” Lacierda said. Lacierda said the plunder complaints would have to undergo the process in the Ombudsman to determine as to whether or not there is a “probable cause” for the filing of charges before the anti-graft court. Lacierda also surmised the counsels of the Senators may have filed a motion that should be resolved first by the Ombudsman for the cause of the delay for the filing of information to the court. “I don’t know if there are any motions filed by the respondents. I remember there was a motion for extension, for the filing of the counter affidavit. So I really don’t know what is happening in the office of the Ombudsman,” Lacierda said. Lacierda assured that the Ombdusman has a valid reason it is taking some time for them to come up with a resolution on those cases. “But we are also waiting for the results of their investigation,” Lacierda said. Lacierda, however, admitted he does know on what is the present situation in the cases affecting the PDAF scam. “The office of the Ombudsman is currently conducting a preliminary investigation, with respect to the PDAF respondents. So we don’t know yet the resolution of the preliminary investigation,” Lacierda said. But Lacierda asserted there is a strong case that would not be dismissed against the demonized three Senators. By Charlie V. Manalo and Paul Atienza

Senate wants 60% of cigarette packs covered by graphic health warnings Written by  PNA   Tuesday, 04 March 2014 00:00   A Senate bill requiring cigarette companies to put graphic health warnings on cigarettes cartons and packs reached the Senate floor on Monday.Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sen. Pia Cayetano sponsored Senate Bill 27 or an act to effectively instill health consciousness through pictured-based warning on tobacco products.“In our version of the bill, I think the stated amount is 60 percent of the cigarette packs should be covered by the graphic health warnings,” Drilon said.Drilon said a US study revealed that picture-based labels are more effective as compared to the text warnings in deterring smoking.“The bill, once passed into law, would require tobacco companies to, among others, display graphic images along with text warnings on their products depicting the dire consequences of smoking on one’s health,” the Senate President said in his sponsorship speech.He said the benefits to a mandatory system of prominently displaying picture-based health warnings “are clear and evident from the experience of other states and governments which already have this system in place.” Drilon said based on estimate by the Department of Health, at least 87,000 Filipinos succumb annually from complications caused by cigarette smoking. “In other words, 10 Filipinos die every hour from cigarette-smoking related illnesses. And by the time I finish my speech, another five would have died,” he said. Also, cigarette smoking costs an estimated P188 billion in annual health care expenses and productivity losses.He stressed that the measure’s passage is “of vital importance in the health situation of the country,” saying that the country has to badly address the unabated rise of cigarette smokers amongst Filipinos.“The Philippines still registers as having one of the highest smoking incidences in the Western Pacific Region, even with measures like the Sin Tax Bill in effect. A much more decisive government action on this issue is then evidently required,” he said.In her co-sponsorship speech, Cayetano urged for a more decisive government action on smoking, in order to help stem large-scale human death smoking causes. “More than five million people die each year from direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 people die from second hand smoke. With current smoking patterns, around 500 million people die will eventually die from tobacco use,” she said.Cayetano said: “while many tobacco users know tobacco is harmful, studies show that most people are unaware of its true risk. Studies have also shown that picture-based warnings are much more effective than text warnings alone.” Both senators have been active in government campaigns against smoking and related health issues.Cayetano had authored and sponsored two earlier versions on graphic health warnings in the previous 14th and 15th Congress.

Enough LPG supply in market assured Written by  Ed Velasco   Tuesday, 04 March 2014 00:00   Isla LPG Corp., one of the leading suppliers of cooking gas in the market, has affirmed its readiness to provide not just enough supply of liquefied petroleum gas but also cheaper LPGs when it reduced price by P4.68 per kilogram effective Mar. 1 this year. “We at Solane are reducing our LPG prices by P4.68/kg (VAT inclusive) effective Mar. 1, 2014, following the similar price rollbacks in January and February. The price reduction puts Isla LPG at over P50 lower than its competitors. This is consistent with the world market price movements for LPG and runs contrary to recent misleading pronouncements of a price increase,” according to Toshihisa Fuse, the firm’s chief executive officer. The LPG firm also said it fully supports Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla’s statement that “there is sufficient supply of LPG in the entire country despite some companies’ divestment in the LPG industry, which, as we understand, are business decisions.” “We work very closely with our LPG suppliers to ensure the steady supply of both our local and imported LPG products and with the government’s efforts to ensure LPG supply security. We continue to remain committed in providing our customers with safe, reliable and high quality Solane LPG,” it added.

RP banks start dialog for Asean integration Written by  Ed Velasco   Tuesday, 04 March 2014 00:00   All presidents of the 34 universal and commercial banks in the Philippines will be in Cebu City to discuss preparatory measures on how the UKB industry of the country will be ready for the integration of banks in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) by 2018. The event will be spearheaded by the Asean Bankers Association, according to Lorenzo Tan, a director of ABA. The Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP) said it is now preparing its members for a series of meetings and dialogs needed for the smooth implementation of measures aimed at institutionalizing the acts needed for the integration. Tan, who is also the president of the BAP, said final date of the meeting in Cebu City this year will be known in the next few weeks. The meeting is not just among UKBs in the Philippines but the entire UKB industry in Asean. “We’re hosting conference in Cebu this year to plan integration,” Tan, president of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., told The Daily Tribune. The BAP president said integration among banks in the 10-nation Asean is not easy because there are plenty of things to do to assure that the union will not result in chaos, much more heavy competition. A source at the banking industry said countries with less than 10 UKBs are in advantage position when integration period comes because nations with few UKBs controlling at least 80 percent of assets are less problematic when it comes to uniformity of policies and programs. Nations with less UKBs need few IT platform, thus its easier for them to work with many counterparts, according to the source. Even the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is encouraging Philippine banks to trim down in size through mergers but the appeal remains unheard. Many banks in the Philippines, especially UKBs, have at least one or two thrift bank affiliates.

Summer warning ng DOH: Mag‐ingat sa  tigdas, food poisoning  (Tina Mendoza/Cherk Almadin) 

Ngayong ramdam na ang init ng panahon kahit hindi pa pormal na idinideklara ng Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) ang pagsisimula ng summer, maaga namang nagbabala ang Department of Health (DOH) sa publiko na ingatan ang kanilang kalusugan, una na rito ang hindi pagbilad sa tindi ng init ng araw. Ayon kay Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag, ngayong nalalapit na ang bakasyon sa mga paaralan ay tiyak naman ang mga family outings at sa gitna umano ng kasiyahan ay dapat bigyang prayoridad pa rin ang kalusugan. “Sa mga get together piliin natin mag-prepare ng masustansyang pagkain na hindi madaling mapanis, ‘wag magpuyat at umiwas sa init,” pahayag ni Tayag. Ayon sa PAGASA, sa ikalawa o ikatlong linggo pa nitong Marso tuluyang mawawala ang hanging amihan na hudyat nang pagsisimula ng tag-init.

Nawawalang P30B ng DPWH, hahagilapin ng  Kongreso  (BJ)

Desidido ang Mababang Kapulungan ng Kongreso na hagilapin ang nawawalang P30 bilyon ng Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) na nakalaan sana sa “public infrastructure support and development” sa buong kapuluan. Pinatulan ng House committee on good government and public accountability na pinamumunuan ni Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez ang kahilingan ni Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone na hanapin ang nawawalang P30 bilyong pondo ng DPWH. Ayon kay Evardone, karamihan sa nawawalang pondo ng DPWH ay nangyari noong nakaraang administrasyon. Isang Edwin Gradiola diumano ang nabigong makapagsumite ng accomplishment report sa DPWH hinggil sa proyektong nagkakahalaga ng P6 bilyon. Binanggit pa ni Evardone na inimbestigahan na rin ng Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) at isinapubliko online noong 2009 ang top 10 companies na nakakuha ng malalaking kontrata sa DPWH.

CHA A‐CHA A GETS TS MOVING G Published d : Tuesday, March 04, 2 2014 00:00  Written b by : Jester M Manalastas  

UNLIK KE other conntroversial m measures, thee C (Chaa-Cha) bill eaasily hurdled d the legislattive process as it took onnly four publlic Charter Change hearings for the Com mmittee on Co onstitutionall Amendmennts to approvve the measuure. ng 24 membeers of the committee votted in favor oof approvingg House At yesterday’s hearin Resolutio on No.1 principally autho ored by Speaaker Felicianno Belmontee Jr. , whosee main aim iss to amend on nly the econo omic provisiions of the 1987 Constituution by addding the phraase “unless otherwisee provided by law.” Accusing g the adminisstration lawm makers of railroading thee process, tw wo militant lawmakers – Bayan Muna M Rep. Neeri Colmenarres and Carlos Zarate — voted no, w while Pampaanga Rep. Osscar Rodrigueez abstained. The oppo ositors of thee Cha-Cha in nsisted that a public conssultation aroound the counntry should bbe done firstt to get the pulse p of the people p on thee proposed aamendmentss to the economic provisiions. Rejecting g the move of o Colmenarees to defer voting, Misam mis Occidenntal Rep. Hennry Oaminall moved to o vote for thee resolution seconded s by y Ilocos Nortte Rep. Rodoolfo Fariñas.. Chairman n of the paneel Davao Citty Rep. Myleene Garcia-A Albano orderred the secreetariat to preepare the comm mittee report to be submiitted to plenaary. ved, this wou uld be the first time that amendments a s to Constituution was done through tthe If approv legislativ ve mill and not through th he Constitueent Assemblyy (Con-Ass)) or Constituutional

Convention (Con-Con). Belmonte said he got an assurance from the committee that his resolution will be approved before the session break this March. Cha-Cha supporters Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. and Fari単as explained to the panel the rules observed by the House in amending the Constitution. Citing House Rule No. 20, Barzaga said lawmakers are merely exercising their constituent power and they are not acting as a constituent assembly yet.

JPE, 2 others dared to undergo lifestyle check Published : Tuesday, March 04, 2014 00:00   Written by : Hector Lawas   Potential witness and Technology Resource Center (TRC) director-general Dennis Cunanan yesterday challenged plundering Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. to submit to a lifestyle check and waive their bank secrecy rights to once-and-for-all prove their innocense in the multi-billion pork barrel fund scam. This as Cunanan, in a statement, denied owning a P40-million property in an exclusive subdivision in Quezon City, and a luxury car, both of which he allegedly failed to declare in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN). Cunanan, who was provisionally admitted under the Witness Protection Program, has been under fire for insisting that he did not benefitted in the scam. Senator Grace Poe earlier called for a lifestyle check on Cunanan to prove that he did not also make money from the scam. Cunanan stressed that the scam is not about him but about the public officials who deliberately conspired with pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. Meanwhile, Cunanan admitted living in the property being subject of the media report but denied that he owns it. The said house, according to Cunanan, belongs to his brother Darius , a successful businessman who bought the house as an investment some seven years ago. “The house was offered to my brother at a very good price. Knowing he was getting a good deal, my brother obtained a loan from a bank and bought the property. He is in fact still paying the monthly amortization on the loan from the bank up to now. In fact, he also used the said property as collateral for another loan he obtained for one of the businesses he is managing,” Cunanan pointed out.

House panel okays special hospital for senior citizens Published : Tuesday, March 04, 2014 00:00   Written by : Jester Manalastas  

THE House Committee on Health approved a proposed measure seeking to create a National Center for Geriatric Health. The panel chaired by La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel has approved several proposals to create the special hospital that will provide full range of healthcare services, including primary care, wellness services and behavioral healthcare to senior citizens and other older members of the country’s population. The committee will consolidate the approved measures: House Bill 2834 authored by Eriguel and HB 2357 filed by Manila Rep. Rosenda Ann Ocampo. Eriguel has appealed to his colleagues to give priority to the measure. He expressed hope that his bill will be approved in the 16th Congress. The NCGH shall focus on the medical needs of the senior citizens and older persons, and shall be the first of its kind in the Philippines. It will ensure the social, psychological and biological aspects of aging members of the population, as well as improve research and studies on the diseases of older persons. The facility will enable senior citizens and older persons, who are most vulnerable to diseases, to get much needed specialized health care. Ocampo said as a tribute to the country’s elderly citizens, having served and contributed to society in the prime of their life, it is only fitting to establish a hospital which primarily provides geriatric health services.

2014 03 04 quedancor daily news monitor  
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