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Gov't allocates $38.23 M to help typhoon-hit fishing industry  ( | Updated March 4, 2014 ‐ 9:00pm 

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The government will release P1.71 billion ($38.23 million) to support the implementation of the Rehabilitation Plan for fishing communities in Central Philippines struck by Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, last November, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said here today. "Part of the (Aquino) Administration's reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts for Yolandaaffected areas is the restoration of the communities' primary means of livelihood," DBM Secretary Florencio Abad said of the allocation which will first be sent to the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR). According to the department, of the total amount, P500 million ($11.18 million) will be used for rehabilitating BFAR facilities in the disaster areas and repairing the bureau's official vessels, which sustained severe damage in the height of Typhoon Yolanda. Meanwhile, another P405.7 million ($9.07 million) will be channeled to various aid activities for the region's aquaculture initiatives, including seaweed nurseries, mariculture farms, and fingerling distribution. Finally, the remaining P800 million ($17.88 million) will be used to support the provision of fishing boats and fishing gears for Haiyan-affected fishing communities. "The work of rehabilitating disaster-stricken communities goes beyond supplying relief goods and ensuring the restoration of shelter and basic utilities for affected communities... In this case, the release will allow us to help fishing communities regain their toehold in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda," Abad said.‐allocates‐38.23‐m‐help‐typhoon‐hit‐ fishing‐industry           

Save Agrarian Reform Alliance: Poverty highest in provinces with huge landdistribution backlog Category: Economy 04 Mar 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga Provinces with huge land acquisition and distribution (LAD) backlog were tagged as among areas with high poverty incidence underscoring the direct correlation between poverty and landlessness, agrarian-reform advocates said on Tuesday. The Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (Sara), an umbrella organization of farmers calling for another Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) extension listed Negros Occidental as the province with the biggest LAD backlog at 144,861. Incidentally, the group noted that based on a February 2014 National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) data, the province also has one of the highest poverty incidences in the country at 32.3 percent. Negros Occidental is followed by Camarines Sur with a LAD backlog of 63,042 hectares, and a poverty incidence of 41.2 percent. Masbate is third with 33,156 hectares LAD backlog, and a poverty incidence of 51.3 percent. The other provinces with huge LAD backlog and high poverty incidence are South Cotabato, Negros Oriental, Leyte, Iloilo, Isabela, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sarangani. Members of Sara trooped to Malacañang on Tuesday to reiterate their call to overhaul the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) so as to accelerate the distribution land to landless farmers. According to Sara, President Aquino must personally step in to save CARP from what they describe as “chronic underperformance and lack of political commitment” manifested by the present DAR leadership. “CARP is on the verge of death at the hands of the present DAR,” Jaime Tadeo, Sara spokesman said. “Contrary to its padded accomplishment reports, the present administration’s DAR has consistently failed to meet its yearly targets, failed to provide support services to its beneficiaries, and failed to protect farmers’ rights from illegal conversions and land-grabbing,” he added.

According to the DAR’s own figures, of the total 710,000 hectares of lands originally targeted for distribution, from July 2010 to June 2013, only 360,464 hectares or 51 percent of the annual target were distributed to agrarian-reform beneficiaries. But even the DAR’s claimed successes remain suspect. In its 2013 accomplishment report, the DAR reported that it fully redistributed the 4,099 hectares of Hacienda Luisita—even as it continues to neglect the physical installation and delivery of support services to Luisita’s farmers, the group said. “With a DAR so inutile in fulfilling its duty, it is time for President Aquino to become directly involved in the implementation of CARP. P-Noy himself must realize that he must do for agrarian reform what he did for the country during the trial of former Chief Justice Corona, if he truly wishes to bring ‘inclusive growth’ to the rural poor,” Tadeo said. According to Tadeo, despite the Philippines’s celebrated growth rates in 2012 and 2013, these had failed to benefit the rural poor. In 2013 Sara reported the persistence of rural poverty that is clearly linked to the lack of effective implementation of land reform, including the delivery of integrated social services. As of 2011, the top 15 provinces with the highest land redistribution backlogs, such as Negros Occidental, Camarines Sur and Masbate, were also among those with exceedingly high provincial poverty rates—far above the national average of 25.2 percent in 2012, the report said. “Agriculture is still the most neglected sector of our country, and hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million, farmers’ families suffering from poverty will continue to be left behind unless P-Noy orders the DAR to immediately fast-track the distribution of remaining lands, and give farmer-beneficiaries the full support of the government,” Trinidad Domingo, another Sara leader, said. “We have lost our faith in the DAR leadership, and appeal to President Aquino to place land reform as one of his priority development agendas. This is not only his promise to all Filipino farmers and his constitutional duty, but it should also be an essential part of his administration’s goal of ending rural poverty in the country,” Domingo said.‐save‐agrarian‐reform‐ alliance‐poverty‐highest‐in‐provinces‐with‐huge‐land‐distribution‐backlog           

P’sinan board eyes charges over cutting of highway trees By Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 5, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan, Philippines – The provincial board is proposing to file a criminal case against some officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and some contractors responsible for the cutting of old trees along the MacArthur Highway. Sixth district Board Member Alfonso Bince Jr. told The STAR after the Question Hour yesterday where officials of these government offices were invited to shed light on the issue, that they would also seek an injunction to stop the cutting of the remaining trees. The lengthy probe would resume next week. Bince said they did not receive any Sangguniang Bayan resolutions from Urdaneta City and Rosales, Villasis, Binalonan, Pozorrubio and Sison towns endorsing the cutting of trees for the road-widening project. Emmanuel Diaz, officer-in-charge of the DPWH 3rd District Engineering Office based in Rosales town, showed the board a copy of a letter from DENR-Region 1 executive director Samuel Peñafiel that pursuant to the clearance issued by the field operations undersecretary dated Oct. 6, 2013, a special tree-cutting and earth-balling permit was granted to his office for the cutting of 1,829 trees and earth-balling of 107 saplings to be affected by the widening of the Manila North Road which traverses Rosales and Sison towns. The 1,829 trees, of various species, had a diameter of at least 16 centimeters, and the saplings, 15 centimeters. The trees are in Sison (202), Pozorrubio (495), Binalonan (598), Urdaneta (162), Villasis (272), and Rosales (100). For every tree cut, 100 seedlings/saplings would be planted as replacement. Leduina Co, provincial environment and natural resources officer, said people are enraged seeing trees that were girdled, meaning these are marked for cutting. These can still be saved through tree surgery, she said. Co said there are 770 uncut trees that are girdled, adding that they have also identified 255 trees from those given permits to be cut. Former Pangasinan fifth district congressman Mark Cojuangco who openly admitted to having pushed national agencies to secure get permits for tree-cutting in his former turf (now occupied by his wife, Rep. Kimi Cojuangco) for the road-widening project, said he “used moral suasion so that these DENR and DPWH officials would do their job right without being affected by politics or be bullied by special interest groups at that time.”

“To our belief, the road-widening project was to ease traffic congestion, save time and fuel because 60,000 vehicles pass through MNR (Manila North Road). If you save one liter from Sison to Villasis times 60,000, how much carbon dioxide can be saved daily that could pollute our air? They should ask, can these trees suck this worth 60,000 liters of fuel a day? How much pollution would that be?” Cojuangco said. He said the cut trees would be replaced by replanting with a ratio of 1:100. Cojuangco added that in the 2010 budget, he was able to insert P45 million so trees could be planted outside the Manila North Road. But this did not push through but if it did, there would have been big trees now, he added. He said the road-widening project in the fifth district had been delayed for three years and this funding could have been given to other areas if not implemented now. “This is my personal opinion. There’s too much pandering to emotion, not balanced for the interest of the people with the economy, livelihood, time and wasted fuel in their cars, in their efficiency, but only appealing to emotional-based instincts of the people in the cutting of trees instead of looking at the positive consequences of the road widening,” he said. Running priest Fr. Robert Reyes, who came here yesterday, assailed the absence of consultation with the people on the tree cutting. In a statement, his group said, “It has failed to make the necessary shift toward a sustainable development paradigm that puts a premium on the protection of the environment and natural resources over the pursuit of monetary profits and other short-term economic gains.”‐board‐eyes‐charges‐over‐cutting‐ highway‐trees                   

BFAR gets P1.71 billion to rehabilitate Visayas offices, overall fisheries sector Category: Agri-Commodities 04 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega with PNA GOVERNMENT budget managers announced on Tuesday they release P1.71 billion to the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) for the rehabilitation of fishing communities struck by Supertyphoon Yolanda. The P1.7-billion release, which will cover the rehabilitation costs for fishing communities in Regions 4B, 5, 6, 7 and 8, was charged against the Unprogrammed Fund under the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said in a statement on March 4. “The release to DA-BFAR will allow us to help fishing communities regain their toehold in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. We musn’t forget that many of these communities were dealt the heaviest blows during the calamity, as Yolanda-ravaged coastlines where most fishermen live and carry out a substantial amount of their work,” Secretary Florencio B. Abad was quoted in the statement as saying. The budget managers’ statement said P905.7 million of the total amount released is expected to be used for two allotments. The DBM said P468 million is expected to be spent to build or rehabilitate BFAR facilities in the Western (Region 6), Central (Region 7) and Eastern (Region 8) Visayas regions. On the other hand, P32 million is expected to be spent to repair the bureau’s monitor, control and surveillance patrol vessels. These sustained severe damage in the height of Yolanda in November last year. The DBM added that the reconstruction of BFAR facilities in various Yolanda-stricken regions include the following: rehabilitation activities for the Guian Fisheries Development Center and Pearl Island Facilities in Eastern Visayas; the Central Bangus Hatchery; Central Visayas Multispecies Nursery Training and Demonstration Center and Kawit Satellite Multispecies Hatchery in Central Visayas; and, the Pinamuk-an Hatchery in Western Visayas. Meanwhile, another P405.7 million of the P1.7-billion release will be channeled to various aid activities for the region’s aquaculture initiatives, including seaweed nurseries, mariculture farms and fingerling distribution. Finally, the total release will also support the following: provision of motorized bancas (P391.6 million); nonmotorized bancas (P122.1 million); and, fishing gear (P286.2 million) for Yolandaaffected fishing communities.

The DBM’s announcement came a day after the DA announced a P1.2-billion allocation for rehabilitation of farms in Eastern Visayas. The Philippine News Agency reported late Monday that “bulk of the budget or P800 million will be used to repair damaged facilities, such as the 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,” the state news agency report said. Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala was quoted in the report as saying that the P1.2-billion budget “represents preliminary release for Region 8” but that “there will be additional allotments later this year and in succeeding years.” 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 poured out in 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,” PCA Administrator Euclides G. Forbes was quoted in the PNA report as saying. For fishery rehabilitation, about 60 percent of the P1.7-billion outlay will be spent in Region 8, the report quoted BFAR Director Asis G. Perez as saying. The DA regional office in Tacloban City reported an P18.8-billion damage to the farming sector when Yolanda wreaked havoc in the region nearly four months ago.


Law wmakeers to Palace P e: Go easy oon aboolishin ng GOC CCs By Paolo R Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated d March 5, 20014 ‐ 12:00am m 

  MANILA A, Philippinees - A memb ber of the ind dependent blloc in the Hoouse of Reprresentatives warned yesterday y thaat Malacañan ng was rushiing to abolissh governmeent-owned annd controlledd corporatiions (GOCC Cs) that were allegedly in nvolved in thhe pork barreel scam to coover up for aallies of the Aq quino administration. Abakadaa-Guro party--list Rep. Jon nathan de laa Cruz said thhere were allso reports cooming from the Commisssion on Audit (COA) thaat there weree other indivviduals, apartt from allegeed pork barrel mastermiind Janet Lim m-Napoles, that t were rep portedly invvolved in skim mming off ffunds for GOCCs. He cited in particularr the Nationaal Agribusin ness Corp. (N Nabcor), Phillippine Foreest Corp. R Estaate Corp. and d the Technoology Resour urce Center (T (PhilForeest), ZNAC Rubber TRC), amonng others thaat allegedly facilitated dubious d or no on-existent pprojects fundded by pork bbarrel or Priiority Developm ment Assistaance Fund (P PDAF) of law wmakers. “Why aree they abolisshing these agencies a righ ht now? The y have not eeven concludded their ownn findings about these agencies, theey have not even given a report to C Congress, theey have not eeven given a report to Mallacañang,” he h said. He said the t Governan nce Commisssion for GO OCCs (GCG)) has not yett completed iits review off the agencies.. “So why are they abo olishing thesse? Are they trying to hidde somethinng, are they trrying to shreed d. the evideence?” De la Cruz added

Former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Malacañang could not unilaterally abolish GOCCs with charters without the approval of Congress. “Congressional repeal of the statutory charters of GOCCs is indispensable before they can be abolished even as the scam-tainted GOCCs, whether organized by law or registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), should be prioritized for appropriate abolition,” Lagman said. “Congress has the exclusive authority to repeal laws and the President cannot be delegated the power of dismantling GOCCs with original or statutory charters because this would be repealing acts of Congress,” he said. However, GOCCs organized under the SEC can be abolished without legislation, he said, adding the separation of legislative and executive powers is enshrined in the Constitution. He said this was the reason he filed during the 15th Congress a petition with the Supreme Court under G.R. No. 197422 challenging the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 10149 creating the GCG, which allows the President to arrogate legislative power by repealing or amending legislative charters of GOCC and violates the constitutionally-protected security of tenure of officials and employees under the civil service by pre-terminating their tenure. Meanwhile, state-owned Trade and Investment Development Corp. of the Philippines (Tidcorp), also known as the Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency (PhilEXIM), has defended its sustained profitability, its officials said. Tidcorp president and CEO Francisco Magsajo Jr. explained that being an attached agency of the Department of Finance, its financial and operational viability continues to support the government’s development agenda. He said the agency’s P1.01-billion cumulative net profit performance over the last six years is a demonstration of its value to the national economy. It has also consistently remitted dividends to the national government, he further declared. “Our existence as a development financial institution in over three and a half decades, particularly during the last six years, has been nothing less remarkable. We operate on selfsustainability as this has been the hallmark of our strong financial and corporate governance. Our 108-strong personnel are among the millions of government workers who tirelessly work hard to achieve our pursuits,” said Magsajo. Tidcorp has been listed as one of the 19 losing GOCCs under a bill filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother, Abante Mindanao party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez which seeks to abolish these agencies for either being underperforming or involved in the recent pork barrel scam. Magsajo defended the agency’s professional track record in fulfilling its mandate of financial intermediation to the banking sector, small enterprises and priority industries.‐palace‐go‐easy‐abolishing‐goccs 

Government enforces ban on FADs to conserve tuna stock Category: Agri-Commodities 04 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent A three-month ban on the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs) will be implemented by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources as part of its commitment to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s tuna conservation initiative, the BFAR said. The ban on these devices, locally known as payaos, would be implemented in July up to September and covers all purse seine and ring net vessels operating in the high seas, BFAR National Director Asis Perez said. Recently designated by department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala as his “alter ego” in the rehabilitation effort in the Eastern Visayas, Perez said “the prohibition of setting FADs is in line with WCFPC’s conservation and management measures for big-eye, yellowfin and skipjack tuna.” Alcala is referring to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), a regional fisheries management organization that addresses problems in the management of high seas fisheries. According to Perez, FADs are placed by fishermen to float over the waters to try and increase their catches. Used for centuries, increasing prevalence of use and concerns over these manmade structures’ potential impact to fish supply resulted in the growing calls for restrictions on its use. The rafts, for example, can be simply floating tree logs or bamboo shelters under which fish tend to congregate. Fishermen have long recognized this behavior, and have created FADs of many types, sparing not even the smaller sized fish. In line with the order, Perez said the BFAR will conduct annual inspection and marking of purse seine and ring net fishing gears to ensure compliance to the reduced net depth established under Fisheries Administrative Order 236, which is around 115 fathoms. Perez also said all catch vessels will be required to carry onboard accredited monitors and fisheries observers, who shall gather data and recommend further improvements during the closure period. Fishing companies and individuals caught using unauthorized nets during the FAD closure period would face penalties, the BFAR chief added.

Penalties run from P100,000 to P300,000 for small-scale commercial fishing; P400,000 to P700,000 for medium-scale commercial fishermen; and P800,000 to P1 million for large-scale operators, the BFAR said in a statement on Monday. Fishing companies may also face confiscation of catch and cancellation of permit to operate in the high seas, Perez added. To recall, the Philippines’s request for an extension for the access to the high seas Pocket 1 (an area near Palau) has been approved by the WCPFC during the 10th regular session of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly-Migratory Fish Stocks. This continued fishing access is a result of the Philippines’s commitment to ensuring long-term sustainability of highly migratory fish stocks parallel with rights under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the WCPFC Convention and the country’s adherence to progressive implementation of the Commission’s management measures, according to Perez. For two years now, the Philippines is the only nation allowed to go fishing in the high seas Pocket 1 following a series of proposals set before the WCPFC.‐commodities/28453‐government‐ enforces‐ban‐on‐fads‐to‐conserve‐tuna‐stock                           

Zambales Mango Festival 2014 kicks off Thursday Category: Agri-Commodities 04 Mar 2014 Written by Henry Empeño IBA, Zambales—Zambales’s pride, the world-famous carabao mango, will again be the center of a three-day festival in this town starting Thursday. The event, which is expected to draw visitors as well as contest participants from Manila and other parts of Luzon, is an annual event organized by the provincial government. Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. said on Tuesday during the pre-pageant night for the Binibining Zambales 2014 competition that this year’s festival seeks to capitalize on a popular local product to promote the province and its people, as well as its industries and products. “We have here the Zambales mango, which is known as the sweetest in the world, and people come here every year just for the taste of it,” Ebdane said. “Now we’re leveraging the popular Zambales mango to also persuade people to visit our tourism attractions, to experience our culture, taste our various delicacies, and get to know Zambaleños better.” Tel Mora, head of the Zambales Provincial Tourism Office, said the mango-themed festival would kick off early morning Thursday at the People’s Park in front of the Zambales Capitol. A trade fair and exhibit, which includes an Ayta craft demonstration and local government unit showcase, would be formally opened. Four hours before noon, a marching band exhibition begins. The afternoon events at the Zambales Sports Center will include a skydiving exhibition and street-dancing parade and competition beginning mid-afternoon of March 6, according to Mora. Mora added there will also be a mango challenge contest and a talent-search show. A competition on sand sculpture would begin early morning on March 7 at a beach in Barangay Dingin here. Mora said there would also be a mango-carving contest and a mango-eating contest at the People’s Park on Friday, as well as a lifeguard challenge at the Zambales Sports Complex. Other activities are lined up for March 8, the festival’s third day, to be capped by a beauty contest.‐commodities/28452‐zambales‐mango‐ festival‐2014‐kicks‐off‐thursday 

Merralco to refu und cu ustomeers By Iris Gonzales (The P Philippine Starr) | Updated March 5, 20114 ‐ 12:00am

  NO POWEER: President Aquino conggratulates new wly promotedd generals in tthe dark follo owing a poweer  interruption during oatth‐taking cere emonies at M Malacañang yeesterday. WILLLY PEREZ 

MANILA A, Philippinees - The Man nila Electric Company (M Meralco) wiill refund power consum mers who havee paid the deeferred electrricity chargees as indicateed in its enhhanced billingg statementss. The deferred chargess were the su ubject of the temporary rrestraining oorder (TRO) issued by thhe Supreme Court in Deecember on the t P4.15 peer kilowatt-hhour power raate hike the power comppany sought to o implement.. In a letterr dated Marcch 3 to the Energy E Regu ulatory Comm mission (ER RC), Meralcoo said it woulld refund itss customers who may haave been con nfused with tthe deferred amount com mponent of thhe enhanced d bill. “We reco ognize the reecent feedback concernin ng the issuess on the defeerred amountt and total amount due d for paym ment. This March M 2014 billing, b the deeferred amouunt will no llonger be included in the total amount a due and an advissory will claarify and infoorm customeers on what amounts to pay,” Meeralco said in n the letter. “For custtomers who paid the defferred amoun nt, Meralco w will implement a refundd equivalent tto the same amount as credit c to the bill starting March 20144. They will be advised tthat the refunnded amount representing r a portion off their Decem mber 2013 biill may still be subjectedd to adjustmeents upon finaal resolution n of the SC TRO,” T it said d. The ERC C earlier calleed the attenttion of Meraalco after enhhancements in its billingg statements created confusion c am mong its custtomers. Headliness ( Article MRec ), pagemattch: 1, section nmatch: 1  

In the enhanced billing statements issued to customers, Meralco put a deferred payment component, which is the difference between the amount originally billed for December and the amount actually paid by the customer after the SC issued the TRO. It said it has no intention to confuse or mislead consumers into paying the amount covered by the TRO, as it expressed regret for the confusion that the inclusion of the deferred amount may have caused. Meralco’s December bill was supposed to be P9.10 per kwh, earlier approved to be collected in three installments. But the TRO prompted Meralco to peg the December bill at P5.67 per kwh or equivalent to the November bill. The issue has yet to be resolved.

Meralco’s new petition opposed Representatives of party-list group Akbayan are opposing Manila Electric Company (Meralco)’s new rate increase petition filed with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Meralco wants to increase its generation charge by 84 centavos per kilowatt-hour starting with next month’s billing to recover fuel costs amounting to over P2 billion, and 74 centavos for five months starting in April. The adjustments are on top of the P4.15 per kwh hike the Supreme Court has frozen in December by issuing a restraining order. Akbayan filed its opposition yesterday with the ERC, whose chairman, former Pampanga Rep. Zenaida Ducut, it wants ousted. The group has lodged an administrative complaint against Ducut with the Office of the President. Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said they are opposing Meralco’s new filing, noting the generation charges – which Meralco sought to pass on to its customers – are the result of the same collusion, abuse of market power and manipulation of prices in the wholesale electricity spot market. “Meralco’s plan to burden the consumers with a new round of rate hike amid an ongoing battle regarding the legality of its proposed record high P4.15 power rate hike betrays its lack of empathy toward their customers. This is the height of abuse and impunity. We will not allow it,” he said. – With Jess Diaz, Delon Porcalla‐refund‐customers 

Public elementary, high schools will still follow June-March calendar By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 5, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Public elementary and high schools in the country will still follow the June-March academic calendar for school year 2014-2015, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said yesterday. He said there is no need for parents and students to worry about the much-talked about shift in academic calendar to August or September. “For school year 2014-2015, we have decided that classes (for public elementary and high schools) will start on the first Monday of June,” Luistro told reporters. Under Republic Act 7797, the school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August. Luistro said only a few schools, mostly higher education institutions, have decided to move their school opening. The University of the Philippines System, except the UP Diliman campus, and Ateneo de Manila University had announced the shift in their academic calendar from June-March to August-May. The University of Santo Tomas, on the other hand, has moved its college opening to July beginning next school year. The change in academic calendar is supposed to be in preparation for the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2015. The Department of Education is part of the high-level Technical Working Group created by the Commission on Higher Education to carefully study the proposal. The panel is set to submit its recommendations to CHED before the end of the month. Luistro earlier said there is no compelling reason to change the academic calendar for elementary and high schools. He said unlike in tertiary education, there is no common school opening among ASEAN countries. Schools in Brunei Darussalam open in January, Cambodia in October, Indonesia in July, Laos in September, Vietnam in August, Thailand in May and Myanmar and the Philippines in June. Benjo Basas, chairman of Teachers Dignity Coalition, opposed the change in school calendar.

“The weather argument of the proponents has been proven immaterial amid the drastic changes in world climate that made the weather unpredictable,” Basas said. “Our own school system (basic to tertiary) should integrate first before joining the ASEAN integration,” he added.

Safety of schools The government committed to increase the safety of schools in the country as part of its engagement to the United Nations Global Program for School Safety. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) yesterday announced the Philippines one of the 15 “Safe Schools Leader-Countries.” Jerry Velasquez, chief of advocacy and outreach of UNISDR, said leader countries are tasked to promote the three pillars of school safety. These are structural safety, preparedness of school staff and students and inclusion of disaster risk reduction in the school curriculum. Luistro told UNISDR officials, led by head Margareta Warlstrom, that the government would build more disaster-resilient schools in the coming years. He said the new classrooms that would be built could withstand an earthquake up to magnitudes 8 or 9, and typhoon with wind velocity of up to 250 kilometers per hour. The DepEd chief added that the new curriculum for basic education includes lessons related to disasters. He said Grades 11 and 12 (senior high school) will have a special subject on disaster risk reduction. “We are a good prototype for other schools worldwide,” Luistro said during the launching of the campaign at the DepEd main office in Pasig City.‐elementary‐high‐schools‐will‐still‐ follow‐june‐march‐calendar             

Best practices, remedies to avoid COA disallowances  (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 5, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0 


MANILA, Philippines - With the intensified campaign of both the National Government and the Commission on Audit (COA) in their thrust towards good governance, there has been a clamor for a program to address the issue of COA disallowances and solutions for those encountering such problems. To help solve your most pressing challenges regarding these, the Center for Global Best Practices is hosting a one-day pioneering seminar entitled, “Best Practices and Remedies to Avoid COA Disallowances”, scheduled on April 4, at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong City, Philippines. For details and a complete list of best practices seminars including (1) “How to Protect Yourself While Serving the Government”; (2) “What You Must Know About Procurement Law”; (3) “”Budget Planning and Preparation for Government Agencies and LGUs” and (4) “Best Practices in Business & Diplomatic Protocol”, go to or call (+63 2) 842-7148/ 59 and 556-8968/ 69, Cebu lines: (+63 32) 512-3106 or 07 or Baguio line: (+63 74) 423-5148. This seminar feature Leonor D. Boado. She is recently retired as director of the fraud audit and investigation office, legal services sector of the Commission on Audit. She has held various positions in her 34 years in COA including being chief legal officer of the legal adjudication office, director of local government, and thereafter, National Government audit offices. Her accomplishments include being awarded Outstanding Woman of COA in 2000, magna cum laude, valedictorian and government scholar of the University of the East Law School, and authored three books on criminal law. Register now to avail of the early bird discounts! Register as a group of three or more to enjoy an extra five-percent discount for each one of you. This is a limited-seats-only event and preregistration is required.‐practices‐remedies‐avoid‐coa‐ disallowances       

Last-minute pork spree by Arroyo bared By Gil C. Cabacungan Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:46 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s congressional allies, including at least three who are now key allies of President Aquino, spent a total of P10.6 billion on their pet public works projects and P3.9 billion to augment their pork barrel allotments during the last six months of her administration. This was confirmed by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson in his testimony before the House committee on good government and accountability that is conducting a probe on how the P69.7-billion congressional insertions—of which P30 billion went to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)—in Arroyo’s last budget year (2010) were spent. Singson said only P10.6 billion of the P30 billion was disbursed as of Arroyo’s last day in office, June 30, 2010, but the way the funds were used up “to the last peso” strongly indicated, he said, that the road repairs, dredgings, bridges and schools did not go through the bidding process. “Most of the projects were farmed out at exactly their ABC (approved budget cost) which obviously means they were not bid out right. Most of the projects were cut into small parcels, like a P100-million project into smaller projects of P500,000 each,” said Singson. “Whatever was allocated was used up to the last peso. If they were bid out properly, the project cost should have been lower than the budget cost,” he said. Singson said the DPWH could not establish whether these were “ghost projects” because “I cannot possibly check all of them, we are just looking at the big-ticket items.” He has left it to the Commission on Audit to determine if these DPWH projects were implemented properly. The House committee has summoned several of the contractors involved to its next hearing. “At this point there are suspicions, but nothing has been established yet,” said Singson, who stressed that the DPWH could not blacklist contractors on mere suspicion. But Singson revealed that the DPWH was close to wrapping up its investigation of one of the biggest contractors involved in the suspected scam—JSG Construction and E. Gardiola Construction owned by Edwin and Judy Gardiola. Singson said that most of the special allocation release orders (Saro) were given directly to the DPWH district offices without the knowledge of the central office. Singson said these anomalies led him to adopt reforms in farming out DPWH projects such as stopping direct releases to offices, stopping the submission of letters of intent from bidders

(which allows syndicates to determine in advance the auction participants) and discontinuing the use of credit line certifications from banks as a basis for determining the capacity of bidders, which Singson said had allowed fly-by-night contractors to bid for big contracts. The officials who were the biggest recipients of the Arroyo administration’s “midnight” spending were: former and incumbent Representatives Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte’s first district (P735 million), Exequiel Javier of Antique (P636 million), AlfrancisBichara of Albay’s second district (P633 million), Elandro Jesus Madrona of Romblon (P609 million), Glenn Chong of Biliran (P570 million), Proceso Alcala of Quezon’s second district (P560 million), Aurelio M. Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga’s third district and Arroyo’s hometown (502.5 million), Mark Mendoza of Batangas’ fourth district (P412 million), EdcelLagman of Albay’s first district (P322.7 million), Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya (P300 million), DiosdadoMacapagal Arroyo of Camarines Sur’s first district (P268 million); Marc Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur (P260 million), Lorenzo Tañada III of Quezon’s fourth district (P220 million), Carmen Cari of Leyte’s fifth district (P210 million), Pedro Romualdo of Camiguin (P181 million), Vicente Garcia of Davao City (P175 million), Adeline Rodriguez Zaldarriaga of Rizal’s second district (P167 million), Reno Lim of Albay’s third district (P165 million), Orlando Fua of Siquijor (P160 million), Trinidad Apostol of Leyte’s second district (P152.5 million), Arthur Pingoy Jr. of South Cotabato (P150 million), Edwin Uy of Isabela (P147 million), Maria Evita R. Arago of Laguna’s third district (P130 million), Neptali Gonzales of Mandaluyong City (P120 millon), Victoria Reyes of Batangas’ third district (P120 million), Danilo Suarez of Quezon’s third district (P120 million), Thelma Almario of Davao Oriental (P107 million) and Prospero Nograles (P83.5 million). Tañada, Alcala and Neptali Gonzales are closely allied with the Aquino administration. Tañada is the spokesman of the ruling Liberal Party, Alcala is agriculture secretary while Gonzales continues to be the Mandaluyong congressional representative.

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Palace denies dangling pork funds to effect Charter change By Gil C. Cabacungan, Michael Lim Ubac Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:48 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Tuesday denied President Aquino was behind Charter change (Cha-cha) moves in Congress, but opposition legislators said the Palace was secretly offering pork barrel funds to legislators to fast-track amendments that would ease foreign investment restrictions. At a media briefing on Tuesday, presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma said Aquino had declared many times before that Charter change was “not a priority” of his administration. However, Coloma said, the Palace would not issue an explicit order to administration allies to stop Charter change moves. “What we’re saying now is that the issue is not a priority of the President, and he’s busy with a lot of things that, to him, are high-priority. At all times, the President uses his decision-making to do what needs to be done. And weighing the present situation, he thinks it’s not yet high time for him to have a different (course of action), or add to what he’d already said.” On Monday, anti-Cha-cha proponents raised an alarm after the House committee on constitutional amendments approved a resolution, principally authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, to 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. Critics claimed this would allow lawmakers to override or counter the Constitution, particularly the restrictions that currently prevent foreigners from fully owning public utilities, educational institutions, mining firms and other companies engaged in exploiting or utilizing the country’s natural resources. Critics, particularly the militant Makabayan bloc in the House, are alarmed that the bill to contravene the Constitution was filed by no less than the Speaker, a Liberal party mate of the President. “The administration’s hand behind the overspeeding Cha-cha train is obvious as its main drivers are Aquino allies,” ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said, adding that the committee’s approval of the Cha-Cha resolution after only a few meetings was “not surprising.” “No doubt, Malacañang has been using its wide arsenal of congressional and presidential pork to grease the approval (of the Cha-cha bill) despite heavy substantive and procedural objections to it,” Tinio said.

Countering Coloma’s assurances, Tinio said: “President Aquino’s record of using the PDAF and other forms of pork, such as the DAP, to control Congress is undeniable.” The House committee on constitutional reform approved after just four hearings Belmonte’s House Resolution No. 1 adding the phrase “unless provided by law” to lift the foreign equity limits in select businesses through legislation. The bill has already been forwarded to the floor for plenary debate and, if approved by three-fourths of the House members, would be passed on to the Senate. Tinio claimed that at least P20.8 billion of pork barrel funds of representatives were “tucked into” the 2014 budgets of six line agencies that handpicked members could access through a discreet request form being circulated among House majority members. “Such informal practices of maintaining the pork barrel system are illegal following the Supreme Court decision. Moreover, they can only persist because of the conscious and willful participation of the President and his Cabinet,” said Tinio.

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Bill amending ‘Press freedom law’ hurdles House panel 6:53 pm | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – A bill expanding the coverage of the “Press freedom law” hurdled the committee level in the House of Representatives. House bill No. 362 seeks to amend Republic Act No. 53, which exempts the publisher, editor or reporter of any publication from revealing the source of any information relayed to them in confidence “unless the court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the interest of the State.” The House committee on public information endorsed the plenary passage of the bill. The law needed to be amended to include broadcast and online journalists, among others, the bill’s principal author Cebu city representative Raul Del Mar said in a statement Tuesday. In the proposed measure, included in the exemptions are the publisher, station manager and or manager, bureau chief, editor, news editor, writer or reporter, correspondents, opinion columnists or commentators, cartoonists, photographers, or any practitioner involved in the gathering, writing, editing of and commenting on the news. “It is an omission that must be filled, an anomaly that must be corrected, the journalists envisioned by the Sotto Law cannot be confined to print practitioners,” the committee report read. The “Sotto law” was authored by the late senator Vicente Sotto, the grandfather of the incumbent senator and actor Vicente “Tito” Sotto III. The House panel approved the bill as it sits on the consolidation of the different versions of the Freedom of Information bill, which seeks to promote transparency and accountability in government transactions.

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Banks extend hours due to truck ban Warehouses eye night operations; Benguet veggie haulers seek exemption

By Erika Sauler Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:22 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The Manila City government’s move to shorten the running time for truckers under a revised truck ban will soon result in longer working hours for some Landbank and Development Bank of the Philippines employees and warehouse personnel. The Manila City government’s move to shorten the running time for truckers under a revised truck ban will soon result in longer working hours for some government bank employees and warehouse personnel. “Because of the truck ban, we are asking the Landbank and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to go on extended working hours until 9 p.m.,” Juan Sta. Ana, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager, told reporters on Tuesday after a roundtable discussion with stakeholders. Land Bank of the Philippines president Gilda Pico and DBP senior vice presidents Nilo Cruz and Anthony Robles were present during the meeting and agreed to the longer banking hours to facilitate transactions with importers and exporters and accommodate the payment of customs duties and permit fees. Officials of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. also agreed to inform warehouse owners to extend their operating hours until nighttime to receive deliveries. The Manila government implemented a revised truck ban starting on Feb. 24, restricting their operations to between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Following a three-day “truck holiday” and appeals from businessmen and national government agencies, Mayor Joseph Estrada announced that he would temporarily allow them to ply their routes during the window period of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but only for the next two weeks. However, the strike staged by trucking groups on top of their limited operating hours have resulted in congestion at port harbors, which since last week has resulted in the Bureau of Customs extending its processing hours. “Customs collection is down by P100 million to P150 million a day. The whole economy is suffering because of this,” Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla said. Sta. Ana clarified that ports have been operating 24/7 since 1988 to accommodate vessel and cargo operations. “We are trying to cope with the limited operating hours of trucks so that the flow of cargo, which is essentially trade and commerce, is resolved,” he said.

Bert Suansing of the Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines said Manila’s implementation of the daytime truck ban to solve traffic congestion was like the Voltaren solution. “Voltaren is medicine prescribed to address pain for arthritis but it [affects] the kidney. You might be addressing a problem but the solution gives birth to bigger problems,” he clarified. Suansing said truckers would charge cargo owners with road congestion charges, which would just be passed on to consumers. When truck operations were restricted to nighttime during a tryout period in 1991, it resulted in a 50 percent increase in trucking fees and a 30 percent spike in retail prices, he added. Because of the limited hours, truckers may also field more vehicles than necessary to move additional cargo, he said. Christian Gonzales, vice president of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), which manages and operates the Manila International Container Terminal, said there was a need “to balance the desire to limit the impact of traffic and the continued growth of the economy.” “The only way to do that is to spread the flow of goods over 24 hours. It has always been our position at ICTSI that the solution is proper road infrastructure,” Gonzales said. “The Department of Public Works and Highways has already been very serious in getting projects started that will alleviate traffic. Unfortunately, it’s going to take three to four years to get these done.” He added that all parties should try to find ways to solve the traffic problem aside from the truck ban, which was bad for trading. Stakeholders suggested an appointment system wherein trucks only go to ports as needed as well as a 24/7 dedicated route for trucks. Meanwhile, truckers hauling vegetables from Benguet province have asked Estrada to exempt them from the ban to avoid disrupting deliveries to Metro Manila markets, possibly causing a supply shortage and price hikes. Benny Hipolito, president of the Benguet Truckers and Traders Association, said the alternate route that they were being forced to take due to the truck ban meant another hour or two before vegetables reach their destination. Benguet supplies 85 percent of salad vegetables in Metro Manila.—With a report from KimberlieQuitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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Palace backs BIR drive for payment of right taxes By Christian V. Esguerra, Norman Bordadora, Tina G. Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:07 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Tuesday threw its support behind the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) campaign to shame professionals into paying the right taxes, saying they should “look at the bigger picture.” “The bigger picture is that we need more tax collections to be able to fund our economic development programs,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told reporters. Saying the BIR campaign was “mainly persuasive,” Coloma encouraged professionals to “sit down” with the bureau, including the Department of Finance, to “thresh out their differences so that a win-win approach may be arrived at.” The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) is up in arms over a BIR newspaper ad suggesting that physicians were doctoring their taxes. The ad, which appeared in the Inquirer on Sunday, portrayed them as burdens to honest taxpayers, such as teachers. “[T]o project to the entire nation through the trimedia that medical doctors are tax cheats per se is absolutely unfair,” PMA president Dr. Leo Olarte said on Monday. Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares responded by saying that doctors should not get hurt by the newspaper ad. Henares said the print ad was based on numerous complaints that the BIR had received from individuals that their doctors were not issuing receipts. “Instead of getting hurt, shouldn’t doctors who pay inaccurate taxes feel ashamed,” she said. PMA seeks dialogue A day after lambasting the BIR, the PMA is seeking a dialogue with the tax bureau. “We want to amicably settle the issue. We’re hoping to have a dialogue with [BIR] Commissioner [Kim] Henares,” Olarte told the Inquirer in a phone interview. Asked if his group would demand a pullout of the ad showing a female doctor riding piggy-back on a female teacher, Olarte said, “We hope they would voluntarily, willfully pull it out.” He said the print advertisement would not inspire professionals or doctors to pay the right taxes. “Those who got hurt by the ads were actually the ones religiously paying their taxes. Doctors resented it. How would they be encouraged to pay if at the end they are being portrayed as tax cheats?” Olarte said.

Two docs don’t pay taxes “There may be one or two doctors who do not pay their taxes, but it should not be a basis to condemn all doctors. Why condemn everybody for the fault of the few? The ad stereotyped doctors as tax evaders, which is very unfair and unacceptable,” he added. Olarte said the PMA did not want to engage the BIR in a “fight.” “There’s no quarrel between the PMA and the BIR. We’re working together silently and we acknowledge that all doctors, all our members should pay the right taxes. We support BIR’s campaign to collect proper taxes because we believe that taxes are the lifeblood of our nation,” he said. In an earlier interview, PMA spokesman Mike Aragon said the ad was unexpected since the organization had an ongoing partnership with the BIR. “The PMA created a committee that would help the bureau succeed in collecting correct taxes from doctors and this engagement is going on. That’s why we were surprised that we were given this impression as tax cheats,” Aragon said. The BIR campaign against tax evasion is meant to shore up the bureau’s revenue collection and boost state coffers amid the rising expenditure requirements of the government. Besides publishing ads, the BIR files tax evasion cases once every two weeks in the Department of Justice as part of the tax drive. Coloma acknowledged that “professional organizations may have differences with the BIR in the aspect of creative presentation of the advertisements.” “I think it would be regrettable if, just because of differences on creative presentation, they will not abide by the campaign of the government,” he said. “I am certain that in their hearts, they want to contribute.” Tax effort Coloma said the government’s target was to “increase the tax-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio to 16 to 18 percent by 2016.” “As of 2013, the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio reached 13.6 percent, but still below the 17 percent recorded prior to the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s,” he said. Coloma said the goal was to improve the country’s tax-to-GDP to the level of those by other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Citing a World Bank report, he noted that the tax efforts of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore stood at 17.6 percent, 16.1 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively.

“We call on all professional organizations to urge their members to pay the right taxes and help in the country’s overall economic development efforts,” Coloma said. Need for review In the Senate, the chair of the committee that deals with revenue measures said there was a need to review government reliance on the honesty of professionals in determining how much taxes they should pay every year. “Right now, the system of tax collection for professionals is a self-assessment system. It relies on the honesty of the individuals. Maybe we should look at how effective the system is. We should look how to make it simpler to encourage voluntary compliance,” Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara told reporters. The committee on ways and means on Tuesday heard bills on several revenue measures and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s resolution seeking an inquiry into the alleged tax evasion worth P388 billion committed by self-employed professionals. Accountant, online seller Aside from doctors, the BIR’s print ads on professionals that don’t pay the right taxes also featured an independent accountant and an online seller. In the hearing, an official of the BIR said the agency wasn’t zeroing in on professionals, particularly physicians. But upon prodding by Angara, BIR Assistant Commissioner Marissa Cabreros cited Makati City’s 2011 figures that indicated that a good number of doctors were not paying the right amount of taxes. “Fifty-eight point five (58.5) percent of self-employed doctors in Makati paid less than P35,000,” Cabreros said when Angara and Sen. Nancy Binay asked for the basis of the BIR ad on doctors as tax cheats. She said that out of 1,178 registered doctors in Makati City in 2011, 689 paid less than P35,000. She said the lowest income tax paid by a doctor was P10. “Next is P82.50, next is P100.” Angara said the BIR and the PMA should work together to collect the correct taxes.

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C3-MacArthur Highway road link almost done By Kristine FelisseMangunay Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:36 am | Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) is nearing completion of the North Luzon Expressway Harbor Link with construction about to start on the project’s last component next month. Segment 10—a 5.65-kilometer, four-lane elevated road—will connect MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City to C3 Road in Caloocan, providing an accessible link to seaport areas. It is estimated to cost P10.5 billion. The NLEx Harbor Link’s other component, Segment 9—a 2.4-kilometer road that stretches from NLEx Smart Connect Interchange on NLEx Mindanao Avenue Link to MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City—is expected to be operational in the middle of this year. MNTC president and chief executive officer Rodrigo Franco said the NLEx Harbor Link would promote commerce as it would lead to “unhampered transport of goods, since there is no truck ban inside the expressways.” He added that once completed, the link would also decongest traffic in major roads as the estimated daily traffic on the NLEx Harbor Link was pegged at 30,000 vehicles. “NLEx Harbor Link as a whole will also promote a more efficient inter-regional movement of people. Cargo trucks and passenger bus drivers will not have to pass through the (cities’) congested areas,” Franco said.

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Businessman Henry Sy crashes into Forbes’ 100 richest people in the world By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:07 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—As the Philippines gained the bragging rights as Southeast Asia’s fastestgrowing economy, 10 of its tycoons led by SM group founder Henry Sy made it to Forbes magazine’s 2014 list of wealthiest people on the planet. In the latest annual ranking of global billionaires published on March 3, the net worth of Sy and family was estimated at $11.4 billion, lower than last year’s $13.2 billion. But it was enough to enable him to keep his ranking as the country’s richest man and to be among the world’s top 100 billionaires. The 89-year-old Sy, whose SM group dominates the local banking, retailing and property development scene, ranked 97th globally, down from last year’s 68th. The magazine said its estimates were a snapshot of wealth on Feb. 12, when it locked in stock prices and exchange rates from around the world. Stock prices in the Philippines have pulled back from record highs seen last year as large global funds pulled out of emerging markets since May last year when the US Federal Reserve announced a tapering of the monetary stimulus that boosted financial markets in the last few years. Worth of $6.4T A total of 1,645 billionaires made it to the global list this year with a combined net worth of $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion a year ago. The ranks of the world’s billionaires continued to scale new heights and expand to new corners of the world, according to Forbes. The country’s second-richest man is still Lucio Tan, with an estimated net worth of $6.1 billion, ranking 227th globally. The 79-year-old Tan, who has interests in tobacco and beverage manufacturing, banking, property development and aviation, saw his net worth rise from last year’s $5 billion. Ranked third-richest in the Philippines this year is Megaworld and Alliance Global Group founder Andrew Tan, 61, with an estimated net worth of $4.7 billion, rising from last year’s $3.95 billion.

He was followed by Enrique Razon Jr., chief of global port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. and Bloomberry Resorts Corp., with a net worth of $4.2 billion. At 54, Razon is the youngest among Philippine billionaires. Joining this year’s list and ranking fifth among the country’s wealthiest is JG Summit founder John Gokongwei Jr., 86, with an estimated net worth of $3.9 billion. Completing the local roster are construction magnate David Consunji (net worth: $3.3 billion), Metrobank group and GT Capital founder George Ty and family ($2.3 billion), Jollibee group founder Tony Tan Caktiong ($1.7 billion), stockbroker, insurance and car dealership magnate Robert Coyiuto Jr. ($1.5 billion) and Filinvest group founder Andrew Gotianun ($1 billion). Except for Gokongwei, all these billionaires were also on the 2013 list. Two names that were part of Forbes’ 2013 global list but are no longer on this year’s roster are retailer Lucio and Susan Co, founder of fast-growing retailing chain Puregold and Cosco Capital as well as Alphaland and Philweb chair Roberto V. Ongpin, who complained about being included on the list. Bill Gates world’s richest Globally, Microsoft founder Bill Gates is back on top, toppling telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, who had topped the list the past four years. Spanish clothing retailer Amancio Ortega, best known for the Zara fashion chain, retained the No. 3 spot for the second year in a row, extending his lead over legendary American investment guru Warren Buffett, who is again at No. 4. The magazine said roughly two-thirds of the billionaires had built their own fortunes, 13 percent inherited them and 21 percent had been adding on to fortunes they received. Other notable newcomers include World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, fashion king Michael Kors and Denise Coates of UK online betting firm Bet365. This is the 28th year for the Forbes billionaires list. To compile net worths, the magazine valued individuals’ assets—including stakes in public and private companies, real estate, yachts, art and cash—and take into account estimates of debt. “We attempt to vet these numbers with all billionaires. Some cooperate; others don’t. We also consult an array of outside experts in various fields,” the magazine said. Dictators, royalty excluded The Forbes billionaires list ranks individuals rather than large, multigenerational families who share large fortunes. The list neither includes dictators who derive their fortunes entirely as a result of their positions of power nor royalty who, often with large families, control the riches in trust for their nation, the magazine said.

Because of the technology boom and strong stock market, the United States once again has the biggest number of billionaires (492). Zuckerberg The year’s biggest gainer was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, 29, whose fortune jumped by $15.2 billion to $28.5 billion as shares of his social network skyrocketed. The United States was followed by China (152) and Russia (111) as the countries with the biggest concentration of billionaires. But Forbes also noted that wealth was spreading to new places. New billionaires have been discovered in Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Uganda. The magazine said that for the first time, an African, AlikoDangote of Nigeria, broke into the Top 25 with a net worth of $25 billion. Originally posted at 11:03 am | Tuesday, March 4, 2014

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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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‘Mine’ expectations in PH not panning out? By Kristine AngeliSabillo 9:11 pm | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — When the Spanish first landed on the islands of what was to become the Philippines, they were awed by the prevalence of gold ornaments among its inhabitants. Spanish explorers described in their journals the bountiful jewelry they saw, as well as the skill of the natives in intricate metal work. This is no surprise since the Philippines has been ranked 5th richest in the world when it comes to mineral resources. Situated along the Pacific Rim of Fire, where geological processes result in relatively high deposits of minerals, the archipelago also finds itself ranked 3rd in gold reserves, 4th in copper and 5th in nickel. However, despite the country’s favorable position, contribution of the mining industry to the economy remains small. Stunted mining industry Republic Act 7942 or The Philippine Mining Act, signed March 3, 1995, was supposed to promote mining to foreign investors. Envisioned to help spur economic growth and alleviate rural poverty, critics said such plans have yet to pan out. The latest statistics released by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) revealed that the industry’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) is at 0.7 percent as of the third quarter of 2013. For the last five years, its GDP share remained within one percent or below P100 billion. When it comes to exports, mining contribution for 2013 (3rd quarter) is at 7.6 percent or $2.67 billion. Share in total employment is also relatively small at 0.7 percent in 2012 or 250,000 people employed. “The government was not successful in its mining revitalization program; it did not result in progress,” Clemente Bautista, president of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), said during a forum last Thursday on the Philippine mining situation. Bautista said the country’s mining industry remained extractive, producing mainly raw materials for exports. But Ronald Recidoro, Chamber of Mines vice president for legal and policy, said it merely means that the industry is smaller. “It’s neither good nor bad. Sure, one percent means the mining industry is small,” he said. “If government and civil society want a bigger share on mining, they have to accept the fact that they have to encourage investments in the sector.”

Bautista said not much has changed in the last decades as mining in the country remains “export-oriented, dominated by transnational corporations and the local mining elite and dependent on foreign capital and technologies.” He echoed the sentiments of other speakers during the forum, held in Quezon City. The group hoped the country’s mineral resources would be utilized for national industrialization. They said the metal ores should be processed in the country and be used to create electronics, instead of being shipped to other countries. On the other hand, Recidoro warned that mineral processing also has negative effects on the environment. He said other countries ship their ores to China for processing because they don’t want the trade-off. At the same time, investors will have to be enticed to set up shop in the Philippines. “I think we have to realize also that minerals processing is also a business and any investor in minerals processing will look into the viability of putting up a processing facility here in the Philippines,” he said, adding that the country is notorious for high power rates and low rankings in the Ease of Doing Business index.

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SM nets P27.45 B in 2013 By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:11 pm | Monday, March 3rd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines — Henry Sy’s SM Investments Corp. boosted its net profit last year by 11 percent to P27.45 billion on higher earnings from the banking business, the company announced Monday. Banking accounted for the largest share of SMIC’s net profit, with a contribution of 42.8 percent, led by the strong performance of Banco de Oro Unibank. The recently consolidated property group, consisting of malls and real estate, accounted for 35.9 percent of the group-wide bottomline while retail business accounted for 21.3 percent. Group-wide revenue increased by 13 percent to P253.53 billion in 2013 over the previous year while cash flow as measured by earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose also by 11 percent to P60.9 billion, for an EBITDA margin of 24 percent. SMIC annual earnings per share grew by about a tenth to P34.85 from the previous year. “SM’s full year earnings for 2013 reflect the overall progressive economic environment of the country which, however, is tempered by competitive dynamics and the effects of continuous climate change. With that in mind, SM is constantly evolving to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that are made available by a fast emerging economy. SM will remain focused on its core businesses of retail, property, and banking with portfolio investments in high-growth emerging sectors,” SMIC president Harley Sy said.

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ADB to realign project-selection criteria Must promote inclusive growth, protect environment By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:28 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is set to make tweaks to its project selection criteria to favor programs that promote inclusive growth and protect the environment as it strives to improve the sustainability of the region’s boom. In a new report, the ADB said a recent internal study showed the need for changes in the way it chooses which projects it would fund through concessional loans. ADB-funded projects in areas affected by Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” if successful, could serve as a model for programs that could be implemented in the rest of the region, the bank said. “As a premier regional public institution, ADB can and must rise to the challenge of meeting these expectations,” the Manila-based multilateral lender said. “This review finds that to do so, ADB must adapt its business model to reorient operations,” the bank said. The internal study was conducted by the Independent Evaluation Department, an autonomous body within the ADB that reviews the bank’s policies and recommends changes that aim to improve results. The study assesses ADB’s development strategy, which runs from 2008 to 2020. The ADB noted that emerging countries in the Asia-Pacific region continued to deliver robust economic growth, which is projected to average 6.2 percent this year. Despite the growth, income inequality continued to widen in 12 countries that make up 80 percent of the region’s population, which, in turn, was weakening the impact of growth on reducing poverty and could threaten social cohesion, the ADB said. Given the ADB’s emphasis on bankrolling infrastructure projects, which accounted for 72 percent of its total loan portfolio of just over $65 billion from 2008 to 2012, the audit urged the bank to promote inclusion by stressing projects that especially benefit lower-income and vulnerable groups. The Independent Evaluation study noted that the ADB made sizable investments in rehabilitation and reconstruction following natural disasters. For instance, a total of $892 million in aid financing was extended to the Philippines last December for the rehabilitation of areas in Visayas.

This amount included a $500-million emergency loan, a $372-million loan for a communitydriven development project, and a $20-million grant from the Japanese Fund for Poverty Reduction, which is managed by the ADB. “Investments in disaster resilience, generated through the approach of building-back-better, ought to be a major priority for ADB, and not a niche-product,� the study said.

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Stocks continue to weaken Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:26 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The local stock barometer slipped for the second session in a row Tuesday as investors continued to  pocket gains after the market’s strong run‐up.  The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) shed 12.92 points or 0.2 percent to close at 6,394.60, still  weighed down by the property counter (‐1.07 percent).  Trading was mixed, with the industrial and property sectors ending in negative territory but overall  losses curbed by the gains of the financial, holding firm, services and mining/oil counters.  Investors pocketed gains from Ayala Land (‐2.01 percent) as well as from Ayala Corp., URC, Alliance  Global Inc., DMCI, LT Group and Metrobank, which all fell more than 1 percent. SM Prime and Globe also  succumbed to the downturn.  On the other hand, the PSEi’s losses were tempered by the gains of JG Summit (+2.83 percent). Shares of  PLDT, BDO, SMIC, Megaworld, First Gen and ICTSI likewise advanced.  PLDT announced yesterday that it had exceeded its core profit target of P38.5 billion for 2013 as actual  earnings had risen by 5 percent to P38.7 billion.  Value turnover for the day amounted to P11.25 billion. There were 66 advancers, which were  outnumbered by 90 decliners, while 47 stocks were unchanged. Doris C. Dumlao 

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Why 1.1% agriculture growth? By Ernesto M. Ordoñez Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:18 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

While the Philippine economy grew by 7.2 percent in 2013, agriculture grew by only 1.1 percent. Inclusive growth must include agriculture, which is the country’s largest and poorest sector. The National Statistical Coordination Board table below shows how agriculture grew compared with the other sectors: The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) promotes industry, while the Department of Agriculture (DA) promotes agriculture. In 2013, the DTI had a budget of P4 billion, which helped industry achieve a 9.5 percent growth rate. Much of their effort last year concentrated on improving manufacturing. They largely succeeded, because manufacturing grew from 5 percent in 2012 to 10.5 percent last year. The DA had a P65-billion budget. But agriculture grew by only 1.1 percent. Though the DA budget was more than 16 times that of the DTI, agriculture grew at only a tenth of the industry rate. The fishery subsector—the poorest in the country—grew even less at 0.7 percent. Analysis The most valuable lesson I learned during my doctoral studies was what my professor, management guru Peter Drucker, told us: “While it is important to do things right, it is much more important to do the right thing.” As far as corruption is concerned, DA is doing many things right. Much of the corruption happened during the previous administration. We only have to recall the alleged Napoles scam and the massive malversation of the Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. While corruption still exists, the current DA management has significantly reduced this with effective transparency and accountability measures. However, doing things right is not enough. More strategically, is the DA doing the right thing? One important mechanism for achieving this is the formulation and implementation of subsector roadmaps, with corresponding targets and timetables. The DTI has already submitted 26 roadmaps for review to the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), the government think tank. DA has not submitted any. The emphasis DTI has given to roadmaps far exceeds that of the DA.

Also, DTI has appointed a person for each industrial subsector, with relevant government agencies identified to ensure proper implementation. The DA should consider replicating the DTI model because it was largely responsible for last year’s manufacturing growth. Management Of course, doing things right is also important. The DA should expand this initiative from fighting corruption to improving management and service delivery. When I was a DTI undersecretary in 1988, we introduced the ISO 9000 management system to enable us to export products. Many of our foreign buyers did not trust the consistency of our product quality. They therefore required ISO 9000 certification. Acknowledging that the government should practice what it preaches, we embarked on ISO certification. Though the DA now has some of its units ISO certified, it should similarly implement the ISO management system thoroughly throughout the organization. 2014 budget This year, the DA budget amounts to P80.7 billion. With a possible addition of P70 billion from the coconut levy interest earnings, the DA may be responsible for P150.7 billion. With this large budget, it is imperative that the DA does things right. This can be done with the department-wide implementation of ISO 9000. More importantly, the DA should do the right things. This will be greatly helped by implementing public-private subsector roadmaps. With all these in place, agriculture will surely grow. And it will contribute significantly to our elusive goal of inclusive growth. (The author is chair of Agriwatch, former secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, email or telefax (02) 8522112).

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There’s the Rub

Might is right By Conrado de Quiros Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:18 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

When P-Noy first compared China’s leaders to Hitler, his statement was met with mixed reactions. The masa of course applauded it, but not so the more critical sector of the public. Certainly not so non-Pinoys who, though sympathetic to the Philippines in its confrontation with China, found the comment overboard. I myself said it missed history by a mile, but if that was what it took to rouse the world to China’s growing expansionism, so be it. Living under the shadow of a tyranny right at our doorstep was just as bad as living behind the barbed wire of an occupation. Over the last few weeks however, I’ve begun to look at the comment in a new light. Not because it accurately captured the spirit of China’s aggression—that aggression remains nowhere near what Hitler did in the late 1930s, which plunged the world into an apocalyptic war—but because certain events today hold not very faint echoes of it. Even as China has been exhibiting expansionist ambitions in Asia, claiming virtually the whole of the South China Sea as sovereign territory, Russia is threatening to invade a neighboring country. For those who have not been following their current events, that country is Ukraine. Last February, Ukraine experienced its own version of People Power, though more bloodily, the residents of Kiev protesting their president’s, Victor Yanukovych’s, decision to back off from a trade deal with the European Union and turn to Russia instead. The demonstrations lasted several days and ended nearly on the same date as our own People Power, Feb. 22. With the same result, Yanukovych, like Marcos, fled the country tail between legs. The difference being that Marcos fled to the United States while Yanukovych fled to Russia. Washington supported the uprising against Marcos (after supporting Marcos for a long time) while the Kremlin condemns the uprising against Yanukovych. Yanukovych is pro-Moscow while the interim government that succeeded him, which has promised elections in May, is pro-West. Last week, a counter-uprising took place in Crimea by pro-Yanukovych loyalists, a group that, observers believe, was organized and led by Russian elements themselves. The new government has been at pains to put it down. Presumably to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine, the Kremlin is preparing to invade it. US State Secretary John Kerry has condemned “the incredible act of aggression” and warned of economic sanctions and Russia’s alienation from the Western world. “You just don’t, in the 21st century, behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext. If Russia wants to be a G8 country, it needs to behave like a G8 country.” One is tempted to say that China’s and Russia’s recent belligerence demonstrates that those two huge communist countries, erstwhile or current, have not entirely outgrown their

expansionist and militaristic instincts to learn the ways of the 21st century. Vladimir Putin seems to have forgotten that that the USSR, of which Ukraine was a part, dissolved more than two decades ago and Ukraine has become a sovereign state. And Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao seem determined to push China back to its isolationist and paranoid times. They seem to have an outof-this-world view of this world and are spinning out of control. Surely it must have to do with the atavistic impulses of their ideology? Not at all. It has nothing to do with the communist ideology. In fact, what makes US President Barack Obama’s and Kerry’s remonstrations equally out-of-this-world is that it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Kerry would be a lot more believable in pointing out the odiousness of “invading another country on a completely trumped-up pretext” if the United States had not in fact invaded Iraq on a completely trumped-up pretext just 10 years ago. Lest we forget, the Iraq invasion was justified in the name of self-preservation, Saddam Hussein apparently harbored weapons of mass destruction aimed at the heart of America. Lest we forget, the Iraq invasion had no global sanction—America defied the United Nations on it—and had only the veneer of the “coalition of the willing” going for it. And lest we forget, it had absolutely nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, the presumed mastermind of 9/11, in whose name—fighting antiterrorism—it had been carried out. Self-preservation, or at least the preservation of Russian lives, is Putin’s justification for invading Ukraine, as though he needed a justification for doing as he damn well pleases. Can he be any madder than Dubya, aka George Bush Jr.? What all these suggest is that the penchant of nations to look at the 21st century through the prism of the 19th century is by no means rare or unusual today. It may be deviant when looked at from the point of view of rationality but it is not deviant when looked at from the point of view of reality. It’s becoming more common now than ever: Might is right. Three of the most powerful nations of the world have resorted to it or are resorting to it. The United States has invaded Iraq, Russia is about to invade Ukraine, and China’s bullying could very well lead at least to war, if not invasion, if it goes challenged. Or if it is not a throwback to the 19th century, then it is at least a throwback to the 20th, particularly the Germany of the 1930s. If I remember right, Hitler was how Bush was called by furious critics of the Iraq invasion. Arguably, fittingly: He didn’t just embark on occupation outside his country, he embarked on repression inside his country, mounting a culture of paranoia, of which Homeland Security remains an obdurate reminder. P-Noy’s reference to China’s leaders being a Hitler may be a humongous hyperbole, to put it euphemistically. But these days, it makes you think twice. These days, it makes you wonder. Read more:


China warned: Don’t push PH to the wall By AmandoDoronila Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:20 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The strong diplomatic protest against China’s water-cannon attack on Filipino fishers on Jan. 27 in Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea was followed by an announcement by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the disputed islet, which Manila claims as Bajo de Masinloc, would now be under the jurisdiction of the Western Command. The shift sent a strong signal that the Philippines was using all its diplomatic and military resources, no matter how limited, to protect its fishers from Chinese harassment in territories it claims as an integral part of the country. The AFP’s response supplemented the diplomatic protest lodged by the Department of Foreign Affairs with the newly arrived Chinese ambassador-designate Zhao Jinhua. Although the AFP made a calibrated response to the Chinese attacks amid persistent and bullying actions in the West Philippine Sea, there was no doubt it served notice that the Philippines was backing its diplomatic protest with whatever military muscle at its command to defend the country’s territorial interests. Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal, is located off the province of Zambales. It had been under the Northern Luzon Command. In the strongest yet reaction to the attacks, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesperson, denounced the Chinese action, saying that while the attack was “alarming,” it did not warrant an immediate military response. “I do not think it would be appropriate if we send the Philippine Navy at this time. It will just escalate the situation,” Zagala said. “Rest assured that the Armed Forces will do its mandate when the time comes.” In putting the disputed Bajo de Masinloc under the Western Command, the AFP was backing its warning with a show of force. The transfer “is to enhance our external defense capabilities which are now being concentrated on the Western Command and unity of command [and assets] so that our external defense will just be under one commander,” Zagala said. The Western Command is headed by Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda of the Air Force. According to Zagala, the Western Command traditionally is commanded by an Air Force or Navy officer “primarily because of external [factors] and the battle space is the sea and the air.” The Western Command “has the necessary assets that can address territorial defense and monitoring,” he said. It has “the necessary aircraft that can fly to all these areas for the purpose of monitoring [and reporting] to higher government office,” Zagala said.

The military warning followed a note verbale issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, protesting incidents of harassment by Chinese vessels of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc. “Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of the Philippines over which the Philippines exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction. Philippine vessels have been routinely, continuously, and peacefully and sustainably fishing in Bajo de Masinloc,” Assistant Foreign Secretary Raul Hernandez said. But Chinese spokesperson Zhang Hua rejected the Philippines’ protest. He urged the Philippines to work with China to resolve differences “through bilateral consultations and negotiations.” But Zhang reiterated China’s position that it had “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea. “Chinese government vessels are conducting regular patrols within China’s jurisdiction,” he said. The Chinese position collides head-on with the Philippine position, while the mounting tensions over the territorial disputes have increased the risks of naval confrontations. China has enhanced its naval presence in the area, and the Philippines has built up its military forces to counter the growing aggressive assertion of Chinese naval power in the region. The Philippines’ protest covers an incident on Jan. 27 when a Chinese Coast Guard vessel used a water cannon on Filipino fishing vessels, as well as nine other reported incidents of harassment of Filipino vessels by Chinese patrol ships, including occasions when they were barred from seeking shelter in Bajo de Masinloc during bad weather. “The whole thing is under protest. Their being there is under protest, and also, their attempts to drive away Filipino fishermen is also under protest,” the DFA said, adding: “The whole scheme that is being undertaken by the Chinese government in our territory and where we have sovereign rights is under protest. The crux, the core issue, is the nine-dash-line claim which is expansive and illegal, according to international law.” The patience of the AFP, whose interventions are restrained by diplomatic efforts, is wearing thin, and the provocative acts by Chinese Coast Guard patrols can easily explode into armed confrontation. The AFP, in beefing up the Western Command, has issued the warning against Chinese aggressive actions in Scarborough Shoal: Don’t push the Philippines to the wall. Don’t bully us too much. We can use our weapons to fire back, if fired upon.

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As I See It

Why the Charter should not be amended By Neal H. Cruz Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:16 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

The reply of the Supreme Court to my Feb. 24 column on a 26-year-old homicide case was published here last Monday, with no comment as requested by Theodore Te, court administrator and public information chief. Still, I cannot help but be curious about why eight Court of Appeals justices inhibited themselves from the case one after another. The eight brave and honorable justices did not say why. Isn’t this very strange? Doesn’t it need an explanation? This has never happened before. Who or what is it in the case that made the eight justices afraid to touch it? These are not regional trial court judges but justices of the appellate court, the second highest court of the land. Its justices routinely become candidates for the Supreme Court. Why were they afraid to touch this important election-related case in Cagayan? The Feb. 24 column asked Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to look into this aspect. Shouldn’t she also be curious about this? The letter by Mr. Te offered no explanation. *** The Cha-cha train has started to choo-choo in the House of Representatives. The House committee on constitutional amendments approved the resolution overwhelmingly, 24-2, with one abstention. This, in spite of the statement of President Aquino that Cha-cha is not a priority of his administration and the people openly against it because they are afraid of what their representatives in Congress will do to the Constitution. The committee resolution said only the economic provisions of the Charter would be amended. Why? Didn’t the administration trumpet that the Philippine economy is going great guns, with the biggest improvement in the whole of Southeast Asia? If it is really that good, why change it at all? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The congressmen said the planned changes in the Charter are intended to encourage foreign direct investments by allowing foreigners to own land that is limited only to Filipinos and to own more than 40 percent of Philippine companies. Foreigners are already allowed to lease or rent land here for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years for a total of 50 years, without violating the Constitution. That is almost like owning the land. Opening our land to foreign ownership would be similar to the invasion of the American South by carpetbaggers after the Civil War. Or like the immigrants from Europe grabbing the land of

the native Americans. What that will do is make moneyed foreigners grab land that should rightfully belong only to Filipinos. What that will do is make Philippine land beyond the reach of poor Filipinos. That is why we have so many squatters. What that will do is make the big landowners, already rich, even richer. What that will do is to make the beneficiaries of land reform desert their farms, sell these, and crowd into the already overcrowded cities. What that will do is open up our natural resources to foreign exploitation. There is extreme land hunger in the Philippines. Filipinos will kill and die for land. Philippine history is replete with revolts and rebellions by land-hungry Filipinos wanting to own the farms they till. Even now, they still kill to be able to own land. That is why the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was enacted. Now our honorable congressmen will amend the Constitution to open up the Philippines to foreign ownership? If we want to encourage foreign investors to come here, the thing to do is reduce our electricity rate which is the highest in Asia, next only to Japan, a highly developed country. At least a third of a manufacturer’s investment goes to power. High power rates make him uncompetitive in the international market. Why would foreigners put up factories here when power rates are so high? Our neighbors, like Indonesia and Malaysia, subsidize power for consumers. Here, the government taxes it excessively. Look at your bill and see all the different taxes that the government adds to your power consumption. Congressmen say the planned Charter amendments will only add the phrase “or as may be provided by law” to the Constitution articles concerning the national economy and patrimony, education, science, technology, arts, culture and sports and general provisions. That is even worse. Then the Constitution would be at the mercy of our honorable members of Congress. And as we have seen in the pork barrel scam, they cannot be trusted. With that phrase, “or as may be provided by law,” all that Congress has to do is pass a law that would defeat the intent of the Constitution. One after another, the economic provisions would have that added phrase, and the whole Constitution would be worthless. Congressmen say only the economic provisions would be touched. Tell that to the Marines. Once they open the Constitution to amendments, there is no telling what they will do. Term limits can be eliminated. The antidynasty provision will surely be removed. Salary limits of members of Congress would be lifted. They can sell us down the river without us realizing it. Sure, the amendments will be subjected to plebiscites. But we have seen how easy it is for politicians to manipulate the voters. That is why we have so many members of Congress who do not deserve to be there. The safest thing to do is not to touch the Constitution until the present breed of politicians has passed away. Read more:

At Large

‘Site-specific’ tourism marketing By Rina Jimenez-David Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:14 am | Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

If the Department of Tourism, under Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez, banked on the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan to “sell” the Philippines to the world’s tourists, the tagline, he says, is being tweaked a bit to make it more “site specific.” After all, in the past year, the “Philippines” tag has taken quite a beating, what with the Zamboanga siege, the Bohol earthquake, and Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) wreaking devastation over a large swath of the country. “In previous times,” notes Jimenez, “this would have turned off a lot of tourists who would think of the country as one big disaster area.” But today, he notes, “the international travel trade is more savvy about travel in the Philippines,” with both tourists and travel companies aware that “the Philippine offerings are fundamentally intact.” Indeed, at the Berlin international travel fair, Jimenez notes, the word “Philippines” was spelled out in the smallest type, with more prominence given to local destinations like Davao, Cebu, Baguio and, of course, Boracay. “Our competitors cannot catch up with us” in terms of natural attractions, he adds, “no other country in the region has more sites for tourists.” *** Indeed, even in Bohol, still recovering from the impact of the major earthquake that leveled almost all public buildings, including magnificent heritage structures like churches, “tourism activities on the ground are very much alive,” says the tourism secretary. Boholanos, he observes, “are even more touristic now,” with everyone aware of how they need to get involved and bring back the appeal of Bohol’s attractions which brought in much-needed revenue from tourists both local and foreign. One local tourism official, says Jimenez, perhaps carried away by enthusiasm, even remarked to him that “now we have six Cagsawa ruins,” referring, of course, to the church ruins in Bicol buried under volcanic rubble more than a hundred years ago and a favorite tourist destination, and also to the ancient churches in Bohol felled by the temblor. But every effort is being made to bring back Bohol’s churches to their old magnificence and historical significance, with no intention of leaving them in ruins, says Jimenez. P-Noy, he says, has just convened a “national heritage task force” to supervise the restoration of the historic churches and other structures laid to waste in Bohol and Eastern Visayas. One prelate, shares the tourism chief, watching how personnel from the National Historical Commission painstakingly numbered each stone in the rubble of a devastated church, asked

him why they couldn’t just build entirely new structures using the old stones. “Our mandate is to restore the churches,” he explained. “If you want a new church built, the Roman Catholic Church would have to spend for it.” *** “We are really not that far behind,” Jimenez assured the audience at yesterday’s “BulongPulungansa Sofitel.” Other countries may cite much higher tourism arrival figures, but that is because they employ other means and standards for counting tourists, such as motorists who pass through one country to get to another for purposes other than tourism (attend business meetings, gas up on cheap gasoline), but who get counted just the same in the national tally. One thing he could assure the Filipino public, Jimenez said, “by 2016 we would almost certainly have doubled our tourism numbers.” A strategy the government is banking on, he added, is the opening of more airports or gateways in the prime tourism destinations, with the regional association of travel agencies estimating that in a few years “the Philippines and Indonesia will have the most international gateways in the region.” Just two weeks ago, he added, there were rites marking the first international flight from Xiamen in China to Legazpi City in Albay; while in Kalibo, an hour’s drive to Caticlan, the jump-off point to Boracay, there are 16 direct flights from abroad daily. *** He may not be as charismatic as your run-of-the-mill teen idol, but classical violinist Chino Gutierrez, 23, manages to inspire rabid devotion among classical music lovers just the same. To illustrate, he has managed to win over a group of what one of them calls his “stage-ninangs” (godmothers) who tirelessly organize concerts for him. One of them, Bacolod civic leader Lyn Gamboa, is bringing him to Bacolod City, together with collaborating artist Corazon Pineda Kabayao (who is also a Negrense) on the piano, tomorrow, March 6 at the De La Salle University Auditorium. Tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) Bacolod concert comes prior to Chino’s departure for Munich, Germany where he is enrolled at the Munich State Academy of Music and Theater. Chino began his violin career at age 7 under the tutelage of Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata, and won second prize and eventually first prize in the NAMCYA, a national competition for young artists, even before he reached his teens. He eventually moved to Germany to further hone his talent, but had to stop schooling for some years because of lack of funds. In tomorrow’s concert, Gutierrez and Kabayao will repeat the repertoire at last year’s concerts at the Francisco Santiago Hall in Makati, where they were greeted with three standing ovations, and their equally acclaimed concert at the Insular Life Auditorium in Alabang last February.

Chino will also be performing today before 90 violin scholars of Silay Mayor Jose “Oti” Montelibano, and interact with them at the BalayNegrense in Silay City. Tickets to Chino’s La Salle Bacolod concert are priced at P500 for the general public, with 20percent senior citizen discount, and P100 for students with ID. For ticket inquiries call Negros Museum at tel. no. 4334864 and ask for Cleo.

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More blackouts feared  Power Failure Hits Country’s Seat Of Power by Genalyn D. Kabiling, CamcerOrdoñez Imam and Ellson A. Quismorio March 5, 2014

The power problem that has been gripping Mindanao failed to spare the country’s seat of power. Yesterday, two power interruptions hit a Malacañang event attended by President Benigno S. Aquino III in succession. Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. explained that the power interruptions were caused by a “minor technical problem” in the Palace power lines, adding the matter has already been addressed. Coloma denied that the incident was connected with the power supply problems in Mindanao. “There is nothing to worry. It also has no relation with the bigger problems in the energy sector,” Coloma said in Filipino. While Palace officials downplayed the Malacañang outage, they may be in for a bigger problem in Mindanao. Off The Grid STEAG State Power, Inc. (SPI), a coal-fired power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental, and the biggest power plant in Mindanao, remains off the grid after failing to upload a total of 210 megawatts since the widespread blackout last February 27. Jerome Soldevilla, communications officer of SPI, said Units 1 and 2 of STEAG State Power, Inc. remain offline after sustaining damage to its turbine generating sets following the reported Mindanao grid systems disturbance last February 27. Each unit has a net generating capacity of 105 MW. With this development, more blackouts are feared in the region. Soldevilla said SPI has yet to complete the ongoing comprehensive inspection and assessment of the turbine generating sets and expects to come up with a more definite schedule and time table for the actual repair and restoration works in the next few days. SPI power plant manager Dr. Carsten Evers said the repair of the units may last for several weeks or more. Based on the initial results of the ongoing inspection and comprehensive technical evaluation of the turbine units, SPI will need substantial amount of time to restore the units back on line.

Dr. Evers said, “We understand and recognize the precarious and very volatile power supply condition of Mindanao and we would like to assure all our stakeholders especially the power consumers that SPI is working round-the-clock to restore the units back on line.” SPI has vowed to provide periodic updates on the progress and development of the restoration work and is working closely with the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Power Corporation (NPC), and other members of the energy sector of Mindanao in addressing the issue. Bite The Bullet Residents of power-strapped Mindanao may have no choice but to bite the bullet for now and pay higher electricity rates, or else have no electricity at all. Zamboanga City Rep. CelsoLobregat stressed this in a news forum yesterday at the House of Representatives. He said the region currently suffers through rotational brownouts of six to nine hours daily. “Our problem in Mindanao, especially in Zamboanga, for the past few days is the six to nine hour brown outs. And the reason is the shortage in supply,” Lobregat said. According to him, there simply isn’t enough power plants to meet the region’s demands, and the existing plants there are either not running or are performing under-capacity. “It was clear [during the Energy Summit] that there is really a shortage in supply right now. For the shortage to be addressed in the short-term, the only answer is modular generator sets. But of course that would mean higher cost of electricity,” Lobregat said. The use of modular generator sets, to be procured by the electric cooperatives in Mindanao, could result to a hike of P2 per kilowatt hour in electricity costs, according to the Zamboanga lawmaker. “For the long term, new power plants must come in. There are indicative projects that are already in the pipeline and there are projects still coming in. The only time that supply will outpace demand is by February or March, 2015.” Lobregat said that the energy projects committed to the Mindanao grid include a 300-megawatt (MW) Therma South Inc. coal-fired plant in Davao del Sur, as well as another 200-MW coal-fired plant this time in Saranggani province. The Therma South plant is expected to be online by 2015. Technical Problem In Malacañang, officials said the first power interruption occurred prior to the start of the oathtaking of 49 newly promoted military officers in the Palace. Electricity was restored a few minutes in time for the ceremony.

The second outage struck when the President was leading a photo session with the new officers and their families. Lights from the large chandeliers at the Rizal Hall went out, except for the wall lamps surrounding the room. Leading the list of new military officers who took their oath before President Aquino is Army chief Major Gen. Hernando Iriberri. Among the oath-takers are Presidential Security group commander Commodore Raul Ubando, Armed Forces spokesman Major. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, ISAFP chief Major Gen. Eduardo Año, North Luzon Command commander Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr., Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, and Philippine Military Academy Superintendent Major Gen. Oscar Lopez. Despite trying to address a similar power supply problem in Mindanao, President Aquino did not lose his cool. Instead, the Chief Executive smiled and cheered with the Palace guests when the lights were restired at the main ceremonial hall. With lights back on, the photo session with the President resumed.‐blackouts‐feared/                               

DepEd announces June class opening  by Ina Hernando Malipot March 5, 2014

Secretary of Education Armin Luistro yesterday officially announced that the Department of Education (DepEd) “has made a decision” to retain the opening of elementary and high school classes in June this year, amid proposals to move it to later months. In a press briefing, Luistro, who has repeatedly been asked about the stand of the Department of Education (DepEd) on proposals to move the school opening to July, August, or September, said that while a study is now being conducted by an inter-agency panel led by the Commission on Higher (CHED), “nakapag-desisyonna kami naang opening ng school year ngayongtaonparasa elementary at high school ay mananatiling June.” Luistro said that the decision was made to ease the concerns of parents over the school opening this coming school year. “Hindi nanaminpinag-usapan. Nag-desisyonna kami para di magulo,” he said. The opening of classes in public elementary and high schools nationwide for 2014-2015, Luistro said, will be on the “first Monday of June” or June 2. Luistro said talks on moving the academic calendar for basic education will resume after the higher education institutions (HEIs) have arrived at a consensus. To date, only three higher education institutions (HEIs) — the University of the Philippines (UP) system except Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) have announced shifts in their respective academic calendars. The UP System except Diliman will implement an August-May academic calendar starting this year while ADMU will implement an August-May academic calendar starting in 2015. The UST will start its school year in July this year.. “Hahayaanmunanaminang tertiary level namagkaroonng consensus bagoangDepEd (basic education).Kasiangunangmakikinabang o maaapektuhanngpaglipatng school opening ay angmganasakolehiyo,” Luistro said. Meanwhile, a group of public school teachers expressed opposition to the change in school calendar. The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), a 30,000-strong group headed by TDC National Chairman BenjoBasas, said, “The weather argument of the proponents has proven to be immaterial amidst the drastic changes in world climate that made the weather unpredictable.” It urged that “our own school system–from basic to tertiary– integrate first before joining the ASEAN integration.” Moving the academic calendar opening to months later than June has long been proposed to spare the students from flooding caused by typhoons during the rainy season. Recently, the

primary reason given for seeking the change is to synchronize the Philippine system with those of neighboring countries in time for ASEAN Economic Integration in 2015. The DepEd has said that while it remains open to the suggestion to move the academic calendar, it finds “no compelling reason to do so,” especially with the ever-changing weather patterns in the country.‐announces‐june‐class‐opening/                                           

Solon calls for rejection of bypassed appointees  by Mario Casayuran March 5, 2014

Manila, Philippines — Citing a resolution filed by President Benigno S. Aquino III when he was still a senator, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas yesterday said all presidential appointees who have been bypassed several times by the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA) must be deemed rejected and should no longer be reappointed by the President. Fariñas, the CA Majority Leader, said the constant reappointments of nominees bypassed by the CA has become a “mockery” of the constitutional provision that it confirms all presidential nominees who will occupy key positions in government. Fariñas cited then Sen. Aquino’s resolution filed during the 14th Congress that a presidential nominee shall be considered rejected after he or she has been bypassed three times. Several Cabinet members have been bypassed several times by the CA since President Aquino assumed office in 2010. They include Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Ramon Paje, and Commission on Audit (COA) Commissioner Heidi Mendoza. The latest Cabinet member bypassed is Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jericho Petilla. In a related development, the CA Committee on Constitutional Commissions and Offices chaired by Sen. TeofistoGuingona III decided to recommend to the CA plenary session today the confirmation of the appointments of Al A. Parreno, 35, and Luie Tito F. Guia, 48, as commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Any decision on the fate of Mendoza was put off by Guingona after Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada asked the CA committee that he be given another hearing date for him to ask her questions. The COA had stated publicly that several lawmakers, including Estrada, are linked to the controversial P10-billion pork barrel (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam. There were also oppositors to Mendoza’s appointment claiming she is not morally fit to become a ranking COA official. Asked about the recurrent bypasses of De Lima since her appointment in 2010, Fariñas quipped: “That is her dilemma.” Fariñas said he would press the CA to make a collective decision on the issue.‐calls‐for‐rejection‐of‐bypassed‐appointees/ 

Senators push for cigarette graphic warning bill  by CharissaLuci March 4, 2014

Senators are pushing for the passage of a measure requiring tobacco companies to display graphic labels on their products to strengthen the government’s efforts to discourage smoking, especially among the youth. Senate President Franklin M. Drilon and Senator Pia S. Cayetano asked their colleagues to work towards the passage of the measure seeking to reduce the smoking incidence rates in the country. “The passage of this proposed measure will bring closer to our goal of protecting the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke,” Drilon said. He said smokers have to be informed and made fully aware of what will happen to their health every time they pick up a cigarette pack, citing that 87,600 Filipino die annually, or about ten Filipino deaths for every hour, due to smoking-related complications. He even noted that cigarette smoking costs an estimated P188 billion in annual health care expenses and productivity losses. “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. For her part, Cayetano, who authored and sponsored two earlier versions on graphic health warnings in the previous 14th and 15th Congress, asked the government to decisively flex its muscles to address the large scale deaths among Filipinos due to smoking. “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,” she said. She lamented that more than 5 million people die each year from direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 people die from second hand smoke. The bill provides that tobacco products have to display picture-based health warnings in full colour with accompanying text warnings that will be printed on at least 60 percent of the principal display surfaces for any tobacco package. The warnings will show the dangers of tobacco smoking or passive smoking, following guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health (DOH). “When we look at other countries where this system has been set in place, they were able to reduce the incidence of smoking in their respective jurisdictions,” Drilon said.‐push‐for‐cigarette‐graphic‐warning‐bill/ 

Belmonte still hopes Aquino will support  Chacha  by EllsonQuismorio March 4, 2014

House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. remains hopeful that President Benigno S. Aquino III would eventually have a change of heart on Charter Change (Cha-Cha). “No, he’s not supportive of it at the moment. He’s not supportive of any change to the Constitution,” Belmonte, who represents the 4th district of Quezon City, said. “I suspect it is maybe because he thinks people are harboring bigger changes, more particularly on term limits, and all the political structure,” Belmonte said after admitting that he is “happy” that his Cha-Cha proposal, Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No.1, hurdled the committee level Monday afternoon. The Speaker is crossing his fingers that Aquino would become more receptive to amending the 1987 Constitution once the latter realizes that only economic provisions would be touched. Following the legislative process, RBH no.1 would need a three-fourths vote from the Lower Chamber (and from the Senate, voting separately) for the constitutional amendments to be approved. According to Belmonte, getting the three-fourths majority in the HoR would show everyone that “the much feared revision of congressmen to get rid of term limits is after all something that most of them are willing to forget in the interest of the public.” RBH no.1 seeks to amend the following articles of the existing Constitution: Article II or the declaration of state principles and policies, Article XII on national economy and patrimony, and Article XVI which contains sections on foreign ownership. “As I’ve said they do not immediately change anything, they just make it possible to do the changes if it’s necessary in the public interest,” he explained. The Speaker noted that neighboring countries have overtaken the Philippines in terms of foreign direct investments, thus justifying the need to lift the Constitution’s restrictive economic provisions. The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments approved RBH no.1 for plenary debates Monday with a vote of 24-2-1 (affirmative-negative-abstain) just before Congress goes on a seven-week summer recess. With just two weeks’ worth of session dates left, Belmonte said they have no intention of passing the Cha-Cha measure before Congress goes on break on March 14. “Definitely no. We need people to learn more about it, to know the reasons,” the 77-year-old solon said.‐still‐hopes‐aquino‐will‐support‐chacha/ 

President still won’t do Cha‐Cha  by MadelSabater - Namit March 4, 2014

Manila, Philippines — President Benigno S. Aquino III’s position on Charter Change (Cha-Cha) remains unchanged, a Palace official said yesterday. Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the President won’t prioritize Charter Change despite moves in Congress to change the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. Last Monday, Congress approved a House Resolution by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., an administration ally, which opens the door for changes to the “restrictive” economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. Coloma said the President does not intend to speak with allies in Congress on the progress of the Cha-Cha in the House of Representatives, noting that President Aquino respects the independence of Congress. “The President has consistently expressed his opposition for Cha-Cha and for good reason,” Coloma said. “Even in foreign lands where he has made visits… he said explicitly that he does not believe it is necessary,” Coloma said. “For people to say that there should be Presidential action on what Congress is doing now is to tread on issue of separation of powers and the President is not minded towards interfering in the process of Congress,” he said. Coloma also refuted speculations that Malacanang was behind the Congress’s latest move on Cha-Cha. “On secret plans, bakahindisilakabilangsamahigit 70 percent sanagpapahiwatigngpagtitiwalasaintegridadngPangulo [maybe they are not part of the more than 70 percent of the public who have expressed their trust on the President’s integrity],” he said. “The President is always upfront on issues like this,” he said. Belmonte however remains hopeful that the President would eventually have a change of heart on Cha-Cha. “No, he’s not supportive of it at the moment. He’s not supportive of any change to the Constitution,” Belmonte, who represents the 4th district of Quezon City, said of the President who heads their Liberal Party (LP). “I suspect it is maybe because he thinks people are harboring bigger changes, more particularly on term limits, and all the political structure,” Belmonte said.

The Speaker admitted to being “happy” that his Cha-Cha proposal, Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No.1, hurdled the committee level Monday afternoon. The Speaker is crossing his fingers that Aquino would become more receptive to amending the 1987 Constitution once the latter realizes that only economic provisions would be touched. Another factor that may prod Aquino into backing economic Cha-Cha is the support that the bill is expected to get from his LP allies in the House. The vast majority of lawmakers in the House are allied with the administration. RBH No. 1 seeks to amend the following articles of the existing Constitution: Article II or the declaration of state principles and policies, Article XII on national economy and patrimony, and Article XVI which contains sections on foreign ownership. This would be done through the insertion of the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law,” which Belmonte said “provides a legal key” for the lawmakers to amend provisions on foreign ownership of corporations or property in the country. “As I’ve said they do not immediately change anything, they just make it possible to do the changes if it’s necessary in the public interest,” he explained. The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments approved RBH No.1 for plenary debates last Monday with a vote of 24-2-1 (affirmative-negative-abstain) just before Congress goes on a seven-week summer recess. With just two weeks’ worth of session dates left, Belmonte said they have no intention of passing the Cha-Cha measure before Congress goes on break on March 14. “Definitely no. We need people to learn more about it, to know the reasons,” the 77-year-old solon said, pointing to the public consultations that House members would conduct in preparation for what are envisioned to be heated plenary discussions on Cha-Cha. As what has been observed in the past Congress, the House leadership will allocate funds to help the lawmakers in facilitating the consultations within their respective districts. “Yes I think it’s possible to put up some. In the past consultations I’ve always made it a point of providing funds to the committee for consultations, which they did all over the country during the 15th Congress.” Belmonte said he intends to discuss Cha-Cha with some senators during their break. (With a report from Ellson A. Quismorio)‐still‐wont‐do‐cha‐cha/     

Protection of Lake Mainit strengthened  by Mike Crismundo March 4, 2014

Tubod, Surigaodel Norte – The various local chief executives and the regional officials of government line agencies have pooled their effort to protect the 17,340-hectare Lake Mainit – the fourth largest freshwater lake in the Philippines. Lake Mainit, a wetland ecosystem, bisects the two provinces of Surigaodel Norte and Agusan del Norte in the Caraga Region. Lake Mainit is the country’s deepest lake with a maximum depth of 223 meters, an altitude of 27 meters above sea level, and a shoreline of about 62.10 kilometers As this developed, the Lake Mainit Development Alliance (LMDA) unveiled its Biodiversity Partnership Project (BPP) for this year during the recent 6th Expanded Technical Working Group meeting held in Surigao City. “Every local government unit (LGU) and our agency are now closely coordinating for biodiversity’s protection and proper utilization and preservation of environment,” said Region 13 office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-13) Director Nonito M. Tamayo. Under the biodiversity mainstreaming of the comprehensive land use planning (CLUP) of the LMDA, all LGUs must undergo the necessary training/workshop. This municipality is currently on its 3rd phase of the training process of the biodiversity mainstreaming in the comprehensive development plan (CDP), and local project site committee (LPSC), also known as the technical working group (TWG) of the LMDA. Under the trans-boundary integrated planning, six workshops were conducted, and the activity output is the updated and enhanced LMDA Environmental Management Plan (EMP), drafted one resolution for LGU adopting and approving the trans-boundary plan and one resolution adopted to support and participate in the said project.‐of‐lake‐mainit‐strengthened/           

Manila truck ban to trigger price hike  by Jenny F. Manongdo March 4, 2014

Manila, Philippines — Expect increase in prices of retail goods a month from now as a result of the Manila truck ban. This was the projection of Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP) Director Bert Suansing, citing the 1991 experience of truckers on a similar “experiment” that prohibited truckers on the streets during daytime. Basic commodities may see a 30-percent increase in retail prices as truckers and importers struggle to cope with the impact of the new ordinance meant to alleviate the traffic congestion in the capital city. Suansing said that in 1991, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) asked truckers to conduct their businesses during nighttime for a couple of weeks. The “experiment” resulted in an increase of trucking prices by 50 percent and increase in prices of retail goods by 30 percent. Under the current truck ban in Manila, truckers are prohibited from traversing city roads from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. effective February 24. However, after a three-day protest by truckers the city government made an adjustment by creating a “window hour” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to allow trucks top traverse city roads during this period. Despite this, truckers and port operators are still convinced the public will suffer from the adverse impacts of the truck ban. “We’ll just pass it on to consumers whatever the incurred losses are due to delay in the delivery of cargos. What we are trying to address here is there should be less time where the cargo stays in the truck. Because of the truck ban measure, the cargo stays in the truck longer than necessary,” Suansing said in a media conference following a consultative meeting with stakeholders at the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) yesterday. Christian Gonzales, head of Asia operations of International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ITCSI), warned of a possible massive backlog of shipments in ports and in warehouses. According to Gonzales, approximately 3,800 import container vans arrive in Manila ports in a week. In the old set up, which allows truckers to move cargos for 15 hours, he said they could “barely” get by although they were able to complete their transactions because of dedicated truck routes. Under the new policy, there should be a way to release 3,800 import container vans promptly in order to ensure flow of trade, Gonzales said.‐truck‐ban‐to‐trigger‐price‐hike/ 

Settlers laud US humanitarian effort  by Ali G. Macabalang March 4, 2014

Cotabato City – Cebuano settlers in this city and in nearby Maguindanao and Lanao communities lauded the United States (US) government for its latest relief and welfare services to the people of Cebu who were affected by super-typhoon “Yolanda.” “I’m not fond of Americans, but their government turned me into a fan after playing major role in providing humanitarian assistance to typhoon-affected people in the Visayas, including my kin and friends in Cebu,” OmpongNeri, a Cebuano carpenter here, told the Manila Bulletin in vernacular. Neri is one of dozens of settlers here and in the two Muslim-dominated provinces from Cebu region who heard of media reports about the dispersal of tons of rice for Cebuanos recently. The American Embassy in Manila, in a statement, said US Ambassador Philip Goldberg joined United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Country Director Gloria Steele to witness the arrival in Cebu last February 27 of some 1,500 metric tons of rice supplied through the World Food Program to survivors of typhoon Yolanda. The shipment was just part of the 5,000 metric tons purchased with money announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Tacloban last December, the embassy report said. Earlier, Ambassador Goldberg met with Governor Hilario G. Davide III and Mayor Michael L. Rama, and discussed with them local concerns, and how their governments can work together to address issues such as preparedness against natural disasters, the report added.‐laud‐us‐humanitarian‐effort/               

Davao Oriental crop penetrates world market  by Alexander D. Lopez March 4, 2014

Davao City – The local growers and producers of hot chili in the province of Davao Oriental are expected to benefit from a marketing agreement to promote their products not only in Manila but in the world market as well. The Region 11 office of the Department of Agriculture (DA-11) said the signing of the agreement was facilitated during the recent visit of President Aquino in Cateel, Davao Oriental last month. The signing was witnessed by DA Secretary Proceso Alcala and Davao Oriental provincial officials led by Governor Corazon Malanyaon. The DA-11 added that the Vieva Philippines, Incorporated (VPI) signed an agreement to purchase an initial volume of 2,500 kilograms of hot chili powder from the SubangonDumang Makers (SDM), a group of farmers engaged in the production of hot chili in the province. The initial agreement involves around P1.15 million worth of hot chili products that will be marketed by the VPI in leading markets in Manila, and in the United States island territory of Guam. According to the DA-11, the SDM is now developing large areas for hot chili production. It was learned that the chili is open pollinated and hybrid variety, which the local residents call as “dumang.”‐oriental‐crop‐penetrates‐world‐market/                   

Dum mangass eyed as new w port  t of Iloiilo  by Tara Yap Y March 4, 2014 2

Dumanga as, Iloilo – The T Port of Dumangas D is s being eyed d as a possib ble new portt for Iloilo province, replacing th he current port of Iloilo which w is loca ated in Iloilo City. Senate President P Fra anklin Drilon n, who is a native of Iloilo o, said a fea asibility studyy will be conducte ed to look intto the possib bility of trans sferring the m major port frrom the regio onal capital tto Dumanga as, a first cla ass municipa ality some 24 kilometerss northeast o of Iloilo City. Dumangas port is one of three seapo orts in Iloilo province, p pa articularly acccommodatin ng Iloilo-Baccolod-Iloilo ro ollon-roll-offf (RORO) ve essel service es.

FOCUS S ON DUMA ANGAS – Th he port in Du umangas, wh hich particullarly servicess roll-on-roll--off (RORO O) transport between Ilo oilo and Baco olod is being g eyed as a possible new w port of Iloiilo, replac cing the exis sting one in Iloilo City wh hich has pro oblems such as siltation and seawate er depth, preventing p its s use by bigg ger ships. Dumangas to own is 24 kilo ometers norttheast of Re egion VI’s and Iloilo’s provincial capital, Ilo oilo City. (Ta ara Yap) “If the fea asibility study justifies it, Dumangas port will serrve as the m major port of tthe province e of Iloilo and d the whole of o Panay Isla and,” Drilon emphasized d. The Port of Iloilo has s long been considered c since s the lat e 1800s as tthe island’s premier porrt when it opened o to intternational trrade. Drilon sa aid, howeverr that factors exist hinderring the efficciency of the e Port of Iloilo o in its curre ent site. Such factors inc clude water depth d which makes it im mpossible forr bigger ship ps to dock at the port.

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. also noted that the port in Dumangas is an ideal location which could serve as Panay’s premier port as it has no heavy siltation problem unlike the existing Iloilo port, which is located at the mouth of Iloilo River. Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager, Atty. Juan Sta. Ana, disclosed that expansion of the port of Dumangas, which is estimated to cost P180 million will begin soon. Both the PPA general manager and Drilon inspected Dumangas port recently. Drilon said the P180-million budget allocation for Dumangas port in Dumangas is not dependent on the feasibility study to be conducted by the PPA starting next month and which will run for some six months. “The feasibility study is for purposes of future expansion, that is, it will determine how big an expansion work needs to be done for the port in Dumangas,” he said. He said that if the feasibility study will justify it,”Dumangas Port will become the port of the province of Iloilo and the whole of Panay.” Drilon further said that a port efficiently run is the anchor to a progressive municipality and utltimately, the port will create a city. “So, once the study is done and will see that indeed Dumangas port is the future port, I can see that Dumangas will be the premier municipality and ultimately a premier city in Panay,” he said, adding that the port there presents a “very viable alternative” to the current one in Iloilo City which is now facing siltation problems. The road network around Dumangas port will also be improved so that it will be easier for travelers and motorists using it as an alternate route going to Bacolod City from Iloilo through RORO vessels. “We would need a very efficient port facility as the province progresses,” said Drilon, adding that “Iloilo’s development pace is also expected to move faster with the construction of the Jalaur River and thus likewise the need for a good port facility.” Dumangas port operates 24/7 and services an average of around 2,000 passengers a day. The town mayor, Rolando Distura said he is happy that prominent officials like Drilon and Defensor who have roots in Dumangas are helping to push progress in Dumangas. He also said the port’s development is a vital component in plans to put up an economic zone in Dumangas in addition to efforts to develop it into becoming Iloilo’s second component city. There are also ongoing developments to fix national and provincial roads with EdilbertoTayao, Department of Public Works and Highways regional director saying that these infrastructure projects and will focus on the maintenance of said projects will focus on the maintenance of roads leading to Dumangas port. (With a story from PIA)‐eyed‐as‐new‐port‐of‐iloilo/   

Expect warmer days ahead –PAGASA  by Ellalyn De Vera March 4, 2014

Manila, Philippines — Air temperatures in most parts of the country have been rising indicating that the cold weather-associated northeast monsoon or hanging amihan is about to end. Rene Paciente, chief of the Weather Forecasting Section of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), noted the weakening of the northeast monsoon with the increasing air temperatures over most parts of the country these past few days. He said a weak northeast monsoon will continue to prevail over Luzon and the Visayas but relatively warm days is expected in most parts of the country this week. “We will possibly declare the onset of summer season by the third week of March when the prevailing wind system is the easterly winds,” Paciente said. He explained that the wind pattern and air temperature play a significant role in the declaration of the onset of summer season. “The warm and moist air coming from the Pacific Ocean will prevail during summer, while temperature will range between 22 and 35 degrees Celsius,” he added. Last year, PAGASA declared the onset of summer season on March 17. Paciente said the prevalence of easterly winds indicates the transition period from northeast monsoon to southwest monsoon or hanging habagat. “Hanging habagat, which signals the rainy season, will commence by latter part of May or early part of June,” he said. PAGASA said Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon and Visayas will experience fair weather aside from isolated light rains today. Meanwhile, Mindanao will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. By tomorrow, Luzon and the Visayas will continue to experience generally fair weather apart from isolated passing light rains, particularly over the eastern section due to the prevailing northeasterly surface wind flow.‐warmer‐days‐ahead‐pagasa/     

Luzon newsbits for March 5, 2014  March 4, 2014

Butanding Now Seen Off Quezon Perez, Quezon — Sightings of numerous whale sharks or “butanding” off the protected area of Lamon Bay has fast become a tourist magnet in this town. Since the sightings last month, Mayor Pepito C. Reyes requested Quezon Gov. David C. Suarez, for an assessment, documentation and diving operation conducted by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The reports affirmed that, indeed, the butanding are frequent visitors to the area. Divers noted that even the coral reefs at the declared fish sanctuary are healthy and abundant in marine life, making it a perfect place for divers on vacation. (Danny J. Estacio) Aeta Support Balanga City, Bataan — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has granted P1.5 million to the business sector and another P650,000 to the Aeta community, an indigenous minority in Limay, for them to earn extra income. DTI Provincial Director NelinCabahug said Gov. Abet S. Garcia also committed to fund the office of the Bataan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (BACCII) to further boost the business activity in the province. In Limay, food processing equipment were turned over to the “SamahanngmgaKababaihangAytasaKinaragan” through a ceremony led by Cabahug and Mayor LilvirRoque in Barangay Duale. (Mar T. Supnad) CCTV Ordinance TreceMartires City, Cavite — The provincial government approved an ordinance requiring the installation and use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) facilities in businesses and residential areas in the turf. The CCTV ordinance, which covered business establishments, subdivisions and public places in the province’s six cities and 17 municipalities, was deemed by officials as a must in deterring criminals and helping police solve incidents in the vicinity. Cavite, a first class province, is the country’s most densely populous area. Governor Juanito Victor Remulla signed Provincial Ordinance 2013-049 or the CCTV Installation Ordinance of the Province of Cavite 2013 recently after Vice Governor Ramon Jolo Revilla III and the 16-man SangguniangPanglalawigan (Provincial Board) unanimously passed the decree during their 24th regular session on Dec. 16, 2013. (Anthony Giron)‐newsbits‐for‐march‐5‐2014/         

Aid for rebel returnees eyed  March 4, 2014

Members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) in Agusandel Sur are looking at opportunities for former rebels. The members of the PPOC, during their two-day workshop, assessed the status of the ongoing peace processes and the situation of the rebel returnees in their respective localities. The PPOC members also tackled the status of livelihood projects being extended to the former rebels. They also revisited and updated existing conflict analyses and identified gaps and peace building needs of OPAPP’s Payapa at MasaganangPamayanAn (PAMANA) program implementation in the province. “We must be impact-oriented now. Unlike before when we were only after the number of people, we should now help extend our help to improve their lives,” Agusandel Sur Governor Adolph Edward Plaz said. The provincial government, he said, will now focus more on the sustainability of the projects extended to them. Plaza said achieving peace will have a huge impact in improving their way of life. (Mike Crismundo)‐for‐rebel‐returnees‐eyed/                   

Jalaur P11.2‐B dam project continues  by Tara Yap March 4, 2014

Iloilo City, Iloilo—There is no stopping the construction of the P11.2-billion river dam project in Calinog town, Iloilo province. This was disclosed by Senate President Franklin Drilon amid the writ of kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court last year against the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project-Phase II (JRMP-II). “No injunction was issued by the Court of Appeals,” Drilon maintained. To recall, the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan against the dam project based on a petition filed by former Iloilo congressman Augusto Syjuco Jr. According to Syjuco, the JRMP-II is a “killer dam” project because it sits on an active fault line and is prone to earthquakes. He also claimed that the project will displace indigenous people Panay Bukidnon or Sulodnon. However, the Supreme Court referred the matter to the Court of Appeals earlier this year which conducted a hearing on the issue last week. Drilon, who facilitated most of the project’s funding from the South Korea Economic Development Cooperation Fund, also added that the Office of the Solicitor General has issued its legal opinion that the project should push through. Meanwhile, the Senate president, a native of Iloilo, said that actual civil works for the JRMP-II will start in the first quarter of 2015.‐p11‐2‐b‐dam‐project‐continues/                 

Awareness: Optimism on Philippine growth  prospects  March 4, 2014

Private sector outlook about the profitability of business in the Philippines is bright, according to a survey of businessmen, which showed that 80% of respondents expected the economy to perform well as it did in 2013, because of strong fundamentals and other positive factors auguring well for doing business in the country. The survey in Manila on February 17-18, 2014, by the Global Research Team of London-based Standard Chartered Bank (StanChart) gauged the sentiment of top local corporates and investor clients on issues affecting businesses this year. The international investor community is effective on growth prospects of the Philippines, the British bank said, noting that economic optimism is strong and global sentiment has improved in 2013, with investment becoming a “broader, deeper” growth engine. The Philippines attained a robust 7.2% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in 2013 by improving its business policy to attract more private investments in local businesses StanChart said the Philippines made significant improvements, particularly in “dealing with construction permits,” “getting credit,” and “paying taxes.” This year, the country ranked 108th in Ease of Doing Business from 133 a year ago. The British bank said investment growth contributed 1.5percentage point to GDP growth over the past seven quarters, providing the economy with a secondary growth mover. It projected that the Philippines would benefit from global growth this year. The improved global economy could support stronger foreign direct investment growth in the country, it said. The Philippine government expects growth to exceed 6.5% in first quarter of 2014, supported by stronger imports and tourism earnings, and boosted by revenues from remittances, business process outsourcing, and public spending for major infrastructure projects. Key industries made big strides in 2013, among them manufacturing, which grew by 10.5%, and tourism. We congratulate the Members of the Philippine Economic Team: Department of Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio B. Abad, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, BangkoSentralngPilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr., and National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan, and other Officers, for their contributions to the positive economic growth performance of the Filipino people in our Republic of the Philippines that were cited in global rankings. CONGRATULATIONS AND MABUHAY!‐optimism‐on‐philippine‐growth‐prospects/   

Low wer targ gets, sa ame ob bjectivee: Help p the p poor  by Senato or Manny Villlar March 4, 2014 2

In 2000, leaders of 189 member states of the e United Nattions conven ned at its he eadquarters in New York City for thrree days on September 6-8. It was ttouted as the e largest gatthering of wo orld leaders in history durring which th hey ratified the United N Nations Millen nnium Decla aration, whicch set eight Milllennium Dev velopment Goals G (MDGs s) to help cit izens of the poorest cou untries to achieve a better life by 2015. Those T eight MDGs were e: To eradica ate extreme poverty p and hunger; To achieve univversal prima ary education; e T To promote g gender equa ality and empowering e women; To o reduce child mortality rrates; To T improve m maternal health; To com mbat HIV/AID DS, malaria, m and d other disea ases; To enssure environment e tal sustainab bility; To devvelop a globa al partnership p ffor developm ment. The UN also listed d 18 targets t to acchieve these e eight majorr goals. I would like tto cite one o of the targetss as it applie es to the t Philippin nes. Under th he MDG to e eradicate extreme e povverty and hun nger, target one for the Philippine es is to halve the povertty rate from 34.4 3 percen t in 1991 to 17.2 percen nt in 2015. In its onliine MDG wa atch, which monitored m the country’s progress in achieving th he goal, the National Statistical Coordination C Board (NSC CB) projecte ed that the po overty rate w will be at 25.2 percent by b 2015, which translate es to a reduc ction of just 9 9.2 percenta age points fro om the 1991 1 level, equ uivalent to an a average re eduction of 0.483 0 pointss a year in 21 years. Com me deadline e, we will be sh hort of targett by 10.394 points. p Based on n the results s of its monitoring, the NS SCB says th he Philippine es has a low w probability of hitting the e target. The e National Economic E and Developm ment Authoritty (NEDA) ha as basically admitted the same. Last L week, Economic E Pla anning Secrretary ArsenioBalisacan, who is concurre ently NEDA director d gene eral, release ed some deta ails of the up pdated Philip ppine Developm ment Plan (P PDP), includ ding the revis sed targets rrelated to the e MDGs. The revis sed Philippin ne Developm ment Plan (P PDP) adopted d 2016, the last year of the Aquino administrration as the e new deadline to achiev ve the follow wing targets: Reduce the e poverty rate e from 25.2 2 percent in 2012 to 18 percent; p Red duce the und deremploym ment rate from m 19.8 percent in 2013 to 17 percent; Reduce th he unemploy yment rate frrom 7.3 perccent in 2013 to 6.5-6.7 percent; Economic growth, as measured by the Gross D Domestic Pro oduct (GDP)) remains at the range of 7 to 8 perce ent a year. These targets are ok kay with me. I believe the ese are real istic. If you rreally want to o accomplissh somethin ng, you shou uld set goals that are ach hievable.

Of course, targets should not be unreasonably low because that would make them so unchallenging as to be boring. On the other hand, targets should not be so lofty and overly ambitious because that would make them impossible to achieve, so they go to the “in your dreams” section – nice to the ears, but people won’t bother with them. Now that the MDGs have been revised down to realistic levels, taking into account the conditions existing in the Philippines, the next task is to begin working on them, and working hard to achieve them. This is because lowering the goals also means that we are “waiving” our chance at making excuses if we fail. In fairness, achieving the lower targets does not make them insignificant, compared to the original MDGs set by the United Nations Summit of 2000. For instance, using a simple arithmetical computation and the projected Philippine population of 100 million for this year as basis, to reduce the poverty rate to 18 percent by 2016 will mean saving nine million Filipinos from impoverishment a year, or 18 million in the next two years. In sum, we stay on track with the primary objective of the MDGs: to help our citizens achieve a better life. Let’s get on with it! (For comments/feedback email to: or visit‐targets‐same‐objective‐help‐the‐poor/                         

PNoy okays P1.71b for Yolanda-hit fishermen By Joyce Pangco Panares | Mar. 05, 2014 at 12:01am PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has approved the release of P1.71 billion to help fishermen who lost their livelihood to super typhoon Yolanda. The fund was released to the Agriculture Department’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources as part of the rehabilitation plan for Yolanda-hit fishing communities. “In the aftermath of every calamity, affected communities need to reckon not just with the devastation of their homes and the loss of lives, but also with the damage to their major sources of income. Part of the administration’s reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts for Yolanda-affected areas is the restoration of the communities’ primary means of livelihood,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said. “In this case, the release to DA-BFAR will allow us to help fishing communities regain their toehold in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. We must not forget that many of these communities were dealt the heaviest blows during the calamity, as Yolanda ravaged coastlines where most fisherfolk live and carry out a substantial amount of their work,” Abad added. The fund release will cover the rehabilitation costs for fishing communities in Mimaropa, the Bicol region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Eastern Visayas. Of the total amount, P905.7 million will also be used for constructing or rehabilitating BFAR facilities in the Visayas, including the Guian Fisheries Development Center and Pearl Island Facilities; Central Bangus Hatchery; Central Visayas Multi-species Nursery Training and Demonstration Center; Kawit Satellite Multi-species Hatchery; and the Pinamuk-an Hatchery. Some P32 million will be spent for the repair of BFAR’s monitor, control, and surveillance patrol vessels which sustained severe damage in the height of the super typhoon. Abad said P405.7 million will be used to support aquaculture initiatives, including seaweed nurseries, mariculture farms, and fingerling distribution.

The total release will also support the provision of motorized bancas (P391.6 million), non-motorized bancas (P122.1 million), and fishing gear (P286.2 million) for Yolandaaffected fishing communities. “The work of rehabilitating disaster-stricken communities goes beyond supplying relief goods and ensuring the restoration of shelter and basic utilities for affected communities,” Abad said. “We also need to consider how to empower these families so they can once again make a living for themselves and become active participants in their communities’ economic growth,” Abad added. On Wednesday, the government will break ground on the MRDC Greenland Townhomes in Tacloban, Leyte, made up of 900 housing units for government and private employees who were victims of typhoon Yolanda. Financed by the Pag-IBIG Fund, the project will be developed in five phases of 180 units each. Vice President Jejomar Binay is expected to lead the groundbreaking ceremony. Damage to agriculture production caused by Yolanda has reached P31.13 billion in the Visayas alone. The fisheries sector incurred losses of P1.49 billion while the livestock industry sustained P2.24 billion in production losses. An estimated 203,870 farming and fishing families were affected by the super typhoon. At last count, the number of dead stood at 6,201 but the National Disaster Risk Management Coordinating Council has stopped continuing the count. Lawmakers belonging to the independent minority bloc in the House accused President Benigno Aquino III of depriving the Yolanda survivors of “dignity, peace of mind and closure that could help them move on” after the government stopped searching for the close to 2,000 missing and ceased issuing the official count on the death toll. Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the bloc, on Tuesday expressed worries that people in Tacloban have also stopped asking the government, indicating that the survivors have gotten tired of getting no answer.

“They just wanted to move on and we wanted to provide our dead a decent burial, four months after they’ve gone missing when the super typhoon hit Eastern Visayas,” Romualdez said. Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza took turns in lambasting the government for ignoring the pleas of the international community to be transparent in its rehabilitation and reconstruction program in the calamity-hit areas, particularly in Tacloban, which was the worst hit. With Christine F. Herrera

Pork scam pales beside missing SAROs By Christine F. Herrera | Mar. 05, 2014 at 12:01am President Aquino and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad have to make public the 2010-2012 Commission on Audit report that shows missing or illegally issued special allotment release orders (SARO) valued at P1.94 trillion that makes the P10-billion pork scam “pale in comparison.” The challenge was raised on Tuesday by the Independent Minority Bloc led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez along with Abakada Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz and Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza. The bloc also demanded that the President hold in abeyance the abolition of 11 national government agencies, most of which had been involved in the pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim Napoles. “In the case of 2010-2012 COA report, there were 3,158 SAROs that were classified as either double-numbered, missing or illegally issued, which brought into question 40,000 other SAROs with the total face value of P1.942 trillion,” Dela Cruz said during a news conference. “Why are they abolishing these agencies? Are they trying to hide something or are they trying to shred the evidence?” Dela Cruz said. “Why are they abolishing these agencies right now when they have not even concluded their own findings about these agencies. They have not even given a report to Congress and to Malacañang,” he pointed out. De La Cruz said Secretary Cesar Villanueva, chairman of the government commission in charge of government-owned and controlled corporations, has not completed the report about these agencies where the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program disbursements were coursed through. “We back the call of Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco for Abad to come out with the master list of the PDAF and DAP disbursements,” Romualdez declared. Dela Cruz said the bloc has obtained a copy of the “conflicting 2010-2012 COA report” but that they were awaiting the Palace and Abad to make it public and “come clean” with it. “As a matter of fact, the independent bloc has filed three resolutions addressed to Secretary Abad and to COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan to compel them to come out with the report that occurred under President Aquino’s term, he said. “Kaya ang sabi namin kay Grace Pulido-Tan, puliduhin nyo ang inyong ginagawa. Kasi hanggang ngayon wala kayong nilalabas na totoong report. Very, very selective.”

The COA reports were “very selective,” Dela Cruz explained, because the COA special report done by Pulido-Tan conflicted with the findings made by resident auditors. “They have conflicting findings. At the same time, we have learned that in the case of those that have been charged, there were no disallowances issued. They are only thinking of issuing out these allowances after the fact. Kaya hindi natin maintindihan ang mga ito. Secretary Abad should come out with a master list,” Dela Cruz said. Atienza said what the minority bloc was demanding was for Abad to come out with the list of those granted with DAP funds and additional PDAF during the Corona impeachment trial and after the vote on reproductive health bill. “Then we will know where the DAP and PDAF went,” he said. Atienza said talk went rife that the P1.94-trillion funds went to “Napoles-type of exchanges.” In other words, cash equivalent occurred. But to clear that issue, they have to come out with the master list. Otherwise, we are inclined to believe the funds were squandered away,” Atienza said.

An intrus i sive bill b By Maniila Standard d Today | Mar. M 05, 2014 4 at 12:01am m

ONE of the t recurring g themes in President P Beenigno Aquinno III’s speeeches is the ppromise of m more and betteer jobs at hom me so that Fiilipinos will no longer nneed to toil abbroad. It is a goal we caan all rally behind. “Before, our foremosst ambition was w to work in another ccountry. Now w, the Filipinno can take hhis pick. As long as he pursues p his dreams d with determinatio d on and diligeence, he can realize them m,” dent said in his second State-of-the-N S Nation Addrress. the Presid In hindsight, and in view v of the high h rates off unemploym ment and undderemploymeent, the Presidentt’s declaratio on was an ex xercise in wiishful thinkinng, not factuual reportingg. The goveernment’s ow wn statistics show, in facct, that moree and more F Filipinos are choosing to work abrroad. Data from m the Philipp pine Overseaas Employm ment Adminisstration show ws that the nnumber of Filipinos with contraacts processeed rose from 1.30 millionn in 2007 to 1.46 millionn in 2008, 1.48 million in n 2009, 1.64 4 million in 2010 2 and 1.8 85 million inn 2011 and 22.08 million iin 2012. These fig gures clearly y show that th he entry of the t Aquino aadministratioon in 2010 ddid little to arrrest the diasp pora. Another set of figurees show that overseas wo orkers playedd a significan ant role in briinging aboutt the economicc growth thaat the adminiistration likees to trumpett. In 2012, for instance, cash remitttances from overseas Fillipinos courssed through bbanks reached $21.4 billlion, 6.3 perrcent more th han the $20.13 billion thhey sent hom me in 2011.

These cash remittances alone accounted for 8.5 percent of gross domestic product and enabled the administration to crow about a consumption-driven growth. Given the important contribution that these remittances represent, it would seem logical to at least keep the interest of overseas workers in mind when drafting new legislation. Yet House Bill 3576 filed by OFW Family party-list Rep. Roy V. Seneres goes in the other direction, and would compel Filipino workers abroad to regularly send money to their family back home or risk not getting their passports renewed. The Seneres bill aims to make remittances mandatory and regular for all overseas Filipino workers who have legal dependents in the Philippines. If passed, the bill will authorize ambassadors, consul generals, chiefs of missions or charge d’ affairs not to renew passports of workers who fail to show proof that they regularly send money home. Seneres, a former ambassador and labor attaché, said his bill is supported by several provisions of the Constitution and the Family Code of the Philippines, but fails to address the clear violation of the Filipino’s constitutional right to travel it suggests. Also, given last year’s embarrassing sex-for-flights scandal in which stranded female workers were pressured by labor attaches into performing sexual favors in return for flights home, the Seneres bill seems to open the door wider for harassment. The bill also fails to take into account instances where the worker has no family, or has no desire to maintain those ties. Why should these workers be penalized? Finally, and perhaps most important, the bill is unnecessarily intrusive, giving the state the authority to dictate on workers what they should do with their own earnings. Nobody should be told what to do with his own hard-earned money, yet the Seneres bill tramples all over this right of self-determination. For this reason alone, House Bill 3576 deserves to be buried.

CAR RP prrotest at DA AR By Fred Villareal | Mar. M 05, 201 14 at 12:01am m About 20 00 farmers frrom Bulacan n, Batangas and a Rizal haave pitched ccamp outsidee the Departm ment of Agrariian Reform (DAR) ( in Qu uezon City to t protest effforts of the A Aquino Adm ministration to extend fo or another fiv ve years the controversiaal Compreheensive Agrarrian Reform Program (CARP), which will expire in Jun ne.

E End poverty, enforce lan nd reform. Farmers belonging to o the Save Agrrarian Reform m Alliance stage s a lie-in n a few meteers from Malacañaan Palace on n Tuesday to o protest the governmentt’s supposed dly poor imp plementation n of land refo orm. DANNY Y PATA Willy Maarbella, vice-chairmen of the militan nt Kilusang M Magbubukidd ng Pilipinaas (KMP), saaid a new bill has h been fileed in the Hou use of Repreesentatives sseeking to exxtend the CA ARP for anotther five yearrs. “Rabid Aquino A lapdo ogs, Cagayan n de Oro Rep p. Rufus Ro driguez and Abamin parrty-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, filed House Bill 3305 to o extend the CARP and pprolong the aagony of thee Filipino peasantry p an nd perpetuatee land monopoly,” Marbbella said. CARP, which w was in ntended to raationalize ow wnership of aagricultural llands and disstribute landd to the landleess, has been n in effect fo or the past 26 6 years. It w was originallyy intended too end in 1998, but the prrogram has underwent u extension e forr another 15 years. The CAR RP has been a hot issue for f farmers because b of seelective impplementationn. Farmers complain n they have been b evicted d from lands exempted frrom the CAR RP. KMP vicce chairman Joseph Canllas said land owned by thhe family of President A Aquino in Central Luzon L have been b exemptted from CA ARP, a progrram they desscribed as annti-farmer.

He said the protesting farmers included those who were evicted by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas from more than 2,000 hectares Hacienda Amanita in Tanking Mange, San Jose del Monte in Blanca. DAR Secretary Virgilian de los Reyes said he preferred to extend the period for the issuance of notice of coverage (NOC) for lands to be covered by CARP rather than extend the program. “The only thing we need to extend is the power to issue NOCs. At first glance it may seem the same but extension of CARP and our position are worlds apart,” de los Reyes said in a statement read by presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma. A notice of coverage provides for compulsory acquisition and distribution of lands under CARP. DAR records showed that as end of 2013, almost 200,000 hectares, including those with missing or unreadable titles, have no NOCs. Members of the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA) massed at Mendiola last Monday calling for “drastic acceleration” of the land reform program because “CARP is on the verge of death at the hands of the present DAR.” “President Aquino must personally step in to save CARP from the chronic underperformance and lack of political commitment manifested by the present DAR,” said SARA spokesman Jaime Tadeo. With Rio Araja and Joyce Panares

Brown rice for children urged By Ferdie G. Domingo | Mar. 05, 2014 at 12:01am SCIENCE CITY OF MUNOZ, Nueva Ecija—Families should introduce brown rice to children so they can appreciate its taste at an early age and they grow up healthier, The Department of Agriculture said. Cheryl Suarez, officer-in-charge of the Agriculture and Fisheries Information Division (AFID), said the agency planned to produce a cookbook that will encourage children to eat brown rice. “The cookbook recipes such as vegetable chao fan and combined kangkong and chicken are intended to promote the consumption of brown rice and rice mixes,” Suarez said. Studies show that brown rice, or unpolished rice, reduces the incidence of vascular diseases such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Cancer and diabetes may also be diminished by eating brown rice. Polishing brown rice to turn it into white rice removes 15 percent of protein and other minerals. If every Filipino eat brown rice for just 36 meals in a year, our rice imports would shrink to an average of 50,000 metric tons a year. Suarez said eating brown rice will also help the country’s self-sufficiency program because it has 10 percent higher milling recovery and called on parents to shift to brown rice consumption. “We are hopeful that with this initiative, the demand for brown rice will increase, resulting in lower prices,” she said.

‘Payao’ fishing ban By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Mar. 05, 2014 at 12:01am The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said Tuesday it will ban the use of fish aggregating devices, or payaos, for three months. BFAR said the three-month ban was part of the Philippine commitment to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s tuna conservation initiative. WCPFC is a regional fisheries management organization that addresses poblems in the management of high seas fisheries. BFAR director Asis Perez said the government would implement the ban, which covers all purse seine and ring net vessels operating in high seas, from July to September this year. Perez said BFAR would inspect and mark purse seine and ring net fishing gears to ensure compliance to the 115 fathoms established net depth. Fishing companies and individuals caught using unauthorized nets during the three-month ban will face penalties of P100,000 to P300,000 for small-scale commercial fishing, P400,000 to P700,000 for medium-scale commercial fishers and P800,000 to P1 million for large-scale fishers. Anna Leah Estrada

In 2016, will ten angels say that PNoy did all right? March 4, 2014 11:29 pm   by Marlen V. Ronquillo MIDWEEK COMMENTS Marlen V. Ronquillo The headline was drawn from what Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1862, in a moment of great selfdoubt. The Civil War was going badly and critics were heaping abuse on his leadership. He wrote that even if ten angels were to testify that he had done well, all of that would mean nothing if things did not turn out well for his divided, bloodied country. People who have read that tend to think in terms of the local context and ask this question? In 2016, would PNoy need ten angels to say that he did all right? Candidly, the question should be answered using two sets of considerations, reckonings and benchmarks. The first set should rate and judge his six-years in power from the point of view of pure technocracy. Using the first set, and assuming that the general trend will continue up to the last days of his presidency, the popular verdict would be this: He did all right. In fact, he did better than most of his predecessors. Growth rate was higher. GDP figures elicited praise and admiration from many sectors, and the multilateral institutions have thrown caution to the wind to drop some superlatives about his performance. The historically arduous task of getting growth figures that would impress the foreign impresarios of growth took place under the Aquino administration. The rating agencies cooed the same tune and raised the country’s creditworthiness. All the three major rating agencies, Fitch, Mood and Standard and Poor’s, have raised the creditworthiness of the country. When other corrupt leaders were in need of straw men to punch, they did not turn to the corruption in the Philippines. We can still recall the recent past when we were named as the culprit for anything that stank, including the surging global rice prices. On big-ticket projects, the bidding and awards process was mostly transparent. There were the usual complaints of favoritism, of course. And the complaints from the Czechs appear to be valid. The rub, though, comes with the second round of benchmarking—and this is definitely far more important than higher GDP, or the positive nod from the credit rating agencies. Have lives

improved? Have all of these positive figures dented massive poverty? Can the Everyman say he is better off now than in the past? Is there a noticeable, palpable upgrade in human well-being? The answer is a variation of these three: No, not much, not a chance.There is no mirth, no joy, no national celebration amid the giant economic strides as reflected in the national growth metrics. And you really have to wonder why those ideally life-changing strides on the economic front have done little to improve lives and ease human suffering. The answer is this: All those strides no longer impact on human well-being. The new normal is a situation where you can have spectacular growth amid so much poverty and misery. What the ruling government sees as a collection of impressive economic data – under this new normal – is a collection of antiquities. Antiquities. Orthodoxies. Old benchmarks that should be put to pasture and into the scrap heap of history. Just a cursory look at the WhatsApp economy and you will perfectly understand why such impressive data do not and will not impact on human well-being. WhatsApp, the cross platform instant messaging subscription service, was recently acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in cash, shares and restricted stock units. This was a major acquisition by any means. The $19 billion cost will be more appreciated when contrasted to the paltry, firesale of the iconic Washington Post for $250 million. WhatsApp does not make stuff and goods that you can eat, ride in, or serve as roof over your head. It is a messaging service and totally irrelevant to people and communities not linked to the Web. More, the entire number of owners, officers and employees is a grand total of 55 people. You can put the equation this way – $19 billion that will mostly benefit 55 people and a handful of venture capitalists. We have the equivalent of a WhatsApp economy. All the gains from growth go to the Top 1 percent. We have a situation where one man owns $11 billion and most of the struggling mass below have to sell kidneys and other body organs to put food on the table. There is no viable center. If there is one, it is the diaspora of overseas workers that has no other function but to send money home and prop up the economy. The civil society is a collection of pretentious and pompous do-gooders who can plot scams such as the multi-billion Peace Bonds without remorse. The grand programs of government are under a Public-Private Partnership scheme that is exclusively for the big players – the ones that least need the support of government.The government incentives and economic stimulus are designed to fatten the fattest corporate cats and indenture those below them.On the real test, on whether the government has truly succeeded in promoting overall human well-being, no ten angels would come forth and say the PNoy administration was all right.

GDP growth may hit 7‐9% in 5 years – CRC March 4, 2014 11:12 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Dr. Bernar- do Villegas, commonly known as Prophet of Boom, projects the economy for the next five to 10 years to be growing at the rate of 7 percent to 9 percent a year. He made this fearless forecast at a finance forum held in Makati City. Photo By Ruy Martinez A rapidly growing domestic market and the revival of the country’s manufacturing industry will help fuel gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7.0 percent to 9.0 percent in the next five to 10 years, economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas, chairman of the Center for Research and Communications, said on Tuesday. “The tipping point of the Philippines was reached after more than 25 years of very painful and slow reforms in politics, in governance, in the central bank and other institutions,” he said during the Asia Finance Summit held at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati. These positive trends, he said, are the result of the combined effects of a stable democracy, improving governance, strong macroeconomic fundamentals, labor peace, and the existence of a pool of educated, young and English-speaking workers. The renaissance of the manufacturing industry and a stellar stock market, one of the best performing in the world, are important factors as well, he added. Villegas also noted that the country enjoys a high rate of savings because of the robust remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a large contributor to Philippine GDP. Personal remittances from OFWs registered a record high of $2.4 billion last December, resulting in remittances of $25.1 billion for the full year of 2013. Philippine GDP grew by 7.2 percent in 2013, compared to 6.8 the previous year, according to government statistics. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, in a recent analysis, said the Philippines stands out as one of Asia’s strongest economic performers because of its strong macroeconomic fundamentals but warned that monetary authorities must keep an eye on the rising inflation. Villegas also noted the low rate of dependence on petroleum as a positive trend given that the presence of a variety of alternative energy resources in the country such as geothermal, biomass and hydrogas.

The Philippines, he said, is strategically located to benefit from the planned integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations into an Asean Economic Community (AEC). He said that the economic integration will be an advantage to the Philippines because it will allow the country to go head-to-head with economic giants China and India. “The Philippines is very much in the niche of this development,” he said. However, Villegas noted that the Philippines should encourage more foreign direct investments (FDI) to cement the benefits of integration, noting that economic provisions about the entry of foreign investments in the Constitution must be reviewed. “Filipinos should watch very closely how we can increase the flow foreign direct investments,” he said. Net FDI inflows reached P3.6 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, up by 36.6 percent from a year ago level.

2014 school opening still in June March 4, 2014 11:09 pm   by Neil A. Alcober EDUCATION Secretary Armin Luistro on Tuesday said that the Department of Education (DepEd) will be sticking to the June to April school calendar, even if some of the country’s top universities have already declared to move their academic calendar from August to May in line with the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) by 2015. Luistro said the education department sees no compelling reason, as of the moment, to shifting the opening of school calendar in the basic education while the technical working group led by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) is yet to finalize its decision on changing the school calendar. “We [at DepEd] decided that the opening of classes for preschool, elementary and high school will start on the first Monday of June,” Luistro told reporters in a press briefing. CHEd has created a technical working group to study the proposed shifting of academic calendar and submit recommendations before the end of March. The CHEd working group is composed of Dr. Ester Garcia, former CHEd chair and president of the University of the East, Dr. Patricia Bustos-Lagunda, chairman of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea), representatives from the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (Pasuc), the DepEd and the National Youth Commission (NYC). “The DepEd is also a part of that interagency panel that will carefully study, deliberate and review the changing of the academic calendar,” Luistro said. “There’s no need to rush to move the school opening in the basic education. Only the higher education institutions will the first ones to be affected by the changing of the academic calendar. We will wait for the final decision of the technical working group,” the DepEd chief added. The University of the Philippines (UP) and the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) have announced they are shifting to the August to May schedule. UP will implement the shift starting this schoolyear, and Ateneo will make the adjustment beginning 2015. De La Salle University (DLSU) and the University of Santo Tomas (UST) have also informed the commission they plan to revise their calendars. UP and Ateneo said they are changing calendars as part of an “internationalization effort,” noting that the Philippines is the only remaining Asean member with a June-to-March academic year.

UP Los Baños, UP College in Cebu, UP Manila, UP Open University, UP Visayas, and UP Baguio will adopt the new academic calendar in August. But UP Diliman has not yet declared plan to adopt its school opening as professors resisted the academic calendar shift. Meanwhile, a teachers’ group also on Tuesday expressed opposition to the school opening, stressing that the weather argument of the proponents has proven to be immaterial amidst the drastic changes in world climate that made the weather unpredictable. “We oppose the change of school calendar,” Benjo Basas, chairman of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), said in a statement. “We also urge our own school system [basic to tertiary] to integrate first before joining the Asean integration,” Basas added. Earlier, Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list said that moving the school opening from June to August will lead to expensive “education tourism.” Ridon predicted a rise in “commercialization and privatization” as a result of the academic calendar shift. Education tourism, he said, is a rising trend where foreign students enroll in Philippine schools for their undergraduate and graduate degrees, crowding out Filipino students. Ridon said the August-to-May school year runs counter to the country’s agricultural calendar and would affect students in rural areas.

Palace: No ‘hidden pork’ in 2014 budget March 4, 2014 11:08 pm   by Catherine S. Valente Malacañang on Tuesday denied allegations that there is “hidden pork” in the 2014 national budget. Rep. Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list claimed that some lawmakers can still access their “hidden pork” with the line agencies where the budget once meant for Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were realigned in the 2014 budget. Aside from the form that has been circulating in the House of Representatives, Tinio said that Cabinet officials are also working with lawmakers “in order to continue the practice of congressional pork.” But, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. insisted that the Palace has no hand in the release of funds. ”Wala pong basbas ‘yan ng Palasyo. Wala po kaming kinalaman diyan. Wala pong batayan ‘yung mga paratang laban sa Executive branch hinggil diyan, sapagkat sinusunod po natin ‘yung kautusan ng Korte Suprema hinggil sa pagiging unconstitutional [ng PDAF],” Coloma told reporters in a press briefing. He said that the funds that were supposedly meant for lawmakers are now under the line agencies’ budgets. “Malinaw doon sa desisyon ng ating Korte Suprema na ang gawain ng mga mambabatas ay buuin at isapinal ‘yung pambansang budget; at pagkatapos ‘yon naging batas, ang magpapatupad nito ay ang Executive branch at wala nang dapat na involvement ang sinumang mambabatas sa paggastos o sa pagpapatupad ng mga programang nakasaad sa General Appropriations Act,” he added. Malacañang was forced to declare that PDAF no longer exists in the 2014 budget after the public clamor for its abolition reached its height in the third quarter of last year. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, however, clarified that the P25.2-billion allocation for the PDAF would stay in the 2014 national budget. But, he said that the use of the pork barrel in the 2014 budget would be subject to the guidelines and limitations laid down by the President.

In its decision last November, the High Court ruled that the pork barrel system was unconstitutional because it “allowed legislators to wield . . . post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions.” At least nine senators were able to realign their PDAF because the Supreme Court only banned “post-enactment authority,” or lawmakers’ handling of government funds after the budget has been passed. The realignments were proposed by senators in congressional deliberations before the budget was passed.

Palace defends, pushes ‘persuasive’ tax drive March 4, 2014 11:06 pm   by Joel M. Sy Egco MALACAÑANG on Tuesday said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will continue to “persuade” professionals and leaders of the industry sector to avoid “punitive” government action by paying their tax dues correctly and on time. “We do not intend to malign or humiliate any particular group. Our call is for them to do their share in economic development. This is a persuasive and not a punitive effort,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. who defended the BIR from criticisms over a controversial advertisement that depicted doctors as tax cheats. Coloma explained that the advertisements are only part of a series that will also highlight other professionals and even business establishments that failed to pay the right taxes. “We are appealing to their civic spirit because they are also Filipinos. They also would want to help in nation building and that’s what we want to see,” Coloma explained. He said that it is common knowledge that there are establishments that report unreasonably low taxable income despite high patronage. “It seems incredible that they earned so little,” he said. The Palace official warned that the BIR would not hesitate to resort to “punitive” actions against tax evaders. “[Punishment] could come in later through the existing Run After Tax Evaders and Run After Smugglers [campaign],” Coloma stressed. Wider net Coloma justified the Internal Revenue bureau’s campaign as an effort to widen the tax base to reach income targets under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP). He cited that prior to the Asian financial crisis in the late 90s, tax-to-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio was at a high 17 percent. At present, he said the ratio only stands at 13.6 percent. “The BIR is trying to cast a wider net for greater participation. The aim is to get more people to participate in the revenue generation effort . . . Taxes are the lifeblood of the economy,” he pointed out.

In accordance with the PDP goals, Coloma further explained, the BIR campaign is to intensify efforts to increase the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio to 16 (percent) to 18 percent by 2016. “The government is committed to strengthening its tax collection efforts and make its tax-toGDP ratio at par with its Asean counterparts. According to a World Bank report, the tax effort of Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore stands at 17.6 percent, 16.1 percent, and 13.8 percent, respectively,” he noted. “Today, we can see that our taxes are going where they should, and therefore, there is no reason not to pay the proper taxes. I say to you: It’s not just the government, but our fellow citizens, who are cheated out of the benefits that these taxes would have provided,” he emphasized. The official said they would course their call through various professional organizations that must urge their members to pay the right taxes and help in the country’s overall economic development efforts. With regard to the complaint of the Philippine Medical Association against the “offensive” tax advertisement, Coloma said the group should “look at the bigger picture.” “The bigger picture is that we need more tax collections to be able to fund our economic development programs, and we feel that they can sit down with the BIR and the Department of Finance and thresh out their differences, so that a win-win approach may be arrived at,” said the official.

ARMM rolls out P2.4‐B funds for farmers March 4, 2014 8:14 pm   by MOH I. SAADUDDIN COTABATO CITY: The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) started rolling out an unprecedented P2.4 billion in funds to boast the region’s agricultural productivity. DAF-ARMM Secretary Makmod Mending Jr. told The Manila Times the funds were allocated for ARMM’s provinces of Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao only. Mending said it was during the recent visit of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala when portions of the funds were disbursed. The DA’s Agri-Pinoy banner program has shared more than P800 million worth of mostly farm inputs to the total fund, he said. Last Friday, after his tour in target areas of the projects, Alcala conducted forums in Marawi City and Parang town in Maguindanao that were attended by local farmers and fisherfolk who received development fund and support implements. “Among the support package presented were the Agri-Pinoy farm and livestock program, [Bureau of Fisheries and Resources] BFAR fishing implements, [Transition Support Investment Plan] TISP funded livelihood scheme, and infrastructure development component taken from [bottom-up budgeting] BuB / [grassroots participatory budgeting process] GPBP 2013 under the special purpose fund,” ARMM official said. Mending said, “other projects are underway and scheduled for implementation this month [March].” Aside from Agri-Pinoy, the department sourced P968 million from local government units (LGUs) P262 million from the PAyapa at MAsaganang PAmayanan (Pama–na) program, and from operation and stimulus funds, Mending said. Last year the ARRM received only P260 million from the DA. Past administrations of the ARMM, agricultural sectors received about P40 million to P80 million in funds from the national government, it was learned.

Rising housing demand quells bubble fears – BSP March 4, 2014 11:02 pm   by Mayvelin U. Caraballo Reporter The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Tuesday dismissed fears that an asset bubble was developing in the country, sayingthat increasing incomes and robust remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are fueling rising demand in the property market. Cyd Tuano-Amador, BSP assistant governor for the monetary policy sub-sector, said that the Philippines has a growing population that is enjoying increasing incomes, which is fueling the demand for housing. Speaking on the sidelines of the Asia Finance Summit held at the Raffles and Fairmont Makati City on Tuesday, Tuano-Amador said there has been a shift in the way people look at the property sector, especially from OFWs, because a residential property is the largest asset that any household can own. “They [OFWs] they have to find investment vehicles,” Tuano-Amador said. “What we saw was there was some correction in the prices of residential properties in 2009 to 2010.”According to the official, “There was an increase in prices in residential and office space but it’s not as if it’s getting ahead of itself.” She assured that there are no signs yet of an asset bubble forming in the country. “We’re not seeing signs of that [asset bubble] yet,” she said.Among the signs of an asset bubble are massive defaults on housing loan payments and a glut in property developments.Earlier, the central bank said it was monitoring and determining whether acceptable credit standards are being maintained by banks with respect to their exposures to real estate in order to prevent a property bubble from forming. BSP data as of June 2013 showed that banks’ real estate exposure remained manageable at P900.1 billion, up by 6.8 percent compared to their exposure in the preceding quarter.Of the P900.1 billion exposure, 84.7 percent was in the form of real estate loans while the remaining 15.3 percent were in the form of real estate investments. In the third quarter of 2013, residential real-estate loans surged by 23 percent, pushing the consumer lending of universal, commercial and thrift banks to grow by about 17 percent in the same period to P702 billion.

Govt to enforce 3‐month ban on ‘payaos’ March 4, 2014 10:57 pm   by James Konstantin Galvez Reporter The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will enforce a three-month ban on the use of fish aggregating devices (FAD) to curb overfishing as part of its commitment to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission’s tuna conservation initiative.BFAR National Director Asis Perez said that the ban on FADs, locally known as “payaos,” will be enforced from July to September this year and will cover all purse seine and ring net vessels operating in the high seas.The use of fish aggregating devices has been partly blamed for the decline in tuna catch in some areas at certain times of the year.“The prohibition of setting FADs is in line with WCFPC’s conservation and management measures for bigeye, yellowfin, and skipjack tuna,” Perez said.In line with the order, he said that the agency will conduct annual inspection and marking of purse seine and ring net fishing gears to ensure compliance with the reduced net depth – around 115 fathoms – established under Fisheries Administrative Order No. 236. Perez also said that all catch vessels will be required to carry on board accredited monitors and fisheries observers, who are to gather data and recommend further improvements during the closure period.Fishing companies and individuals caught using unauthorized nets during the FAD closure period would face penalties – including fines of P100,000 to P300,000 for smallscale commercial fishing, P400,000 to P700,000 for medium-scale commercial fishers, and P800,000 to P1 million for large-scale operators. Fishing companies also face confiscation of catch and cancellation of their permits to operate in the high seas.During the 10th Regular Session of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of highly Migratory Fish Stocks, the WCPFC approved the Philippines’ request for an extension for the access to the high seas (in areas classified as pocket 1).WCPFC is a regional fisheries management organization that addresses problems in the management of high seas fisheries, or fishing in the open seas. This continued fishing access is a result of the Philippines’ commitment to ensuring long-term sustainability of highly migratory fish stocks in line with rights under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and the WCPFC Convention, and the country’s adherence to progressive implementation of the commission’s management measures.For two years now, the Philippines is the only country allowed to go fishing in the high seas pocket 1 following a series of proposals set before the WCPFC.

Funds raised at PSE fall short of P200‐ B target March 4, 2014 10:54 pm   by Kristyn Nika M. Lazo Reporter Capital raised by companies listed on the local bourse reached an impressive P175 billion in 2013, but the figure was P25 billion short of the target as rumors of a US Federal Reserve tapering in the middle of the year dampened buying.Hans Sicat, Philippine Stock Exchange president and chief executive officer, said at the sidelines of the Asia CEO Forum on Tuesday that funds raised at the local bourse in 2013 fell short of the P200-billion target. In 2012, listed firms raised P219.07 billion from initial and follow-on offerings of their shares at the PSE, which was a record.“Last year we slowed down. Nothing happened during the taper talk from the last week of May for about three months [until the beginning of August], which brought zero fund raising in the exchange,” Sicat said. The US central bank announced in December that it would reduce its bond-buying program by $10 billion a month to $75 billion starting in January. Another $10-billion tapering was announced in January that took effect in February, reducing the US Fed’s monthly bond-buying program to $65 billion. “People are wondering how [the taper talk] would affect the local markets, so people didn’t do anything,” Sicat said.But he said that prospects remain positive and the PSE is confident that listed firms could raise P200 billion from initial and follow-on offerings in 2014.“This year we started off with a P6.5 billion per day average. This actually is reflective of what was happening in the world. In the last quarter of 2013, there was a huge sell-off in emerging markets,” Sicat said.“Despite volatility in terms of in and outflows, there is still a strong belief from issuers that they can raise money through the exchange,” he said. Sicat added that the PSE sees about 10 initial public offerings (IPOs) this year, including backdoor listings.As of November 2013, nine IPOs had been conducted at the PSE. These were the IPOs of Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc.; Harbor Star Shipping Services Inc.; Philippine Business Bank; Asia United Bank and AG Finance; Del Monte Pacific Ltd.; Travellers International Hotel Group Inc.; Frontier Oil Corp.; Concepcion Industrial Corp.; and Discovery World Corp.

Posted on March 04, 2014 11:24:23 PM By Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag Reporter

Cuisia touts IPR gains THE PHILIPPINES should be removed from a United States piracy watch list given "substantial"  improvements to intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.  told Washington last week.  Mr. Cuisia, in a Feb. 24 hearing for the Special 301 report set for  release this April, told representatives of the Office of the United States Trade Representative  (USTR) that the country has addressed IPR concerns raised by industry groups.  "The crux of the case for the removal of the Philippines from the watch list may be simply  stated: The Philippines has substantially addressed all the US concerns raised in the Special 301  Report of 2013," Mr. Cuisia said.   Specifically, he said the country had already issued implementing rules and regulations for the  amended IP Code; had taken important steps to address online piracy; strengthened criminal  enforcement; improved predictability with respect to search and seizure orders; amended the  Patent Law; and intensified protection of pharmaceutical and agricultural products against  unfair commercial use and unauthorized disclosure of information.    The Special 301 report identifies countries that deny adequate and effective IPR protection.  The Philippines has been in the watch list since 2007.  "All these measures," said Mr. Cuisia, "have succeeded in establishing an IP regime in the  Philippines that may be said to provide adequate and effective protection of intellectual  property rights."    "We make no claim to perfection, as I am sure you make no demand for perfection ... Your  intellectual property right holders may still have, I am sure, more concerns that they want to  be addressed," he added.  "What we claim to have achieved is an IP regime that has demonstrated a capacity to improve,  and that may reasonably be expected to keep improving in the foreseeable future."    Three US‐based lobby groups ‐‐ the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, Pharmaceutical  Research and Manufacturers of America, and the International Intellectual Property Alliance ‐‐  want the Philippines kept in the watch list, claiming the government’s efforts remain  insufficient.  The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and US‐based clothing company Levi  Strauss & Co., on the other hand, have urged Washington to remove the Philippines from the  list.

Posted on March 04, 2014 10:39:09 PM

Bill seeking expanded rights for journalists endorsed THE HOUSE committee on public information has endorsed for plenary approval the proposed  bill expanding the coverage of the rights of journalists to protect their sources obtained in  confidence.  The House panel chaired by Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge T.     Almonte (1st district) approved at the committee level House  Bill (HB) 362 filed by Cebu City Rep. Raul V. del Mar (1st    district).Under HB 362 or the proposed Act amending Republic    Act 53 known as the "Sotto law," journalists from broadcast,  news agencies and Internet publications will be included in the  coverage of the law."A duly accredited journalist of any legitimate print, broadcast, Internet, or  wire service organization, station or network, including publisher, station owner and/or  manager, bureau chief, editor, news editor, writer or reporter, correspondent, opinion  columnist or commentator, cartoonist, photographer or other practitioner involved in the  gathering, writing, editing of and commenting on the news for mass circulation cannot be  compelled to reveal the source of any news item... unless the court or the House of  Representatives or the Senate or any of its committee finds such revelation is demanded by the  security of the State," the bill said.  The Sotto law ‐‐ named after its author senator Vicente Y. Sotto, grandfather of Senator Vicente  "Tito" C. Sotto III ‐‐ exempts the publisher, editor, columnist or reporter of any print publication  from revealing the source of information they obtained in confidence.  Under the existing law, print journalists may only be compelled to reveal his or her source of  information when a court or a Congress committee finds it is in the interest of national security.  Mr. del Mar, however, stressed that the same privilege should also be extended to journalists  working for radio, television, wire agencies and Internet publications.  He noted that the reason for the rule is that the identity of sources of a confidential news  information must be protected, "otherwise the spring of data for news or commentary dries  up." ‐‐ Imee Charlee C. Delavin Posted on March 04, 2014 10:26:53 PM

Rules issued for leased coconut farms hit by disasters THE AGRARIAN Reform department issued implementing rules and regulations yesterday  concerning tenanted coconut lands affected by unforeseen events.    The agency’s Administrative order No. 02 (Series of 2014), published in a newspaper, was  issued "to address and mitigate the effect of fortuitous events or natural disasters/calamities  on landholdings devoted to coconut production, and to attend to and improve the economic  condition of the agricultural lessees‐tenants on coconut lands devastated by such ... events".    According to the order, the rules apply to all tenanted coconut landholdings, with or without  leasehold agreements, which have been affected by fortuitous events or natural calamities.  Such events include but are not limited to floods, typhoons, riots, strikes, wars, earthquakes,  and drought.    The order prohibits the ejection, dispossession, or removal of a tenant‐lessee from his/her  farmholding for non‐payment of lease rentals as a result of a fortuitous event or natural  disaster, except when the dispossession has been approved by "an appropriate body or court"  in a final and executory judgement.    Affected tenant‐lessees, according to the order, can renegotiate a new leasehold agreement  with the landowner, specifying new terms and conditions regarding rental payment, crop  planting, and crop changes.    "This does not imply that the tenancy relationship has been extinguished by the fortuitous  event," the order read.    Consideration for the lease must not be more than the equivalent of 25% of the average normal  harvest during the three agricultural years immediately before the date the leasehold was  established, after deducting the amount used for seeds and harvest and certain post‐harvest  costs.    If the land was cultivated for less than three years, the consideration should be based on the  average normal harvest of the time the land actually was cultivated. In the case of newly  cultivated lands, it should be based on the harvest of the first year, if that harvest is normal.   

The order defines heavily damaged coconut trees as those with broken branches and  twisted/broken fronds, with at least 50% of immature nuts having fallen. "Such trees may take  two to three years to recover production," the order noted.    Totally damaged trees, meanwhile, are those that are crownless, have fallen down, or have  heavily shaken and/or cracked fronds. "These are trees having no chance of survival in which  100% of the nut production will be permanently lost," the order read.    Should the coconut trees on an affected landholding be heavily or totally damaged due to  fortuitous event or natural calamity, the order requires that the tenant‐lessee’s security of  tenure be maintained despite failure to pay lease rentals.    The order also allows the tenant‐lessee to plant other crops temporarily while the land is being  rehabilitated through the re‐planting of coconut trees and while these trees are still gestating,  or where production has not yet attained average normal harvest.    The rules also allow affected tenant‐lesses to cut and transport coconut trees, provided that  they have secured the necessary permit from the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).    After having deducted cutting and hauling costs ‐‐ which should be reimbursed to whoever  shouldered them ‐‐ the net proceeds of the cut trees should be divided between the tenant‐ lessee and landowner‐lessor according to their agreement, as long as the tenant‐lessee’s share  is not less than 75% of those proceeds.    If the landowner is not present or refuses to receive his/her share, the Municipal Agrarian  Reform Program Officer (MARPO) should advise him/her in writing and by registered mail. The  unclaimed 25% share will be deposited under his/her name in the nearest branch of the Land  Bank of the Philippines within 30 days of the receipt of the notice.    The order tasks the MARPO with validating and issuing a certificate that the tenanted coconut  landholdings have been affected by fortuitous event or natural disaster.    Upon validation, the MARPO must then send an invitation letter to the tenant‐lessee and  landowner‐lessor for a conference, to do the following:    • inform the parties on the rule regarding security of tenure;    • formulate a new leasehold agreement; and 

• determine or compute leasehold rental should the parties fail to reach an agreement.    In the case of the last, should any of the parties disagree with the provisional leasehold rental  set by the MARPO, the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator will determine the rental.  However, the parties must observe the provisional rental until then.    The order revokes, amends, or modifies orders, circulars, rules and regulations considered  inconsistent with the new issuance. Dated Feb. 26, it still takes effect 10 days after its  publication.

Posted on March 04, 2014 10:00:35 PM

Peso misses out on rally THE PESO extends its losses against the dollar, missing out on the Asian currencies’ rally after  Russia’s president ordered troops in Ukraine’s borders to return  to base.  The peso depreciated by two‐and‐a‐half centavos to finish at P44.74 per dollar against its  P44.715‐per‐dollar close on Monday.  It weakened to as much as P44.875 to the dollar in early trade as investors sought safe haven  assets given rising tensions in Ukraine. But that demand eased somewhat later in the day after  Russia’s decision increased hopes of a peaceful solution to the conflict.  Most emerging Asian currencies turned higher, led by the Thai baht.  “Tensions in Ukraine which escalated overnight dragged down the peso. In early trade  [yesterday], the peso depreciated on risk aversion against the dollar. However, the peso  corrected the moment [Vladimir] Putin ordered his troops to be back to base,” a currency  trader said.MetisEtrade currency strategist Yroen Guaya B. Melgar agreed, saying in an e‐mail:  “The Philippine peso gained strength as Russia ended its military exercises, avoiding conflict and  spurring some selling of the safe‐haven US dollar.”  The tensions in Ukraine overshadowed the positive economic data released Monday by the US,  according to one trader.“Investors focused more on the geopolitical crisis in Ukraine. The good  economic data of the US only had minimal impact on the peso,” he said.  An index of US factory activity rose to 53.2 in February from an eight‐month low. A reading  above 50 indicates expansion. Meanwhile, consumer spending increased 0.4% in January after a  0.1% gain in the previous month.Investors await Wednesday’s release of February inflation data  that will set the tone for monetary policymaking.  “The movement of the peso [today] will depend on the developments in Ukraine and a little on  the Philippine’s inflation data unless the result is high. But since the BSP’s (Bangko Sentral ng  Pilipinas) estimate and the market’s consensus of 4.2% or 4.3% are within the official target, we  don’t have much to worry,” the trader said.The BSP estimates February inflation to settle  between 3.8‐4.6% while a BusinessWorld poll of analysts put the number at 4.3%. ‐‐ T.P.O.‐misses‐out‐on‐ rally&id=84253   

Ally y sayss Pala ace m mockin ng CA A by recy ycling g by‐p passe ed exe ecs Written b by  Angie M.. Rosales and d Charlie V. Manalo   Wednesd day, 05 Marcch 2014 00:0 00   The administration of President Arroyo A was vilified v for its practicce of recycliing governm ment officialss, mostly allies, wh ho fail to gett Congress confirmation, but which the Aquin no administrration that haad styled itseelf as the com-plette opposite of o its predeceessor had perrpetrated is now bein ng practiced by Presidentt Aquino. The Palace’s penchan nt for re-app pointing officcials repeatedlly by-passed d by the Com mmission on Appointmen nts (CA) is a mockery off the law gov verning the confirmaation of presiidential nom minees, a rank king CA offi ficer noted thhis to colleaggues and governm ment officials still awaitin ng the bicam meral body’s nod during a committeee hearing at tthe Senate yeesterday. Ilocos No orte Rep. Ro odolfo “Rudy y”

Fariñas, CA C majority y leader, issu ued the statem ment appareently in view w of the recennt signing off reappointtment papers of four Cab binet membeers and Com mmission on Audit (CoA A) Commmissioner Heidi Mendoza who have been b perenniaally bypasseed by the pow werful bicam meral body for quite some time t now. w served as deputy off the panel of prosecutorrs, composedd mostly of P Palace allies, in Fariñas, who the impeaachment triaal of former Supreme Co ourt Chief Juustice Renatoo Corona in 2012, even pointed out o that no leess than Pressident Aquin no himself filled a resoluttion when hee was still a senator, to t have thosee bypassed by b the CA att least three ttimes to be cconsidered ““rejected.” The succcessive reapp pointment off bypassed no ominees is a clear mockkery of a prinnciple enshriined in the cou untry’s fund damental law w, referring to o Article 8, ssection 16 of the 1987 C Constitution which maandates the CA C to confirrm all presid dential nominnees who ill occupy keyy positions inn governm ment, Farinas said before the CA com mmittee on coonstitutionall commissionns and officees that tacklled the desig gnation of Co omm. Heidi Mendoza too CoA and thhat of Comm mission on Electionss (Comelec) Commission ners Luie Gu uia and Al P Parreno. Mendozaa’s confirmation has rem mained pendiing for three years now oor since her aappointmentt to the CoA.. She still faiiled to breeze through th he screening committee cchaired by S Sen. Teofistoo “TG” Gu uingona due to numerouss oppositors and pendingg questions oon her integrrity and fitneess to the job by y Sen. Jingg goy Estrada. “Explanaatory note co ontinues, ‘thee President abuse a her poower to appooint because of her consiistent reappointtment of nom minees who have been consecutively c y bypassed bby the CA’,”” Fariñas saidd,

reading a portion of Senate bill No. 1719 or the proposed Appointment Ineligibility Act of 2007 which Aquino introduced in the upper chamber almost seven years ago, during the incumbency of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is now Pampanga representative. “What I see now, as a member of the CA, is that the proceedings are turning into a mockery because the appointments are not submitted to us on time. You’ve been appointed four times and this is the first that you appear here, right? This is the first time after three successive bypass by constitutional mandate. That is what the constitution provides, any ad interim appointment that is not confirmed by the CA will be deemed bypassed. The same is enshrined in our rules. Why did you not come before the commission and ask for example, why your appointment was not being tackled? Did it not occur to you that you should come instead of just waiting to be bypassed for several times?”, Farinas said in berating Guia. “My assumption was that it is the CA which would schedule our appointment your honor,” Guia said in apologizing to the lawmakers. “Let this serve as a warning to all appointees or nominees...I hope this will not be repeated,” the congressman said in reiterating the mandate of the CA and the constitutional requirement for all presidential appointees to seek their approval. Farinas said he would press for the body to make a collective decision on the issue which was seconded by a fellow CA member, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez “There should be a definite decision on the process by he CS leadership whether we approve (the nominee’s appointment) or not. it is our duty to screen (the nominees) well,” Rodriguez said. Meanwhile, Mendoza, who had a face-off of sorts with some of her oppositors, practically begged the screening committee to endorse her nomination to the plenary but Estrada sought to defer his questioning on a later date. Estrada, in an interview with reporters, stressed that his issues against Mendoza have nothing to do with the revival of a 10-year-old graft case against the wife of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Dra. Elenita Binay while she was still Makati City mayor, that was already dismissed by the Ombudsman in 2011 for insufficiency of evidence. The senator said his questions were mainly on the alleged falsehoods that Mendoza made when she testified before the Senate blue ribbon committee at the height of its probe on the Garcia plea bargaining agreement that allegedly she submitted an audit report on the case when it was only a working paper. “Your honors if not for integrity, honesty, it would have been easy for me to stay at Asian Development Bank and lied and said and claimed that there is no such report. Life would be simple,” Mendoza said. “I didn’t. I faced the challenges, I faced the threats and I stood up my ground as an auditor,” she added. “I am begging before this committee, I have been going back and forth to these hearings and I see those confirmed ahead of me and I envy them. My only fault was to file a case against somebody related to one who has an ambition to be president,” she was quoted as saying. Atty. Mariano Sarmiento, one of the two oppositors, the other identified as retired state auditor Arturo Besana, said that his complaint or opposition on the confirmation of Mendoza was based on “personal knowledge and authentic records, there’s no speculation here.” Sarmiento, a partner in the law firm handling the case of Binay’s wife said the charges were dismissed because of insufficiency of evidence by the prosecution. Sarmiento claimed that what drew attention on the case was Mendoza allegedly seeking media coverage when she testified before the Sandiganbayan, a matter that the latter vehemently denied saying that she does not have the means to do so.

Sen. Nancy Binay, in a separate interview, corroborate the claims of Estrada emphasizing that it’s purely the prerogative of her colleague in deferring Mendoza’s confirmation although she maintains belief that Mendoza is allowing herself to be used as an “attack dog” of Malacanang against her father based on the reports that reached their camp. Although she’s not sitting as a member of CA, Senator Binay said she does not think that Mendoza deserves to be confirmed in the light of the allegations against her and the integrity of the audit report that’s being used in the case of Dra. Binay. “If she was competent enough, why was the case dismissed in the first place?” asked Senator Binay. The Vice President advised Mendoza to “simply answer the issues raised against her since appeals to the emotion will not help her case.” He reminded the CoA official that there are several oppositors to her confirmation and they have raised issues against her impartiality, competence and professional conduct. “As far as we know, she has not answered these issues convincingly,” he said. Recently a broadsheet headlined Mendoza’s alleged failure to pay some P2 million in taxes. She reportedly admitted this in an affidavit, according to Binay. “We find this very disturbing. The position of CoA commissioner is such a sensitive position and it is expected for nominees to be mindful of their duties as citizens, and this includes paying taxes,” he said. In the confirmation hearing yesterday, Mendoza begged the CA to confirm her saying her only intention was to serve truthfully “I’m begging to this committee, I keep coming back, watching those who have been confirmed and I’m really envious” Mendoza told the committee members in response to the grilling of her oppositors. “But I always give myself a chance because I know, the day will come that truth will come out because I’m not lying, I did not steal, I have not been charged,” she said. “My only fault is I stood to file a case against someone who has a presidential ambition that is why this issue about my appointment is repeatedly being discussed,” Mendoza added. Though she did not name who among the probable presidentiables she had offended, she was obviously referring to Binay whose wife’s case revived by Mendoza even though it had already been dismissed years ago. Binay has been vocal in eyeing the presidency in 2016. However, the Binay camp and other critics of Mendoza refuted her claims of being an impartial state auditor who dons an immaculate clean mantle of public service. “There are several oppositors to her confirmation and they have raised issues against her impartiality, competence and professional conduct,” Joey Salgado, spokesman of Binay, said. Salgado referred to a story ran by the Tribune the other day baring Mendoza’s deliberate failure to settle her income taxes amounting to no less than P2 million. According to the Tribune story, Mendoza, one of the whistle-blowers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) funds scam of 2011 which led to her being appointed by Aquino as CoA commissioner, earned P7,541,600, or almost P2 million a year, during her sabbatical from government service from 2007 to 2010, but which she admitted in an affidavit, have not paid a single centavo in income tax, which is ironic as it was mostly derived from writing modules and preaching against corruption, a vicious form of which is tax evasion. From her earnings, she was able to buy one condominium unit in high-scale developments (Marquinton Marikina in 2007, Serendra Bonifacio in 2008, an unnamed townhouse in Marikina)

in every year that she was a lagarista in consulting work. Going by present tax rates, she owes the government at least P2 million. Mendoza is also touted as the lead prober in the alleged pork scam amounting to billions of pesos. However, Abakada Rep. Jonathan De la Cruz avers Mendoza was being selective in exposing the alleged anomalies with regards to the disbursement of the lawmakers priority development fund as up to now, all CoA has released are results of special audit report from the period 2007 to 2009 and not a single audit report for the period 2010 to 2012 which the party-list solon said is also tainted with anomalous transaction which could overshadow the alleged scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles.‐says‐palace‐mocking‐ca‐by‐recycling‐by‐passed‐ execs                                   

MasterCard launches MasterPass Written by  Tribune   Wednesday, 05 March 2014 00:00   MasterCard has launched MasterPass in-app payments, a process which will enable consumers to make secure purchases within a mobile app. MasterPass in-app payments eliminate the need to store payment card credentials across numerous mobile apps, providing consumers with a fast and simple payment experience. At the moment, entities that accept MasterPass as payment mode includes Forbes Digital Commerce, Fat Zebra, NoQ, Starbucks Australia and Shaw Theatres Singapore. Consumers are shopping and paying in whatever way that best fits their needs and lifestyles — and from every device they have. They are looking for digital “shortcuts” that provide speed, convenience and a great experience. With MasterPass, this can be a simple tap, click or touch at checkout, at home, on the go, and now, directly within an app. According to ABI Research, overall revenues from mobile applications, including in-app purchases, will reach $46 billion by 2016, more than five times greater than the $8.5 billion earned in 2011. With the average global smart device user having downloaded 26 apps, consumers are storing payment card and other sensitive information with numerous app providers to set up accounts and make purchases. MasterPass in-app payments extend the capabilities of the current browser-based MasterPass digital service into the mobile app environment, and provide consumers with one secure direct relationship with their bank. Apps with MasterPass embedded in them enable consumers to complete a purchase with as few as one click or touch on their favorite connected device without leaving the app environment. The optimized checkout process creates a seamless shopping experience, supported by the highest levels of security and cryptology. “We’re excited to begin offering MasterPass to our customers as an innovative digital payment solution. This fully aligns with our philosophy to make in-app commerce as easy and efficient as possible,” said Robert Tibbs, chairman and chief executive officer of Forbes Digital Commerce. MasterPass in-app payments will be made available to developers and merchants beginning in the second quarter of this year. The service requires a quick, seamless integration similar to the process for online merchants — already successfully implemented at more than 30,000 MasterPass merchants to date in Australia, Canada, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States. Ed Velasco‐launches‐masterpass     

Ihihirit pa lang na P5.33/kWh power rate hike butata agad! (Aries Cano)

Butata uli sa militanteng grupo ang ipinopormang panibagong bigtime power rate hike ng Manila Electric Company (Meralco). Kahapon ay naghain ng petisyon ang Akbayan Partylist para harangin ang panibagong hiling ng Meralco na P5.33/kwh na dagdag-singil sa kuryente. Ang Akbayan ay naghain ng petition to intervene and oppose sa Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) para makontra ang application for rate hike ng Meralco. Ayon kay Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, abuso na ang hirit na dagdag singil ng Meralco dahil hindi pa nadedesisyunan ng Supreme Court ang legalidad ng nauna nitong dapat ipapataw na P4.15 ay muling umentra. “Meralco’s plan to burden the consumers with a new round of rate hike amid an ongoing battle regarding the legality of its proposed ‘record high’ P4.15 power rate hike betrays its lack of empathy towards their customers. We will not allow it,” ani Bello.

P10.5B ‘midnight release’ ni Gloria, bistado (Boyet Jadulco)

Nabunyag kahapon sa pagdinig ng Kamara na nagkaroon ng P10.5 bilyong ‘midnight release’ ng pondo ang administrasyon ni dating Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sa kanyang mga kaalyadong pulitiko bago ang 2010 presidential elections subalit hanggang ngayon ay walang mailabas na pruweba na may natapos na proyekto. Sinagad umano ang paggastos sa nasabing pondo kung saan halos piso lang ang tinira sa mga kaduda-dudang proyekto na hindi man lang idinaan sa public bidding. Sa isinagawang imbestigasyon ng House committee on good government and public accountability hinggil sa resolusyon ni Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone sa nawawalang P30 bilyong pondo ng Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), nabunyag na kahit sa mismong home province ni dating Pangulo at ngayon ay Pampanga Rep. Gloria MacapagalArroyo, wala pang accomplishment report sa P502.5 milyong proyekto roon. “P502.5 million nakalista pero zero-zero pa ‘yung report, ibig sabihin may problema. So hinihingi natin ‘yung complete accomplishment report if any,” paglalahad ni Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, chairman ng komite. Inatasan na rin ni Rodriguez ang Commission on Audit (COA) na magsagawa ng imbestigasyon hinggil sa P10.5 bilyon na pinalabas na pondo ng DPWH bago ang halalan noong 2010.

Gov’t officials support tax on softdrinks Published : Wednesday, March 05, 2014 00:00   Written by : Jester Manalastas   AFTER winning the battle for higher taxes on cigarette and liquior or sin products, the Department of Finance and Department of Health are now targeting sweet products such as softdrinks and artificial beverages. Appearing at the hearing of the Committee on Ways and Means, DoF officials cited additional revenues for the government if the taxes imposed to softdrinks will be increased, while the DoH cited possible decrease of diabetes cases once the consumption on soda products would be reduced. The two agencies also expressed support for the measure filed by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing whose main purpose is to increase by 10 percent the ad valorem tax on softdrinks and carbonated beverages sold in bottles and other tight containers. Stella Montejo, head of the DoF Fiscal Policy and Planning Office, told the panel that about P10.5 billion revenues can be generated from higher tax on softdrinks. Montejo further explained that raising the prices of softdrinks will also result to reduction of consumption. Meanwhile, Teresita Solomon, deputy director of the National Tax Research Center (NTRC), projected additional revenue at P7.7 billion. On the part of the DoH, Undersecretary Nemesio Gaco said the reduction in the consumption will ensure better health for Filipinos, as he stated that softdrink’s caloric content is too high causing various ailments such as diabetes. According to Gaco, about 44 Filipinos die of diabetes every day and medical experts say this could be attributed to high consumption of softdrinks. “We are fully supporting the bill. Reports said the number two cause of death is lifestyle-related,” Gaco said, adding that the sugar in the softdrink contributes to weight gain. In her proposal, Suansing stressed that the revenue collected from softdrinks tax would go to a rehabilitation fund for calamity victims and would be used to fund programs such as infrastructure projects, housing and livelihood. Defending the softdrinks industry, Lawyer Adel Tamano, vice president for public affairs and communication of Coca Cola Philippines Inc., denied reports that softdrink is the number one

source of diabetes. “In the Philippines, in terms of percentage, where do most Filipinos get their calories, it’s not from softdrinks. It accounts for less than 10 percent of the calorie intake. It’s from rice. If the issue here is calorie intake, don’t look at soft drinks,” Tamano explained. He likewise said by increasing the taxes, operations of the softdrinks companies will be affected by cutting the workforce while the retail business like sari-sari stores and eatery will suffer more. “There are many ways to provide employment and income, not only through taxes,” added Tamano, who also represented the Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines in the hearing.

DepEd discourages printing of school yearbook Published : Wednesday, March 05, 2014 00:00     AFTER the “no collection fee”policy in graduation rites, the Department of Education is now  discouraging the printing of yearbooks for graduating elementary and secondary students.  “Bukod sa gastos lang ’yang yearbook, pang matanda lang ang nag‐iisip ng imprenta at paggawa  ng yearbook hindi na uso,” Education Secretary Armin Luistro said.    Luistro said schools officials should refrain from collecting fees from students and parents that  add to their financial burden.    Luistro said in this modern age, printing of yearbook is no longer applicable.    “Ilagay na lamang nila sa video o youTube mas mura pa at mas meaningful kumpara sa yearbook  na hindi na uso. Kaya huwag na gumawa” the DepEd chief said.    Luistro reiterated the intent of DepEd order which prohibits the collection of any graduation fees  or any kind of contribution for the graduation rites.     The order also stipulated that no extravagant special graduation attire and extraordinary venue  are required.    “Kahit anu bawal pa rin ang magarbo ’yung bayad sa kung anu‐ano sa stage, sa decorations at  kung anu‐ano pa. Basta bawal ang maningil ng anumang bayarin kahit pa may agreement ang  Parents’ and Teachers’ Associations. Pumunta silang pami‐pamilya sa labas at doon mag‐ celebrate basta sa loob ng public schools bawal,” Luistro emphasized.  Arlene Rivera

2014 03 05 quedancor daily news monitor